Inside Russia's Nuclear Bomber Base - October, 2007

Inside Russia's Nuclear Bomber Base

The Russian military has told Sky News it will increase the number of flights by its strategic nuclear bombers along the edge of Nato airspace. A Tu-160 over Engels airbaseIt comes at a time when the relationship between the Kremlin and the West is at its lowest point since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Russia's Ministry of Defence says the flights are simply training missions. A large number of them take off from one of the country's largest airbases - Engels near the Southern city of Saratov. Sky News was given rare access to the base where Tu-95s and Tu-160s are stationed. They are in many ways Soviet relics but each one is nuclear capable. The Tu-95 was designed in the years after the Second World War as the Cold War forged the globe into two distinct political blocs. The Tu-160 is newer but hardly modern. It made its maiden flight in 1981. This has not stopped President Vladimir Putin from pressing both of them back into service. He ordered the resumption of the strategic flights in August; although there is evidence they started months before. Mr Putin has been keen to portray himself as a muscular commander-in-chief. With massive revenues from oil and gas the country is slowly re-militarising and its defence budget has quadrupled since he took office in 2001.

For the pilots at the base it means they can get back to a job they have struggled to do properly for more than a decade. In the 1990s most of the planes were mothballed - grounded because there was not enough money for fuel. Tu-95s were grounded in the 1990sThe commander of the Engels base, Alexander Blazhenko, says he is surprised by the international concern and has accused the West of hypocrisy. "We are now only nearing the number of hours a British pilot spends in the air but that's already causing alarm," he said. "It's not fair - the RAF should be pleased they have more to do now." The flights have tested the response of the Royal Air Force in a way that has not been seen since the end of the Cold War. Over the past few months the RAF has had to scramble fighter jets as Russian bombers approached British airspace. Russian pilot, Gennady Stekachev, flew one of those missions. ' Mission control' at the Engels airbase"The RAF planes came up pretty close to us," he said. "We waved hands, greeting each other and there was no animosity on either side." No hostility perhaps but the resumption of the flights is making Western governments uneasy. They question why the Kremlin needs to project itself in a way that has not been seen since the Cold War.

From a Russian perspective the answer is this: The end of the Soviet Union saw the end of empire and prestige. Russia's elites feel they were humiliated and the West took advantage in the dark days after the collapse of the USSR. Sky's Alex RossiWith huge amounts of money coming into the country as a result of the energy windfall, the rebuilding of the military is part of a wider process started by Putin - the restoration of pride and the rebuilding of a national identity. This can be coupled with a more practical explanation as well: Russia needs to diversify. Its military industrial complex was massive during the Soviet Union. By reviving parts of it and by rehabilitating its arms-building expertise, Mr Putin can also help expand the economy's breadth. At present it is dangerously unbalanced and dependent on commodities like oil, gas and metals. All of this means the West will have to get used to a resurgent and assertive new Russia. The Kremlin wants to take its place again at the top table of the world order. There are certainly plenty of politicians here who believe a strong Russia is necessary as a counterweight to American power. Ask them why and they point to Iraq as an example of the dangers of a unipolar world.


In other news:

Russia begins large-scale military exercises in Far East

Russia began on Sunday large-scale military exercises in the Far East to practice interoperability between troops, the press office of the Far Eastern military district said. "The strategic command-and-staff military exercises to practice control of force groupings in the Eastern region, East-2007, are being held in accordance with the training plans of the Russian Armed Forces. The exercises will be held from October 28 through November 3," the press office said. The exercises will be supervised by Yuri Baluyevsky, chief of the Russian Armed Forces General Staff, and will aim to practice measures to localize internal armed conflicts, destroy illegal armed formations and terrorist groups, the press office said. In addition, the exercises are intended to study the operation of the single system of troops' logistic and technical support in the Far Eastern region, the press office said.


Russia launches ICBM RS-18 from Baikonur in Kazakhstan

Russia's Strategic Missile Forces (SMF) have successfully launched an intercontinental ballistic missile RS-18 (SS-19 Stiletto) from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan, an SMF spokesman said. Russia's SMF regularly launch missiles to test their performance characteristics and decide whether they can remain in service. "The launch of the ICBM RS-18 was successfully conducted at midday Moscow time [8:a.m. GMT] October 29 from the Baikonur space center," Colonel Alexander Vovk said. "A simulated warhead has reached the Kura testing site on the Kamchatka peninsula [in the Russian Far East]," the official said. He said the launch had been conducted in order to assess the possibility of extending the service life of the Stiletto ICBMs, which have so far been operational for 29 years. "As a result of the successful test launch, the service life of one of our most reliable missile complexes will be extended to 31 years," Vovk said. RS-18 missiles have a combat range exceeding 9,600 km [more than 6,000 miles], and are considered to be highly reliable. Over 100 silo-based Stiletto missiles are currently in service with the SMF, with each missile carrying six 550-kiloton warheads. The SMF commander, Colonel General Nikolai Solovtsov, said last Friday that RS-18 (SS-19 Stiletto) and RS-12M (SS-25 Sickle) will be gradually replaced by new RS-24 ICBMs, equipped with MIRV warheads and characterized by high missile-defense penetration capability.


Russia test-fires short-range interceptor missile

Russia successfully tested a short-range anti-ballistic missile on Tuesday at a test site in Kazakhstan, a Strategic Missile Forces spokesman announced. "A joint team of Strategic Missile Forces, Space Forces and industry experts test launched a short-range missile interceptor on Tuesday at 11:00 a.m. [8:00 a.m. GMT] from the Sary-Shagan testing site in Kazakhstan," Col. Alexander Vovk said. He said the launch had been conducted to test the performance characteristics and extend the service life of missiles used as part of the national missile defense system. The latest test was the 43rd launch of this type of interceptor missile since 1983. The previous launch from Sary-Shagan was conducted on October 11. Russia's Strategic Missile Forces announced last Friday they would conduct five launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles by the end of 2007. Commander Col. Gen. Nikolai Solovtsov said seven ICBM launches had been conducted so far in 2007 to test the performance of a new RS-24 missile with multiple warheads, extend the service life of RS-18 and RS-25 missiles, and to lift payloads into orbit.


Russian Bomber and Sub Activity

The recent flurry of “strategic” bomber activity from the Russian air force drew considerable interest in the West. The air force, however, is not the only arm of Russia’s forces to be upping the tempo of activities. There seems to have been a notable increase in Russian submarine activity in the northern Atlantic over the past twelve months, with some military sources suggesting there have been three peaks in activity. Like its airborne counterpart, Russian submarine activity nosedived following the collapse of the Soviet Union. And also like the air force, ambitious plans for next-generation platforms and weapon systems suffered as funding dried up. Unlike the air force however, the Russian navy was not at the bottom of the Kremlin’s strategic pecking order. The hull for the first of a new class of ballistic missile submarine, now known as the Project 955, was laid down in 1996, with a further two also being built. The navy would like to acquire eventually up to 10 of the class. The first of these, the Yury Dolgoruky was launched in April of this year.


Russian bomber detected on patrol near Denmark

Two Danish F16 jet fighters were scrambled Tuesday after a Russian military aircraft flew close to Danish territory in the North Sea. The Russian plane was identified as a bomb plane of the type TU-160, also called Blackjack by NATO, to which Denmark belongs. Both British and Norwegian jet fighters earlier Tuesday monitored the TU-160, a Danish air force spokesman told Danish radio news. Russia has in recent months revived a Cold War-era practice of flying bombers on long-range patrols and the Norwegian Air Force as well as the RAF have on several occasions sent up fighters to observe them.


Russian new-generation fighter plane set 2012 deadline

Russia's new-generation fighter plane, currently being jointly developed with India, will make its maiden flight no later than in 2012, a senior Air Force official said on Tuesday. Russia and India signed an agreement on cooperation in the development and production of an advanced multi-purpose fighter aircraft on October 18. "The deadlines have been set - it [the fighter] must take to the skies in 2012 and enter service [with the Air Force] in 2015," said Lt. Gen. Igor Sadofyev, deputy commander of the Russian Air Force. The general said Russian-Indian cooperation on the project would significantly boost its development. "International cooperation and joint development efforts will certainly expedite the process," Sadofyev said. "It's a path the whole world is taking nowadays, and we are no exception." He also said the Air Force was planning to procure at least six to eight Su-34 Fullback strike aircraft every year, starting from 2008. "Russia's Air Force desperately needs the Su-34s," the general said. "I would prefer to re-equip at least two air regiments every year - that is, 48 aircraft," Sadofyev said. "Unfortunately, this is financially impossible at present, but it is perhaps we will get six to eight planes annually". The $36 million Su-34 fighter-bomber is a two-seat strike aircraft equipped with twin AL-31MF afterburning turbojet engines. It is designed to deliver high-precision strikes on heavily-defended targets under any weather conditions, day or night, and fields weaponry that includes a 30mm GSh-301 cannon, up to 12 Alamo or Archer AAMs, ASMs, and bombs. Designed by the Sukhoi, the Su-34s will replace the Su-24 Fencer frontline bombers. Experts said the new bomber has the potential to become the top plane in its class for years to come.


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Dear reader,

Arevordi will be taking a sabbatical to tend to personal matters. New blog commentaries will henceforth be posted on an irregular basis. The comments board however will continue to be moderated on a regular basis.

The last 20 years or so has also helped me see Russia as the last front against scourges of Westernization, Globalism, American expansionism, Zionism, Islamic extremism and pan-Turkism. I have also come to see Russia as the last hope humanity has for the preservation of classical western civilization, Apostolic Christianity and the traditional nation-state. This realization compelled me to create this blog in 2010. Immediately, this blog became one of the very few voices in the vastness of cyberia that dared to preach about the dangers of Globalism and the Anglo-American-Jewish alliance, and the only voice preaching the strategic importance of Armenia remaining within Russia's orbit. From about 2010 to 2015 I did monthly, at times weekly, commentaries about Russian-Armenian relations and Eurasian geopolitics in general. It was very difficult as I had no assistance in this endeavor. The time I put into this blog therefore came at the expense of work and family. But a powerful feeling inside me urged me to keep going; and I did.

When Armenia finally joined the EEU and integrated its armed forces into Russia's military structures a couple of years ago, I finally felt a deep sense of satisfaction and relaxation, as if a very heavy burden was lifted off my shoulders. I finally felt that my personal mission was accomplished. I therefore felt I could take a step back, as I really needed the rest. Simply put: I have lived to see the institutionalization of Russian-Armenian alliance. Also, I feel more confident now that Armenians are collectively recognizing the strategic importance of Armenia's ties with Russia. Moreover, I feel satisfied knowing that, at least on a subatomic level, I had a hand in the outcome. As a result, I feel a strong sense of mission accomplished. I therefore no longer have the urge to continue as in the past. In other words, the motivational force that had propelled me in previous years has been gradually dissipating because I feel that this blog has lived to see the realization of its stated goal. Going forward, I do not want to write merely for the sake of writing. Also, I do not want to say something if I have nothing important to say. I feel like I have said everything I needed to say. Henceforth, I will post seasonal commentaries about topics I find important. I will however continue moderating the blog's comments section on a regular basis; ultimately because I'm interested in what my readers have to say and also because it's through readers here that I am at times made aware of interesting developments.

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