Warplanes: Russia Gets Smart


September11, 2008:  Russia's recent five day war in Georgia brought many benefits to the Russian Air Force. Despite having four aircraft shot down, several dozen other Russian warplanes kept flying, and proved crucial to rapidly overwhelming the Georgian armed forces.

Russian aircraft manufacturers had already developed upgrades for the Su-25 (similar to the U.S. A-10 ground attack aircraft, but with a more conventional appearance) and Su-24 (similar to the U.S. F-111precision fighter-bomber). These two models did most of the work in Georgia. But until recently, more of the money seemed headed for new fighters, and upgrades for existing fighters. The fighting in Georgia showed that new fighters were not the problem in these "little wars," but reliable bombers and precision weapons were. While Russia has developed a wide array of GPS and laser guided missiles and bombs, they have bought few of these for their own troops, and provided even less opportunity for the air force to even use the stuff for training. As a result, most of the bombs dropped in Georgia were of the dumb variety. If smart bombs had been used, far fewer aircraft would have been exposed to ground fire and Georgian anti-aircraft missiles.

Thus as a result of the Georgia war, Russian fighter programs will have a harder time getting money, while the upgrades of the Su-24 and Su-25 aircraft are getting funded, and more of the new Su-34 (a precision, all weather bomber similar to the U.S. F-15E) are being ordered. And, of course, increased production of smart bombs, and training pilots in their use. The Russians have the American and NATO experience with smart bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan to fall back on as well. The success there was not just an American thing, now it's a Russian thing as well.


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