Air Force Chief Will Step Down
General Anatoly Kornukov, the commander of the air force and the man who led the operation to shoot down a Korean Air Lines jet in 1983, said he is resigning from his post in line with a law capping the age of officers at 60.
``I`m leaving — there`s no doubt about that. The decision has been made,`` Kornukov said at a news conference Friday, a day after he turned 60.
Kornukov refused to name who is in line to replace him, saying only that he has made his recommendation to his superiors.
Kommersant reported Saturday that the candidates include Vladimir Mikhailov, the first deputy commander of the air force, Gennady Vasilyev, commander of the air force's Moscow district, Mikhail Oparin, commander of strategic aviation, Anatoly Nogovitsyn, commander of the 11th army of the air force, and Vitaly Pavlov, commander of the air infantry
Kornukov, a 38-year veteran of the air force, was appointed to its helm in January 1998 with a mandate to consolidate the country`s air defense forces with the air force. Experts say the reform, which he completed in about a year, was carried out smoothly with minimal pain.
As air force commander, Kornukov paid special attention to the revitalization of the air defense systems of the former Soviet republics by creating a unified air defense system for CIS countries. The CIS air forces carried out joint exercises called Combat Commonwealth-2001 in the Astrakhan region in August.
Kornukov was a guest observer of military exercises in Ukraine's Crimean region in October when a Ukrainian missile hit a Sibir Tu-154, killing all 78 people on board. At the time, Kornukov said he was confident that Ukraine was not at fault. On Friday, he acknowledged that he spoke too soon.
Kornukov has always been open about the shattered state of the air force, and he spearheaded a campaign to upgrade its fleets of Sukhoi and MiG jets. Kornukov said Friday that some 25 percent of the fleet will be upgraded to four-plus generation by 2004-05.
On Thursday, Kornukov signed a resolution on a tender for building a fifth-generation jet, the winner of which is to be announced in February. Sukhoi and MiG are battling for the contract on the fighter, which is expected to start test flights in 2006.
Kornukov said that by 2007-09 the air force should receive some 160 An-70 army transport planes, whose export version was rejected by NATO countries.
By Lyuba Pronina /Moscow Times/AVIA.RU - Информационное агентство "Российская авиация и космонавтика"