On August 1, Russia activated the Aerospace Forces as a new branch of its military. The Aerospace Forces (VKS) has been formed by the merger of the Russian Air Force (VVS) and the Russian Aerospace Defence Forces (VKO).
Russian defence minister Sergey Shoigu stated that the creation of the Aerospace Forces by merging the air force and aerospace defense force is the optimal way of improving the system of the nation's aerospace defense. According to him, the newly created branch has merged the country's air force, air defense, missile defense and space forces under one command.
Military experts and strategists have entertained this idea since a long time and rightly so. The art of war has become more focused on air-space than the ground and sea operations. The means and the ways to launch air space attacks get constantly enhanced.
General of the Army Arkady Bakhin, First Deputy of Russian Minister of Defense, has said the leading world powers concentrate their efforts on achieving supremacy in air space. As a result, Russia faces greater threats. The air space security must top the list of defense priorities.
The United States was the first to respond to the trend. It’s enough to remember the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) first publicly announced by President Ronald Reagan on 23 March 1983. It is believed that the Initiative presupposed the creation of missile defense shield or a comprehensive missile defense with orbital deployment platforms to limit or prevent strikes from space against ground and sea-based targets. Some military experts believe that another version of the term – Strategic Initiated Defense offered a more clear definition because the program envisaged taking initiated independent actions, including offensive measures.
The goal of the SDI was to gain supremacy in space by deploying several echelons of offensive weapons capable of interception and destruction of enemy’s ballistic missiles and their warheads at all phases of flight trajectory. The weapons were to possess capabilities with no clear distinction between defensive and offensive actions.
The contemporary strategic concepts of United States have made the SDI a thing of the past and are called in a different way but the mission is the same – to guarantee that the potential of hypothetical enemy is eliminated (overseas they don’t make a secret of the fact that Russia is the main threat to security).
Take, for instance, the Prompt Global Strike (PGS) concept which envisions delivering a high-precision strike (it could be conventional, not necessarily nuclear) to knock out main military, political and economic targets.
The guided warheads are to be delivered by intercontinental ballistic missiles and sea-launched ballistic missiles together with hypersonic cruise missiles launched from aircraft. The strike elements are launched from upper layers of atmosphere and space.
No doubt, the PGS concept expedited the creation of Air Space Forces in Russia but it was not the only argument in favor of creating the new branch. Like in the 1950s US nuclear-tippedintercontinental ballistic missiles are still in place. The US potential includes 790 ICBMs with 1700 warheads, around 5 thousand cruise missiles, about 3 thousand of them sea-based (conventional and nuclear), approximately three thousand combat aircraft and other weapons. All these means can be used for global prompt strike. Russia cannot ignore the challenge.
In 2001 there were new assignments in the Russian Ministry of Defense. The Aerospace Defence Forces were separated from the Strategic Rocket Forces Missile Troops (which lost the status of separate branch) to merge with the Military Space Forces. In 2011 a new reorganization followed. The Space Forces became the Aerospace Defence Forces, fusing all space and some air defence components into one joint service. Merged with the Air Force the Space Forces were one of the two main elements of the Air Space Forces created on August 1.
Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu stressed that merging several branches would allow Russia's armed services, first and foremost, to concentrate all the responsibility for the shaping of the military and technical policy on development of the aerospace forces in one hands. Second, it would increase the efficiency of its implementation, and third, it would ensure the incremental development of the country's aerospace defense system.
General leadership of aerospace defense will be carried out, as before, by the General Staff, with direct leadership from the headquarters of the Aerospace Forces. The new branch is headed by Colonel-General Victor Bondarev, former Air Force commander. The Aerospace Forces comprise three services – Air Force, Air Defense-Missile Defense Forces and Space Forces – central command of aircraft alert force, air defense and missile defense systems, as well as military space objects. The branch is responsible for missile early warning and space control.
The period of numerous reforms has come to an end. The threat to the Russia posed by planners of “star wars” is growing exponentially. Systematic approach is the only way to counter the threat and guarantee security of our country. That’s what the Aerospace Forces were created for.