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Back in the Past: Degradation of Russia's Military-Technical Potential

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Photo: Degradation of Russia's Military-Technical Potential, Source: Collage The Gaze \ by Leonid Lukashenko
Photo: Degradation of Russia's Military-Technical Potential, Source: Collage The Gaze \ by Leonid Lukashenko

In the game world of Warhammer 40,000, there exists a concept known as archeotech or simply "archeo." This term refers to technologies and knowledge lost from humanity's Golden Age, which occurred several millennia ago. Technical relics from the past, including military equipment, are still in use, but modern humans lack the knowledge and skills to create new specimens or repair old ones.

A similar phenomenon is gradually occurring within Russia's military-industrial complex, which unleashed a full-scale aggressive war against Ukraine. Suffering losses in modern types of military equipment and deprived of Western technologies, the aggressor state is regressing into the past, reverting to older types of armaments, the quantity of which is also not unlimited.

Relic of Tsarist Russia

In the early morning of April 21, 2024, in the temporarily occupied Sevastopol (Crimea) after a Ukrainian missile strike, the 110-year-old rescue ship "Kommuna," considered the oldest combat-capable ship of the Russian Navy, caught fire. It is worth noting, for the sake of fairness, that apart from the "Kommuna," there are several even older ships in the world that are part of various navies, such as the American frigate USS Constitution, launched in 1797, and the Paraguayan gunboat P01 Capitan Cabral manufactured in 1908.

The main task of the "Kommuna," a catamaran-class ship, was to detect and rescue submarines. The construction of the ship began in 1912 at the Putilov Plant, and in 1915, under the name "Volkhov," it entered service in the Russian Imperial Fleet. According to some experts, during the construction of the "Kommuna," a special anti-corrosion "Putilov" steel was used, the production method of which has long been lost.

The "Kommuna" (then "Volkhov") was first used as a rescue ship in 1917 during the salvage of the sunken submarine AG-15 in the Baltic Sea. One of the last combat missions of this relic of the Russian Empire was the examination of the site where the Ukrainian missiles destroyed the cruiser "Moskva" in 2022. Nevertheless, this museum exhibit is unlikely to sail again, given the rapid reduction of the Russian Black Sea Fleet's composition, and the aggressor country will not have time to build a new ship of a similar class. Nor is there any point in doing so.

World War II Tanks

The highly publicized state-of-the-art tanks "Armata" never appeared in the war in Ukraine, and the T-90 tanks are running out faster than planned by the Russian General Staff (as of the end of April 2024, Russian tank losses in Ukraine amounted to 7,307 tanks). Therefore, Russia continues the war with increasingly older generations of tanks, from post-war modifications of the T-72 and T-62 to the T-54/55. According to CIT data, the first batches of decommissioned T-54/55 tanks were spotted in March 2023 on railway platforms heading from the Far East to western Russia.

Up until this point, the oldest combat tank leadership belonged to the T-62 produced in 1961. In May of the same year, the T-54/55 was spotted in photographs directly within the combat zone on Ukrainian territory. "Upgraded" with double anti-drone protection—spring mesh from the bunks—the crew-abandoned T-54/55 was entangled in the tracks in an unnamed logging area in Donbas.

Moreover, at the traditional parade on May 9, 2023, on Red Square, the tank columns representing the "Second Army of the World" featured only one Soviet T-34 tank from the times of World War II. But even this operational museum piece was brought from Laos, where surplus obsolete military junk was once dispatched from Russia.

Limited Stock

The development of the A-50, a Soviet and later Russian military long-range radar detection aircraft (similar to the American Boeing E-3 AWACS system), based on the Il-76, began in the early 1970s in the USSR. From the mid-1980s until the collapse of the USSR, A-50 aircraft were on combat duty in the air defense system within the domestic airspace. Later, as part of the Russian Aerospace Forces, the A-50 in several modifications was used during military conflicts from the late 20th to early 21st centuries: in the Iraq War (Black Sea control); participation in the First and Second Chechen Wars; during the Syrian War; in India, during the border conflict with Pakistan.

During the full-scale invasion of Russian troops into Ukraine in February 2022, A-50 aircraft performed airborne command tasks - managing and directing fighters and bombers, detecting and escorting enemy air and surface targets. Against the backdrop of overall air superiority of the Russian aviation, this aircraft posed a serious threat to Ukrainian defense forces and thus was one of the priorities for the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

Over the course of 2.5 years of combat operations, Russian occupiers lost from three to four A-50 aircraft: the first was damaged during a drone attack in 2023 at the Machulishchi airfield (Belarus), the second was destroyed over the Sea of Azov in January 2024, the third (in the most advanced modification A-50U) was shot down over the Krasnodar Krai (Russia) in February 2024, and the fourth (according to unconfirmed data) was critically damaged at the Taganrog airfield (Russia). According to the Main Intelligence Directorate of Ukraine (GUR), Russia now has fewer than 8 aircraft of this class, with some of them non-operational, and the state of the defense industry base of the Russian Federation does not allow for serial production of this model in the coming years.

"Shot" at the Moon

Last year was marked by real "moon races." Several missions were dispatched to the Earth's satellite, with the aim of landing and geological exploration of valuable minerals at the Moon's south pole. India rightfully joined the "lunar club" by successfully soft-landing a rover from the Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft. In the second phase of the "moon race," China, the United States, and Japan are actively involved - the rovers of the latter two countries plan to land on the South Pole this year. Additionally, the United States, European Union, and Japan plan the Lunar Gateway project—a lunar orbital platform.

Russia, entangled in a war of aggression in Ukraine, also attempted to revive its reputation as a "space superpower" by launching the Luna-25 automatic interplanetary station on August 11, 2023, using the Soyuz 2.1b rocket. The success of the project was critically important for Roscosmos not only because of the development of valuable resources but also because there had been no successful interplanetary missions in post-Soviet Russian history. However, due to the European Space Agency (ESA) ceasing all technical support for the Luna-25 mission after the start of the full-scale war in Ukraine in 2022, the Russian program aimed simply to achieve a soft landing, with little certainty beyond that.

Then, on August 19, the Luna-25 transitioned to a pre-landing orbit, after which, as customary for the Russians, an "emergency situation" occurred on board the station, causing the probe to shift into an uncontrolled orbit—crashing into the Moon. Thus, despite all the declared pathos, Roscosmos only managed to replicate the "success" of the Luna-2 interplanetary station, which similarly crashed onto the lunar surface in 1959.

Issues with "Angara"

Spring 2024 was also marked by embarrassing false starts of the first heavy carrier rocket "Angara-A5" since the USSR from the Vostochny Cosmodrome. In the case of this rocket, Roscosmos did not even bother to disguise its project as humanitarian, aimed at space exploration for the common good of humanity— the project's main customer is the Russian Ministry of Defense.

According to the statement by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on November 2, 2018, the goal of the Angara rocket program is to expand the orbital grouping of dual-use and military space vehicles. With whom the Russians plan to fight in space is a rhetorical question. Certainly not with the alien armada from the "Three-Body Problem" series.

Initially, in mid-March 2024, the launch of the "Soyuz MS-25" was canceled, and on April 9, 2 minutes before launch, the cancellation command was issued for "Angara-A5" due to a malfunction in the oxygen tank pressurization system of the central block. The same issue occurred on April 10. Only on April 11 did the military carrier rocket "Angara-A5" successfully launch. 

This once again confirms a simple truth—if you spend as much in a year on space exploration as you do in a month of war in Ukraine, then you won't see space. 

You won't see Ukraine either.



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