Belarusian pilots resume night bombing training after long break

Thursday, Feb 23,2012, 8:48:15 PM

Two green flares go up, and it means that flights began at the 116th Guards assault airbase. The goal of tonight's drill is to practice night bombing of targets lit by luminous air bombs (LAB).

Pilots did this exercise after a lengthy break. Many of them did it for the first time.

"To be able to bomb targets, lit from the air, it is necessary to complete other exercises in the course of battle training," airbase commander Guards Col Alyaksandr Karew said. "Today, the level of training of Belarusian pilots allows raising their professionalism up one level."

A pilot should regularly fly to improve his or her skills. Interruptions between flights simply prevent them from moving further. For example, average flight hours of each pilot in the 116th Guards assault airbase totalled 67 per pilot. Flight crews participated in the Union Shield 2011 joint battle exercise carried out flights in Russia's Gorokhovetskiy training ground, and practiced landing aircraft to airstrip-like parts of motorways. The air unit held manoeuvres with one of the air squadrons, and its pilots participated in a military parade.

Col Karew is confident that the skills received by officers last year set a good foundation for advancing further in the pilot training program this year.

The airfield is noisy from dawn to dusk. Planes fly almost each day in two flight shifts. Pilots train hitting ground targets with a single plane, in pairs and in wings.

Crews of the assault aircraft practice piloting and navigation skills on low and extremely low altitudes.

I was watching as technicians were refuelling planes, checking engine oil levels, and testing plane systems... They were attaching additional fuel tanks to Su-25 attack planes, because this night they had to run a mission at Ruzhany firing grounds 150 km away from the airfield.

The day before the pilots who were to complete this exercise for the first time listened with interest to their more experienced comrades, including those with combat experience in Afghanistan. For example, holders of Red Star order Guards Lt-Col Leanid Kashyryn and former commander of the 206th assault airbase, reserve Col Alyaksandr Zimin. Both are flight commanders during the exercises here: the first one in the commander of flights at firing grounds, the other as the airfield commander.

Crews of Su-25 Rooks are cleared to take off. The first to go airborne is the plane of the flight wing commander, Guards Lt-Col Andrey Rachkow, who has a mission to drop luminous bombs. The strike group of four Rooks follows, led by Guards Col Alyaksandr Karew.

Above the firing grounds, Rachkov's plane drops luminous air bombs. Each of them splits to seven bright "torches", slowly descending on parachutes. Several square kilometres of the "battlefield" can be seen as clearly as in daylight.

The strike planes attacks the ground target one after another. The first were pilots guided by instructors in dual cockpit planes, followed by more experiences pilots in single-pilot attack planes.

The planes return to the airfield, and the new group takes off and heads to the firing grounds.

At the control tower, Alyaksandr Karew is vividly discussing the result of the first flight with the pilot who returned to the airfield. I can feel that the airbase commander is in good mood, however he is too busy to speak with me. But I am not offended, because there are many flights ahead.

The flights ended late after midnight.

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