Russian Air Force

The Russian Air Force (Russian: Военно-воздушные cилы России, transliteration: Voyenno-vozdushnye sily Rossii) is the air force of Russia. It is the second or third largest Air Force in the world, depending on whether aircraft or personnel numbers are compared with the People's Liberation Army Air Force. 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).


Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union into its fifteen constituent republics in December of 1991, the aircraft and personnel of the Soviet Air Force - the VVS were divided among the newly independent states. General Peter 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) 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 resulted 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 Force 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 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 General Colonel Anatoliy 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 Mikhailov 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 Chechniya on August 19, 2002, that claimed 119 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 General Lieutenant Anatoly Surtsukov.

Current state

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.

The VVS 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. Currently the 2007 edition of the IISS Military Balance lists 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.

During the 1990s the Sukhoi design bureau designed a replacement bomber aircraft, the T-60S, which never got beyond the drawing board. Another abortive design project was the MiG 1.42. Currently, a fifth-generation fighter jet is being developed by a consortium of companies, including Mikoyan, Yakovlev and spearheaded by Sukhoi. The program has been named Perspektivnyy Aviatsionnyy Kompleks Frontovoy Aviatsii - PAK FA, which means Future Air Complex for Tactical Air Forces. It is intended to replace the MiG-29 and Su-27 in the Russian Air Force. Russia will soon start construction of a prototype fifth-generation fighter plane, Air Force Commander Alexander Zelin said on August 8 2007. "At present, we have completed the development of technical documentation for the fifth-generation fighter and passed it to the production plant, which will start construction in the near future," Colonel General Zelin said. Sergei Ivanov, a first deputy prime minister supervising the defense industry, said in May that Russia's fifth generation fighter will take to the skies by the end of 2008. The Air Force commander also said that Russia would deploy advanced unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) with flight range of up to 400 kilometers (250 miles) and flight duration of up to 12 hours by 2011. 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, the general said.

The 16th Air Army will soon receive two regiments of the advanced Su-34 Fullback fighter-bombers in the near future. General Belevitch said the 16th Air Army would also receive MiG-29SM Fulcrum fighters to replace outdated MiG-29s and modernized 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.

General Mikhailov was succeed by General Colonel Aleksandr Zelin in 2007.

Ranks and Insignia


This order of battle is reproduced from Air Forces Monthly's July & August 2007 editions, but is not complete - some of the training units and direct reporting units have subordinate squadrons or regiments listed in the magazine but not replicated here yet.

Direct Reporting Units

  • 8th Air Division for Special Purposes (Chkalovskiy)
  • 929th State Flight Test Centre (Akhtubinsk)
  • 4th Centre for Combat Training and Flight Personnel Training - Lipetsk Air Base
  • 344th Centre for Combat Training and Flight Personnel Training - Torzhok(ground forces helicopters)
    • 696th Research and Instruction Helicopter Regiment (Torzhok)(Ka-50, Mi-8, Mi-24, Mi-26, has used Mi-28)
    • 92nd Research and Instruction Helicopter Squadron (Sokol-Vladimir) (Mi-8, Mi-24)
  • 2881st Reserve Helicopter Base - Mi-24 - Totskoye (air base)
  • 924th Centre for Combat Training and Flight Personnel Training - Yegoryevsk (UAVs)
  • Russian State Scientific-Research Institute Centre for Cosmonaut Training - Zvezdnyi Goronok
  • 2457th Air Base of Long Range Radiolocation Detection Aircraft - A-50s - Ivanovo Severny
  • 1st Fighter-Bomber Aviation Regiment - Su-24 - Lebyazhye
  • 764th Fighter Aviation Regiment - MiG-31, MiG-25PU - Bolshoye Savino Airport (Sokol)
  • 5th Independent Long Range Reconnaissance Aviation Detachment - Voronezh (CFE, INF verification)
  • 185th Centre for Combat Training and Flight Personnel Training - Astrakhan
  • 118th Independent Helicopter Regiment - Dmitriyevka [Чебеньки], Orenburg Oblast.
  • 4020th Base for Reserve Aircraft, Lipetsk
  • 4215th Base for Reserve Aircraft, Dmitriyevka

Training Units

  • Krasnodar Military Aviation Institute (L-39Cs)
  • Syzran Military Aviation Institute (Mi-2, Mi-8, Mi-24)
  • 783rd Training Centre (Armavir) (MiG-29, L-39C)
  • 786th Training Centre (Borisoglebsk)

Special Purpose Command, HQ Moscow, Moscow Military District

  • 16th Air Army - Kubinka
  • 226th Independent Composite Air Regiment (Mi-8, Mi-9, An-12, An-24, An-26, An-30) (Kubinka (air base));
  • 1st Corps of PVO (surface to air missiles only);
  • 32nd Corps of PVO (Rzhev)
  • Army Aviation components
    • 45th Independent Helicopter Regiment (Oreshkovo (Vorotinsk) near Kaluga) Mi-24
    • 440th Independent Helicopter Regiment for battle control- Vyazma - Mi-24, Mi-8
    • 490th Independent Helicopter Regiment for battle control - Klokovo (4 km north of Tula) - Mi-24, Mi-8;
    • 865th Reserve Helicopter Base (Protasovo/Aleksandrovo (air base), near Ryazan);

6th Army of VVS and PVO, Leningrad Military District

  • 21st Air Defence Corps - Severomorsk
    • 9th Fighter Aviation Regiment - HQ atKilp-Yavr (Poliarnyi) - Su-27;
    • 458th Interceptor Aviation Regiment - HQ at Savatiya (Kotlas) - MiG-25U, MiG-31;
  • 54th Air Defence Corps - HQ at Taytsy
  • 149th Composite Aviation Division
  • 67th Bomber Aviation Regiment - HQ at Siverskiy-2 - Su-24;
  • 722nd Bomber Aviation Regiment - HQ at Smuravyevo (Gdov) - Su-24;
  • 98th Guards Reconnaissance Aviation Regiment - HQ at Monchegorsk (air base) - MiG-25RB/U, Su-24MR;
  • 138th Independent Composite Air Regiment - HQ at Levashevo - An-12, An-26, Mi-8, Tu-134;
  • 147th Independent Helicopter Squadron of Electronic Warfare - HQ at Pushkin - Mi-8PPA;
  • 332nd Independent Helicopter Regiment for Battle Control - HQ at Pribylovo - Mi-8, Mi-24;
  • 85th Independent Helicopter Squadron - HQ at Alakurtti - Mi-8, Mi-24.

4th Army of VVS and PVO, North Caucasus Military District

  • 1st Composite Air Division - Krasnodar
    • 559th Bomber Aviation Regiment - Morozovsk - Su-24 in service;
    • 959th Bomber Aviation Regiment - Yeysk - operates the Su-24 and L-39C;
    • 368th Assault Aviation Regiment - Budyonnovsk - Su-25;
    • 461st Assault Aviation Regiment - Krasnodar - Su-25;
    • 960th Assault Aviation Regiment - Primorsko-Akhtarsk - Su-25;
  • 51st Air Defence Corps - Rostov on Don
    • 3rd Fighter Aviation Regiment - Krymskaya, (ex 562nd) - Su-27;
    • 19th Fighter Aviation Regiment - Millerovo - MiG-29;
    • 31st Fighter Aviation Regiment - Zernograd - MiG-29;
    • SAM Regiments
  • 11th Independent Reconnaissance Air Regiment - Marinovka - operates the Su-24MR;
  • 535th Independent Composite Air Regiment - Rostov on Don - Mi-8, An-12 and An-26 in service;
  • ex Army Aviation component
    • 55th Independent Helicopter Regiment - Korenovsk - Mi-24, Mi-8, reported to be in line for Mi-28
    • 325th Independent Transport-Combat Helicopter Regiment - Yegorlyskaya - Mi-26, Mi-8;
    • 487th Independent Helicopter Regiment for battle control- Budyonnovsk - Mi-8, Mi-24;

5th Army of VVS and PVO, HQ Yekaterinburg, Volga-Ural Military District General Lieutenant Mikhail Kucheryavy

  • 128th Independent Composite Air Squadron - HQ at Koltsovo near Yekaterinburg - An-26;
  • 320th Independent Transport Squadron of Search & Rescue Service - HQ at Uprun (Troitsk), near Chelyabinsk - Mi-8;
  • 999th Air Base - Kant, Kyrgyzstan - L-39, Mi-8, Su-25;
  • Army Aviation component;
    • 793rd Independent Helicopter Regiment - HQ at Kinel'-Cherkasy - Mi-8, Mi-26;
    • 237th Independent Helicopter Squadron - HQ at Bobrovka - Mi-8, Mi-24;

14th Army of VVS and PVO, HQ Novosibirsk, Siberian Military District

  • 21st Composite Air Division - HQ at Dzhida;
    • 2nd Bomber Aviation Regiment - HQ at Dzhida - Su-24M;
    • 266th Shturmovik Air Regiment - HQ at Step',Oloviannaya - Su-25;
    • 313th Reconnaissance Air Regiment - HQ at Bada - Su-24MR;
  • 120th Guards Fighter Aviation Regiment - HQ atDomna, 27 km southwest of Chita - MiG-29;
  • 712th Interceptor Aviation Regiment - HQ at Kansk (air base) - MiG-25PU, MiG-31;
  • 137th Independent Composite Aviation Squadron - HQ at Novosibirsk Tolmachevo Airport - An-26;
  • Army Aviation component
    • 337th Independent Helicopter Regiment - HQ at Berdsk - Mi-8, Mi-24;
    • 112th Independent Helicopter Regiment - HQ at Chita - Mi-8, Mi-24;
  • Two SAM regiments and four radar units

11th Army of VVS and PVO, Far East Military District - HQ at Khabarovsk

  • 23rd PVO Corps - HQ at Vladivostok;
    • 22nd Fighter Aviation Regiment - HQ at Centralnaya Uglovaya (Artem) - Su-27;
    • 530th Intercepto Aviation Regiment - HQ at Sokolovka - MiG-25PU, MiG-31;
  • 25th PVO Division - HQ at Komsomolsk na Amure
    • 23rd Fighter Aviation Regiment - HQ at Dzemgi - Su-27;
  • 303rd Composite Aviation Division - HQ at Ussuriysk
    • 277th Bomber Aviation Regiment - HQ at Khurba - Su-24;
    • 302nd Bomber Aviation Regiment - HQ at Verino - Su-24;
    • 18th Shturmovik (Assault) Air Regiment - HQ at Galenki - Su-25;
    • 187th Shturmovik Air Regiment - HQ at Chernigovka - Su-25;
    • 799th Reconnaissance Aviation Regiment - HQ at Varfolomeyevka - Su-24MR, MiG-25RB(?);
  • 257th Independent Composite Air Regiment - HQ at Khabarovsk-Bolshoy - An-12, An-26, Mi-8;
  • Army Aviation component;
    • Unknown Independent Helicopter Regiment - HQ at Sokol (Dolinsk) - Mi-8;
    • 319th Independent Helicopter Regiment for Battle Control - HQ at Chernigovka - Mi-24;
    • 364th Independent Helicopter Regiment - HQ at Srednebelaya - Mi-8, Mi-24, Mi-26;
    • 825th Independent Helicopter Regiment - HQ at Garovka-2 - Mi-6, Mi-8, Mi-26;

Air Armies of the Supreme High Command

  • 37th Air Army (strategic bombers) - HQs at Moscow
    • 43rd Centre for Combat and Flight Personnel Training - Ryazan - operates the Tu-22M3, Tu-95MS, Tu-134UBL and An-26;
    • 22nd Heavy Bomber Air Division "Donbass" - HQs at Engels-2;
      • 121st Heavy Bomber Air Regiment - Engels - Tu-160 in service;
      • 184th Heavy Bomber Air Regiment - Engels - Tu-95MS;
      • 52nd Heavy Bomber Air Regiment - Shaykovka - Tu-22M3;
      • 840th Heavy Bomber Air Regiment - Soltsy - Tu-22M3;
    • 326th Heavy Bomber Air Division - HQs at Ukrainka;
      • 182nd Heavy Bomber Air Regiment - Ukrainka - Tu-95MS;
      • 79th Heavy Bomber Air Regiment - Ukrainka - Tu-95MS;
      • 200th Heavy Bomber Air Regiment - Belaya (air base) (near Irkutsk) - Tu-22M3, Tu-22MR;
      • 444th Heavy Bomber Air Regiment - Vozdvizshenka (Ussuriysk) - Tu-22M3;
    • 203rd Independent Air Regiment of Tanker Aircraft - HQs at Ryazan - Il-78 and Il-78M in service;
    • 181st Independent Air Squadron - Irkutsk - An-12 and An-30;
    • 199th Air Base - Ulan-Ude;
    • 3119th Air Base - Tambov;
    • Unknown Air Base - Tiksi;
  • 61st Air Army (former Military Transport Aviation) - Moscow
    • 610th Centre for Combat and Flight Personnel Training - HQs at Ivanovo Severny;
      • Unknown Instructor Military Transport Air Squadron - Ivanovo - operates the Il-76;
    • 12th Military Transport Air Division - Tver (Migalovo);
      • 196th Military Transport Air Regiment - Tver - Il-76 in service;
      • 566th Military Transport Air Regiment - Seshcha - Il-76, An-124;
      • 76th Independent Military Transport Air Squadron - Tver - An-22;
    • 103rd Military Transport Air Regiment - Smolensk - Il-76;
    • 110th Military Transport Air Regiment - Krechevitsy - Il-76;
    • 117th Military Transport Air Regiment - Orenburg - Il-76, An-12;
    • 334th Military Transport Air Regiment - Pskov - Il-76;
    • 708th Military Transport Air Regiment - Taganrog - Il-76;
    • 78th Independent Military Transport Air Squadron - Klin-5 - operates An-26, An-12 and Tu-134;
    • 224th Air Detachment of Military Transport Aviation - Tver - An-124, Il-76MD;
    • one communications centre

The List of Soviet Air Force bases shows a number which are still active with the Russian Air Force.

Aircraft inventory

! style="text-align: left; background: #aacccc;"|Aircraft ! style="text-align: left; background: #aacccc;"|Origin ! style="text-align: left; background: #aacccc;"|Type ! style="text-align: left; background: #aacccc;"|Versions ! style="text-align: left; background: #aacccc;"|Numbers In Service ! style="text-align: left; background: #aacccc;"|Comments |----- ! style="align: center; background: lavender;" colspan="7" | Trainer Aircraft |----- | Yakovlev Yak-130 | | Training | Yak-130 | 0 | 62 ordered, first aircraft to be commissioned in 2009 |----- ! style="align: center; background: lavender;" colspan="7" | Fighter Aircraft |----- | Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker | | Air Superiority Fighter | Su-27 |Differs by source |449 (350 active + 52 training), including 5 Su-27SM 281, including 18 Su-27SM 321 |----- | Sukhoi Su-30 Flanker-C | | Air Superiority Fighter | Su-30 | 10 | Only 10 in service due to budgetary problems |----- | Sukhoi Su-35 Flanker-E | | Air Superiority Fighter | Su-35 | 15 built, 5 are in active service. |----- | Mikoyan MiG-29 Fulcrum | | Multirole Aircraft | MiG-29 |Differs by source |380 +150 reserve + 50 training 266 |----- | Sukhoi T-50 | | Air Superiority Fighter | T-50 | 2 (Testbeds) | Fifth Generation multirole/Air Superiority fighter. To be introduced from 2012. |----- | Mikoyan MiG-31 Foxhound | | Interceptor | MiG-31 | Differs by source | 256 active, ~100 reserve 188 |----- ! style="align: center; background: lavender;" colspan="7" | Bomber Aircraft |----- | Sukhoi Su-24 Fencer | | Tactical Bomber | Su-24M | 450 | 400 Frontal Air Force; |----- | Sukhoi Su-25 Frogfoot | | Attacker | Su-25 | 241 | 231 Frontal Air Force; planned modernization to reach Su-25SM level. |----- | Sukhoi Su-34 Fullback | | Fighter-bomber | Su-34 | Differs by source - now 10(?) | 4 2 on hand, plus 6 more in 2007 2 on hand, plus 7 more in 2007 10, 58 to be delivered by 2012 |----- | Tupolev Tu-22M Backfire | | Strategic bomber | Tu-22M3 | 124 | 8 Tu-22M, 116 Tu-22M3/MR |----- | Tupolev Tu-95 Bear | | Strategic bomber | Tu-95MS | 64 | 64 (37th Air Army), planned modernization of 35 to reach Tu-95MSM |----- | Tupolev Tu-160 Blackjack | | Strategic bomber | Tu-160 | 16 | 16 (37th Air Army), planned modernization to reach Tu-160M |----- ! style="align: center; background: lavender;" colspan="7" | Transport Aircraft |----- | Ilyushin Il-76 Candid | | Transport | IL-76MD | 220 | Planned modernization to reach Il-76MD-90 |----- | Ilyushin Il-112 | | Light Transport | Il-112V | 0 | 18 to be delivered until 2015 |----- | Antonov An-22 'Antey' Cock | | Transport | An-22 | 21 |----- | Antonov An-124 'Ruslan' Condor | | Transport | An-124 | 25 | 14 says IISS |----- ! style="align: center; background: lavender;" colspan="7" | Command Post |----- | Ilyushin Il-80 Maxdome | | Command Post | Il-80 | 4 | |----- | Tupolev Tu-214 | | Command Post / VIP | Tu-214-100 | 6(ordered) | 1 in final stages and 5 in construction |----- ! style="align: center; background: lavender;" colspan="7" | Aerial refueling |----- | Ilyushin Il-78 Midas | | Refueling Tanker | IL-78 | 20 | |----- ! style="align: center; background: lavender;" colspan="7" | Reconnaissance |----- | Sukhoi Su-24 Fencer | | Reconnaissance | Su-24MR | 100+ | Frontal Air Force |----- | Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-25RB Foxbat | | Reconnaissance | MiG-25RB | 70 | |----- | Beriev A-50 'Shmel' Mainstay | | AWACS-Reconnaissance | Beriev A-50 | 16 | currently being modernized to A-50M standard |----- ! style="align: center; background: lavender;" colspan="7" | Attack Helicopter |----- | Kamov Ka-50 'Black Shark' Hokum A | | Attack Helicopter | Ka-50 | 32 (sept.2007) |----- | Kamov Ka-52 'Alligator' Hokum B | | Attack Helicopter | Ka-52 | 9 | Special Forces - 12 more to be commissioned by 2015 |----- | Mil Mi-24 Hind | | Attack helicopter | Mi-24 | 260 | 240 Air Force - All to be replaced within 2015 by Mi-28s |----- | Mil Mi-28 Havoc | | Attack Helicopter | Mi-28 | 50 | 300 to be delivered by 2015 |----- ! style="align: center; background: lavender;" colspan="7" | Transport Helicopter |----- | Mil Mi-8 Hip | | Transport Helicopter | Mi-8 | 195 | 160 Air Force |----- | Mil Mi-26 Halo | | Transport Helicopter | Mil Mi-26 | 25 |----- | Kamov Ka-60 Orca | | Transport Helicopter | Ka-60 | 7 | 200 ordered |}

Gallery of images


Further reading

Reference Works

  • Andersson, Lennart. Soviet Aircraft and Aviation, 1917-1941. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1994. ISBN 1557507708
  • Gunston, Bill. Aircraft of the Soviet Union: The Encyclopedia of Soviet Aircraft Since 1917. London: Osprey, 1983. ISBN 085045445X

General Histories

  • Higham, Robin (editor). Russian Aviation and Air Power in the Twentieth Century. Routledge, 1998. ISBN 0714647845
  • Palmer, Scott W. Dictatorship of the Air: Aviation Culture and the Fate of Modern Russia. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006. ISBN 0521859573

External links

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