Putin Signs Major Russian
Arms Modernization Plan

MOSCOW (UPI) - Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a military modernization program that will see the introduction of advanced weapons by 2010, a senior official said Thursday.

Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov said the plan calls for the introduction of new "fifth-generation fighter jets, a new combat helicopter, tanks, armored vehicles, new warships and submarines."

Without revealing exact dates or production targets, Klebanov said certain advanced weapons would be delivered to the armed forces by 2010, while others would take longer to develop before eventually reaching the military.

According to the well-informed Kommersant business daily, spending of some 2.1 trillion rubles (around $70 billion) is envisioned for the plan, with almost half the financing coming from arms exports.

Just a day earlier, Russia's newly appointed air force chief Col.-Gen. Vladimir Mikhailov said strategic bombers would be upgraded to carry new precision-guided missiles.

Mikhailov's predecessor, Gen. Anatoly Kornukov, who is retiring, told Russian news agencies he had signed an order to begin production of top-quality precision weapons for the strategic air forces.

Military experts believe the new so-called smart missile, classified as the X-101, is in essence an air-to-surface cruise missile with an upgraded automatic guidance system.

Kornukov also said the new, long-range S-400 Triumph air defense missile would enter production by 2003.

Unlike Russia's S-300 missile system, the new missile will be able to shoot down stealth-capability aircraft as well as missile warheads on final approach.

The armed forces, which have been starved of investment for a decade, had demanded a sharp increase in spending on a much-needed modernization program to replace obsolete Soviet-era weapons, but it is unclear if the plan will ever be implemented in full.

Russia has significantly stepped up its arms exports effort, signing major contracts for weapons delivery to such customers as China and India, and scoring sales in markets that had been all but abandoned since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Last year, Russia's arms exports jumped by 20 percent, reaching a value of $4.4 billion, official figures show. The proven ability of Russia's vast military-industrial complex to produce quality armaments and earn ever-increasing profits is now seen by Russia's generals and admirals as an encouraging sign that the new modernization plan may become more than just a wish list as the profits are plowed back into research and development of once-frozen projects.

Copyright © 2002 United Press International. All rights reserved.

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