Russia's Geopolitical Confidence on Display at Dubai Airshow 2023
13:15 14.11.2023 (Updated: 17:11 14.11.2023)
© AFP 2023 Giuseppe CacaceЛюди выходят из российского павильона на Dubai Airshow 2023 в Дубае
© AFP 2023 Giuseppe Cacace
Russia is participating in the Dubai Airshow 2023 with a lot of enthusiasm despite its ongoing Special Military Operation (SMO) in Ukraine, its sales pitch supported by the excellent performance of many of its weapon systems and its newfound geopolitical confidence.
Rosoboronexport Pavilion Displays Dubai 2023
Russian weapon systems on display at the airshow, to be held from November 13 to November 17, will include electronic warfare (EW) systems, aircraft and helicopter models, paratroop systems, pilot weapons and equipment, Orlan 30 UAV system, RVV-BD and RVV-SD air-to-air missiles, Kh-69 stealth cruise missile, S-350E Vityas IADS, Pantsir S-1M short range AD system, RB-504PE counter drone systems, IL-122-1E small sized radar and the venerable Ka-52ME attack helicopter.
For the first time in over 30 years, Russia will display at an international exhibition a cargo aircraft - the IL-76MD-90AE Universal Airborne Transport Platform with Paratroop System, which can transport and airdrop a wide range of systems. (The E at the end of an identifier refers to the export variant of the weapon system.)
Su-75 Checkmate Fighter
Russia Su-75 Checkmate fighter, which was to fly by 2023 end, will not be on display. On the eve of the Dubai Airshow 2023, Rostec told Sputnik that preparations have begun in Russia for the production of the first samples of light stealth fighter.
© AP Photo / Jon Gambrella mockup of the Sukhoi Su-75 Checkmate stealth fighter jet
a mockup of the Sukhoi Su-75 Checkmate stealth fighter jet
© AP Photo / Jon Gambrell
During the Dubai Airshow 2021, the head of the Rostec state corporation Sergei Chemezov had said that production of three prototypes of Checkmate fighter jets had been launched. Also, during Dubai Airshow 2021, Rosoboronexport DG Alexander Mikheyev had told TASS that Checkmate orders will be accepted only after the fighter takes to the skies and its serial production is launched.
The UAC (United Aircraft Corporation), which is part of Rostec, presented a new light tactical fighter named Checkmate at the MAKS 2021 airshow. The Checkmate incorporates the most advanced systems, including an open architecture configuration to meet the customer’s requirements and unique artificial intelligence technologies. The single-engine fighter is based on stealth technology and features internal carriage of air-to-air and air-to-surface armaments. The fighter will carry a payload of over seven tonnes and will be capable of striking up to six targets at a time. The aircraft will be capable of flying at Mach 1.8 and will have an operating range of 3,000 km.
Close Look at Weapon Systems on Display
Here is a brief run through some of the important weapon systems that Russia is displaying at the airshow.
The Orland 30 UAV, which is being used extensively in the ongoing SMO, is Intended to provide all weather aerial reconnaissance, detection, identification and laser marking of moving and stationary targets in visual and IR range. The UAV provides target coordinates, intelligence and data transmission in near real time. A key capability of the UAV is target designation and illumination for semi active laser homing (SALH) artillery shells, kamikaze drones and missiles.
© Sputnik / Valery MelnikovA visitor explores the Orlan-30 unmanned aerial vehicle
A visitor explores the Orlan-30 unmanned aerial vehicle
© Sputnik / Valery Melnikov/
Not surprisingly, Russia is displaying two of its most potent air-to-air missiles whose success in the SMO has been grudgingly acknowledged even by Ukrainian Air Force pilots - the long range RVV-BD and the short range RVV-MD2.
The RVV-BD is a 200-km range AAM that equips Su-57, Su-30, and Su-35 fighters.
The missile uses data-link and inertial navigation for mid course guidance and jam proof DRFM active radar homing for terminal guidance.
© Vitaly V. KuzminThe R-37M air-to-air missile
The R-37M air-to-air missile
© Vitaly V. Kuzmin
The missile weighs 500-kg & features a 60-kg warhead! During the endgame, it is capable of 8g manoeuvring flying at 6M!
The RVV-MD2 short range air-to-air missile was developed for internal carriage on the Su-57 fighter.
The RVV-MD2 rocket, in addition to aerodynamic control surfaces, has gas-dynamic rudders.
The Ka-52ME attack helicopter is among the Russian weapon systems most responsible for bringing Ukraine's June counteroffensive to a grinding halt, with heavy loss of western armour and Ukrainian lives.
The Ka-52M is the latest variant of the Ka-52 (Alligator) coaxial rotor attack helicopter with side by side seating. It's designed to destroy tanks, armoured and non-armored ground targets, and enemy troops and helicopters both on the front line and in tactical reserves.
The Ka-52M incorporates the combat experience gained by Russian forces during the Syrian air campaign.
© Photo : Russian MoD/video screenshotKa-52
© Photo : Russian MoD/video screenshot
Ka-52ME features a new radar system, Safar, an AESA radar capable of tracking air and ground targets alike, as well as conducting electronic warfare. The radar supports the use of extended-range guided missiles.
Additionally, the Ka-52ME features a modernised GOES-451M electro-optical targeting turret with improved target detection and recognition capabilities.
The range of detection and recognition of the target of the thermal imaging channel of the upgraded sight is doubled.
© Russian MoD/video screenshotGOES-451M
© Russian MoD/video screenshot
The Ka-52M missile armament is unified with the armament of thet Mi-28NM attack helicopter.
The attack helicopter is capable of carrying a maximum weapon load of up to 2942 kg. In addition to ground targets, it can also engage air targets using air-to-air missiles.
Air-to-surface missiles integrated with the Ka-52M include Ataka-VM missiles (6-km range), Vikhr (8-km range), Vikhr- M (10-km range) and "Product 305" (> 14-km range).
One of the most formidable features of the Ka-52ME is its ability to carry the Product 305E light multipurpose cruise missile with a 25 kg warhead and a range of up to 14.5 kms. The missile can engage both static and moving targets.
Self Protection Suite
In the Ka-52ME, the BKO L418 “Monoblock” self-protection suite replaces the earlier L370-5 Vitebsk Self Protection Suite.
The Ka-52ME is the only attack helicopter in the world fitted with pilot ejection seats.
© Sputnik / Ivan RodionovRussia's Ka-52 helicopter. File photo
Russia's Ka-52 helicopter. File photo
© Sputnik / Ivan Rodionov/
Il-76MD-90A is a deeply modernised version of the Il-76MD aircraft.
The Il-76MD-90A features new PS-90A-76 engines with a thrust of up to 14.5 tons. Its predecessor, the IL-76MD featured D-30KP2 engines with a thrust of up to 12 tons.
The new engines help reduce fuel consumption by 10%. The Il-76MD-90A has a maximum take-off weight of 210 t. It can carry a payload of 60 t to a range of 4000 km. In comparison, the IL-76MD can carry a payload of 47 t to a range of 4,000 km.
© AFP 2023 Giuseppe CacaceIl-76MD-90A at Dubai Airshow-2023
Il-76MD-90A at Dubai Airshow-2023
© AFP 2023 Giuseppe Cacace
In addition to new engines, the upgraded aircraft features a new wing, new landing gear and new avionics with "glass" cockpit displays.
It is capable of carrying a greater number of transportable and air-droppable military hardware.
The loading system has been automated and the auxiliary power unit TA-12A features more power. The lifting capacity of the electric hoists has been increased, and the aircraft now has a video surveillance system and a new mobile control panel for the loading and securing systems. Together, these systems reduce labour intensity and shorten loading and flight preparation times.
The aircraft features a defensive aids suite (DAS), reportedly developed by NII Ekran. The DAS can counter missiles with IR or active RF seekers. The suite reportedly contains an L370-5 directable IR countermeasure (DIRCM), an ultraviolet (UV) missile approach warner, a countermeasure dispensing system (CMDS), laser warning system, an electronic countermeasures unit, and a multipurpose display panel on the flight deck.
The aircraft features an electro-optical (EO) sensor under the nose and at least six other sensors positioned below the cockpit, on the main undercarriage fairings, and on the wingtips. There are additional sensors in the tail and a unit under the body of the aircraft, aft of the front undercarriage.
The IL-76MD-90AE can be quickly reconfigured for casualty evacuation and fire fighting roles.
IAF Interest in IL-76MD-90AE?
The IL-76MD-90AE could be of interest to the IAF. In 2016, Russia had offered to India its tanker derivative - the Il-78MD-90A.
The IAF has six Il-78MKI tankers purchased back in the 2000s. Following the purchase, the IAF was not very happy with the Il-78MKI because it reportedly requires a runway length of 11,480 feet to 15,022 feet to carry full fuel loads.
As such, the aircraft is based exclusively at Agra in northern India because extending runways at other IAF bases to facilitate IL-78MKI operations is an expensive proposition.
The Il-78MD-90A, with its more powerful PS-90A-76 engines, would be able to operate from other IAF bases.
© Sputnik / Valeriy MelnikovIL-76MD-90A
© Sputnik / Valeriy Melnikov/
Since the IL-78MD-90AE features airframe tweaks, including new wings and undercarriage, it's likely not possible for the IAF to upgrade its fleet of IL-78MKI tankers to IL-78MD-90AE standard. However, it may be possible to upgrade the existing D-30KP2 engines fitted on the IL-78MKI with the significantly more powerful PS-90A-76 engines.
Indeed, in its response to an audit report tabled in parliament in August 2017, the MoD had stated that IL-78MKI would go into overhaul in 2018-19 and be fitted with upgraded engines, allowing them to take off from shorter runways.
In May 2019, the Russian newspaper Kommersant, had reported that New Delhi had signed a contract worth 80 million dollars with PJSC Ilyushin for the upgrade of 6 aircraft. The current upgrade status of the IAF tankers is not in the public domain.
It is not known if the IAF has any plans to similarly upgrade its IL-76 fleet.
IAF Interest in the Checkmate?
The promotional video released by the UAC, when announcing the Checkmate fighter during MAKS-2021, suggested that the new fighter was pitched at countries like India, Vietnam, Argentina and the UAE.
India has, however, shown no interest in the fighter with the IAF firmly committed to the AMCA project. Besides, as mentioned above, the Checkmate will be available for export only after Russia begins serial production of the fighter.
However, it needs to be kept in mind, based on the track records of the HAL and the DRDO, that the AMCA is unlikely to be available for induction into the IAF before 2040. The Checkmate, however, will be available for induction around 2030.
A low observable, short range super manoeuvrable fighter better meets the IAF's defensive requirements than fighters such as the F-22, F-35 or even the Su-57.
Russia's pitch for weapon system exports at the Dubai Airshow 2023, despite its ongoing Special Military Operation in Ukraine, tells its own story; a very different story from the near delusional Western narrative of Russia being on the verge of economic collapse and military defeat.
Russian weapon systems have held their own in the face of a catalogue of Western analogs hyped as wonder weapons.
Russia's rising stature as a guiding beacon for the global South and the Middle East will likely open a bigger weapons market for Russia and Russia is at Dubai to make the best of the shift to multilateralism.