Belgian Air Force Demo Team 2012
   Text  &  Pictures : Alexander Vandenbohede © sbap 2012

On 11 and 12 August Zhukovsky near Moscow was the stage for the celebration of 100 years of military aviation in Russia. It was a huge event whereby the history, current day order of battle and future prospects of the Voyenno-Vozdushnye Sily Rossii were highlighted.

It turned out to be a huge and awesome air show. The number of foreign teams and an extensive part of historic aircraft would make any show a topper. But is was of course the Russian hardware that left us, Westerners, drooling. Five fly-past showed most of the types active in the Air Force, force demonstrations of MiG and Sukhoi fighter and fighter/bombers underlined the strength and agility of these aircraft, and demonstrations of the Sukhoi T-50, Sukhoi S-35S, MiG-29M2, Ka52 and Mi-28N showed the way to the future. Russian Knights and Swifts were the perfect show stoppers. This was a truly unique two day feast for the eyes and ears!

For Soviet/Russian Air Force enthusiasts,  Zhukovsky is sacred ground. It played host to virtually all of Russia’s post-war aviation achievements, from the first jet flight through vertical take-off, to spacecraft. Until the mid-1930  Khodynskoye field, or popularly known as Khodynka, was the centre of Soviet aviation. But the need for longer runways and bigger facilities together with expansion of Moscow, facilitated the move to a new center 45 km SE of Moscow.
 Today, it consists of two runways: VPP-1 and VPP-4. The latter is the largest concrete runway in the world: 5403 by 84 m and with a thickness of 85 cm. There are no weight limitations and it can accommodate any aircraft in the world. Current users of Zhukovsky are the LII Institute (Flight Research Institute)  and all the Russian design bureau except for Beriev, Kamov and Mil.  

The Air Display

So how to start an out-this-world-air show?  Quite simple it turns out: assemble a couple of Su-25s, MiG-29s and Su-27s and let them do a fly-by. And oh, are there some paratroopers around to throw out of a plane?
An impressive start is an understatement indeed. Paratroopers jumped from a Let-410 and unfolded three gigantic flags: Russian national flag, Russian Armed Forces flag and the Russian Air Force flag. Next came a row of 5 Su-25 and 1 Su-25UB from Lipetsk painting the Russian flag in the sky. And in the distance was already a formation of 5 Su-27 and Su-27SM from Krymsk, 7 MiG-29SMT and 1 MiG-29UB from Kursk and 7 Su-25SM and 1 Su-25UB from Buddenovsk in the form of a 100. Happy birthday Russian Air Force and let the party begin!

Historic aircraft

The opening part of the show was devoted to historic aircraft and a large number of different airframes were attracted by the organizers.  Many of these will be familiar to regular visitors of Duxford and La Ferté Alais. However, the Polikarpov I-15 and MiG-3 are types which are never seen at West-European shows. Fittingly a Bleriot opened the show followed by a Fokker DrI and Tummelisa trainer commemorating World War One.

Fittingly a Bleriot opened the show followed by a Fokker DrI
and Tummelisa trainer commemorating World War One.
Not surprisingly, most aircraft were connected to the Great Patriotic War.
First in line were these two Polikarpov I-15bis fighters. One flow on Saturday, while the other flew on Sunday.
Mig-3 Yak-9UM
Yak-11 and Li-2, the Russian "Dakota"
And last of the Russian examples was this beautiful Polikarpov Po-2 which served as a trainer
 but also a light bomber harassing the German lines during daring night raids.

Delivery of aircraft under a Lend-Lease arrangement provided necessary breathing space after the German attack in 1941.
The Hurricane was one of the first aircraft types supplied to the USSR. 3360 were delivered and despite being obsolete by the time of delivery,
it became the mount of more than a dozen aces. Also (only) 10 ex-RAF Mustangs were delivered to the USSR

861 B-25 bombers were shipped and saw extensive service during for instance the Battle of Kursk.
184 Catalinas were taken on charge. However, before the outbreak of the war, Catalinas were already license-build in Tagenrog.
82 AT-6s were delivered and used as trainers.
The Red Bull Corsair was the only aircraft which did not fit in here since
 it was never delivered to the USSR.

MiG-15 and PZL Swidnik Mi-2 represented Soviet aviation after the Great Patriotic War. The Mi-2 is still flying with DOSAAF.

Foreign Display Teams

A number of foreign displays were invited. Frecce Tricolori, Red Arrows, Midnight Hawks, Team Iskra and the Rafale solo display performed in the Russian sky. Especially the Red Arrows were interesting since they flew with only 6 instead of the, for this year, usual 7 Hawks.

Parade time

5 impressive fly-bys of aircraft showed what is currently in service with the Russian Air Force.
First fly-by was of the Tupolev bombers: 3 Tu-22M3 from Chaikovka followed by 3 Tu-95MS and 3 Tu-160 from Engels
Antonov was next to make its mark: 3 An-2, followed by an An-26, An-140 and An-12 BP from Chkalovsky,
followed by an An-22 from Tver and concluded by an An-124 again from Chkalovsky
Some transports and special duty planes: Tu-134UBL from Chkalovsky, 3 Il-76MD from Tver,  an Il-80 from Chkalovsky and an A-50 from Ivanovo.
And a mixed duty fly-by: 3 Su-24M  and an Su-24M4 from Lipetsk, 4 MiG-31B and MiG-31BM from Savasleyka, 4 Su-34 from Voronezh and 4 Yak-130 from Borisoglebsk.
Mil-Mi 8 and Mil-Mi 26 A pair of Mil-Mi 24 "Hind"

Capability Demonstrations

Supermaneuverability. You read about it and you watch it on youtube. But it leaves you with your jaw on the ground when you see it live in action.

This company owned Su-35S impressed the public every minute of its display.
DOSAAF was present with a formation of 5 L-39C trainers from Vyasma.
This formation of 6 Mil Mi-28N was named after the Berkuty “Golden Eagles” team, formerly flying on Mi-24P Hinds.
Although looking impressive, it did nothing more than flying a circuit in a fixed formation
The other attack helicopter, the Ka-52 Alligator gave a full display.
Yakovlev and Sukhoi have produced a line of excellent airplanes for aerobatics.
This was demonstrated by a solo display of a Su-31 and a group demonstration of 3 Yak -52 and 1 Yak-54 of DOSAAF
MiG and Sukhoi both displayed their latest. The MiG-29M2 4++ generation fighter performed a solo display before joining up with the Sukhoi T-50 fifth generation fighter. Both flew in formation before the public. This was the second prototype of the T-50.
Unfortunately, it did not perform a solo display as was the case at last year’s MAKS
Four MiG-29 from Astrachan made a fly-by before breaking in two pairs for a mock dog-fight demo.
An impressive fly-by was made by 2 MiG-29, 4 Su-34 and 4 Su-27SM and Su-27SM3 from Lipetsk. The MiG-29 performed a dog-fight demo, after which the formation of Su-34 made a head-on break. One of the Su-34 made a demo of its capabilities. Last were the Flankers which made some four-ship passes before disappearing in style.

A Tale of Knights and Swifts

Only a handful of display teams are equipped with the frontline fighter of their country. The Roosskiye Vityazi or Russian Knights and the Strizhi or Swifts are two members of this exclusive group. Both teams are run by the 237th Guards Aircraft Demonstration Center, based at Kubinka some 60 km from Moscow. 

Pilots from Kubinka were the first in the Soviet Air Force to master solo and group aerobatics on jet aircraft. As early as 1th May 1946, aces from Kubinka made a formation fly-past over Moscow’s Red Square in Yak-15 fighters. Quickly Kubinka gained fame as the Air Force’s “school of aerobatics”. In 1989 the then 1 Sqn of 234th GvIAP re-equipped with Su-27 and Su-27UB. On 5th April 1991 the Roosskiye Vityazi were established at the 237th TsPAT in which the 234th GvIAP had transformed.

The story of the Strizhi is similar. In 1984, four pilots of the 234th GvIAP made the first display flight in diamond formation in their MiG-29s. In mid-1990, the team was officially organized given the name Strizhi.
Both teams were scheduled to disbanded after last year’s MAKS and be replaced by a new team on Yak-130.  Fortunately, this did not happen and both teams still performed this year to give this centennial celebration a fitting finale. Strizhi flew with 3 MiG-29 and 1 MiG-29UB, Roosskiye Vityazi flew with 5 Su-27. Instead of flying two displays, both teams acted as one and performed an impressive choreography

The teams arrived in style, a diamond nine with the MiGs surrounded by the Flankers. After a couple of fly-pasts, the teams split up.
The Knights continued with some formation passes before the Swifts made their reappearance noted with their typical black smoke and flares.
The Strizhi took over the display ground
Russian Knights arrived back on the scene with landing lights on and gear down.
They quickly broke up in a four-ship and a solo
. And of course a finale with plenty of flares.


The static was relatively small but impressive. It included a number of current day frontline aircraft types, upgrades and historic aircraft.

Let’s start with the helicopters. The smallest one was a Kazan Ansat-U training helicopter, the largest one was a Mil Mi26.
Two upgrades of the venerable Mil Mi-8 were on show. Left one is a Mi8-MTV5.
This utility helicopter is the latest, mass-produced version of the ‘Hip’ from the Kazan production line.
Right one is a Mi-8AMTSh transport/assault helicopter and is the Alan-Ude-built equivalent
Three dedicated attack helicopters were on show: Mil Mi-24VM, Mil Mi-28N and Ka-52. The Su-25SM is the fixed wing ground attack en close-support equivalent.
Il-76MD is the main transport plane of the Russian Air Force, while the A-50 is the current AEW&C platform.
How cool is this, eye to eye with two of the most impressive bombers: a Tu-95MS and a Tu-160.
An An-140 for VIP transport and a Yak-130, the future of Russian jet training.
Four Flankers colored the static with their graceful lines. First is a Su-27SM3, an extensive upgrade with new engines and avionics.
The second is a Su-30M2, outwardly identical to the Chinese and Venezuelan latest
Su-34 is the replacement for the Su-24 fleet. Red 05 is equipped with wingtip ECM pods.
And the last Flanker is the first production model of the Su-35S. Notice the downturned nozzles of the trust-vectoring engines
Obviously, MiG cannot stay behind and two examples were on show. The first one is a MiG-29SMT, multi-role fighter, taken over by the Russian MoD from an Algerian order. MiG-31BM is the mid-life upgrade of the M-version making this heavy interceptor and mini airborne command post still a force to reckon with.
And we conclude the static here with three beautiful historic aircraft: Nieuport 17 with the roundel of the then Imperial Russian Air Force,
a Polikarpov Po-2 equipped as a light bomber
...and a MiG-3 fighter.

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