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Knights of the Vine RUSSIA

Cover Story

MAKS AIR SHOW is Russia’s calling card
The International Aerospace Show (Russian abbreviation: MAKS), August 21-26 at Zhukovsky in Moscow Region, is Russia’s answer to the French Le Bourget and Britain’s Farnborough air shows. Aviasalon JSC, the key organizer of MAKS, sees MAKS as Russia’s calling card: the symbol of aviation power in the twenty-first century.

MAKS is a showcase for the Russian aerospace industry, and a place where business deals are done, or at least signed. It is officially supported by the Russian government and is traditionally opened by the President. This will be the eighth MAKS, which takes place every two years. The show is a combination of air show and trade fair. Russian and international display teams go through their paces in the air, while manufacturers talk about their products on the ground.

The aerial displays can be breathtaking. Spectators see some of the fastest and meanest fighting machines, live and closeup – much closer, in fact, than you could ever get at western air shows because Russian safety regulations are so much more relaxed. The United States Air Force is expected to send a contingent this year, as it did in 2005, but details were not available as Passport Magazine went to press.

The highlight of MAKS 2007, as in previous years, is expected to be the Russian aerobatic display teams. Three are expected to perform: "Russ", flying the Czech-designed and built L39 Albatross jet trainer, which for many years was the standard Soviet bloc military trainer; "Swifts", flying MiG-29 Fulcrums in 6-ship deltas, 4-ship diamonds and various other formations; and "Russian Knights", performing in their Su-27 Flankers' riveting 5-ship, 4-ship and solo maneuvers.

The Russians have another trick up their sleeve, however: the Swifts and the Russian Knights will perform together! They did several passes in 9-ship formation at MAKS 2005, before breaking apart for the teams to display separately. It was interesting to see from this display just how much larger the Sukhoi is than the MiG, and interesting also to see the wingtip vortices which came off the MiGs during dives and tight turns.

In 2005, the American contingent consisted of two F-16 Fighting Falcons, two F-15 Eagles, a KC-10 tanker, a KC-135 tanker and a B-1B Lancer bomber. The Lancer gave a pretty ordinary display, but it was certainly an interesting sight to see it flying over the Russian countryside.

Another unique feature of MAKS is its location on the shore of Lake Gelendzhik. This allows flying boats to take off and land. They have been a major preoccupation of Russian aircraft designers. Together with the helicopters from the Moscow MiL company and the Kazan Helicopter company, they bring an unusual dimension to MAKS. Zhukovsky Air Field, where the show takes place, is also home to the Gromov Flight Research Institute, Russia’s equivalent of NASA.

Russian civil aviation is hungry to expand, to replace aging equipment and upgrading flight safety to meet international standards. MAKS comes two months after Le Bourget, where headlines were made over Sukhoi’s first foreign deal. It is selling 10 SuperJet 100 aircraft, worth $283 million, to Italian carrier Alitali Airlines.

Russian airlines are also making extensive purchases abroad. S7 Airlines (formerly Sibir) agreed to buy 25 new A320 mediumhaul passenger planes from Airbus for more than $1.6 billion. Soon after Paris, at the St Petersburg Economic Forum, Boeing signed a deal with Aeroflot to sell 22 Dreamliners, said to be worth $3.5 billion, while Airbus sold another four A320s to Rossiya Airlines, for delivery in 2008. Such deals increase the commercial expectations for MAKS.

Sukhoi Civil Aircraft, the Sukhoi Group company responsible for the SuperJet 100 project, will be presenting a mock-up of their plane, which is expected to fly in 2008. They have high hopes for their assembly line at Komsomolsk-on-Amur. "We are planning to build nine aircraft in 2008, 30 planes in 2009, 60 planes in 2010, and starting in 2011 to roll out 70 jets annually," said Sergei Shkryabun, the company's regional director. Sukhoi plans to produce at least 700 of these regional jets.

The SuperJet 100 is being developed by the Sukhoi Design Bureau in cooperation with major American and European aviation corporations, including Boeing, Snecma, Thales, Messier Dowty, Liebherr Aerospace, and Honeywell. It is intended that it will evolve into a family of medium-range passenger aircraft.

So far, Sukhoi Civil Aircraft has secured over 60 orders for the SuperJet, with Aeroflot, Russia's national air carrier, as one of its largest clients, having ordered at least 45 planes.

Some 540 exhibitors from 32 countries have already signed up for stands at MAKS 2007, including Boeing, Bombardier from Canada, Embraer from Brasil and EADS, the Airbus parent company. In addition there are exhibitors piggy-backing on national stands. MAKS participants have to pay a minimum of 1.5 million rubles ($58,000). Each demonstration flight costs $10,000. Boris Rybak, head of the Infomost consulting company, told Izvestia that the Le Bourget show earns its organizers about $100 million, whereas profit from the MAKS 2005 fair was only $25-$30 million.

Of most interest to the viewing public because of their spectacular flying displays are the military aircraft, which will be there in large numbers. A star of the show is expected to be the first public demonstration of the SU-35 multi-purpose fighter. Sukhoi has high hopes for this highly sophisticated jet, and has set up an international marketing program. Production is expected to begin in 2009.

With the same aerodynamic shape, typical of the Su-27/30 family, Su-35 (sometimes called Su-27M) is a much more advanced machine. It has new radar (Irbis), more powerful engines (with 14 tons thrust), and the latest communication and radio-electronic equipment, horizontal canards, an in-flight refueling system, new sensors, new avionics and the ability to carry an extended range of armaments.

The Su-30MK is extremely maneuverable because of the "thrust vectoring" feature which allows it to direct the output of its two engines. This enables it to perform the bizarre low-speed gyrations which have been dubbed the 'cobra maneuver', the "bell" and the "somersault", in which the plane flips 360 degrees without losing any altitude. These maneuvers can be used to mislead an enemy's pulse-doppler radar, which relies on movement of the target, making the Flanker disappear from the radar screen, at least for a few seconds.

It is the improvements to thrust vectoring in the Su-35 which is arousing the most interest among potential customers. This technology was pioneered in the Su-27 and the American F-22 Raptor. However, those aircraft can pivot only up or down, while the Su-35 and the MiG-35, which was demonstrated in 2005, can vector up, down, left and right. The MiG-35 can also move the nozzles further than earlier versions, up to 18 degrees, to allow even greater feats of maneuverability like the "double somersault" and "boomerang".

Sukhoi demonstrated the concept of the Su-35 at MAKS-2005. Last year a mock-up was presented at AirShow China-2006. Although the aircraft is being promoted in many countries, Sukhoi counts on the Russian Air Force as its backbone customer. The head of Sukhoi, Mikhail Pogosyan, is sure that Su-35 will find a niche within both the Russian Air Force and the international market. In 2009-2010, as well as upgrading the existing fleet of Su-27’s the Russian Air Force is set to buy new aircraft. China, India, Vietnam, Malysia and Venezuela are all talked about as potential customers for the Su-35.

Also being unveiled to the public at MAKS 2007 for the first time is the airborne configuration of the “BrahMos” supersonic missile, a joint development between Russia and India. The missile is designed for Su- 30 Mk I fighters and Il-38 maritime patrol planes. Experts expect that the ability to fit “BrahMos” missile to aircraft will increase demand both in India and third countries. The manufacturing company is now negotiating with Indian Naval Forces and Ilyushin to convert an Il-38 plane to carry two to four “BrahMos” missiles.

From both a military and a civil aviation point of view, MAKS provides participants and visitors with a comprehensive insight to Russian aerospace industry's priorities and advances. It is the only place where you can see aircraft and weapons-system prototypes, as well as experimental systems, which are not allowed to be shown abroad.

Richard Seaman contributed to this report
Photos courtesy of Maks.Press.Service

How to Get There

By car

Private motor transport parking will be organized on parking place of airport “Bykovo”, wherefrom visitors can get to the exhibition by free-of-charge buses. The entrance ticket without special car-pass does not give the right to enter the exhibition on personal or official transport.

By electric-train from Kazanskiy railroad terminal (Metro "Komsomolskaya") or from railway-station "Vykhino", also an electric train to railway stations "Otdykh" or "42 kilometre". From railway station "Otdykh" and railway station “42 kilometre” free-of-charge express buses will run to the exhibition. The fare is included in the entrance ticket.

By bus from Metro "Kuzminki" then by bus #525, #478 up to stop “Gromov square” (“Ploshchad Gromova”); or from underground "Vykhino" then by bus #424 or by shuttle-taxi “Vykhino-Zhukovskiy”, “Vykhino-Ramenskoe” up to “Gromov square” (“Ploshchad’ Gromova”).

For More information:
Aviasalon JSC
Flight Research Institute,
Zhukovsky, Moscow Region,
140182, Russia
Telephone: +7 (495) 787-66-51
                   +7(495) 363-56-41
Fax: +7 (495) 787-66-52

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