Central Air Force Museum

To many military aircraft enthusiasts Russian & Soviet made aircraft is the peak of exotica. The Central Air Force Museum at Monino just outside of Moscow holds some of the most exotic aircraft ever made including one off experimental aircraft & drones from the Soviet days & a few since the collapse of the Soviet Union. It is one of the largest aviation museums in the world & the biggest containing these aircraft with well over 150 aircraft on display. On top of which it is located pretty close to Chkalovskiy Air Base which in turn is the 800th Red Banner Air Base which is home to exotic active Russian aircraft itself which fly overhead the museum. If you’re not aircraft savvy I would recommend having Google open so you know what these aircraft look like.

The museum itself was founded in the late 50’s but was not open to the public until 1999 because of the sensitive nature of some of the aircraft that were there. Some of which were still classified until that time, but it is no problem today. There are times during the week when it is not open due to a lack of staff I believe, there are also guides available on request as well but this being Russia pretty much none of them speak English & with the signs all in Russian as well which makes it interesting. So unless you are fluent in Russian you’re only really there for the eye candy, like that’s a bad thing of course & even then there is plenty to see on the ground & in the air whilst you’re there.

Once you walk into the grounds at Monino you are immediately confronted with the Mil V-12 “Homer” which for those not in the know is the largest helicopter ever made & still holds a number of world records for helicopters regarding maximum loads & altitudes with various payloads as well. After that there are either a row of fighters, which I’ll cover later on, or a row of bombers on your right. The first bomber you’ll see is the Tupolev Tu-4 “Bull” which is a reversed engineered Boeing B-29 Superfortress. After which you’ll see some “proper” Soviet made bombers like the Tu-16 “Badger,” Tu-22 “Blinder” amongst a few others as well. Stuck up the corner next to one of the hangars is one of the weirder aircraft on display (& that’s saying something), the Polish made PZL M-15 Belphegor, this is a jet powered biplane with looks only a mother could love.

Just before you come to the main hangars there are 2 aircraft parked up that are quite impossible to miss, these are the Myasishchev M-50 “bounder” & the Sukhoi T-4. Both of which are very imposing aircraft to look at & both were the only aircraft of their respective types to fly. The M-50 was built as a 4 engined strategic bomber with 2 of the engines under the wing & 2 at the ends of the wing giving it a bizarre look. 2 of the engines had afterburners (the ones under the wing) but the 2 on the end did not have them fitted, possibly to do with the stresses on the airframe. This was the only one ever built, but like the Sukhoi T-4 was cancelled due to the development of intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Quite a lot of the aircraft on show are in need of quite a lot of TLC due to the extremes of the Russian weather I’d guess, but that said quite a few look immaculate as well. If I’m honest I prefer a weathered look on an aircraft anyway. Most of the aircraft on display are outside but there are a few medium sized hangars as well containing some proper rarities in them, things like the Ilya Muromets (a WWI bomber) the Tupolev ANT-2 (The Soviet Union’s first all metal aircraft) & some nice replicas as well like a Voisin III & a Tupolev ANT-25.

Ilya Muromets
PHOTOGRAPH BY Dan Reeves

Parked up next to the hangars on the outside are a selection of Soviet made helicopters, some of these are also extremely rare like the Yak 23 “Horse” which has a strong resemblance to the Piasecki H-16 & to a certain extent the CH-47 Chinook all of which with tandem rotors. Also there are helicopters like the Mil Mi-10 “Harke,” Mil Mi-6 “Hook” & the Kamov Ka-18 “Hog” amongst loads of other types of Soviet made helicopters

Mi10 Harke
PHOTOGRAPH BY Dan Reeves

After you’re done with the helicopters you will see Russia’s arguably most famous aircraft, the Tupolev Tu-95 “Bear.” This aircraft is still in service with the Russian Air Force & to see one of the cold war’s most iconic aircraft on the ground at close quarters is always such a joy. Next to that are a load of the Soviet heavy lift aircraft, these aircraft are mostly in quite a sorry state sadly & are in desperate need of a paint job but that said It’s still better to see the likes of an Antonov An-22 “Cock” & the Ilyushin Il-62 “Classic” in a bad state that to not see them at all. Also a few of these aircraft are parked up so you can’t really see them properly without making a sneaky jump over the rope (which of course I didn’t do) which is a great shame of course. The weirdest aircraft in that section is the Beriev Bartini VVA-14 which is classed a wing-in-ground-effect aircraft. Sadly this is missing its wings but it still looks like something out a Gerry Anderson programme.

An-22 & VVA 14
PHOTOGRAPH BY Dan Reeves

Moving around from there & parked up next to a MiG 29 ”Fulcrum” & Sukhoi Su-25 “Frogfoot” is the world first supersonic transport aircraft, not Concorde but the Soviet version, the Tupolev Tu-144 “Charger” or Concordski as dubbed by the west. This made its maiden flight about 2 months before Concorde did in 1968. Also on that row is a row of Sukhoi fighter aircraft of all shapes & sizes, this includes production fighters like the Su-11, Su-15 & Su-17 but as is the norm at Monino there are also some one off examples & prototypes as well like the S-26, a modified Su-7 but most notably with Skis where the wheels normally are, & the Sukhoi T10-1 which was the prototype for the Su-27 “Flanker.”

Su25 Tu144
PHOTOGRAPH BY Dan Reeves

On the infield of the museum is a vast array of all types of aircraft, the biggest of which is the Myasischev 3MD “Bison” in the centre along with an older example of the Tupolev Tu-95 “Bear”. At the start, Opposite the Mil V-12 is a lovely Su-24 “Fencer” & moving around to the left is the aforementioned “Bison” & “Bear” you’ll come onto one of the stranger looking aircraft, the MiG 105 which looks like a mini space shuttle but it was a test vehicle that explored low speed handling & how it landed. It would have been an actual orbital aircraft if the project wasn’t cancelled in favour of the Buran. On the other side of the path area a row of MiGs in numerical order. The MiG 31 “Foxhound” on the left & going right down to the MiG 9 “Fargo.” This is an odd design in itself with the Cannon right in front of the engine intake. The idea being with the cannon in the middle the pilot had a prefect view of where he was shooting. But the gas from the gun went into the engine itself causing severe flameouts. The exceptions to the numerical order is the MiG 29 “Fulcrum” as its parked on the opposite side of the path under the Tu-144 “Charger,” & the MiG 25 “Foxbat” which is parked under the wing of the Beriev Be-12 “Mail.” Also parked in the MiG square if you like is a Myasishchev M-17 “Mystic.” This is similar in design to the Lockheed U-2 but the M-17, like the Mil V-12, still holds a number of world records mostly concerning altitudes.

M-17
PHOTOGRAPH BY Dan Reeves

Round the corner from the MiGs are a row of Yakovlev fighters, bombers & trainers. The strangest is most definitely the Yak 36 “Freehand” that looks like a guppy at feeding time. This was a technology demonstrator for Vertical Take Off & Landing (VTOL) which in turn led to the Yak 38 “Forger.” 2 examples of which are parked next to the Yak 36, the Yak 38 was long regarded as the Russian Harrier but it was completely different in its configuration, it is more similar to the F-35B in its layout than the Harrier in my opinion. This is also one of the few naval aviation exhibits in the museum as well. Right at the far end is the Yak 23 “Flora” which looks like an early guided missile with a cockpit & a pilot in it. An odd design as the exhaust is directly above where the cockpit is & that is pretty much in the middle of the airframe itself.

Yak 36
PHOTOGRAPH BY Dan Reeves

The added bonus to Monino as I mentioned at the start of this piece is the nearby location of Chkalovskiy Air Base, this means depending on wind direction, you get either departing aircraft or aircraft on finals to land there. It is always worth keeping an eye & ear on the skies whilst walking around the museum for low flying aircraft. Some of the aircraft I’ve caught over there include Ilyushin Il-18D “Coot,” Tupolev Tu-154 “Careless,” Antonov An-26 “Curl,” Antonov An-72 “Coaler” & Antonov An-12 “Cub.” They often do circuit training there as well so there’s a good chance if you missed it the first time there’s a good chance it’ll come round again

IL-18
PHOTOGRAPH BY Dan Reeves

There are loads of aircraft in the museum I haven’t mentioned that deserve their own little pieces, like the Tu-128 “Fiddler” & the Yak 141 “Freestlye” to cite a couple of examples but given the sheer amount & quality of aircraft on display there I couldn’t do them justice without making this much longer than it is already. So in summary it is an aviation museum with loads of rare & interesting, military & civilian aircraft with active Russian military aircraft overhead, what’s not to love. So if you’re ever in Moscow wondering what to do & you haven’t factored in a trip to Monino then get yourself there, you won’t regret it.

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Dan Reeves