Soviet Union Table of Contents
Naval Aviation was primarily landbased; its main mission was to conduct air strikes on enemy ships and fleet support infrastructure. The importance attached to its antiship mission was shown by the fact that Naval Aviation has received almost as many TU-26 bombers as have the Strategic Air Armies. Naval Aviation also provided ASW and general reconnaissance support for naval operations.
In 1989 Naval Aviation consisted of nearly 1,000 fixed-wing aircraft and over 300 helicopters. The Naval Aviation fleet included 130 Tu-26 and 230 Tu-16 medium-range bombers armed with air-to-surface cruise missiles for carrying out antiship strikes. Naval Aviation also had 100 Su-17 and Su-24 fighter-bombers that provided close air support to Naval Infantry. Older aircraft in Naval Aviation's inventory have been converted into ASW and maritime reconnaissance platforms.
Since the 1970s, the Soviet Naval Forces have attempted their overcome its major weakness--fleet air defense beyond the range of land-based aircraft--by deploying four Kiev-class aircraft carriers. These carriers each had a squadron of Yak-38 fighters. In the late 1980s, the Soviet Union was also constructing and fitting out its first two Tbilisi-class carriers. Western observers expected that a variant of the new Su-27 or MiG-29 fighter would become the main Soviet carrier-based aircraft. Soviet carriers also operated Ka-25 and Ka-27 naval helicopters for ASW reconnaissance, targeting, and search-and-rescue missions.
Data as of May 1989