Air Force

Air Force
   The Russian air force (Voienno-vozdushnyie sily Rossii or VVS), formed out of the Soviet air force, is the division of the military dedicated to the airborne defense of the Russian Federation. Aleksandr Zelin is the current commander of the air force’s 200,000 personnel. Under Boris Yeltsin, the VVS was streamlined, particularly after the consolidation of the once-separate Air Defense Force. In terms of aircraft, the Sukhoi Su-27 forms the backbone of the force’s fighter aircraft and also serves in reconnaissance. The Mikoyan MiG-31 is the principal interceptor. The Sukhoi Su-24 is the primary bomber. The VVS also has a large number of attack helicopters, which were used in the Soviet-Afghan War and the two Chechen Wars.
   With nearly 3,000 aircraft, it is the second-largest air force in the world, behind only that of the United States; however, a significant percentage of these aircraft, particularly the MiG-29s, are in poor condition. In the last years of Vladimir Putin’s presidency, the Russian air force resumed long-range bomber missions over the Arctic Ocean, as well as portions of the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, prompting fears in the West of a renewed Cold War. During the same period, Russian military aircraft violated the air space of a number of its neighbors, including Finland, Georgia, and the Baltic States.
   The VVS maintains a military presence at bases in Kant, Kyrgyzstan, and Gyumri, Armenia. In 2009, Venezuela reportedly extended an offer to establish a Russian air base on its territory, though Moscow declined. After the South Ossetian War in 2008, the VVS expressed interest in acquiring a new base in Tajikistan.

Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation. . 2010.

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