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    Russian Air Force to buy 12 Ka-52 helicopters in 2009

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    Russia's armed forces plans to buy up to 12 Ka-52 Hokum-B combat/reconnaissance helicopters in 2009, the Russian Air Force Commander Col. Gen. Alexander Zelin said on Tuesday.

    KRASNODAR, November 4 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's armed forces plans to buy up to 12 Ka-52 Hokum-B combat/reconnaissance helicopters in 2009, the Russian Air Force Commander Col. Gen. Alexander Zelin said on Tuesday.

    "We plan to buy up to 12 Ka-52s in 2009 providing we complete tests and are satisfied that the machine meets all the demands agreed and required of it," Zelin said in Krasnodar on Tuesday during celebrations to mark the 70th anniversary of the Serov College of Higher Military Aviation and Engineering in Krasnodar, southern Russia.

    Zelin said that in addition to the Ka-52, designed primarily for reconnaissance and target designation, the main helicopter in service with the Air Force will be the Mi-28N Night Hunter helicopter gunship.

    "These machines will complement, not replace, one another," the Air Force chief said. "The Air Force budget has increased in quality and quantity, therefore I think that everything planned in the defense program ... new hardware, aircraft, helicopters, modernized equipment, we should receive."

    Zelin also said the development of a new-generation fighter, which will eventually replace the MiG-29 Fulcrum and Su-27 Flanker combat aircraft, was proceeding on schedule.

    Tests of the new fighter are expected to start in 2009 and the combat plane is due to enter service with the Air Force in 2013.

    Zelin also touched upon the issue of sweeping military reforms, which are expected to cut 150,000 officer posts in a restructuring program that will see oversize divisions and regiments replaced by smaller and more agile combat-ready units.

    Zelin confirmed that regiment numbers would be reduced but the number of districts would remain unchanged.

    Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said earlier that Air Force units are to be cut from the current 340 down to 180 as part of the reforms. In addition, each military district will have an airborne brigade as a quick-reaction operational-level unit.

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