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Vladimir Putin vows huge modernisation of air force as he marks anniversary of Siberian ace pilot

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07 March 2013


Vladimir Putin vows huge modernisation of air force as he marks 100th anniversary of Siberian ace pilot Alexander Pokryshkin. Picture: 

His pledge came as he visited the Chkalov Aviation Plant in Novosibirsk, where he saw the final stage of the Su-34 multipurpose bomber assembly line.

The president marked the 100th anniversary of the birth of legendary ace pilot Alexander Pokryshkin, born in the city before the Bolshevik Revolution.

After being greeted by Novosibirsk Region Governor Vassily Yurchenko, he laid flowers on the monument to the courageous airman, a three times Hero of the Soviet Union.

At a conference dedicated to the development of combat aviation, he said it was vital to strengthen Russian air defences in line with the most advanced in the world. 

'At the moment we are fortunate to have the money we need to carry out in full our ambitious defence capability goals, and to do so according to the needed timeframe and quality standards', Putin said. 

'This is a one-of-its-kind historic opportunity that we must not miss'.

He stressed to directors of major aircraft manufacturers and senior representatives of federal agencies: 'Tomorrow we will not have this money, and we will not have the time either. These are the things we must never forget'.

'Russia needed to almost totally re-equip our combat air force. This concerns all different types of aircraft, strike, reconnaissance, transport aircraft - the whole fleet of planes and helicopters.

'The new models must be the best of their kind around the world. I want to stress this point. You all realise that if we take today~s models as our future blueprint we will end up lagging behind tomorrow and by evening today will already start having to think about upgrading. We need to look at the future and keep our sights at least a few steps ahead.'

Future of Russian aviation was discussed in Novosibirsk

Future of Russian aviation was discussed in Novosibirsk

'At the moment we are fortunate to have the money we need to carry out in full our ambitious defence capability goals. This is a one-of-its-kind historic opportunity that we must not miss', Vladimir Putin said. Pictures: inside Novosibirsk Chkalov aviation plant and, below, Vladimir Putin discussing Russian air force modernisation.  Pictures: 

The government 'plan to buy nearly 2,000 planes and helicopters in order to bring the share of modern aviation equipment in the armed forces up to 70 percent of the total by 2020. At the moment, modern equipment accounts for only around 20 percent, unfortunately.

'The enterprises working in this sector will also need to go through thorough modernisation and bolster their production and personnel capabilities'.

Vladimir Putin's agenda fitted with the anniversary since legendary pilot Pokryshkin was seen as moderniser of the air force whose ideas were crucial to wartime victory. The ace pilot was born in Novonikolayevsk - as Novosibirsk was known during tsarist times - on 6 March 1913. 

Aged 12, he decided to become a pilot and graduated from Perm school of aircraft technicians in 1933, and the Kachinsky school of air pilots in 1939. 

He fought throughout the Second World War - known in Russia as the Great Patriotic War - from the first day in 1941 to its finale in 1945.

He was hailed a a supreme tactician of the Soviet Air Force, but his brave campaign to change the way the country fought in the air led to him being grounded and to plans for him to face a court martial. 

Had superiors not intervened in time, his criticisms of the tactics used by commanders at the time could have cost him his life. 

Pokryshkin commanded an air squadron, a fighter plane regiment, and an air division and saw action on many fronts -  Southern, North Caucasus, as well as the 1st, 2nd, and 4th Ukrainian fronts.

He was involved in liberating Poland and Romania from the Nazi grip, and took part in the offensive operation for Berlin. 

legendary pilot Alexander Pokryshkin

Siberian ace pilot Alexander Pokryshkin at the Red Square Victory Parade on 24 June 1945 with a Banner of the Front. Picture: Yelena Agamyan 

He took part in his last dog fight on 9 May 1945 in the skies over Prague. He made more than 650 sorties and shot down 59 enemy aircraft in 156 aerial combats. He was the first person to be awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union three times. His awards came in 1943 (twice) and 1944.

Pokryshkin was in addition awarded four Orders of Lenin, the Order of the October Revolution, four Orders of the Red Banner, two Orders of Suvorov (2nd class), and two Orders of the Red Star. He was also honoured by foreign countries, and for example, held the US Army Distinguished Service Medal.

At the Red Square Victory Parade on 24 June 1945 he carried a Banner of the Front.

He later held senior commanding positions. The Marshal of the Air Force died on 13 November 1985.

This years has been declared Year of Pokryshkin in Novosibirsk region. 

A photo exhibition called 'The city born to fly' opened this week.

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