Cover: Russia's Air Power in Crisis

Russia's Air Power in Crisis

Posted on 1999

by Benjamin S. Lambeth

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Russia's air power has fallen on hard times since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. At the height of the Soviet era, the Russian Air Force (VVS in its Russian acronym) procured more than four hundred aircraft per year. In 1992, it bought thirty-two; in 1997, none. Drawing on more than two decades of RAND research and focusing primarily on fighter aviation, Lambeth shows how air power in Russia has steadily withered away since the breakup of the USSR. Based in part on conversations with Russian Air Force leaders, his book describes how the VVS has confronted problems with aging aircraft, inadequate flight training, a rising accident rate, and miserable living conditions for officers and their families. Experienced pilots are resigning, depleting the supply of potential leaders. Lambeth also describes recent VVS reforms: the lifting of political controls, encouragement of pilot initiative, and the long-awaited merger of the VVS with the once-separate Russian air defense forces. Although air power is key to Russia's future military capability, Lambeth contends that the new VVS is unlikely to regain even a semblance of its former Cold War strength in the near term. Only the stabilization of Russian society as a whole, he asserts, will ensure a renaissance of Russian air power. In a dust-jacket comment, former USAF Chief of Staff General Merrill McPeak called the book "must reading for anyone interested in Russia's armed forces", adding that "nobody knows this subject better or can write about it with greater authority."

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