Air Force Report : Belarusian Air Force
Republic of Belarus Air and Air Defense Force
ВВС и ПВО Вооруженных Сил Республики Беларусь
VVS i PVO Vooruzhennyh Sil Respubliki Belarus'
28 June 2005
After gaining its independence after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, Belarus military structure was largely based on the Soviet structure of seperate Air Force (VVS) and Air Defence Troops (PVO). In 2001, Belarus merged its Air Force and Air Defence Troops into one Air and Air Defence Force. The military structure is now two-folded with the Ground Forces (Army) and the Air and Air Defence Force, both under command of the Ministry of Defense. The Air and Air Defence Force is organised around air bases, instead of wings or squadrons. Almost all aircraft, continue to carry the Soviet-era Red Star emblem, with exception of some Il-76MD and Mi-8 transports which carry the national flag and colours.
Following the break-up of the Soviet Union, Belarus was left with large numbers of bombers and fighters. However Belarus returned all heavy bombers (Tu-22M, Tu-22, Tu-22R) to Russia as well as the majority of the Su-24 tactical bombers, keeping only one regiment of Su-24 tactical bombers and a dozen Su-24MR reconnaissance aircraft. Also the MiG-25RB reconnaissance and MiG-25BM for suppression of enemy air defenses were returned to Russia. Nevertheless Belarus kept a large force of combat aircraft.
Back then, Belarusian fighter aircraft inventory consisted of MiG-21, MiG-23, MiG-25, MiG-29 and Su-27. Of these fighters only the MiG-29 and Su-27 remain in service today. The remainder have been scrapped in the last decade. Although the MiG-23s formally still belong to the 61st Fighter Air Base (IAB), they are stored and probably no longer airworthy. 61st Fighter Air Base at Baranovichi is currently equipped with a mixed fleet of MiG-29 and Su-27 fighters. The other fighter air base of Belarus is the 927th IAB at Bereza and is equipped with MiG-29s. In total the Belarusian Air and Air Defence Force has 40 MiG-29s in service and recently the fleet has begun an upgrade program, the single seat aircraft are upgraded to MiG-29BM, and MiG-29UB dual-seat to MiG-29UBM. The Flanker fleet consists of 23 Su-27P/UB, which are scheduled to receive an upgrade in the near future.
Belarus kept one regiment of 30 Su-24M tactical bombers, as well as 12 Su-24MR reconnaissance aircraft. The exact number of remaining Su-24s is unknown but expected to be more than 30 aircraft. The Su-24M/MR belong to 116th Bomber and Reconnaissance Base (BRAB) in Ross. The other aircraft of the strike component, is the Su-25 ground-attack aircraft. More than 70 Su-25/Su-25UB are estimated to equip the 206th Attack Air Base (ShAB) in Lida.
Also part of the Air and Air Defence Force, is the army aviation component equipped with a large number of aircraft. The most numerous type is the Mi-8 with more than 100 aircraft in the inventory. Belarus operates several version of the Mi-8, including the basic Mi-8, the Mi-8MT and the Mi-8MTKO. The latter is modernised with electro-optical GOES-312 turret installed under the front fuselage for night operations. The Mi-24 fleet accounts more than 70 helicopters, largely consisting of Mi-24Ps. For heavy transport duties, Belarus operates the massive Mi-26 helicopter. The Mi-6 heavy transport helicopters previously operated alongside the Mi-26 have all been retired in 1998. The helicopter fleet is organised as follows. The majority of the fleet belongs to the 181st Helicopter Air Bases (VAB) in Pruzhany. The 50th Composed Air Base (SAB) at Machulischi operates 10 Mi-26 and a dozen of Mi-8 in addition to fixed wing transport aircraft. At the moment all Mi-26 are grounded awaiting spares and only about half the Mi-8s are in service. In addition to these two air bases, the Ministry for Emergency Situations operates a squadron of several Mi-8s and one Mi-26 helicopters from Lipki near Minsk, which was previously home to the 50th Composed Air Base until its move to the base at Machulischi in 1994.
The transport component of the Air and Air Defense Force consists of namely Il-76 heavy transports, An-24/26 light transports and the helicopters belonging to the 50th Composed Air Base (SAB) in Machulihschi, where all of these photos were taken. Currently the 50th SAB has 9 An-26, 1 An-24, and 4 Il-76 on strength. Unfortunately, only the single An-24, 3 An-26, and 2 Il-76 are in service at the moment. The remainder of the An-12 medium transport were withdrawn from service in 1998. Belarus latest acquisition for government transport is a single Boeing Business Jet 2 (BBJ2), but it is operated by Belavia instead of the air force.
Also not shown in this pictorial, are the Yak-52 piston engine basic trainers. The overall training level in the Belarus' aviation is reportedly poor. Especially for combat pilots average flying time has been low, not exceeding 20-25 hours per year. However Belarus is focused to provide more flying time for young pilots.
Non-aviation components of the Air and Air Defence Force include surface-to-air missile units (Zenith rocket forces - ZRV), radar operating units (Radiotechnical troops - RTV), support units and maintenance units. The most potent air defence system of the ZRV, is the S-300PS/PT (SA-10A/B 'Grumble'). Other systems include S-125 (SA-3 'Goa'), BUK-1 (SA-11 'Gadfly'), S-200 (SA-5 'Gammon'). Since 1994, Belarusian air defence has been integrated in Russia's defence network.
All photos courtesy of Max Bryansky from www.foxbat.ru. These photos were taken at Machulishchi air base on 9 May 2005. The aircraft temporarily stayed there to prepare for the Air Parade on 9 May 2005 over the capital Minsk. The Air Parade marked the 60th anniversary of victory over Germany.
- Butowski, P., Belarus Air Parade, Air Forces Monthly, July 2005
- Official website Belarus Ministry of Defense
- Foxbat Avia - www.foxbat.ru
- Special thanks to Dmitry Ovsyannikov for providing me with corrections and final details
Article by Niels Hillebrand
Photos by Max Bryansky - www.foxbat.ru