Putin climbs into tank, talks up defence on Urals arms show visit

On 9 September 2011, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin visited an arms show in the Urals, during which he – as shown on Russian TV – climbed into a tank and talked up the importance of the defence sector, which he described as Russia’s pride and joy and the best guarantee of its sovereignty.

Russian Defence Ministry-controlled Zvezda TV was the source of one report about the event, in the town of Nizhniy Tagil. The report showed Putin, in his shirt sleeves, climb into the turret of a tank on static display. It was named as the T-90S upgrade, which was described piecemeal in this and other reports.

"The tank’s electronic innards are in no way inferior to those in the West. Its armour and firepower have been boosted. In addition, it sports an automatic gearbox, while instead of control sticks it uses a wheel," the report ran. It also said that the T-90S was "virtually invulnerable during long-range combat". It went on to show Putin’s exchange with an exhibitor at the show, who said that the range of the tank’s missile is 5 km – "we call it its long arm: they can see us but cannot reach us". This, Putin said, addresses the military’s concern on a point which the "Ministry of Defence has always complained about".

In addition to this footage, there was also video of a tank on the move in a demonstration exercise as part of the arms show. First, at speed, it drove over a ski-jump obstacle. As it did so, it briefly left the ground and at the same time fired its gun. It went on to drive through a narrow channel filled with water – it was said 1.2 metres deep.

There was also other military hardware on display at the show. Individual items were named as a Rys armoured car, a Khrizantema-S antitank missile vehicle, a radar system and a "plasma cutter", with a man shown at work with the latter. Inside the exhibition hall, Putin also saw communications devices, small arms and other systems shown for the first time ever, according to the report.

[Video Desktop: 12:09:20 – 12:12:00]

Russia’s "pride"

"This hardware is Russia’s pride, and this is graphic proof of our defence industry’s enormous potential – scientific, workforce and production potential. Be in no doubt that the state will continue to accord the highest priority to this, as it has always done, and invest in the renewal of the defence industry plants, the training of their workforce as well as technological innovation, which can underpin the qualitative growth of our entire national economy," Putin said at the opening ceremony, as televised by the Russian official state television channel Rossiya 1.

"As you know, along with the arms programme that has been adopted, another programme adopted – it is worth trillions, not just a trillion but provision has been made for three trillions – is for the renewal of our defence industry, for us to be able reliably to ensure the security and sovereignty of our Motherland in the long term," he added.

On the T-90S, the tank, this report added, also features "electromagnetic protection" and a more powerful engine.

The report also had video of a UAV, called Forpost – as seen in red lettering on its side – and described as a reconnaissance one, on static display there.

[Video Desktop: 12:13:55 – 12:15:30]

Other TV

There was further footage from the Nizhniy Tagil arms show on the state-owned Russian news channel Rossiya 24 [Video Desktop: 12:14:10 – 12:15:20], state-controlled Russian Channel One TV [Video Desktop: 11:12:45 – 11:14:15; and 14:12:55 – 14:16:20], Gazprom-Media’s NTV [Video Desktop: 12:11:00 – 12:14:35] and the privately owned Russian television channel REN TV [Video Desktop: 15:43:00 – 15:45:22] on the day.

On the T-90S, the Channel One TV report said that it is armed with an improved version of a 125-mm gun and the "latest systems to protect it against mines and laser-guided missiles", and is powered by a 1,130-hp engine. In a later dispatch, Channel One TV’s correspondent enthused about the T-90S’s qualities – "everything is controlled automatically, there is a 360-degree video surveillance system with a rear-view video camera – that is to say the tank becomes virtually invulnerable – and, improbably, there is even provision for air conditioning".

In this, second, longer report, there was video of other systems, including communications and simulator, on display in the exhibition hall, as well as other armour on static display outside. There was also video of a demonstration exercise, during which a tank unit had to engage the enemy "from 4 km away". A self-propelled howitzer, its range up to 29 km, and a pontoon bridge on a tracked transporter were also shown in action.

Over on NTV, whose report talked up the T-90S upgrade as a "new-generation" tank complete with a new gun, a new engine, an automatic gearbox and "optional" air conditioning, though externally virtually unchanged, Oleg Siyenko, captioned as manufacturer Uralvagonzavod’s director-general, said: "The main aspects are that its armament has changed, it has a more powerful engine, an automatic gearbox, dynamic protection, a different machine gun, with better protection and more accurate, and, the most important thing, its software package, which allows it to fire with great accuracy."

In the NTV report, other hardware on display at the arms show was named as the Terminator tank support combat vehicle and the Smerch S-400 air defence missile system.

In a dampener on these proceedings, REN TV’s report talked about the Russian tank manufacturers’ losses from the contracts with Mu’ammar al-Qadhafi that will never now be. It also said the T-90S is in fact a modified T-72.

"This year, NATO spoilt the Russian tank builders’ mood" with its war in Libya, which caused lucrative contracts to be lost, according to a "bitter complaint" heard by Putin as he was shown the "tanks that had been intended for Qadhafi’s troops", the REN TV report said. "Where will they go now, with these modifications, French thermovision and air conditioning? Even when the Russian army buys tanks, it chooses simpler models, and has recently even started looking at China," the REN TV correspondent said.

Sources: Zvezda TV, Moscow, in Russian 1200 gmt 9 Sep 11; Rossiya 1 TV, Moscow, in Russian 1200 gmt 9 Sep 11; Rossiya 24 news channel, Moscow, in Russian 1200 gmt 9 Sep 11; Channel One TV, Moscow, in Russian 1100 and 1400 gmt 9 Sep 11; and REN TV, Moscow, in Russian 1530 gmt 9 Sep 11

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