At the end of August 2019 I traveled to Russia for the first time for the 2019 edition of the MAKS airshow. This international airshow and commercial, civil and military aviation business expo is held biennially at Zhukovsky International Airport, 36 km southeast of central Moscow. The purpose of this event is to demonstrate leading Russian technologies and to open up the Russian aerospace industry to the international market. Some prototypes of aircrafts and combat systems as well as experimental units that for one reason or another cannot be shown abroad, are demonstrated exclusively at MAKS. This makes MAKS a very popular event among aviation enthusiasts and aviation photographers from all over the world. This event lasts for six days, three of which are open to the general public. The Gromov Flight Research Institute, which is one of Russia’s most important aviation research institutes, is also located at the Zhukovsky International Airport. During the Cold war this airfield was also used as a backup landing site for the Russian spaceplane Buran and was the Soviet Union's equivalent to the US Edwards Air Force Base. That is why there are many rare and old aircraft on this part of the airfield. MAKS was held for the first time in 1993 and became one of the largest aviation events in the world.
During the 2019 edition of MAKS, more than 578,000 people visited this important event. The biggest highlight of MAKS 2019 was undoubtedly the official presentation of the Sukhoi Su-57 to professionals and the general public. This new single-seat, twin-engine, stealth fighter jet was shown for the first time at an airshow during MAKS 2019. To demonstrate its maneuverability and its power, the Russian Air Force performed a dog fight with four of these fifth-generation fighter jets. This aircraft has a short take-off and landing capability and is designed for a wide range of combat missions against air, ground, and maritime targets in all weather, day or night, and in a severe jamming environment. Other highlights during this edition of MAKS were impressive demo's of the Sukhoi Su-35, MiG-29 M2 and Yakovlev Yak-130 fighter jets. Two Sukhoi Su-30SM fighter jets of the Russian Navy showed the dramatic and demanding Cobra maneuver to demonstrate the aircraft's pitch control authority and the pilot's skills.
Since MAKS is also a trade fair for civil aircraft, numerous new passenger aircraft were also demonstrated such as the Airbus A350-900, the Sukhoi Superjet 100, the Piaggio P.180 Avanti and the Irkut MC-21. The most impressive demonstration during MAKS 2019 was the water drop maneuver of the Be-200 multipurpose amphibious aircraft designed by the Beriev Aircraft Company. This aircraft is designed for fire fighting and has a capacity of 12,000 litres of water. During the public days of MAKS 2019, the general public was also treated to beautiful demonstrations of Russian aerobatic teams such as the Russian Knights with their eight Sukhoi Su-30Sm jets and the Swifts with their six MiG-29/29UB jets.
In addition to the air show, there are also a lot of beautiful and rare aircraft at MAKS on the static part of this event. One of the biggest surprises at MAKS 2019 was the appearance of the extremely rare Sukhoi Su-47 Berkut. Only one Su-47 Berkut was ever built and it first flew in September 1997. This experimental supersonic jet fighter served as a technology demonstrator prototype for a number of advanced technologies later used in the 4.5 generation fighter jets. Another rare and impressive aircraft at the static part of MAKS 2019 was the Myasishchev VM-T 'Atlant' strategic-airlift airplane. Only two Atlants were ever built. Its main task was to ferry Energia rocket boosters from their development plant to the Baikonur Cosmodrome. On several occasions, the Soviet space shuttle Buran was piggybacked to the Cosmodrome as well.
Besides rare and experimental aircraft, people could also see some impressive Russian bombers such as the Tupolev Tu-160 'Blackjack', the Tupolev Tu-22M 'Backfire' and the Tupolev Tu-95 'Bear'. Also present at the static part of MAKS 2019 were two aircraft of the Roscosmos State Corporation for Space Activities. Roscosmos is a state corporation responsible for the wide range and types of space flights and cosmonautics programs for the Russian Federation. The aircraft of Roscosmos at MAKS 2019 were an Aero L-39C Albatros and an Ilyushin IL-76MDK that are used to train cosmonauts.
Text & photos: Kris Christiaens