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).
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.
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.
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
The List of Soviet Air Force bases shows a number which are still active with the Russian Air Force.
! 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(?) | GS.org: 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 |}