Top 5 Powerful Russian Weapons That Shattered Myth Of NATO’s Superiority In 2023

The underwhelming performance of Ukraine’s Western-trained and armed forces against deeply entrenched Russian positions in Zaporozhye, Kherson, and the Donbass in 2023, alongside the demonstration of the top 5 powerful Russian weapons, has shaken the myth of NATO’s superiority.

Top 5 Powerful Russian Weapons That Shattered Myth Of NATO's Superiority In 2023 1

The year 2023 will go down in history as the one in which NATO’s formidable reputation for expensive, cutting-edge armaments and military hardware crumbled under the weight of Russian fire. Sputnik sought the opinions of five eminent military specialists from the US and Russia over the top five Russian weapons of the previous year.

With conflicts in Iraq in 1991, Bosnia and Kosovo in 1995 and 1999, Afghanistan in 2001, Iraq again in 2003, and Libya in 2011 seemingly proving the superiority of the weapons designs the United States and its allies developed in the 1980s to fight the Soviets in a World War III scenario that never arrived, the end of the Cold War marked the height of Pentagon hubris.

NATO defense analysts attributed their conventional victories to their superior weaponry and technology, reasoning that if an Abrams or Challenger 2 tank could virtually destroy scores of Iraq’s Soviet-era T-72 tanks while suffering almost no casualties, then something was wrong with Soviet (and therefore Russian) design philosophy and something was right about Western tank designs. Everything from armor to airplanes to air defenses and pretty much everything in between was subject to the same rationale.

The idea that NATO weapons are superior in high-intensity warfare against a real peer adversary was debunked in 2023 by the performance of Ukraine’s Western-trained and armed forces against deeply entrenched Russian positions in Zaporozhye, Kherson, and the Donbass. Leopards, Challengers, Bradley infantry fighting vehicles, and other armored vehicles from the West burnt with the same ease as their Ukrainian counterparts from the Soviet era.

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A Politico correspondent has reported that the Pentagon has launched Operation Prosperity Guardian, which is a naval coalition to defend the Red Sea Passage.

Russia’s multiple-launch rocket artillery, the Grad, Uragan, and Smerch, outperformed Ukraine’s HIMARS system, which was supplied by the US. Russia’s layered air and missile defense networks, armed with Tor, Pantsir, S-300, and S-400 missiles, have consistently shown to be more formidable than NATO-standard tactical cruise missiles.

The fight had reached a “stalemate,” according to Ukrainian Armed Forces Commander-in-Chief Valery Zaluzhny in November, with tens of thousands of soldiers dead and Ukraine’s counteroffensive at a halt. The general claimed that NATO’s equipment was insufficient and its advice was incorrect. “Four months should have been sufficient for us to have arrived in Crimea, fought there, returned from Crimea, and gone back in and out again, if you look at NATO’s textbooks and at the math that we did,” Zaluzhny grumbled.

Top Five Russian Weapons of 2023

5: Tor-M2 Missile System

It was never certain that Russia would be able to keep its air supremacy over Ukraine, even though it eventually demonstrated it could. NATO nations did not hesitate to arm Ukraine’s Air Force with dozens of Soviet-standard aircraft that Ukrainian pilots are accustomed to flying, such as MiG-29 and Su-27 fighter jets, Mi-24 helicopter gunships, and Mi-8 transport helicopters, even though the delivery of F-16 fighter jets to Kiev was delayed. Additionally, NATO received thousands of spy and strike drones from Malloy Aeronautics T150 eVTOL heavy quadrocopter drones, Phoenix Ghost loitering missiles, small Black Hornet Nanos, and plane-sized Bayraktar TB2 strike drones. In terms of long-range strike systems, the alliance provided GPS and inertial navigation system-assisted GMLRS, Storm Shadow, and SCALP EG low-observable cruise missiles.

Effective Russian air, drone, and missile defenses were essential to prevent the possible collapse of the front, given the complex threats posed by Ukraine’s NATO-boosted air, missile, and drone power.

For this reason, eminent Russian military researcher Alexei Leonkov named the Tor missile system among his top Russian weapons of 2023.

“The Tor-M2 air defense system has distinguished itself with its excellent work in shooting down enemy UAVs. Among the statistics of downed enemy drones updated daily by Russia’s Defense Ministry, two thirds have been destroyed by this complex. In other words, this system has proven itself and confirmed all of its declared characteristics, [showing itself capable] of shooting down any type of drone, both directly on the front and in zones adjacent to it,” Leonkov told Sputnik.

Honorable mention was also given by Leonkov to Russian electronic warfare and counterbattery systems, which, along with the Tor-M2 and other air and missile defense weaponry, significantly contributed to keeping Ukrainian forces from breaching Russian lines during this year’s counteroffensive.

“The modernized Zoopark counterbattery radar stations have been demonstrated. New, longer-range counter-battery stations also made an appearance, which, in conjunction with the new Tornado-S MLRS made it possible to effectively introduce counter-battery fire and suppress enemy artillery systems, as well as multiple rocket systems like the high-precision HIMARS,” Leonkov said.

“Lastly, there are the electronic warfare systems, particularly the ones that started off being installed right next to our armored vehicles to protect them, and they started to effectively counter the new FPV drone phenomenon,” the military observer continued.

4: T-90

Russian armor, which included upgraded versions of late second and third-generation tank designs like the T-72, T-80, and T-90, proved more than equal to Ukraine’s main battle tanks built by NATO on the plains of Zaporozhye and Kherson, supporting fixed defenses in preventing enemy armored breakthroughs.

The T-90 Proryv, the most recent Russian tank design, merits special attention in this regard. Rustem Klupov, a former Soviet and Russian military intelligence officer, Hero of Russia, reserve colonel, and combat veteran of the wars in Afghanistan and Chechnya, stated, “At the moment, I believe this is the best tank in the world.”

“In terms of characteristics, in terms of armament, and in terms of performance, and because the tankers who fight using this tank speak very highly of it,” Klupov said, when asked why the T-90 belongs in the top five.

“Its firepower consists of a 125-mm cannon that can fire guided missiles through its barrel. Furthermore, the tank’s active protection system ensures survivability. It’s unpretentious, maneuverable, and low-to-the ground, enabling it to remain invisible to the enemy on the battlefield until the last moment,” the retired officer added.

3: Lancet

As the chairman of the Officers of Russia veterans group, Sergei Lipovoy, a Hero of Russia military pilot who fought in the First and Second Chechen Wars, the Civil War in Tajikistan, and Afghanistan, is certain that the Lancet, in particular, and drones in general, should be at the top of the list of important Russian weapons of 2023.

“The number one thing that impressed me is drones, both helicopter and airplane-style, including the Lancet, which has proven itself to be excellent, the Geran, as well as small quadcopter-type UAVs which have been assembled practically in trench shelters. These include observation and kamikaze drones. This also includes so-called strike drones capable of dropping any ammunition,” Lipovoy told Sputnik.

Klupov concurs, describing the Lancet as an exceptional tactical tool.

“Lancets began to be exploited before 2023, but it was this year that we realized that we had moved into a new domain of warfare. This is a DRONE war, and, accordingly, loitering munitions, a combination of reconnaissance and destructive capability, are steps forward in this direction. The Lancet, which can be hit targets 40-50 km away, depending on weather conditions, is a very powerful and accurate weapon system. It combines accuracy, range and the power of a destructive charge. Depending on its mission, it can be equipped with a high-explosive fragmentation warhead. And this ‘tandem’ warhead is used against armored targets,” Klupov said.

Over the last 18 months, the Lancet’s engineers have made several changes to the strike drone; its base models are characterized by an x-wing design. The most recent model, the Z-53, has foldable frontal wings and is capable of autonomous target selection and swarm flying by applying the network-centric warfare concept. They can now travel up to 60–70 kilometers.

The role that drone warfare has played in the conflict in Ukraine has been discussed and written about extensively. Throughout a large portion of 2022, Russia’s defense industry was unable to produce a sufficient quantity of strike and reconnaissance drones to make a significant influence in combat, making drone capabilities one of the country’s weak points. That all changed in 2023 when Russia not only began producing more of the pre-escalation designs but also seemingly out of nowhere developed brand-new unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) like the Lancet and quickly sent them to the front, where they have since shown themselves to be quite successful.

“From an American perspective, you know we’re pretty proud of our drone technology and capability,” former DoD analyst and retired US Air Force Lt. Col. Karen Kwiatkowski told Sputnik. “We’ve been putting quite a bit of investment into drone technologies, as have other countries. But the drones that the Russians have developed…you’ve got long-range ones, big ones, little ones, integrated and of course controllable using the battlefield space knowledge that they’re getting.”

“This is newly developed stuff in the last decade, pretty much,” Kwiatkowski said, noting that in the war in Syria, the US military has been “bumping up against some of this [Russian drone] technology” and being “very impressed with it.”

2: Ka-52

The success of Russia’s defensive operations against the Ukrainian army’s summer counteroffensive has been attributed by Western observers, in large part to the Kamov Ka-52 Alligator attack helicopter’s ability to locate, locate, and target targets ranging from tanks and armored vehicles to strongholds.

The Ka-52 was described as “one of the single most influential Russian weapons systems” in the Zaporozhye sector of the front in a British military intelligence report published in late July after it became apparent that something was wrong with Ukraine’s counteroffensive. The majority of Ukraine’s NATO-supplied short-range air defense systems, such as Stinger MANPADs and Gepard Flakpanzers, were well outside the operational range of the Ka-52s when paired with the new LMUR air-to-surface missiles, which have a 15 km firing range.

The Ka-52 “has those counter-rotating blades on top and huge capability.”Kwiatkowski described the Ka-52 as her favorite choice among Russia’s top five weapons of 2023, saying, “It’s actually very innovative.”

As for its LMUR missiles, “they can be launched from a helicopter and then guided. They’re not laser-guided, but guided through thermal and satellite navigation. So that’s something that can get your helicopter to safety. You can monitor what’s happening. What it implies is that the Russian [military], in any case where they’re using these, has battlefield knowledge integration and are basically able to do what they need to do. They can communicate. They can target. They can protect the helicopter and the [pilots] and hit the targets they’re needing to hit and destroy them,” Kwiatkowski said.

For his part, Klupov was pleased with the general operations of Russia’s frontline Army aviation, which includes the frequently combined usage of the Ka-52 and Mi-28 aircraft.

“Working together, these helicopters make use of the qualities of both: the striking power of the Mi-28 [which can also be equipped with LMURs, ed.] and the protective characteristics of the Ka-28. Combining these helicopters into a single strike unit allows for their most effective use. And like the T-90 so far as tanks go, these aircraft have become the best attack helicopters in the world today. The Long Bow and the Apache can no longer compare with these helicopters in terms of their combat qualities,” the retired officer said.

1: Kinzhal

All of these weapons—the Tor, T-90, Lancet, and Ka-52, for example—are tactical weapons that are deployed against enemy forces that have gathered on the battlefield. This isn’t the case for the Kinzhal, the world’s first hypersonic air-launched missile, which is carried by specially designed MiG-31 interceptors and Su-34 fighter bombers. These aircraft can reach Mach 10 speeds and launch 500 kg conventional or 5-50 kiloton nuclear warheads at targets up to 2,000 km away.

Russia has targeted opponent air defenses, weapons stockpiles, airfields, energy infrastructure, and other targets in Ukraine with a large deployment of conventional Kinzhals.

The military expert, Alexei Leonkov, mentioned the Kinzhal as one of his other favorite weapons for special military operations.

“The Kinzhal not only handled the task of destroying protected objects, but excelled in the destruction of the US Patriot anti-aircraft missile system. This is a big plus, because until recently there was a myth that the Patriot was the most advanced American-made air defense system and that it could destroy any targets,” Leonkov said.

Klupov concurred. “This missile’s power, precision, and speed are astounding, and they leave all defenses and countermeasures meant to stop it “in the dust.”It cannot be shot down by any air defense or missile defense system,” he declared.

“The most terrifying destructive effect of this missile, especially in concrete-piercing applications, is its ability to penetrate deep into the ground…Several times these missiles were used against control centers, anti-aircraft missile systems, and other targets. Among strategic weapons, Kinzhal missiles are number one,” the veteran retired military intelligence officer stressed.

The most important Russian weapons of 2023, according to Michael Maloof, a former senior security policy analyst for the US Secretary of Defense, are the country’s hypersonic capabilities in general and the Kinzhal in particular.

“The Kinzhal [flies at] Mach 10. It’s got a 2,000 km range and it could be launched from bombers and interceptors,” Maloof told Sputnik. “Four of them were thrown at the Ukrainians recently, along with other drones and what have you. Not one of those Kinzhals was even noticed or hit or intercepted,” he recalled.

The United States “has no defense” against hypersonic missiles but is “working on it,” Maloof emphasized. “Many systems have failed. The United States has not yet achieved development of its own hypersonic systems. It’s trying. This makes any missile defense system that either the United States or Europe have penetrable and obsolete. Especially if any of these missiles, hypersonics, are launched in a swarm approach – that is, multiple missiles at once. There’s absolutely no defense. And you can have the most elaborate anti-ballistic missile system in the world, but because of maneuverability and approach in how they’re launched, it makes it impossible [to defeat hypersonics]. And if all of them are deployed at once in a swarm approach, and if armed with nukes (and many of them are capable of being armed with nuclear weapons) it would be devastating.”

Maloof also emphasized that, by essentially taking “this problem on itself, in effect,” Russia only opted to restart its hypersonic development after the US voted to withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002.

Maloof also brought up the Zircon, a hypersonic anti-ship cruise missile capable of being fired at targets a thousand kilometers away from surface warships or submarines. As a result, it has rendered our twelve carrier strike groups essentially obsolete. The witness stated solemnly, “If this Zircon is loaded on submarines, it really can alter the course of human events very, very rapidly.”

Honorable Mention: Shkval Torpedo

Maloof thought it appropriate to bring up another weapon that Russia possesses but that “no one” really seems to discuss or that hasn’t been used in the fighting in Ukraine.

“It’s not a strategic weapon. It’s a tactical weapon. But it’s an extraordinary capability that Russia has developed, which has not been matched by the United States to this day, nor is there any defense for it. And that’s the VA-111 Shkval. What is it? It’s a supercavitating torpedo capable of [traveling] 370 km [per hour, or over 200 knots].”

Supercavitation is the term used in fluid mechanics to describe the utilization of tiny, vapor-filled liquid cavities surrounding a solid object to lessen friction drag and allow for high-speed underwater transit.

Top 5 Powerful Russian Weapons That Shattered Myth Of NATO's Superiority In 2023 2
VA-111 Shkval at an exhibition. File photo.

A classic Russian naval weapon, the Shkval was first unveiled in the 1970s and has since undergone multiple upgrades.

“370 kilometers is approximately 230 miles an hour. There’s no defense to that. And on top of that, their latest versions are maneuverable rather than [traveling in] a straight line,” Maloof said, characterizing the torpedo as an effective “carrier killer.”

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3 COMMENTS

  1. I like you guys but its funny how you pick and choose facts, while coming to deductions you clearly don’t know. How do you know the US does not have similar weapons or better? Unlike Russia, the US does not overstate their capabilities, and keep many weapons they use secret, so how would greatgameindia know what they don’t know?
    Number two, if Russian weapons are so superior, how is Ukraine surviving? Of course Indians want to say Russian weapons are better, because not only are they your friends, it has massive implications for the Indian military. Because India uses a ton of Russian weapons, admitting they are not what they are supposed to be would then make India look weaker, since they put too many eggs in the Russian basket. Fact is, Russia overstated their capabilities. Just one example and then I am out. They claimed their hypersonic missiles was untouchable, and the west has zero defenses for it. Then they decided to use it in Ukraine, and the Patriot shot down several of them rendering what Russia said a myth. Since that was all a bunch of nonsense, what else is Russia lying about, or overstating? Russian weapons might be cheaper, but they are poor quality, and not as accurate. Ask the Ukrainians, they admit that the majority of western systems are better than the Russians. By the way the US has not given its current systems, only their older ones. None of the newest stuff has been given, to them.. So its old US equipment along with European stuff that has stopped Russia from succeeding so far against a much weaker and smaller foe…
    Either Russian weapons are not that great, or Russian tactics are pure trash. They should have easily taken Ukraine with the war machine they have, in comparison to what Russia has and yet here we are…their war machine has been decimated to a degree that should be impossible facing a foe such as Ukraine…how is it possible? Fact is you believe Russia propaganda about its weapons, because you are biased, and ignore the cold hard facts on the ground. Anyone can talk, but when the real world use is done, and its outcome is different than what your stating, your only proving that.

  2. What is also funny, is how you try and prove points by quoting Russians about their own weapons…lol what lousy proof.
    That is like asking a killer if they murdered someone, and then when they say no you are fine with it. Lol come on use more sense.

  3. As far a the swarm, its known by all, and a the same rules apply to Russia. US could swarm them with a bunch of regular ballistic missiles and it would be the same outcome…

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