MOSCOW ― For many Russians, the annual Victory Day parade in Moscow is an opportunity to reflect on their wartime history and mourn losses that touched nearly every family in the former Soviet Union and neighboring states. But the parade now has for several years served another purpose: the exhibition of Russia’s latest and greatest weapons systems and platforms.
In that regard, the parade has struggled in recent years to live up to 2015’s 70th anniversary parade, where a wide variety of new hardware was unveiled for the first time. But this year’s parade saw some noteworthy additions to Russia’s future arsenal. But the greatest item of interest was perhaps the hardest to see.
During the parade’s finale — a flyby of nearly every type of aircraft flown by the Russian Air Force — two unaccompanied MiG-31 fighter jets made their pass over central Moscow.
Although the MiG-31 is a distinct and interesting aircraft, the items of interest were mounted below their bodies: hypersonic missiles.
It was the first public debut of the Kinzhal air-launched hypersonic missile, one of President Vladimir Putin’s doomsday super weapons unveiled at a controversial speech about nuclear modernization in March.
The weapon is a modified Iskander-M ballistic missile designed to be launched by a MiG-31 traveling at supersonic speeds.
Several pieces of new hardware that have been seen at military trade shows also made their Victory Day parade debut — namely the new Sukhoi Su-57 stealth fighter jet, which bares a strong resemblance to the American F-22. Two of the jets, decorated in a kind of gray-on-white camouflage pattern, came midway through the aerial part of the parade.
But the biggest hitter seen in this part of the parade was the BMPT-72 Terminator tank. The heavily armed vehicle is built upon a T-72 chassis and armed with a variety of close-quarters and anti-tank weapons to provide infantry support in urban environments. It has been one of the most-talked about development projects since 2015’s unveiling of the T-15 Armata main battle tank.
And, of course, just as interesting as the hardware on display was who attended the parade. Putin’s guests of honor were Serbian President Aleksander Vucic and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
During the parade, Putin gave a speech decrying attempts to rewrite the history of the war (read: challenge the Kremlin’s official patriotic narrative of those events).
In a move that is certain to find controversy in some quarters, Netanyahu was seen wearing an orange and black St. George’s ribbon, a Russian symbol that has seen newfound popularity in recent years as a patriotic token of Russia’s annexation of Crimea. It has strong associations with pro-Kremlin sentiments, and in Russia it is an easy way to signal anti-Western patriotism.
Steven Seagal was also in attendance.
Matthew Bodner covered Russian affairs for Defense News.