Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 120

The commander-in-chief of the Russian Air Force, Gen. Petr Deinekin, said yesterday that Russia had ruled out buying any of the ex-Soviet strategic bombers now belonging to Ukraine, but that it was developing an entirely new bomber that could be in service by 2005. In the interim, Long-Range Aviation would have to make do with its 80 aging Tu-95 Bear missile-carriers and the 12 supersonic Tu-160 Blackjacks it has. Deinekin said that only one-half of the latter were operational. The Blackjack is the largest bomber in the world and was the cream of the Soviet Air Force. Ukraine inherited 19 of them and the two sides have been bickering over their sale to Russia for 6 years. Deinekin said that they and the 25 Tu-95s in Ukraine were "in such an extremely poor condition that they could hardly be used."

The introduction of an entirely new bomber is certainly a long shot, not least because of the enormous expenses that would be involved. Indeed, some have suggested that Russia will ultimately have to give up the airborne leg of its strategic nuclear triad altogether. At a recent Washington seminar on nuclear arms control, Aleksei Arbatov, the deputy chairman of the Duma’s Defense Committee and a security specialist, predicted that by 2005 Russia would no longer have a bomber fleet.

Deinekin also said yesterday that the Russian Air Force will be cut by one-third during the first stage of military reform. Some 30,000 personnel are to be released annually, he said. (Russian news agencies, June 18)

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