Vladimir Putin has recently been talking a lot of smack in demonstrating Russia’s new weapons. Of course, the fact that the Navy is deploying lasers kinda renders two of these highly hyped weapons inert, but let’s not burst Putin’s bubble… On second thought, that guy’s a jerk, so let’s poke some holes in his sails by reviewing past Russian weapons that were massively overhyped.
1. MiG-25 Foxbat
The performance specs on this plane were impressive. According to MilitaryFactory.com, it had a top speed of 2,170 miles per hour and could reach altitudes in excess of 80,000 feet. It packed four AA-6 Acrid air-to-air missiles and could also carry the AA-7 Apex and AA-8 Aphid. Its purpose was to counter the planned B-70 Valkyrie, but the Valkyrie never got past the prototype stage. As a consequence, the Foxbat ended up a plane without a mission.
America got a close look at a MiG-25 when one was flown to Japan, and they breathed easily as they learned just how primitive some of the onboard technology was. The MiG-25 never did that well in combat. It may have scored a kill in Desert Storm and did kill a Predator in 2002, but two were killed by Air Force F-15s during Desert Storm and a third was shot down shortly afterward by an F-16.
2. T-72 main battle tank
People had their suspicions after the Israelis handled Syrian T-72s with no problem in 1982. During Desert Storm, though, is when this tank was officially declared all hype. In one incident, as recounted in Tom Clancy’s Armored Cav, a T-72 fired a main-gun round at an M1A1 Abrams from roughly 400 yards. The round bounced off and left a groove in the armor. The offending T-72 didn’t survive return fire from the Abrams.
The Soviets — and Russians — have built a lot of T-72s, and the tank is still widely used. It’s cheap, it’s kinda simple, and it only needs three crewmen. The late Tom Clancy put it best in a 1996 USENET post after taking one for a test drive, saying, “to call this beast a dog is an insult to Pluto.”
3. MiG-29 Fulcrum
The Soviet Union was desperate to counter the F-14, F-15, F-16, and F/A-18 in the late 1970s and through the 1980s. That was why they developed the Su-27 and MiG-29. But when the time came for the Fulcrum to step up… well, let’s just say a lot of MiG-29 parts have been “distributed,” mostly over Iraq, Kuwait, and Serbia.
The MiG-29 did see some limited success in the mid-to-late 1990s. A Cuban MiG-29 blew a pair of unarmed, propeller-driven planes flown by Brothers to the Rescue out of the sky, while Eritrean MiG-29s shot down three MiG-21s and a MiG-23 in exchange for anywhere from five to seven Fulcrums. On second though, ‘success’ might not be the right word.
4. Alfa-class nuclear submarine
This sub was fast, able to go over 40 knots, and it was small, weighing about 3,200 tons. It had six 21-inch torpedo tubes, allowing it to pack a punch with 18 torpedoes. There was one problem, though: It was noisy. Very noisy. In submarine warfare, where the primary sensors are sonar, that’s a fatal flaw.
The Alfa-class subs never saw combat, but they did star in some of Tom Clancy’s earliest books. Two sank in The Hunt for Red October, one in a reactor accident the other after being rammed. A third Alfa sank two American subs before a British sub put it on the bottom.
Think about these four platforms before you panic over Putin’s latest pronouncements.
Oh, and by the way, that new tank, the Armata? It’s quite possible an anti-tank missile that America first used in Vietnam could kill it. Russian weapons were overhyped once, they will be overhyped again.