Major structural reforms to the Russian army, announced by the Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu, will increase the size of the Russian Aerospace Forces by nine aviation regiments and add six army aviation brigades.
The reforms, announced by Shoigu on the afternoon of December 21, 2022, will see the creation of two new military districts in addition to the five Russia currently has.
The number of active personnel will be increased from 1.15 million to 1.5 million and the number of contract soldiers will triple.
Three new operational commands are going to be created within the Air Force, which is a part of the country’s Aerospace Forces colloquially known as VKS (from Rus. Vozdushno-kosmicheskiye sily).
The restructuring will also see the creation of nine new aviation regiments: eight bomber regiments and one fighter regiment.
Six army aviation brigades will also be created, Shoigu added, and an aviation brigade with between 80 and 100 helicopters is going to be added to each combined arms army and tank army. Russia’s army aviation, which operates primarily attack and transport helicopters, operates separately from the VKS.
The size and number of regiments within the VKS constantly fluctuate. According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Military Balance report, at the beginning of 2022 Russia had three bomber regiments and six fighter regiments, in addition to five mixed regiments with fighter and ground attack units, four long-range bomber squadrons, and one expeditionary fighter squadron.
This means that the bomber force of the VKS is bound to be the most affected by the restructuring. It was not revealed if the new regiments are going to be created by procuring new equipment or repurposing existing aircraft, however, the fact that VKS is going to have eleven regiments instead of just three indicates a significant change.
The 2009 restructuring of the Russian military, initiated by Shoigu’s forerunner Anatoly Serdyukov, sought to do away with the regimental structure, inherited from the Soviet Union, and transition to airbase as the main structural unit, composed of squadrons. Shoigu reversed many of Serdyukov’s decisions, and under the new defense minister an aviation regiment became roughly comparable to an airbase in size.
Existing regiments are divided between four operational commands, a separate expeditionary group, and the Kaliningrad Special District. Currently, various VKS regiments consist of between 8 and 30 aircraft, although even this range is by no means universal.