One of the most followed, and then commented, events during the 2019 edition of the International Aviation and Space Salon MAKS at Zhukovsky, was the official visit of the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, who traditionally came to see the trade fair during the first, opening day of MAKS-2019. Moreover, he was accompanied by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the President of Turkey – for this reason it was hardly surprising this visit was carefully followed by the world of politics.
Certainly, the reason for Erdogan´s visit at MAKS-2019 was related to the emerging close links between Turkey and Russia. It seems that the recent events as buying the S-400 anti-aircraft systems by Turkey and then, in the aftermath, the cessation of Turkish involvement in the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter programme, pushed Erdogan to advance the cooperation with Russia to the next level.
Even if Turkey recently declared the release of its own 5th generation fighter programme, the TAI TF-X (Turkish Fighter – Experimental) unveiled at the 2019 Paris Air Show, it appears to be highly unlikely the country would be able to finalize the programme alone – just based on the conclusions from the JSF or PAK FA programmes, realized by the more technologically advanced countries than Turkey is, and with the bigger budget for aviation developments.
Having frozen the military relationship with USA, Erdogan focused his eyes to Russian industry, which appeared the logical alternative – the Russia is almost a neighbour country, and Russian military industry can deliver not only the technologies but also all kinds of aircraft ready to fly.
There was no doubt that the Russian authorities would use Erdogan´s visit to emphasize the capability of the national aviation industry, showing not only the best of current equipment but also a few future developments. The presidential call at MAKS-2019 was properly arranged, focusing even on single details and creating the public relation echoes, including the less formal ones (the second part of this article is showing one of such examples).
The premiere of Su-57E (E stands for ´export´, most likely an impoverished version) on the static display was, probably, also directly related to Erdogan´s visit. Certainly, as with F-35 or other advanced fighters, the exhibited aircraft was just a mock-up of the real 5th generation fighter, however it was the very first time the general public could see the new Sukhoi fighter up close.
Erdogan was invited by Putin to see the cockpit of Su-57, being the first foreign leader to familiarize with the new Russian fighter. As expected, the two questions asked by Erdogan were just the basic ones, as he asked if this aircraft is already airworthy and offered for sale – certainly, he received two affirmative answers.
Apart from the Su-57E, the Turkish president visited the exhibition of Su-35 fighter and the Russian Helicopters stand, where he was particularly interested in Ansat Aurus helicopter, with the highly comfortable cabin. The flying display arranged for both presidents included the Su-57 display, Russian Helicopters show and the presentation of new Russian passenger aircraft, MS-21. Additionally, the presidents visited the space exhibition, where they were able to connect with the International Space Station crew.
As of now, this is not clear what would be the effective results of Erdogan´s visit. Apart of the usual diplomatic phrases, there are still no official documents nor declarations from the Turkish government. According to the Russian authorities, the decision is now in the hands of Erdogan and his officials, as the proposal was already made.
A few days after the MAKS-2019, the Deputy Prime Minister of Russia, Yury Borisov, said during an interview for Russian television that Turkey was really interested in ´aviation equipment, electronic warfare systems and anti-aircraft systems´. According to Borisov, that ´aviation equipment´ includes, at least, both Su-35 and Su-57 fighters. Additionally, the rumours were spreading, that also Ansat Aurus caught Erdogan´s personal attention, and there is a possibility it could be the future presidential shuttle of the Turkish president.
In the meanwhile, the S-400 delivery process – being the bone of contention between the Erdogan´s administration and the USA – continues as scheduled. On 1st September the training of Turkish S-400 personnel started and should be finalized at the end of this year. Then, as the next step, from 2nd January 2020, Turkey will be ready to receive their first S-400 systems.
Plombir in a soft cone, or how the presidents were buying the ice-cream.
Buying an ice-cream during Vladimir Putin´s visit at MAKS is slowly becoming a funny tradition related to the presidential visit in Zhukovsky. This time, the Russian president has taken Erdogan with him and while the Turkish president was going to buy an ordinary vanilla one, Putin ordered for them two traditional ´plombir´ ice-cream, in a soft cone.
It was obvious that Putin´s public relation personnel duly learned the lesson from the previous edition of the MAKS, when the money for the ice-cream had to be borrowed from Sergey Chemezov, the CEO of ´Rostec´ company. This year, the Russian president taken out the roll of bills, and gave the salesgirl the banknote, however the five thousand-rouble one (approximately 70 €, while the price of single ice-cream was less than 1 €). The three ice-creams made it a two hundred and ten roubles and the salesgirl was desperately trying to return the change.
´Give it to the minister´, said Putin, pointing at Denis Manturov, the Minister of Industry and Trade. ´For the development of aviation´, he added.
´Thank you for your generosity´ replied Manturov with the smile, but he didn´t dare to take the money. Finally, asked by the salesgirl again, Putin decided to buy the ice-cream for the entire Turkish delegation accompanying Erdogan.
In the meantime, the Turkish president was trying to solve the problem how to eat the ice-cream in the soft cone. Being a bit confused, he asked for a spoon. ´No, just bite it´, the salesgirl explained how to deal with the ice-cream to the surprised president.
When the presidents left the ice cream bar, Dmitry Rogozin, the Director General of Roscosmos, appeared. ´A rainbow-coloured for me´, he asked the salesgirl, ´the docking (to the ISS station) was successful.´
´Plombir in a soft cone´ is a traditional Russian ice-cream, made following the strict quality standards and widely considered as one of the best, among the already legendary Soviet and then Russian ice-cream. With its French origin, the plombir became popular in the Soviet era, being characteristic of its high milk-fat content, origins from the condensed milk.
And even it is still not certain, if Turkey would buy the Russian 5th generation fighter or not, our guess is that the sales of the ´plombir in a soft cone´ would rapidly raise in Turkey.