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Kyrgyzstan - Air Force

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Russian air force rapidly withdrew from its bases in Central Asia, leaving very little of value in Kyrgyzstan. In 1992, the Kyrgyz army was comprised of one division based in Bishkek, an independent mountain warfare brigade based in Osh and three aviation-training regiments. The aviation element collapsed shortly afterwards. They also inherited the flight-training base at Kant. As a backwater of the Soviet Union, the legacy force inherited by Kyrgyzstan was heavy, outfitted with older generation equipment, poorly structured and ill-equipped for the countrys new security challenges. The readiness of most of this force and associated equipment was poor to fair under the Soviets and continued to deteriorate since independence.

For the air force, the main training site is the Bishkek Aviation School, once a major center for training foreign air cadets but reduced in 1992 to a small contingent of mostly Kyrgyz cadets. In 1992 Kyrgyzstan had five training regiments using 430 aircraft, but that number was depleted by the mid-1990s. A 1994 agreement calls for some Kyrgyz pilots to attend air force schools in Russia.

It was not entirely clear what weapons Kyrgyzstan's military would possess. The republic lost twelve IL-39 jets in March 1992, when they were "repatriated" to Russia from a training field near the capital, and the 1995 swap with Uzbekistan lost an unknown number of MiG-21 fighters and L-39C close-support aircraft. Available information suggests strongly that Kyrgyzstan, as the least militarized of the Central Asian republics, is incapable of defending itself against a military threat from any quarter. Because of expense and military doctrine, Kyrgyzstan has not developed its air capability; a large number of the MiG-21 interceptors that it borrowed from Russia were returned in 1993, although a number of former Soviet air bases remain available. In 1996 about 100 decommissioned MiG-21s remained in Kyrgyzstan, along with ninety-six L-39 trainers and sixty-five helicopters.

By 2003 the Kyrgyz Air Force was the smallest of the armed services, with 2,400 personnel and a small number of operational aircraft. Twelve years, generally poor maintenance practices, and limited access to critical spare parts calls into question the serviceability of many, if not most, of the airframes still in their inventory. Moreover, the electronic navigation, communications and weapons packages on board most of these aircraft are now obsolete and in need of modernization, if they are expected to perform just about any of the mission requirements routinely tasked to current generation aircraft.

The L-39 and the helicopters are the principal ground attack assets remaining in the force. The air force reports that it has a total of 52 combat aircraft and nine attack helicopters assigned to operational units. Given the age and original design of these airframes, they do not have the targeting systems, communication packages, or the capability to deliver the precision munitions that Russian pilots are using in Chechnya and clearly nothing equivalent to what the USAF is using in Afghanistan. Moreover, the Kyrgyz pilots do not have either the training opportunity or the combat experience necessary to refine their ground support techniques. They also do not have access to the timely intelligence and targeting information needed to effectively support these types of closely coordinated operations. Nor do they have the trained forward air controllers and equipment necessary to effectively control the final approach to target.

The air defense forces have received aid from Russia, which has sent military advisory units to establish a defense system. Presently Kyrgyzstan has twenty-six SA-2 and SA-3 surface-to-air missiles in its air defense arsenal. Air defence forces of Kyrgyzstan are constant participants of the live-fire exercises in the framework of the joint air defense system of the Commonwealth of independent States in Kazakhstan and the Russian training grounds Ashuluk and Saryagan. These exercises are conducted to enhance operational coherence in reflection attacks enemy airspace and improving joint operational and combat training of forces and air defence of the CIS. According to Colonel Igor Kurbatov, Chief of the Kyrgyz MoD Air Defense Directorate, by 2002 Moscow had been examining the possibility of supplying the S-300 air defense system to Kyrgyzstan. This would enhance the security of Bishkek from aerial attack and would be consistent with the commitment of Russia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan to ensuring the security of Central Asian airspace through the CIS-wide air defense network.

The Kyrgyz Air Force is among the weakest and smallest in Central Asia. Much of its equipment is in need of repair and maintenance, and its personnel are poorly trained. In the order of priorities for military expenditure, the air arm persistently loses out to the army, which suggests that its poor condition and low combat readiness will persist for some time.

The incursions by the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) in the Batken Oblast of Kyrgyzstan in August 1999 exposed fundamental weaknesses in the Kyrgyz armed forces. The Kyrgyz aviation assets employed during these engagements included five L-39 planes and small numbers of Mi-8 helicopters. The Czech designed and manufactured L-39 is a combat-training jet that can be modified to carry weapons or even intelligence collection packages. This small, relatively simple airframe can support combat missions in a low-intensity combat environment, if the air defense threat remains limited. The L-39s flight characteristics, maneuverability at low speeds and versatility suggest that it should be able to operate effectively in the rugged terrain and against ground targets. Moreover, even the poorly trained Kyrgyz pilots should be able to employ this aircraft, but how effectively will depend on a number of factors. Even the L-39, however, is traveling too fast to do its own target acquisition and identification effectively. To be successful, combat air operations in this type of environment are dependent on good, timely targeting data, well trained pilots with ground attack experience, and some form of forward air control to provide final guidance to the target, which were not available.

The 1999-2000 Batken insurgency exposed the weakness of the Kyrgyz military machine in general, and the air force in particular. Although some lessons were learned, Kyrgyzstan's military leadership showed no desire to develop a truly capable and independent air element, instead pinning increasingly high hopes on the Russian presence at Kant. Given the country's fragile economic situation, an ambitious air force development plan appeared most unlikely, and, unlike some of its neighbors, Kyrgyzstan did not possess third-generation [much less fourth-generation] attack aircraft that could be upgraded. The cost of buying or leasing even a pair of Su-25s or MiG-29s is beyond the means of the country. In late November and early December 2002 the Russian Air Force (Voyenno-Vozdushnyye SilyVVS) deployed Frontal Aviation and Military Transport Aviation aircraft to Kant airbase in Kyrgyzstan. The purpose of the trial deployment was ostensibly not to create a Russian base in Kyrgyzstan, but to develop a joint Russian-Kyrgyz operational military airbase to support the multinational Collective Rapid Deployment Forces (CRDF) that is established under the Collective Security Treaty (CST).

In September 2003, Bishkek and Moscow finally concluded a long delayed agreement on behalf of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) for the establishment of a Russian managed air base and the stationing of Russian air force personnel and combat aircraft in Kyrgyzstan. These assets will be part of a joint (Russian/Kyrgyz) air element that will be a component of CSTOs rapid reaction force and support its antiterrorist role.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and his then Kyrgyz counterpart Kurmanbek Bakiyev signed a memorandum in August 2009 on the opening of a Russian training center for Russian and Kyrgyz soldiers and the deployment of additional troops in the Central Asian republic (up to 500 soldiers). The troops were to operate in Kyrgyzstan under the aegis of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a post-Soviet security bloc. In line with the memorandum, Russia plans to unite all its military facilities in Kyrgyzstan into a United Russian Military Base. It would include the airbase in Kant, a new training center, and some smaller facilities.

Substantial combat support is provided by Russian air defence and ground attack fighter aircraft based at Manas. Kyrgyzstan's air force is unable to respond to threats of any kind, relying on the support of Russia for all eventualities. In order to help secure the country during ethnic unrest of June 2010, Russia and Kazakhstan sent eight manned helicopters to assist the activities of security agencies on the ground. On 13 July 2010 Russia's Air Force chief refused to rule out on Tuesday the expansion of an air base in Kyrgyzstan. "We do not plan to expand the Kant military base, but if we are asked, we will expand it," Col.Gen. Alexander Zelin said. "Our state will always welcome the presence of Russian troops," the head of the Kyrgyz air force, Erkin Osmonov, said.

US Air Force leaders from Manas Air Base toured a Republic of Kyrgyzstan air base 28 March 2006 following an invitation by the Ministry of Defense here. The tour of Frunze Air Base No. 1 here marked a milestone in U.S. and Kyrgyz Air Force relations, and is a key element in the 376th Air Expeditionary Wing commanders vision of enhancing cooperation between coalition partners in the war on terrorism.

Its absolutely essential we continue to build strong relationships with our Kyrgyz partners, said Col. Randy Kee, 376th Air Expeditionary Wing commander. Their support is crucial to the Manas AB mission to support operations in the skies over Afghanistan and our ongoing role in serving as the air mobility hub for Operation Enduring Freedom. The groundwork laid in these exchange visits between our two militaries is helping to make long strides forward in better and closer cooperation between our two countries Airmen. Were building long-lasting relationships and winning the hearts and minds of our Kyrgyz coalition partners through trust, sharing and mutual respect, Colonel Kee said. The cooperative sentiment was equally shared by the Kyrgyz Air Force commander. Initially, when this tour was planned, there were some worries, of course, since it was happening for the first time. However, any worries were gone from the first moment we met because it was very friendly, said Kyrgyz Air Force Col. Saifutdin Azizov.

Soccer players from the Transit Center at Manas traveled to Frunze 1 Air Base to participate in a second soccer tournament against Kyrgyz Republic airmen 18 October 2011. "Historically, the Transit Center's partnership with Frunze 1 AB has been equally divided amongst sporting activities and military information exchanges," said Maj. Christopher Johnson, Theater Security Cooperation Military Cooperation Branch chief. "Recently, our partnership has been centered on military information exchanges focused on aircraft and vehicle maintenance; however, we're in the process of renewing our sports partnership.... We have several military information exchanges planned for 2012 that will focus on the Kyrgyz air force in developing their organic capabilities," Johnson said. "A strong relationship with Frunze 1 AB is a main pillar of the Transit Center's partnership with the Kyrgyz Ministry of Defense."

In October 2911 Raytheon was awarded a $24 million contract to modernize air traffic management systems in the Kyrgyz Republic. The competitively procured contract called for the delivery of a wide-area multilateration-based air traffic control system, ATC radio systems, a new air traffic control tower at Manas International Airport and related ancillary equipment and systems integration services required for safe and reliable operations. The contracting authority is the U.S. Air Force Electronic Systems Center, which is procuring the contract via the Foreign Military Sales program.

In an effort to expand our global ATM customer base, we will, for the first time, provide the Kyrgyz Republic with improved ATM capabilities and flight capacity, said Mike Prout, vice president for Raytheon Network Centric Systems Security and Transportation Systems. Thanks to a continued partnership with the U.S. Air Force and with over 60 years of experience as a proven large scale ATM provider, we are confident that our systems will provide the best value for the U.S. government and the Kyrgyz Republic.

The Raytheon team, which includes Saab Sensis Corporation of Syracuse, N.Y., will establish a safe and effective air management system for en route air traffic within the Kyrgyz Republic along with aircraft operating at the Manas International Airport. Raytheon is the prime contractor and system integrator. Raytheon will also design and construct a new ATCT at Manas International Airport and supply new communications systems and interfaces to the existing air traffic management infrastructure.

The Russian Defense Ministry will provide Kyrgyzstan with two An-26 transport aircraft on August 9, the press service of Kyrgyz Armed Forces General Staff said 01 August 2017. Russian President Vladimir Putin and President of Kyrgyzstan Almazbek Atambayev, left, sign a declaration on strengthening alliance and strategic partnership, following Russian-Kyrgyz talks. Russia and Kyrgyzstan agreed on a delivery of military and technical assistance worth $1 billion during Russian President Vladimir Putins visit to Bishkek in 2012. Russia has already equipped Kyrgyzstan with a number of armored vehicles and artillery systems free of charge. "The ceremony for the handing over of An-26 aircraft and opening of the air technical-operational units building, where the repairs of the Kyrgyz aircraft at the Russian airfield in the city of Kant, will take place on August 9," the General Staff's spokesperson said.



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