Russian Air Force after Georgia, part 4

This blogger is traveling on assignment. Vladimir Karnozov,Flight’s Moscow-based correspondent, presents an after action report from theRussian perspective on the Georgiaair war in a five-part series. Here’s Part 3.

War could tweak Kremlin’s export objectives

Until recently the main direction for Russian arms sales hasbeen to enable the local industry to earn some hard currency in order tosurvive in the condition of small domestic orders.

Now, a new age of relations with the West is dawning,following NATO statements that its business with Russia shall not be “as usual”.

Russia‘sgrowing wealth may prompt the Kremlin to make a change. Certain countries couldbe offered weapon deals through which the Kremlin would seek political andmilitary, rather than pure economic, gains.

This change is already shining through in the case of Syria,a poor country but a long-standing ally with interesting geographic location.

There are a few things that made Kremlin angry with Israel. Firstis a bombing raid deep inside of the Syrian territory, targeting an object nearTurkish border.

Second is the humiliating way with which the Israel airforce overflew the Syrian President’s Palace on the Mediterranean coast monthsafter Vladimir Putin promised Bashaar Assad to supply Strelets short-range SAMsexactly for the purpose of protecting his Palace. Third and most recent causeis new facts of Israeli military aid for Tbilisi,including supply of 8 Hermes 450 and 4 Sky Lark reconnaissance UAVs, andmodernization of over 40 T-72M tanks.

The Kremlin has already given go-ahead for deliveries ofMiG-29 and MiG-31 fighters to Syria,as well as air defense systems such as the Pantsyr. It may add Iskandertactical ballistic missiles and long-range SAMs in exchange for naval bases.

Another important client is Iran. Agreement on licenseproduction of up to 100 Tu-204 airliners is planned for signing by the end ofthis year. Talks continue on license production of Kamov helicopters.Meanwhile, Tehranis seeking purchase of Sukhoi jetfighters with possible extension to theirlicense production.

Besides, Tehran isconsidering purchase of the Chinese FC-1 fighters powered by Russia‘s KlimovRD-93 engines and using the same powerplant on indigenously developed fighters.Close to sending its first indigenous satellite into orbit, Iran is interested in Russianexpertise and technologies in the rocketry and spacecraft area.

Iran isone of few countries that did not blame Moscowfor “disproportioned use of force” in Georgia;instead, Tehran warned Washingtonnot to poke its nose into Caucasus. It’s asign of warming MoscowTehran relations.

Cooperation in the military area is at a good level, with Irancontinuing license production of T-72 tanks, BMP-2 IFVs, Kalashnikov assaultrifles and lots of other equipment.

Besides, sensitive technology leaks might have taken place -with Kremlin turning a blind eye, just to mention the Iranian-made”rocket-propelled torpedo” bearing close resemblance to Russia‘s Shkval.

Russian media suggested that the US-led project “democratic Georgia” may target creation of a suitable basefor invasion in Iran.A Christian country located within a jetfighter range of north-east Iran may proveconvenient. Besides, placing anti-ballistic-missile defenses in Georgia is a lot more reasonable than in Poland. Moscow may oblige its neighbor by expanding cooperation inthe fields of civil aviation, space and defense should the US seek to “punish” Russiafor “disproportionate use of force” in Georgia.

Same reason can help develop cooperation between Moscow, Caracas and Havana. The Kremlin hasalready provided loans under Cuba‘ssovereign guarantees for supply of Il-96 and Tu-204 jetliners to Cubana deAviacion.

Similar deal is being negotiated with Venezuela.Besides, Caracasis seeking to purchase a total of 80 Russian military aircraft and helicopters.In return Moscow may seek bases for its navy andstrategic aviation, since it is not far from the US homeland.


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