COMUSAFE concludes Russian visit

  • Published
  • By Capt. Elizabeth Culbertson
  • U.S. Air Forces in Europe Public Affairs
Improved relations and future operational cooperation between U.S. and Russian air forces was the goal of a four-day visit to Russia by the commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe.

Gen. Tom Hobbins, who visited Moscow and Lipetsk Air Base Aug. 14 to 17, said the military-to-military relationship building was important because of the potential to work and fly together in the future.

"Ultimately what I'd like to see is a common air picture, open to NATO nations and the Russian Federation, so that we have a deep appreciation and understanding of what each of us is looking at," General Hobbins said.

During his trip, the general visited the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, where he was briefed on the state of U.S.-Russian relations by senior members of the embassy staff. He also visited the 4th Center for Combat Use and Flight Training at Lipetsk AB, where he received a base tour and had the opportunity to fly in an SU-27 Flanker and MiG-29 Fulcrum. He also toured Moscow's Victory Park, a museum and monuments dedicated in 1995 to the 50th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War II.

"It was a great opportunity for General Hobbins to build a relationship with these two senior Air Force leaders based around aviation and military issues," said Hunter Hustus, political adviser to General Hobbins. "They discussed common areas of concern between the Russian Federation and the U.S. Air Force."

First Lt. John Morash, who accompanied as the general's interpreter, visited Russia dozens of times in his former position as a Russian interpreter and arms inspector at the Defense Threat Reduction Agency and was impressed with his first trip to a Russian tactical fighter base.

"I've spent a lot of time in Russia and across the former Soviet Union working with their military on arms control-related programs and treaties. Most of the time, I was at bomber, submarine or missile bases," he said. "After racking up over 50 trips in the former Soviet Union, Lipetsk was the cleanest and best-kept base I've seen to date."

As far as future visits and engagements, Mr. Hustus said the possibilities are vast.

"We were trying to find areas where we could cooperate and work together for interoperability," he said. "This trip did identify and open the dialogue on a few areas where we share a common interest and could work together in the future."

One possibility for future cooperation, said General Hobbins, is flying together in a coalition aimed at humanitarian operations.

Overall, Lieutenant Morash said the trip was a success.

"The reason for the trip was to get to know each other and establish a foundation for flying together as wingmen in the future -- mission accomplished," he said.