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The discussion amongst highly placed generals in early
The discussion amongst highly placed generals in early July of creating a Joint CIS Air-Defense System is good news. However, it would be more appropriate to assess the state of Russia's air defenses and to choose an optimal system with up-to-date weapons.

In late June, Lieutenant General Anatoly Boyarintsev, commander of the Russian Air Force's radio engineering troops, announced that air-defense radars had started scanning an additional 480,000 square kilometres of air space in north-eastern Russia during the implementation of the federal target program "Streamlining the Federal Air Space Reconnaissance and Control System in 2007-2010."

That sounds optimistic; but some questions remain. Does Boyarintsev's statement mean that such control had been lost or was lacking? Are 480,000 sq. km. enough inside Russia's 10,000 km perimeter? And are there any other gaping holes that the Air-Defense Force does not control?

Most importantly, we must choose the best system for shielding this country from enemy air strikes and other attacks.

The 1999 NATO bombing of Yugoslavia showed that classic air-defense systems were history. The use of high-precision weapons made it possible to quickly neutralize Yugoslavia's Soviet-era anti-aircraft systems. Several U.S. spy satellites hovering over Europe prior to the air strikes tracked down all operational Yugoslav radars and the country's radio engineering units, and smart missiles swooped in for the kill as soon as hostilities commenced.

In 2003, the U.S. Air Force and spy satellites were used against Iraq with similar devastating effect.

Washington is currently working on the Prompt Global Strike (PGS) initiative, a plan to provide the United States with the capability to strike virtually anywhere in the world within 60 minutes. Under the concept, a reusable orbiter would launch hypersonic high-precision and non-nuclear missiles with a range of over 10,000 km.

Russian leaders obviously realize the need to establish a comprehensive aerospace-defense system. In 2006, President Vladimir Putin set the goal of creating an effective system under a special program until 2016.

But it turns out that Russia's military leaders are still unable to overcome inter-departmental differences. The Air Force, which oversees all air-defense issues, also wants control of the future aerospace-defense system.

However, the Russian Armed Forces still cannot find a place for the missile-space defense system, the main and inalienable part of the aerospace-defense system. In fact, the missile-space defense system was part of the Soviet-era National Air-Defense System.

In the early 1990s, the then Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev, who had previously served with the Strategic Missile Force, subordinated missile-space defense to his old service in order to uphold its reputation.

The missile-space defense system was taken away from the Strategic Missile Force during the 2001 army reform. By that time, Moscow had abolished the National Air-Defense System, re-subordinating all anti-aircraft units of other armed services and branches to the Air Force.

The missile-space defense system eventually became part of Russia's Space Force. But it is unclear whether Russian generals can agree on the overall missile-defense concept. The General Staff would be responsible for the missile-space defense system if it were classed as a one-time military operation. But a permanent system would require a joint command center. The system's affiliation depends on the solution of this problem.

This pointless discussion should have been conducted 20 years ago. Combat operations on the Balkan Peninsula, in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as modern rearmament programs, imply that all industrial powers have adopted military-space defense doctrines.

The reinstatement of the aerospace defense system as an integral branch is the best course today. This would make it possible to launch production of up-to-date weapons. It is becoming obvious that the Air Force is unable to influence their production. The defense industry has so far failed to master production of the high-precision S-400 surface-to-air missile (SAM) system, the only Russian weapon that could effectively repel aerospace attacks. Unfortunately, the Russian Army has very few of these unique systems today.

It will be impossible to shield Russian territory unless we promptly settle organizational issues as regards the aerospace defense system's creation and unless we start mass-producing the required weapons.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.


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