Russian airshow. Defying gravity.
Back from Moscow, with thrust, love and emotion
Strangely or luckily, december is a month charged with symbolic matters as regard to aviation in the Russian Federation. 100 years ago, first bombers were mainly of wood construction, apart from their engines, but still too heavy and low powered to break speed records against fighter aircraft. For that reason, the first four engines aircraft ever produced in Aviation History, Sikorsky S-22 Ilya Muromets , was nicknamed " hedgehog ". This giant had a 31 m wingspan and was 19 m long. On December 12th 1913, it flew for the first time ever, and two days later it flew a 1,1 t. freight. In service with Russian Imperial Forces during WWI, a few S-22s still fought during the 1919 war between Russia and Poland. All in all, between 60 and 80 S-22s were produced. Ilya Muromets not only remains acknowledged as one of the founding achievments in the history of aviation in Russia, but as the first of the russian giants. But still nowadays remains Russia as a leader with aerospace giant prospects. Largest of such nowadays featured at airshows are Antonov An-124 cargo freighters, and interestingly at MAKS 2013, there was the huge Mil-Mi 26 Halo on display with fire extinguishment features. Of course, public entrance was blessed with the Tupolev Tu-144 on which wings I have been walking a few years ago. As such, the Tu-144 remains a trademark for me.
MAKS 2013 looked as a media plan launched by Russian Federation aerospace industry supporting the airliners industry. Gone is the time when the Tupolev 144 was a flagship for Aeroflot and russian civil aviation. Sukhoi SSJ-100 is facing stiff competition, in Russia, with Antonov An-148, at it remains yet to be seen how these - commuters / small airlines ships - will succeed on the world market against the Brazilian, Chinese and Canadian products …, but they could do, future will tell. So at present, Russians know without doubts at all, they can rely on their military industry. UAC aircraft from Sukhoi and Yakovlev are planned for delivery in Algeria, Venezuela, Vietnam, Indonesia, Sri Lanka to name but a few. China is discussing a possible order of 24 Su-35, and several countries (even Australia (!) have shown more or less interest with this Flanker 4th Generation variant. The Russian government launched unprecedented global re-equipment programs for the forces a few years ago ; it will also more than support that country's defense industry. So in the next four years, it is planned that Federation of Russia's defense budget will by raised by 60%. I admit that Russia's largest order of a 4th Generation military aircraft, is the decision to buy no less than 124 Sukhoi Su-34 bombers, even if it is ordered in several batches. By December 16th, 32 Su-34s have already been delivered to the Forces.
Top of the list of new equipments ordered by Russian Federation MoD for the Russian Air Force is Sukhoi Su-35. At MAKS, an Air Force 35 was displayed by Sergei Vaschuk. 48 Su-35 S were ordered in 2009, and 22 were already delivered by December 25th, 2013. In 2009, MAKS visitors had discovered the first Su-35 BM, displayed for the first time ever. The Su-35 is powered by two UFA AL-31F 117S engines, delivering no less than 34.500 kg of thrust. Thanks to these 117S thrust-vectored engines, this air superiority combat aircraft is able to defy gravity, aiming to any axis anytime of an engagement against any opponent up to 9Gs. Also maneuvering around its center of gravity, daily, was the two seats variant of the same generation Flanker, named Sukhoi Su-30 SM. Also thrusted by two 117S, Su-30 SM could maneuver around its center of gravity, as shown by test pilot Viacheslav Averianov. A first contract to deliver 30 Su-30 SM to the Air Force was signed in March 2012. Then a further order for 30 more aircraft was signed in mid-December 2012. Apart from characteristics of agility equal to single seat Su-35, the 30 SM has an air-to-ground and anti-ship capability. Also on show at Zhukovskii, was the latest MiG-35, still an unlucky product on the export market, though it may change. Anyway 37 MiG-35 Fulcrum F are to be purchased for the Air Force, and around 2016 only, because at present, the industry is reported not to be capable to fulfill that contract. 16 MiG-29 SMT combat aircraft will be purchased instead. Also on display, the Yakovlev Yak-130 Mitten had more than a jet trainer to show, as it flew with agility all with a - simulated ? - air-to-surface payload. Though shared as a common aircraft with India (as the 5th Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA), the Sukhoi T-50 is the latest under-development combat fighter aircraft. T-50 features fully stealthy characteristics, super cruise capability. I noticed its super maneuverability characteristics that are very close to the Su-35. On October 29th, a fifth T-50 prototype was delivered by the Gagarin Factory at Komosomolsk-on-Amur. Already 450 flights have been achieved to date. Air Force acceptance trials will begin next year. At MAKS, the Sukhoi T-50 was displayed by Sergei Bogdan.
It was reported at Zhukovskii, that pilots of the Russkiye Vityazi (the Russian Knights) test flew there, the Su-30 SM, achieving several aerobatic maneuvers . It is confirmation that the team is to convert from their current Su-27s and Su-27 UBs to the Su-35/30SM. In the meantime, future of the other team, Strizhi (The Swifts) does not look clear at present. But several sources such as Novosti suggest will fly MiG-35s or Yak-130s. These plans to equip national teams based at Kubinka with 4+ generation jet fighters were officially announced by russian medias, one year ago exactly, on december 25th, 2012 (!). Anyhow I personally think that servicing some MiG-35s with Strizhi would be an excellent and obvious support for MiG and UAC for export, displaying the still unsold latest MiG in airshows worldwide in a terrific six ships display team. Suffice to watch latest russian combat aircraft sales worldwide. Russia is second to the USA at exporting worldwide. All russian currently supplied markets are with UAC Sukhoi combat jets, excepting that of the Indian Navy, delivered with MiG-29 K/KUB airplanes. Obviously MiG needs a boost somewhere. In the meantime, Strizhi still perform one of the best air display anywhere in the world : at Zhukovskii four Strizhi MiG-29 Fulcrums joined five Russkyie Vityazi Sukhoi Su-27 UB, performing a Diamond Nine, all trailing all sorts of vortices and other visual effects created by all kinds of engine smokes combined with white trails. The formation was led with virtuosity by Russkyie leader, Lt. Colonel Andrey Alexeyev. The other four Sukhoi Su-27/27 UB team flying at Moscow was from Lipetsk test Centre. But on Friday show, these " Sokoli Rossi " were lead by a fifth heavy jet, one of the first Sukhoi Su-34s delivered to the Air Force, and flown by Gen. Karchevskii.
If you like pictures in this report, you will see some more, and the best ones in this book that I have published last month - and that you can order here to the publisher : http://www.pascalgalodeediteurs.com/pge_290_aviation_livre-aviation-photo-salon__9782355932410.html
It has always been a great pleasure for me to attend the airshow in Moscow. Being blessed with exclusive photographic locations, I can achieve stunning photographs of all a participating aircraft. I send a big thank you to MAKS Media team for making all this possible, and for being helpful with so much.