John Gerlach, Analysis of Russian Airpower in the 21st Century

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Policy Paper de l’ IESD, coll. « Operational Concepts », n°2, October 2020.


Abstract  : Russia intends on utilizing its airpower to conduct offensive power projection in neighboring countries and to defend itself from Western encroachment. This concept of airpower falls in line with Russia’s national objectives, which are to regain worldwide recognition as a great power, reclaim and secure Russia’s influence over former Soviet controlled nations, and to portray itself as a regional powerbroker in order to regain credibility so it can rewrite the liberal global order and counter US influence. Additionally, Russia is in the process of acquiring fifth-generation fighter aircraft and advanced Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) for reasons of supporting its military industrial complex and keeping pace technologically with its Western competitors. Despite acquisition of this advanced technology, trends in combat operations and training exercises suggest Russia will utilize these advanced platforms in traditional mission sets.

Résumé : La Russie souhaite utiliser sa puissance aérienne pour mener des projections de puissance offensives dans les pays voisins et pour se défendre de l’empiètement occidental. Ce concept de puissance aérienne s’inscrit dans le cadre des objectifs nationaux de la Russie, à savoir retrouver la reconnaissance mondiale en tant que grande puissance, reprendre et assurer l’influence de la Russie sur les anciennes nations contrôlées par l’Union soviétique, et se présenter comme une grande puissance afin de regagner une crédibilité internationale pour réécrire l’ordre mondial libéral et contrer l’influence américaine. En outre, la Russie se dote d’avions de chasse de cinquième génération et des véhicules aériens sans pilote avancés (UAV) pour soutenir son complexe militaro-industriel et suivre le rythme technologique de ses concurrents occidentaux. Malgré l’acquisition de cette technologie de pointe, les tendances dans les opérations de combat et les exercices d’entraînement suggèrent que la Russie utilisera ces plates-formes avancées dans les ensembles de missions traditionnels.

About the author : John Gerlach is an associate researcher in international security and defense at the University of Lyon III, Jean Moulin School of Law, Lyon France. He graduated Syracuse University (2006), with a Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering and a Master of Social Sciences (2014). After graduating university, he was commissioned in the United States Air Force and received his pilot wings in 2008. He has completed multiple deployments in support contingency operations overseas piloting the C-17 Globemaster III aircraft. Prior to moving to France as part of the Olmsted Scholar program, he was an instructor at the United States Air Force Weapons School. Recently, John received his Master Degree in International Security and Defense (2019) from the University of Lyon III, Jean Moulin School of Law.