Last Seen at MAKS in 2007, The Experimental Su-47 Tested Forward Swept Wings and Other Advanced Technologies.
MAKS 2019 air show at Zhukovsky International Airport outside Moscow, Russia will be packed with new insights into the future of Russian aviation combined with some rare and fascinating projects from Russia’s past. One of these brilliant retrospective static displays was revealed on Aug. 26.
Journalists and photographers gathered at the popular spotting location called “The Pipes” got a remarkable, fleeting surprise late in the day on Monday, when an extremely rare Sukhoi Su-47 “Berkut” experimental test aircraft was towed from storage to the static display area. Only one Su-47 Berkut was ever built. It first flew in September 1997, when it caused significant interest among western observers.
Towing the aircraft from its storage facility to the static display area gave photographers an extremely rare opportunity to photograph the plane in the open in good lighting for several minutes before it was placed in the busy and crowded static display area at Zhukovsky.
The Su-47 Berkut, sometimes also referred to as the “Golden Eagle” and interchangeably the “S-32” or “S-37” and also by its NATO codename “Firkin”, was a one-off aircraft designed primarily to test the viability of several new flight control and overall design characteristics. The most striking are its unusual forward-swept wings.
Two additional and significant but less obvious technologies were also tested on the Su-47 Berkut. The unconventionally configured Sukhoi used an advanced digital fly-by-wire flight control system and relied heavily on the use of composite materials such as carbon fiber. Partially as a result of testing done with the Su-47, Russia’s modern 5th generation fighter, the new Sukhoi Su-57, employs these technologies developed on the Su-47 Berkut.
Russia was not the first to experiment with forward swept wing aircraft however. In 1984, the U.S. began experimenting with the Grumman X-29. The X-29 also had forward-swept wings and large canards along with fly-by-wire flight controls.
Yesterday’s appearance of the Su-47 Berkut was a pleasant surprise for the twenty-or-so photographers remaining late in the day at The Pipes along the fence line just outside Zhukovsky. When it was initially towed into view spotters has difficulty identifying it from about a kilometer away as it was behind a tractor and an escort vehicle. As the aircraft came closer the more experienced spotters realized immediately they we witnessing something special.
“I’ve been here many, many times over the years, I’ve never once seen it,” one of the photographers told TheAviationist.com. Photographers quickly scrambled up ladders to shoot photos of the Su-47 through the razor wire-topped fence that secures the air base. Within minutes the first photos were being broadcast to surprised aviation enthusiasts around the world. In only 30 minutes a video posted to TheAviationist.com’s Facebook page already had well over 1,000 views.
The Su-47 Berkut will share the static display area at MAKS 2019 with a massive collection of fascinating Russian experimental aircraft housed at the Gromov Flight Research Institute at Zhukovsky and will provide attendees a once-in-a-lifetime experience to view these extremely rare Russian planes.
MAKS 2019 runs from Tuesday, August 27 through September 1.