THE Russian military received a sweeping array of new weapons last year, including 41 intercontinental ballistic missiles. Officials have stated that the wide-ranging modernisation will continue this year.

Defence minister Sergei Shoigu told politicians that the country’s air force will this year receive 170 new aircraft, while the army will receive 905 tanks and other armoured vehicles, and the navy will receive 17 new ships.

Amid tensions with the west, the Kremlin has continued to spend big on new weapons despite Russia’s economic downturn. Indeed, it has been reported that later this year three regiments of Russia’s strategic nuclear forces will receive new intercontinental ballistic missiles. Each regiment has up to 10 launchers.

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The rising number of new weapons has raised demands for new personnel. Shoigu acknowledged the military needs 1300 more pilots and will recruit them by 2018.

A severe money crunch after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union left the Russian military in tatters, with most of its planes grounded and ships left rusting at harbour due to a lack of funds.

But, as part of President Vladimir Putin’s military reforms, the armed forces have received new weapons and now engage in regular large-scale drills.

Russia has used its revived military capability in Syria –where it has launched an air campaign in support of Syrian President Bashar Assad – with the conflict acting as a testing ground for new weapons.

The weapons modernisation effort has also allowed the million-strong Russian military narrow the technological gap in some areas where Russia had fallen behind the west, such as long-range conventional weapons, communications and drone technologies. Shoigu also noted that Russia has now deployed new long-range early warning radars to survey the airspace along the entire length of its borders.

The minister added the military will complete the formation of three new divisions in the nation’s west and south-west, and will also deploy a new division on the Pacific Islands, which have been claimed by Japan. The disputed Kuril Islands have strategic importance.