Last Night I stayed up until 5 A.M to watch the 71st annual Victory Day Parade in Red Square. Victory Day is a Russian holiday that celebrates the triumph of the Soviet Union over Nazi Germany. Every year the event is marked by a Military Parade in Red Square where Russia shows off it’s troops and latest military hardware.
Russian state media was nice enough to stream the parade live and even uploaded an archive of the event, which I have linked below.
The video begins with the Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu riding around in an open car as he inspects the troops.
This is followed by a speech by President Putin at the 14 minute mark. The speech mostly concerns the heroics and sacrifices of World War Two. Notably, Putin goes off topic for a bit to talk about the war Syria, positing that the world should create an alliance against international terrorism. This remark was likely intended to for domestic consumption, as it feeds into the Russian narrative of the Syrian civil war as a war against “terrorism” rather than a war against a rebellion.
The next 20 minutes consist of troops and cadets from the various defense academies and establishments around Russia marching through the square.
At about the 41 minute mark, a single T-34-85 Tank, bearing the Ribbon of St. George rounds the corner into Red Square. The T-34 is a symbol of Soviet power industry and victory during and after the war. It is the only vehicle from the era in the parade and it’s presence at the front is clearly ceremonial.
You can watch the parade for a rundown of every weapons system, but I had a few general takeaways:
- The parade points toward a heavy emphasis on modernizing ground forces in lieu of air power. Some of the ground vehicles displayed had impressive designs utilizing modular concepts like the new Kurganets APCs, that other nations like the United States still has not managed to implement.
- Russian tanks were all modern designs with the T-90A and Armata showing up in force. The presence of six Armatas indicates that tank production is gearing up.
- Russia’s ground based air power and air defense were also impressive. It’s newest air weapons were the S-400 and Pantsir S1 systems. These systems are both currently deployed to Syria and are considered to be some of the best air defense systems in world. A pair of RS-24 Yars road mobile ICBMs also make an appearance.
- On the other hand, Russia still hasn’t managed to update it’s air force with fifth generation fighters and bombers. All of the fixed wing aircraft that took part in the flyover near the end of the parade were modernized fourth generation fighters and Cold War era bombers. In this regard, Russia is lagging behind the United States.