In August of 2005 I made my way to Russia, hungry to see some Russian military aircraft flying at the MAKS airshow . Also high on my list of planned activities was a visit to the official Russian Air Force museum at the town of Monino, about an hour's train ride north of Moscow. The museum used to be operated by the air force but it's now independent, which means you no longer need an invitation to visit. This is the view from the main gate.
At the top of the list of things I wanted to see was this helicopter, the largest which has ever flown. It has the NATO code name "Homer" and is usually referred to as the Mi-12, however since it never entered production its correct name is actually V-12. Two or three prototypes were built and did quite a bit of flying, including a trip across Europe to the Paris Air Show. Depending on which source you believe, this was either in 1965, 1971, 1981 or 1985; as far as I can tell 1971 is the correct date. The V-12 used two of the power plants and rotors from the already massive Mi-6 "Hook", which you can see later on this page and also in Vietnamese Air Force colors . The fuselage is 37 meters long and 12.5 meters high (121 x 41 feet). The rotors are each 35 meters (114 feet) in diameter and it can lift up to 25 tons (55,000 pounds) of cargo, though in a special record-breaking effort in 1969 it lifted 40 tons (88,600 pounds) to a height of 2250 meters (7400 feet). With a more normal load the maximum range was a very useful 1000 kilometers (625 miles).
This is the inside of the main hangar, visible in the photograph taken from the front entrance. On the far left hand side is an Ant-25 which flew from Moscow to California in the 1930s, and there are also some original and replica early Russian aircraft, as well as a few space exhibits. A new hangar is being built near this one, which bodes well for the future of the museum. It would certainly be a good thing to get some more of the museum's unique aircraft out of the nasty Russian weather.
This was one of the few other space exhibits at the museum, the MiG 105-11 single-person lifting body craft, which actually has a turbojet engine to allow it to divert or reattempt a landing after a failed approach. This craft did several flights after being dropped from a modified Tu-95 "Bear". As you can see, the grass in this display area could really use a cut, though most of the aircraft looked to be in quite good condition.
As you might expect, the museum had examples of pretty much every single type of Russian jet fighter, arranged by manufacturer with separate sections for Sukhoi, Mikoyan-Gurevich (MiG) and Yakolev. Quite a number of the exhibits are the actual prototypes used to test the aircraft and there are also a number of experimental aircraft which never went into production, including this Sukhoi S-26 experimental ski-equipped jet fighter, which apparently performed very well.
There weren't too many naval aircraft on display, apart from a two-engined Beriev Be-12 "Mail" seaplane and this Yak-38 "Forger", which is a vertical takeoff and landing fighter which went into production in 1975 and served aboard Soviet Kiev-class aircraft carriers. Near the Yak-38 was another Yakolev designed VTOL naval fighter, the supersonic Yak-141 "Freestyle".
I'm not a great expert on Soviet aircraft, so it was a real treat to see some of the less common types which I wasn't familiar with, like this Myasischev M-50 "Bounder" supersonic intercontinental nuclear bomber which first flew in 1959. This is one weird looking aircraft, the long tubular fuselage with pointed nose mounted above a bicycle style undercarriage with outrigger landing gear at the end of the wings. An engine is mounted at each wingtip, leading one person to comment that it looked like it had been designed by a ten year old boy! Very few of these aircraft were built, because Khruschev decided that all efforts in this area should be concentrated on ICBMs. This decision spelled the end for both the Myasischev and the Lavochkin design bureaus.
This extraordinary aircraft is the Sukhoi T-4, a Russian attempt to emulate the USAF XB-70 Valkyrie mach-3 bomber. The T-4 (sometimes incorrectly referred to as the Su-100) is largely constructed from titanium and stainless steel and featured the world's first "fly by wire" control system. It started its flight test program in 1972, but made only 10 flights before the program was scrapped. Like Concorde and the Tu-144, the T-4 has a drooping nose to provide better forward vision when taking off and landing however, unlike either of these aircraft, there are no forward windows to look through when the nose is lifted. Instead the pilots must use a periscope for forward vision, and a couple of small windows (one of which is visible through one of the front windows in this photo) to provide a view sideways and up. Interestingly, the bilingual sign in front ! of the T-4 states its purpose as "destruction of attack aircraft carriers and reconnaissance".
In the last photo you can see a part of the field set aside for the display of Russian designed helicopters. There must have been a total of 15 or 20 helicopters at the museum, just a couple of the interesting Kamov models with contra-rotating rotors, and almost all of the others being Mils, like the well-known Mi-24 "Hind-D" gunship at the front of this photo, standing next to its less well-known Mi-24 "Hind-A" predecessor.
This Mi-10 "Harke" was a great sight, tucked away at the back of the display. The Mi-10 was a flying crane dating back to 1960 which, like the V-12, used the same powerplant and rotor as the Mi-6 "Hook". As you can see, the Mi-10 also featured a platform which could be used to carry a vehicle. Although all of the display areas were surrounded by low chain-link fences, the custodians quickly gave me permission to go past them in order to get better photographs. Although they didn't speak English and I didn't speak Russian, I was able to make my request known to them by sign language and acting out what I wanted to do!
Here finally is the Mi-6 "Hook", the grey one a regular version with the wings mounted just behind the rotor head, and a fire-fighting version without the wings. There were three Mi-6s at the museum, another one being in the main helicopter display area. For many years the Mi-6 was the largest helicopter in the world, able to carry twice the load of the largest helicopter ever produced in America.
Behind the grey Mi-6 in the previous photo is this Mi-26 "Halo", currently the world's largest operational helicopter. It's essentially an enlarged Mi-6 with an eight-bladed rotor, allowing it to carry 66% more payload. It has been exported to several countries, including India, Greece, Peru and Laos.
Mil and Kamov were the dominant Russian helicopter design bureaus, but early on Yakolev also tried their hand, producing this Yak-24 "Horse" which was intended as a troop transport. To my surprise, parked behind the Yak-24 was an American twin-rotor Vertol H-21 helicopter, complete with American flag painted on the vertical tail surfaces! Strange as it might seem, this was apparently sold to the Russians in the late 1950s.
During world war two, three American B-29 Superfortress bombers landed on separate occasions in the Russian city of Vladivostok, unable to return to their home base because of battle damage or mechanical problems. The Russians, who weren't officially at war with Japan, interned the aircraft and their crews, who were later allowed to "escape" back to their own forces. The aircraft remained in Russia and Stalin ordered the Tupolev design bureau to reverse engineer them, resulting in the Tupolev Tu-4 which you see here, which was assigned the NATO code name "Bull". About 1200 Tu-4s were built, some of which were supplied to China which used them until the late 1960s.
Although they had no equivalent to the B-29, the Russians had always been capable of developing large aircraft, and home-grown alternatives to the Tu-4 soon came into existence, such as this Tu-95 "Bear". The Tu-95 is one of the classic Soviet cold war aircraft and was frequently encountered by western military aircrews as the Tu-95s shadowed NATO naval forces. It has the world's most powerful turboprop engines driving contra-rotating propellers mounted on a wing swept back by 35 degrees, making it almost as fast as jets of the time, and has a range of 15,000 kilometers (9,400 miles). It first flew in 1952 and has been phenomenally successful, remaining in production into the mid-1980s and serving in a wide variety of roles. It's still in service and as recently as 1999 some Tu-95s on simulated nuclear bombing missions against America were intercepted by American fighter planes. The Antonov design bureau specialized in large transport aircraft and to this day they hold the records for the largest transport aircraft, the An-124 with four jet engines and the even more massive An-225 with six jet engines, which has a maximum takeoff weight of over 575 tonnes (1,250,000 pounds). The museum doesn't have an An-124 or An-225 but it does have this An-22 Antheus (NATO code name "Cock"), which is the largest propeller-driven plane ever built. It has the same model of turbo-prop driven contra-rotating propellers as the Tu-95 and is capable of carrying 80 tonnes (80 tons) of cargo. Behind it you can see one of the most unusual aircraft at Monino, the remains of an "Ekranoplan" or Beriev VVA-14 ground-effect hydroplane, designed in 1972 as an anti-submarine craft.
This is a Tu-114 "Russiya", a civilian derivative of the Tu-95 "Bear", which has the distinction of being the largest propeller-driven airliner to ever go into service, seating up to 220 passengers. It also still holds the record for the world's fastest turbo-prop aircraft, aided by its swept wings. It's said that this is the very aircraft in which Khruschev flew when he visited the United States. If you fly into Russia through Domodedovo airport (DME) then you'll see one displayed at the front of the airport, in better looking condition than this one.
No doubt this Tu-144 airliner will be the highlight of Monino for many people, even though it's difficult to get photographs because of the aircraft surrounding it. This is the Russian version of the Anglo-French Concorde airliner, whose plans the Russians had acquired from the French by a bit of industrial espionage. The "Concordski", as it was dubbed, flew two months before Concorde, and had a number of differences from the Concorde, including a main wing more optimized for high-speed flight, and a small auxiliary canard wing just behind the cockpit which was extended at low speeds to improve takeoff and landing performance. The Tu-144 was about 4 meters longer than Concorde and also had a maximum speed of Mach 2.35 (2,500 km/h or 1,550 mph) compared to the Concorde's maximum speed of Mach 2.2 (2,330 km/h or 1,450 mph). Some think that the French got their re v! enge when a Tu-144 crashed at the 1973 Paris Air Show, the theory being that the plane's pilot had to take a drastic evasive maneuver to avoid hitting a French Mirage chase plane which had been launched without telling the Russians. Another theory is that the Russians tinkered with the controls before the flight to allow a faster and more dramatic rate of climb, which lead to the aircraft stalling and crashing, killing the entire crew of 6 as well as 8 people on the ground. In the end the Tu-144 only flew 102 scheduled flights with Aeroflot, about half of which carried only freight. In 1996 NASA started a series of flights of a refurbished Tu-144 in order to research the possibilities of a second-generation supersonic jet airliner, but this program was cancelled in 1999.