Russia grounded its fleet of more than 200 MiG-29 fighter jets on Friday after one crashed during a routine training exercise in the Southern Krasnodar region, news agency Interfax reported. The incident marks the fourth crash of a Russian military plane over the past month and the fourth loss of a MiG-29 in the past year. (...) On June 4, a MiG-29 flying out of a base in the nearby Astrakhan region, "exploded, caught fire and was destroyed", an unidentified government source told news agency RIA Novosti at the time. The pilot ejected and was unharmed. Two and a half hours after that crash, a Sukhoi Su-34 fighter-bomber in the Voronezh region, about 500 kilometers south of Moscow, flipped over while trying to land. The crew survived and the plane did not explode, but was heavily damaged. A few days later, a Russian Tu-95 "Bear" strategic bomber ran off a runway at the Ukrainka bomber base in Russia's Far Eastern Amur region after an engine caught fire during takeoff. One airman was killed and another hospitalized. No other members of the crew were injured. The air force temporarily grounded the Tu-95 fleet after the crash to give investigators time to identify why the plane's engine had caught fire.
One of the world's most famous aircraft designers, Russia's MiG aircraft company has fallen on hard times. Though MiG aircraft continue to populate almost 30 world airforces the firm has not won a major design competition or aircraft tender in its post-Soviet history.Russia îs the world's second-largest arms-exporter after the United States, and its aircraft companies made-up a substantial $4.4 billion of the country's overall $13 billion in arms exports in 2014, according to data collected by defense industry consultancy IHS.Although MiG has been able to secure a chunk of these exports, its market performance since the fall of the Soviet Union has been outpaced by Russia's other aircraft producer, Sukhoi. In terms of foreign sales alone -a key lifeline for Russia's defense industry- Sukhoi has dominated, exporting 67 more aircraft and raking in almost $7 billion more than MiG since 1991. (...) In 2008, Algeria tore up a contract and returned 15 Mig-29 aircraft delivered in 2006 and 2007 for inferior quality, demanding that Russia give them 14 to 16 Sukhoi Su-30 fighters instead (...) The cancellation, which nullified a $1.28 billion contract for a total of 34 MiGs, was the first time ever Russian hardware was returned by an export costumer over quality concerns. (...)
Russia's Air Force is falling from the sky.As the Kremlin continues to assert its air power in a bid to intimidate NATO allies in Europe and North America, its mostly Soviet-built aircraft are being pushed to their limits - a fact experts point to when attempting to explain the loss of five aircraft of different designs in just the past month.The latest in the string of crashes came July 6, when a two-seat Su-24 strike fighter crashed at an air base outside of Khabarovsk, in Russia's Far East, when trying to take off for a training exercise.This follows the crashes of two MiG-29s, a Su-34 and a Tu-95, all in the last month - part of a largest trend of Russian aviation failures over the last several years as the Soviet-era fleet has fallen victim of age and substandard sustainment. A source close to the Defense Ministry said on condition of anonymity that the crashes are the result of two key trends dogging Russia's Air Force today - the overuse of old aircraft and a lack of qualified pilots.It is easy to understand the first point.
It is easy to understand the first point. The pace of Russian activities has shot up dramatically since its invasion of Ukrainian territory in March of 2014. According to data provided by NATO, the alliance intercepted over 400 Russian aircraft near its airspace in 2014, following the start of the Ukraine crisis, a 50 percent increase over the previous years, and a rate that harkens back to the antagonistic posturing of the Cold War The regular nature of these activities is one of the factors that led US General Joe Dunford, excepted to easily be confirmed as the next chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, to identify Russia as the "greatest existential threat" to the US during a confirmation hearing on July 9.Paul Schwartz, a nonresident senior associate who focuses on Russia with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, notes that it is not inusual for Russia aircraft to experience a "spat of incidents" but that the current rate of aircraft loss is beyond the norm.The numbers bear it out. Since 2010, when the Russian government began putting its Air Force back into regular action under former-Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov, it has experienced over 30 crashes, hardly ever breaking more than one a month, according to Russian news reports - a stark contrast to the last month of aircraft losses "There is clearly a linkage between the increased tempo of military operations undertaken during the last year and a half and the increased tempo of crashes for military aircraft", Schwartz said. "It is clearly taking a turn upwards". The Russian source pointed to the stress placed on the Russian fleets by demanding patrol and exercises rates over the past several years - and since the start of the Ukraine crisis in particular. "The majority of the equipment, apart of [the recent crash] of a newer Sukhoi 34, is very old. Under [recent ministers] Anatoly Serdyukov and Sergei Shoigu the planes are used very extensively, especially during these so-to-speak snap inspections", the source said. "If you start to extensively use equipment made many years ago,even if the equipment is certified [in good shape] the percentage of failure become higher", the source added.
The use of aging gear is not one faced only by Russia, points out Richard Abulafia, an analyst for Teal Group. In fact, it has some similarities to the situation faced by US Air Force, where service leaders have explicitly said they need to recapitalize aging fleets. But the situation in Russia, where sustainement and upkeep have never been strong suiits, is worse. "It's exactly like us, except for a couple big differences - we take sustainment seriously and we build robust systems. They don't". Schwartz notes that while the Russians have made changes since 2008 in how they do sustainment and maintenance, "historically the amount they expend on maintenance has been substandard when compared with Western approaches". The poor state of Russia's defense industry is also contributing to the state of Russia's aircraft fleet", said Vadim Kozulyn, a military expert at Moscow-based PIR Centre think-tank. "These old aircraft require a lot of maintenance, and the spare parts currently in stock are old", Kozulyn said, noting that when it comes to maintenance personnel, the older ones are experienced while the younger ones are not qualified. "Many manufacturers of military components went bankrupt, converted to civilian production, or were left abroad - like in Ukraine- after the Soviet collapse", Kozulyn said "Large numbers of existing producers of military components do not have military quality control inspectors on site to ensure the quality of components as was done in Soviet times" Sanctions from Western countries are having an impact in that regard, Schwartz said, as many of the high-end components that would help keep the fleets in top shape are no longer available to Putin's government."They've been especially dependent on electronic components from abroad", Schwartz said. "With sanctions taking effect that reduce their ability to purchase some of the components they use in their aircraft, they have to look for substitutes or look to buy from intermediaries". Another issue the Russian source identified is the lack of qualified pilots to fly the kind of mission the Defense Ministry is asking of the Air Force as Moscow tries to flex its muscles in the face of NATO. "There are less pilots in Russia than they have aircraft, and they gave young pilots missions that they are supposed to be given to experienced pilots", the source said. These young pilots are lacking in basic skill. Such as midair refueling, the source said, noting "air refueling in Russia is -I dare to say- almost something exceptional"
"They had pilots who flew so infrequently following the collapse that flight time for pilots was down to 20-30 hours a year, in some cases", he said. Most of Russia's qualified pilots have retired or taken up better jobs flying for commercial airlines such as Aeroflot, Transaero an foreign companies, the source said. Grounded fleets Russia is not ignoring the problem of lost planes, and has not hesitated to ground whole fleets while they attempt to find the sources of the problems. "They are pretty good about grounding a particular category of aircraft when there's been an incident so they can trace the cause of the incident and prevent additional incidents from happening", Schwartz said. Shortly after the crash of the Su-24 on July 6, the head of Russia's Air Force, Col. Gen. Viktor Bondarev, ordered the grounding of all Su -24 planes until the cause of the crash is identified - making the fleet Russia's third to be grounded over the last month.On July 3, Russia's force of over 200 MiG-29 air superiority fighters were grounded after one crashed near its base in Krasnodar in southern Russia - the fourth loss of a MiG-29 over the past year. Another MiG-29 crashed on June 4 in nearby Astrakhan during training. Just two and a half hours after that MiG-29 crash, one of Russia's newer Su-34 fighter-bomber aircraft flipped over while trying to land at its base in Voronezh region, about 500 kilometers south of Moscow. An unidentified Defense Ministry source, quoted by state news agency RIA Novosti that day, said the plane's draa chute failed to deploy upon landing. The Russian Air Force was also forced to ground its fleet of 61 Tu-95 "Bear" long-range strategic bombers temporarily last month after an engine fire during takeoff led one to run off its runway from the Ukrainka Air Base in Russia's Far East. The Bears are Soviet-era staples that form the mainstay of Russia's strategic bomber force. The planes have been spotted repeatedly buzzing along the fringes of NATO airspace over the past year. However, their engines are old and a modernization program is progressing at a snail's pace. There is, for example, a production bottleneck in engines for the Tu-95s. Russia can only produce about 10 Bear engines a year for a fleet of over 60 of the four-engined airplanes. After last month's incident with the Bear at Ukrainka Airbase, it is not clear how long the bombers were grounded, or if it impacted the rate of provocative patrols near the NA borders. However, two Tu-95s were intercepted by US Air Force F-22 aircraft off the California coast on July 14.
The Russian Defense Ministry did not respond to a request for comment on the reasons behind the crashes, or clarify the status of its temporarily grounded fleets of Su-24s, MiG-29s and Tu-95 long-range strategic bombers. The rate of attrition could begin to impact Russia's ability to fly patrols with regularity. While noting that five losses in a month won't happen on a regular basis, Schwartz said he expects the fleets to continue to grind down for several more years. Eventually, however, the influx of newer aircraft into those fleets will help balance out the losses. The Su-24, for instance, is planned to be replaced by the Su-34 by around 2020. But replacing the aging fleets could take longer than desired if sanctions continue to impact Russia's fiscal situation. In the meantime, the mix of older planes, lack of experienced pilots and sustainment issues will likely continue to be a problem for Putin's government. Or as Abulafia noted: "You couple the trends together, and they have a real problem. I expect this to worsen considerably" By Matthew Bodner and Aaron Mehta
Two Russian pilots have died in a dramatic failed parachute landing after all four engines of a Tu-95 bomber failed during a training flight. The ageing aircraft, named "The Bear", was taking part in a mission over eastern Russia when the incident ocurred. Tu -95 is the same type as those deployed by Russian president Vladimir Putin to fly close to Britain and other NATO countries amid the current tension over the Ukraine crisis. The seven man crew parachuted from the plane but the two pilots died as they landed near Khabarovsk, according to Russian reports. (...) The giant Soviet-era aircraft was on a training mission and was not carrying missiles when it crashed. However, the accident is the latest in a spate of incidents involving Russian military aircraft, which will raise searching questions over air safety in Putin's increasingly desperate air force. The crash led to the immediate grounding of the turboprop-powered strategic bomber and missile platform, which has been in service since 1957 .This was the sixth accident involving Russian military aircraft this summer. The ministry said the crash was probably caused by a 'malfunction' but TASS news agency cited sources saying a failure of the plane's fuel valves led to the simultaneous failure of all four engines.(...) The Tu-95 was first flown in 1952 and ranks as the only propellor-powered bomber still in operation today (...)
A Força Aérea Russa está voando muito, mas também está perdendo aviões. Apesar de afirmar o seu poder intimidando os aliados da OTAN na Europa e na América do Norte, sua aeronaves antigas não estão suportando o número maior de missões.No dia 6 de julho, um caça bombardeiro Su-24 caiu após decolar da base aérea de Khabarovsk, no Extremo Oriente da Rússia. Isso aconteceu logo após a queda de dois MiG-29, um Su-34 e um Tu-95, todos no mês passado.Uma fonte do Ministério da Defesa russo disse que os acidentes se devem à idade das aeronaves e à falta de pilotos qualificados.Após a invasão da Ucrânia, a OTAN interceptou mais de 400 aviões russos, um aumento de 50% em relação aos anos anteriores e equivalente aos tempos da Guerra Fria.
Russian An-140 production halted by Ukrainian sanctions Seen here in its civilian guise, the An-140 is intended to be fielded by Russia as a military transport platform to replace some of its Soviet-era machinery http://www.janes.com/article/53382/russ ... -sanctions Russia has been forced to suspend manufacture of the Antonov 140 transport aircraft as a result of sanctions imposed by the Ukrainian government, national media reported on 3 August. Production of the twin-turboprop aircraft at Samara JSC Aviacor (also known as Aviakor), which is located approximately 800 km east of Moscow, has been temporarily halted after Kiev-imposed sanctions prevented the delivery of parts for assembly of the Ukrainian-designed airlifter. The Russian manufacturer has been able to build a number of aircraft from parts received prior to the imposition of sanctions, the Russian VPK news agency reported, although Samara AVC Aviacor's CEO Alexei Gusev did not say how many. Russia and Ukraine agreed joint-production in December 2013, before the breakdown in relations over the ousting of the Moscow-backed President Viktor Yanukovich, an the subsequent Russian annexation of Crimea and Vladimir Putin's support of separatists in the east of Ukraine. Developed from the An-140 regional airliner, the military transport variant is being built by Russia to replace its more than 300 Soviet-era An-24 "Coke" and An-26 "Curl" tactical airlifters as part of a revamp of its wider fixed-wing transport fleets (...)