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Uzbekistan - Air Force

In 2006 the active force included 10,000 to 15,000 air force personnel. In 2006 the air force had 136 combat aircraft, 29 attack helicopters, and 55 assault and transport helicopters.The air force had seven fixed-wing and helicopter regiments.

A treaty signed in March 1994 by Russia and Uzbekistan defines the terms of Russian assistance in training, allocation of air fields, communications, and information on air space and air defense installations. In 1995 almost all personnel in Uzbekistan's air force were ethnic Russians. In 1993 Uzbekistan began its own air cadet training program with a group at the Tashkent Combined Arms School. Now there is an Air Academy at Ozizak.

The Chirchiq Fighter Bomber Regiment, taken over in the initial phase of nationalization of former Soviet installations, has since been scaled down by eliminating older aircraft, with the goal of reaching a force of 100 fixed-wing aircraft and thirty-two armed helicopters. According to the Soviet structure still in place, separate air and air defense forces operate in support of ground forces; air force doctrine conforms with Soviet doctrine. Some thirteen air bases were active in 1994.

In 1994 Uzbekistan's inventory of aircraft was still in the process of reduction to meet treaty requirements. At that stage, the air force was reported to have two types of interceptor jet, twenty of the outmoded MiG-21 and thirty of the more sophisticated MiG-29. For close air support, forty MiG-27s (foundation of the Chirchiq regiment) and ten Su-17Ms were operational. Twenty An-2 light transport planes, six An-12BP transports, and ten An-26 transports made up the air force's transport fleet. Training aircraft included twenty L-39C advanced trainers and an unknown number of Yak-52 basic trainers. Six Mi-8P/T transport helicopters were available.

The air defense system consisted of twenty operational Nudelman 9K31 low-altitude surface-to-air missiles, which in 1994 were controlled by two Russian air defense regiments deployed along the Afghan border.

The Tadzhikistan civil war pitted warring parties often labeled the "Communist" forces and the "Islamist" forces. Supporters of the old guard stepped up their campaign during the fall, firmly assuming control by the end of 1992. The campaign against the reformist opposition was vicious, with the brutal slaughter of civilians and prisoners; Amnesty International estimates 20,000 people died. Uzbekistan actively intervened in the war from mid-1992 on. The 40 buses that carried the communist forces into the capital of Dushanbe in October 1992 all bore license plates from Uzbekistan. On the same day, Uzbek helicopters and armored vehicles invaded a stronghold of the reform government. During the peak of fighting in November and December, the Uzbek Air Force flew combat support missions. Uzbek forces, together with the Russian 201st Division, destroyed an opposition stronghold in December. In early 1993, an official of the Uzbekistan Defense Ministry, Alexsandr Shishlyannikov, was named Tadzhikistani Defense Minister. Also in 1993, the Uzbek Air Force is said to have bombed the remaining reform holdout cities in eastern Tadzhikistan.

One of the unique vestiges of the Soviet era is that existing arrangement between the air forces of the Central Asia states and the Russian Federation—and the “Moscow Mil Design Bureau” specifically. The Moscow Mil Design Bureau provides air worthiness certification for all Uzbek Mi aircraft—not the Uzbeks themselves. The Uzbek Air Force procured repairs parts through an Uzbek MOD to Russian MOD arrangement explaining that there was an existing agreement within the CIS under which Russia sells military equipment/repair parts to other CIS defense establishments as a substantially lower price than that charged by the Russian state-owned military export firm, Rosoboronexort (also seen referred to and spelled Rosvoorouzhenie). As an example, while the Uzbek Air Force, as a defense establishment covered under the CIS agreement could procure an engine for an MI-8 for approximately $45,000, that Rosoboronexort would charge $128,000 for the same engine to a non-CIS country/firm—such as the US government.

With FY 2002 funds, the US Aviation/Interdiction Project (A/IP) made all Uzbekistan Air Force aircraft NATO interoperable through communications upgrades. In November 2003, Elbit Systems was awarded a contract by the U.S. State Department to supply full mission/full motion simulators for Mi-24 and Mi-8 helicopters for the Uzbekistan Air Force over a two-year period. The contract is part of the U.S. Government's "Operation Enduring Freedom".

The Russians worked to undermine US influence and programs at all levels. In the spring of 2002, the US government offered Uzbekistan assistance in upgrading a significant numbers of their aging Soviet era MI-8 transport and MI-24 attack helicopters under a program entitled Export Control and Related Border Security (EXBS) Aviation/Interdiction Project (AIP). Upgrade and assistance was to include avionics, surveillance, and communications systems, providing of spare parts, consumables, flight simulators and training for pilots and maintenance crews. A Pre-Proposal Conference was conducted September 23 – 25, 2002 in Tashkent. Fourteen different vendors participated including companies from the US, Ukraine, Lithuania, France, South Africa, Israel and Russia. Also attending the conference were representatives from the Russian Moscow Mil Design Bureau.

At one stage of the conference, Moscow Mil Design Bureau representatives lectured those assembled that no upgrades could be made to any Uzbek aircraft (or for that matter, any MI helicopter anywhere in the world) without the participation of their organization. They concluded that if Moscow Mil Design Bureau was not involved, they would not certify the aircraft receiving the modifications as airworthy. US representatives explained that fair competition was integral to the US contracting process and it would not be acceptable to require all vendors to obtain an airworthiness certification from Russia at whatever price Russia demanded. The US experts maintained that other certification sources were available and indicated the final Request for Proposal (RFP) would continue to reflect that the successful bidder would be required to provide an airworthiness certification from any appropriate and recognized source, preferably, but not exclusively, the Moscow Mil Design Bureau.

A meeting was called with Uzbek Minister of Defense Kodir Gulomov to discuss the situation. Gulomov stated that even should Moscow Mil Design Bureau refuse to certify the modifications, the Uzbek would use the aircraft and that the project should continue. Over the next few weeks, the Embassy received reports that the Uzbek position was perhaps about to change. Subsequent private discussions with Uzbek MOD officials revealed that the Russians had threatened to cut off all concessional pricing for repair parts to Uzbekistan if the helicopter upgrades went forward without either Moscow Mil Design Bureau involvement or a Russian firm.

In a November 19 meeting with the US Ambassador, Minister Gulomov announced that the Ministry of Defense was no longer interested in extensive helicopter upgrades and formally requested the Embassy consider using the funds allocated instead for design and procurement of helicopter simulators. The Russians had effectively undermined what Washington had considered “one of the most urgent priorities for preventing illicit trafficking, enhancing border security and ensuring continued support to Operation Enduring Freedom.”



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