Saturday, December 4, 2010

Russian Air Force to procure 1,500 new aircraft by 2020

MOSCOW: The Russian Air Force will procure over 1,500 new aircraft and significantly increase the number of high-precision weapons in its arsenal by 2020, a deputy Air Force commander said on Wednesday.

"Overall, we are planning to acquire and modernize about 2,000 aircraft and helicopters by 2020...including more than 1,500 new aircraft and about 400 modernized," Lt. Gen. Igor Sadofyev told reporters in Moscow.

According to the general, in 2011 the Air Force plans to adopt Su-27SM, Su-30M2 and Su-35S multirole fighters, Su-34 fighter-bombers and Yak-130 combat trainers as well as Ka-52 and Mi-28N attack helicopters, Mi-8 armed assault helicopters, Ka-226 and Ansat-U light multipurpose helicopters.

"The priority for the strategic aviation is the modernization of 80 percent of existing Tu-160, Tu-95MS, Tu-22M3 bombers and Il-78M aerial tankers...and the extension of their service life," Sadofyev said.

He also said that the share of high-precision weaponry in the Russian Air Force arsenal would increase by 18 times, including the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) - by six times.

"In addition to a thorough upgrade of the aircraft fleet, the measures planned until 2020 will allow us to increase the share of high-precision weaponry to 70 percent of the total, or by 18 times," the general said.

Sadofyev added that the number of all-weather aircraft, capable of carrying out day and night missions would increase almost five-fold, and the share of UAVs would constitute about 30 percent of the total by 2020.

However, Douglas Barrie, senior fellow for military aerospace at the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies told RIA Novosti that Russia's ability to fund and manufacture 1,500 military aircraft over the next decade is "questionable."

"The defense aerospace industry suffered from a decade plus of serious under-investment following the collapse of the Soviet Union, and only in the past few years has there been any appreciable improvement in the flow of cash," Barrie said.

"With regard to increasing the percentage of precision guided-weapons in the Air Force inventory, Russia's Tactical Missile Systems (TRV) has been designing and developing a range of 'precision' munitions, including the Kh-38 family of air-to-surface missiles, since at least the early 1990s," Barrie continued.

He said these projects had been hampered by the lack of adequate state funding until recently. He noted, however, that funding has been "noticeably improved," which will likely increase the pace of development on the Kh-38, as well as other weapons projects.

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