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Thursday, October 20, 2016

The willingness of the “Kuznetsov” to the operation in Syria is in doubt

The Minister of defence officially confirmed what’s long suspected experts: to the shores of Syria will be sent to the only Russian aircraft carrier “Admiral Kuznetsov”. Sources have said that air Kuznetsova will take part in the strikes on Syrian rebels. However, a number of circumstances specifies that this hike does not look quite prepared.

Heavy aircraft-carrying cruiser (aircraft carrier) “Admiral Kuznetsov” will go to the Eastern part of the Mediterranean sea, said Wednesday the Minister of defence of Russia Sergey Shoigu at the Board meeting of the military Department. “Currently, the Russian naval group in the Eastern Mediterranean part of at least six warships and three or four support ships from all fleets. To increase the combat capabilities of the group planned to include in its composition the ship’s aircraft carrier group with cruiser “Admiral Kuznetsov”, – quotes its TASS.

“279 th regiment even good for aviation times, never was in readiness. It is a day was not in constant readiness forces, never sat in Dsah”

If you carefully trace the message devoted to the only Russian aircraft carrier and its air group, it will become clear that Shoigu announced the campaign is prepared at least from the end of last year. Moreover – were already numerous leaks about where it will go the cruiser during military service in the winter of 2016/2017 years and what tasks will perform.

In July 2016, a military-diplomatic source said about the upcoming campaign in the fall of the aircraft carrier with the aim of causing “strikes on terrorist groups in the Syrian Arab Republic”. Cruiser made refurbishment – but not quite normal. As officially declared carrying out repair company, Armoury cellar of the ship was prepared for the new ammunition. On the whole, the ship was considerably modernized with the aim of preparation for deployment on Board the new aircraft – MiG-29КР and МиГ29КУБ based on plans reported in November of 2015. Was, in particular, installed a new set of flight support naval aviation “Ilmen-11435” and the additional communication modules. Promised and the flow in the air group and the new Ka-52K – those who planned to base on “Mistral”. On Thursday the chief of naval aviation major General Igor Kozhin, confirmed that the ship will go on a long hike in the Mediterranean sea with standard weapons and a full wing.

It is important to note that the appearance on the “Kuznetsov” MiG-29КР and МиГ29КУБ should – at least theoretically – to significantly expand the range of combat vehicle applications. If used with the cruiser su-33 are primarily defense fighter aircraft, the MiGs can carry weapons, striking land targets (e.g., in Syria).

In parallel, also since last year on the complex THREAD in the Crimea and similar complex in Yeysk was training pilots for the reconstituted in December last year, the 100-th separate naval fighter aviation regiment (OCIAP) Naval aviation of the Northern fleet (NF). He was transferred 24 advanced MiG-29КР and МиГ29КУБ. A rare case, the Navy recognizes that the fighter is still being tested and will be held until 2018 – however, a limited series of fighters will begin operating on the aircraft carrier before they are completed. It’s already given reason to believe that the presence of the group in this composition are of great importance and, therefore, before her important challenges, and in the near future.

Indeed, in summer, the ship began to re-equipped with air group. First, in July the Navy announced that “Kuznetsov” for the first time after a long break, started to take on Board the aircraft carrier-based aircraft from another (long flying from the ship) – 279-go OCIAP. On the deck of the aircraft carrier landing the first pair of planes 279-th – one “big” (su-33) and one “small” (su-25UTG). The pilots of this unit all summer were trained on complex THREADS. In August they were joined by the MiGs – and this was the first such landing in the history of the ship.

Thus, to date, based on the “Kuznetsov” was prepared for two of the regiment and as many aircraft as it never hitherto was located – about five dozen (24 MiG, 14 su-33 and several helicopters). At least if you believe the open source and military applications. Omit the question of the extent to which health are all machines, for example, all of them are able to rise into the air and perform combat tasks (which never happens). Another question much more important – the condition of the personnel? How many pilots and how they are prepared?

Strictly speaking, the answer to this question is a military secret, but open sources and statements not directly related to the group of specialists we can draw some conclusions. And these conclusions, that is, disappointing.

As already mentioned, we know from open sources that the 100th regiment was recreated less than a year ago, in December 2015. We know that the pilots of the regiment began training, and not from the deck of an aircraft carrier, and on the simulator in Yeisk, in the spring of 2016, and the first landing on the aircraft carrier was carried out as recently as August. We know that by the mid-2000s, pilots of the 279-th regiment, having the skills to at least take off and land with “Kuznetsova”, there were no more than ten and most of them were close to retirement age. We know that within two years of Naval aviation the Navy is trying intensively to prepare for work with the “Kuznetsov” for a group of inexperienced young pilots. We also know that every pilot (even high level) before you can be recognized ready to perform combat tasks, must pass the so-called KBP – training unique to each aircraft.

“The basic training consists of hundreds of exercises, which are divided into a number of programs. All that you need to learn to fly the allotted number of flights that the pilot would be allowed to conduct combat operations, – says the newspaper VIEW senior retired officer of the Russian air force. – In the short time that exists is the 100th regiment, his pilots, most likely, could be efficiently prepared only for takeoffs from the deck and landing on her, and the rest of the pilots have yet to learn. They probably don’t even know how to use weapons. But in military operation, you can only send pilots of the first class. This years training. In the past years for a complete course (only PCU) was tacitly established not more than three years.”

Another source, relating to Naval aviation, said the newspaper VIEW that the carrier is unlikely to be able to perform off the coast of Syria different challenge, in addition to the purely symbolic. “279 th regiment even in the good aviation old days never were in readiness. It is a day was not in constant readiness forces, never sat in Dsah is duty forces, able to participate in solving emerging problems. And never even carried a duty on air defense, and now, at the stage of retraining for a new aircraft, put it on the war,” says the source.

Concerns about training in the Crimea, the young pilots of carrier-based aircraft has publicly expressed also by the representative of the veteran organization of the Crimean garrison Saks Alexander Sannikov. In conversation with “the Military-industrial courier” Sannikov suggested that the lack of proper attention from the commanders to the issues THREAD (training aviation in Saki, Crimea) may lead to the fact that “Admiral Kuznetsov” will go on a long hike with a truncated wing structure. “There is a well-founded fear that the exit of the ship, the pilots of this regiment will not have time to complete all the necessary preparatory procedures,” he warned. Speaking about training in Saki, Sannikov pointed out that they took place under a simplified program: flights were made with the touch of a deck, and passages – without a hook for cable arresting gear, which is not possible to master the skills in full. “Besides, the MiG-29КР and MiG-29КУБР not fully carried out a series of tests”, – confirmed he.

However, there is another point of view. Military expert Dmitry Litovkin believes that the Russian pilots are quite willing to air the war in Syria. “Pilots are ready. This year they flew in landfills from may to July. In addition, pilots were prepared and in three-dimensional simulators of MiG in Moscow on the Leningrad prospectus. Realistic training on such simulators give the 3D technology, and the use of hydraulic devices to simulate the vibrations of the cockpit. Worked the landing, taking off from an aircraft carrier, refuel in the air. There is a very good team, hard – young,” Litovkin told the newspaper VIEW.

You should still make a reservation that the flights on simulators will never replace real combat pilot’s flight practices. Moreover, as recognized and Litovkin, combat use of the personnel even at the gym not working out, but sending them to Syria, where there is actual fighting. Of course, even if in the end the pilots of the air group “Kuznetsova” will take part in operations in Syria, for them, in fact, it will only be a new landfill is complicated, but with no real opposition from the enemy. Any participation in actual combat – and who knows how the situation will develop in Syria? – turn have not undergone full training pilots an easy target.

But not only is it a matter of concern. Russia for the first time in its history is preparing to use its only aircraft carrier and its air group for direct military purposes. Any professional will tell you how difficult it is to provide trouble-free flight dozens of planes in heavy combat mode of operation, will remember the many tragic examples occurred in similar cases at the main military power in the world, decades of operating aircraft carriers – United States. Nevertheless, the defense Ministry decided to send in the area of fighting people who – again, according to open sources – certainly not passed the necessary training. At least, these doubts are justified. God forbid, but the risk of possible losses – even non-combat – this approach increases many times.

It remains to understand when it is the “Kuznetsov” would be off the coast of Syria.

As reported by TASS in early September, the commander of the Naval aviation of the Russian Navy Igor Kozhin has warned that tests of the updated air group “Admiral Kuznetsov”, or rather, most of them will be completed only by the end of this year. From recognition Kozhin indicate that the pilots will not be ready for combat missions before December.

Usually the ships of the Northern fleet out on a long trip last December, because in the Arctic at that time is the polar night, and in the almost – darkness, the pilots difficult to begin to regain skills such flights over the sea. So the winter is the only Russian aircraft carrier, it is desirable to get farther South. There and to improve flying skills of the pilots in more favorable conditions, and the ship safe.

The previous seven combat services “Admiral Kuznetsov” in the entire quarter-history of this ship on such a scheme and built. We can assume that this time the ships will go from Murmansk in the beginning of December, at the same time by January will end with a “major proportion” test in January with his deck finally start the first MiGs for strikes against ISIL*.

We wish them an equal number of takeoffs and landings.

* Organization in respect of which the court accepted entered into legal force decision on liquidation or ban the activities on the grounds stipulated by the Federal law “On countering extremist activity”


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