Leadership: Russian Generals Beg For Fuel


March 29, 2007: Russian Air Force generals are not happy with all those upgraded fighters they are receiving, and the lack of money for fuel and spare parts so the pilots can learn how to handle them. A recent collision, at high (25,000 feet) altitude, between two MiG-29s, was publicly blamed on lack of training. The Russian general who made that statement may have committed career suicide, but his outspokenness represents a feeling common throughout Russian military aviation.

While Russian jet fighters are now as complex and capable as those in the West, Russian pilots are still flying hours more suitable for the simpler aircraft of the Soviet Union days. In the West, fighting pilots get about 200 hours a year in the air, plus a growing number of hours on highly realistic simulators. Russian pilots get about 60 hours in the air a year, and practically no hours in modern flight simulators. The only exceptions are pilots assigned to places like Chechnya, where there are still some combat missions to be flown. But most of the action down there is for Su-25 ground attack aircraft and helicopter gunships.

While the Russian armed forces are undergoing a long overdue infusion of new equipment and upgrades, money for actually training on all that stuff is not a high priority. Russia was never big on "wearing out" military equipment for training. This was a Soviet custom that even the Soviet military leaders eventually realized was counterproductive. But old habits die hard, and it may be another generation before Russia is willing to pay what it takes to train like Westerners.


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