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 1st Squadron markings consisted of saber-toothed Tiger with a winged number “1.” The current status of this squadron is not known.
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.
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