From August 27 to September 01, 2019, the XIV edition of the MAKS International Aerospace Salon took place at the Zhukovsky airfield in the vicinity of Moscow. The fair was attended by 870 companies from 33 countries, including 184 international companies. The organisers counted over 578 thousand visitors and estimated the amount of contracts concluded at about 250 billion rubles (over €3.1 billion).
The highlight of the show was the visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin accompanied by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The presidents opened the event with greetings and spent several hours visiting the exhibition and the flight programme. Putin presented the most important highlights of the show to his Turkish counterpart, including Su-57 of the 5th generation and Su-35 of the 4++ generation, MC-21-300 of the latest medium-range passenger aircraft, Be-200 fire-fighting amphibians and a number of helicopters, including Mi-38 heavy, Ka-62 medium and Ansat light in VVIP Aurus version. The presidents held a conference with the International Space Station and spent almost an hour watching the impressive flight demonstrations of various aircraft.
In his speech, the Russian President mentioned that Russia’s unique aerospace technologies enable the country to remain a world leader in the aerospace industry. The Turkish head of state said that the cooperation with Russia should give Turkey an impulse for new developments in the aerospace sector. Putin mentioned the discussion with Erdogan on mutual cooperation on Su-35 and Su-57 aircraft, other types of modern weapons including radio-electronic warfare. He claimed that “the Turkish partners are interested not only in buying but also in joint production of various technologies in defence and trade.” It is interesting that Putin did not refer to his Turkish colleagues as partners, but as friends.
After returning to Ankara, Erdogan made a statement that Turkey could consider the Su-57 as a replacement for the F-35 if the U.S. excluded Turkey from the JSF programme. He was supported by his Secretary of State Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, who announced that Turkey, as an independent state, would buy more S-400 air defence systems from Russia and then produce them locally if the United States did not supply Turkey with Patriot missiles and the associated technology.
The high-ranking visit illustrates the importance of MAKS as an international platform that attracts worldwide attention in the world of military and civil aerospace technology, which is presented there on almost 27,000 sqm of pavilions and 45,000 sqm of open space.
The 5th generation Su-57 fighter was a real “cherry on the cake” of the MAKS military programme. While four airplanes participated in the flight demonstration, the export version of the fighter Su-57E was on static display.
The military convertible tankers Il-78-90A and Il-112 also made their debut. A military transport version of the latest generation of the Mi-38 heavy lift and the latest improved Mi-28NE and Mi-24P cannon ships were also on display. The UAVs debuts were presented by Orion-2 prospect heavy vehicle and its export version Orion-E.
The combat UAV programme consisted of two Chinese Wing Loong vehicles just aside from the Chinese National pavilion – the MAKS 2019 partner country.
When it comes to air defence, a new version of Tor-M2E mobile SHORADS was presented on the DT 30 Vitayz chassis.
A highlight of the show was MC-21-300 medium range advanced aircraft in both flight and static display. The liner has a number of high-tech features including composite wings and up-to-date engines to lower operational cost.
The company Russian Helicopters was one of the most important exhibitors at the fair; their Mi-38 heavy-duty trucks and Ka-62 medium-sized rotorcraft were presented for the first time in the flight programme. The Ansat light helicopter in the VVIP configuration was accompanied by the Aurus limousine to attract the attention of potential customers.
The People’s Republic of China was the partner nation of MAKS this time and had built its own pavilion of 3,000 square meters to present parts of the long-range wide-body CR929 aircraft jointly developed by the People’s Republic of China and Russia. Visitors could see the cockpit and parts of the first, business and economy salons.
For the very first time, the Russian audience had the opportunity to have a look at the Embraer E-195 E2 short-range airliner, the Pilatus PS-24 business jet and the Piper M500 light aircraft. The Airbus A-350-900 has been displayed at previous MAKS shows but back then it demonstrated the Airbus Connected Experience elements.
Commercial Results and the Future
The MAKS 2019 press-service announced that salon was resulted in signed contracts for MC-21 and Sukhoi Superjet 100 airliners plus Mi-8AMT and Ansat helicopters on sum of 248 billion. rubles, equivalent of €3.1 billion on current rate. The figure could be a MAKS record but not a single customer was named to give reasons for suspicions on the figures itself.
There had been strong rumours before MAKS that Putin’s visit should resulted in a long awaited contract for 72 Su-57 between UAC and Russian MoD to form up three regiments of the Russian Air Force. No official statement had been done on the matter.
Russia’s sole defence international trade exporter Rosoboronexport issued a press-release that the company “held over 200 pre-bid negotiations, conferences and technical presentations for foreign delegations, following which the refill of the company booking by a handful of billions of dollars is anticipated.”
According to Alexander A. Mikheev, Rosoboronexport CEO, the new contracts “for Russian fixed and rotor-wing aircraft and air defense weapons will become the principal result of MAKS-2019.” He also mentioned that the company portfolio on the existing contracts is in the regular frame of US$50 billion while the contracts being signed over this year has already reached a figure of $8,5 billion with a 50% share of the air force and air defence technology.
It is clearly understandable why the Rosoboronexport boss didn’t name any international customers to prevent possible sanctions from the U.S. and their European allies but why the civil aircraft and helicopters customers remain unspecified is unclear.
Despite the optimism of the MAKS 2019 organisers, the future of the show is in limbo. The defence part of the exposition has become much smaller; especially the air defence part lost dozens of vehicles and at least two pavilions. This is a result of competition between the Army Forum in Kubinka and the Zhukovsky Show. Many customers see no reason to participate in both fairs, which are separated by two months at a distance of 100 km. Thus far, the Army Forum has successfully established permanent pavilions for Russia’s major defence companies such as Rostec, UAC, USC, Kalashnikov, Almaz-Antey and Tactical Missile Corporation. The runway extension at Kubinka Air Base will soon allow to accommodate any type of aircraft including the largest ones while the nearby test range in Alabino has become world famous for its tank biathlon and other attractions of the international Army Games being held just a couple of weeks ahead of MAKS.
So, it seems logical to display defence related technology at the Army Forum and leaving to MAKS only civil aviation, with a presentation of Russia’s aerobatics team at the weekends. This would definitely make sense as 90% of the international presence at MAKS were in the field of civilian technology.
It has to be noted that no dates for the next MAKS have been announced yet, and so its future stands in the stars.