MAKS - 2017 / Zhukovsky / Russian Federation

For the 13th time in a row the INTERNATIONAL AVIATION & SPACE SALON - MAKS-2017 took place on the grounds of M.M. Gromov Flight Research Institute in Zhukovsky district. A total of 6 days (3 trade visitor days, 1 student day & 2 public days) lasted the biggest aviation exhibition on Russian soil. According to official figures, a total of 452,300 visitors visited the MAKS 2017, the number of exhibiting companies reached the record level of over 880 companies. The sales figures are also impressive. The sum of all contracts and orders amounts to a whopping 5.741 billion euros (394 billion rubles). Although AVIASALON does not achieve the sales figures of the major Western players, such as the SALON INTERNATIONAL DE L'ARONAUTIQUE ET DE L'ESPACE / Le Bourget or the Farnborough INTERNATIONAL AIRSHOW, it is important to note that the European Union imposed economic sanctions on Russia (and thereby a large part of the exhibitors from the west fell away), the numbers are very impressive.

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Speaking of sanctions: these are now in force since March 2014, the Russian industry (or at least some parts of the Russian industry), seems anything but harmed. The lack of competition was exactly what many domestic companies needed in order to catch up with their products on the market. This is also apparent in the civil aviation industry. The local aviation industry has not been competitive for a long time - products such as the Tupolev Tu-204/214 or the four-engine Iljushin Il-96 had little chance in the international market. Especially in terms of cost-effectiveness, Russian models lagged significantly behind their Western counterparts. This should change with the introduction of the Irkut MC-21 (actually MS-21, the Cyrillic "C" is an "S" and stands for "Samoljot" = airplane). This twin-engine short- and medium-range airliner is in the class of a Boeing 737NG or the Airbus A320NEO. The MS-21 had its maiden flight shortly before the MAKS-2017 took place (May 28) and many visitors hoped, of course, to be able to admire this aircraft in the air on the AVIASALON. Since the MS-21 has completed only nine test flights until the start of the aviation exhibition, the manufacturer unfortunately had to renounce a flight demonstration.

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Another state-of-the-art airliner of the Russian aviation industry is the Sukhoi SSJ-100 SUPERJET. However, this has not been as successful as the manufacturer had hoped. The reasons for this were technical problems, as well as a relatively poor supply of spare parts. The SSJ-100 is a regional airliner and business jet with a capacity of up to 100 passengers (hence the name: SSJ-100). To date, this aircraft has been manufactured or delivered up to the 120+ aircraft. The majority of the SSJ-100 flies with Russian companies (among others, the AEROFLOT has 45 aircraft of this type, of which currently 35 are in the active service, the rest is on storage). The share of foreign (and above all) Western customers is slowly but steadily increasing. For example, the Irish-based CityJet Dublin-based airline flies 5 SuperJet 100-95 aircraft with an option for an additional 10 aircraft. At the MAKS-2017, the SSJ-100 was again demonstrated impressively.

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As the only passenger aircraft from Western production, the new Airbus A350-900 XWB was introduced in flight - unfortunately only on a single day! The only (Russian) customer of the A350-900 is the AEROFLOT, which placed an order for 14 aircraft of this type. Delivery is expected to begin next year. The A350 was designed as a rival to the Boeing 787, respectively as a successor to the A340 series. In the variant shown (Dash900), the A350 has a seat capacity of 325 seats, the stretched version (Dash1000) can carry up to 440 passengers.

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Accordingly, European and US companies were moderately represented in the exhibition halls. The booths of large companies, such as BOEING or ROLLS ROYCE also had a size that they could easily find a place on a Christmas market in any small German town. Many company representatives were anything but happy as a result of the ongoing sanctions - a representative of a large German company said that, which many probably think - quote: "these sanctions do not hurt Russia, but primarily the German and European companies!" The vacuum created by the sanctions is increasingly replenished by Chinese companies. Unfortunately, the Chinese presence did not impact in the flight program. Most Chinese companies are located in the supply industry.

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An aviation exhibition is primarily a sales fair. Moreover, it is always a perfect opportunity to introduce potential customers to the latest developments. Of course, the days are gone when a whole series of new developments could be presented at every aviation trade fair. At the AVIASALON 2017, it was mainly two basic trainer aircraft who met with great interest. The speech is on the one hand of the SAT SR-10 and on the other hand of the Yakolvlev Yak-152. Both aircraft competed for the tender of a basic trainer aircraft for the domestic air force. The winner of this tender is the single-engine Yak-152, a plane that looks rather old-fashioned, at least in its shape. But appearance is deceptive. The fuselage is manufactured in Monocoque design and a V-12 diesel engine (Raikhlin RED A-03) rated with a full 460 hp powers the sleek little trainer. The Yak-152 had its maiden flight on 29 September 2016, mass production is scheduled to start in 2018. The VVS will receive a total of 150 aircraft of this type, which will replace the aging Yak-52.

The SR-10 designed by the relatively unknown design bureau SAT is a single-engine jet trainer. The wings are negatively swept (10 ø). So this sleek machine looks a bit like a scaled-down version of the Sukhoi Su-47 BERKUT. At the time of AVIASALON there were no orders for this little trainer.

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A highlight at the MAKS 2017 was certainly the flight demonstration of two Sukhoi T-50 PAK-FAs. After the end of the AVIASALON the official name of this latest fighter plane was announced: Su-57! There are currently a total of nine prototypes involved in an intensive test program. Series production is scheduled to begin next year, but insiders expect that the delivery of the first aircraft to the Russian Air Force (VVS) will not take place until 2020. This is mainly due to the new engines that will power the Su-57. At the moment, very little is known about this engine, except that it is more compact and lighter than the currently used NPO Saturn 117S turbofan. This is the same engine that propels the Sukhoi Su-35 (official name: Saturn AL-41F1S). The new engine, with the internal name: Izdeliye 30, is said to have a tremendous 17.6 kN thrust in afterburner mode.

The flight demonstrations of the Sukhoi Su-57 were consistently impressive, even if one could not shake off the feeling that the pilots were far from (or were allowed to)  demonstrating the potential of this 5th Generation fighter.

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In addition to the flying displays of the Su-57, it was mainly the displays of the obligatory Sukhoi Su-30/34/35 family that thrilled the audience. It was started with a four-formation consisting of a Su-34 (NATO Code: FULLBACK), two Su -57 and one Su-35S (NATO Code: FLANKER-E). This fourth-generation air superiority fighter (even known in Russia as the 4++ generation) features thrust vector control and a passive phased array radar called the Irbis-E. At present, 72 aircraft are in use at the VVS, other operators are the People's Republic of China (24 aircraft) and the Indonesian Air Force (9 aircraft). The heavy fighter-bomber Su-34 had his commitment in the Syrian conflict. Fourteen planes of this type flew air raids on rebel areas from the Latakia air force base. By 2020, about 200 Sukhoi Su-34 will be delivered to the air force, more than half of which are already in operation.

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The dominant design bureau in the former Soviet Union, at least in the field of fighter aircraft, was the Mikoyan & Gurevich OKB. The legendary name MiG is still synonymous with Russian fighter jets - and not only in the West. In contrast to the company Sukhoi, the company RAC MiG (the Russian Aircraft Corporation MiG is the successor to the MiG OKB) could not build on the great successes of the past. While there are still many aircraft of the MiG-29 (NATO Code: FULCRUM) series in more than 20 different air forces in use, these are no longer regarded to be a first rate fighter. According to estimates, Russia still has about 150+ aircraft of the S / SMT / UB series in active duty. Part of this fleet will soon be replaced by the latest model from RAC Mig - the MiG-35 (NATO Code: FULCRUM-F). This is a heavily modified version of the MiG-29M2 with thrust vector control and a state-of-the-art Fasotron NIIR Zhuk-A pulse-Doppler radar. Up to 170 of this model will be procured for the VVS, the number of potential customers abroad is also large.

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After the display of the MiG-35 two Sukhoi Su-30 SM (NATO Code: FLANKER-H) in the (relatively) painted new dark gray camouflage took of for their display. Both aircraft belong to the Russian Black Sea Fleet / 43rd Independent Naval Shturmovik (Assault) Air Squadron and are based in Saki in the Crimea. The Russian naval aviation forces currently have 20 aircraft of this type, which replace the Sukhoi Su-24M / MR (NATO Code: FENCER). Also with these displays (as with the Su-57) first both aircraft perform simulated air combat maneuvers in order then to demonstrate impressively solo routines. The Su-30SM is powered by two NPO Saturn AL-31FP turbofan engines with three-dimensional thrust vector control. In afterburner mode, this engine delivers a thrust of 130.76 kN, which gives the Su-30SM a thrust-to-weight ratio at a normal takeoff weight of 1.02. The equipment of the VVS with the modern Su-30 SM is in full swing. More than 80 machines have already been handed over and 30 more will follow by 2020. In addition to Russia, the armed forces of Belarus (12 machines) and Kazakhstan (6 machines delivered, by 2020 a total of 30 more aircraft to be procured) ordered this modern multipurpose fighter aircraft, or already received.

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Of course, aerobatic formations should not be missing from any aviation exhibition - several of them were present at AVIASALON 2017 in Zhukovsky. Above all, of course, the national aerobatic team, the RUSSKIYE VITYAZI (Russian Knights). These have recently been completely outfitted with the latest Sukhoi Su-30SM model, replacing the older Su-27P and Su-27UB. The performance of the RUSSKIYE VITYAZI is not only the highlight of every air show, but also a prime example of flying skills. The precision of the close formation flight of six large fighter jets is unmatched and a hallmark of this team. The RUSSKIYE VITYAZI were founded in April 1991, a few months later they had their first appearance outside Russia (August 1991, Poznan Air Show / Poland). Since then, the Russian Knights have participated in numerous events at home and abroad - since 1993 also on every AVIASALON in Zhukovsky !

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In addition to the RUSSKIYE VITYAZI, it is above all the STRIZHI team that inspires the spectators with their performance. The STRIZHI are based at Kubinka Airbase (237th Guards Proskurov Aircraft Demonstration Center) and fly six MiG-29s (2 x MiG-29UB & 4 x MiG-29A), which will be replaced by brand new MiG-35s in the coming years. Unlike many western aerobatic teams, the STRIZHI have not changed their flight program for more than 10 years. Especially spectacular is the beginning of the show. Coming from one side, the formation flies parallel to the spectators at a height of 1000 ft and in the moment they approach show center they launch a few hundred of flares into the sky - a truly impressive spectacle!

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Their debut on the MAKS had a team from the Emirates - the AL FURSAN (the knights). This demo team has only been around for 7 years and is flying a total of 7 Aermacchi MB-339NAT aircraft - the same aircraft as the famous FRECCE TRICOLORI. These serve the AL FURSAN not only as a role model but have also taken over the training of the pilots. Therefore, it is not surprising that the maneuvers are almost identical to those of the Italians. However, this does not detract from the whole, because the precision and aviation skills of the pilots from the Emirates are in no way inferior to their role models. Last but not least, the visitors were able to admire two more teams at AVIASALON 2017. On the one hand the famous BALTIC BEES from Latvia and the TEAM RUSS from Russia. Both teams are civil jet teams equipped with AERO L-39.

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Verdict: the AVIASALON 2017 was held in mid-July this year (July 18 - July 23, 2017). The reason for this was an overlap with another major event near Moscow (INTERNATIONAL ARMY GAMES 2017). However, this had no influence on the course and success of MAKS 2017. Compared to 2015, there were no major changes in the Flying Displays or in the static show (except for a few minor things) - this is not a complaint, but only a statement. Almost half a million viewers speak for themselves! The organization of the event was, as in previous years, excellent. A visit to this aviation exhibition is definitely a must: for aviation enthusiasts, trade visitors and those interested in technology, but also for the average viewer. For this reason: CU at MAKS 2019 / Zhukovsky Airfield / Russia !!!

 

Robert Kysela / CHK6

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