Twelve combat aircraft, TU-95 and TU-160 missile carriers took off from Saratov Oblast' this morning. Thirty more aircraft joined them in the air. Their mission was to practice joint operations with interceptors and bombers in simulated battle and to conduct aerial refueling. But the main task will take place in a few hours: cruise missile launches over neutral waters.
A-50s deploy to Komi (probably Vorkuta) to support "War in the Far North", a reflection of the interest the Russians show in the Arctic theater:
Gist: Stability-2008 continues in the polar regions. Airmen complete their tasks in especially harsh conditions. Not every army can wage war in the far north. Here's the report.
The airfield easily handles the maneuvers of the Il-76s and An-12s. This airfield is uniquely huge. There aren't any bigger airfields in the polar region. Its big enough to handle any size aircraft including the Buran space shuttle (Note: that's a little OBE, don't you think?). This 200 ton piece of equipment is an A-50, a modified Il-76. This radar system operating in the one centimeter wavelength range is able to detect fighter sized targets and maritime targets at ranges of up to 200-400 km. The mission of the A-50 during the exercise is to conduct radar reconnaissance, relaying information to the central command post on targets in the area. The commander of the aircraft says that operating in the far north is not easy.
Flight time is limited because of short daylight hours and there is poor visibility at night and the the weather changes quickly and weather forecasts up here are only right about half the time.
Landing among the MiGs is an An-12 which has already completed its mission. It took off this morning and spent six hours in the air. It has the airplane's symbol painted on the fuselage: a black mammoth. It was deployed to Tiksi, much further north than Vorkuta. The commander reports that the training was outstanding.
Our crew performed littoral weather reconnaissance, and the flight was okay. We completed the mission.
All crews have completed their training missions. Today is the last day of exercises and tomorrow they all return to their home airfields.
Medved'ev also visited the space launch center at Plesetsk, where he observed the successful launch of an SS-25 Topol' mobile ICBM, hitting the target at the Kura test range on Kamchatka and inspected the new Angara launch system, consisting entirely of Russian made components (vice the Ukrainian made missiles the Russians previously used).
But before watching the Topol' launch, Medved'ev and Minister of Defense Serdyukov embarked aboard the aircraft carrying cruiser Admiral of the Soviet Fleet Kuznetsov to watch maritime portions of Stability-2008, culminating in a SS-N-23 Sineva launch from Delta IV SSBN Tula, descibed as "record setting", traveling 11,547km and hitting a notional target in the Pacific Ocean.
Gist starting at story footage: The President and the Minister of Defense arrived on board the carrier by helicopter and considering the class of the ship, it was full of symbolism. Despite the strong winds, Medved'ev and Anatoliy Serdyukov walked the entire flight deck and then went down to the hanger deck. The President greeted the sailors, inspected the aircraft and even sat in the cockpits of an Su-33 and a Ka-27. President Medved'ev visited the Combat Information Center before heading up to the flag bridge to watch the progress of training.
1MC: Next evolution - attack on enemy ground targets with ballistic missiles.
Stability-2008 is continuing for a month and of course the ship has been to sea several times already during the exercises. But today was the most spectacular with the full might of the Northern Fleet on display. DM even went to the flag bridge a couple of times to watch missile launches and flight ops. The exercise script calls for the repulsion of an attack by a fleet of enemy submarines, but the highlight of the exercise was an SS-N-23 Sineva launch from a submurged position. For the first time in the history of the Russian Navy, an SLBM traveled more than 11,500km and destroyed a notional target in the Pacific Ocean.
(Cut to reporter with a little spiel about the capabilities of the Kuznetsov).
(Cut to DM on the mess decks): After completion of the main task, DM went to the mess decks to meet with the crew. The crew had the opportunity to ask any question they wanted of the Commander in Chief and the old Russian saying, "Sailors have no questions" (TR Note: its a cute rhyme in Russian) didn't apply. The questions were wide ranging and included questions about the future of the armed forces.
DM: We have to build new aircraft carrying cruisers. It is completely obvious that it is the most important issue for the Navy. Across the world, all the great powers have great armed forces and powerful navies and I think we should do the same.
The sailors gave DM a hat and a striped sailor's shirt and DM signed the ship's guest book. The President gave Saturday's training an "Outstanding". Training continues for another month.