The number of Russian planes at the Kant airbase in Kyrgyzstan will expand twofold by the end of the year, a senior air force commander said.
The number of “war planes will double,” Viktor
Sevostyanov, head the Second Air Force and Air Defense Command,
said after arriving in Kant for the celebrations of the base's
“The expansion of the base will take place by December,” he stressed, adding that more pilots will also be sent to Kyrgyzstan.
Kant, which is Russia’s only military base in Central Asia, currently hosts 10 Sukhoi fighters, two Mi-8 helicopters and about a dozen other transport and training airplanes.
“Though being pretty young,” the Kyrgyzstan base is fully capable of coping with the tasks, which are set before it, Sevostyanov said.
The Kant base is seen as a vital tool to increase Russian
influence in the region after the US lease at its Manas base
expires in July 2014.
Despite previous disagreements, Moscow and Bishkek signed a deal in September, which prolonged Russian stay at Kant until 2032. The Kremlin agreed to write off nearly half a billion dollars in Kyrgyzstan’s debt in exchange for the contract.
The airbase, situated 20 kilometers from the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek, has a contingent of 250 Russian officers and 150 soldiers.
After the NATO troops’ withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014, it’ll become part of a collective air force, created in the under the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), an intergovernmental military alliance of Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
Meanwhile, the US is planning to pull its flight operations from Manas and use an alternative airbase in Romania as a transit point for troops departing from Afghanistan.