Tag Archives: Russian Air Force

From Russia With Love: Our MAKS 2017 Report From Zhukovsky

Last week we have attended the MAKS 2017 Aviasalon in Moscow, held at the Zhukovsky/Ramenskoe airfield. MAKS is probably the only event where you can see all the latest Russian hardware (including the PAK FA) being demoed in dynamic displays.

MAKS is not a typical air-show, it should rather be seen as a trade exhibition with the aerospace industry gathering in order to sign new agreements and sell their products. Nonetheless, flying demos seem to be a good way to work on this, as you may also see what the given aircraft does in the air.

However, the static display at the Moscow Salon is equally impressive. This year it featured virtually any piece of contemporary Russian hardware one could imagine, as well as some legacy aircraft, including some exotic airframes, such as the MiG 1.44.

There were no PAK FA jets presented within the static display, which is a pity, however the remaining aircraft also brought one to awe. Ranging from Mil’s helicopters, Il-76MD90-A airlifter, through almost all varieties of the MiG-29 family jets, Sukhois (Su-35, Su-34, Su-30SM included), Tupolev’s bombers (Tu-22M, Tu-160, Tu-95MS), Kamov’s helicopters, with Tu-144 supersonic jetliner or Atlant, the Myashischev’s oversize cargo carrier, to finish with.

The Zhukovsky airfield is, undoubtedly, during the MAKS Salon, a place to be for any “aviation Russophile.”

The air show schedule was, according to frequent visitors at MAKS, not so impressive. Still, for someone like this Author – a first timer – it was jaw-dropping enough.

The show began with a display of the Russian helicopters, flying first in formation, just to perform individual displays later on – watching a giant Mil Mi-26T2 in the air performing graceful dance in the air is a thing one could not witness anywhere else. Attack helicopters also performed unique maneuvers. Unfortunately, Kamov’s designs only did a flypast, with no dynamic displays involved.

The helicopters portion of the show was followed by a dynamic display of the Il-2 Sturmovik aircraft, the world’s second surviving and flying example (reportedly, one more aircraft of this type is also flying in the United States). Notably, the pilot did not make it easy for the warbird, pushing it quite hard throughout the demonstration.

SR-10 trainer with its wings swept forward also took the air.

The show also featured several displays by United Federation of Ultralight Aviation of Russia and civilian aerobatic teams like “The First Flight”.

Nonetheless, the MAKS show is attended mainly for the “heavy metal” portion of it. And the prelude to that part came in a form of a MiG-29M2 display, which, nonetheless was only a starter.

MiG-29 Fulcrum head-on.

Then, two Yak-130 (trainer and a combat variant) jets also performed an interesting duo-display, with plenty of flares involved.

A fully armed Yak-130 releases plenty of flares during its demo.

The Yak-130 Red “02” of the Gromov Flight Research Institute.

After that, the Sukhoi company’s pack of aircraft, including two T-50 PAK FAs, a Su-35 and a Su-34 took off into the air, showing off the maneuverability capabilities of the latest Russian jets. The display schedule varied across the days, and on the weekend we could have also witnessed a flight of four Su-35s performing a display.

The stealthy PAK FA was one of the hightlights of the show. The aircraft flew a sort of simulated aerial engagement with another PAK FA and also flew alongside the Su-35.

The T-50 PAK FA and the supermaneuverable Su-35S.

These two Su-35s were part of a larger formation of four Flankers performing their display during the weekend.

The Su-34 17 Red during take off.

The Su-34 turning and burning during the flying display.

The Fullback showcasing its wide array of weapons during its MAKS 2017 display.

To add a spice to the whole dish, two more aerobatic teams were using the Su-27 derivatives: a team of the Russian Navy, flying two Su-30SMs and performing a tactical display with air combat maneuvering involved, and the “Russkiye Vityazi” (the Russian Knights) team, flying six Su-30SMs in a ballet-like, breathtaking group display. Hearing 12 mighty Saturn engines is an experience which has to be lived-through and cannot be described vividly enough.

The Russian Knights were delivered the Su-30SMs in Fall 2016 and performed their first public display with the new supermaneuverable multirole aircraft at Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition earlier this year.

The Su-30SM a 4+ Generation twin-engine, two seat supermaneuverable multi-role aircraft equipped with improved avionics, the Bars-R radar and a wide-angle HUD (Head Up Display).

Also the Russia’s naval aviation operates a batch of advanced Su-30SM (Flanker-C) multirole fighter jets.

Last, but not least, the displays were complemented by a show by the Strizhi aerobatic team flying the MiG-29s.

Notably, the Russians show also featured loads of flares, with quantities very much exceeding what one can witness anywhere in Europe – this concerns the Strizhi and the Russkiye Vityazi displays.

A Russian Knights Su-30 releases flares during the team’s display.

Launching hundreds of flares simultaneously is beyond spectacular. Moreover, the weather conditions at MAKS, involving high level of humidity in the air, mean that some awesome “irisation” phenomena could be captured. This happens when the clouds of condensed vapor form on the airframe as the jet is seen against the sun: one can witness a rainbow being trailed behind the jet. The weather at MAKS was varied, from storms to 30 degrees centigrade heat, hence there were many chances to witness the aforesaid sights.

“Irisation” phenomenon clearly visible in this shot of the Russian Knights.

When it comes to foreign participation in the show, this year, due to the political tensions with Russia, it was somewhat limited, and only two foreign guests performed their displays in the air – the Al Fursan aerobatic team which is very much reminiscent of the program demonstrated by the Italian Frecce Tricolori group (it also involves the very same type of aircraft) and the Baltic Bees Jet Team, hailing from Latvia.

The UAE display team Al Fursan flying the MB.339 aircraft.

Overall, even though the MAKS show was said to be more modest than its former editions, undoubtedly it is an event worth attending. The sole fact that one can witness the Russian most advanced aircraft flown by the best pilots who know the aircraft’s capabilities by heart, is enough to go to Moscow.

Moreover, when attending MAKS, it would be a sin not to visit the Monino Museum of the Russian Air Force, which is just 2 hours train ride from the Kazansky train station in Moscow. The collection of aircraft gathered there, including the Sukhoi T-4 or some unique prototypes is, without any doubt, also worth seeing and appreciating.

The only Sukhoi T-4 on display at Monino Central Air Force Museum.

Many thanks go to Foto Poork who assisted us in obtaining the media accreditation and supported the visa procedure in Poland, and to Andrzej Rogucki who provided us with assistance in getting around Russia without getting hurt.

All Images: Jacek Siminski

What These Pictures Of Two Russian Yak-130 Jets That Crash Landed Almost Simultaneously in Russia Say About The Causes Of The Mishaps

Two Yak-130 Jets Have Crashed Simultaneously in Armavir and Borisoglebsk Last Month. And Here’s An Investigation On The Root Causes.

According to several reports, two Russian Air Force Yak-130 Trainer/Light Attack (LA) Aircraft (Tail number 43white/RF-44496 from Borisoglebsk airbase and 55red/RF-44583 from Armavir) crashed almost simultaneously in two different places on Wednesday June 21, 2017. Information about incident has not released by the RuAF (Russian Air Force).

The Yakovlev Yak-130 is a subsonic two-seat advanced trainer originally developed by Yakovlev and Aermacchi (now Leonardo).

Along with the advanced jet trainer role, the “Mitten” (Yak-130 NATO’s nickname), able to replicate the characteristics of Russian Gen. 4 and 4++  combat aircraft, is capable of fulfill Light Attack (LA) and Reconnaissance tasks and it can carry a payload of 3,000 kilograms, including guided and unguided weapons, external fuel tanks and electronic pods.

The LA version, dubbed YAK-131 and equipped with mechanical radar (Phazotron) or Passive Electronically Scanned Array (PESA), is planned to replace the Su-25 Frogfoot.The Russian Air Force has also developed a reconnaissance variant of the Mitten, dubbed  Yak-133.

The Yak-130 bear a significant resemblance with Italian M-346 “Master”, produced by Leonardo Company and already operated by the ItAF (Italian Air force), IAF (Israeli Air Force), RSAF (republic Singapore Air Force) and Polish Air Force. This Author has been one of the first pilots and IP (Instructor Pilot) on the Italian T-346 (ItAF designation of the baseline M-346).

At the moment, the RuAF has not given any official information about the dual accident and the possible causes are still under investigation. However, local sources reported the first crash occurred during a normal flying training and has involved the Yak-130 (55 red/RF-44583) that belong to the Armavir Flying School.

Soon after the first crash, a second Yak-130 (43 white/RF-44496) belonging to the Borisoglebsk Air Force Base was forced to land on the runway.

INVESTIGATION ON GEAR UP LANDING. (55 red/RF-44583 Armavir)

In my career as a combat pilot, I’ve had the opportunity to undertake many different training courses. One of those was the Flight Safety Office (FSO) which include the investigation section with a simulated crash to “solve.”

By means of the methodology and approach used to investigate real incidents I’ll  drive you in a very simple and basic investigation. We will analyze all the available details and see whether it is possible to determine the causes of these crashes.

55 red/RF-44583 from Armavir after the crash landing (via Ilya.A—Petya.A’s bro)

Close up view of the left air intake of the Yak-130 (via Ilya.A—Petya.A’s bro)

First of all, what we can do is a “picture analysis” and looking at the picture of 55 red/RF-44583 you can notice some of important details useful to understand the landing or crash dynamics:

  1. The aircraft landed on the belly without any other damage or structural breaks: this means the aircraft touched the ground with a correct and normal attitude used during a normal landing. Therefore, we can assume the pilot “planned” to land on the grass;
  2. The aircraft had the LEF (Leading Edge Flap) in down position: this means the pilot lowered the LEF with the intent to land like he was on the runway;
  3. The canopy seems to be open in a normal way (no damage or glass rupture): in other words the two pilots abandoned the aircraft “normally” soon after the jet stopped. This detail suggests the pilot purposely landed there and did a soft touch down with no other consequence;
  4. Looking at the air intake, you can see the internal section extremely clean without any FOD: this means the engine was not running and it didn’t suck anything. One possible reason is a flame out or the pilot decided to shut down the engine seconds before the touchdown to avoid any fire.

After a FIR (First Impression Report), the second step is to merge all the above consideration in order to elaborate a possible scenario. Based on the above points, the two pilots most probably attempted an emergency landing with one or both engines not operating.

Now let’s move to the possible causes that forced the Yak-130 to land out of the runway and let’s try to understand WHY the pilot did take the decision to land on grass field.

First consideration is that the emergency was TIME CRITICAL, otherwise they could have enough time to fly and steer toward a suitable airfield. Based on my experience the most important hint comes from the picture of the air intake: this picture seems to suggest engines or thrust problems that forced the pilot to perform a forced landing out of the runway. Let’s explore possible reasons:

  1. The aircraft was completely out of fuel. This situation seems quite unlikely, almost impossible, unless aircraft showed false fuel indications (a case of multiple emergencies, that is to say fuel transfer failure combined with false fuel indication) because pilots use to plan the fuel required for all training tasks: the fuel to recovery to the base with enough fuel in case they need or to practice some visual pattern; and the fuel to divert to the alternate in case of problem with the home base;
  2. The aircraft had a fuel transfer failure and the crew suddenly found to have less fuel available to return home or to the nearest suitable airfield;
  3. The aircraft had a double engine flame out (this option can be also caused by the point 1 and 2) and the pilots were forced to find a suitable “strip” to land.

Of course I don’t know the RuAF SOP (Standard Operations Procedures) and the YAK-130 emergency check list procedures for the above emergencies.

In case of double engine flame out, due to fuel or engines malfunction, most of the military aircraft procedures require the pilots to eject unless they can safely recover or land the aircraft. Landing on the grass without gear is not a safe recovery but in this case (I want to remember that we don’t know too many details about the reason of crash and we are conducting an investigation based on a picture) pilots took a very brave decision and the option to land without landing gear was in the end a smart decision to soften as much as possible the touchdown on an “unprepared field”. In this case pilots took a huge risk but they were extremely lucky to land without further problems (such as fire, structural damage, unintentional ejection seat activation and so on.)

Although we can’t rule out multiple failures, such as engine flame out and landing gear system failure, my instinct and experience suggest that the gear up landing was done on purpose.

INVESTIGATION ON NOSE GEAR UP LANDING (43 white/RF-44496 Borisoglebsk)

The 43white/RF-44496 from Borisoglebsk (via Ilya.A—Petya.A’s bro)

Looking at the picture, the aircraft seems to have landed normally with few damages. This assessment helps limiting the range of possible failures that may have caused the gear up landing, because we can assume the aircraft was operating efficiently.

Since the plane seems to have landed normally (making engine failure less likely unless this has happened in the vicinity of the airfield) we can focus on a possible landing gear system malfunction. Therefore, let’s have a look at some details:

  1. The aircraft has the LEF down and we already know why and what this may mean;
  2. Only the main landing gear is down: this may have been caused by nose landing gear malfunction, structural damage due to bird strike, nose landing gear not completely locked or hydraulics malfunction;
  3. The main gear doors seem to be in open position. Most of the military jets, when reporting landing gear malfunction or hydraulics system failure, have the option to use the emergency gear lowering system. When the pilot activates the Emergency lowering system this overrides the normal gear system using enough pressure to lower the gear but not enough to close the gear doors. On the other side I cannot be 100% sure about this because of the picture resolution; still, during incident investigations it is important to take how systems work into proper consideration.

At this point, merging all the above points we can assume that the aircraft had some problem with landing gear system or hydraulics system and the pilot decided to land without nose gear.

During a nose gear-up landing it is paramount for the pilot to comply with the following action list:

  • Be very precise on approach with speed and attitude;
  • Perform aerodynamic braking during landing roll;
  • Before the HT (Horizontal Tail) loses lift, the pilot needs to gradually reduce the back pressure on the stick to allow a soft touchdown between the ground and the airframe;
  • Re-apply again the back pressure on the stick as soon as the nose touches the ground to reduce the weight on the nose trying to minimize the damage.
  • Avoid to use the brakes;
  • Shut down the engine in order to avoid engine mechanical failure and reduce thrust and, consequently, the landing distance.

According to my experience most of the aircraft are allowed to land with a symmetric configuration like: NO GEAR, ONLY MAIN GEAR, ONLY NOSE GEAR.

Summing up, based on a few pictures we can conclude that:

  • the aircraft 55 red/RF-44583 from Armavir had some problem with fuel quantity/transfer or with both engine and the pilot was forced to land on the grass
  • the aircraft 43 white/RF-44496 from Borisoglebsk had some problems with landing gear system or hydraulics system.

 

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New Russian Su-35S Super-Maneuverability Display Wows MAKS Crowds, Videos Go Viral

Following New F-35 Display at Paris, Moscow Wows with Sukhoi Su-35 Super-Maneuverability Display: But Does it Matter?

Video of Sukhoi’s Su-35 super-maneuverable aircraft flying an impressive new demonstration routine at the MAKS airshow in Russia this week has gone viral on social media.

This year’s updated Russian Sukhoi aerobatic demonstration, similar to previous Sukhoi and MiG demos, follows the first-ever aerobatic display of the American F-35A Lightning II at the Paris Air Show a month ago.

The Su-35S “Flanker E” is the 4++ generation variant of the Su-27 Flanker aircraft.

The multirole aircraft features thrust-vectoring, radar-absorbent paint, Irbis-E passive electronically scanned array radar, IRST (Infra-Red Search and Track) and the said ability to detect stealth planes like the F-35 at a distance of over 90 kilometers (…), the Khibiny radar jamming system along with the ability to use some interesting weapons, including the ultra-long range R-37M air-to-air missile that could target HVAA (High Value Air Assets) such as AWACS and tanker aircraft.

The aircraft were deployed to Hmeymim airbase, near Latakia, in February 2016 to undertake air superiority and escort missions over Syria.

Aviation analysts have long contended that displays of so-called “super maneuverability” at low speeds have little or no tactical value in the real world air combat environment. These displays do often lead to conversations comparing aircraft capabilities and re-open the never-ending debates about which aircraft design doctrine provides a real world tactical advantage.

Are such low speed maneuvers worthless to fight against the U.S. 5th Gen. stealth aircraft that would engage the Su-35S from BVR (Beyond Visual Range) exploiting their radar-evading capabilities?

Real world tactical merit aside, Sukhoi’s display is sensational. The aircraft seems to depart the conventional control regime as it flips, twists and tumbles. The Su-35’s most remarkable sequence is a low speed “Pugachev’s Cobra” transitioning to a tumbling back flip followed by a side-slip to an inverted spin and then a classic recovery gained by pointing the aircraft’s nose to the ground to regain lost energy in exchange for altitude. The entire sequence is flown at altitude that presumably lives little margin for error, making it even more thrilling.

The massive International Aviation and Space Salon MAKS Airshow is happening now at Zhukovsky International Airport outside Moscow, Russia. The show, that runs from July 18-23rd, is one of the most important international airshows in the world. Some estimates suggest 40,000 more aviation enthusiasts and business people attend MAKS than the famous Paris Air Show that took place in June.

“In 2015, MAKS welcomed 404,000 visitors – 52,000 more than attended the Paris Air Show held at Le Bourget in the same year.” According to Russian Aviation Insider.

The MAKS Airshow continues through this weekend. We will report on highlights from the show after it concludes next week.

Top image: The SU-35 wowed MAKS audiences with a new demonstration routine outside Moscow. (Photo: RT)

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This Footage *Allegedly* Shows A Russian MiG-31 Shooting Down A Cruise Missile In The Stratosphere.

According to the Russian MoD this video shows a Russian MiG-31 Foxhound taking down a cruise missile.

According to the press center of the Pacific Fleet of Russia, a Russian Navy MiG-31 Foxhound interceptor launched from the Kamchatka Peninsula, intercepted a supersonic cruise missile in the stratosphere during exercises that were conducted on the eve of the celebration of the Day of Naval Aviation.

The missile was launched from the water area of the Sea of Okhotsk at an altitude of more than 12 kilometers at a speed three times the speed of sound, Pravda new outlet reported.

The Mig-31 Foxhound is a two-seat Mig-25 Foxbat derivative in service since 1983.

Whilst the MiG-25 was built as a high-speed, high-altitude interceptor, capable of reaching the speed of Mach 3.2 to intercept American B-58 and B-70 bombers, the MiG-31 was designed to intercept the B-1B bomber, which was designed to operate at low-level, below the radar coverage.

The MiG-31 has quite good low-level capabilities (which MiG-25 does not) and is equipped with an advanced radar with look-down-shoot-down capability (needed to detect low-flying bombers), and data bus, allowing for coordinated attack with other fighters.

The production of the Mig-31, one of the world’s fastest tactical fighter in active service with top speed of Mach 2.83 and a range of 1,450 km, ended in the early 1990s, but the interceptor is being upgraded to extend its operative life up to the 2028 – 2030.

The Russian MiG-31BM jet, capable to carry up to four long-range R-33 missiles and four short-range R-77 missiles, was expected to carry a weapon able to shoot down space satellites; according to some sources, the ability to intercept a cruise missile, previously Kh-55 and now Kh-101, is something practiced by the Russian Foxhounds for years.

The video below, released by the Russian MoD, is said to show the test conducted on Jul. 17 (even though the actual interception of the cruise missile can’t be seen.)

Generally speaking, combat aircraft can intercept cruise missiles and engage them. However, such missiles are quite difficult to detect: they are optimised for low level flying through the Terrain Following capability, have a low radar cross-section and heat signature and, they are small.

This means that an inteceptor using a long-range missile from the right position and altitude might be able to do the job. But it shouldn’t be something too easy.

Testing conducted by the U.S. Navy has shown that shooting down cruise missiles, flying at low-level and high-speed is actually a pretty difficult task: on Sept. 12, 2016, a live test fire demonstration involved the integration of U.S. Marine Corps F-35B from the Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron (VMX 1), based in Edwards Air Force Base, with existing Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air (NIFC-CA) architecture.

F-35 and Aegis Combat System Successfully Demonstrated Integration Potential in First Live Missile Test (Lockheed Martin)

The F-35B acted as an elevated sensor (to detect an over-the-horizon threat as envisaged for the F-22) that sent data through its Multi-Function Advanced Data Link to a ground station connected to USS Desert Ship (LLS-1), a land-based launch facility designed to simulate a ship at sea. Using the latest Aegis Weapon System Baseline 9.C1 and a Standard Missile 6, the system successfully detected and engaged the target: a test that proved how detecting, tracking and engaging cruise missiles requires cutting edge anti-surface and anti-air weapons.

On the other side it is somehow interesting to note that a rather old weapons system, the MiG-31, albeit operating a Passive Electronically Scanned Array (PESA) radar, can be able to intercept stealthy cruise missiles (like the Kh-101 reportedly used in some tests), with the support of an AWACS plane.

We don’t actually know the exact type of test the Russians conducted. For sure it wasn’t a low flying cruise missile like a Tomahawk, since this was reportedly flying in the “near space.”

The video below shows a past test when four MiG-31s, supported by an A-50 Mainstay, reportedly fired and hit a Kh-55 launched by a Tu-95 Bear.

“The cruise missile was destroyed at an altitude of 300 meters above the ground from a distance of 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) from the target,” the Russian MoD said in a statement, quoted by Russian-owned outlet Sputnik News, back in 2015.

Anyway, Russia has other weapons systems nominally capable of repelling cruise missile attacks, as well as jets and drones: the S-400 anti-aircraft defense is able to engage all types of aerial targets including aircraft (someone says even VLO – Very Low Observable ones), drones and ballistic and cruise missiles within the range of 250 miles at an altitude of nearly 19 miles.

Let us know what you think and know about the MiG-31 ability to intercept waves of cruise missiles.

Top image: file artwork by Pravda.ru

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Up Close And Personal With The Italian Typhoon Jets Deployed To Bulgaria Under NATO’s Enhanced Air Policing

Four Italian Typhoons have deployed to Bulgaria to bolster NATO’s Air Policing mission in the Black Sea region.

Four Italian Air Force F-2000A Typhoon jets have deployed to Graf Ignatievo Air Base, Bulgaria, to undertake the NATO’s enhanced Air Policing mission from July until October 2017.

The Italian Typhoons belong to the 4° Stormo (Wing) of Grosseto, 36° Stormo from Gioia del Colle and the 37° Stormo from Trapani even though, as always happens when involved in real operations, the Italian aircrews will operate as part of a Task Force where, regardless of the unit, badges and traditions (all the squadrons involved in the deployment have recently celebrated their centenary…) all personnel, aircraft and equipment are completely integrated and interchangeable, thanks to fully standardized procedures and training.

The Italian rotation to Bulgaria will overlap until September with the RAF detachment of four Typhoons deployed to Mihail Kogalniceanu air base in Romania as part of the same Southern Air Policing mission.

Following a familiarization phase, the Italian team will undergo certification by NATO’s Combined Air Operations Centre (CAOC) Torrejon, Spain before providing Air Policing tasks alongside the local Bulgarian Air Force MiG-29 Fulcrum jets.

The Italian F-2000As on the ramp at Graf Ignatievo Air Base.

A Bulgarian Air Force Fulcrum taxies next to the Italian Typhoons.

Since Bulgaria “is perfectly able to conduct NATO Air Policing with its assets; this enhanced Air Policing capability offered by the Italian jets provides the CAOC with more flexibility to conduct the mission.”

This is the first time the Italian Typhoons take part in the NATO’s Enhanced Air Policing mission in the Black Sea area: so far the ItAF “Tiffies” have supported the Icelandic (in 2013 and earlier this year) and Baltic (in 2015) while supporting the Interim Air Policing task over Slovenia (task shared with the Hungarian Air Force) and over Albania (task shared with the Hellenic Air Force).

Typhoon’s rear view.

One of the ItAF Typhoons parked at Graf Ignatievo Air Base, Bulgaria, after its arrival on Jul. 7.

Breaking for landing

“While Air Policing is a collective peacetime task to ensure integrity and security of NATO airspace, the enhanced Air Policing was agreed and implemented by NATO Allies at the Wales Summit in 2014 under the Assurance Measures. These measures are aimed at assuring Allies along the NATO’s eastern flank of Alliance commitment and resolve as well as deterrence and defence,” said NATO in an official release about the deployment.

The images in this post were taken by Nikolay Dimov at Graf Ignatievo as the Italians landed to support the Air Policing task in Bulgaria on Jul. 7, 2017.

Two of the four IRIS-T air-to-air missiles carried by the Italian Typhoons in Bulgaria.

Typhoon head on: take a look at the loadout.

Image credit: Nikolay Dimov

 

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