||This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. (July 2011)|
|Военно-воздушные cилы России
Voyenno-vozdushnye sily Rossii
Russian Air Force
|Role||Air superiority, reconnaissance, close air support|
|Engagements||First Chechen War
1999 invasion of Dagestan
Second Chechen War
2008 South Ossetia war
|Lieutenant General Viktor Bondarev|
|Former roundel (1992-2010)|
The Russian Air Force (Russian: Военно-воздушные cилы России, tr. Voyenno-vozdushnye sily Rossii) is the aerial warfare service branch of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. It is currently under the command of Colonel General Aleksandr Zelin. The Russian Navy has its own air arm, the Russian Naval Aviation, which is the former Soviet Aviatsiya Voyenno Morskogo Flota ("Naval Aviation"), or AV-MF).
The Air Force was formed from parts of the former Soviet Air Forces after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991–92. Boris Yeltsin's creation of the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation on 7 May 1992, can be taken as a convenient formation date for the new Air Force. Since that time, the Air Force has suffered severe setbacks due to lack of resources, and has constantly shrunk in size. Since Vladimir Putin became President of the Russian Federation however, much more money has been allocated to the Armed Forces as a whole.
Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union into its fifteen constituent republics in December 1991, the aircraft and personnel of the Soviet Air Forces – the VVS were divided among the newly independent states. General Pyotr Deynekin, the former deputy commander-in-chief of the Soviet Air Forces, became the first commander of the new organisation on 24 August 1991. Russia received the majority of the most modern fighters and 65% of the manpower. The major commands of the former Soviet VVS – the Long Range Aviation, Military Transport Aviation and Frontal Aviation were renamed, with few changes, Russian VVS commands. However, many regiments, aircraft, and personnel were claimed by the republics they were based in, forming the core of the new republics' air forces. Some aircraft in Belarus and Ukraine (such as Tu-160s) were returned to Russia, sometimes in return for debt reductions, as well as a long range aviation division based at Dolon in Kazakhstan.
During the 1990s, the financial stringency felt throughout the armed forces made its mark on the Air Forces as well. Pilots and other personnel could sometimes not get their wages for months, and on occasion resorted to desperate measures: four MiG-31 pilots at Yelizovo in the Far East went on hunger strike in 1996 to demand back pay which was several months overdue, and the problem was only resolved by diverting unit monies intended for other tasks. As a result of the cutbacks, infrastructure became degraded as well, and in 1998, 40% of military airfields needed repair. The situation only began to improve after Putin took power and military budgets were greatly increased.
The VVS participated in the First Chechen War (1994–1996) and the Second Chechen War (1999–2002). These campaigns also presented significant difficulties for the VVS including the terrain, lack of significant fixed targets and insurgents armed with Stinger and Strela-2M surface-to-air missiles.
The former Soviet Air Defence Forces remained independent for several years under Russian control, only merging with the Air Forces in 1998. The decree merging the two forces was issued by President Boris Yeltsin on 16 July 1997. During 1998 altogether 580 units and formations were disbanded, 134 reorganized, and over 600 given a new jurisdiction. The redistribution of forces affected 95% of aircraft, 98% of helicopters, 93% of anti-aircraft missile complexes, 95% of the equipment of radiotechnical troops, 100% of anti-aircraft missiles and over 60% of aviation armament. More than 600,000 tons of material changed location and 3500 aircraft changed airfields. Military Transport Aviation planes took more than 40,000 families to new residence areas.
The short-lived operational commands were abolished. Two air armies, 37th Air Army (long-range aviation) and 61st Air Army (former Military Transport Aviation), were established directly under the Supreme Command. The former frontal aviation and anti-aircraft forces were organized as Air Force Armies and Anti-Aircraft Defense Armies under the military district commanders. There were initially four such armies with headquarters in St.Petersburg (Leningrad Military District), Rostov-on-Don (Caucasus Military District), Khabarovsk (Far East Military District), and Chita (Siberian Military District). Two military districts had separate Air and Air Defence Corps. When the Transbaikal Military District and Siberian Military District were merged, the 14th Air Army was reactivated to serve as the air force formation in the area.
The number of servicemen in the Air Force was reduced to about 185 000 from the former combined number of 318,000. 123,500 positions were abolished, including almost 1000 colonel positions. The resignation of 3000 other servicemen included 46 generals of which 15 were colonel generals. On 29 December 1998 Colonel General Anatoly Kornukov, a former Air Defence Forces officer and new commander-in-chief of the merged force, succeeding Deynekin, reported to the Russian defence minister that the task had 'in principle been achieved'. General Kornukov established the new headquarters of the force in Zarya, near Balashikha, 20 km north of the centre of Moscow, in the former PVO central command post, where the CIS common air defence system is directed from.
General Kornukov was succeeded by General Vladimir Mikhaylov in 2002.
In December 2003 the aviation assets of the Army—mostly helicopters—were transferred to the VVS, following the shooting down of a Mi-26 helicopter in Chechnya on 19 August 2002, that claimed 19 lives. The former Army Aviation was in its previous form intended for the direct support of the Ground Forces, by providing their tactical air support, conducting tactical aerial reconnaissance, transporting airborne troops, providing fire support of their actions, electronic warfare, setting of minefield barriers and other tasks. The former Army Aviation is now managed by the Chief of the Department of Army Aviation, who in mid-2007 was Lieutenant General Anatoly Surtsukov.
In October 2004 the disbandment was announced of the 200th and 444th Bomber Aviation Regiments with Tupolev Tu-22M3, of the 28th, 159th, 790th, and 941st Fighter Aviation Regiments, of the 302nd and 959th Regiments equipped with Sukhoi Su-24, and of the 187th and 461st Assault Aviation Regiments with the Sukhoi Su-25. These disbandments did not go ahead.
The Air Force continues to suffer from a lack of resources for pilot training. In the 1990s Russian pilots achieved approximately 10% of the flight hours of the United States Air Force. The 2007 edition of the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Military Balance listed pilots of tactical aviation flying 20–25 hours a year, 61st Air Army pilots (former Military Transport Aviation), 60 hours a year, and Army Aviation under VVS control 55 hours a year.
General Mikhailov was succeed by General Colonel Aleksandr Zelin in 2007. Zelin said in August 2007 that by 2011 the Air Force would deploy advanced unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) with flight range of up to 400 kilometers (250 mi) and flight duration of up to 12 hours. The UAVs of both fixed- and rotary-wing types will perform a variety of tasks, including reconnaissance, attack, retransmission of radio signals and target designation, he said.
In August 2007, the commander of the 16th Air Army, General Major Alexander Belevitch, said that the 16th Air Army would soon receive two regiments of the advanced Su-34 Fullback fighter-bombers in the near future. However, as of 2010, only 16 Su-34s are in service, and only one frontline unit has received any aircraft. Belevitch also said the formation would receive MiG-29SM 'Fulcrum' fighters to replace outdated MiG-29s and modernised Su-25 Frogfoot close support aircraft, which showed outstanding performance during operations in Afghanistan, Chechnya and other "hot spots."
Russia resumed the Soviet-era practice of sending its bomber aircraft on long-range flights at a permanent basis in July and August 2007, after a 15-year unilateral suspension due to fuel costs and other economic difficulties after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Patrols towards the North Pole, the Atlantic and the Pacific Ocean were reinstated, bringing the planes often close to NATO territory, most recently flying over the Irish Sea, between the UK and Ireland.
In 2008 the Air Force lost between 4 and 7 aircraft to Georgian anti-aircraft fire during the 2008 South Ossetian War.
Warfare.ru indicates that in early 2009 the Air Force went through a major restructuring, in which air armies were succeeded by commands, and most air regiments becoming airbases. However, Combat Aircraft, in a piece by Stefan Buttner in its August–September 2009 issue, presented the order of battle as being substantially unchanged. Eventually Aviation Week & Space Technology confirmed that the reorganisation would be completed by December 2009 and would see a 40 percent reduction in aircrew numbers.
In February 2009, the Russian newspaper Kommersant reported that 200 of the 291 MiG-29s currently in service across all Russian air arms were unsafe and would have to be permanently grounded. This action would remove from service about a third of Russia's total fighter force, some 650 aircraft.
On 5 June 2009, the Chief of the General Staff, Nikolai Makarov said of the Russian Air Force that "They can run bombing missions only in daytime with the sun shining, but they miss their targets anyway". Maj. Gen. Pavel Androsov said that Russia's long-range bombers would be upgraded in 2009 with the aim of being able to hit within 20 meters of their targets.
On 18 August 2009, the Russian Government signed a contract for 48 Su-35BM, 4 Su-30M2 and 12 Su-27SM's at the MAKS-2009 air show.
Also in September 2009 it was reported that an East European network of the Joint CIS Air Defense System was to be set up by Russia and Belarus. This network was to be established to jointly protect the Russia-Belarus Union State’s airspace. Its planned composition was to include five Air Force units, 10 anti-aircraft units, five technical service and support units and one electronic warfare unit. It was to be placed under the command of a Russian or Belarussian Air Force or Air Defence Force senior commander.
A number of Russian aviation companies have been attempting to develop advanced fighter aircraft to replace the large number of aging MiG-29 and Su-27 aircraft in service. All have been severely affected by funding difficulties. Sukhoi has emerged as the frontrunner. The Sukhoi PAK FA – Future Air Complex for Tactical Air Forces – has been under development since 2002. The first prototype made its initial flight on 29 January 2010. A 2015 date has been announced for service entry.
There has recently been discussion over changing the Soviet red star insignia on aircraft. In March 2010, a new roundel was proposed in the State Duma, adding an outline of blue, to reflect all three colours of the national flag. While this proposal was rejected in the Federation Council, pictures exist showing some aircraft have had the three-colour insignia applied.
In July 2010, Russian jet fighters made the first nonstop flights from European Russia to the Russian Far East.
By August 2010, according to the commander-in-chief of the Russian Air Force Aleksandr Zelin (interview to the Ekho Moskvy radio station, 14 August 2010), the average flight hours of a pilot in Russian tactical aviation had reached 80 hours a year, while in army aviation and military transport aviation it exceeded 100 hours a year.
As of 15 August 2010, the Russian Air Force temporarily grounded its fleet of Su-25 ground attack aircraft to conduct an investigation into a crash that happened during a training mission. The Russian Defence Ministry said that the plane crashed on 6 August 2010, 60 km to the north-west of Step air base in Siberia, according to RIA Novosti. The plane is in the process of being upgraded by the Russian Air Force. The crew of the plane ejected to safety before it hit the ground and there were no civilian injuries.
In 2010, the 2003 decision to transfer the Army Aviation to the Air Force was reversed. Also, 18 new aviation brigades will be created.
Currently the Russian Air Force operates a total of 61 air bases. This includes 26 air bases with tactical aircraft, of which 14 are equipped with fighter aircraft.
In 2012, the Air Force was made up of:
In terms of flight hours, pilots in the Western Military District averaged 125 hours over the 2012 training year. Pilots from the Kursk airbase achieved an average of 150 hours, with transport aviation averaging 170 hours.
The independent Russia inherited the ranks of the Soviet Union, although the insignia and uniform was altered a little, especially the re-introduction of the old Czarist crown and Double-headed eagle. The Russian Air Force is an independent organisation. The Russian Air Force follows the same rank structure as the Russian Ground Forces, with the addition of the title "of aviation" to each officers rank.
In 2009 the Russian Air Forces' structure was completely changed to a command-air base structure from the previous structure of air army-air division or corps-air regiment. The VVS is now divided to 4 operational commands, the Operational Strategic Command for Air-Space Defence (seemingly primarily made up of the former Special Purpose Command), the Military Transport Aviation Command, and the Long Range Aviation Command. This listing is a composite; the available new information covers frontline forces, and the forces of central subordination are as of approximately August 2008. Warfare.ru maintains what appears to be a reasonably up to date listing, and Combat Aircraft magazine in June 2010 listed their organisation's estimate of the new order of battle.
|Air Forces of Russia|
Air Force (1909–1917)
Red Air Force (1918–1991)
Naval Aviation (1918–1991)
Air Defense (1948–1991)
Strategic Rocket Forces (1959–1991)
The List of Soviet Air Force bases shows a number which are still active with the Russian Air Force.
Total strength of the air force - about 170 thousand people (including officers - 40000, contract servicemen - about 37 thousand). In addition, the IISS estimated that the Russian Air Force had a strength of 4,000+ aircraft in active service and 833 in storage.(IISS Military Balance 2010, p. 222) Precise quantitative and qualitative composition of the Russian Air Force is classified information. The following data are collected from open sources, and may contain significant inaccuracies.
|Aircraft||Photo||Origin||Type||Versions||Numbers In Service||Comments|
|Sukhoi PAK FA||Russia||Fighter||Su-Pak Fa||4/60||Into serial production in 2016|
|Sukhoi Su-27||USSR||Air Superiority Fighter||Su-27SM
|Older units being upgraded.|
|Two contracts for a total of 60 Su-30SM to be delivered by 2016.|
|48 Su-35S on order by 2015.|
|Mikoyan MiG-31||USSR||Interceptor aircraft||MiG-31
|Mig-31BM upgrade program on-going, with 60-80 units expected by 2020.).|
|To be replaced with Su-34.|
|Upgrade program on-going (to Su-25Sm standard).|
|Sukhoi Su-34||Russia||Strike Fighter||Su-34||26||Two contracts for 32 units by 2015 and 92 by 2020 (total 124)|
|116||Tu-22M3M upgrade program on-going. (30 units by 2020).|
|Tupolev Tu-95||USSR||Strategic Bomber||Tu-95MS6
|Tupolev Tu-160||USSR||Strategic Bomber||Tu-160||16|
|Antonov An-22||USSR||Strategic Transport||An-22||6|
|Antonov An-124||USSR||Strategic Transport||An-124
|By 2020 it is planned total to upgrade 20 aircraft in the version of AN-124-100, including aircraft in storage.|
|Ilyushin Il-76||USSR/Russia||Strategic Transport||IL-76MD||210||39(48) units ordered. (Il-76MD-90A/Il-476) by 2020|
|Antonov An-12||USSR||Tactical Transport||An-12||50|
|Antonov An-72||USSR||Tactical Transport||An-72/74||39|| Not accounted for by the IISS.|
|Ilyushin Il-20||USSR||Radar reconnaissance||IL-20M||20|
|Ilyushin Il-62||USSR||Airliner||IL-62M||3|| Not accounted for by the IISS.|
|Tupolev Tu-154||USSR||Airliner||Tu-154M||16|| Not accounted for by the IISS.|
|Ilyushin Il-78||USSR||Aerial Refueling||IL-78
|Beriev A-50||USSR||Airborne Early Warning & Control||A-50M
|Ongoing modernization program (A-50U)|
|Ilyushin Il-80||USSR||Command & Control||IL-80||4|
|Yakovlev Yak-40||USSR||VIP Transport||Yak-40||1|| Not accounted for by the IISS.|
|Let L-410 Turbolet||Czechoslovakia||VIP Transport||L-410||7|| Not accounted for by the IISS.|
|Antonov An-140||Russia||VIP Transport||An-140-100||3||10 on order|
|Yakovlev Yak-130||Russia||Training Aircraft||Yak-130||29||Another 55 have been ordered.|
|Aero L-39 Albatros||Czechoslovakia||Training Aircraft||L-39||336||To be replaced with the Yak-130.|
|Tupolev Tu-134||USSR||Training Aircraft||Tu-134UBL||30|
|Kamov Ka-50||USSR||Attack Helicopter||Ka-50||8||Cancelled in favor of the Ka-52.|
|Kamov Ka-52||Russia||Attack helicopter||Ka-52||35||ordered 140 units by 2020|
|Two contracts for the MI-35M at 22 and 27 units by 2014. (total 49)|
|Mil Mi-28||Russia||Attack helicopter||Mi-28N||~67||Two contracts for the Mi-28N at 67 by 2013 and 30 units by 2014. (total 97)|
|~600||Active in the industry. The number of units ordered is unknown. Supposedly 140 Mi-8MTV-5 by 2020.|
|Mil Mi-26||USSR/Russia||Transport Helicopter||Mi-26
|Since 2011 the production of new Mi-26(T). Ordered 18 units.|
|Kamov Ka-226||Russia||Transport Helicopter||Ka-226||10||ordered 36 units.|
|Kazan Ansat||Russia||Training Helicopter||Ansat-U||19||40 on order|
|Utility Helicopter||Mi-2||280|| Not accounted for by the IISS.|
|Kamov Ka-60||Russia||Utility Helicopter||Ka-60||5|| Not accounted for by the IISS.|
|Kamov Ka-28||USSR||Utility Helicopter||Ka-28||2|| Not accounted for by the IISS.|
|Kamov Ka-29||USSR||Utility Helicopter||Ka-29||21|| Not accounted for by the IISS.|
According to the instructions of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of September 1, 2011 the unmanned aircraft of the Air Force and the units using them moved to the Army. Therefore, the Army has overall control over the unmanned aircraft units.
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