Russian Federation Air Force Update- The RFAF is still in serious financial trouble but seems to have at least a clear path for its future.
About 20-25% of the current aircraft will be upgraded to "generation four plus" by 2005, at which time deliveries of new production Su-27IBs will begin. A new fighter, the Future Aircraft Complex for Tactical Aviation (PAKFA) will make its first flight in 2006 and enter series production in 2010. Both MiG and Sukhoi are bidding on this project. Pilot flight hours remain a serious problem. All Russian aviation units have selected a few pilots (about 28% of the total force) who get the required 100 flight hours per year, while other pilots divide up what's left. This averages 15 hours for fighter pilots, 20 for strike fighter pilots, 14 for bomber pilots s, 22 for long-range aircraft pilots, and 50 for transport pilots.
Aircraft availability varies from 40% to 85%. The problem is spare parts, as the RFAF gets only about 15% of the required funding for these. Many aircraft are being cannibalized and half of the MiG-31 fleet is going into storage.
The 142 airfields with runways over 1800 meters are in bad shape, with half of them needing major repairs or operating under major safety restrictions. Russia is a big country (needing a lot of air fields) and the military is reluctant to start closing bases on a wholesale level, but doesn't have any money to repair or maintain them. Air Force commander General Kornukov will be retiring soon as he has reached mandatory retirement age. Most Russian commanders are given presidential exemptions to this rule in order to stay in service, but the Russian government is tired of hearing Kornukov complain about the lack of money in his budget.--Stephen V Cole