What Does Modern Mean?

Is this modern?

The Russian military reports routinely on the growing proportion of “modern types of armaments, military and special equipment” entering its forces. On November 7,  Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu said:

“As a result, we have managed to increase the level of equipping troops with modern weapons by 4 times since 2012. Today it stands at 58.9 percent.”

Interviewed on October 31, MOD armaments tsar Yuriy Borisov stated that weapons and equipment in Russia’s permanent readiness units won’t be less than 60 percent modern at the end of 2017. The standing goal for GPV 2011-2020 is 70 percent.

The chief of the 46th TsNII recently gave the following percentages for modern armaments in the Russian inventory.

Percentage of Modern Weapons and Equipment

So Shoygu’s math above isn’t quite right — four times 16 is 64 rather than 58.9 percent modern weapons.

But what is modern? On Arms-expo.ru, military commentator Viktor Murakhovskiy not long ago described how the MOD categorizes its armaments.

The RF Armed Forces have five categories of weapons and equipment:

  • 1st category — New types entering the armed forces from industry which are under factory warranty and in use.
  • 2nd category — Serviceable types in use.
  • 3rd category — Types requiring some kind of repair.
  • 4th category — Types requiring capital repair.
  • 5th category — Types to be decommissioned.

Murakhovskiy turns to the RF standards agency to define modern armament:

Modern armaments are defined by state standard (GOST RV 51540-2005, Military Equipment, Terms and Definitions) — modern means a type of armament which is not inferior or superior to the best analogous foreign types in its combat, technical, and usage characteristics, or does not have foreign analogues.

All of which makes timely this little expounding on a point. New doesn’t always mean modern. There is new production of old designs. But by the same token one shouldn’t doubt that old weapons can be just as lethal and effective in combat as new ones in the right tactical situation.

With the long life cycles of today’s military technology, the distinction between new and modern will remain murky.

Take Russia’s Pantsir-S gun-missile air defense system. It was designed in the late 1980s and early 1990s to replace Tunguska from the 1970s. Because of Russia’s various troubles, Pantsir-S wasn’t produced until the late 2000s, and entered service by 2012. Obviously new but how modern? Now it’s slated for modernization by 2019. The Pantsir-SM is supposed to feature increased detection and engagement range with a new missile.

9 responses to “What Does Modern Mean?

  1. Something salient is always left out . . . an attentive reader will notice Shoygu says 58.9 percent modern to this point in 2017. The head of the 46th TsNII said the armed forces were 58.3 percent modern in 2016. Only a 0.6 percent gain in a year — not impressive.

  2. Pingback: What Does Modern Mean? | DFNS.net Policy

  3. Might have said also here that, by the Russian definition, modern doesn’t have to be new either.

  4. Actually you made a poor choice if you want to make the Pantsir an example as it is a very potent system even without upgrade is better than any comparable NATO system.
    Even today the Tunguska system from the mid 1980s is better than most systems used in NATO because their armies rely on their air forces for air defence, unlike the Russian Army.

    Old kit can get a new lease on life simply with a modern component being added.

    New requirements mean better communications and coordination and the ability to fight 24/7, and with new communications and night vision equipment old equipment could easily still be very useful.

    What is important is that the Russian military of today is vastly more capable than the Russian military of just 10 years ago, but there is still plenty of things needing to move forward.

    Personally I would like to see them introduce a new round to replace the 7.62 x 54mm round that entered Russian service two centuries ago (in the 19th century… 1891). It was upgraded with smokeless powder and a lighter projectile in the early 1900s and has served rather well but a replacement would make design of new weapons easier.

  5. The .6% increase was for the first 6 months (only) as announced in July. Historically most deliveries take place towards the end of the year so it will be January before we have a better picture of what was accomplished in 2017.

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  7. Shoygu gave a current 2017 percentage and Bokov the 2016 percentage. 2017 was current and 2016 was a final number. Neither man mentioned 0.6 percent. But that is the difference between 2017 and 2016 so far. Russian industry will in fact “storm” at the end of the year to push more stuff out. But it obviously won’t be a year where 11 percent or 17 percent of Russia’s hardware becomes “modern.” The pace of rearming has clearly slowed. Putin doesn’t want it to though; that much is clear from the early reports about GPV 2018-2025 (or 2027). What he wants and what happens can, of course, be two different things.

  8. July 26th, Shoigu and Borisov reporting after Q2 that 600 new and 300 repaired /rebuilt weapons and military equipment had raised the “modern” % by more then 0.5%. As for the rest of the year, ask me in January. There will be a slow down in modern % increase as most of the older systems to be upgraded, have been upgraded and money will now have to be spent on more expensive brand new technology.

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