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Russia hoping to boost arms sales after Syrian usage

Posted August 30

— Russia is hopeful that the new weapons it tested for the first time in Syria will lead to a spike in arms sales abroad, officials said Wednesday.

Foreign customers, they said, have been particularly interested in the weapons that the Russian military have used in Syria. Moscow has waged an air campaign there since September 2015, helping President Bashar Assad sharply expand the area under his control.

"The chance to test weapons in real combat can't be overestimated," said Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov. "Customers have started queuing up for the weapons that have proven themselves in Syria."

Borisov said the weapons tested for the first time in the Syrian conflict included the Su-30 and the Su-35 fighter jets, new helicopter gunships, missiles, electronic warfare systems, infantry weapons and other equipment.

Borisov, who is in charge of the military's arsenals, said their use has allowed designers to fix any glitches they encountered faster than would otherwise have been the case.

Dmitry Shugayev, head of the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, also said Wednesday that foreign orders for Russian weapons to be delivered over coming years amount to almost $50 billion.

Russia's arms sales last year totaled $15 billion, making it the world's second-largest arms exporter after the United States. Sales this year are expected to be around that level.

Shugayev cited expert estimates saying Russia is poised to take about 27 percent of the global military aircraft market, slightly surpassing the U.S.

Combat aircraft sales account for about half of Russian arms sales abroad, while land weapons account for 30 percent of its experts and air defense systems take about 20 percent.

Alexander Fomin, a deputy defense minister who oversees international military ties, said that Russia hopes to expand its arms sales to African nations, recovering positions it lost after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

"We believe that we have big perspectives on the African market," he said.

Fomin and other officials hailed the Army 2017 arms fair held just outside Moscow earlier this month, saying that it helped attract new potential clients.

Western nations have ignored the arms fair amid tensions with Russia over Ukraine. The U.S. and its allies have halted military cooperation with Russia and slapped it with sanctions over Moscow's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea and support for pro-Russia insurgents in eastern Ukraine.

Fomin said that the West has shot itself in the foot by freezing military-technical cooperation with Russia, voicing hope that defense ties could resume.

"We remain open and will welcome everyone," he said.

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This version corrects an earlier story saying that Shugayev cited expert estimates saying Russia currently accounts for 27 percent of the global military aircraft market, about 30 percent of land weapons and some 20 percent of air defense systems sold worldwide.

Shugayev said that land weapons and air defense weapons account for 30 and 20 percent of the Russian arms sales, not shares of global arms market.

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