Russia prepares for airspace defense

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The concept of airspace defense was adopted in Russia a year ago. This document, approved by the President of the country in April of 2006, is secret, but the main command of the Air Force occasionally refers to it. According to open data, the airspace defense concept makes provisions for the maximum efficient use of available potentials of all troops, forces and means; first of all, those of air defense and antimissile and space defense through the integration of their elements, as well as the establishment and development of the airspace defense of Russia as a unified system on the basis of centralized command of all forces and resources attracted to airspace defense tasks.

Colonel General Yury Solovtsov, commander of the special-purpose command, said recently that in the near future “part of Space Forces and Air Force” would possibly be united in the future. According to Solovtsov, this is implied by the airspace defense concept.

He explained, “This was already created in 1997.”

Solovtsov said: “Of course, all forces and means of the airspace defense should be in one pair of hands, which will allow quick decision-making and the use of the forces and means for stopping possible aggression against Russia.”

The special-forces command is responsible for the air defense of Moscow and other important objects in the central region of Russia and is subordinated to the main command of the Air Force. According to Solovtsov, this formation defends state and military governance bodies, as well as a territory concentrating on about 30% of the country’s population and up to 60% of the scientific potential of Russia. The special-purpose command was established on the basis of the Moscow air defense district when in 1997 two branches of the Armed Forces – the Air Force and the Air Defense Forces – were merged. However, in 1997 the antimissile and space defense forces were re-subordinated from the special-purpose command to the newly established command of the Space Forces. Now the antimissile defense forces and air defense forces function as two independent systems. According to the main command of the Air Force, the merger of these systems implies an improvement of efficiency in their combat use.

Putting a regiment armed with air defense missile systems S-400 on combat duty in the Moscow Region by June 1 is one of the first new elements of airspace defense. This regiment will be subordinated to the main command of the Air Force, although it will fulfill the tasks of not only air defense, but also antimissile defense. Solovtsov remarks that the regiment will be in permanent readiness and the main command of the Air Force, in cooperation with the command of the Space Forces, will set tasks for the antimissile defense of Moscow. So far, the regiment will not be commanded by the Space Forces. The Commander of the special-purpose command points out that “in the future, it is also planned to rearm a part of forces and means subordinated with new S-400 systems.”

Meanwhile, other kinds of armament will evidently be used during the creation of airspace defense. These will be mostly asymmetric kinds of defense. The development of offensive forces and means is not ruled out. Colonel General Boris Cheltsov, chief of the main staff of the Air Force, believes that the creation of fundamentally new airspace attack means is possible between 2020 and 2025. These may be strike spacecraft, hypersonic airplanes, cruise missiles, etc. Cheltsov adds: “This will lead the airspace into an area of armed struggle. Radical changes will happen in the operational and strategic forms of the airspace attack means connected with the transformation of traditional air operations and campaigns into airspace campaigns with the use of conventional arms.”

This statement is evidently only a forecast. So far, Russia is averse to expanding the arms race to outer space. At any rate, this is quite possible because the US deploys an expensive antimissile defense system with its elements based in outer space in Europe and other parts of the globe.

Cheltsov comments: “Initial proposals of the “young” member states of NATO like Poland and the Czech Republic regarding the deployment of elements of the global unified air defense and antimissile defense system of the US on their territories allows for the possibility of the Pentagon and its NATO allies to attack our strategic nuclear forces.” Cheltsov emphasizes that the matter is about “the most vulnerable ascending part of the flight trajectory.” He adds, “this already poses a serious threat to the national security of Russia and can undermine the entire system of strategic stability in the world.”

According to Cheltsov, the appearance of new “windows of vulnerability” is expected in the near future during the development of hypersonic aircraft with a flight altitude envelope of 40-100 kilometers, as well as the creation of space defense systems. If Russia does not have space defense systems it may be attacked by space weapons. If Russia does not have antimissile defense systems it may be attacked by ballistic missiles. If Russia does not have weapons for struggle in the flight altitude envelope of 40-100 kilometers, it may be attacked by hypersonic aircraft and if it has weak air defenses, it may be attacked by aviation and cruise missiles.

Cheltsov continues saying that according to US military command, a broad range of precision-guided space attack weapons will allow for the destruction of the main means of a retaliatory blow by the opposing party. The task of parrying the remaining missiles will be laid on the actively developed system of air defense and antimissile defense. Cheltsov explained that for this purpose, the US quit the treaty limiting the antimissile defense systems. In the same way, the US may quit the treaties on the prohibition of developing strike systems in outer space. According to Cheltsov, to exclude the development of such events, the Russian Armed Forces should be able to defend forces and means of retaliatory blows, the supreme levels of state and military governance, objects of economy and infrastructure of the country and population of the state from attack of any airspace attack weapons. He adds: “This should be done not only by forces of antimissile and space defense, but also by the air defense forces, that is, by air and space defense means.”

According to Cheltsov, Russia “has to react to military programs posing at least a potential danger for the basis of strategic stability – strategic nuclear forces as the main deterrence means, first of all, the means for the deterrence of large-scale wars.” Cheltsov also says: “We also have to react to the priority development of air attack means. Some models can already operate transiting from air to outer space and back. Uncertainty in the development of the military political situation does not exclude their use against Russia.” Along with this, he says that it is necessary to understand different conditions for the creation of, for example, reliable air defense systems of Russia in comparison to elements of antimissile defense in the US. First of all, there are economic differences: according to the GDP and military budget, the US is superior to Russia by more than 1,900%. There are also military geographic factors: the territory of Russia is 80% larger than that of the US, the flight time of the air attack means of the US and NATO to the border regions of Russia varies from six minutes to one hour, whereas Russian aviation can reach the US territory in no less than five hours. Cheltsov continues: “Up to 2,000 combat airplanes of the US and NATO can attack objects of Russia and our capabilities are far inferior in this regard. The US has deployed air defense forces 50% larger than the level required for airspace control and for stopping state border trespassing. In Russia, the quantity of air defense forces is much smaller than what is necessary.”

“That is why “mirror” responses are out of the question,” says Cheltsov. According to him, in these circumstances “it is necessary to seek solutions aimed at the irreversibility of efficient nuclear reaction and at coverage from attacks from the air and outer space.”

Cheltsov believes that radical changes happening in the operational and strategic forms of use of the airspace attack means require reflection in the new military doctrine of Russia. Such doctrines are currently being developed by the Security Council with participation of specialists of the General Staff and scientists of the Academy of Military Sciences.

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