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The Kazak Air & Air Defense Forces; Astana, May 22 – 25, 2014

The Kazak Air Force, part 1; Text and Photograph's by Alex van Noye

The Kazakh air force is a relatively young air force, because the country was part of the Soviet Union for a long period in the past century. In the recent years, the Kazakhstan air force modernized the air force to an efficient air force. Despite the enormous size of the country, Kazakhstan has a relatively small air force.

The Kazakh Air Force (Силы воздушной обороны Республики Казахстан) is responsible for the defense of the Kazakh airspace. The Kazakh Air Force declared itself independent from the Soviet Union on December 16, 1991. During the Soviet regime, the Kazakh Air Force was a part of the Soviet air forces in the Turkmenistan Military District. This Air Force was disbanded on June 30, 1992. After the Afghan War in 1989, many Russian units returned back to the Soviet Union. Many of these units were from Poland and the former GDR and were after the war assigned to the Turkmenistan Military District. The Russian Air Force left the 73th Air Army behind in Kazakhstan after the fall of the Soviet Union. The air force consisted mainly out of heavy strategic bombers. Many Russian planes were brought to Kazakhstan shortly after the Air Force of Kazakhstan became independent as a result of the Intergov-Ernmental agreement in 1995. In this agreement it was agreed that the strategic bombers and nuclear weapons would be moved back to Russia. About 73 fighter planes were according to this agreement flown to Kazakhstan as compensation at the end of 1997. In 1999, Kazakhstan received a batch of modern Su-27 air defense fighters as compensation for unpaid debts. Kazakhstan was after the independence and the provision of very good fighters perfectly able to perform its own air defense. The new Air Force which was formed would be referred to as the "Sily Vozdushnoy Oborony Respubliki Kazakhstan" (Силы воздушной обороны Республики Казахстан) also known as the Kazakhstan Air Defense Force.

The new air force structure was created after the fall of the Soviet Union and was mainly focused on the air defense role. The attack capabilities of Kazakhstan were therefore limited. The first units were reassigned during a large-scale reorganization in 1993. There were six regiments and an additional air defense regiment formed. These regiments also contained assault units which were equipped with Fencers and

Frogfoots. Due to the limited finances the Air Force was forced to reduce the number of operational aircraft. In order to meet the minimum requirements various upgrade programs were launched to modernize the existing fleet. The Kazakh government decided also to get access to Western aircraft besides the access to Russian hardware. In consultation with European suppliers it was decided to set up several production lines in Kazakhstan for the Asian market. Kazakhstan is able to set up a proper air defense by reducing the number of operational aircraft and by properly maintaining the existing operational fleet. In 2011 a plan was presented in which the aviation industry of Kazakhstan and Russia would cooperate more closely. One of the agreements is the joint pilot training in Russia. Kazakhstan is also a partner of the NATO and the country has a strategic partnership with the Turkish Armed Forces.

The main transport base of the Kazakhstan Air Force is Almaty. The 218th Air Transport Squadron stationed at this large airfield. About 80% of the Kazakh transport fleet is stationed at this base. Virtually all transport aircraft of the Kazakhs are from the former Soviet Union and are redeployed in the Kazakh Air Force. The aircraft were possessed after the fall of this country. The Air Force has no heavy transport aircraft such as the An-124 and Il-76 in its orbat. The largest transport aircraft at this airbase is the An-12 "Cup". The Air Force has only one plane of this type in operational service. The Antonov An-12 is able to operate under severe weather conditions. Besides this heavy transport aircraft, the Air Force has two An-24 "Coke" medium transport aircraft at this airbase. The two planes are of the type An-24B and An-24T. It is not clear whether these aircraft are still in use or in storage at this moment. The Kazakh Air Force also has seven An-26 "Curl" medium heavy transport aircraft in its orbat. The An-26 is a highly modernized version of the An-24. The An-26 is the workhorse of the Kazakh Air Force. Four of the Antonov An-26s are stationed in Almaty. The remaining three aircraft are based in Aktau (605 AB), Karaganda (610 AB) and Astana (620 AB). One Antonov An-74 "Coaler" is also stationed at Almaty. This aircraft is a replacement for the crashed An-72 "Coaler". The An-72/74 can easily be recognized by the engines which are mounted on top of the wings. This concept is a small aircraft which is able to land on unpaved airstrips. It is not clear if the Air Force will buy more of these planes.

One of the oldest aircraft which are still in the service of the Kazakh Air Force is the Tupolev Tu-134 "Crusty" transport and VIP aircraft. There are two aircraft of this type in service within the Air Force. Both aircraft are of the type Tu-134A. The aircraft are stationed in Astana (620 AB) and Karaganda (610 AB). The Tu-134 is mainly used for transporting troops and VIPs. The Tu-134 is usually recognizable by the long black characteristic smoke trails in the air. The Kazakh Air Force has two Yak-40 "Codling" VIP aircraft for the transport of VIPs over short distances. The two aircraft are based at Almaty and Astana. The two Yak-40s are very old aircraft. These aircraft are in addition used for tasks such as the transportation of the President of the country. The latest addition to the Kazakh transport fleet is the Spanish Casa C295. This medium range transport aircraft was purchased in March 2012 following an agreement between the Kazakh Ministry of Defense and Airbus Military. Initially two aircraft were ordered and are already delivered to the Kazakh Air Force. Another six are purchased at this moment for the Kazakh Air force. These aircraft are still to be delivered to the Kazakh Air Force. It is not yet clear whether the eight aircraft are in addition to the current fleet or as replacement of the other types of aircraft such as the An-24 and An-26. The third and fourth aircraft will be delivered to the Air Force in Almaty according to the contract in 2014 and 2015.




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