According to RIA Novosti news agency, the Russian Air Force could have the first six of 20 upgraded Su-24 tactical bombers next week. The other 14 would follow “in the near future,” according to a spokesman. Moscow expects eventually to replace the 1970s-vintage Su-24 with new Su-34 fighter-bombers. Meanwhile, the news agency reports that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s effort to reinvigorate its strategic bomber patrols, begun in late summer, has produced 70 flights. According to Maj. Gen. Pavel Androsov, head of strategic aviation for the Russian Air Force, some 120 NATO aircraft launched to escort the Russian bombers, covering almost all their patrols. (Read more on the Russia front in this month’s “A Czar in the Making.”)
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.