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Air Force (Aviatsiya Voyenno)


The remains of the Soviet Air and Air Defence Forces that Russia inherited were pruned substantially in the late 1990s. Thirty two airfields were abandoned. Total personnel dropped from 318,000 in January 1998 (for both services) to a unified strength of 193,000: the final strength aimed at is about 185,000.

Under severe post-Soviet budgetary constraints, government defense procurements have been drastically cut. A further constraint has been the significant surplus of used military equipment on hand as a result of efforts to downsize the armed services. While the best items are reissued to the newly reformed formations - where possible with some overhaul and upgrades - a sizeable amount has yet to be disposed of. It was reported that in 1998 no major equipment items were procured. Plans for future procurements are reportedly only for minimal replacements of existing inventory as needed, possible procurement of "one-of-a-kind" prototypes, and the eventual (2005 at the earliest) re-equipping of the services with updated military aircraft and air defense systems.

In June 1998, about half way through the downsizing, approximately 600 aircraft had been released for international sale, including MiG-23s, MiG-27s, Su-22s, L-39s and transports. Older SAMs, such as S-125 and S-200 were also put on the market. The reduction in the number of aircraft improved mission capable rates to to 80% -- previously, it was estimated to be 45-50% for long-range aviation, 40-50% for frontal aviation, 60-65% for storm aviation and 40% for fighters.

During the 1990s Combat training was practically not financed at all. In 1998, the military received only six percent of the resources required for combat training. Even this amount was only apportioned for maintaining infrastructure, which forced the military to finance fuel, ammunition, and training equipment from other sources. Training continued to be conducted on a reduced scale or was replaced by less resource-intensive activities (e.g., command post exercises replacing field tactical exercises). Personnel shortfalls, combined with a lack of materiel, contributed to the postponement or non-execution of unit training plans. Russian Air Force elements executed only between 15-40 percent of their standard training norms. This was contributing to the rapid decay of combat readiness.

Average flying hours have been far too low to maintain proficiency. The necessary minimum is at least 80 hours a year, and high combat readiness would require upwards of 150-200 hours a year. in the late 1990s the Russian Air Force annual average is 21 hours -- frontal (tactical) aviation averaged 10 hours while strike and long-range aviation averaged 20 and 21 hours respectively.

After the start of the Balkan war, however, Russia conducted large-scale air force exercises ("Air Bridge 99", March 1999) that involved 100 aircraft and helicopters, including TU-22m3, TU-95, and TU-160 strategic bombers; MIG-29, MIG-31, and SU-27 fighters; and An-30, TU-22mp, and IL-76 spy aircraft. At the same time, routine exercises of the 326th Bomber Division were held in the Amur Region of Russia’s Far East.

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