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EURASIA > Russia to get hundreds of planes, helicopters: Putin

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Russian President Putin (R) attend an airshow to mark the 100th anniversary of Russian Air Force with the Commander in Chief of the Russian Air Force in Moscow. EPA photo

Russian President Putin (R) attend an airshow to mark the 100th anniversary of Russian Air Force with the Commander in Chief of the Russian Air Force in Moscow. EPA photo

Russian President Vladimir Putin promised on Aug. 11, to re-equip the Russian air force with hundreds of new aircraft as part of an ambitious military modernization program.

Speaking at an air show at Zhukovsky just outside Moscow marking the air force’s 100th
anniversary, Putin said the military will receive more than 600 new combat planes and 1,000 helicopters by 2020, according to the Associated Press.

He said boosting the air force is a key priority for the government. “I’m sure, each of us will feel
pride for the country, for the people who build such aircraft and pilot them,” he said.

“I want to thank those who helped our air force survive during a difficult period in the 1990s and the early 2000s, and remained loyal to their jobs and traditions in the years when the planes were grounded,” Putin said during a meeting with military pilots and air force veterans.

Part of the $720 billion program

Putin has worked hard to restore pride in the Cold War-era superpower’s military since his first election in 2000. Putin, who began a new six-year presidential term in May, said that in addition to the new planes and helicopters, existing military aircraft would be “modernized.”

The planned addition of 600 military planes and 1,000 helicopters is part of a $720 billion program to re-equip a military still weakened by spending cuts prompted by the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, Reuters reported. Russia’s defense spending has fallen sharply since the 1991 Soviet collapse, leaving the air force to rely on aging Soviet-built planes and depriving pilots of the opportunity of regular training flights.

Putin, who has sought to revive Russia’s Soviet-era clout during his 12 years in power, has overseen a military buildup that comes amid a strain in relations with Washington over NATO’s U.S-led missile defense plans that the Kremlin sees as a threat to Russia’s security. But despite a hike in defense spending, Russia’s military industries, weakened by years of post-Soviet industrial meltdown, have struggled to meet rising orders for new weapons and to develop new designs.

Analysts say that most of Russia’s new weapons systems are refurbished versions of Soviet-era designs. They blame corruption, aging equipment and broken links between subcontractors.

August/13/2012

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