The following video does a great job of demonstrating the broad spectrum of current Russian military power and capabilities.
Although most of the hardware looks like a series of great finds from 1980’s garage sales, the Russians do have something for every occasion. Yet, can the aging and economical weaponry compete in the present day?
Putin may be winning a PR campaign in which social media consumers are too lazy to read past headlines, thinking the Russians are fighting ISIS, and taking any Facebook photo with print over it as fact, but the reality of it is that Russia’s military presence in Syria, though effective in bolstering Assad, isn’t as impressive in functionality as one would expect from a world super power.
Over the course of Russia’s recent hands-on involvement in Syria, we have seen repeated shortcomings in their military hardware. Multiple long-range cruise missiles, launched from the Caspian Sea and intended to impress the world, fell out of the sky on their way to Syria, crashing ineffectively in Iran.
Although Russia has precision-guided aircraft munitions, they seem to be relying on cheaper dumb bombs with varying accuracy for use in Syria. From an economical standpoint, and without any obvious rebel anti-air assets, that decision would seem wise. Yet, after viewing their first press release of airstrike footage, one could see that the bombs, although in close proximity, didn’t score direct hits on multiple targets. Looking back to the 2008 Russian-Georgian War, Russian airstrikes only hit their target 50 percent of the time, and of all the bombs dropped, only 40 percent detonated. Although Russia has never been one to tie their own hands behind their back with restrictive rules of engagement (ROE), dropping bombs off target only increases risk to civilians, and further degrades any chance of reconciliation between Assad and his people. An estimated 120,000 people have fled from Aleppo, Hama and Idlib provinces to escape the Russian airstrikes.
Additionally, Russian aircraft have been unable to maintain serviceability due to repeatedly breaking down and being grounded with mechanical issues. One-third of Russian attack planes and half of its transport aircraft are grounded at any time during their current deployment to Syria as a result of harsh and dusty conditions. That is a horribly unacceptable number for a forward deployed military. At no point did the U.S. or her western allies see rates that high in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, etc. Those terrible numbers are being attributed to Russia’s rookie status as a deploying military. Translation: Their logistics and support units are dicked-up.
Currently, Russia is claiming to undergo a military modernization shift, as we have seen with the introduction of their T-14 Armata tank platform, and Syria seems to be the proving ground for these advancements. However, Western sanctions have taken a toll against the Russian economy, and with the Syrian conflict now costing Russia an estimated $4 million a day, we may be seeing a “half-assed attempt” in Syria, much like the U.S. but for completely different reasons.
I do believe Russia will continue in gradually gaining military power and will forever be a threat to eastern European states, but if Syria is showing us anything, it’s the long way Russia still has to go before they can hang with the big boys when it comes to global dominance.