Russia, China and two other nations will participate in an air force competition next month that will include more than 50 aviation crews, the Russian Defense Ministry said Wednesday. The competition, which will occur as part of a larger Russian-operated international military competition, will unfold amid growing Western concern about Russia’s military activity.
Dubbed “Aviadarts,” the air force competition will be held from August 1 to August 15 in western and central Russia, Russian state news agency Tass reported. Crews from Russia and China will compete against aviation personnel from Belarus and Kazakhstan. More than 100 pilots were expected to participate in events that will resemble standard military exercises, including simulated attacks on ground targets.
“The launching sites of the anti-aircraft missile systems will be used as targets at the shooting range for the first time. Aside from that, ground-based targets will imitate the maneuver enemy’s airfield, the airport’s ramp, a wing of fighter aircraft on combat alert duty on the runway strip and a convoy of armored vehicles,” the Russian Defense Ministry said in a press release.
The vast majority of aircraft used in the competition are Russian-made. Bombers and other assault aircraft will carry out mock raids, while transport aircraft will be graded on how accurately they deliver their cargo.
“Aviadarts” will occur as part of Russia’s “International Army Games,” with 15 nations participating in 15 competitions, including a tank biathlon. More than 2,000 foreign military personnel will travel to Russia for the games, Tass reported.
Western officials have been publicly critical of Russia amid a marked increase in military activity in eastern Europe. Aside from a growing number of Russian military training exercises, the Kremlin has drawn international scrutiny after its annexation of Crimea in March 2014 and apparent support of pro-Russian separatist rebels active in Eastern Ukraine.
The United States has endeavored in recent months to reassure its NATO allies in eastern Europe that they have the alliance’s military support. U.S. Army engineers have worked for months to upgrade roads throughout the Baltic States, as well as Bulgaria, Poland and Romania, and the Pentagon recently committed to send about 250 pieces of heavy weaponry to the region.