Reprinted from NewsMax.com
Russian Aerospace Makes a Come-back
Kenneth R. Timmerman
Saturday, June 23, 2007
– Russian aerospace is making a come-back on the international arms
market, after a "decade of neglect" following the end of the Cold War,
Russian arms-makers and Western aerospace officials told Newsmax at the
Paris air show this week.
Top billing on the export market goes
to the MiG-29 multi-role fighter, now in service with air forces in 29
countries around the world, including Iran and Syria. The MiG-29 was
developed to compete with the F-16 in the air and on export markets.
"We are now exporting new flight
simulator and training suites to all our customers," said Vladimir
Barkovskiy, a top official at Russian Aircraft Company Mikoyan (RAC
The new training aides are geared to
increase the combat readiness of pilots, by subjecting them to extreme
air combat situations and high gravity turns without endangering their
aircraft, he said.
The Iranians started purchasing the
jets from Russia in 1989, then "inherited" two squadrons of Iraqi
MiG-29s when Saddam Hussein flew them to Iran in 1991 to escape allied
bombardments. Syria purchased its first MiG-29s in 1994.
Russia has been maintaining those
aircraft and retrofitting them with advanced avionics, including new
radar that has been developed with Western assistance once Cold war
export controls on the Soviet Union were swept away by the Clinton
"RAC MiG can lease technical teams to
its clients, to ensure they meet the combat readiness and operational
safety standards they require," Mikoyan official Vladimir Vypryazhkin
told Newsmax at the Paris air show.
During the Cold War, Soviet fighter
pilots not only trained foreign air forces, but in some cases actually
flew combat missions.
In 1951, the Soviet Union deployed
its 196th fighter regiment to North Korea, where Soviet MiG-15s shot
down several dozen U.S. F-86 Super Sabers. And during the 1970-1971 war
of attrition, Soviet pilots flying for Egypt engaged Israeli pilots
flying U.S.-built F-4s and French-built Mirage-3s.
Mikoyan is also offering to
"trade-in" older versions of the aircraft for the latest MiG-29 SMT
upgrade, which includes an upgraded ZHUK-ME multi-role radar that can
acquire and track up to ten targets at ranges in excess of 60 miles,
and simultaneously engage four of them.
"We have concluded several new
upgrade contracts with customers in the Middle East recently,"
Barkovskiy told Newsmax. "I cannot confirm that RAC MIG has any
activities today in Iran," he added.
That was a Soviet-style denial.
Although Russia pledged in 1995 under the Gore-Chernomyrdin agreements
to make no new arms sales to Iran, it dumped that pledge
unceremoniously in 2000, former Clinton administration officials
involved in the U.S.-Russia talks told Newsmax recently.
The new arms sales began the
following year, when Iranian president Mohammad Khatami and defense
minister Ali Shamkhani made separate trips to Russia. Russian defense
minister Sergei Ivanov announced in September 2001 that Russia planned
to sell $7 billion of new weapons to Iran over the next five years.
Last September, Russia ignored U.S.
protests and began delivering $700 million worth of TOR M-1 air defense
missiles to Iran. The new systems, mounted on tanks, are designed to
protect ground forces from air attack but could also be deployed around
Iran's nuclear production facilities.
When Russia exports new military
equipment to Iran, it incorporates a significant amount of Western
technology, making a mockery of the Western arms embargo on Iran,
Western aerospace officials say.
In September 2004, at the instigation
of Russian president Vladimir Putin, the Russian state established a
new avionics consortium, AVIONIKA, as a public-private sector venture
to acquire western technology and develop combat avionics for China,
India, and other export customers.
Western aerospace officials noted a new combativeness among their Russian counterparts at this year's Paris air show.
"Here they are sitting on one third
of the world's oil and gas, with prices at record highs, but they are
not reacting as you might think," one retired U.S. admiral now working
for a European defense contractor told Newsmax. "We're seeing a return
to a Cold War mentality on the part of the Russians."
The new combativeness was showcased
by President Vladimir Putin, who threatened to target new Russian
strategic missiles against Europe if the United States deployed a
missile defense radar and ten missile interceptors in Poland and the
It could also be seen in the behavior
of Russian arms export officials at the Paris air show, who took relish
in returning to Cold War rhetoric and obfuscation.
Asked about marketing efforts in the
Middle East, a spokesman for Rosoboronexport, the state arms export
monopoly, said his company had brought "no one who is knowledgeable of
the Middle East" to the air show, even though official delegations from
Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Syria and other
countries in the region had come shopping.
Russia's big rocket makers were
massively present at the air show, including the very companies accused
by the United States and Israel of having built Iran's Shahab-3 and
Shahab-4 ballistic missile fleet, which today is targeting Israel and
Dr. Alexander Kirilin, director
general of the Samara Space Center, which makes big booster rockets and
sells satellite launch services, said his company had "no relations
with Iran, either official or officious," despite news reports that
Iranians had come to Samara to acquire technology for their missile
The Samara Space Center has launched
Globalstar satellites for the U.S., and METOP satellites for Europe,
and signed new agreements at the air show to launch additional
satellites from the European Space Agency's launch site in Kourou,
Also present at the show were
Kutznetsov, Aviaexport, the TSAGI Central Aerohydrodynamic Institute,
Khrunichev, and NPO Energomash, all of which have been cited in
Congressional testimony or in U.S. government statements for their
involvement in Iranian missile projects.
Speaking in Moscow on Friday, the
chairman of the Russian Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Yuri
Balouyevski, told reporters that the threat from Iranian ballistic
missiles "remains hypothetical for the near future."
He reiterated Putin's claims that the
United States had no need to position missile defense systems in
Europe, and clarified Putin's offer to allow the U.S. to build a
missile defense radar in Azerbaijan.
The United States could "jointly use"
with Russia an existing Russian radar station in Gabala, Azerbaijan,
not build or operate its own, he said.
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