After a long break since 1995 when the 50th anniversary of VE-Day was celebrated, the Russian Air Force’s participation in the traditional Victory Day military parades in Moscow’s Red Square resumed in 2008. This year the Air Force was involved on a much larger scale than previously, putting up 69 assorted fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft.
Victory Day takes a special place among Russian national holidays, as the Great Patriotic War took a huge toll on the Soviet people and the Soviet Union played a crucial role in defeating Nazi Germany. Hence the Russian Ministry of Defence took great pains to prepare for the parade. The first rehearsal involving the Air Force took place on 14th April at the Alabino training ground near Odintsovo a short way west of Moscow. Then, on 5th and 7th May the aircraft and helicopters made actual passes over Red Square. On the latter occasion only 13 machines were involved.
On the day of the parade, the helicopters, transports, bombers and fast jets launched from Moscow’s Tushino airfield and the airbases at Kubinka, Shaykovka and Lipetsk to converge on the northern outskirts of the capital, passing over Red Square at an altitude of 300 m (990 ft) and speeds of up to 550 km/h (341 mph); the average time interval was 15 seconds. The first to appear were three camouflaged but civil-registered Mil’ Mi-8MTV helicopters carrying the Russian national flag, the Russian MoD flag and the Russian Air Force flag. Next came a Mi-26 heavy-lift helicopter leading a V formation of two Kamov Ka-50 Black Shark and two Ka-52 Alligator attack helicopters. These were followed by three production Mi-28N Night Hunter attack helicopters, then by six Mi-24P attack helicopters sporting the colours of the Berkuty (Golden Eagles) display team from Torzhok.
After a brief pause allowing the helicopters to get clear, the jets appeared on the scene. Five Sukhoi Su-25 attack aircraft came first, followed by an Antonov An-124 Ruslan heavy transport escorted by four Su-27 fighters. Next came an Il’yushin/Beriyev A-50U AWACS aircraft (again escorted by four Su-27s), an Il’yushin Il-78M tanker accompanied by two Su-24M tactical bombers, another Il-78M accompanied by a Tupolev Tu-95MS strategic bomber and four escorting Mikoyan MiG-29 fighters, a further Il-78M accompanied by a Tu-160 strategic bomber and four MiG-31B interceptors. These were followed by a trio of Tu-22M3 long-range bombers and a ten-ship mixed formation from the Lipetsk test centre (a Su-34 tactical bomber, three Su-24Ms, four Su-27s and two MiG-29s). The famous Strizhi (Swifts) and Roosskiye Vityazi (Russian Knights) display teams put the finishing touch to the performance when a diamond-nine composed of MiG-29s and Su-27s streaked over Red Square, letting loose a salvo of flares.