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Soviet Union

Frontal Aviation

Frontal Aviation was the Soviet Union's tactical air force assigned to the military districts and the groups of forces. Its mission was to provide air support to Ground Forces units. Frontal Aviation cooperated closely with the Air Defense Aviation arm of the Air Defense Forces. Protected by the latter's fighterinterceptors , Frontal Aviation in wartime would deliver conventional, nuclear, or chemical ordnance on the enemy's supply lines and troop concentrations to interdict its combat operations. It would be under the operational control of Ground Forces field commanders. In 1989 Frontal Aviation was divided into sixteen air armies composed of fighter, fighter-bomber, tactical reconnaissance, and electronic warfare aircraft.

In 1989 Frontal Aviation operated about 5,000 fixed- and rotary-wing combat and reconnaissance aircraft, which included 270 Su-25, 650 Su-17, and 1,050 MiG-27 ground attack aircraft. It also operated 450 MiG-29 and 350 Su-24 deep interdiction fighterbombers , in addition to the 450 that belonged to the Strategic Air Armies. The Air Forces used the heavily armed Su-25, first deployed in 1979, effectively during the early years of the war in Afghanistan when mujahidin forces lacked modern air defense systems.

During the 1980s, the Soviet Union doubled the size of its force of helicopters. Helicopter regiments and squadrons were attached to Frontal Aviation's air armies to provide tactical mobility for, and additional fire support to, the Ground Forces. The Mi-6, Mi-8, and Mi-26 helicopters would transport motorized rifle units and equipment into battle or land assault units behind enemy lines. The Mi-24, often referred to as the Hind, was the most heavily armed helicopter in the world. It was used extensively in both fire support and air assault roles in Afghanistan. In 1989 the Soviet Union was testing a new helicopter, the Mi-28, designed to be an antitank helicopter.

Data as of May 1989