MAKS-2015: Isolation Broken

The Zhukovsky air show proved to be a big success. Almost 500,000 aviation experts, journalists and spectators were able to appreciate the impressive potential of Russia’s Air Force, Aerospace Force and defense industry.

The 12th International Aerospace Salon (MAKS-2015) ended with dazzling aerobatic stunts over Zhukovsky near Moscow. Although the sky over the Gromov Flight Research Institute’s airfield was filled with thunderstorm clouds, the Russkiye Vityazi (Russian Knights) aerobatic performance team serving with the Proskurov Air Force Regiment in Kubinka near Moscow and flying Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker fighters thrilled spectators with its diamond and arrow-shaped formations. Another aerobatic display team called Sokoly Rossii (Russia’s Falcons) from the Lipetsk training center flew Sukhoi and Mikoyan-Gurevich warplanes that created intricate tulip-shaped patterns in the sky. The Strizhi (Swifts) aerobatic team from the Kozhedub Aircraft Display Center used MiG-29 Fulcrum fighters to perform rolls. Pilots in Yakovlev Yak-130 combat jet trainers from the Borisoglebsk training center near Voronezh performed intricate loops. Aero L-49 Super Albatros jet trainers flying with Latvia’s Baltic Bees aerobatic team drew a heart in the sky, pierced by the arrow of Amor, with their contrails.

A cavalcade of helicopters escorting the world’s largest Mil Mi-26 Halo transport helicopter included Mi-28N Havoc/Night Hunter and Kamov Ka-52 Hokum B/Alligator attack helicopters, Mi-8MTV and Mi-17V Hip and Ka-32 Helix multirole helicopters, as well as the Ansat helicopter for rookie pilots. World War II vintage MiG-3 and Yak-2 fighters, and two Douglas C-47 transport aircraft cruised majestically above the clouds. The US planes flew the Alaska-Siberia route, used to ferry US aircraft to the Soviet Union under the Lend Lease Act, for many hours and completed their epic mission in the run-up to the Zhukovsky air show. A Su-35 Flanker-E fighter with vectored-thrust engines, piloted by Sukhoi test pilot and Hero of Russia Yury Vashchuk, performed mind-boggling stunts above the clouds. Hero of Russia Sergei Bogdan, another Sukhoi test pilot, took the fifth-generation T-50 PAK FA (Prospective Airborne Complex of Frontline Aviation) fighter into a flat spin that looked like a waltz. In fact, the T-50 stole the show at MAKS-2015.

The Zhukovsky air show proved to be a big success. Almost 500,000 aviation experts, journalists and spectators were able to appreciate the impressive potential of Russia’s Air Force, Aerospace Force and defense industry.

Numerous aircraft were displayed at the Gromov Institute’s open-air site, including the latest planes and air-defense weaponry. Visitors could see Tupolev Tu-95MS Bear and Tu-160 Blackjack strategic bombers, an A-50 Mainstay early-warning and control aircraft, Su-35 and Mig-29M/M2 multirole fighters, a Yak-130 combat jet trainer, an Ilyushin Il-76MD-90A Candid strategic airlifter, a Beriyev Be-200 Altair flying boat, Ka-52 and Mi-28NE attack helicopters, a Mi-26T2 heavy-duty transport helicopter, a Ka-226T light-weight multirole helicopter, Mi-17-type transport helicopters with high-tech radio-electronic equipment and avionics and even a Project 1.44 MiG fifth-generation prototype fighter. Surface-to-air missile systems included such hard-hitting weapons as the Igla-S and Verba, the Pantsir-S1, the Thor-M2E and the Buk-M2E, the S-300VM Antey-2500, the S-300 Favorite and the S-400 Triumph. State-of-the-art electronic countermeasures systems were also displayed. Indoor pavilions featured anti-ship and anti-submarine missiles from the Tactical Missiles Corporation, weapons systems from the High-Precision Complexes concern, as well as a variety of helicopter and fixed-wing aircraft engines.

Over 150 companies from 30 countries, including such giants as Airbus, Boeing, Pratt & Whitney, Safran, Rolls-Royce, Turkey’s Aselan, and Danel from South Africa, displayed their products at Zhukovsky. Despite US and EU sanctions that are directed against Russia, they continue to cooperate with the Russian defense industry, and they showed off the same number of products in Zhukovsky as in the past. Several leading countries – Austria, Belgium, the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, France, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, China, Iran and others – set up national displays. Eighty foreign delegations attended the show. Russian President Vladimir Putin opened the show, attended by such distinguished guests as King of Jordan Abdullah II, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Saeed Hussein Khalil el-Sisi, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Mohammed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan and Vice President of Iran Sorena Sattari. This proves once again that conceited and arrogant statements by some US leaders and the pro-US Western press that Russia has become completely isolated hold no water and are exaggerated.

MAKS-2015 has shown once again that attempts to isolate Russia have failed. In fact, it’s impossible to isolate Russia.

Why did representatives from leading aerospace companies attend the Zhukovsky air show despite the anti-Russian sanctions and possible legal action by their national governments? The answer is motivated by business and economic interests of Western companies wishing to maintain military-technical cooperation with Russian defense companies. Moreover, they simply want to develop and survive in a highly competitive world. Any company leaving its market niche may never come back.

Few people know that Russian-made titanium components account for 30 percent of each French-German airliner’s frame construction. These components are manufactured in Verkhnyaya Salda in the Ural region, and, should deliveries stop, Airbus, Boeing’s main rival on the global freight and passenger traffic market, would simply collapse. Therefore Airbus had every reason to display its brand-new A-350 plane in Zhukovsky. The airliner was one of the most popular exhibits and also flew regularly.

Boeing also receives 40-45 percent of its titanium components from VSMPO-AVISMA Corporation in the Ural region for its airliners. As Henry Ford would say, anything that profits Boeing, profits America. When the United States wants to implement a profitable project, it forgets all about sanctions. For example, Washington purchased RD-180, RD-181 and RD-191 rocket engines from Russia without which some spacecraft could not be launched.

The US believes that any other country or company, except American companies, can suffer from sanctions. Notably, Boeing and VSMPO-AVISMA signed a new contract for die-cast titanium components during MAKS-2015. These components will be used to make the new composite wings for the B-777X, due to become the largest and most fuel-efficient airliner in the world. Production is scheduled for 2017.

“This agreement strengthens mutual trust still further. Since 1997, Boeing and VSMPO-AVISMA have strengthened their relations through consistent deliveries of high-quality titanium components. Today, we have reached a new and important stage in expanding cooperation with the world’s largest titanium manufacturer,” said Boeing Russia/CIS President Sergei Kravchenko.

All this is happening under the continuing sanctions.

The Boeing-VSMPO-AVISMA deal was followed by contracts with Belarus for the delivery of five Thor-M2K surface-to-air missile systems. Another contract for the delivery of P-7 parachute platforms was signed with Jordan. There are plans to launch the PAZ satellite under a contract with Spain’s HISDESAT Servicios Estratégicos S.A. Other contracts for the Sukhoi Superjet 100 airliners have been signed with Mexico and Indonesia. These and other contracts are worth an estimated $2.5 billion. But one should realize that no specific contracts are signed at any air show, although the media runs breaking news stories with impressive statistics, 20 and 40 billion, etc. This is PR and promotion.

In reality, it takes years to finalize major arms-delivery contracts that are signed at quiet offices without any lights or media coverage. These contracts are also kept under wraps for some time. But promotional presentations are organized in order to focus public and media attention on arms deliveries. The show must go on.

MAKS-2015 also featured business meetings and talks between various world politicians. It showcased the achievements of the Russian defense industry, the real combat potential of the national Air Force and Aerospace Force defending Russia’s national interests. And of course it included a great show with Russia’s aerobatic display teams performing unique demonstration flights.

As a professional, I’ve visited many aerospace shows, including those in Le Bourget near Paris, Farnborough near London, Johannesburg in South Africa, in Dubai and Abu Dhabi on the southern Arabian Peninsula, in Kuala Lumpur and Langkawi, Malaysia, in New Delhi and Bangalore, India, in Rio de Janeiro, in Santiago, Chile, and Lima, Peru. Thus I can make some comparisons. I can say without false modesty that none of the above exhibitions can compare with MAKS-2015 in terms of its packed schedule and its spectacular demonstration flights. Although the Patrouille de France and Frecce Tricolori aerobatic display teams from France and Italy flying Dassault/Dornier Alpha light jet fighters and Aermacchi MB-339 subsonic planes, respectively, did not show in Zhukovsky, this didn’t disappoint anyone.

Two months ago, my colleagues attended the Le Bourget show and later said the skies over Paris looked dismal and boring without Russia’s Sukhoi fighters. But the French chose their own sky. However, those who could not or did not want to attend MAKS-2015 failed to disrupt the show in Zhukovsky.

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.