COMUSAFE boosts U.S.-Russian relations with visit

  • Published
  • By Capt. Elizabeth Culbertson
  • U.S. Air Forces in Europe Public Affairs
The commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe is in Russia to bolster relationships and security cooperation between U.S. and Russian Air Forces during a visit Aug. 14 to 17.

Gen. Tom Hobbins' visit is reciprocal for one taken by Gen. Col. Aleksandr Zelin, deputy commander in chief of the Russian Federation Air Force, and Gen. Maj. Aleksandr Kharchevskiy, chief of the 4th Center for Combat Use and Flight Training, in 2003.

On the first day of his trip, General Hobbins 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.

"This visit is about cooperation in the global war on terrorism ... understanding each other, commonality of tactics, techniques and procedures," said Brig. Gen. Dan Eagle, defense attaché to Russia. "This visit hopefully will lead to further visits, dialogues and training opportunities."

While at Lipetsk Air Base, the general flew in Russian performance aircraft with Gen. Col. Zelin and Gen. Maj. Kharchevskiy.

"When Gen. Col. Zelin and Gen. Maj. Kharchevskiy visited USAFE, they each got F-15E (Strike Eagle) rides," General Eagle said. "So today, General Hobbins received flights in the SU-27 (Flanker) and MiG-29 (Fulcrum)."

During his flights in the fighter aircraft, the general observed and then performed multiple aerobatic maneuvers and gained an appreciation for the planes and pilots.

"It's obvious the aircraft are meticulously maintained," General Hobbins said. "These are very good airplanes and I'm flying with skilled masters."

General Hobbins said he enjoyed flying with the Russian aviators.

"I am grateful to the Russian Federation Air Force for giving me the opportunity to fly; it was my pleasure to fly with the very best in the Russian Federation."

The general said he is looking forward to U.S. and Russian air forces working together more frequently in the future.

"I anticipate that sometime in the future, we'll have a coalition with the Russian Federation Air Force and we'll want to know as much as possible about flying together," General Hobbins said. "That's why we're here -- to familiarize each other on how we operate militarily."