The Ukrainian Defense Ministry is willing to loan Russia facilities on Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula for naval pilot training, Defense Minister Mykhailo Yezhel said.
In line with a 1997 bilateral agreement, Russia occasionally uses the Nitka Naval Pilot Training Center in Ukraine as the only training facility for its naval pilots.
Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov formally asked his Ukrainian counterpart to rent the Nitka facilities on a permanent basis.
“I think it would be better to rent the [Nitka] facilities out to Russia so that the Russian side takes over the upkeep while the [Ukrainian] support personnel continues to work at the facility,” Yezhel said at a news briefing on Friday.
“The final decision must be taken at the highest political level,” the minister said. “We will wait and see.”
According to Russian estimates, the rent of the Nitka Center would cost Russia about $700,000 annually.
The facility was built in the Soviet era for pilots to practice their skills in taking off from and landing on an aircraft carrier’s deck.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, the facility remained under Ukrainian jurisdiction. The Ukrainian Navy does not have an aircraft carrier.
The center provides naval aviation training facilities such as a launch pad, an aerofinisher, a trampoline, a catapult launching device, a glide-path localizer, a marker beacon, and an optical landing system.
Russia, which has only one aircraft carrier – the Admiral Kuznetsov – is aiming to finish drafting plans for a new nuclear-powered aircraft carrier for its Navy by 2012 and build at least three of the ships for its Northern and Pacific fleets.