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Putin promises to boost Russian air force

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Aug. 11, 2012, 5:58 p.m. | Russia and former Soviet Union — by Associated Press

Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, and Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Air Force Viktor Bondarev, top, watch as they attend the Russian air force's 100th anniversary in Zhukovsky, outside Moscow, Russia, on Saturday, Aug. 11, 2012.
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Associated Press

Associated Press

MOSCOW — President Vladimir Putin has promised to re-equip the Russian air force with hundreds of new aircraft as part of an ambitious military modernization program.

Speaking Saturday at an airshow marking the air force's 100th anniversary, Putin said the military will receive more than 600 new combat planes and 1,000 helicopters by 2020.

He said boosting the air force is a key priority for the government.

Russia's defense spending has fallen sharply since the 1991 Soviet collapse, leaving the air force to rely on aging Soviet-built planes, but a recent boom in oil revenues has allowed the Kremlin to launch a costly effort to upgrade military arsenals.

Air force chief Gen. Viktor Bondarev said on Ekho Moskvy radio that the military will get 180 new aircraft this year alone.

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