PICTURES: Russia celebrates air force centenary

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russian air force centenary

More than 110 aircraft took part in three-day celebrations of the Russian air force's 100 anniversary at the Ramenskoye aerodrome in Zhukovsky near Moscow on 10-12 August.

The flight programme lasted for 8h each day and involved air force and manufacturers' aircraft, plus foreign visitors, including aerobatic teams from the UK, Poland, Finland and Italy, and French air force Rafale fighters.

Among the main attractions were the second-built Sukhoi T-50 PAK-FA fifth-generation fighter prototype; the Su-35 development prototype; and the MiG-29M2 prototype, making its public debut. Also making its maiden public appearance was Russian air force display team the Berkuty, or "Golden Eagles". The Torzhok-based team flew the Mil Mi-28N helicopter, a replacement for the Mi-24.

There was also a show debut for Ilyushin's "flying combat post", the Il-80.

Speaking at a press conference on 12 August, newly appointed commander Gen Victor Bondarev said that the Russian air force had emerged strongly from the service's "hardest time ever" at the end of the 1990s, citing attempts to "cut out our wings entirely" and adding: "We managed to survive and to keep our air force from disintegration... The air force is back [on rise], and in a state in which it is able to defend the skies over our great country."

His words echoed a speech made by President Vladimir Putin at Ramenskoye the previous day. Putin labelled military aviation "an area of science and manufacturing where Russia is on the par with other world's leading nations, and even ahead of them in some technologies".

Bondarev says "the president assured me that the air force will continue to be getting more new aircraft... The air force will get over a thousand new helicopters, over 600 aeroplanes, and a number of antiaircraft and radio electronic systems".

This comes after Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev called for "postponements" in deliveries of "some military items on order" so as to reduce burden on the Russian budget, and for assets to be leased rather than bought.

The air force is to take delivery of more than 100 combat and transport helicopters this year, plus more than 60 "new and upgraded" aircraft.

Bondarev says deliveries will rise from "175-180" in 2012 to 200-plus next year. Modern systems "such as the Su-35, MiG-29SMT, MiG-35, T-50 and Yak-130" will account for 80% of the fleet within a decade, he adds.

The air force is continuing development of the PAK-DA strategic bomber intended to replace the Tupolev Tu-160 and Tu-95MS.

The three prototypes of the PAK-FA fighter, meanwhile, have flown 120 test missions and "by far and large correspond to the specification that we put forward to this aircraft", says Bondarev. Three more prototypes are to join the programme "in a short time", with the total fleet reaching 14 before testing concludes.

The first "experimental" examples will arrive at air force bases for evaluation in 2013, followed by production examples in 2015.

  • Check our Image Gallery of the Russian Air Force centenary celebrations.