In the beginning of May, Europe is celebrating the end of the World War II. In many countries, the Victory Day is a national holiday, usually connected with various military parades, festivities and other ceremonies. It´s particularly true in Russia and other post-Soviet states, where such anniversary is celebrated in a solemn way, being the main military holiday of the year.
On 9th May, the famous Victory Parade is being organized in Moscow – with thousands of troops marching through the Red Square, presentation of historical and modern military vehicles, and also a flypast of combat aircraft over the city. Usually, the parade is a great opportunity to present the latest Russian military developments and therefore attracts many professionals, military enthusiasts and also general public.
The 76th anniversary of the Victory Day is ahead of us, so it is about time to take a look at preparations for this year´s celebration. Certainly, with particular emphasis on aviation flypasts that would be organized not only in Moscow, but also at several other locations across the country. Yet, before we briefly go through other locations, a few information about the main event at the Red Square should be mentioned.
As usual, the preparations to the main parade are held in Alabino training ground, in Moscow area. The first rehearsal for the Victory Parade took place there already on 31st March 2021, with participation of over 190 military vehicles and 37 troop formations. In total, there are eleven trainings for the Red Square parade planned, before the men and vehicles would be able to perform in the Russian capital city.
A joint rehearsal of all units participating in the parade, including aviation, was for the first time organized in Alabino on 9th April. Although yet no official confirmation regarding the display formation were disclosed, the trainings allowed us to estimate which aircraft would be seen over Moscow on the Victory Day.
First of all, three aerobatic groups will participate in the parade – the ´Berkuts´ helicopter team, the ´Swifts´ and the ´Russian Knights´ (which should perform their famous ´Kubinka diamond´ joint formation). The long-range aviation is expected to send both Tu-160 ´White Swan´ and Tu-95MS ´Bear´ strategic bombers. They will be accompanied by Il-76 cargo aircraft and air tankers. As usual in recent years, a pair of Tu-160 and Il-76 will show a simulation of air-to-air refuelling.
Other aircraft that are being planned to participate in the flypast over Moscow include Mi-26, Mi-8 and Ka-52 helicopters, Su-35S, Su-34 and Su-24M jets, a modified MiG-31K interceptor carrying a Kinzhal hypersonic missile and Su-57, the 5th generation fighter.
Closing formation will include three special groups: ´tactical wing´ of the Lipetsk pilot school, the already mentioned ´Kubinka diamond´ and six Su-25 aircraft creating the Russian national flag from their coloured smoke trails.
The Victory Parade aviation flypast will be performed at altitudes between 180 and 550 metres, and at a speed between 200 to 550 kph, subject to weather conditions. A special attention should be called to Tu-22M3 strategic bomber, being not included in that formation this year. This, most probably, is a result of an accident involving this type of aircraft, that occurred on 23rd March 2021.
St. Petersburg, being commonly referred as ´the second capital´ (or ´the northern capital´) of Russia, is usually a place where the second most important Victory Parade in the country is being organized. A notable aviation contingent is traditionally participating in the celebrations there, and this year will be no exception.
The flypast in St. Petersburg will be performed by a mixed formation including the army aviation helicopters (Ka-52, Mi-8, Mi-28 and Mi-26), transport aviation (An-26, An-12 and Tu-134) and fighter jets (Su-35S, Su-30SM, Su-34 and MiG-31). Those aircraft are expected to fly over the central area of the city and Neva river, at altitudes between 150 and 500 metres.
Similarly to Moscow, the city on the Neva river is located within an area of the Western Military District. According to the official information, in all locations within the District, including the Red Square flypast, the spectators would be able to see more than 130 aircraft in total. Apart from the above mentioned metropolises, the Russian Aerospace Forces will join the celebrations in Kaliningrad and Tula.
Although approximately 30 aircraft will take part in Victory Day celebrations in St. Petersburg, this number should be even exceeded in a flypast being organized by the Southern Military District. The main celebrations in the south of the country will be held in Rostov-on-Don. And the aviation part of the parade there will include up to 45 aeroplanes and helicopters, inter alia Mi-8, Ka-52, Tu-134, Su-27 and others.
Aviation flypast on 9th May are also planned to be organized in several other locations across the country. The press service of the Eastern Military District has already confirmed participation of the Russian Aerospace Forces in Victory Day celebrations in Chita (Mi-24, Mi-8AMTSh, Su-30S and Su-25SM), Khabarovsk (Mi-28, Ka-52, Mi-8AMTSh, Mi-26, An-26, An-12, Tu-134), Vladivostok and Ulan-Ude (Mi-24, Mi-8AMTSh, Su-30SM and Su-25SM). In total, over the cities located within the Eastern District area, presentation of seventy military aircraft is expected this year.
And to date, the Central Military District confirmed just one aviation flypast in its area. This will be organized in Ekaterinburg, with participation of about ten aircraft. Nevertheless, other locations are expected to be officially announced soon.
This year, all those preparations and rehearsals are being organized under strict ´coronavirus regime´. All participants must observe the common precautions, as wearing face masks, maintaining physical distance and follow the disinfection routine. Particular groups of military personnel are being separated each other, even during the rehearsal. In addition, the vaccination of military personnel is in full swing.
All those precautions were implemented in order to avoid situation from last year, when infections among the participants led to cancellation of the Victory Day celebrations on 9th May 2020. As a result, the Russian Aerospace Forces were the only branch of the armed forces that performed its part of the parade in Moscow that day, and the actual, full-scale parade was organized a few months later.
Just like the last year, the aviation flypast over Moscow and other Russian cities, will be the first important aviation event of the 2021 calendar – as the aviation shows and fairs usually being held at the end of April and beginning of May were all cancelled. And one more time, for most people a television/online broadcast would be the only way to follow the Red Square parade, due to current pandemic situation in the country and coronavirus-related ban on touristic travels to Russia.