Former air force chief: Russia's air defenses weak


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Mar 21, 2009
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MOSCOW — Russia is lagging 25 to 30 years behind the United States in developing prospective air defense weapons because of a meltdown of its defense industries, a former Russian air force chief said Thursday.

Retired Gen. Anatoly Kornukov said Russia has only a reduced capability to protect itself from an enemy attack — a statement that contrasted sharply with the government's claim that the nation's military are getting stronger following a post-Soviet decline.

The Defense Ministry has boasted about developing new S-400 air defense missile systems and proudly displayed some of them in Sunday's massive Victory Day parade on Red Square.

But Kornukov said that the military now has only two such systems, each including a radar, several launchers and support vehicles, and it was supposed to have 15.

He said the Soviet-designed S-300s have strong capabilities but are approaching retirement. "Their lifetime can't be expanded indefinitely," he said at a news conference.

Another component of the nation's air defense, fighter jets, have been increasingly grounded for lack of engines and parts, Kornukov added.

"Regrettably, our air defense forces only have a limited capability to protect the nation's security," Kornukov said.

Compared to the Soviet times, when the nation's air defense forces were capable of shooting down up to 98 out of every 100 intruding enemy planes, now it would only intercept 20 out of 100, he said.

"The situation is simply terrible," Kornukov said.

Asked whether the military is capable of fending off an attack from Iran or North Korea, he said that the Russian forces would likely find it difficult to shoot down a short-range missile fired by one of them.

Kornukov said Russia has fallen 25 to 30 years behind the U.S. in air defense technologies and would find it difficult to narrow the gap because of a meltdown of its defense industries which have been plagued by the loss of qualified personnel and key technologies.

"The industrial plants producing high-tech weapons are in a pitiful condition," Kornukov said.

Retired Col.-Gen. Anatoly Sitnov, who formerly was in charge of weapons procurement for the Defense Ministry, said the nation has lost up to 300 key industrial technologies in aviation and air defense. He said that Russian industries are increasingly falling behind in developing new materials, such as heat-resistant graphite needed to build new faster missiles.

Kornukov and Sitnov harshly criticized the government's military reforms, saying they have further crippled the nation's air defense capability by weakening coordination among different branches of the military.

The government has insisted that the reforms helped bolster the nation's military capability.

Kornukov said Russia's five-day war with Georgia in 2008 highlighted the weakness of the Russian military. Russian media said the military accidentally shot down at least one combat jet of its own in the conflict because of confusion and the lack of coordination between forces.

is this true???????

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