Russia plans $650bn defence spend up to 2020

A Russian Su-35 jet fighter (image from Sukhoi website) The Su-35 is among new jets due to be bought in

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Eight nuclear submarines, 600 jets and 1,000 helicopters feature in plans to renew Russia's military by 2020, priced at 19tn roubles (£400bn; $650bn).

One hundred warships are also due to be bought in, including two helicopter carriers, in addition to two already being purchased from France.

The submarines will carry the Bulava missile, despite recent test failures.

Analysts say the ambitious programme only makes sense if the military upgrades its training and recruitment.

A painful drive to streamline the armed forces is already under way, with up to 200,000 officers losing their jobs and nine out of every 10 army units disbanded, the Associated Press news agency notes.

If the renewal is a success, it will leave Russia less reliant on the nuclear arsenal it inherited from the USSR.

"Russia needs a professional non-commissioned officer corps to train specialists who can really put these arms to effective use," Pavel Felgenhauer, an independent military analyst, told AP.

"This spending necessitates a whole new kind of military."

Missile defence boost

Last week, Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin announced that spending on defence development would triple from 0.5% of GDP to 1.5% from next year.

The defence spending was detailed in Moscow on Thursday by First Deputy Defence Minister Vladimir Popovkin.

"The main task is the modernisation of our armed forces," he said.

Much of the new spending will go on Russia's long under-funded navy. Apart from the submarines, 35 corvettes and 15 frigates will be ordered.

Russia has already ordered two French-built Mistral helicopter carriers, allowing it to rapidly deploy hundreds of troops and dozens of armoured vehicles on foreign soil.

Ten divisions equipped with the new S-500 anti-missile system are set to become the backbone of the country's missile defences.

New aircraft will include Su-34 and Su-35 fighters, and Mi-26 transport and Mi-8 gunship helicopters, AP adds.

Repeated failures of the Bulava intercontinental ballistic missile caused embarrassment for Russia, though two successful tests were reportedly conducted last year.

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