Russia and Ukraine signed on Monday a protocol on amendments to an agreement on the rent of facilities on Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula for training of Russian carrier pilots.
In line with a 1997 bilateral agreement, Russia occasionally uses the Nitka Naval Pilot Training Center in Ukraine as the only training facility for its carrier pilots.
“During a meeting of a subcommittee [of the Russian-Ukrainian Interstate Commission], the sides signed a protocol on the use of the Ukrainian Nitka training facility by the Russian military,” Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said.
The new protocol envisions monetary payment for the use of Nitka facilities, an unrestricted range of naval aircraft used for training and testing, and the possibility of sharing the center with third parties.
Under the original agreement, Russia remunerated Ukraine for the use of the Nitka facilities with spare parts for Su-family naval fighter jets, which were the only type allowed to operate at the center. Russia and Ukraine were the only countries to use Nitka.
The Nitka Center was built in the Soviet era for pilots to practice their skills in taking off from and landing on an aircraft carrier's deck.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, the facility remained under Ukrainian jurisdiction.
The center provides naval aviation training facilities such as a launch pad, an aerofinisher, a trampoline, a catapult launching device, a glide-path localizer, a marker beacon, and an optical landing system.
Serdyukov earlier said the Russian Defense Ministry pays about $700,000 annually for the rent of the Nitka Center and is willing to upgrade this facility.
Russia, which has only one aircraft carrier - the Admiral Kuznetsov - is aiming to finish drafting plans for a new nuclear-powered aircraft carrier for its Navy by 2018.