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Turkmenistan - Air Force

By some accounts, the Air Force is the most efficient structure within the military service of Turkmenistan. They are used for the Caspian sea patrols, compensating for the lack of power of the fleet. Janes took a more pessimistic view, suggesting that despite former President Niyazov's early assurances to the contrary, core assets witnessed a steady decline since 1992, while the lack of modern Command, Control and Communications (C3) systems meant that the air arm exercised management of little more than a fleet of several dozen aircraft with no integrated fighting capability.

But Turkmenistan has only about 10-15 pilots capable of carrying out combat missions. The shortage of specialists is so relevant that during military parades Turkmen military Department invites pilots from abroad. The Turkmen military tries to address this issue through intensive training of the required personnel.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union Turkmenistan had the largest aviation assets among the Central Asian states, stationed at the large bases at Mary and Ashgabat. Turkmenistan inherited more than 300 combat aircraft, including 24 MiG-29, 46 Su-25, and 172 Mig-23. In the mid-1990s Turkmenistan's air force had four regiments with 2,000 men and 171 fighter and bomber aircraft, of which sixty-five were Su-17s. The Air Force at the end of the course of the year 2000 amounted to 3000 people. In service with the were up to 250 helicopters and airplanes of various systems. By 2006 the air force had 4,300 active personnel. The air force had two aviation squadrons and one transport squadron. The air force had 89 fighter planes active, 200 fighter planes in storage, and 50 surface-to-air missiles.

The main air force base is at Gyzylarbat. Given the economic weakness of the state and recurring waves of politically-motivated purges inside the service, the condition and quality of the air force was poor and seemed likely to remain so for the foreseeable future. Turkmenistan had neither the financial means nor the relevant technical expertise and personnel to sustain its Air Force and Air Defence Force.

In 1994 the organization of the air force remained contingent on further negotiation on disposition and control of former Soviet units. Pending such negotiation, the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation maintained one air force and one air defense group in Turkmenistan. In the meantime, air force readiness was hampered by the resignation of most Russian pilots in the early 1990s and a shortage of trained Turkmen pilots. A other Asian nations have made tentative steps toward security-cooperation relationships with the Central Asian states. Pakistan had provided flight training to the Turkmen air force in the late 1990s, but Ashgabat was dissatisfied with the quality of training and cancelled the program.

Over 2.5 years the Ukrainian Defense Ministry factory at Lviv repaired 10 of the 24 MiG-29 of the Turkmenistan air force. In connection with the course to upgrade military equipment the Government of Turkmenistan concluded a contract for the repair of all Su-25 attack aircraft in Georgia at the JSC "Tbilaviastroj". Starting in 1999, Georgia began repairs on 43 military aircraft and 8 helicopters for the Turkmen Armed Forces. In 2001 it was expected that repairs on 22 machines would be completed. The cost to repair each attack aircraft was approximately 1 million dollars. "Tbilaviastroj" made the repayment of part of the debt of Georgia (more than 340 million dollars) for Turkmen natural gas.

U/I Attack Regiment Su-25,
Su-25UB
U/I Attack Regiment Su-25,
Su-25km,
Su-25UB
67 Interceptor Regiment MiG-29,
MiG-29UB
47 Combined SquadronAn-24,
MI-8,
MI-24
The Turkmenistan Air Force operated several fighter regiments and a training regiment on Turkmenistan soil. Turkmenistan's MiG-29 'Fulcrum' fighters are ageing fast and most of them were expected to reach the end of their service life by 2008, with no funding for modernisation immediately forthcoming. There was also little money to repair and upgrade Su-25 'Frogfoot' attack jets and in practical terms the only close support capability the infantry could rely on was provided by a few Mi-24 'Hind' attack helicopters. Helicopters were flown by 47 OSAE (Otelel'nyi Smeshan'nyi Aviatsion'nyi Eskadrilya / Independent Mixed Aviation Squadron) at Ashkabad.

In one State Department request for US FMF for Turkmenistan, Ashgabat was considering a project that would provide Western-standard, day/ night, all-weather approach capability for a Turkmen airfield that will be open to US Air Force aircraft. But this initiative, which could have directly supported future US military operations, was later cancelled.



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