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.