Russian army aviation was transferred from the land forces to the air force on 1 January. Airforce commander Col Gen Vladimir Mikhailov says: "We took over procurement and fleet modernisation issues some time ago, and now have the army helicopter fleet placed under our responsibility."

He adds there are some "uneven places" in the control structure and a three-month programme has been initiated to resolve integration issues.

Mikhailov says urgent measures are needed to improve fleet serviceability and operational safety. He denies, however, press reports about the poor condition of the fleet, particularly in the North Caucasus area, saying that "all helicopters operating there are airworthy and being operated without exceeding technical limitations, while amassing many more flying hours than anywhere else."

"What we really need to do is to improve the situation with the crews observing flight operation and safety instructions," Mikhailov adds, noting that human factors rather than technical failures have been blamed as the major cause of non-combat losses in Chechnya.

A priority procurement is the upgrade of the Mil Mi-24 Hind combat helicopter for night operations. "We had the most recent version of the upgraded helicopter flying late last year, which absorbed the best solutions from five earlier upgrade variants, and to which standard a first batch of our machines are being upgraded at Rostvertol," says Mikhailov.

Source: Flight International