Russia has been aggressively modernizing its military amid rising tensions with the West over Ukraine crisis. It is upgrading its nuclear arsenal, and President Vladimir Putin has announced that Russian forces would induct another 40 inter-continental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) this year. Moscow has been showing off all kinds of modern military weapons from the Armata tank to ‘microwave guns‘ to airships with anti-ballistic missile defense shield in recent months.

Is Russia Modernizing Its Military Or 'Overstretching' It?
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Russia’s air force suffers six crashes in as many weeks

The former Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov carried out successful military reforms between 2008 and 2011. President Vladimir Putin has infused fresh blood in the Russian national high command by appointing young officials into the senior ranks of Russian Armed Forces. Moscow’s growing military ambitions have also brought to light its weaknesses.

For instance, the Russian air force has suffered its sixth plane crash in just one month, according to The Moscow Times. A Tupolev Tu-95MS Bear bomber crashed during a routine training in the far-eastern Khabarovskiy region on Tuesday. Two of the seven pilots were killed, while others were taken to the hospital.

A Sukhoi-34 ‘Fullback’ and a MiG-29 ‘Fulcrum’ crashed on the same day last month in unrelated incidents. In less than a week, a Tu-95 bomber ignited during a practice flight. Another MiG-29 crashed in the first week of July. A Sukhoi-24M frontal strike bomber crashed in the Khabarovskiy region last week, killing both pilots.

Following a series of crashes, Dr Igor Sutyagin of the Royal United Services Institute told Newsweek that these high-profile crashes were a result of the Russian forces “overstretching” themselves. For example, the Bear bombers are built for a single strike on missions, not for extended training flights.

Russian soldiers flee their military units

Separately, The Moscow Times columnist Alexander Golts said Monday that dozens of Russian soldiers from the 33rd Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade stationed in Maikop have fled their military units. Soldiers said they left the Kadamovsky training area due to “inhuman living conditions” and intense pressure from superiors to go serve as volunteers in separatists’ fight against Ukrainian government forces.

Though Russian military command denies these reports, official data shows that Maikop Garrison Court convicted 62 soldiers in the first half of this year on charges of “leaving their units without permission.” By comparison, it had convicted only 35 soldiers on the same charges between 2010 and 2014.

Meanwhile, one of Russia’s most ambitious fifth-generation fight aircraft PAK-FA is currently under development in collaboration with India. While Russia continues to flaunt PAK-FA on various occasions, the Indian Air Force (IAF) has heavily criticized it. The IAF says PAK-FA’s engines are unreliable, its stealth features are poorly engineered, its radar systems are inadequate, and it is far too expensive.