On August 18th, Kazakhstan marks the Day of Formation of the Air Defense Forces.
In 1998, the Air Defense Forces were established in Kazakhstan. Their primary responsibilities include safeguarding the country's airspace borders and providing anti-aircraft defense for key installations. In a conversation with Sarbaz.kz, retired General Zhientai Sadybayev, a military aviator who witnessed the establishment of the Armed Forces in the country, discusses the formation of the new military branch in the independent state and the challenges faced in the early years.
Photo: From the Personal Archive of Zh. Sadybayev
- Zhientai Ibragimovich, please tell us about your career path.
After completing the 10th grade in 1975, I entered the Higher Military Aviation Pilot School in the city of Armavir, Krasnodar Krai. I graduated in 1979. Following that, I was stationed in Rostov-on-Don. I served in the 83rd Guards Aviation Regiment for almost 10 years, rising from a junior pilot to the commander of a fighter aviation squadron. In 1988, I entered the Marshal of the Soviet Union G.K. Zhukov Military Command Academy in Kalinin (now Tver). After graduating from the academy, I was assigned to the position of Deputy Commander of a fighter aviation regiment in Priozersk. Over the years, I held various positions within the Armed Forces of Kazakhstan, including regiment commander, First Deputy Commander of the Air Force of Kazakhstan, Deputy Commander of the Air Defense Forces, and First Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Kazakhstan. In collaboration with Kazakhstan's first cosmonaut, Major General Talgat Aubakirov, we established an aviation training center to teach pre-conscription youth the basics of flight mastery from a young age. The center operated effectively for over 10 years. Currently, I work at RSE "KazAeroNavigation" as the Head of the Department of International Non-Regular Flights Facilitation and Clearance.
- Please tell us about the process of establishing the Air Defense Forces in Kazakhstan.
To discuss the establishment of the Air Defense Forces of the Republic of Kazakhstan (RK), it is important to provide context regarding the creation of the national Armed Forces following the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The first directive from Marshal of the Soviet Union B.M. Shaposhnikov, the Minister of Defense of the Armed Forces of the Commonwealth of Independent States, was received by my regiment in Priozersk near Balkhash, detailing the disbandment of the aviation unit and the transfer of aircraft to the city of Bratsk, Russian Federation. At that time, I was serving as the Deputy Commander of the regiment. The regiment was equipped with 15 MiG-31B aircraft and 15 MiG-25 PD aircraft. This modern equipment was acquired in December 1991, and our flight personnel underwent training, prepared to relocate to the Tiksi airfield in the polar region, which was considered a high-risk missile direction. However, due to the swift actions of the Aviation Department of the State Defense Committee, led by the legendary General S.K. Nurmagambetov, a second directive was issued a few days later to disband the regiment and transfer the aircraft to the Semipalatinsk regiment. At this juncture, it is important to acknowledge the names of the servicemen who significantly contributed to the formation and development of the Air Force, as well as the preservation of aviation equipment: Generals M. Altynbaev, T. Aubakirov, M. Ibraev, S. Nurgozhin, Colonel K. Bayzhigitov, and many others.
- What challenges did you and your colleagues face during that complex period?
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, we were confronted with two primary tasks: ensuring the preservation of military equipment and preventing a decrease in combat readiness. We encountered several challenges, including personnel shortages at all levels of the Armed Forces, rampant inflation, a sharp decline in the standard of living for both civilians and military personnel, lack of agreements with manufacturing plants, shortage of aviation fuel, desertion among conscripted soldiers, incidents of hazing within the military, and consistent power outages, which were widespread. To address the shortage of specialists, we took proactive measures. Even during the Soviet era, Karaganda housed an aviation training center. Pilots trained on jet planes like the L-29. The center disbanded in 1991. I made the decision to assign some of my subordinates to recruit former center employees through the draft board to serve in the combat regiment. Over 10 individuals expressed a desire to serve in the Armed Forces of RK and arrived in Semipalatinsk. Initially, they served as navigators-operators, and subsequently, some of them transitioned to pilot positions.
Photo: Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Kazakhstan
- How were the Armed Forces of Kazakhstan established?
At the time of the Soviet Union's dissolution, there were two corps on the territory of Kazakhstan: the Air Defense Corps and the Air Force Corps in Almaty. The Air Defense Corps consisted of three branches: aviation, anti-aircraft missile forces, and radio-technical forces. The Air Force Corps comprised aviation branches: fighter, fighter-bomber, bomber, reconnaissance, transport, and army aviation. In 1998, a decision was made to reorganize the Armed Forces into three branches, including the Air Defense Forces, the Forces of General Purpose, and the Border Guard Forces. The Air Defense Forces and the Air Force were merged to create the Air Defense Forces of the Republic of Kazakhstan (SVOR). The Forces of General Purpose include the Ground Forces organized into military districts. The Border Guard Forces will later be transferred to the National Security Committee of Kazakhstan.
- What is your perspective on the modern army? Have you achieved all the goals you aspired to?
Currently, the Air Defense Forces possess modern aircraft, helicopters, and strike capabilities. The leadership of the Air Defense Forces is composed of young, educated, talented commanders who, at the inception of the Armed Forces, held the rank of lieutenants and now hold positions as generals and military chiefs. I view our Armed Forces with optimism. I particularly commend the strategic direction that the Ministry of Defense embraced several years ago: the modernization of the aircraft and helicopter fleet and the incorporation of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) into the operational composition of units and divisions. As modern warfare relies heavily on the extensive use of aerial vehicles, it is heartening to witness the acquisition of UAVs of various classes: tactical, operational, and strategic. Plans are in motion to establish domestic production capabilities.
Photo: Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Kazakhstan