The largest Russian aircraft museum in the world is located on the site of the former Monino airfield east of Moscow. With over 170 aircraft, mainly from the Cold War-era, this museum is a must see! The collection has many unique (one-off) aircraft and prototypes. For example the only existing Sukhoi T-4, Myasishchev M-50 and ground effect Bartini Beriev VVA-14 can be seen here.
The museum is located next to the town of Monino, southeast of the huge Chkalovskiy Airbase, some 40 kilometers northeast of Moscow. Opening hours are from 9.30 until 15.00 on weekdays. Be aware the museum is closed on Sunday and Wednesday. To reach the museum, which is in fact on the grounds of the Gagarin Air Force Academy, the main entrance gate to the complex has to be passed. No special permission needed. Costs to enter are unclear, we had to pay around 350 rubles (12 US dollars) to get a photo permission, with access to the museum for free.
Most of the collection is located outside, and although tidily packed together, there are excellent photo opportunities. There are also some inside exhibitions and aircraft situated in three hangers.
As said before the collection is one of a kind with many (former classified) prototypes. The academy collected the aircraft and in 1958 it was decided to open a museum. Because of this tight link with the Air Force, there are some very special aircraft. We will take a closer look at some of them.
This supersonic long range bomber, NATO callsign Backfire is a pre-production version. In fact this airframe 33 Red (cn 5019029) is one of the prototypes, for long thought to be the Tu-26 by the West. The Soviets designated it the Tu-22M. It was probably mend this way to mislead it being a modified Tu-22 Blinder. I fact it was an complete new and much more sophisticated aircraft. First flight was on 30 August 1969. One of the most obvious differences between the prototype, of which 9 were build, and the production version is the shape of the engine intakes. Next to it is the Kh-22 missile of which 2 could be carried, semi-recessed on the belly.
The 3M NATO callsign Bison-B, the improved M-4 Bison-A, was the last production variant of the Myasishchev strategic bomber. It was also widely used as an aerial tanker. The aircraft (30 red) on display in the museum is the prototype of the 3MD, or Bison-C. It features a new nose with Rubin system, long range radio navigation and other new systems. First flight was on 25 November 1959. Only nine production 3MDs were made, before the production line was shut down and the Myasischev OKB dissolved. The bomber mission stopped in the 60s in favour of the Tu-95. The "Bison" fleet" kept busy operating in the tanker role instead.
This aircraft (12) is a prototype for a four-engine supersonic bomber, which never went into production. Only 2 were build. It probably flew first in 1957. The program was terminated due to the development of the ICBM nuclear missile. The project started in 1953 as a replacement for the not entirely satisfactory M-4/3M Bison. It was also an answer to the American Convair B-58 Hustler. Due to design delays and a ground accident, first flight was on 27 October 1959. July 1961 the M-50 made its last flight and the program was cancelled.
One of the most exciting aircraft in the collection is the Sukhoi T-4. A supersonic medium range nuclear bomber made of titanium and aluminum. The T-4 was the answer to the enormous North American XB-70. The prototype (101) was rolled out in 1971.
Key feature was the Droop-nose, also seen on the Concorde and Tu-144. When inflight the pilots couldn’t look in front, so the aircraft was flown on instruments. During takeoffs and landings the nose was dropped giving the pilots frontal view. Because the aircraft was dynamically unstable it was controlled by a “fly-by-wire” system, the first of its kind.
The 101 made its last flight on 22 January 1974, and the second prototype (102) never flew at all. T-4 knowledge was later used in the Tu-160.
NATO callsign Fiddler, the Tu-128 was designed as a big long range interceptor. It was based on a Tupolev called aircraft “98”, which was also the base for the Tu-22. Aircraft 98 was designed a bomber, but with the need of a AAM (air-to-air missile) platform the Tu-128 was developed. This was after another OKB design for this purpose called the “La-250” (also in the museum) failed. It was originally designated the Tu-28, to which the Fiddler is also known in the West. First flight was on 18 March 1961. In all 198 were build, with the prototype on display in the museum.
Starting 1959 the Mil OKB began work on an ultra-heavy helicopter, which was initially given the OKB designation of "V-12". (Later referred to as the Mi-12, NATO callsign “Homer”). Only two prototype were built of the largest helicopter ever. Development came about as a need for a heavy lift helicopter capable of carrying major missile components. The first prototype made its first flight on 27 June 1967.
In May-June 1971 the first prototype V-12 SSSR-21142 made a series of flights over Europe being topped by the participation in the 29th Paris Air Show at Le Bourget wearing exhibit code H-833.
All development on the V-12 was stopped in 1974 when the Air Force refused to accept the helicopter because the main reason it was developed didn’t existed anymore.
The first prototype still remains at the Mikhail Leontyevich Mil helicopter plant in Panki-Tomilino, Moscow (checked during out trip). The second prototype was donated to Monino Air Force Museum for public display.
(35 red) was a technology demonstrator for a VTOL combat aircraft. It was designed in 1961 as a twin engine aircraft with large nose intakes. The engines were placed in the front with swiveling exhaust nozzles near the lower center of the plane. 4 demonstrators were build, 2 crashed. First flight 1963. The second prototype is on display in the museum.
Also known as the Yak-141 in the West, this was a VTOL supersonic fighter designed for carrier operations. It was the proposed successor to the Yak-38 which was widely used by the Soviet Navy. First VTOL flight took place on 13 June 1990 and was first shown to the West at the Farnborough airshow in 1992. The aircraft was trusted by a single vectored-thrust engine, with afterburner capable of Mach speeds. During the fall of the Soviet union, the program was cancelled as the Navy decided to use the Navy versions of the Su-29 and MiG-29 for carrier operations.
The second prototype (s/n 48-2, callsign "75") is on display at the museum. This aircraft is displayed in its 1992 livery with olive/grey camouflage markings and "141" painted in white in place of the former callsign.
Read on in our next part: including the MiG-105, spaceplane test vehicle and the VVA-14 Ekranoplane.