Russia’s Greatest Airshow, And One of The Best in The World, In One Week.
We’re outside the fence of Zhukovsky Airport in Zhukovsky, Russia, about 40 kilometers from downtown Moscow. The instant Alex’s car comes to a stop we are out and setting up cameras. Alex, who speaks both English and Russian, plugs his earphone into his scanner.
“The PAK-FA is coming now!”
Only minutes after climbing out of the car from Moscow a Russian Sukhoi Su-57, Russia’s most sophisticated new 5th generation stealth combat aircraft, is ripping open the sky with maneuvers never seen at a U.S. airshow.
MAKS International Airshow is setting up this week, and some of the most remarkable aircraft in the world are flying into Zhukovsky for the massive commercial, civil and military aviation business expo and airshow. Along with other aviation journalists and photographers from around the world, we clamber for the best spotting locations awaiting arrivals and watching rehearsals the week before the show opens. Alex, who lives in Moscow and knows Zhukovsky’s best photography locations well, identifies three places for our group to shoot from today.
The first is directly underneath the new Sukhoi Su-57’s aerobatic routine. It’s our first day here and the photos we’re getting are stunning.
MAKS 2019 International Airshow is the 14th edition of the show and will attract nearly a half-million visitors to the approximately 300 exhibitors at the show. Well over 600 billion Rubles in aircraft contracts originated from the previous edition of MAKS in 2017, and Russian aviation firms have even more innovative new products to sell to prospective military and commercial users from around the world.
Today we are getting an incredible firsthand look at Russia’s entry into the 5th generation fighter market, the Sukhoi Su-57, known in testing as the “PAK-FA”.
The Su-57 is an eye-opening aircraft in an airshow setting. It’s flat-pancake shape and colorful livery are slicing through puffy, sunlit cumulous and then bleeding vapor from every control surface after the incision. Its maneuvers nearly defy description, eclipsing in spectacle, if not tactical function, anything seen in western airshows.
We start out directly under the show box at airshow center, the place where you see a flight demonstration from the inside. The Su-57 passes directly over us at 200-feet, inverted. It snap-rolls, pitches up, and climbs vertically a few thousand feet straight up. Then it begins to slide backwards out of its own water vapor wrapping that it ripped from the guts of a cloud. Suddenly the nose arcs over, the plane becomes horizontal again and begins a series of pirouettes.
What we are beginning to see the week before MAKS 2019 is helping to change the world’s mind about the sophistication and quality of Russia’s immense aerospace industry. What we’re seeing already is already sensational, and the show is still days away from officially opening. We’ll be back tomorrow for more coverage of MAKS 2019 during the pre-show week.