From cadet to sniper – classification of VKS airmen

At the end of last year, more than forty young pilots who recently graduated from aviation schools of the Russian Aerospace Forces, have arrived to aviation regiments in the Tver area. There, within the training programme of the Military Transport Aviation (MTA), they will have the opportunity to become a certified MTA airmen of the 3rd class.

During the year 2022, the young lieutenants will participate in a comprehensive training programme, improving their qualifications under supervision of experienced instructors. Until the end of the year, the trainees will have to achieve at least 300 flying hours, during day and night, as well as to practice procedures for various emergency situations. Within the framework of the training programme, they will perform several missions, typical for the MTA aircraft – transfer of military equipment and personnel, airborne operations and also special tasks.

At the end of the year, after successful passing of the certification exam, the young lieutenants will be awarded with their initial military pilot grade – ´Military pilot of 3rd class´.

Young lieutenants of the MTA during the live-fly training

Current classification system used in the Russian military aviation has its origins in the 1930s. Initially, it included only the 1st class badge for reconnaissance-observer personnel. The three-grade system for military pilots was introduced in 1950 and, with some modifications, survived until the end of the 20th century.

The modern classification system was officially established in 2000. It includes four different classes for pilots / navigators (3rd, 2nd, 1st class and ´sniper´ – лётчик / штурман третьего, второго, первого класса; лётчик / штурман-снайпер), three for instructor pilots / navigators (3rd, 2nd, 1st class – лётчик / штурман-инструктор третьего, второго, первого класса) and another four for other onboard specialists (3rd, 2nd, 1st class and ´master´ – бортовой специалист третьего, второго, первого класса; бортовой специалист-мастер).

Achieving of any grade is not permanent, the classifications must be confirmed every two years for all personnel of the 3rd class and every three years for the other classes. There is also no possibility to skip any of the grades or being awarded the highest class without become qualified for each grade one by one.

1st class pilot badge

For the military pilots, each grade confirms their skills and means in particular:

  • 3rd class – achieving at least 300 flying hours, ability to fly any combat mission in good weather conditions during the day,
  • 2nd class – 400 flying hours or more, ability to fly any combat mission in adverse weather conditions during the day and good weather conditions during the night,
  • 1st class – 500 flying hours or more, ability to fly any combat mission in adverse weather conditions at any time of day or night, as well as at minimum weather conditions,
  • ´sniper´ – a pilot who achieved at least 1,500 flying hours in adverse weather conditions, during both day and night, and also completed a required number of combat missions, being evaluated as ´excellent performance´.

Navigators and onboard specialists have their own qualification systems, depending on particular position, type of aircraft, performed tasks and branch of military aviation.

Training flights in Tver aviation regiment

Cover photo and photos 1 and 3 © Russian MoD (Министерство обороны Российской Федерации), used under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. MoD press information were used.