Military Capabilities

Russian naval pilot training facility nears completion

19 February 2014

Satellite imagery dated 5 January 2014 depicts upgrades at Yeysk Airbase as it prepares to assume Russian carrier-based aviation training duties. Source: CNES 2014, Distribution Astrium Services / Spot Image S.A. / IHS

Russia is making solid progress on the construction of its new naval aviation training facility at Yeysk Airbase in the country's Southern Military District, satellite imagery analysis reveals.

Work on creating the new carrier-based naval aviation training complex at Yeysk is scheduled to be completed in 2015.

During the Soviet era naval fast-jet training for the Sukhoi Su-33 'Flanker-D' and Su-25UTG 'Frogfoot-B' occurred at the Nazemniy Ispitatelno-Tryenirovochniy Kompleks Aviatsii (NITKA) facility, located in what is now Ukraine. Training at the facility continued after the division of the Soviet Union, with the developments at Yeysk part of Russia's current plans to reduce its reliance on facilities and products built in the former Soviet republics.

Satellite imagery provided by Airbus Defence and Space illustrates the scope of continuing work at Yeysk Airbase. Captured on 5 January 2014, high-resolution imagery depicts carrier-related infrastructure in various states of completion.

Carrier-related infrastructure at Yeysk mirrors that found at the Ukrainian NITKA complex. A single ski-jump take-off ramp lies south of the main runway, adjacent to a new parking apron and new operations infrastructure, including a control tower. Built into the new runway extension is an arrested landing strip for training Russian Navy pilots in short take-off but arrested landing (STOBAR) operations.

In addition, preliminary ground preparation northeast of the eastern parking ramp indicates the intention to construct up to 25 hardened aircraft shelters (HASs).

The construction programme at Yeysk commenced in 2011 and initially focused on resurfacing the existing runway and preparing adjacent ground for expanding the eastern parking apron. In 2012, construction commenced on carrier-based aviation training infrastructure, positioned south of a new runway extension on the western end of the existing airstrip.

Russia is currently replacing the aging Su-33 with the MiG-29K 'Fulcrum' for the air wing of the country's sole aircraft carrier, Admiral Kuznetsov , currently in the eastern Mediterranean. Russia ordered 24 MiG-29Ks in 2009, with the first four delivered in 2013.

Digital Globe imagery captured in July 2013 depicted two MiG-29K fighters operating from the airfield. The incorporation of HASs at Yeysk suggests a possible basing option for the MiG-29K unit.

While Russia plans to maintain the option of operating from NITKA, the completion of the Yeysk facility will allow the Russian Navy to cease reliance on the Ukrainian facility. Furthermore, a Russian training complex represents a training option for nations procuring Russian-made carrier aviation. India represents a potential option, although its own NITKA-style complex is currently under construction for training its MiG-29K pilots.

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