Ashuluk, near the Russian city of Astrakhan, is under Air Force control, but is used by other branches as the training facility for anti-aircraft missile and radiotechnical troops. The annual "Combat Brotherhood" [aka "Friendship-in-Arms" or "Combat Commonwealth"] is part of the joint operations plan of the CIS United Air Defense System. This training exercise of the Russian Air Defense Force, conducted every August-September, include heavy aircraft and fighter planes at the Ashuluk range. Belarusan air defense units were first admitted to Ashuluk for exercises in 1996, when the country's air defense forces became integrated with those of Russia. In 1999 the exercises involved troops from Russia, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Belarus, and took place at defense sites across Russia, including the Ashuluk training grounds. This was the largest ever held, with a total of approximately 2,000 personnel -- double the previous year's figure.
In early 2000 Kazakhstan announced that it intended to ask Moscow to refrain from rocket launches from the Russian air defense test site in Ashuluk. The decision is attributed to the incident that occurred on 21 April 2000, when a Strizh-3 training target launched from the Ashuluk testing site blew up two kilometers from the settlement of Primorie (Kurmangazin district, Atyraus region in the western Kazakhstan). The missile left a crater 2.5 meters deep and 4-5 meters wide, though no casualties were reported.
In September 1998, during the "Combat Brotherhood" exercise, Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev officially presented the symbolic keys to a battery of S-300 anti-aircraft missile systems to his Kazakhstani counterpart. In September 2000 it was announced that the new Kazakh capital of Astana will be shielded by these S-300 anti-aircraft missile systems, which were to be in place by the end of the year.
On April 15, Russia and Armenia commissioned the command post of their joint air defense system. The event signifies that the system itself has become operational. Russia's Air Force commander in chief, Colonel-General Anatoly Kornukov, and Armenia's chief of the General Staff, Lieutenant-General Mikael Harutiunian, presided over the inauguration of the command post situated in a bunker on the Russian base at Chobankara, southwest of Yerevan. The command post will, on a permanent basis, supply operational information to a command center in the Russian city of Rostov-na-Donu, whence the information will be relayed to Russia's Air Defense headquarters in the Moscow region. As of that day, "Russia and Armenia jointly guard Armenia's airspace," Kornukov declared.
Sources and Methods
- Brothers-in-Arms '99 Sergei Babichev, Military Parade Issue 36. November - December 1999
- Kazakhstan Wants Russia To Stop Ashuluk Launches (Interfax) May 1, 2000
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