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Document created: 06 October 2000

Russia's air force in crisis situation

NIKOLAI NOVICHKOV JDW Correspondent Moscow

The serviceability of Russian military aircraft is continuing to deteriorate and the accident rate is climbing, according to Russian Air Force officials.

The air force has an inventory of 5,807 aircraft comprising 35 basic types with a future 82 variants, according to Maj Gen Dmitry Morozov, who is responsible for major repairs and upgrades. Less than 5,000 are in serviceable condition and the average operational strength is approximately 4,000 aircraft and helicopters.

The service describes only 21% of its inventory as being modern, with 48% of aircraft having been in service over 15 years, 23% 10 to 15 years and 28% five to 10 years. Due to budget restrictions, only about 1% of aircraft are less than five years old.

Gen Morozov said only 79% of the long-range fleet, 62% of the transport fleet and 54% of the front line fleet are serviceable. However, over half the fleet of serviceable aircraft, up to 65% of some types, are not fully used in order to reduce fatigue on airframes, engines and other equipment.

In 1999, the air force's cumulative flight had dropped to 200,000-250,000 hours compared with 1.5 million to 2 million hours in 1990. Average annual flight time for pilots has dropped to less than 10 hours. The service blames a reduction in flying hours to a threefold increase in the number of accidents in the first six months of this year compared to the same period for last year.

In the 1980s, the Soviet Air Force averaged one accident per 26,000 flight hours. In 1999-2000, the service suffered one "emergency event" every 12,000 to 13,000 flight hours, according to a representative of the air force's flight safety office.

The air force predicts a further increase in the accident rate as limited funding continues to impair flying hours, maintenance and the introduction of new aircraft.

The service is also concerned about the deterioration of air traffic control systems, lighting and other equipment at airbases, over 40% of which are described as operating in "emergency conditions".

-- Martin Thompson (, October 10, 2000

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