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    Russian Air Force to cut officer staff by 30% - commander

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    The Russian Air Force will reduce the number of officers by 30% under the current military reform, the Air Force commander said

    MOSCOW, February 10 (RIA Novosti) - The Russian Air Force will reduce the number of officers by 30% under the current military reform, the Air Force commander said on Tuesday.

    The ongoing reform of the Russian military envisions the overall reduction of the Armed Forces to 1 million servicemen, including 150,000 officers by 2012.

    "In line with the current organizational changes we will have to reform 84% of all Air Force units. Of these, 10% will be disbanded, 22% reformed and 68% staffed according to new structural parameters," Col. Gen. Alexander Zelin said at a news conference in Moscow.

    Zelin added that the structural reform would ensure that the Russian Air Force receives advanced air and ground weapons systems, including modernized strategic bombers and tactical aircraft "to neutralize potential military threats on the global and regional scale."

    "The mid-term development of the Air Force will be carried out along the evolutionary path, which would combine the modernization of the existing aircraft with long service life, and the procurement of new aircraft of the 4+, 4++, and 5th generation," the Air Force chief said.

    According to Zelin, the Il-76 Candid transport planes will constitute about 70% of the military transport fleet until 2015.

    "The use of modernized turbofan engines on the Il-76 allowed us to increase its speed to 825 km/h and reduce the time for accomplishing tasks," the general said.

    In addition, Zelin named as a current priority the development of a 6th-generation combat aircraft, an advanced air defense system, and various types of unmanned aerial vehicles.

    Russia is currently developing a prototype of the fifth-generation multi-role fighter, which is due to make its maiden flight by the end of 2009.

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