Reprinted from

Russian Aerospace Makes a Come-back

Kenneth R. Timmerman
Saturday, June 23, 2007

PARIS – Russian aerospace is making a come-back on the international arms market, after a "decade of neglect" following the end of the Cold War, Russian arms-makers and Western aerospace officials told Newsmax at the Paris air show this week.

Top billing on the export market goes to the MiG-29 multi-role fighter, now in service with air forces in 29 countries around the world, including Iran and Syria. The MiG-29 was developed to compete with the F-16 in the air and on export markets.

"We are now exporting new flight simulator and training suites to all our customers," said Vladimir Barkovskiy, a top official at Russian Aircraft Company Mikoyan (RAC MiG).

The new training aides are geared to increase the combat readiness of pilots, by subjecting them to extreme air combat situations and high gravity turns without endangering their aircraft, he said.

The Iranians started purchasing the jets from Russia in 1989, then "inherited" two squadrons of Iraqi MiG-29s when Saddam Hussein flew them to Iran in 1991 to escape allied bombardments. Syria purchased its first MiG-29s in 1994.

Russia has been maintaining those aircraft and retrofitting them with advanced avionics, including new radar that has been developed with Western assistance once Cold war export controls on the Soviet Union were swept away by the Clinton administration.

"RAC MiG can lease technical teams to its clients, to ensure they meet the combat readiness and operational safety standards they require," Mikoyan official Vladimir Vypryazhkin told Newsmax at the Paris air show.

During the Cold War, Soviet fighter pilots not only trained foreign air forces, but in some cases actually flew combat missions.

In 1951, the Soviet Union deployed its 196th fighter regiment to North Korea, where Soviet MiG-15s shot down several dozen U.S. F-86 Super Sabers. And during the 1970-1971 war of attrition, Soviet pilots flying for Egypt engaged Israeli pilots flying U.S.-built F-4s and French-built Mirage-3s.

Mikoyan is also offering to "trade-in" older versions of the aircraft for the latest MiG-29 SMT upgrade, which includes an upgraded ZHUK-ME multi-role radar that can acquire and track up to ten targets at ranges in excess of 60 miles, and simultaneously engage four of them.

"We have concluded several new upgrade contracts with customers in the Middle East recently," Barkovskiy told Newsmax. "I cannot confirm that RAC MIG has any activities today in Iran," he added.

That was a Soviet-style denial. Although Russia pledged in 1995 under the Gore-Chernomyrdin agreements to make no new arms sales to Iran, it dumped that pledge unceremoniously in 2000, former Clinton administration officials involved in the U.S.-Russia talks told Newsmax recently.

The new arms sales began the following year, when Iranian president Mohammad Khatami and defense minister Ali Shamkhani made separate trips to Russia. Russian defense minister Sergei Ivanov announced in September 2001 that Russia planned to sell $7 billion of new weapons to Iran over the next five years.

Last September, Russia ignored U.S. protests and began delivering $700 million worth of TOR M-1 air defense missiles to Iran. The new systems, mounted on tanks, are designed to protect ground forces from air attack but could also be deployed around Iran's nuclear production facilities.

When Russia exports new military equipment to Iran, it incorporates a significant amount of Western technology, making a mockery of the Western arms embargo on Iran, Western aerospace officials say.

In September 2004, at the instigation of Russian president Vladimir Putin, the Russian state established a new avionics consortium, AVIONIKA, as a public-private sector venture to acquire western technology and develop combat avionics for China, India, and other export customers.

Western aerospace officials noted a new combativeness among their Russian counterparts at this year's Paris air show.

"Here they are sitting on one third of the world's oil and gas, with prices at record highs, but they are not reacting as you might think," one retired U.S. admiral now working for a European defense contractor told Newsmax. "We're seeing a return to a Cold War mentality on the part of the Russians."

The new combativeness was showcased by President Vladimir Putin, who threatened to target new Russian strategic missiles against Europe if the United States deployed a missile defense radar and ten missile interceptors in Poland and the Czech Republic.

It could also be seen in the behavior of Russian arms export officials at the Paris air show, who took relish in returning to Cold War rhetoric and obfuscation.

Asked about marketing efforts in the Middle East, a spokesman for Rosoboronexport, the state arms export monopoly, said his company had brought "no one who is knowledgeable of the Middle East" to the air show, even though official delegations from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Syria and other countries in the region had come shopping.

Russia's big rocket makers were massively present at the air show, including the very companies accused by the United States and Israel of having built Iran's Shahab-3 and Shahab-4 ballistic missile fleet, which today is targeting Israel and southern Europe.

Dr. Alexander Kirilin, director general of the Samara Space Center, which makes big booster rockets and sells satellite launch services, said his company had "no relations with Iran, either official or officious," despite news reports that Iranians had come to Samara to acquire technology for their missile programs.

The Samara Space Center has launched Globalstar satellites for the U.S., and METOP satellites for Europe, and signed new agreements at the air show to launch additional satellites from the European Space Agency's launch site in Kourou, French Guyana.

Also present at the show were Kutznetsov, Aviaexport, the TSAGI Central Aerohydrodynamic Institute, Khrunichev, and NPO Energomash, all of which have been cited in Congressional testimony or in U.S. government statements for their involvement in Iranian missile projects.

Speaking in Moscow on Friday, the chairman of the Russian Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Yuri Balouyevski, told reporters that the threat from Iranian ballistic missiles "remains hypothetical for the near future."

He reiterated Putin's claims that the United States had no need to position missile defense systems in Europe, and clarified Putin's offer to allow the U.S. to build a missile defense radar in Azerbaijan.

The United States could "jointly use" with Russia an existing Russian radar station in Gabala, Azerbaijan, not build or operate its own, he said.

© NewsMax 2007. All rights reserved.

Read more on this subject in related Hot Topics: