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Eastern Order of Battle

Soviet Air Defense Forces
The 116th and the 18th Air Defense
Training Center

Soviet Air Defense Training Center map
oviet Air Defense Training Center  in the sixties

In 1958 the SA-75 Dvina high-altitude air defense system and the MiG-19PM interceptor aircraft with RS-2U air-to-air missile entered the service in USSR. A few years later the Su-9 ‘Fishpot-A’ and the MiG-21 ‘Fishbed’ all-weather, missile-armed interceptor aircraft arrived too. In the early sixties, the independent Air Defense Armies established. These contained air defense command post, anti-aircraft missile units, fighter air regiments and radio technical units together.

There was a need for training centers where units of the air defense corps were able to carry out complex tasks. In the late fifties, the Soviet Air Defense Command established more training centers. The Soviet air defense fighter force used two air defense training center, the 116th Center at Privolzhskiy, Astrakhan military airfield nearly the Volga river and the 18th Center at Krasnovodsk airport next to Caspian Sea eastern coast. There was a training range close to each one, where anti-aircraft missiles and radio-technical units were installed. The entire Kazakh desert was used as a shooting range.

Combat air units could also practice than single, or they could work with their own anti-aircraft missiles and radio technical units, on complex combat training. The Eastern European Warsaw-Pack country's air defense divisions used both Soviet training centers too. Every two-three years each Soviet and Warsaw-Pack's air defense division or corps practiced on the 116th or 18th training center.

The Soviet fighter air regiments were deployed with its own airplanes to Privolzhskiy or Krasnovodsk airport. The Eastern European Warsaw-Pack country air defense forces sent only their crews and air to air missile in the sixties and seventies. The Soviet Union guaranteed the appropriate fighter aircraft, therefore the two Soviet training centers had MiG-19PM ‘Farmer-E’ and MiG-21F-13 ‘Fishbed-C’ and MiG-21PFM ‘Fishbed-F’ fighter aircraft in the sixties.

 

 

The air defense fighters used multiple versions of aerial targets:

  • The RM-3V ‘raketa-mishen’ target-missile, served as an aerial target. At the MiG-21 'Fishbed', the wingman could launch the RM-3V missile-target too.
     
  • Lavochkin La-17 was the first Soviet unmanned aerial target. The La-17 was directed by radio control. The Tupolev Tu-4 four-engine bomber carried the early version. The La-17M version was launched using a RATO booster under each wing root, from a four-wheel towed launcher derived from the carriage of a standard 100-millimeter antiaircraft gun.
     
  • MiG-15M ‘Fagot’, MiG-17M ‘Fresco’, and IL-28M ‘Beagle’ was an absolute realistic airborne target. Many of the old aircraft after service life were converted to target drones.

In the sixties, they practiced the intercepted of high altitude and high-speed targets.

Soviet MiG-19PM Farmer-E

Soviet 18th Air Defence Trainer Center’s ‘sharpshooter’ MiG-19PM ‘Farmer-E’ row in 1963. Source: Ogoniok Magazine ‘63

 

The MiG-17 air targets at the 18th Air Defense Training Center in the 70s

 

The MiG-19PM and MiG-17PFU interceptor fighters at the 18th Air Defense Training Center

 

Soviet MiG-21F-13 Fishbed-C

Second squadron crew of the 116th Center in front their MiG-21F-13 ‘Fishbed-C’ fighter in 1968. Photo: Alexander Ovchinikov collection

Yugoslav Air Force at  the Soviet Union

Crew of the Yugoslav Air Force at Privolzhskiy, Astrakhan airport in front of Soviet MiG-21PFM ‘Fishbed-F’ and MiG-15UTI ‘Midget’ aircraft in 1968. The friendly countries (example Cuba, Yugoslavia, Vietnam, South Yemen and Albania) could use the training centre too. Photo: Svetozar Yokanovich collection

 

Soviet air traffic controller of the 18th Training Center

Soviet air traffic controller of the 18th Training Center in 1963. Source: Ogoniok Magazine ‘63

USSR MiG-21PFM Fishbed-F

Alarm! Soviet propaganda photo about 116th Center's pilot and their MiG-21PFM 'Fishbed-F' fighter aircraft. Source: Ogoniok Magazine

 

Soviet Astrakhan Air Defence Training Center
USSR MiG-23M Flogger-B at Krasnovodsk airport

From the late sixties, new and air defense system arrived.

  • S-200 'SA-5 Gammon' very long range, medium-to-high altitude surface-to-air missile system.
     
  • S-125 'SA-3 Goa' shorter range and lower altitude, surface-to-air missile system.
     
  • Sukhoi Su-15 Flagon, Tupolev Tu-128 'Fiddler' long-range interceptor aircraft, MiG-25 'Foxbat' high-speed air defense fighter with new R-8 'AA-3 Anab', R-4 'AA-5 Ash' and R-40 'AA-6 Acrid' long-range air-to-air missiles.

There was a need for new practice, battle process and new type airborne target at  Ashuluk Range.

In the seventies, the 18th Air Defence Training Center replaced their MiG-19PM fighter to MiG-23M type. And the 116th Center received one squadron new MiG-21MF-75 ‘Fishbed-J’ export version fighter in the middle of the seventies.
 

oviet Air Defense Training Center  in the  seventies

* There is no exact information

<- Soviet MiG-23M ‘Flogger-B’ of the 18th Air Defense Training Center at Krasnovodsk airport

USSR MIG-25P Foxbat-A and Su-11 Fishpot-C at Astrakhan

A guest MiG-25P 'Foxbat-A' unit at the Privolzhskiy, Astrakhan airfield in 1973. In the background the local 393rd Guard Fighter Air Regiment PVO's Su-11 'Fishpot-C' interceptors. The local fighter regiments of the Baku Red Banner Air Defence District (393rd and 179th Guard Fighter Air Regiment PVO) helped the training center. They often flew as a high-speed air target.
 

 

The split usage airports were already overcrowded, therefore at the end of the seventies, Astrakhan's civil air traffic moved from Privolzhskiy airport to a new airport. At the same time, the 179th Guard Fighter Air Regiment moved from Krasnovodsk Airport to PVO Nebit Dag Airport.




In the 1970s, air defense division or corps conducted very complex exercises at the training centers. The picture below shows you the Hungarian Home Air Defence force's 'STRELBA-78' exercise plan. In 1978 the Hungarian 2nd Home Air Defence Division's units were deployed to the Soviet Union. The 59th Home Fighter Air Regiment's pilots, ground crew, air traffic controllers and command post officers arrived at Privolzhskiy, Astrakhan airport. Meanwhile, the 105th Anti-Aircraft Missile Regiment and radio technical units traveled to Ashuluk training center north of Astrakhan.

STRELBA-78 exercise at Privolzhskiy Astrakhan airport

Szepesi Jozsef collection

At first, the Hungarian 105th Anti-aircraft Missile Regiment and the 59th Home Fighter Air Regiment shoot down air targets on their own with missiles. They used Soviet MiG-21MF-75 ‘Fishbed-J’, MiG-21PFM ‘Fishbed-F’ and SA-75 Dvina ‘SA-2 Guideline’ air defence weapons. Later they carried out complex exercises. According to the exercise plan, the enemy arrived from three directions:

  • From southwest direction: eight F-4D Phantom II, eleven F-111 Aardwark and unknown number high speed target
     
  • From north-east direction: twelve F-4D Phantom II, fourteen F-104G Starfighter and unknown number F-15 Eagle
     
  • From south direction: twenty A-7D Corsair

The targets needed to be shot down between 500 and 14000 meters. In the seventies, they already used the high speed RM-207 airborne target too, which imitated the USAF high-speed Boeing AGM-69 SRAM nuclear air-to-surface missile.

 

Soviet Air Defense Training Center in the first halt of the eighties

In the first half of the eighties, the 116th Center got MiG-23M/MF 'Flogger-B' and a small number MiG-21bis 'Fishbed-L' type. The Eastern European Warsaw-Pack Air Defence units could practice with R-23 and R-24 'AA-7 Apex' missiles. With these rockets, targets could have been attacked while flying towards them. They could also practice this at 116th Center on MiG-23MF 'Flogger-B'.

 

Two Soviet MiG-23MF ‘Flogger-B’ export fighter of the 116th Air Defense Training Center, Privolzhskiy, Astrakhan airport in 1982. Photo: Sandor Szoke

In 1985 a Soviet MiG-21bis ‘Fishbed-L’ fighter in front of MiG-21MF-75 ‘Fishbed-J’ row at Privolzhskiy, Astrakhan airport in 1985. Photo: Unknown

In the second half of the eighties, the Eastern European Warsaw-Pack Air Defence units traveled to Privolzhskiy, Astrakhan airport. Similar to the Soviet units, they used their own aircraft. They practiced long-term navigation from eastern Europe to the Caspian Sea.

Polish 1st Fighter Air Regiment MiG-21PF ‘Fishbed-D’ fighter at Astrakhan airport in 1987. Source: unknown

Hungarian 47th Fighter Air Regiment MiG-21bis ‘Fishbed-N’ at Astrakhan airport in 1987. Photographer: unknown

 

Soviet MiG-25P Foxbat-A

Soviet MiG-25P ‘Foxbat-A’ high speed interceptors air unit at Astrakhan airport in 1981.

Czechoslovak MiG-23ML Flogger-G Astrakhan

Czechoslovak MiG-23ML ‘Flogger-G’ fighter at Astrakhan airport. Photographer: unknown

 

JG-1 East German MiG-21UM Mongol-B at Astrakhan

JG-1 East German MiG-21UM ‘Mongol-B’ at Astrakhan airport in 1986. Source: unknown

USSR Su-15 Flagon

Soviet Su-15 ‘Flagon -D’ at Krasnovodsk airport in the late seventies. Photo: Vladimir Harolin

Soviet MiG-21PFM and MiG-25 Foxbat

Warsaw Pact pilot training MiG-21PFM ‘Fishbed-F’ and MiG-25PDS ‘Foxbat-E’ of the Soviet Air Defense at Astrakhan training airport in 1988.

Cobal military crew MiG-21MF

Cuban military crew in front of the 116th Center’s MiG-21MF ‘Fishbed-J’ at Astrakhan airfield. In 1985, a tragic accident occurred. One of the Cuban pilots accidentally shot another MiG-23 aircraft.

USSR Su-15UT Flagon-C and Czechoslovak MiG-29 9.12A Fulcrum-A'

Soviet Su-15UT 'Flagon-C' and Su-15 'Flagon-D' interceptors in front of Czechoslovak MiG-29 9.12A ‘Fulcrum-A' at Astrakhan training center

 

Soviet fighter pilots

Soviet air defense pilots at Krasnovodsk 18th Tarining Center in the early eighties.

USSR sharpshooter MiG-23M Flogger-B

18th Training Center ‘sharpshooter’ MiG-23M ‘Flogger-B’ with six small red star at Krasnovodsk airport in the eighties. Photo: Sasa Kellenam

 

Polish 34th Fighter Air Regiment in Astrakhan training center in 1988 (External link)

 

In the late eighties, th 116th Center got one squadron modern factory new MiG-29 9.12A 'Fulcrum-A' fighters. Then the 18th Center received one squadron MiG-25PD/PDS 'Foxbar-E' high-speed interceptor fighter around 1990.

Soviet Air Defense Training Center map
Soviet Air Defense Training Center  in around 1990
USSR MiG-25PU Foxbat-A

Soviet MiG-25 Foxbat at Krasnovodsk airport in 1991

In the early nineties, Russia lost the Air Defence's 18th Center and the Tactical Air Force's 1521st Center. Their tasks were also taken over by the 116th Center from the nineties.