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Ukraine Air Force Modernization

In 1992 in the territory of Ukraine there were four air armies, 10 air divisions, 49 regiments, 11 separate squadrons, and special educational institutions and places. There are about 600 military units, 2800 aircraft for various purposes, more than 120 000 troops. Ukraine's adherence to the CFE treaty limited it to 1,090 combat aircraft, 330 armed helicopters and 100 naval aircraft. Aircraft assets were divided 75:25 between the Air Force and the Air Defense.

Since the 1990s over 600 aircraft and 400 helicopters were transferred from combat units to reserve or were disassembled. The state intended to support a technical level of modernization with its existing weapons. The state weapon program announced that the lifetime of the main armament will be increased to 10-15 years. Also the procurement of new weapons would be minimized.

By 2000 the effort to upgrade the existing aircraft had stalled. In 1999, air force generals were planning to upgrade three MiG-29 fighters, but the aircraft got nowhere. The air force command said at least one MiG-29 aircraft regiment should undergo an in-depth modernization. Arithmetic was simple enough: it is better to upgrade 36 aircraft per $4-5 million each, then purchase three new aircraft for an equivalent sum. The remaining aircraft demand at least a "face-lift" upgrade to prolong their service life, which could cost around $1.5 million per plane. At issue is a modernization of MiG-29 avionic equipment, and development of new and modernization of existing weapons, especially air-to-air missiles, both short- and long-range.

By 2006 the AN-24 and AN-26 aircraft as well as the anti-aircraft artillery systems, C-300 and Buk M1, have been modernized and their service life extended. The organizational basis and technological means for modernizing Mig-29, Su-24, Su-25, Su-27, L-39 have been produced. Given sufficient funding, the Defence Industrial Complex of Ukraine in cooperation with foreign companies is capable of fully renewing the aircraft fleet of the Armed Forces.

By 2008 the Air Force had 208 combat aircraft, of which only about 60 were combat-ready. By one estimate even upgraded aircraft will be able to fly no longer than up to the year 2015. That is to say that approximately from 2012 Ukraine would have to take practical steps to create a new combat aircraft. During 2006, a large number of outdated weapons and equipment was decommissioned from the combat strength of the Air Force, which presented an opportunity to direct the released funds to the modernization of various items of aviation and anti-aircraft artillery weapons and equipment, radio communication equipment, flight maintenance equipment and the improvement of force training.

At a meeting of the Interagency Defence Review Committee in October 2010, the Vice Premier, V.Sivkovych, told the Defence Ministry to review standards applied to classification and storing of supplies in the Ukrainian Armed Forces. The Security Service of Ukraine was tasked with indentifying culprits of technical failure of military aircraft. According to the Vice Premier, two thirds of the MoDs aircraft were technically unserviceable. One third of those were part of the strategic reserve. The Ukrainian Air Force had combat aircraft Su-27, MiG-29, Su-24M, Su-24MR, Su-25; transport and special aircraft Il-76MD, An-24, An-26 and An-30; training aircraft L-39 and An-26Sh; various modifications of the transport and special helicopters Mi-8 and Mi-9; training helicopters Mi-2 as well as unmanned systems Reis and Stryzh. As of 2010, the Ukrainian Air Force had about 46,000 pe rsonnel, 208 combat aircraft and 39 transport aircraft. Furthermore, in June 2010, the Defence Ministry announced its plans to have repaired 14 military aircraft by 2011.

In March 2010 Ukraine's Defense Ministry recently passed Su-25 UBM1 and Su-25 M1 Russian-made fighters into service. A two-seat operational trainer Su-25 UBM1 is designed to provide tactical flight training of pilots in air force units and improving fighting efficiency. It could also be used for better determination of location, height and flying speed of enemy jets by utilizing digital algorithm range setting. The Su-25 UBM1 jet is a modernized version of Su-25 UB equipped with tuned and updated instruments to increase accuracy of bombing and missile launching. The fighter jet Su-25 M1 is a modernized version of Su-25 equipped with updated devices with improved fighting performance. By putting into service the two new jets, the defense ministry expected to improve tactical flight and combat efficiency.

Two Su-25M1 planes, which were modernized at the state-owned MiGremont enterprise, were transferred to the Ukrainian Air Force in late 2011. Su-25M1 and Su-25UBM1 modernization is done by Ukrainian MoDs Aircraft Repair Plants and test flights were performed on the UAF State Testing Centers training area Chauda. In result of upgrading of Su-25 the aiming-navigation system was greatly improved. All upgrade of air assets will keep combatant value of Ukrainian AF at a high level.

As of 2012 it was expected to carry out modernization of about 40 combat aircraft and repaired almost the same amount by 2015. Ukraines Defense Ministry concluded a number of contracts for aircraft maintenance in late 2012, totaling 103.79 mln UAH ($12.97 mln):

  • Lviv State Aircraft Repair Plant will repair two MiG-29UB jet fighter aircraft for 33,71 mln UAH ($4.21 mln);
  • Zaporizhzhya State Aircraft Repair Plant MiGRemont will repair a Su-27UB air superiority fighter for 13.51 mln UAH ($1.69 mln);
  • Sevastopol Aviation Plant will repair a Ka-27PCh military helicopter for the sum of 32 mln UAH ($4 mln);
  • Lutsk Repair Plant Motor will repair three AL-31F aircraft engines off of Su-27 air superiority fighters for 7.03 mln UAH ($0.879 mln) and four RD-33 engines off of MiG-29 jet fighter aircraft for 15.50 mln UAH ($1.94 mln);
  • JSC Motor Sich will receive 1.69 mln UAH ($0.211 mln) for scheduled maintenance of TV3-117 aero engines and AI-9 auxiliary power units.

    The air industry of Ukraine is able to design and produce modern transport and civilian aircraft, but not combat aircraft.. Examples of the MiG-21 and MiG-29 modernization show that theinitial intentions of some nations, even those with modern air industry, to undertake their own modernization finally led to a close cooperation with the original designer. The main reason for the design bureau's leadership is that it possesses full technological and construction documentation. air depots able to provide high quality maintenance and repairs. Depending upon the level of design changes, modernization can be made by a depot (as in the case of the MAPO-DASSO program for MiG-29) or by a main plant (as in the case of the MiG-29SMT modernization).

    Of the Ukraine Air Force 161 MiG-29 fighters, 90 of them (two brigades) are aircraft model MiG-29S (design bureau index 9-13) which fit the MiG-29SMT modernization program. All of them have sufficient lifetime and technical conditions tobe modernized. The variable cost of SMT program is $3 million for each aircraft, including the cost of new aircraft equipment, labor and overhead. Lviv'sair depot estimated that it would be able to modernize 10 aircraft a year to the SMT level after a six-month preparation period. The variable cost for the MAPO-DASSO modernization is $ 1 million for each aircraft. One air depot after a three-month preparation period can provide modernization of 30 aircraft a year.

    Even if funding is sufficient, Ukraine would hardly be able to do without Russian design bureaus and specialists, who designed and manufactured the MiGs and SUs making the carcass of the Ukrainian air force. The other option is to upgrade the aircraft in cooperation with Israel. But that version will be far more expensive. Besides, it will require the transition to NATO weapons, of which the Ukrainian military command was afraid.

    Traditionally, since Soviet times Ukraine has a large number of OEM, Design Bureaus, Overhaul & Repair establishments, which are producing wide range of Aircraft spares and aggregates as well as executing overhaul and modernization of wide range of aggregates and systems. A number of aggregates, spare parts which are produced by Ukrainian OEM for Su-30MK type Aircraft are available for the overhaul of systems and aggregates of Su-30MK type Aircraft. Subject goods and services could be exported by the State Company SpetsTechnoExport to the customers.

    Ukrainian special exports in 2005-2008 were based in the main on sales of "second-hand" aviation hardware. More than 150 planes, over 60 of them being training and battle L-39 ones in different modifications, were sold. The average price equivalent for this period was over 450m dollars, while the average annual - around 100m-120m. dollars. The most brilliant transaction was the finalization of the contract to supply 14 modernized MiG-29 planes, along with spare parts for them, to Azerbaijan. Within the framework of this contract, Ukrainian parties aspired to resolve the tasks of importance within the framework of the future large-scale programme of modernizing the MiG-29 fleet, but this time for the Ukrainian Air Force, without involving the Russian party.

    In particular, it was related to the rise in target detection and pursuit range by an on-board radar system, along with adding the possibility of using "air-to-land" missiles. But as a result, the task was only partially resolved. Ukraine has a redundant fleet of MiG-29 fighters manufactured between 1986 and 1991. The maximum export price of these machines in battle worthy condition is around 25m dollars, though the most likely price is 15m dollars.

    State Company UKROBORONSERVICE proposed execution of overhaul and upgrade of Su-25 and Su-25UB ground-attack aircraft. Nowadays the company, which will be the overhaul executor for above mentioned equipment, is the main repair plant for Su-type aircrafts that operate in different countries of CIS, Europe, Asia and Africa. The plant has the corresponding Certificate received from Original Manufacturer, which authorizes it for repair of aircrafts. The plant has the possibility to perform the overhaul in complete volumes in accordance with the documentation, which exists on repair plant, and which is brought into force by corresponding branch ministries and authorities. The plant executes all valid bulletins that were developed for this kind of aircrafts. In confirmation of correspondence of aviation equipment repair quality to international standards, in 2003 the plant has received International Quality Certificate ISO 9002, and in 2004 International Quality Certificate ISO 9001.

    According to plan in 2012 the reconstruction at the Lviv aviation plant performed a full disassembly of 2 MiG-29 aircraft, with repair of units, blocks and units fighting machines. After test flights and the conclusion of the Commission's inspection the aircraft were transferred to military aviators. The 114th Ivano-Frankivsk Tactical Aviation Brigade received two MiG-29 jet fighter aircraft after renovation by the Lviv State Aircraft Repair Plant. In the near future, 5 more renovated MiG-29s would be delivered to the brigade. The cost of renovating each aircraft is approximately 6 mln UAH ($750 thousand).

    At the end of March 2012, the Su-27 military pilots were working with Mirgorodskaya Zaporizhzhya plant named "Migremont" "Valentin Kalenov, where upgraded Su-27 were undergoing flight tests, and then in April 2012 returned to operational status. Thene another batch of two Su-27 aircraft refurbished at the Migremont plant were given to the air force of the armed forces of Ukraine before the end of 2012.

    Until the end of May 2012, after repair two more MiG-29 fighter aircraft also were returned to in a combat operation. Work is being completed on a military transport plane IL-76 and modernization of Su-24m bombers. In the plans are the repair of helicopters MI-8, MI-24 and Mi-2. State tests are upgraded in the enterprise "Aviakon" helicopter air support to ground forces MI-24p.

    In June 2012, the repair of two complete aircraft L-39, and by the end of the year it was planned to renovate 12 and upgrade 4 aircraft of this type. On 26 June 2012 the Air Command South of Ukraines Air Forces accepted two L-39 jet trainer aircraft after their overhaul at the Odesaviaremservice Aircraft Repair Plant. This overhaul includes the first application on the L-39 of a new type of pixelated digital camouflage, which dims the aircraft silhouette and complicates its identification in the air. Ukraines Armed Forces will receive sixteen additional aircrafts of this class by the end of next year. Chuguyiv Aviation Repair Plant was scheduled to repair twelve L-39 jet trainer aircraft, with the rest at Odesaaviaremservis.

    The Zaporizhzhya State Aircraft Repair Plant MiGRemont was reportedly preparing to transfer another lot of upgraded Su-27 air superiority fighters to the Ukrainian Air Force in early 2013. The Air Force reportedly would receive two aircraft equipped with new pixelated camouflage, bringing the total number of upgraded Su-27s in Ukraines Air Force to 20.

    Ukraine advocates boosting of cooperation with China in the aircraft industry. This was stated by President Viktor Yanukovych during his June 2011 meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao. He noted that the Antonov state enterprise (Kyiv) could cooperate with the Chinese aviation companies, such as joint development of large and medium transport aircraft, turbo-jet transport aircraft, the joint production of An-70, An-148, and An-158. In this regard, the President proposed to instruct the governments of the two countries to work out the issues of possible projects that can be implemented in this area in the near future. As Ukrainian News earlier reported, on 20 April 2011, Ukraine and China established an inter-governmental commission for co-operation. Special attention was paid to development of cooperation between the two countries in the area of aircraft manufacturing during the meeting, particularly cooperation between the Antonov state enterprise and China's AVIC industrial corporation, expansion of the supply of aircraft engines and spare parts for them, as well as joint projects involving manufacturing of airplanes of various modifications.




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