Russian Victory Day Rehearsal Flyover In Moscow Produces Spectacular Images

Flyover Cancelled on Parade Day Due to Weather, But Rehearsal was Interesting and Impressive.

May 9, 2017

A structural silence cloaks Red Square today. Cold humidity hangs over expansive rows of military formations under the weight of history.

You can hear air moving between the ranks of silent soldiers frozen at attention. The tanks, the missile launchers, the artillery cannons sit motionless. The quiet hangs for 60 seconds. A muted, dignified tribute to the millions lost. Then the great Spasskaya Tower clock bell tolls brightly through the grey. It is the hour of victory, the greatest military victory in the history of all mankind. A crack in the Russian grey sky reveals a shard of sunlight. Seventy-two years have passed since the Russians defeated Germany in WWII, the Great Patriotic War.

It is Victory Day today in Moscow and across all of Russia, a country so vast it spans 11 time zones, nearly half the globe. This is the largest military display and celebration anywhere in the world by a massive margin. The Victory Day parade in Moscow accompanies large military parades in 26 other large Russian cities to observe the solemn holiday.

The red banner, raised over the Reichstag in Berlin on this day in 1945 by Sgt. Mikhail Yegorov and Jr. Sgt. Meliton Kantaria is marched down Manezhnaya Street in Moscow today. This very same Red Banner, frayed but still vibrant in defiance, flew over the ruins of Hitler’s headquarters when Germany was reduced to ruble in 1945.

The Great War was a cataclysm that claimed a staggering 20 million Russian civilians and soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen. Twenty million lives…

“This was a tremendous tragedy” says Russian President Vladimir Putin in his remarks from the reviewing stand. Dignitaries flank President Putin along with aging Russian Heroes of the Russian Federation, their faces long and their lapels sagging under an unlikely volume of medals. During the Siege of Stalingrad Russian soldiers like these men lured German invaders into the ruins of bombed-out buildings and dropped concrete blocks on them to kill them. They had long since run out of ammunition. And food. Disease, frostbite, hypothermia and starvation claimed more casualties on both sides than battle did.

Private Aleksey Vakav carries that Red Banner today, goose-stepping in precise marshal cadence between saber-wielding guards of the 154th Independent Commandants Regiment. A descendant of a soldier who fought in the Great War, Private Vakav is one of 10,000 soldiers, 100 vehicles and 72 aircraft in the parade today.

The weather over Moscow today cancelled the sweeping flyovers of wave after wave of new Russian combat aircraft, but yesterday’s rehearsal produced an impressive procession of Russian air power. Everything from heavy bombers to tankers to the latest fighter aircraft flew in formation over Red Square yesterday in rehearsal before the weather cancelled the flying portion of today’s parade.

A combined formation of the Russian Knights in their SU-30’s and the Russian Swifts in the their MiG-29’s, each with new paint schemes (Strizhi.Ru)

Mr. Oleg Chernikov granted TheAviationist.com permission to share these outstanding photos taken by a number of his photographers around Moscow during the rehearsal day yesterday prior to Victory Day when the low overcast cancelled the flyovers.

One of the most conspicuous surprises on the rehearsal day flyovers was the new livery on the Russian Knights’ Sukhoi SU-30SMs. The aircraft featured a new solid blue vertical stabilizer with a Russian star insignia. The new livery is cleaner looking and photographs better in most sky conditions compared to the older, more complex tail graphics. The newly painted Russian Knights’ Su-30SMs flew in a beautiful formation with MiG-29 aircraft of the Russian Swifts aerobatic team. The MiG-29S of the Swifts also had some new tail markings for the 2017 demonstration season.

The older tail markings for the Russian Knights’ SU-30’s compared to the new, solid color tail debuted over Moscow. (image credit: RT)

Heavy bombers overflew Red Square on rehearsal day also including an Il-78 tanker with a huge Tu-160 in trail simulating aerial refueling.

An IL-78 Aerial Tanker simulates a midair refueling mission with a TU-160 “White Swan” heavy bomber. (Strikhi.ru)

Four MiG-31 long range heavy interceptors overflew the parade venue on rehearsal day, an especially exotic sighting since the large relative to the MiG-25 “Foxbat” was never imported outside Russia or Kazakhstan.

A formation of MiG-31 long range interceptors flew over on rehearsal day. (Strizhi.Ru)

While the cancellation of the flyovers was disappointing, the scale of the Victory Day parade never fails to impress. Perhaps the most refreshing thing about today’s version of the parade is that international media provided excellent real-time streaming coverage and tourists from around the world are free to visit Russia to see the parade in person, a worthy destination for any aviation enthusiast. The Victory Day parade in Moscow is an even greater showcase for the might of the Russian military but with the new openness since the Cold War era it is also a greater source of unity and historical reflection making the event even more valuable internationally.

Top image: A formation of heavy bombers including three Tu-22M “Backfire” bombers and a huge Tu-160 Blackjack (credit: Strizhi.ru).

About Tom Demerly 512 Articles
Tom Demerly is a feature writer, journalist, photographer and editorialist who has written articles that are published around the world on TheAviationist.com, TACAIRNET.com, Outside magazine, Business Insider, We Are The Mighty, The Dearborn Press & Guide, National Interest, Russia’s government media outlet Sputnik, and many other publications. Demerly studied journalism at Henry Ford College in Dearborn, Michigan. Tom Demerly served in an intelligence gathering unit as a member of the U.S. Army and Michigan National Guard. His military experience includes being Honor Graduate from the U.S. Army Infantry School at Ft. Benning, Georgia (Cycle C-6-1) and as a Scout Observer in a reconnaissance unit, Company “F”, 425th INF (RANGER/AIRBORNE), Long Range Surveillance Unit (LRSU). Demerly is an experienced parachutist, holds advanced SCUBA certifications, has climbed the highest mountains on three continents and visited all seven continents and has flown several types of light aircraft.

11 Comments

  1. Let me be totally honest. When I look at Russian military aircraft all I see are targets. Targets for our 5th gen fighters, which none of them can engage. And remember – like parades of old in pre-WW2 Germany this pageant is not solely meant to inspire. The larger part is meant to intimidate. That doesn’t work on the US. As far as smaller European nations go, thanks to an expanded NATO alliance many more people now breathe far more easily.

    • You must be a teenager. Just a heads up, you’re going to cringe at yourself starting in about 5 years. It’s okay, it’s part of growing up. Maybe you’ll even grow up to fly aircraft, and you’ll love it. And when you do, you’ll be able to watch a Russian military parade and be impressed with what they do while still understanding that Europe does indeed breathe easy because it can keep those machines in check. But don’t think their systems won’t extract a very very deep price. Conventional war between nations like Russia and NATO only means the ‘loser’ is the first to go nuclear. Victory between the West and the East means the West deters the East from ever acting. If you drive the Russians to military defeat, you’re backing them into a corner they’ll try to get out of with mushroom clouds. Fighting them is a problem when you lose, and a problem when you win.

      • Never mind him, he’s a kid whit plenty of time that spam’s these pages on a regular basis, I’m surprised that TA haven’t banned him yet? Besides,back to to the topic, it’s a real shame that the aviation display didn’t’t materialize, because of the bad weather. I would really love to see live one of these spectacular parades in the future.

    • The Russophobia is strong with this one. He’s obviously thinking the US are the good guys and are supreme and exceptional inn every way. But 30 million dead as a result of US incited wars tell a different story.

    • That’s the interesting of the Russians, they make things to last!, only need to upgrade their avionics, engines and weapons systems, and keep them going!

  2. lol, I don’t think Russia needs any more propaganda at the moment.

  3. Is there a non-economic reason for Russians not using flush rivets on the aft areas of their aircraft?

    • Russian designers have always had contempt for aerodynamics and drag. All can be beaten with more power.

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