MAKS 2009 – Russian Air Power 

Unlike during the previous editions of MAKS, Russian Air Power was not demonstrated in flight during the opening ceremony of the 2009 edition. Although no official reason was given for this, it is most probable that the already tight military budgets came under even more strain since the worldwide financial crisis struck in 2008. At least that was the reason given in the Russian press for the last minute cancellation of the American military participation in MAKS, which had become very prominent during the past two editions with F-15s and F-16s, a B-1, B-52, KC-135 and C-17. In 2007, an F-15 even participated in the flying programme.


In the static show, however, all present-day types serving in the Russian Air Force were present. A survey.



Yak 130


As the Yakovlev Yak-130 training and light ground attack aircraft is also being marketed for export, it was one of the few exceptions of Russian Air Force types that were also presented in flight, albeit only during business days. Yak-130 01 White is the first production aircraft of a first series of 12 ordered in April 2002 from Sokol for delivery to the Russian Air Force by late 2010. It made its maiden flight on 19 May 2009 in Nizhny Novgorod, home of Sokol, and was delivered to the Air Force in late July. The first aircraft will go to the Krasnodar Military Flight School, where they will be used for training of future pilots for fourth and fifth generation combat aircraft. Ultimately, the Russian Air Force has a requirement for 200 units to replace its ageing Let L-39s, hence more orders will probably follow soon. Algeria is the first export customer for the Yak-130 with 16 aircraft on order.




The MiG-29 Fulcrum remains the major lightweight combat aircraft of the Russian Air Force. The type was presented in the static show in the form of carrier-based multirole fighter MiG-29K 804 of the Indian Navy. It was without doubt one of the stars of MAKS 2009.


Like the A-10 Thunderbolt II, its western counterpart, the Su-25 Frogfoot entered series production many decades ago. It is nowadays still the most important close air support aircraft of the Russian Air Force with around 250 in service in a variety of versions. A modernisation programme was initiated in 2001 and series production of the upgraded Su-25SM started in December 2006. At present, around 20 modernised aircraft have been delivered to the Air Force.


Another Russian Air Force type that was also scheduled for the flying programme during the business days was the Sukhoi Su-34 Fullback. Presented in flight was 01 Red, while a fully armed 02 Red could be admired in the static park. The Fullback is an advanced fighter-bomber and strike aircraft intended to replace the Su-24M Fencer-D. The Su-34 prototype flew for the first time on 18 April 1990. Since then, 10 aircraft were built, three of which were series production examples that now have been delivered to the Air Force. Late 2008, a five-year contract was signed for delivery of an additional 32 aircraft.


Although it entered operational service as far back as 1982, the MiG-31 Foxhound is still a formidable Mach 2.8+ interceptor. It is believed that around three quarters of the originally 500 built are still in service with the Russian Air Force. Some minor upgrade programmes were carried out in the 1990s (MiG-31B and MiG-31BS minor upgrades (малая модернизация)). The MiG-31BM upgrade turning the Foxhound into a multirole aircraft, able to deliver not only air-to-air missiles, but also air-to-ground weapons, started in the spring of 2008.


Although replacement of the Su-24 by the Su-34 has been initiated, upgrading programmes for the Su-24M Fencer-D continue, probably because deliveries of large numbers of Su-34s are not expected in the near future. The upgraded version, known as the Su-24M2, has improved navigation and weapons control systems and can carry a wider range of weapons than the baseline aircraft. It entered service from 2006 onwards. Lipetsk based 44 Red is one of the already upgraded aircraft.




The Tupolev Tu-160 Blackjack is the main strategic bomber of the Russian Air Force. Around 35 aircraft have been built, but only 16 are in service with with the 121st Guards Heavy Bomber Regiment at Engels Air Force Base in accordance with the START-2 Treaty. Older aircraft are being upgraded and delivered to the Air Force since July 2006. All Tu-160s are named after famous Russian military or sportsmen. Red 10 is named after Nikolai Kuznetsov (Николай Кузнецов), a famous Soviet intelligence agent and partisan active in Ukraine during the Great Patriotic War.


The second pillar of Russian Long Range Aviation is formed by the Tupolev Tu-95MS Bear-H. The subtype was built between 1983 and 1992 and is the sole type of the Bear still in service with the Russian Air Force. Around 60 are believed to be operational today at Engels and Ryazan Air Force Bases in the Moscow Region and at Ukrainka Air Force Base in the Far East. Tu-95s are named after Russian cities. 21 Red carries the name of the city of Samara (Самара), situated around 1,000 km east of Moscow.


The Russian Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) Beriev A-50 Mainstay is based on the Ilyushin Il-76 transport aircraft and entered service a quarter of a century ago. Two prototypes (serial numbers 10 and 20) and 24 series aircraft (serial numbers 30 till 53) have been built. All operational aircraft are based at the 2457th Air Base at Ivanovo (Иваново), around 250 kilometres north-east of Moscow.




The largest strategic transport aircraft in service with the Russian Air Force – and in the world – is the huge Antonov An-124 Condor, which can carry up to 120 tonnes of freight. Around 20 remain in service.


The backbone of the Russian strategic transport fleet is formed by the 120 or so Ilyushin Il-76 Candid medium transport aircraft with a payload of 45+ tonnes. Although no orders have been placed yet, the Russian Air Force is interested in modernising its Il-76MDs with new Aviadvigatel PS-90A-76 engines, increasing the aircraft’s payload to 50 tonnes while reducing engine noise and fuel consumption. RA-78854 is the first Il-76MD-90 modified aircraft.


For strategic transports to far away austere, unpaved and short airstrips, the Russian Air Force keeps a small number of the venerable Antonov An-22 Cock heavy transport in service. With a payload of 80 tonnes, the An-22 is the world’s largest turboprop aircraft. All Cocks are based at Tver-Migalovo, some 165 kilometres north of Moscow. Most of the aircraft are in standard white and grey Russian Air Force colours, except for the odd one which is camouflaged.




The standard Russian military transport helicopter is since long the venerable Mil Mi-8 Hip in its numerous versions and it will probably remain so for long. Mi-8MTV-5 27 Red is one of the type’s newest versions and is equipped with a lowering cargo ramp and a wider port side door. It can transport 4.5 tonnes of cargo internally or on a cargo sling or seat up to 36 fully equipped paratroopers. Its cockpit is adapted for night vision goggles application.


The Mil Mi-26 Halo is the largest heavy-lift helicopter in the world and was developed in the 1970s for the Russian Air Force to transport mobile intercontinental ballistic missile systems to remote locations once they were delivered by Antonov An-22 heavy-lift transport aircraft. By 2009, 310 examples had been built, of which only 20 to 25 are believed to be in service with the Russian Air Force at present. The cargo hull of the Mi-26 is of the same size as that of the Lockheed C-130 Hercules. It can accommodate 90 fully equipped soldiers, two small vehicles or 20 tonnes of cargo.



The Mil Mi-28 Havoc is the latest Russian all-weather day-night anti-armour helicopter. Without its secondary transport role, it is better optimised for the anti-tank role than the Mi-24 Hind, which it is intended to replace. The first Mi-28 flew in 1982 and the first Mi-28N (Ночной - Night) night capable prototype made its maiden flight in 1996. Deliveries of series produced helicopters began in April 2009 and by the summer of 2009, already around 20 were delivered. In the coming years, the Russian Army will receive 50 examples. The helicopter was demonstrated in flight to promote its Mi-28NE export version.



The Kamov Ka-52 is a two-seat variant developed from the Kamov Ka-50 Hokum-A single-seat attack helicopter. The prototype, which flew for the first time in 1997 with serial number 061 Yellow, was demonstrated in flight during MAKS 2009. The second built example, 062 Yellow, flew in June 2008 and could be seen fully armed in the static show. A third helicopter was built in late 2008, while a fourth one will be produced by late 2009.

Five prototypes of the Ka-50 were built by Kamov between 1982 and 1990. The company Progress built a first series of 12 production helicopters between 1991 and 1998, part of which were delivered to the Russian Army and fielded in Chechnya. Series production resumed in 2006 and by 2009 an additional five helicopters were built. No Ka-50 was present at MAKS 2009.




MAKS is not only a showcase for the newest vectors of weapons, but also for the weapons themselves. One of the latest cruise missiles on show was the Raduga Kh-59MK2 (X-59 in Cyrillic), an upgrade of the Kh-59M (AS-18 Kazoo) with new TV and Infrared Imaging seekers. The Kh-59MK2 is an anti-shipping cruise missile with a range of 285 kilometres.


In modern air operations, not only air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons play a role of utmost importance, but also ground based air defence weapons. The export version of the upgraded NIIP/Almaz-Anthei Buk-M2 (Бук = Beech; SA-17 Grizzly) with its new 9M317 missiles and its new third generation phased array fire control radar allowing engagement of up to four targets while tracking a further 24 was on show at MAKS for the first time in 2009. The M2 and M2E variants of the Grizzly can easily be recognised by the flat phased array fire control radar.


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 © Jos Schoofs with thanks to FLAG (August 2009)


Last updated 31/08/09 11:55   Daniel Brackx