Russia’s air force has problems.
Although Moscow has the world’s second-largest air force, which includes strategic bombers capable of carrying nuclear weapons thousands of miles around the world, its fleet is old. Constructed almost entirely during the Soviet era, the aircraft fleet is now largely ageing and dwindling in numbers, reports Reuters.
To compensate, Russia is rapidly attempting to modernize its air force. Dmitry Gorenberg, a research scientist writing for the blog Russian Military Reform, notes that the Kremlin is allocating $US130 billion for modernization efforts through 2020.
As part of this multi-billion modernization plan, Gorenberg notes Russia will acquire “more than 600 modern aircraft, including fifth-generation fighters, as well as more than 1,000 helicopters and a range of air defence systems.”
According to Gorenberg, Russia has been successful so far in terms of replacing its combat aircraft with newer variants. As of January, Moscow has introduced 28 Su-35S, 34 Su-30, and 20 Su-34 aircraft. In addition, the Kremlin hopes to acquire a new fleet of MiG-35 fighters as well as its own T-50 PAK FA fifth-generation jet.
The T-50, also known as the Su-50, is being produced by Russian manufacturer Sukhoi. The final version of the T-50 is expected to be introduced by 2016. Upon completion, the Kremlin envisions creating a string of Su-50 variants for both export and domestic use.
These variants include two models designed in conjunction with the Indian Air Force, as well as variants for Iran and South Korea.
Russia’s drive to modernize its air force is in keeping with the country’s overall goal of overhauling its armed forces. Russia’s total military budget for fiscal year 2015 stands at approximately $US29.5 billion (1.8 trillion rubles). This budget is 20% higher than in 2014, when it stood at 1.7 trillion rubles.
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