Category Archives: USAF
Most readers will already be familiar with the famed US Navy “graduate level” ACM program, TOPGUN (yeah, that’s one word, all caps) and the USAF’s Fighter Weapons School and the Red Flag exercises. During the Cold War did the Soviet Air Force have a similar program. That’s indeed the case and that the topic of this post.
Due to very poor showing of Soviet built aircraft in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, the Soviet Union began a program generally known with the Soviet Air Force as The Center for Flight Personnel. The Center was located in Turkmenistan at an airbase called Maryy-1 (Maryy is pronounced “Marie).
Located at this base is a unit known as the 1521st Airbase unit. The 1521st consisted of 3 squadrons, 2 that would be considered “aggressor” units both flying the MiG-29 and an additional unit that operated the La-17 drone for target practice for the visiting Soviet Air Force units.
The squadrons of the 1521st was formed in 1974 and flew the MiG-21bis. Pilots for these squadrons contained a higher number of highly experienced pilots (distinctions of combat pilot experience in Soviet forces at the time were known as “First Class” and “Sniper” level pilots). These units had a higher proportion of these highly experienced pilot when compared to regular Soviet Air Force units.
Generally, the syllabus used by the units at Maryy-1 consisted of 5 parts:
-assessment of individual pilot skills.
-low level flying over the area’s featureless terrain for aircrew familiarization.
-ACM and QRA performance assessment.
-tactical excerises involving multiple aircraft.
-live missile launch and gunnery.
It should be noted that the Soviet Air Force had no TACTS system with which to provide real-time monitoring of aircraft involved in ACM (such as that used by the USAF and US Navy). All training was monitored in real time over the radio using a GCI from the 1521st and another controller from the visiting unit.
Soviet Air Force regiments’ results reflected on it’s graded readiness level and as expected getting a perfect score in the evaluation was very difficult.
The 1st Squadron of the 1521st initially flew the MiG-21bis and then the MiG-29 Fulcrum-C. The tips of the horizontal stabilator and the wingtips were painted yellow, with a black outline, to make the aircraft look like the F-15 Eagle. To keep up that appearance, angled black converging in a black and yellow chevron were applied aft of the cockpit. Sharkmouth markings were also added to aircraft based on ground crew preference.
The 2nd Squadron of the 1521st first flew the MiG-23MLD. There were plans to reequip the squadron with the Su-27 Flanker but instead received high-time MiG-29 airframes. These aircraft also featured sharkmouth markings with other marking consisting of a “sour-faced” hornet superimposed on a red lightning bolt with the letters “AM” (aviabaza Maryy, airbase Marie) above it.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the 2nd Squadron’s aircraft were transferred to the Kazakstan Air Force.
There really isn’t a lot of open-source information, either from books or the DTIC publication database. According to these sources there isn’t even references to these squadrons in Soviet defense publications.
Most of us are pretty familiar with Have Donut, Have Drill and Constant Peg programs. Nowadays it’s also fairly to see MiGs or Sukhoi’s either flying around or in museums throughout the U.S. What about US military aircraft in the Soviet Union during the Cold War?
Searching around the interwebs doesn’t reveal much but here I’ve started with a photo in the Winter 2002 issue of International Air Power Review.
This is a photo of what may be an F-4 Phantom and a Mirage III (with an 3M bomber in the foreground) taken at the Zhukovskiy airfield outside of Moscow. The caption dates the photo 11 August 1971.
Zhukovskiy was (and still is in Russia) the Soviet Union’s equivalent to the USAF’s Edwards, AFB and as such numerous types of aircraft underwent evaluation there. The Phantom in the picture appears to be covered with a protective canvas cover. The nose shape is reminiscent of the YF4H-1 prototypes. I don’t think this is a flyable model and may be a mockup with pieces of actual Phantoms shot down over North Vietnam and aircraft lost in the Middle East wars. The Mirage III also looks like a mockup and include pieces of actual Mirages lost in various Middle East wars.
The Israeli Air Force was the only user of both aircraft at the time.
Some other interwebs searching reveals some interesting finds at the Moscow Aviation Institute.
This is a fuselage from a Northrop F-5. This is probably one of the 2 Skoshi Tiger aircraft formerly operated by the Air Force of South Vietnam. This is 1 of 2 F-5s transferred to Soviet soon after the Communist North invaded in 1973.
This is an escape capsule from an F-111 that was shot down over North Vietnam. The USAF lost 6 of these aircraft during the Vietnam.
This is a piece from an A-7A from VA-82 Marauders. I was unable to find the aircraft this piece belonged to.
This is the vertical stabilizer from Scott O’Grady’s F-16C shot down over Bosnia in 1995. These and other pieces of western military aircraft were used by Soviet/Russian experts to examine Western aircraft construction techniques.
Unlike the Constant Peg program, it’s unknown what if any flight evaluations the USSR made of these for any other Western/US aircraft.
There are also rumors of Iranian F-14 Tomcats (along with the aircraft’s AIM-54 Phoenix AAM) and a few F-4Es and F-5 being brought to the Soviet Union for evaluations. Again these are just rumors.
The website English Russia always has interesting things and you never know where those things are going to lead.
I was looking at an English Russia feature on an aviation Museum outside of Moscow in a region called Vadim Zadorozhny. One of the pictures was of their F-84F Thunderstreak:
It turns out this is one of the aircraft that served in the Yugoslav Airforce. This was about the time Tito fell out of favor with the Soviet Union and sought western equipment. According to various forums, these particular F-84 are either new built or aircraft from the USAFE’s 48TH TFW.
As Yugoslavia oriented itself more towards the West, they gave the USAF a Yak-23 interceptor. Here’s a video of that USAF evaluation:
Interesting but as the video says, the Yak-23 was out of production at the time. More on that story here.