How the Russian Armed Forces have changed over the past 15 years

A Russian soldier with an anti-drone gun

Maxim Bogodvid/Sputnik

In the 21st century, the Russian military has gone from an obsolete technology to one of the most powerful on the world stage. What had to change to achieve these results?

The main areas of reform of the Russian armed forces were finalized in the late 2000s. At the time, the Russian armed forces were little more than a smaller version of the armed forces of the Soviet Union, which characterized by widespread hazing among military personnel, reliance on mobilization, deployment of troops, and putting the economy on a “military base”. before an expected war with the United States and its many allies. Indeed, the armed forces are preparing for a repeat of the military operations of the Great Patriotic War (1941-1945), which no longer meet the requirements of modern times and modern warfare.

How the army had to be reformed

Recruitment in the armed forces is undergoing a major overhaul. The country’s political leaders retained conscription, but halved its duration to one year. The number of young men drafted into the army was also drastically reduced. Thus, in the fall of 2021, under a presidential decree, 127,500 men were called up for military service, so that for this whole year the figure was around 250,000. If we suppose that the total numerical strength of the Russian Armed Forces is about 900,000 military personnel, this means that conscription accounts for about 28%.

This made it possible to form military units and permanent readiness formations capable of solving combat tasks without mobilization deployment. At the same time, a significant mobilization potential of the Russian army was preserved. The main difference between the permanent readiness units and the rest of the Russian armed forces is that the former are only occupied by contract servicemen. This eliminates the need for constant training of new recruits twice a year.

Of course, also in Soviet times, the strategic missile troops were in a permanent state of readiness, and they had a relatively small share of conscripts. There were also few conscripts in the air and missile defense teams on combat duty. But, previously, this principle never applied to ground troops, which in Soviet times were not supposed to be used without a mobilization deployment. In addition, there were so-called cadre military units and formations (understaffed) which, in principle, could not carry out combat missions in peacetime.

What new military equipment did the army need


No less important role in the transformation of the Russian Armed Forces was played by their technological upgrading. The armed conflicts of the early 2000s showed that the equipment and equipment of the Russian Armed Forces increasingly lag behind not only those of the most advanced armies (mainly the United States), but also of their partners of the post-Soviet space, such as Georgia. This was true for combat and support systems (e.g. communications, reconnaissance and target designation systems). Russian troops still had a significant amount of Soviet weapons, some of which had been in service for more than 20 years.

In 2014-2015, the measures taken by the Russian leadership made it possible to create a fundamentally new army capable of combat in real time (previously this applied only to the American army). To this end, powerful satellite communication channels have been established. Land, sea, air and space reconnaissance systems began transmitting information immediately through combat control channels. In particular, this made it possible to assign target designations to different types of strike systems in real time.

Finally, the Russian armed forces began to receive modern artillery systems, armored vehicles and combat aircraft. For example, ground troops began to be supplied – on a large scale – with T-80 tanks with active defense systems, BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicles and BTR-80 armored personnel carriers, as well as armored GAZ-2330 ‘Tigr’. vehicles, Iskander operational and tactical missile systems and later with 152-mm 2S35 ‘Koalitsiya-SV’ self-propelled howitzers based on the Т-90 tank. At the same time, Soviet weapons were modernized, which not only extended their service life, but also gave them a new quality, including the ability to conduct armed combat in real time.


A technological breakthrough occurred in the development of ground and air electronic warfare systems, sea-launched “Kalibr” cruise missiles, hypersonic warhead missile systems (the strategic “Avangard”, the launched “Kinzhal” by air, sea -launched ‘Tsirkon’). The Russian Su-35 multirole fighters and Su-34 fighter-bombers are on par with the best models available elsewhere in the world. Gradually, the country is regaining advanced positions in the development and production of unmanned aerial vehicles.

Previous decisions on the size of the Russian armed forces and their technological upgrading have proven their effectiveness in Syria. Since the fall of 2015, Russia has been testing the latest weapons systems in real conditions and practicing the interaction of battalion tactical groups on the battlefield. Equally important was the experience of using various types of robotic systems in Syria, including strike systems.

Thus, over the past 15 years, Russia has managed to create modern armed forces. And his potential adversaries will have to take this into account.

Vladimir Yevseyev, doctor of technological studies, is the head of the department of Eurasian integration and development of the SCO at the Institute of CIS countries.

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