The Largest Security-Cleared Career Network for Defense and Intelligence Jobs - JOIN NOW


Frontal Aviation (Frontovaya Aviatsiya)

The Frontal Aviation (Frontovaya Aviatsiya) arm of the Soviet Air Force (Voenno-Vozdushnye Sily) was the Russian version of the Western tactical air force. Soviet FA was organized into 16 Tactical Air Armies. As an example, the 16th Frontal Aviation Army assigned to Group Soviet Forces Germany (GSFG) conprised more than 1,200 aircraft and contained 2 to 3 helicopter regiments equipped with the Hind.

The Soviet Air Force was delegated the responsibility of carrying out independent operations as well as support missions in conjunction with other branches of the armed forces. It consisted of three components: Frontal Aviation, Long-Range Aviation, and Military Transport Aviation. Frontal Aviation was the Soviet Union's tactical air force assigned to the military districts and the groups of forces. Its mission was to provide air support to Ground Forces units. Frontal Aviation cooperated closely with the Air Defense Aviation arm of the Air Defense Forces. Protected by the latter's fighter interceptors, Frontal Aviation in wartime would deliver conventional, nuclear, or chemical ordnance on the enemy's supply lines and troop concentrations to interdict its combat operations.

Frontal Aviation, an asset of the front-level combined arms commander, functions to support the ground troops. The sole purpose of Frontal Aviation was to serve as the tactical air arm of the Soviet armed forces; its role was similar in many ways to that of the US Air Force's Tactical Air Command. The command and control structure of Frontal Aviation (FA) is integrated with that of the ground forces to insure close and continuous coordination in a combined-arms offensive. It would be under the operational control of Ground Forces field commanders.

Soviet tactical air power was the result of an intensive and methodical building program. Frontal Aviation has remained the largest command in the Soviet Air Force since the later days of World War II. Nonetheless, its numerical strength fluctuated greatly, depending on emphasis placed on other commands at various times. In the early 1950s, FA possessed about 12,000 aircraft; by the late 1970s, between 4000 and 5000. This force was deployed as 16 tactical air armies, four in eastern Europe and one in each of the 12 military districts of the Soviet Union. In 1989 Frontal Aviation was divided into sixteen air armies composed of fighter, fighter-bomber, tactical reconnaissance, and electronic warfare aircraft. Air armies usually consist of from three to four air divisions, the basic operational unit. Each air division had three regiments composed of several fighter squadrons and an air logistic support unit comprising a transport squadron and a communications flight. Normally a squadron assigned to Frontal Aviation consisted of 12 aircraft divided into three flights.

According to the FY 1980 U.S. Military Posture: "Most of Soviet Frontal Aviation fighters and fighter-bomber forces have been fielded since 1970. These aircraft have a greater radius of action, and improved avionics and support systems, ordnance, reconnaissance sensors and electronic countermeasures capability." In the 1970s the offensive capabilities of Soviet Frontal Aviation steadily improved, due to the introduction of modern multirole fighters and fighter-bombers such as the Fencer, Fitter C, and Flogger.

The process of rapid modernization in the 1970s created certain employment problems, particularly in air-ground coordination and airspace management. Frontal Aviation was still seeking to resolve these problems -- attempting to match personnel capabilities to those of the equipment. Problems were identified in the areas of close air support coordination and the rigidity of training requirements. Tactics must change in order to accommodate the advantages of modern technology. By the 1980s, with ground force doctrine changing towards an emphasis on a highly mobile force contacting the enemy along a wide front of meeting engagements, Frontal Aviation gained new importance and new roles, but unless some of the coordination problems can be worked out much of these assets will be poorly utilized.

During the 1980s, the Soviet Union doubled the size of its force of helicopters. Helicopter regiments and squadrons were attached to Frontal Aviation's air armies to provide tactical mobility for, and additional fire support to, the Ground Forces. The Mi-6, Mi-8, and Mi-26 helicopters would transport motorized rifle units and equipment into battle or land assault units behind enemy lines. The Mi-24, often referred to as the Hind, was the most heavily armed helicopter in the world. It was used extensively in both fire support and air assault roles in Afghanistan. In 1989 the Soviet Union was testing a new helicopter, the Mi-28, designed to be an antitank helicopter.

In 1989 Frontal Aviation operated about 5,000 fixed- and rotary-wing combat and reconnaissance aircraft, which included 270 Su-25, 650 Su-17, and 1,050 MiG-27 ground attack aircraft. It also operated 450 MiG-29 and 350 Su-24 deep interdiction fighterbombers , in addition to the 450 that belonged to the Strategic Air Armies. The Air Forces used the heavily armed Su-25, first deployed in 1979, effectively during the early years of the war in Afghanistan when mujahidin forces lacked modern air defense systems.

The MiG-29 was designed in response to a new generation of American fighters, which included the F-15 and F-16. Designed as an air defense fighter, this duel-purpose aircraft also possessed a ground attack capability. The task of producing a "frontal" or tactical fighter for the Frontal Aviation Regiments of the Soviet Air Force went to the Mikoyan-Gurevich Design Bureau (MiG OKB). Employing all the technical data available about the most advanced Western aircraft, the MiG designers started working on the MiG-29 in the early 1970s, and the first prototype made its first flight on Oct. 6, 1977. US reconnaissance satellites detected the new fighter in November 1977, and NATO gave it the designation "Fulcrum." Production started in 1982, and deliveries to Frontal Aviation units started in 1983.

Join the mailing list

Page last modified: 09-07-2011 13:15:57 ZULU