Reducing reaction times key factor for Russian Air Force modernization

Ilya Kramnik
Voice of Russia
Jun 28, 2012

Newly appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Air Force Victor Bondarev has given a press conference in Moscow.

Major General Bondarev related to journalists plans for the Air Force’s development, and voiced some previously unknown information.

C-500 in the year 2013

The greatest interest aroused by Bondarev’s statement was that the first complex of new generation C-500 anti-missile systems could be supplied to the troops already in 2013, though it had been previously announced that the system would only be ready for testing in 2015. Such a sharp “acceleration” of the process raises questions, but a possible explanation lies in the system being gradually brought to specified conditions.

Taking the year 2013 as a starting point, it is logical to assume that this year only a “reduced” version of the system, equipped with a “transition” combat control item, radar from the previous C-400 system, and a new missile launch pad will be ready for testing. Later, in the next 3-5 years, as new elements of the system are developed and adopted, the troops will be supplied with improved variants of the system. This practice has a number of advantages. Due to the fact that personnel of several regiments have already mastered experimental anti-missile systems by the time standard systems are adopted, it will be possible to reduce the time needed for training detachments.

Reaction time and combat readiness

One of the modern military aircraft’s main characteristics is its reaction time to threats, and during his press conference Bondarev also drew attention to this factor. Answering the question about the state of the air defense system, he said that today the time of reaction to the appearance of an enemy aircraft in the zone of responsibility was 3-4 seconds, which allowed the intercepting of almost any target.

Maj. Gen. Bondarev also voiced another figure – 4 hours – which applies to the Air Force’s reaction time. This figure was mentioned in response to the question about the necessity of resuming Russian military aircrafts’ permanent presence on Sakhalin and expanding Russia’s presence in the Arctic.

He stressed that “If we are not present somewhere today, that doesn’t mean that we can’t appear there very quickly. The Air Force is a mobile type of armed forces, and airplanes can reach the same Sakhalin Island in four hours.”

The Commander-in-Chief also noted that Russian military aviation was regularly training quick redeployment to advanced aerodromes.

Maintenance of the Air Force in combat readiness is possible only in case of uninterrupted training of flight personnel. Today it is conducted both with the use of simulators allowing the practice of actions in emergency situations, and in the air. Moreover, the number of flight hours per crew is growing. In 2011, on average for the Air Force it totaled more than 90 hours, and this year it is going to exceed 100 hours per year.

In 2012, Air Force academies that have completed their restructuring are resuming the intake of students. This year about 180 students will enter universities aiming to become pilots in the Russian Air Force, and about 80 more will train to become pilots in other state structures possessing aviation of its own, such as the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Federal Security Service, and the Ministry of Emergency Situations. Next year, this number should be increased. Theoretically, while Russia plans to bring the number of its Air Force to 2200-2500 airplanes and helicopters by the mid-2020s, it will be necessary to have 4500-5000 people as flight personnel. Thus, it is essential to increase the intake of students at the academies.

Retiring the Antonov An-26

Bondarev did not disclose the number of aircraft which should be supplied to the Air Force this year. However, he made several interesting points when speaking about modernization plans and decommissioning of aircraft. In particular, according to the Commander-in-Chief, the Antonov An-26 light military transport aircraft will be completely written off in the next few years. “These airplanes are absolutely out of date, and their further modernization is inexpedient,” he noted. This statement brings us back to the problem of replacing light transport aircraft, which was the topic of many discussions including those on Voice of Russia’s website. Touching upon a possible successor, Bondarev noted that a new light transport airplane was being developed for the Air Force, but he did not name either the developer, or the scheduled time of production.

Meanwhile, nothing can prevent analysts from making an educated guess. Based on the availability of relevant projects that are within the reach of our Air Force, it is highly probable that work on the Ilyushin Il-112В project will resume. The 2011 report by OJSC Ilyushin Aviation Company published on the Internet states the company’s desire to reinvigorate the Ministry of Defense’s interest in the project. It is noteworthy that in May 2010 the Ministry of Defense dropped the Il-112В project as the price of its development had twice exceeded the initialestimate.

If the military and the United Aircraft Corporation do find common ground, and work on the Il-112В project resumes, this will be an optimal solution for the Russian Air Force, because in this case there will be no need to search for a foreign aircraft to fill the gap left by the An-26.

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