Russian Air Force to rehearse robotic strikes in defense exercise

MOSCOW, September 24 (RIA Novosti) - Russian Air Force units will rehearse air strikes with the use of automated target acquisition, command and control systems, the Defense Ministry said on Thursday.

The ministry said the strikes, involving Su-24M Fencer tactical bombers and Tu-22M3 Backfire strategic bombers, would take place during the course of the second stage of a joint Russian-Belarusian air-defense exercise, code-named Zapad 2009 (West 2009).

The first five-day phase of the exercises began on Friday with some 100 aircraft and 12,600 military personnel and concentrated on the preparation of defense operations for the regional forces.

The second phase, to run from September 23 through 29, focuses on the effectiveness of the unified regional anti-aircraft defense systems of Russia and Belarus.

The exercise will, among other things, rehearse interoperability within the framework of the Belarusian-Russian integrated air defense system, which the two countries agreed to establish in February.

According to the Belarusian Defense Ministry statement, 63 aircraft, 40 helicopters, 470 infantry fighting vehicles, 228 tanks and 234 artillery systems will participate in the exercises. S-300 air defense missile systems will also be used.

S-300s are considered one of the world's most effective all-altitude regional air defense systems, comparable in performance to the U.S. MIM-104 Patriot system.

Belarus has several Russian-made S-300 air defense battalions on combat duty, and has long been negotiating the purchase of advanced S-400 systems from Russia, which should be available in 2010.

In addition to 12,600 Russian and Belarusian personnel, around 30 Kazakh military personnel are also due to participate.



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