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Ex-Soviet states hold joint air defense drills

RIA Novosti

23/10/2008 17:00 MONINO (Moscow Region), October 23 (RIA Novosti) - Members of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) successfully conducted on Thursday a joint command-and-staff air defense exercise as part of the integrated air defense network.

Combat-duty units of the CIS integrated air defense network, which are stationed in Kazakhstan, central Russia and Siberia, Belarus, Ukraine, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan took part in the exercise. The CIS is an alliance of former Soviet republics.

"All the tasks, including testing combat interoperability of CIS air defense units, have been accomplished successfully," Russia's Air Force Commander, Col. Gen. Alexander Zelin said.

The CIS integrated air defense network was set up by 10 CIS member countries on February 10, 1995. Georgia has recently withdrawn from the network following a brief military conflict with Russia over South Ossetia in August.

The CIS air defense network comprises seven air defense brigades, 46 units equipped with S-200 and S-300 air defense missile systems, 23 fighter units equipped with MiG-29, MiG-31 and Su-27 aircraft, 22 electronic support units and two detachments of electronic warfare.

Zelin also said that in the future the Russian Air Force would comprise four Air Force and Air Defense commands in strategic areas of the country in line with the ongoing military reform.

"These commands will be formed in Russia's Far East, in Siberia, and in southern and north-western Russia," the general said.

Russia's Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov earlier said that the number of units in the Russian Air Force would be reduced from 340 to 180 in line with the current reform.

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