Summer in Kubinka

For two weeks in August, the town of Kubinka, southwest of Moscow was the focus of aviation-minded people in Russia at the Army 2017 exhibition. Piotr Butowski was there for AIR International

MILITARY ARMY 2017

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On August 12, 1912, Russia’s Ministry of Military Affairs issued order number 397 as a result of which the administration of aviation and aeronautics was founded as part of the Army’s General Staff. Today the date is commemorated as the beginning of the Russian Air Force. This year’s celebrations of the event centred on Patriot Park in Kubinka.

The Aviation Day air show started at 1400hrs with ‘delta formation’ comprising four Su-34s, four Su-35Ss and two Su- 30SM combat aircraft from the Lipetsk evaluation centre. These were followed by four Mi-8 helicopters towing the flags of Russia and the air force. A flight of historic aircraft featured restored UT-2 and Il-2 propeller-driven aircraft and MiG-15UTI and Yak-30 jets. Simulated Great Patriotic War aerial combat was flown by a Yak-52 imitating a Soviet Lavochkin La-5 fighter and a Piper Cub acting as a Nazi Fiesler Storch which quickly succumbed. Another flypast comprised a Douglas DC-3, which in 2015 flew from the United States to Russia via the Alaska-Siberia route, used during World War Two by US aircraft on delivery to the USSR under the Lend-Lease agreement. The co-pilot of the DC-3 was 90-year-old Pyotr Deynekin, the first commander of the post- Soviet Russian Air Force. It was to be his last flight. General Deynekin died a week later.

Modern Russian Air Force machines flew by in groups. The first to go were the trainers: four Yak-130s and six An-2 biplanes still used for parachute training. Next were transport and special duty machines led by an Il-22PP electronic warfare aircraft and closed by an A-50U early-warning and control aircraft bracketing An-12, An-26, An-72, An-148, Tu-134 and Il-76s. Another Il-76 dumped 40 tonnes of water in a fire-fighting demo. Strategic aviation’s bombers were represented by three Tu-22M3s, three Tu-95MSs and an Il-78 tanker with a Tu-160. Army aviation was introduced by three Mi-2s, followed by flights of four Mi-8AMTSh, Mi-24Ps, Mi- 35Ms, Ka-226Vs, Ansat-Us, Mi-28Ns and Ka-52s helicopters. The helicopter column was closed by a single heavy-lift Mi-26. The last to parade were fours of MiG-29SMTs, Su-25s, Su-24Ms, MiG-31BMs, Su-27s, Su- 30SMs and Su-34 tactical combat aircraft.

After this opening flypast, a single Su- 35S followed by a pair of Su-57 fighters displayed then pilots from the Lipetsk centre performed a mock dogfight using two pairs of Su-35Ss. Finally, the air force’s leading aerobatic teams: ‘Strizhi’ (Swifts) with six MiG-29s and the ‘Russkiye Vityazi’ (Russian Knights) with six Su-30SMs displayed. The two-hour and 20-minute display was ended by six Su-25 attack aircraft trailing smoke in the colours of the Russian flag: white, blue and red.

Army 2017

Ten days later, the International Military and Technical Forum Army 2017 began. The exhibition was held at three locations scattered around Kubinka. The most important was the impressive Patriot Park exhibition centre. Recently built on virgin forest with no regard to cost, it comprises four large pavilionsand a group of smaller buildings. It featured ground exhibitions of everything from firearms to strategic missiles and a selection of helicopters including the Ka-52K, Mi-28N and Mi-35M, as well as UAVs. Patriot Park is a permanent military equipment exhibition, worth visiting not only during large events. A mile behind the main exhibition halls, an exposition of aircraft, mostly historic, was arranged. Perhaps the most interesting exhibit was a Su-24MP electronic-warfare jet displayed alongside fighters ranging from the MiG-17 to the MiG-31 and from the Su-9 to the Su-27. Air-launched weapons were displayed in the pavilions.

The second location of the Army 2017 exhibition was the Alabino training area several kilometres from the park. Tanks, artillery and other ground forces were demonstrated with aeroplanes and helicopters joining in.

The third and main location for those interested in aviation was at Kubinka airfield, home to the 237th Aviation Technology Demonstration Centre as well as the Swifts and Russian Knights aerobatic teams. It is about eight miles (12km) from Patriot Park, which means visitors to the show have to choose what they most want to see.

There was a large static display of modern Russian military fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft as well as air displays. The only foreign visitors were the Türk Yıldızları (Turkish Stars) aerobatic team with its seven (plus one spare) NF-5 fighters.

On the first day of the exhibition, a very interesting presentation was made in one of the hangars especially for the Russian Minister of Defence. There was no public access to the event where Russia’s fifth generation fighter, Su-57 bort number 509, and two fourth-plus generation fighters, MiG-35 702 and Su-35S 57, were shown. Unfortunately, both the Su-57 and MiG- 35 had left Kubinka before the hangar was made accessible to the public. They were replaced by MiG-29KR 48, a carrierbased fighter and Yak-130 48. Examples of ordnance, including Kh-31M, Kh-35U and Kh-38M air-to-ground missiles, as well as components, such as targeting sensors and radios, were displayed by the aircraft.

In lieu of a conventional arrester hook, the MiG-29KR was noted to have a brake chute installed beneath its rear fuselage, the first time this has been seen. Russian carrier-based fighters spend much more time flying from land bases than on board the carrier, so this modification makes sense. Obviously before deployment to the carrier the hook is reinstalled.

Special attractions

Both events, the parade on August 12 and the air show between August 22-27 produced some interesting sights and first time public appearances. The first event showed the Il-22PP escort jamming aircraft for the first time. The Il-22PP (Postanovshchik Pomekh, jammer) is a signal intelligence and standoff jamming aircraft converted from the Il-22, which in turn is a theatre-level airborne command post and radio relay aircraft based on the Ilyushin Il-18D turboprop airliner. The Il-22 has been developed by the Myasishchev design bureau at Zhukovsky which is also responsible for conversions to Il-22PP standard.

The Il-22PP is intended to detect and suppress electronic systems including air-defence radars, missiles’ mid-course flight path correction channels, tactical data networks and so on. The aircraft features four large bulbous dielectric fairings located symmetrically on both sides of the fuselage at the front and back; these contain antennas of the L-415 ECM system made by the KNIRTI institute of Kaluga. An egg-shaped antenna is fitted in the aircraft’s tail while another short cigar-shaped antenna with an air intake sits under the middle fuselage. A fixed pod beneath the fuselage contains sixteen 32-round 26mm (1 inch) UV-26M chaff/ flare launchers for self-protection; two more 14-round 50mm (2 inch) launchers are built into the bottom rear fuselage. The aircraft wore a livery resembling that of Aeroflot although it also had ‘Russia’s Air Force’ titling and red stars. Misleadingly it also has the inscription ‘Il-18’ on the nose.

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A new Russian escort jammer, the Il-22PP Porubshchik debuted over Kubinka on August 12. Aircraft RF-90786 is the first operational Il-22PP that has been officially handed over to the Russian Air Force after conversion on October 26, 2016. The Il-22PP features four large bulbous dielectric fairings on both sides of the fuselage, front and aft, an egg-shaped fairing in the aircraft’s tail, and a series of smaller aerials. Note the fixed pod with flare launchers beneath the fuselage. The aircraft’s livery resembles that of Aeroflot during the Soviet era.

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The most spectacular event by Russian aerobatic teams is the dense launch of flares. This Su-30SM from the Russian Knights fires large 50mm flares during the show.

SYRIAN PAVILION

In a separate pavilion in Patriot Park, weapons used by the Russian military in Syria, as well as armament captured there were on display. UAVs and air-launched weapons predominated.

The largest Russian UAV operated in Syria, and generally the most important drone serving with Russia’s armed forces, is the Israeli IAI Searcher Mk II. The first examples were delivered direct from Israel in 2010. The Russian-assembled Forpost (outpost) built by the Ural Works of Civil Aviation (UWCA) in Yekaterinburg was also represented. Reportedly, the Russians are receiving the Searcher/Forpost kits in a civilian guise without a coded datalink, target indication and other military payloads. At present, NII Kulon of Moscow upgrades Forposts by adding the datalink, satellite navigation, radio relay and signals intelligence systems and so on. The Forpost weighs 456kg (1,000lb) at take-off and can cruise for up to 16 hours. Its communication range is 150km (93 miles) with an omnidirectional antenna or 250km (155 miles) with a directional antenna. Forposts have taken part in real counter-insurgency operations in the North Caucasus and since September 2015, in Syria. At least three vehicles have been lost over eastern Ukraine during 2014-2015.

Most UAVs used by Russia’s armed forces are small with a range of around a dozen kilometres. The most popular, with more than 1,000 having been produced, are Orlan-10 (bald eagle) drones made by the Special Technology Centre company of St Petersburg; they account for a half of all UAVs in the Russian armed forces. It is a vehicle weighing 18kg (40lb) capable of loitering for ten hours with a TV and thermal imaging cameras, digital photo camera and cell phone tapping equipment. Other small UAVs on show in the Syrian pavilion were the Eleron-3SV (aileron) that weighs just 5.3kg (12lb) and can loiter for 100 minutes, and the Tachion (tachyon) weighing in at 6.9kg (15lb) with an endurance of two hours. Both vehicles can be fitted in suitcases for transport.

Myasishchev was contracted by the Russian Ministry of Defence to develop the Il- 22PP, or Porubshchik (wood stealer) jammer aircraft on November 8, 2009. The prototype RA-75903 began flight tests at the end of 2011 and completed state qualification trials in 2015. After the prototype, Myasishchev was contracted to convert two existing aircraft and the first of these, RF-90786, flew after conversion at the end of 2015, and was handed back to the Ministry of Defence on October 26, 2016. This was the machine flying at Kubinka. The second operational aircraft, RF-95673, flew after conversion in early 2017. Plans had called for the conversion of a third Il-22PP in 2016-2017 but there is no information regarding the progress of the work.

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The only airworthy MiG-15UTI in Russia, RA- 0488G, was originally made in Czechoslovakia in 1954. The aircraft was restored in 2011 and today anyone can fly in the jet for less than £3,000.
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Douglas DC-3A s/n 10035, made in 1943, flew from the United States to Russia via Alaska and Siberia in 2015, and was sold to a Russian private owner. At Kubinka, the aircraft was piloted by Valentin Lavrentyev and Pyotr Deynekin, the first CinC of the post-Soviet Russian Air Force.

In a Patriot Park’s pavilion, the OKB Aviaavtomatika company of Kursk showed armament for UAVs for the very first time. Three types of guided bombs, one of 25kg (55lb) and two of 50kg (110lb) launch weight, were on view. Officially, the bombs were presented as a family of small airlaunched unmanned vehicles for “jamming equipment, surveillance systems, relay equipment” or other purposes, with no direct mention of warheads. The three displayed bombs have bodies of the same rectangular section with rounded corners, but they are of different lengths. Various types of wings and empennages as well as nose sections were shown. The smaller 25kg bomb has a fixed cruciform wing and tailfins as well as inertial guidance combined with GPS. Work on this bomb is the most advanced and it has already been dropped from a UAV, the large Kronshtadt Technologies Orion drone, displayed at MAKS 2017 a month earlier. The 50kg bomb comes in two variants, one with a fixed cruciform shape, the other with a folding wing mounted on top of the body; the second bomb displayed TV and laser seekers.

Another aircraft debuting in the static display at Kubinka was the upgraded Ka- 27M anti-submarine helicopter bort number 31, RF-19188. The helicopter’s mission system is completely new and includes the Bumerang (Boomerang) radar commandtactical system integrated by the Phazotron- NIIR company around the FHA (or Alba, or Kopyo-A) surveillance radar fitted under the helicopter’s nose, the all-new Kema (a river in Russia) radio sonobuoy system with new RGB-16MK buoys, upgraded Ros’- VM (a river in Ukraine) dipping sonar, new MMS-27 fixed magnetic anomaly detector, electronic support measures suite, datalink and navigator’s tactical display. Navigation and communication devices are also replaced by new equipment including the SSP-V-27M satellite system for approach and landing on the ship, as well as the S-403-1 communication suite. The Ka-27M can be armed with all appropriate Russian weapons, including the new APR-3M antisubmarine rocket torpedoes, UMGT-1M electric torpedoes, Zagon-2 guided depth charges as well as Kh-35 anti-ship missiles.

Tests of the Bumerang system began using the Ka-27M prototype, number 0909, as early as 2004. In 2012 the second Ka- 27M, 48, joined the test campaign. Yuri Pustovgarov, Managing Director of the Kumertau plant where repairs and upgrades on the type take place, told the local press in August that state trials of the Ka-27M had been officially signed off in June. That concluded a formal requirement for the introduction of the upgraded helicopters into service. The first production Ka-27M helicopters were completed in late 2016.

Russia’s National Armament Programme provides for the upgrade of 46 helicopters to Ka-27M standard. That represents every Ka-27 scheduled to remain in service beyond 2020. However, only two upgrade contracts, for a total of 22 helicopters (eight plus 14), have so far been signed. Pustovgarov said that the current order for Ka-27M upgrades would be complete by the end of 2018. The plant hopes to upgrade the remaining machines.

On July 29, 2016, India placed contracts with Russia for the repair and upgrade of ten Ka-28 helicopters to Ka-28M standardat a reported price of almost $30 million per helicopter. The Ka-28 is a 1980s-vintage export derivative of the Ka-27 built to fulfil an order from India and since sold to China and Vietnam. According to Pustovgarov, the first helicopters from India will have arrived in Kumertau by the end of the year. The contract is to be completed by the end of 2019.

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The first bombs developed in Russia especially for UAVs by OKB Aviaavtomatika, have common bodies and various types of wings and guidance systems. The smallest, a 25kg class bomb, has already been dropped from an Orion UAV.
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A brake chute container installed beneath the aft fuselage of a MiG-29KR shipborne fighter replaces the type’s conventional arrestor hook when operating from a land base. The hook is reinstalled before deployment aboard the carrier.