Russia is holding its Army 2022 arms expo event outside Moscow this week. The annual event is an arms market for mostly third-world countries where Russia shows off its latest(for them anyway) hardware to countries unable to afford or not allowed to buy US and European weaponry, generally because of human rights abuses in back home. The Army-2022 Expo is a nationwide event, mainly in Patriot Park in Moscow, but smaller events are held at the Alabino armor proving grounds, the Kubinka airfield, in all of Russia’s Military Districts, the Northern Fleet headquarters, and in more than 30 Russian regions.
Russia is one of the world’s largest arms exporters by volume, but not by revenue, offering bargain basement prices compared to US weapons. A fully loaded Russian T-90 tank with pinstripes and floormats retails for about 4.5 million, roughly two-thirds the price of a bare-bones, US-made M1A Abrams tank. That is if your country can get permission to even buy one from the US State Department. Poland had wanted the M1A in its tank forces for at least a decade. In order to get them, a war had to break out in Ukraine and Poland had to just about give away 240 of its inventory of 328 T-72m tanks to Ukraine. Get this, the Abrams they are getting from the US are used. They are clean, low mileage(mostly driven in the desert)one-owner tanks with clear titles, but still.
The US does not part with Abrams tanks very easily.
The Checkmate Bluff
In 2021, Russia debuted the Sukhoi SU-57 Checkmate, their supposedly 5th generation fighter. It’s in the prototype stage and will make its first test flight in 2024. At the Army-2022 expo, Russia announced that the domestic United Aircraft Corporation(UAC) will build four of the prototypes to fly. The SU-75 is being offered as an export-only fighter with a single engine configuration. According to an article in the Russian state news agency TASS, these prototypes will begin flying in 2024, maybe.
The Checkmate is being offered as a counter to the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning and there are plans to introduce an unmanned version as well. However, a statement by the company CEO suggests buyers don’t like the price and want a cheaper model,
“Over the time since the project’s presentation at the MAKS 2021 airshow, work has been organized to get feedback from potential customers. Aside from the customers’ additional requirements, work has been carried out to optimize the cost and analyze certain technical solutions, which has made it possible to substantially raise the competitive edge and the commercial attractiveness and reduce technical risks in creating the domestic single-engine airplane,”
What exactly are the technical risks of creating a domestic single-engine aircraft? We have no idea, but it might have to do with the engine. Russia makes pretty decent jet engines, but they are hardly marvels of design and engineering. They are known to be robust and easy to work on cheaply, but this comes at the cost of performance and fuel efficiency. Russia’s very best engine, the Saturn-Izdeliye30 will probably be in the flying prototypes not go in the export model. Russian arms makers are pretty famous for hyping the capabilities of production models while offering a stripped-down version to export customers at a much lower price. Right now the aircraft is being promised at $25 million a copy while the F-35 comes in at nearly $80 million. The cost of materials and labor are not three times less in Russia. That much lower price is about what is not under the hood in an SU-75 versus the F-35 which comes fully loaded with the latest sensors and targeting systems and a phenomenal engine that can cruise in the high subsonic region using just about 40 percent of available military power.
As it turns out, sanctions imposed by the West may make it impossible for UAC to even fill orders if they sell any. The aircraft will need lots of micro-chips it can no longer obtain along with imported precision machinery(from Germany) to build the wings and airframes. The US would also use whatever leverage it possesses with potential customers not to buy anything from Russia with US Dollars to starve Putin of hard currency.
Captured US Equipment on Display
Also featured at the Expo was a small collection of US equipment(weapons that actually work), including an Hummvee, some small arms, and an M-777 howitzer. The jokes about attendees trying to order 300 M-777 Howitzers come easy but it is interesting that the Russians took steps to make sure the gear was spotlessly clean, right down to armor all on the tires.
Nobody is lining up to get in these tanks
Who can blame them?
The Tank Olympics at the Alabino armor proving grounds is an annual event held by Russia. It’s an annual “competition” between tank crews that operate Russian tanks in their army in twelve countries. The events include an obstacle course and several shooting competitions. With the exception of China, which brings it own tank, all the other tanks are provided by Russia. In the shooting competition, it took all of 90 seconds for the crews to get off three aimed shots at 1,000 yards.
Russia of course wins every year since their crews get to practice at the range year-round and Russia provides the tanks their competitors use. In the video below, the South Ossetia crew has a turret malfunction and it swept the spectators in the stands with its loaded 125mm cannon.
The Zimbabwe crew had to use a spare tank after the gun jammed on the Russia-provided tank for the competition. A Russian tech crew had to assist in getting the jam cleared. This crew then got lost on the track, took a wrong turn, and ended up driving towards the stands.
The Sudanese crew drove their T-72B3 into the side of the obstacle and disabled the vehicle, trying to get through an anti-tank ditch with two feet of water in it.
Then an Iranian crew drove off the oval speed track and ran over one of the fire truck-sized water nozzles used to keep the dust down on the track.
After firing their main gun the Venezuelan crew reversed off the firing pad and was almost T-boned by another tank with a Kazakhstan crew blasting around the track at balls-out speed.
A serious technical malfunction of a T-72B3 at the army games in Russia this morning. South Ossetia after loading ammunition and approaching the firing range had an out of control turret where the gun was pointed at the Zimbabwean crewed tank and back towards the stands. #Russia pic.twitter.com/Mc6BlFWJvy
— CNW (@ConflictsW) August 18, 2022
The Picture below is of Sergeant Alexei Bakulev who was on the Russian crew that won the Tank Biathlon in 2017 receiving the trophy from the Russian Defence Minister, Sergei Shoigu. The Mirror reports that Bakulev was killed in action in Ukraine in just the last day or so. He was probably driving an obsolete T-62 pulled out of mothballs because T-72s are in short supply right now in the Russian army, but not at the Tank Biathlon.