Get ready for ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’

New Straits Times - - Letters - LES­LIE AN­DRES KUALA LUMPUR »

ONE of the things that has al­ways drawn “oohs” and “aahs” from peo­ple watch­ing the aerial dis­plays at the Langkawi In­ter­na­tional Mar­itime and Aero­space ex­hi­bi­tions (Lima) for the past few years are those put on by the Royal Malaysian Air Force pi­lots of the SU-30MKM Flankers.

The ma­noeu­vra­bil­ity of the air­craft, its thrust vec­tor­ing work­ing over­time, was al­ways a sight to be­hold as the pi­lots pulled out all the stops. The thing that al­ways got to the crowds was its abil­ity to fly at ex­tremely slow speeds, and even seem to hover in midair in what is fit­tingly called a Co­bra po­si­tion, like the ex­tended head of a co­bra about to strike.

The pride of the RMAF’s jet forces will be here again, show­ing off for the crowds. But, this year, the RMAF’s Flankers will not be the only ones.

Af­ter a hia­tus of four years, one of the world’s most fa­mous aer­o­bat­ics teams is re­turn­ing to Langkawi, with an even big­ger bang.

The Rus­sian Knights are at Lima 2017 to put on a treat for those who fol­low aer­o­bat­ics teams the world over.

But more sig­nif­i­cant than that, the Knights’ new Sukhoi SU30SM air­craft, des­ig­nated Flanker-C by the North At­lantic Treaty Or­gan­i­sa­tion, or Nato, will be mak­ing their “world pre­miere”, ac­cord­ing to Rus­sian Aero­space Forces com­man­der-in-chief Colonel-Gen­eral Vic­tor Bon­darev.

Since be­ing formed in 1991, the Rus­sian Knights have been fly­ing the SU-27 Flanker, the pre­de­ces­sor of the SU-30.

The SU-30SM is a multi-role fighter air­craft de­vel­oped by JSC Sukhoi De­sign Bureau for the Rus­sian Aero­space Forces. It is an ad­vanced deriva­tive of the SU-30MK com­bat air­craft fam­ily flown by sev­eral air forces world­wide,

And with the new air­craft comes a new flight demon­stra­tion pro­gramme, or aer­o­batic rou­tine.

Rus­sian Knights leader Colonel An­drei Alek­seyev said the pi­lots have been train­ing on the new rou­tine prac­ti­cally ev­ery day, weather per­mit­ting.

“SU-30SM is an ex­cel­lent air­craft. We are in the process of mas­ter­ing this fighter. There will be many new el­e­ments with the use of ‘su­per­ma­noeu­vra­bil­ity’ in the in­di­vid­ual aer­o­bat­ics. We will also add some­thing new to the group aer­o­bat­ics,” he said.

Four of the new Flanker-Cs will fly at Lima 2017.

Bon­darev said the Knights pi­lots had con­cur­rently trained on the aer­o­bat­ics rou­tines and op­er­a­tional as­pects of the Flanker-C.

“The pi­lots have al­ready com­pleted the full train­ing course and mas­tered the aer­o­bat­ics (as­pect),” he said.

Alek­seyev, mean­while, praised the com­bat ca­pa­bil­i­ties of the air­craft, say­ing it was much bet­ter than those of pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion fight­ers.

(The Rus­sian Knights is one of the few aer­o­bat­ics teams in the world which fly air­craft that com­pletely re­tain com­bat ca­pa­bil­i­ties. The pi­lots are also fully com­bat-trained, along­side hav­ing to mas­ter aer­o­batic rou­tines.)

The Rus­sian Knights was formed on April 5, 1991, at Ku­binka Air Base in the then Soviet Union. In Septem­ber that year, the team be­came the first to per­form out­side the Soviet Union when they toured the United King­dom.

Four years later, they were in Langkawi for Lima, but would not re­turn for an­other 18 years. The long hia­tus could have been be­cause of the dis­as­ter that struck the team af­ter leav­ing Langkawi in 1995.

On Dec 12 that year, while the Flankers were on their back to Rus­sia from Langkawi, three of the five air­craft crashed into a moun­tain­side while ap­proach­ing Cam Ranh air­field in Viet­nam in ad­verse weather.

But the Flankers, Malaysian and Rus­sian, will, of course, not be the only ones scream­ing across the skies of Langkawi this year.

The RMAF’s F/A-18D Hor­nets, Hawk 108s and 208s, A400M At­las and Pi­la­tus PC7 MKII are also re­turn­ing to the air show.

Two other aer­o­bat­ics teams — Ten­tera Na­sional In­done­sia-Angkatan Udara’s Jupiter fly­ing KT-1Bs and South Korea’s Black Ea­gle fly­ing KAI-T50Bs — will also show off their skills.

Also re­turn­ing to Langkawi skies is one of two air­craft said to have made the fi­nal list for the RMAF’s multi-role com­bat air­craft (MRCA) re­place­ment pro­gramme. Das­sault Avi­a­tion’s Rafale will be on aerial dis­play for all to see.

The other MRCA re­place­ment pro­gramme can­di­date, the Eurofighter Ty­phoon, will not be fly­ing, though vis­i­tors can see get a feel of it as BAE Sys­tems, one of the com­pa­nies in­volved in man­u­fac­tur­ing the air­craft, has a fullscale replica set up out­side the Mah­suri In­ter­na­tional Ex­hi­bi­tion Cen­tre.

Other fixed-wing air­craft and he­li­copters in­volved in the air show in­clude those from the Royal Malaysian Navy, po­lice, Malaysian Mar­itime En­force­ment Agency, Malaysia Air­lines Bhd, Royal Thai Air Force, United States Air Force (though the B-1B Lancer will only per­form a fly past) and In­dian Air Force.

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