Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Zhukovskiy in Imagery


One of the most important historical sites in the field of aviation history can be found southeast of the Russian capital of Moscow. Situated along the eastern bank of the Moskva river, the Gromov Flight Research Institute (LII) has been home to some of the most important aircraft and personalities in the history of aviation.


During the Cold War, LII was referred to in the West as Ramenskoye, owing to the belief that the airfield had taken the name of a nearby town. Apparently unbeknownst to the Western analysts, the facility was more closely associated with Zhukovskiy, and not Ramenskoye. Zhukovskiy, for example, is where the scientific counterpart to LII is housed, the Central Aerohydrondynamic Institute (TsAGI). TsAGI is responsible for research and design work, while LII is the flight test center.

The following image depicts the Gromov Flight Research Center facility located near Zhukovskiy, Russia:

Due to the misidentification of the airfield, somewhat inaccurate codenames were applied to new aircraft spotted at LII facilities. For example, the Tu-144 prototype SST, first sighted at the Tupolev facility located on the grounds of the airfield in 1969, was assigned the codename RAM-H. RAM-H denoted the aircraft as the eighth new type sighted at the (improperly named) Ramenskoye facility. Once aircraft were identified by type, appropriate ASCC codenames were then assigned. The codename for the Tu-144 was CHARGER, denoting a jet-powered transport aircraft (two syllable names were given to jet-powered aircraft, and names beginning with C denoted transport aircraft, to include commercial airliners).


The Gromov Flight Research Institute is home to a number of individual facilities owned and operated by various aircraft design bureaus. The closest Western comparison would, at first glance, seem to be Edwards AFB in California, the United States Air Force's major flight test facility found in the California desert. While it is true that nearly all of Russia's combat aircraft have been trialled at LII, this comparison is not entirely suitable. Being home to the various design bureau flight test operations, LII has also been home to the flight test programs for numerous civillian aircraft, such as the aforementioned Tu-144. In the Western world, for example, a new Boeing bomber may have been trialled at Edwards AFB, but a new Boeing airliner would likely be trialled at the civillian facility in Seattle. This emphasizes the massive impact that the LII facility has had on Soviet and Russian aviation, being the home to both civil and military flight test programs.

The following annotated image depicts the locations of various design bureau's facilities located on the grounds of the LII facility, as well as other important areas:


Perhaps the most significant design bureau to operate out of Zhukovskiy is named for one of the true pioneers of modern aviation, Andrei Tupolev. OKB Tupolev has produced some of the most recognizable military aircraft in the world, from the Tu-95 BEAR, the stalwart Cold Warrior, to the sleek and powerful Tu-160 BLACKJACK, the world's most powerful combat aircraft. OKB Tupolev has also produced some of history's most important civillian designs, including the world's first supersonic transport, the Tu-144 CHARGER.

The following image depicts the Tupolev ramp area at LII. Quite a few significant aircraft can be seen, such as Tu-160 strategic bombers, and the Tu-144LL testbed, a refurbished Tu-144D used in a joint US-Russian supersonic flight research program.


Aside from Tupolev, the most famous and well-known aircraft to begin their careers at LII are the fighter aircraft developed by MIG-MAPO and OKB Sukhoi. Many of these aircraft have gone on to have distinguished careers in both Russian and foreign service, including the MiG-23 FLOGGER tactical fighter and the Su-24 FENCER strike aircraft. Russia's fifth-generation fighter prototypes, the MiG 1.44 and Su-47, both conducted their flight test programs over the skies of Zhukovskiy. Current efforts include continued refining and updating of two of the most advanced fighter aircraft ever produced by the Russian aerospace industry, MIG-MAPO's MiG-29 FULCRUM and OKB Sukhoi's Su-27 FLANKER series.

The following image depicts the ramp area shared by the two fighter design bureaus at LII. Interesting aircraft of note include a solitary MiG-31M FOXHOUND-B advanced interceptor prototype, as well as a Sukhoi S-80 transport prototype.


OKB Yakovlev also conducts flight test operations on the grounds of the LII facility, and while it is not as active as Tupolev or MiG/Sukhoi, it does consistently venture into both the military and civillian aspects of aviation.

The following image depicts OKB Yakovlev's operations area at the LII facility. Various civillian types are in residence, as are a single Yak-130 trainer prototype and a single Yak-141 V/STOL fighter demonstrator. An Su-34 FULLBACK can also be seen on the taxiway.


OKB Myasischev has seen its contribution to Russian aviation gradually reduced over the past few decades. Once home to a massive strategic aviation design effort, that area of work was mostly taken over by OKB Tupolev after the failure of the M-50 BOUNDER supersonic bomber project. OKB Myasischev's last significant contribution to Russian strategic aviation may be little known outside Russian circles, however, as it was responsible for the M-18 design passed to OKB Tupolev for development into what became the Tu-160 strategic bomber.

The following image depicts the area surrounding OKB Myasischev's ramp space at the LII facility. OKB Myasischev still operates the VM-T Atlant transporter, a converted M-4 BISON strategic bomber outfitted for the carriage of oversized external loads relating to Russia's space program. An M-55 MYSTIC-B high-altitude surveillance aircraft can also be seen on the ramp. Nearby are two Beriev 976 range-control aircraft, converted Ilyushin Il-76 CANDID transports to a configuration similar to that of the Beriev A-50 MAINSTAY AEW&C aircraft. A solitary Su-30MKI prototype can also be seen in the area.


One of the most important functions of the LII facility is to host the recurring Moscow Aerosalon, one of the most famous airshows in the world.

The following image depicts a number of aircraft being prepared for display at the 2007 Moscow airshow. Various combat aircraft can be seen, as well as an example of the NPO Mash 3M25 Meteorit supersonic cruise missile.


The Gromov Flight Research Institute in Zhukovskiy is one of the most interesting aviation-related facilities in the world. Home to numerous historic flight test programs and one of the longest runways in Europe, it is truly a fascinating facility to observe in imagery. One can only hope that the next century is as interesting as the last. With the ingenuity constantly shown by Russian aeronautical engineers, not much hope may be needed after all.


-All satellite imagery provided courtesy of Google Earth

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The 2nd Su-34 near the OVT is a Su-27SM "red6". Look for example at