Russia's Air Power at the Crossroads

Article excerpt

Russia's Air Power at the Crossroads by Benjamin S. Lambeth. RAND, 1700 Main Street, Santa Monica, California 90407-2138, 1996, 265 pages.

When the commander in chief of the Russian Federation Air Force (RFAF), Gen Petr Deynekin, was asked recently to describe the condition of his force, he replied that it is "in crisis and all aspects of the situation have a rigid tendency toward further decline." As the United States and Russia continue their efforts to develop a strategic partnership in place of cold war confrontation, USAF men and women interested in those efforts might want to understand the context of General Deynekin's grim but all-too-accurate statement. Benjamin S. Lambeth's Russia's Air Power at the Crossroads is an important starting point towards that understanding.

Lambeth describes his book as "an assessment of trends and prospects in Russian military aviation." In a relatively modest 265 pages, he delivers just that while delving into issues of organizational and doctrinal reform, peacetime and combat operations, funding problems, and force modernization. The book's main strength is its synthesis of a decade's worth of Soviet and Russian press reports on the country's military aviation. Lambeth sifts and analyzes the disparate sources to describe the current state of Russia's airpower and provide some background to its current crisis. The result will give most readers a good overview of Russian airpower, but the book's broad-brush approach may not satisfy readers seeking great detail on any of the book's many topics. However, even specialized readers will find that the extensive footnotes are useful guides to further research.

Although Lambeth provides a comprehensive outline of Russian airpower issues, it is clear that his heart is in the operational level of his topic, where he devotes close attention to undergraduate pilot training, continuation training, peacetime operations, and the air war in Chechnya. Here, Lambeth, a senior analyst at RAND, provides a unique viewpoint since he has had more exposure than most Western analysts to the Soviet/Russian air force leadership and its operational environment. …