KUBINKA AIR BASE, located some 50 miles (80km) west of Moscow is the home of the Proskurovsky Fighter Air Regiment. The Regiment is equipped with four operational types — the Su-27 Flanker, MiG-29 Fulcrum, Su-24 Fencer and Su-25 Frogfoot. It also has its own helicopter and transport support aircraft which include Mi-17 Hips and An-26 Curls , ond the base houses maintenance facilities for MiG-23 and ’27 Floggers.
Kubinka’s important secondary role came to prominence in 1956 when Western journalists were invited to the base to see a static display of the latest Soviet military aircraft, which included many hitherto unknown types.
Over the past 35 years Kubinka has become the ‘shop window’ for the Soviet Union’s most advanced combat aircraft where delegations of ‘friendly nations’ were invited to view static and flying displays of the latest military hardware on offer. The privileged few — heads of states and leading Politburo members, were granted access to Kubinko’s display hangar which protected the most secret aircraft from the prying eyes of spy satellites.
Kubinka also became the home of the Air Force’s (WS) aerobatic display teams, one of the first of which was the MiG-17 Fresco-equipped ‘Golden Falcons’ of the mid-1950s.
The tradition is maintained in the 1990s by no less than three aerobatics teams, all of which reside at Kubinka — the MiG-29-equipped ‘Swifts’, the ‘Russian Knights’ who visited the UK in September 1991 with their impressive Su-27s, and the latest to be formed, the ‘Sky Hussars’ equipped with Su-25s.
All the pilots, and the specially painted aircraft, belong to operational units of the Prosurovsky Fighter Air Regiment. Flying with the teams is a secondary duty and only the most experienced pilots are selected. Their training begins with solo aerobatics followed by synchro pair formations, before graduating to diamond fours.
The teams comprise nine blue and white MiG-29s (‘Swifts’), six red, white and blue Su-27s (‘Russian Knights’), which are cosponsored by Breitling the Swiss watch company, and eventually, eight red and white Su-25s (‘Sky Hussars’). Each team includes at least one two-seat aircraft.
No less than 120 demonstrations were held at Kubinka during 1991.
The driving force behind the establishment of permanent aerobatic formation teams within the Air Force has been Lt Gen Nicolay Antoshkin, Commander of the Russian Air Force of the Moscow Military District, and Hero of the Soviet Union.
Born in 1942, he graduated from the Oryenburg Higher Military Aviation School os a pilot in 1965, subsequently serving os a pilot, flight commander and CO of an HQ squadron. In 1973 he graduated from the Gagarin Air Force Academy, becoming a deputy regimental commander before attending the General Staff Military Academy from where he graduated in 1983.
In April 1986, Gen Antoshkin was OC Air Force Staff in the Kiev Military District and after the explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, he was put in charge of operations to prevent further radiation leaks. With his background as a helicopter pilot, Gen Antoshkin directed, and flew with, Mi-8s and Mi-26s which not only ferried technicians and fire fighters to the site, but dropped tons of sand, lead and neutron-absorbing boron onto the stricken reactor core.
For his part in this hazardous operation, General Antoshkin was mode a Hero of the Soviet Union.
He now commands the Moscow Military District (MVO-Mosltovsky Voyenny Okroog), an area larger than the United Kingdom stretching from Smolensk in the west to Gorky in the east, Rybinsk in the north to the Ukraine border in the south — 350,000 sq miles (900,000 sq km) which contains more than 60 airfields.
Asked about the present state of the Russian Air Force, General Antoshkin told AFM;
» The Air Force is changing, numbers of recruits ore being reduced and ways of decreasing the drop-out rate of pilots under training is being addressed. We are looking towards on RAF-style streaming system, now if a fast jet-student fails to make the grade, even at a late stage of training, he has no opportunity of flying any type of aircraft.
» Physical fitness is very important in the selection process for fast jet pilots — many come from rural backgrounds including myself, and I consider ‘cow wrestling’ as a very good qualification for potential fast-jet pilots. Su-27 pilots must be capable of regularly pulling 9 -12g, and Su-25 pilots 8g.
Although operational aircrew are encouraged to maintain physical fitness, many Air Force bases lock adequate sports facilities. Living conditions for the military also have to be improved.
‘All trainee pilots have to undergo parachute jump training before their first flight and are required to make two jumps annually until the age of 35. They also have regular ejection seat rig training.
«The Air Force is also looking to increase the amount of pilot training undertaken on flight simulators, there is a shortage of capable front-line combat type simulators such as the Su-27 and MiG-29. These are of great value to both trainee and operational pilots alike. I myself spent 12 hours in the simulator and only 4 hours in a two-seater when converting to the MiG-25!
» At the present time, operational pilots remain with the same unit, and often at the same base, for most of their careers unless they request a transfer.»
General Antoshkin’s pressure for the establishment of permanent Air Force aerobatic display teams to show the prowess and capabilities of both the pilots and their aircraft, have not been achieved without a certain amount of opposition from senior officers who do not all consider this activity to be part of military aviation’s role.
However, the General is pressing forward with his plans and the Kubinka Air Division may soon acquire the status of the National Demonstration Centre. He also hopes that the number of combat types at Kubinka will be reduced to three but would like to see the full range of helicopter types, the Mi-17, Mi-24 and Mi-26, to be represented at the base.
There may be a time when the public are invited to Kubinka air shows on a regular basis.