Air Force and Air Defence Forces of the Republic of Belarus
Ваенна-паветраныя сілы і войскі супрацьпаветранай абароны Рэспублікі Беларусь
Военно-воздушные силы и войска противовоздушной обороны Республики Беларусь
Belarusian Air Force badge.svg
The badge of the Belarusian Air Force
Founded15 June 1992; 29 years ago (1992-06-15)
Country Belarus
TypeAir force
RoleAerial warfare
Part ofArmed Forces of Belarus
Anniversaries16 August: Air Force Day
Commanders
Commander-in-chiefPresident Alexander Lukashenko
Minister of DefenseLieutenant General Viktor Khrenin
Commander of the Air ForceMajor General Igor Golub[1]
Insignia
Roundel
Roundel of Belarus.svg
Fin flash
Flag of Belarus.svg
Flag
Flag of Belarusian Air Force.svg
Aircraft flown
AttackSu-25
FighterMiG-29, Su-30
HelicopterMil Mi-8, Mil Mi-26
Attack helicopterMil Mi-24
TrainerL-39C, Yak-130
TransportIl-76, An-26


The Air Force and Air Defence Forces of the Republic of Belarus (Belarusian: Ваенна-паветраныя сілы і войскі супрацьпаветранай абароны Рэспублікі Беларусь, romanizedVajenna-pavietranyja sily i vojski supraćpavietranaj abarony Respubliki Bielaruś) is the air force of the Armed Forces of Belarus, formed in 1992 from the 26th Air Army of the Soviet Air Forces which had been serving in the Byelorussian SSR.[2]

History

Soviet era

On 5 May 1942, on the basis of the Air Forces of the Western Front, the 1st Air Army was created.[3] In January 1949, the Army became the 26th Air Army (ГШ ВС СССР No. ОРГ 120026). In 1980, the 26th Air Army was redesignated the Air Forces of the Belorussian Military District (ГШ ВС СССР 1980 года No. 314/1/00170).

In May 1988 the Air Forces of the District were again renamed the 26th Air Army. In June 1992, the headquarters of the 26th Air Army became the headquarters of the Air Forces of the Republic of Belarus.

Aircraft operated by the 26th Air Army and 2nd Air Defence Army, prior to the collapse of the USSR, included the MiG-23, MiG-25, and the Sukhoi Su-22.[4][5][6][7]

Independence and establishment

The Armed Forces of Belarus came into existence on September 20, 1991, when the Supreme Soviet of Belarus (Верховный Совет Белоруссии) has voted an order "On the Formation of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Belarus" («О создании Вооружённых Сил Республики Беларусь») through the transformation of the Belorussian Military District of the Soviet Union. The order of the Supreme Soviet was followed by the Law "On the Armed Forces of the Republic of Belarus" («О Вооружённых Силах Республики Беларусь») a year later on November 3, 1992. In line with those transformations the 26th Air Army of the Belorussian MD became the Air Forces of Belarus and the Soviet Air Defence Troops' 2nd Air Defence Army became the Air Defence Troops of Belarus, continuing the Soviet practice of two separate air arms.

Belarusian jets during a flypast in Minsk, July 2019.
Belarusian jets during a flypast in Minsk, July 2019.

The Belarusian air force was established on June 15, 1992, when the Minister of Defence issued Order #05/15.06.1992 for the transformation of the 26th Air Army into the Air Forces of the Republic of Belarus (Russian: Военно-воздушные силы Республики Беларусь). The Belarussian AF took over all the assets of the 26th AA, except for the 1st Guards Bomber Aviation Division (1-я гвардейская бомбардировочная авиационная дивизия (1 гбад)), which was transferred to the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.[8] At that time the composition of the 26th Red Banner Air Army was:[9]

The Belarussian Air Forces also took over a large helicopter fleet from the Air Defence Troops, army aviation and the aviation of the RVSN:[10]

From the Air Defence Troops:

From the army aviation:

From the RVSN aviation:

After the break-up of the Soviet Union a memorandum was signed in Tashkent on May 15, 1992 between the successor states on the manner they will adhere to the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe, commonly known as the Tashkent Accord (Соглашение о принципах и порядке выполнения Договора об обычных вооруженных в Европе (Ташкентское соглашение)). According to it Belarus was only allowed to field 80 combat helicopters (including the R/K recon variants of the Mi-24 and the armed air assault variants of the Ми-8, which the USSR did not consider actual combat helicopters). Many helicopters were sold overseas, took part in UN peacekeeping missions, were put into storage or utilised at the 1169th Aviation Storage Base (1169-я БХАТ) at Luninets.

In January 1992, the 927th Koenigsberg Red Banner Order of Alexander Nevsky Fighter Regiment at Bereza-Osovitsy, Brest Oblast (Military Unit Number 55782) (ru:927-й истребительный авиационный полк) became part of the Air Force of Belarus. In 1993 or 1994, it was renamed as the 927th Koenigsberg Red Banner Order of Alexander Nevsky Fighter Air Base.[11]

In 2001, the Air Forces (VVS) and Air Defence Troops were merged into the Air Forces and Air Defence of the Armed Forces of Belarus.

In 2002 two Operational-Tactical Air Force Commands were formed parallel to the two territorial commands of the ground forces. The Western OTAFC had its HQ at the Baranovichi AB, Brest Oblast and was composed of one combat air base (Baranovichi), five missile air defence brigades, one radar brigade, four aviation command posts and other support units.[12] The Southwestern OTAFC had its HQ at the Machulishchi AB in Minsk Oblast and was composed of one combat air base (Lida), three missile air defence brigades and one missile air defence regiment, one radar brigade, an aviation command post and other support units. The 50th Separate Transport Air Base, the reserve airfields and other support units were kept under Air Force HQ. In the end of 2014 the Chief of the Air Force and Air Defence Major-General Oleh Dvihalyov has informed the media, that the two OTAFCs were disbanded due to the increased automatisation in the command and control of the forces.[13]

Commanders-in-Chief

List of Commanders of the Air and Air Defence Forces:

Mission and functions

The VVS and Air Defence Forces were intended to protect population centres such as cities and regions, as well as the administrative, industrial, economic interests of the Republic. They are also intended to defend troops from the impacts of enemy air attacks, and also against the attacks of hostile troops, as well as fire support and the guarantee of combat operations of ground forces.

In peacetime, VVS and Air Defense forces are on standby to protect the state boundary in the air and also control of Belarusian airspace. The Air Force is responsible for all military aviation, as the Army maintains no aircraft of its own.

Organization

Prior to August 2010, there were six primary airbases:

On 26 August 2010, a reorganisation of the Air Force & Air Defence Force was announced.[20] It was reported that the 206th Assault Aviation Base (Lida) would be reorganized into the 116th Guards Red Banner Assault Base (at Ross) – formerly named the 116th Guards Bomber-Reconnaissance Base, flying Sukhoi Su-24 "Fencer" and Sukhoi Su-25 "Frogfoot" aircraft. The Su-24 bombers were retired. The 206th Assault Aviation Base was reorganised as the 206th Training Center.

The Mikoyan MiG-29 "Fulcrum" aircraft and personnel of the 927th Fighter Base (at Bereza) became part of the 61st Fighter Base at Baranovichi. Shortly after the move of MiG-29s to Baranovichi, on 23 September 2010, a MiG-29 crashed during a reported low-altitude flying exercise at the new location (see below). On 24 August 2010, the 927th Konigsberg Red Banner Order of Alexander Nevsky Fighter Air Base at Bereza was renamed the 927th Koenigsberg Red Banner Order of Alexander Nevsky Training Center and the use of unmanned aircraft systems.

The air force consists of more than 18,170 personnel, though this number is being reduced.[citation needed] There are now four active airbases:[21]

The Belarusian Air Force maintains close links with the Russian Air Force and defense industry.[28][29][30][31]

The Air Force and Air Defence has three arms and several support services:

Air Force and Air Defence Command

Air Force and Air Defence Command in Minsk

Incidents and accidents

On 30 August 2009, an Su-27 UBM aircraft crashed on the second day of the Air Show 2009 in Radom killing both pilots.[32][33][34][35] On 21 April 2010, two MiG-29 aircraft were performing an exercise when they both collided. One managed to land safely, while the other crashed.[36][37]

On 23 September 2010, a MiG-29 aircraft crashed.[38][39][40] On 29 November 2011, a Mi-24 helicopter crashed in a small forest near the village of Novye Zasimovichi. The crew of three people was killed on impact. According to eyewitnesses, there was "A thick fog... the previous evening".[41][42][43]

On 12 June 2012, a Sukhoi Su-25 aircraft crashed near a small village in Belarus. The pilot, Lieutenant Colonel Nikolai Gridnyov, lost control of the aircraft when maneuvering at low-altitude.[44] [45] He was ordered to eject, but instead remained on board to make sure the aircraft did not crash into the village.[45] Lt Col Gridnyov died in the crash.

On 11 November 2014, a MiG-29 aircraft crashed.[46] On 23 February 2017, another MiG-29 aircraft crashed. The engine caught fire during takeoff, but the pilot ejected safely at Bobruisk, Mogilev Region. On 19 May 2021, a Yakovlev Yak-130 aircraft crashed in Baranavichy, causing minor damage to one house in the city. Two pilots ejected but died.[47]

Intercept of Ryanair Flight 4978

Main article: Ryanair Flight 4978

On 23 May 2021, Irish Ryanair Flight FR4978 (AthensVilnius) was intercepted by a Belarusian MIG-29 prior to crossing into Lithuanian airspace and diverted to Minsk National Airport. In Minsk, the Belarusian opposition activist and journalist Roman Protasevich was removed from the plane and arrested. Protasevich had previously fled Belarus and the Belarusian authorities added him to a wanted list in 2020 after he helped organize major protests against President Alexander Lukashenko. His partner was also arrested.[48][49] According to the national press service of Belarus, the Belarusian Air Force MiG-29 fighter was sent to escort the aircraft to Minsk on the orders of Lukashenko.[48][50][51]

Symbols

Emblem

The heraldic sign is the emblem of the Air Force, which was approved in April 2003. It is a stylized golden image of an arrow, lightning bolts and wings, combined with a wreath of golden oak and laurel branches, located in the center of a blue baroque shield, crowned with a five-pointed gold star. The shield is located against the background of a silver medal star.[52]

Flag

The flag of the Air Force and Air Defense Forces was approved on January 19, 2005. The flag is a rectangular blue cloth, with the center consisting of four main and four additional directions of eight rays of golden color. In the center is the emblem of the Air Force. The flag has the same pattern on the front and back sides.[52]

Belaya Rus

Main article: Belaya Rus (demonstration team)

Belaya Rus is the aerobatic team of the Air Force and Air Defence Forces, performing aerobatics from combat training Aero L-39 Albatros. The team performs at aviation event and public holidays in Belarus.

Aircraft

Current inventory

A Belarusian Su-25 in flight
A Belarusian Su-25 in flight
A Belarusian Ilyushin Il-76MD taking off from Beijing Capital International Airport in 2021
A Belarusian Ilyushin Il-76MD taking off from Beijing Capital International Airport in 2021
Aircraft Origin Type Variant In service Notes
Combat Aircraft
MiG-29 Soviet Union multirole 34[53] 13 upgraded to MiG-29BM in 2004[54]
Sukhoi Su-25 Soviet Union attack / CAS 67[53]
Sukhoi Su-30 Russia fighter 4 8 on order[53]
Transport
Ilyushin Il-76 Soviet Union strategic airlifter 2[53]
Antonov An-26 Soviet Union transport 2[53]
Helicopters
Mil Mi-8 Soviet Union utility / transport 36[53]
Mil Mi-24 Soviet Union & Russia attack 21 4 on order[53]
Mil Mi-26 Soviet Union transport 3[53]
Trainer Aircraft
Yak-130 Russia advanced trainer 11[53]
Aero L-39 Czechoslovakia jet trainer 10[53]
Mil Mi-2 Poland rotorcraft trainer 8[53]
Sukhoi Su-30 Russia conversion fighter 1[53]

Retired aircraft

Aircraft operated by the Air Force, inherited at the dissolution of the Soviet Union were the MiG-23, MiG-25, MiG-27, Sukhoi Su-22, Sukhoi Su-24 and the Sukhoi Su-27.[4][5][55][56][23][57]

See also

References

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Further reading