Russian air force faces its own ‘fighter gap’

Next time Russian air force modernization comes up to justify more spending on US fighters, please consider this article by RIA Novosti military commentator Ilya Kramnik. No matter how badly the so-called “fighter gap” grows in the US tactical aircraft inventory, Moscow’s problem is even worse, as Kramnik describes.

Kramnik forecasts the USAF will reduce its fixed wing and helicopter fleets from 5,000 to 3,000-3,500 over the next 10 years. Of those, 1,700-2,000 will be combat aircraft.

Russia’s Ministry of Defense has signed a flurry of recent fighter orders, but even those don’t dramatically change the overall picture, as Kramnik writes.


The Russian Air Force now has about 2,800 aircraft, including nearly 1,500 warplanes. The air fleet is expected to decline still further. Virtually all un-modernized aircraft will be scrapped at the end of their service life.

Consequently, the Air Force will have some 1,500-1,700 fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters, including only about 800 combat-ready warplanes. The number could increase if additional state defense contracts are awarded. Options are currently being considered.

Is this enough or not? The industrial world, including Russia, the NATO countries and the United States, continues to scale down its air forces. This is an objective process. The number of newly procured aircraft does not equal the number of planes currently being decommissioned, most of which were built in the 1960s, the 1970s and the 1980s.

Such reductions are motivated by some objective factors, including the end of the Cold War and plunging industrial world defense spending (relative to GDP), and subjective factors, including vastly superior modern combat equipment efficiency rendering it unnecessary to replace older aircraft one for one.



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5 Responses to Russian air force faces its own ‘fighter gap’

  1. narius 17 March, 2010 at 7:13 pm #

    Despite its long border, Russia doesn’t have to fly global CAPs. The USAF’s domain is near-global, or at least it was supposed to be. A lot of area to cover for 187 Raptors and the apparently-paltry number of F-35 airframes we’ll be able to afford when prices every do stabilize for that damned ostrich.

  2. alloycowboy 17 March, 2010 at 7:29 pm #

    Fighters work great against other fighters and bombers. They won’t work so great against a massive onslaught of cheap low cost stealth cruise missles such as stealthy V1 buzz bomb which the average sixteen year old can now build with parts from his local hobby shop and ebay.

  3. Robert 17 March, 2010 at 7:56 pm #

    Some major differences:

    1. Russia’s geopolitical objectives are not met by air power (but by energy/arm sale diplomatic flexes); US objectives are.

    2. Russia’s major cities and cites of strategic interest are defended by overlapping IADS (super-SAMs) rather than [exclusively] by fighter jets.

    Hence the Russian can afford to have comparatively smaller AF (or larger ‘gap’) these days without breaking a sweat.

  4. aeroxavier 18 March, 2010 at 4:55 pm #

    they continue to compares who have the more of that or that. that totally stupid.
    the big army of USA and ally have probs against one “army” who have no plane , no tank and no marine.

  5. Saberhagen 24 March, 2010 at 10:57 am #

    aeroxavier: And that ‘army’ did kick some Russian a$$ very well!

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