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Russia’s Weapons in the Woods

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Russia is holding its annual celebration of military hardware this week in the Ural Mountain town of Nizhny Tagil. The Russian Arms Expo 2013, which lasts from Sept. 25 through 28, is held to promote Russia's $14-billion arms industry. This year's show boasts more than 400 exhibitors from 50 countries and, according to the shows promoters, is one of the largest weapons shows held in Russia.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev attended the show's grand opening to watch the fanfare which included such grand displays as MiG-29 fighter jet flybys and demonstrations of Russia's newest armored vehicles. The prime minister toured the exhibition making hands-on inspections while rubbing elbows with soldiers, arms dealers, and, apparently, priests. Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Dimitry Rogozin was also there, calling for a new generation of "intelligent" and "unconventional" Russian weapons for land, air, sea, and space.

Since 1999, the Russian Arms Expo (RAE) has been held nine times at the Staratel test range at the Nizhny Tagil Institute of Metal Testing's (NTIIM). According to the RAE's official website, the show's primary purpose is to "promote Russian military equipment, arms and ammunition to both domestic and foreign markets." What follows is a collection of all the show had to offer so far -- from 1980s-vintage fighter jets to a new armored vehicle called the "Terminator." 

Above, Russian Orthodox priests hang out in the tank pavilion. It's unclear if the priests attended the RAE in any official capacity. Perhaps they were blessing the tanks.

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Russia's TOS-1 Buratino fires its thermobaric rockets. While this monster is sometimes called a "flamethrower," it's actually a Multiple-Launch Rocket System (MLRS). The unguided, thermobaric rockets fired by the TOS-1 are incredibly destructive, using massive shockwaves of air to destroy enemies instead of fire and shrapnel. 

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Despite its pageantry, the purpose of the RAE is to show off Russia's modern warfare technology, like the host of upgraded T-90 tanks and other armored vehicles as seen in the photo above.

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Medvedev does his best Steve Jobs impression while sharing the stage with a BMPT Terminator tank support vehicle. The Terminator is a new Russian armored vehicle built on a T-72 tank chassis. The BMPT is designed to use its twin 30-mm cannons along with rockets and grenades to protect tanks from attack by ground troops.

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Su-27 fighter jets of a Russian air force aerobatic demonstration team release flares to wow the crowd, gathered for the show below, on Sept. 25. The legendary Su-27 was first introduced in the 1980s as the Soviet Union's answer to the U.S. Air Force's F-15 Eagle fighter jet. In the decades since, numerous versions of the Sukhoi have been introduced, including one capable of operating from Russia's aircraft carrier and a bomber derivative of the supersonic fighter. China has also purchased Su-27s as well as developing its own versions of the plane that serve with the Chinese air force and Navy. (An earlier version of this story misidentified the jets above as MiG-29s.)

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An MSTA-S self-propelled howitzer rolls through the Staratel test range at the RAE. The MSTA-S is a Soviet-designed weapon featuring a 152-mm howitzer in a turret atop a T-80 tank hull. Around since the 1980s, the newest version of this mobile cannon can fire a shell called the Krasnopol that can change course in mid-flight and can be guided onto targets via a laser beam.

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A T-90MS tank spews exhaust as it powers over an obstacle during the show. The T-90MS is the new, export version of Russia's premier tank, the 47-ton T-90. The T-90MS is equipped with a 125-mm main gun, infrared cameras, and a satellite navigation system. It also has a new version of a type of armor that explodes, sending out shrapnel toward incoming enemy rounds, destroying them before they can hit the tank. This armor (called Explosive Reactive Armor) has been used by the world's major militaries since the 1980s, defending their armored vehicles against anti-tank weapons capable of penetrating standard metal armor.

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Medvedev holds a pair of binoculars, trying to get a closer look at vehicles maneuvering during the show. To his right is Oleg Sienko, CEO Russian defense manufacturer, Uralvagonzavod.

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A BTR-82A armored personnel carrier demonstrates its amphibious abilities at the show. The latest version of the Soviet-designed BTR-82, the vehicle shown above, is armored with a 30-mm 2A72 cannon and features a satellite navigation system and upgraded night vision gear.

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Saxophone players belonging to a Russian military band jam as part of the the weapons expo festivities. The RAE is held in the remote Ural Mountain town of Nizny Tagil. The old mining and metalworking town produced Russia's first domestically made steam locomotive. It now hosts "The Nizhny Tagil State Demonstration and Exhibition Centre of Armament and Military Equipment," according to the show's website.

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The BTR-82A armored personnel carrier makes a splash as it roles through a ditch in an obstacle course at the show. The BTR-82A is part of the BTR-80 family of armored vehicles that have been used to transport Soviet and Russian troops on the battlefield since the 1980s. The vehicle made its debut during the Soviet war in Afghanistan.

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MSTA-S self propelled howitzers roll past the crowds gathered outside the show.  This year's show featured three indoor halls of exhibits and a large outdoor demonstration area where the armored vehicles on display had room to navigate an obstacle course and fire their weapons. The show's organizers hope to turn RAE into one of the largest weapons shows in the world. This year's expo saw delegations from 50 countries in attendance.

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A tracked cargo vehicle emerges from a pond after showing off its swimming abilities during the show.

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