Alexander Velovich/MOSCOW

Russia needs to bolster its ground attack and strike capability by modernising existing designs as well as introducing new air-to-ground weapons and aircraft, according to Russian air force commander in chief Col Gen Anatoly Kornukov.

"Efficient aviation support is a key factor for success for the land forces in modern combat," says Kornukov, noting that Su-24 strike aircraft make up only 16% of the inventory and Su-25s 11%, while air defence and fighter aircraft such as the MiG-29, MiG-31 and Su-27 make up 38%. The air force has now retired all ground attack dedicated Su-22 and MiG-27 aircraft.

The updated MiG-29UBT/ SMT is eight times more effective in the ground attack role than the basic MiG-29 (Fulcrum A) in air force service, Kornukov says.

The military industrial complex needs to conduct research on determining the strike potential of the next generation multifunctional fighter, which will be the mainstay of Russian tactical aviation "for the first half of the 21st century", he adds.

All- weather, air-to-surface precision guided munitions are another vital necessity, the commander says, noting that in the Chechen war such weapons were used in only 2.3% of missions because of the limitations of the laser and television-guided weapons in poor weather. The high price of such weapons means a continued reliance on conventional bombs, rockets and guided weapons along with newer weapons, he adds.

Air-to-air refuelling capability and the ability to deploy long distances to get forces in theatre are also vital capabilities that must be maintained, Kornukov says.

Source: Flight International