Russia merges military branches creating “Aerospace Forces”

FILE - In this file photo taken on Saturday, May 9, 2015, Russian S-400 air defense missile systems drive during the Victory Parade marking the 70th anniversary of the defeat of the Nazis in World War II, in Red Square in Moscow, Russia. Russia has merged several branches of its military into the Aerospace Forces, a reorganization aimed at enhancing coordination and efficiency.(AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, file)

MOSCOW — Russia has merged several branches of its military into the Aerospace Forces — a reorganization aimed at enhancing coordination and efficiency, officials said Monday.

Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said the decision offers “the optimal way of improving the system of the nation’s aerospace defense.”

The new branch will include the nation’s air force, air defense, anti-missile and space forces.

Shoigu said that its creation has been prompted by the increasing importance of air and space components in modern warfare.

The air force chief, Col.-Gen. Viktor Bondarev, has been put in charge of Aerospace Forces.

FILE  - In this file photo taken on Tuesday, Aug.  27, 2013, Russian air defense system missile system Antey 2500, or S-300 VM, is on display at the opening of the MAKS Air Show in Zhukovsky outside Moscow, Russia. Russia has supplied similar systems to Syria. Russia has merged several branches of its military into the Aerospace Forces, a reorganization aimed at enhancing coordination and efficiency. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev, File)
FILE – In this file photo taken on Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2013, Russian air defense system missile system Antey 2500, or S-300 VM, is on display at the opening of the MAKS Air Show in Zhukovsky outside Moscow, Russia. Russia has supplied similar systems to Syria. Russia has merged several branches of its military into the Aerospace Forces, a reorganization aimed at enhancing coordination and efficiency. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev, File)

President Vladimir Putin has launched an ambitious program of modernizing Russia’s military arsenals. The Kremlin has been keen to show off the nation’s military muscle amid tensions with the West over Ukraine.

Shoigu said that the military has received about 200 new planes and helicopters, and is to get the same number this year.

He also mentioned a plan to repair and upgrade 108 of the air force’s 125 airfields by 2020.

While pilot training has steadily increased in recent years as part of the Kremlin’s efforts to beef up the military, a recent spate of crashes of combat aircraft has raised concerns about safety standards.

Russian military helicopters from an elite aerobatic squadron including no. 15, second left, fly during an air show in Dubrovichi, Russia, Sunday, Aug. 2, 2015, prior to one of the helicopters crashing. The Mi-28 helicopter gunship was part of a flight of helicopters performing aerobatics at the Dubrovichi firing range in Ryazan region, about 170 kilometers (105 miles) southeast of Moscow, when it crashed Sunday. (Anton Nasonov/RZN.info Photo via AP)
Russian military helicopters from an elite aerobatic squadron including no. 15, second left, fly during an air show in Dubrovichi, Russia, Sunday, Aug. 2, 2015, prior to one of the helicopters crashing. The Mi-28 helicopter gunship was part of a flight of helicopters performing aerobatics at the Dubrovichi firing range in Ryazan region, about 170 kilometers (105 miles) southeast of Moscow, when it crashed Sunday. (Anton Nasonov/RZN.info Photo via AP)

Sunday’s crash of a Mi-28 helicopter gunship from an elite aerobatic squadron, which killed its pilot during an air show, was the seventh military crash this summer.

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