Russia: March 21, 2001



The Russian air force is falling apart. Lack of maintenance and money have left only about 40 percent of the air force's combat aircraft serviceable. Fighter pilots get only ten hours of flight time a year (transport pilots get 50 hours a year and bomber/attack pilots about 30). If it weren't for the Chechen fighting, the bomber and transport pilots would get less. The situation is made worse by the refusal of air force commanders to publicly tell the truth. Along these lines, there is little effort to adopt modern tactics or training methods. Although the Russians have smart bombs, they are used in a clumsy and ineffective fashion. Bright and resourceful officers are leaving in large numbers, leaving hacks and incompetents to take over. The rot extends to the companies selling Russian warplanes to foreign nations. Outright lies are standard in trying to sell aircraft even the Russian air force can afford. Defective spare parts are sold to foreign users of Russian aircraft, as well as the Russian air force itself. Fortunately, the air force can't afford to buy many spares, depending on cannibalized aircraft instead. The Russian air force could probably support about 500 warplanes adequately, allowing the pilots to fly often enough to be proficient. But Russia still thinks of itself as a superpower, and a superpower have more than 500 combat aircraft. Meanwhile, the air force can move stuff and drop bombs, but it's fighter force is nearly useless. This may account for the continuing work on new generation SAMs.