8 November 2015

Russian Military Bets on Innovation

Posted by Samuel Bendett
November 3, 2015

Much has been written about changes to the Russian military's equipment and training, its concept of operations and, finally, its force projection -- in Crimea, Eastern Ukraine, and now in Syria. The changes herald major shifts in one of the world's largest militaries -- a force that has been eager to recapture the stature and momentum Moscow once held during the Cold War, where it rivaled United States across the globe. Underpinning such changes are numerous developments and policies taking place behind the scenes across Russia. The official newspaper of the Russian Armed Forces, Krasnaya Zvezda, (RedStar.ru) recently wrote about technological innovations that could result in significant changes to the way Russian military trains, fights and defends itself.

On Oct. 5 and 6, an international exhibition titled "Innovation Day of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation 2015" took place in several cities across Russia -- in Moscow, Ekaterinburg, Rostov-on-Don, and Vladivostok. According to RedStar, more than 30 conferences and roundtable discussion took place with the participation of representatives of enterprises from Russia and foreign countries. Participants discussed a wide range of issues, from innovation policies and ways to organize the logistics of the Armed Forces, to the prospects for use of the latest technological achievements in the interests of the military.

According to the paper, Russia is currently implementing many programs aimed at creating favorable conditions for technological innovation. These include the activities of the Foundation for Assistance to Small Innovative Enterprises in science and technology. This foundation has given support to Mikron, an enterprise engaged in the production of telecommunications equipment, microwave electronics, and radar, as well as supporting a small investment company, Sibanalitpribor, which develops automatic weather systems.

RedStar notes that the main distinguishing feature of the Innovation Day was an emphasis on the ideas presented, not on the size of the exhibition itself. Numerous innovations in the fields of robotics, electronics, information and telecommunications technology, cybersecurity, optics, security, military installations, and complex laboratory simulators were presented to the public. The paper also noted that special attention was given to an upgraded version of the iconic Kalashnikov semi-automatic rifle, the AK-12, whose final appearance was significantly different from the original prototype made public a few years ago. The paper also noted that not all the exhibits received equal attention -- at one of the exhibition sites outside of Moscow, people stopped paying attention to the "Russian Helicopters" booth following the departure of the Russian minister of defense and his staff - apparently, no one wanted to get acquainted with the models of new helicopters that were already shown at this year's MAKS International Aviation and Space Salon and HeliRussia exhibition. Despite new ideas presented, visitors also seemed to pay less attention to concept models of unmanned aerial vehicles.

One of the biggest draws at the Moscow exhibition site were inventions presented by the Central Research Institute for Precision Machine Building, a Russian industrial design bureau, which allowed its business partners to show off their ideas. These included special goggles that look like sunglasses but could withstand in impact from an object flying at the speed of 250 meters (800 feet) per second, and a portable personal heater that looked like a flak jacket with gloves. RedStar notes that many foreign visitors paid close attention to the Clover mobile field hospital, which is designed for the treatment of severe battlefield injuries and was created by the specialists at the Center of Trauma and Orthopedics together with the departments of military surgery, trauma and orthopedics at the Russian Military Medical Academy. Its designers note that Clover's uniqueness lies in the fact that it could allow treatment of the lightly wounded as well as of those with severe injuries that require hospital care. Such innovations are closely monitored by Moscow to ensure their progress and eventual delivery to various military branches: President Vladimir Putin recently said that following years of development, his opponents would be pleased with new developments in the field of defense and security.

Samuel Bendett is the Business Development Strategist at the Cherokee Nation Technology Solutions. He has experience at the U.S. Department of Defense and a range of private and non-profit institutions dealing with foreign policy, security, and technology. The views expressed here are his own.

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