MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti military commentator Viktor Litovkin.)
Interested in flying on your own private Tupolev 134 or Tupolev 154 airliner? Maybe you want something bigger, for instance an Ilyushin Il-76 Candid military transport aircraft? If full-fledge jet airliners don't interest you what about an Ilyushin 18 four engine turbo-prop? Do you have a passion for helicopters? How does a Mil Mi-8 Hip or Mi-26 Halo sound? Learning to fly? Hone your piloting skills to perfection in your own Yakolev Yak-18 air force trainer! Okay, so flying doesn't interest you! Are you the sea going type? What do you think about your own yacht, ocean going ship, pleasure boat or ferry? Any one, whether a Russian resident or not, wishing to buy any of the above mentioned items, even vacant military depots or buildings in a military boot camp in St. Petersburg, can bid on these items at the Russian Federal Property Fund's official web site.
On December 25, 2002, the Russian Government issued a resolution "On the Federal Property Fund," otherwise known as RFFI. Since that time it has been conducting regular auctions of army surplus items. Except for weapons and combat hardware, one can find just about anything one could want. For example, bidders can acquire unarmed transport planes and helicopters. In addition to the trusty - maybe rusty - Tupolevs or Il-76s you can find the Il-2 Bark, Il-18 Clam, Antonov's An-2 Colt, An-12 Club, An-24 Coke and even the An-72 Coaler. The Mil Mi-2 Hoplite is also available for you flying buffs. Helicopter fanatics can find different modified versions of the Mi-8 Hip, the Mi-26 Halo and the Kamov Ka-26 Hoodlum. Those of us wanting to learn how to fly, whether it be straight and level or inverted, can make our dreams come true by purchasing the Yakovlev Yak-52 aerobatic trainer or the L-29, L-39 and L-410 trainers from Czechoslovakia! For those of us who are water freaks, ocean-going and river-going ships, tugs, tankers, motor-boats, barges, research ships, yachts and pleasure boats can be had for a fraction of the cost. Finally those of us who are keen on paramilitary activities, we can buy our own military camp, warehouses, depots, land plots of former training fields, testing sites and firing ranges. Talk about extreme sports!
RFFI department chief Nikolai Nikolayev told RIA Novosti, "Demilitarized military property is not our primary commodity."
"The Russian privatization program and all related issues is our main priority. Moreover, we sell non-essential and ill-managed federal assets and those that are non-strategic and redundant that are located all over the Russian Federation.
"We are Russia's exclusive seller, so to speak," Nikolayev stressed.
These former Soviet army surplus sales total only 3-5% of RFFI operations and are very important for this country and its armed forces.
Last year sales of military assets yielded just over 600 million rubles ($21.1 million). This money is used to build housing for servicemen and to solve other social problems that they may have. If not for RFFI, these properties would have rusted away at testing sites. They also could have been stolen by dacha owners, mushroomers and bums who just laid hands on something they fancied.
"As a rule, RFFI does not profit from army surplus sales," Nikolayev said. The agency is entitled to only 1.5% of all sale proceeds. As an example, six or eight ancient An-2 aircraft, due to be auctioned off in the Russian Far East, will generate 90,000 to 100,000 rubles ($3,517) each. Consequently, RFFI will receive only $40-50 per plane. In contrast, the preparatory work, i.e. the air worthiness evaluation of each plane, paperwork, business trips and auctions, will cost at least $1,000. The RFFI considers military social security programs to be more important than money, Nikolayev stated.
Military camps and their land plots are even more popular than brand new airplanes, helicopters and ships. RFFI recently sold bases in Tomilino, Balashikha and Kolomna near Moscow for much more than their starting price. The Tomilino military camp - a four-hectare land plot and a few buildings - as offered at an initial bid price up to 7 million rubles ($246,219), was eventually auctioned for 30 million rubles ($1.06 million). Most importantly, all military quarters have all the required utilities, such as water conduits, sewers, heating systems, electricity and telephone networks. Though the condition often leaves a lot to be desired, you can do infrastructure repairs without expensive earthwork that accounts for almost 40% of the total value. This is why competition is so high.
Nikolayev said nothing about forthcoming army-surplus auctions and the items to be put up for bid. "Such information does not depend on us. We announce the auctions on our web site and in the mass media, after receiving property from the Defense Ministry. All prospective customers should therefore look for the information concerning upcoming auctions," Nikolayev said.
Which brings us back to planes, planes, and more planes. Here is some fantastic information for those of you who are aviation buffs and would like to be the proud owner of your own private jet. According to RIA Novosti's sources, about 300 L-39 Albatros trainers will be offered at rock bottom sale prices in late 2005. Those of you who are fortunate enough to acquire one, should have no trouble converting it into the private business jet of your dreams!
Yours, RIA Novosti.