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Introduction with the Russian VVS; Zhukovskiy, August 10 - 12, 2012

100 Years VVS, part 1; Text and Photograph's by Alex van Noye

The Russian Air Force was in the period of the Soviet Union one of the strongest air forces in the world. The Russian Air Force VVS was completely destroyed after the fall of the Soviet Union. Now, 20 years later, the Russian VVS is developing itself into a modern company after the necessary reorganizations.

The highlighted era of the Russian Air Force was the Cold War. The Soviet Union was together with the United States a superpower in the world. The air forces of these countries were diametrically opposed to a war which never happened. At its peak, the Soviet Air Force had more than 10,000 fighter planes in its orbat which were standby for action. The fighters which were employed by the Soviet VVS were at that time superior aircraft and they were a worthy opponent for the NATO aircraft. There was not much known about the Russian fighters. The NATO code name system was based on the American system and was introduced to make the Russian aircraft easily recognizable. Each Russian type got an English code name. The western pilots could quickly identify the aircraft. U.S. fighter planes have type designations which begin with the letter F, such as; the F-14, the F-15 and the F-16. The Russian fighter planes received nicknames from the NATO which started with the letter F, such as; MiG-21 Fishbed, MiG-23 Flogger, Su-25 Frogfoot and Su-27 Flanker. This was valid for all types; the bombers received names that started with the letter B and the helicopters received names which started with the letter H. After the Cold War, some names were taken over by the Russians, because they were honored with the given name. The Tu-95 was designated as the Bear by the NATO and the Tu-95 crews started to use this name as well for the aircraft.

The aircraft and personnel of the Soviet Air Force VVS were distributed among the 15 new republics after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. The Russian Air Force was renamed as the VVS on August 24, 1991. The main commands of the Soviet VVS were renamed to Long Range Aviation, Military Transport Aviation and Frontal Aviation. Many existing regiments, aircraft and personnel, were claimed by the republics where they were located at that moment. Some planes were retrieved in exchange for debt reduction from countries such as Ukraine and Belarus. An example is the Tu-160

Blackjack which came back from Ukraine and a large part of the transport fleet which came back from Kazakhstan. Almost 40% of the Russian airfields were unusable due to lack of money in 1998. The situation began to improve when Putin became the new president of Russia. The number of soldiers at the VVS was reduced from 318,000 to 185,000 employees. The former Soviet Defense Force was an independent organi- zation, but from 1998 it was merged with the rest of the Air Force. In the same year over 580 units and formations were disbanded and also 134 were reorganized and over 600 units received a new task. This reorganization had an impact on 95% of the aircraft and more than 98% of the helicopters. More than 600,000 tons of material and more than 3,500 aircraft and helicopters changed their location. This reorganization had also a major impact on the employees of the air force. More than 40,000 families had to move to other parts of the immense country.

The years that followed, still didn’t contain the VVS which the Russian defense staff would like to see. The VVS continues to suffer from a lack of money and resources to train its pilots. The Russian pilots made barely 10% of the flight hours per year in comparison to their American colleagues from the USAF. Figures showed the fighter pilots made only 20 to 25 flight hours per year. The pilots of the transport aircraft will not exceed 60 hours per year and the helicopter pilots came only to 55 flight hours per year. The long range strategic patrol flights were started again on order of President Putin in 2007. More than 15 years after the Soviet era, there were again Russian strategic bombers along the boundaries of NATO airspace. In 2009, it was announced that the Russian VVS again would be reorganized. The Air Armies were replaced by Commands which became responsible for parts of the country. The plans to modernize the Air Force were slowly realized. The aging MiG-29 and Su-27 fleet was slowly being replaced by modern aircraft of the same type and also with successors such as the Su-34 and Su-35. The Su-34 Fullback will replace the Su-24 Fencer in the attack role. The plans to be operational with 2 Su-34 regiments in 2009 were never realized. There are only 16 aircraft in active duty at this moment.

The Russian Air Force in divided in 4 large military districts since 2010. These districts are not only valid for the Air Force, but for the entire Russian military force. The districts, are; the Western District, the Southern District, the Central District and the Eastern District. All districts include defensive and offensive units which are equipped with fighter planes and helicopters. The Western District has its headquarters in St Petersburg and contains the 1st Air and Air Defense Force Command. The Western District is a merger of the former Moscow District and the former St Petersburg District. The Central District is a merger of the former Volga-Urals Military District and the former Siberian District. The headquarters of the Central District is in Yekaterinburg and contains the 2nd Air and Air Defense Force Command. The Eastern District has its headquarters in Khabarovsk. The Air Force Command of the Eastern District is the 3rd Air and Air Defense Force Command. The Southern District includes the 4th Air and Air Defense Force Command. The headquarters of this district is located in Rostov-on-Don. Besides the 4 districts there are also a number of other organizations which are part of the VVS. These organizations, are; the Aviation Transport Command and the Long Range Aviation Command. Both commands have their headquarters in Moscow. The Transport Aviation Command includes all transport units for large transport operations and is based on various airfields throughout Russia. The Long Range Aviation Command contains all the bombers of the VVS and is mainly based on Engels Air Base. There are also training units and support units in the VVS.

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