Warplanes: October 25, 2003


Russian Air Force Commander-in-Chief Vladimir Mikhailov recently told the press that only about 35 percent of the Russian army aviation helicopters are operational. Worse, modern KA-50 Hokum-type helicopters make up only about 10 percent of the current strength, with the long-obsolete 1960s-1970s-vintage MI-8 Hips and the MI-24 Hinds remaining the fleet's mainstay. Russia's helicopter units remain airborne mostly by cannibalization and only occasionally supplied with new spare parts (like rotors).

Considering how heavily rotary-wing assets are relied upon in the sort of low-intensity conflicts and peacekeeping operations that Russia is currently involved in, this is not a good situation. However, it's just part of the 21st century growing pains the Russian military finds itself forced to deal with as they convert from a conscript to a professional force.

Since January 1, 2003 the Air Force has also absorbed over 20,000 army aviation servicemen and 7,000 civilian employees (in about 20 military units) subordinated directly to the central command, and over 40 units in military districts (as well as a flight school and a flight personnel conversion training center). - Adam Geibel


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