Vostok 2018: a showcase of Russian military might and ties with China
War games planned with 300,000 troops, 36,000 military vehicles, 1,000 aircraft, two Russian naval fleets and all airborne units, along with a contingent from China
Russia’s biggest military exercise in nearly four decades will get under way on Tuesday in a five-day show of its power in the far east.
President Vladimir Putin is expected to inspect the Vostok 2018 war games involving 300,000 troops from Russia’s Eastern and Central military districts, the biggest of their kind since the Zapad 81 exercise in 1981.
Both China and Mongolia are sending troops to Vostok 2018, also known as East 2018, while Turkey, a Nato member, said it was still “evaluating the offer” from Russia.
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoygu said Moscow would engage in tri-service mock-operations involving 36,000 military vehicles, 1,000 military aircraft, two of Russia’s naval fleets and all its airborne units.
A contingent from China’s People’s Liberation Army is expected to take part in the main display at the Tsugou training ground in the Eastern Military District, showing some of the results of Beijing’s unprecedented military overhaul of the past few years.
China’s Ministry of National Defence announced it was sending nearly 3,200 troops, 900 weapons, and 30 fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters to the exercise – amplifying the West’s concerns over the two countries’ closer military cooperation.
Chief of the Russian General Staff Valery Gerasimov said on Thursday that many modernised and new military equipment, including tanks, aircraft and ships, would be actively involved in the drills.
Here are the five advanced weapons on show that will be worth watching:
Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jet
Also known as Flanker-E, this is the fourth-generation of the Russian-made fighter jet with single-seat and twin engines. It is seen as a symbol of Sino-Russian military cooperation after the PLA Air Force ordered 24 of the aircraft in 2015. As of the end of last year, 14 of the jet fighters were listed in China’s inventory and the remainder and are expected to be delivered by the end of next year.
The Su-35 features passive electronically scanned array radar, capable of detecting an aerial target up to 400km away. It is also capable of tracking 30 airborne targets and engaging eight of them simultaneously.
Although the aircraft was initially designed for export only, the Russian Air Force became the first to sign up in 2009 and moved the fighter jet, along with the S-400 missile defence system, to its far east region in 2016.
Sukhoi Su-34 Fullback fighter bomber
This aircraft is an all-weather supersonic medium-range fighter jet based on the Russian Sukoi Su-27 Flanker air superiority fighter, also known as the Su-27B.
With a twin engine and twin seat, the bomber was designed mainly for tactical use against ground and naval targets. The aircraft was deployed to Iran and Syria to conduct air strikes against the Daesh jihadist groups in 2016.
With its aerial reconnaissance capability, the aircraft can attack targets at day and night. It is expected to eventually replace the Russian Air Force’s Su-24 strike fighter and the Tu-22M3 long-distance bomber.
T-90S main battle tank
Weighing more than 45 tonnes, this is the latest development in Russia’s T series of tanks which have been in service since 1992.
The T-90S gun can fire the laser beam riding 9M119 Refleks anti-tank guided missile system with a range of 100m to 4,000m, and takes just 11.7 seconds to reach maximum range. The system is intended to engage tanks fitted with explosive reactive armour, as well as low-flying air targets such as helicopters, at a range of up to 5km.
As an all-weather armoured vehicle, the T-90 tank is protected by both conventional armour-plating and explosive reactive armour. It can carry up to 1,600 litres of fuel in the main tank and fuel drums.
Chinese Type 99 main battle tanks
China’s third-generation main battle tank, with a 125mm smoothbore gun and carousel-style autoloader, is also known as the ZTZ99 main battle tank. It is a successor to the Type 98G armoured vehicle, and was first shown during the National Day military parade to mark the 50th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China in 1999.
The vehicle can carry 42 rounds, with an additional 22 stored in the separate autoloader. It can fire eight rounds per minute using the autoloader and two rounds per minute if manually loaded.
Like the Russian T-90S, the Type 99 carries a laser beam riding 9M119 Refleks anti-tank guided missile system. But it also features an angular welded turret design inspired by the American M1A1 and German Leopard 2 tanks.
Its hull contains around 1,000mm to 1,200mm of steel armour, and it has a 1,500 horsepower diesel engine, which is 300 horsepower greater than the Type 98.
Admiral Gorshkov-class frigates with Kalibr cruise missiles
Also known as Project 22350, this is Russia’s new guided missile frigate which was only commissioned in July. It is expected to show with upgraded Kalibr cruise missiles.
The Kalibr missile system is a Russian land and ship-based attack cruise missile with an estimated range of around 1,500 to 2,500km.
The ground-based missile system was used by the Russian military to attack terrorists from Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) and Jabhat al-Nusra in the Syria conflict.
The Gorshkov-class frigate, with a full displacement of 5,400 tonnes, a length of 135m, a beam of 16m, and a draft of 4.5m – is the largest surface combatant to be built by Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union. It is capable of conducting long-range strikes, anti-submarine warfare and can be used to carry out escort missions.
The new warship is believed to be deployed at the Russian Navy’s Northern Fleet – which has been increasing its ties with the Chinese navy in recent years.