Russian Federation Air Force (RFAF) / Aviatsiya Voyenno

The Air Force includes: the Aviation, Antiaircraft Missile and Radio-Technical Troops, which are the Arms of the Air Force, as well as the Special Forces (reconnaissance, signal communications, electronic support and automated control systems, electronic warfare, engineering, radiological, chemical and biological defence, land-surveying, search and rescue, meteorological, aeronautic, logistical), the units, subdivisions of military control bodies’ guarding, the medical and other organizations.

According to its mission and tasks the Air Force’s Aviation is divided into the long-range, front-line, military transport and army aviation, which in turn can be composed of the bomber, attack, fighter, reconnaissance, transport and special aircraft units. The basis of the Air Force’s combat strength is presented with air bases and brigades of the Aerospace Defence.

The Air Force is a branch of the Russian Armed Forces designed for aerial warfare. It's main responsibility is to support and defend the Ground Forces and Navy. This is accomplished by delivering strikes against enemy targets, providing tactical aerial reconnaisance, gaining air superiority and acting as a deterrent, and the aerial defense of the nation's major industrial hubs.

Air Force (VVS) personnel operate all military aircraft except units that belong to the Naval Forces. As a part of the organizational reform aimed at increasing efficiency and cutting military personnel, the Air Defense Force (PVO) was merged with the Air Force in 1998. The RVSN was made part of the VVS and is controlled by the 37th Air Army of the Air Force. Starting January 2003 all Army Aviation Units also reside under command of the Air Force. The Air Forces also provided and trained prospective cosmonauts for the Soviet space program.

By the mid-1990s the air defense forces had a total of about 200,000 troops, of whom 60,000 were conscripts, with about 850 combat aircraft, including 100 MiG-23, 425 MiG-31, and 325 Su-27 aircraft. In 1989 the Air Forces had 450,000 personnel. By 1996 the Air Forces included about 130,000 troops, of which 40,000 were conscripts. According to CFE Treaty figures, at the end of 1994 Russia's air forces, including air defense, possessed a total of 3,283 combat aircraft.

The Decree of the President of the Russian Federation of 16 July 1997 determined formation of a new Service of the Armed Forces (AF) on the base of the previous Air Defence Force (Russian abb. ADF) and Air Force (Russian abb. AiF). This required from their Main Staffs during the transitional period intense activity aimed at perfoming structural changes in organization of the control system and the groups of troops being created.

By March 1, 1998 the Administration of the Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force and the Main Staff of the Air Force were formed on the base of control bodies of the Air Defence Force and the Air Force, and the Air Defence Force and the Air Force were merged into a new Service of the Russian Armed Forces – the Air Force.

The Air Force of the Russian Federation is designed for:

  • repulsing aggression in the aerospace sphere and protecting from air attacks the control points of the highest state and military control, administrative-and-political centres, industrial-and-economic areas, the most important economic facilities, the country’s infrastructure and the groups of troops (forces);
  • destruction of enemy objects and troops using both conventional and nuclear ordnance;
  • providing combat troops of other armies and armed services for air support.

According to the resolutions of the Security Council meeting of 11 August 2000, the major reform measures of the general purpose forces will be accomplished by 2006. By that time these forces will have over 800,000 servicemen, for a total reduction of 400,000 troops [possibly as soon as 2003]. The air force would lose about 40,000 under this plan.

In 1989 the Air Forces were organized into in three combat arms and one supporting branch [the Aviation Engineering Service], composed of air armies consisting of several air divisions. Each air division had three air regiments with three squadrons of about twelve aircraft each. The air forces were organized into four commands under the Air Force High Command. These commands are the Long-Range Aviation Command [Dalnaya Aviatsiya - DA], the Frontal Aviation Command, the Military Transport Aviation Command, and the Reserve and Cadre Training Command. The usual command configuration includes a division of three regiments, each with three squadrons of aircraft, plus independent regiments.

Frontal Aviation was the Soviet Union's tactical air force assigned to the military districts and the groups of forces. Its mission was to provide air support to Ground Forces units. Frontal Aviation cooperated closely with the Air Defense Aviation arm of the Air Defense Forces. Protected by the latter's fighter interceptors, Frontal Aviation in wartime would deliver conventional, nuclear, or chemical ordnance on the enemy's supply lines and troop concentrations to interdict its combat operations. It would be under the operational control of Ground Forces field commanders. In 1989 Frontal Aviation was divided into sixteen air armies composed of fighter, fighter-bomber, tactical reconnaissance, and electronic warfare aircraft.

In 1989 Frontal Aviation operated about 5,000 fixed- and rotary-wing combat and reconnaissance aircraft, which included 270 Su-25, 650 Su-17, and 1,050 MiG-27 ground attack aircraft. It also operated 450 MiG-29 and 350 Su-24 deep interdiction fighterbombers , in addition to the 450 that belonged to the Strategic Air Armies. The Air Forces used the heavily armed Su-25, first deployed in 1979, effectively during the early years of the war in Afghanistan when mujahidin forces lacked modern air defense systems.

Military Transport Aviation provided rapid strategic mobility for the armed forces. Its missions were to transport the Airborne Troops for rapid intervention by parachute and to supply and resupply Soviet forces abroad, and deliver arms and military equipment to Soviet allies around the world. In 1989 Military Transport Aviation had five air divisions, including 200 An-12, 55 An-22, 340 Il-76, and 5 An-124 transport aircraft. Having entered service only in 1987, the An-124 was the first Soviet transport that could lift outsized equipment such as main battle tanks. By the mid-1990s the Military Transport Aviation Command was organized into three divisions, each comprising three regiments of thirty aircraft. In addition, there were a few independent aviation transport regiments, including one stationed in Kaliningrad. Overall, the independent training regiments deployed about 350 aircraft of the Il-76 Kandid, An-12, An-22, and An-124 types.

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