“A large part” of this force, Falichev says, was built in Soviet times “or in the 1990s.” It is now reaching the end of its useful life, and because of the lack of government investment, the new planes Moscow has talked about or even promised are unlikely to come into service before some in this aging fleet break down.
Indeed, he suggests, the current tempos of production “even under ideal circumstances” won’t prevent the size and capacity of Russia’s military transport from declining at least for a time in the coming years. Russian industry is producing too few airplane motors and more than half of the planes in the aging fleet are down for repairs at anyone time.
According to the military analyst, these problems among others mean that Moscow can’t move troops and materiel around as quickly as it needs to in order to respond to a crisis as in Syria because of its continuing responsibilities to support Russian bases in Armenia – which can be done only by air – and to stage exercises in various parts of the Russian Federation.
After providing chapter and verse numbers of the difficult kinds of planes in the Russian forces and their problems, Falichev says that “the state needs a long-term complex program for the development of aviation, not only military but civilian. Without that, Russia will cease to be an aviation power and will continue to fly about in Boeings and Airbuses.”
“Some say that this is far from the worst possibility. After all we use foreign cars. That’s true,” the analyst says. “But what will we do when money from the sale of oil and gas ends or the prices for these resources fall? Will there be enough for our time? Possibly. But the next generations will not forgive this ‘sleep of reason.’”
“As for our Western ‘partners,’” Falichev concludes, “with the onset of military times, they will immediately veto” on Russia’s ability to purchase or lease planes and thus have the ability to cripple its air power not only for civilian purposes but for the military ones on which the security of Russia depends.