Russia, CIS Hold Major Air Defence Exercises


ITAR-TASS news agency, Moscowan
7 Apr 04

Moscow Region (Russian Air Force central command post), 7 April: One
of the features of the current command and headquarters exercise being
held by the CIS joint air defence system is the use of A-50 long-range
radar aircraft, Russian Air Force Deputy C-in-C Lt-Gen Aytech Bizhev
said today.

The A-50 is fitted with the Shmel radar station, developed by the
Moscow Science and Research Institute for
Instrument-Building. According to public-domain sources, it can
simultaneously track 50 airborne targets at a range of 230 km and
guide 10 interceptors towards them. Air force and air defence units of
eight CIS states – Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan,
Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Ukraine – are taking part in a command and
headquarters exercise of the Commonweath’s joint air defence
system. Over 50 CIS air defence command posts are involved, plus about
60 aircraft including Su-29, Mig-29 and Mig-31 fighters, Su-25 ground
attack aircraft, Su-24 front-line bombers and Tu-22M3 long-range
bombers. The Russian Air Force unit based in Kant, Kyrgyzstan, is
taking part in such exercises for the first time.

Russian Air Force C-in-C Vladimir Mikhaylov is in overall charge from
the central command post. The main purpose of the exercise is to
rehearse the repulse of sudden airspace incursions and prevent hijacks
by terrorists. The Tu-22M3s are “imitating airspace violators in the
Caucasus, East European and Central Asian regions. At the same time
the Su-24s are carrying out manoeuvres and landings at bases in Russia
and Belarus, and Russian and Kazakh Mig-31s are doing something
similar. (Quotes not closed as in original)

Asked if NATO aircraft will be used as notional targets during today’s
manoeuvres, Gen Bizhev said: “We track them by electronic means. If
NATO aircraft breach established flight rules, we shall take
appropriate action.”

Bizhev also said that “these exercises should not be seen as a
response to NATO’s deployment of warplanes in the Baltics. We plan
exercises like these ones every year and they are routine.”

Mikhaylov himself added that the exercises confirm that “the CIS joint
air defence system is operating reliably”.

(An inflight refuelling tanker had been noted taking off from NATO’s
base at Manas, near Kant, ITAR-TASS reported at 0807 gmt. “They’re
carrying out reconnaissance, of course. They know about today’s
exercises, which are being watched with great interest at all military
bases in adjacent countries,” Gen Bizhev was quoted as saying.)