© AFP/Alexander ZemlianichenkoA new Russian nuclear submarine, the Yuri Dolgoruky, at the Sevmash factory in the northern city of Arkhangelsk in 2010.
Moscow - The graying bear is getting a make-over. Russia's military is launching its biggest rearmament effort since Soviet times, including a $650 billion program to procure 1,000 new helicopters, 600 combat planes, 100 warships, and 8 nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines.
Analysts say Russia, while already the world's fifth-largest military spender, needs strong conventional forces to reduce its over-reliance on its aging Soviet-era nuclear missile deterrent. Valentin Rudenko, director of the independent Interfax-Military News Agency
, says it could create "a whole new ballgame."
"For about two decades we've had no real modernization, at least not like what's being proposed now," he says. "Russia will finally have
modern, top-level armed forces that are capable of protecting the country."
Deputy Defense Minister Vladimir Popovkin last week announced the unprecedented new outlays, which will see a massive re-equipping of Russia's strategic nuclear deterrent as well as its conventional forces. The Defense Ministry today said the "modernization drive" will begin this year with the deployment of new generations of air defense and antimissile weapons by Russian ground forces.