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Last week Russia's Valery Chkalov State Flight Tests Center marked its 85th birthday
Last week Russia's once top-secret Valery Chkalov State Flight Tests Center (GLIC - Russian acronym), marked its 85th birthday. It was established in the 1920s in the arid delta of the Volga River and its tributary Akhtuba. Practically every type of Soviet and Russian warplane and military transport was put through its paces there, from the pre-WWII "plywood" I-15 to the multi-mission fighter Su-30MKI, built specially for the Indian air force and its cousin the Su-27SKM, which awed the crowds at the recent Le Bourget air show with a breathtaking display of aerobatic flight dynamics. Before mass production begins, experimental versions of planes and helicopters arrive at the GLIC from their producers, where they are thoroughly flight tested to determine whether or not they are suitable for the Russian army. If their designs are approved production begins. Otherwise, they just remain another step towards super-speeds, super-high-attitudes, super-maneuverability and other super-parameters. Actually every plane which Russia has shipped abroad - to China, India, Algeria, Indonesia, Vietnam, Peru, Cuba, ex-Warsaw Pact countries and the former Yugoslavia - has completed testing at the GLIC. A lot depends on the skills of test pilots and how an aircraft is prepared for comprehensive flight-testing. Many Russian aircraft firms and design bureaus have their own branches, shops and hangars manned by remarkable masters in Akhtubinsk, a town born as an offspring to the flight test center. Since its inception the center has held 1,339 state tests and 1,782 special tests of aviation technology and armaments. Among them are Su-27SM, Su-24SM, Su-27IB, Su-30, Il-80, Il-82, Il-76MF, An-70, An-225, An-40, Yak-130, and Mi-34 and many others. Between 1954 and 1960, the GLIC "developed airborne" missile-carrying aircraft, including supersonic, transports, helicopters, all sort of state-of-the-art armaments - air-to-air, air-to-surface, automated aircraft guidance and control systems. It was there that a Tu-16 bomber carrying a Soviet-designed Atomic-bomb took to the skies for the first time. For over 20 years the Tu-16 remained in the Russian air force's inventories. The first supersonic fighter SM-9, later known as the famous MiG-19, began state tests at the GLIC in 1954, and in 1958, the renowned MIG-21, the most mass-produced fighter in the world, followed suit. To this day the MiG-21 remains in service with many countries, India among them. News agencies from all over the world reported that its recent update carrying the new Russian Kopye antenna and missile armaments let Indian pilots defeat the American F-15C/D Eagle and French Mirage'2000 warplanes in a mock dog fight. The GLIC biography boasts the testing of the Tu-95 subsonic strategic bomber, which began way back in 1956. Upon updating it received the name Tu-95MS (NATO classification: Bear) and remains to this day in service with the Russian Air Force as a long-range bomber capable of carrying nuclear arms and high-precision long-range conventional cruise missiles. They are intended for destroying both in-depth command posts and combating terrorists. As a breeding ground of Russia's best warplanes and foremost pilots, navigators and test engineers the Valeri Chkalov State Flight Tests Center used to be and is home to five Heroes of the Soviet Union (two stars), 92 Heroes of the Soviet Union and 14 Heroes of Russia. Test pilots with names well known to many aviation enthusiasts, such as Igor Votintsev, Sergei Melnikov, Sergei Bogdan, Anatoli Kvochur have brought glory to Russian aviation. They all honed their skills to perfection at the "GLIC school." Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Air Force, Army General Vladimir Mikhailov, has said: "Despite the complexities of military reform the GLIC will as before run increasing amounts of tests." Although preceding generations of aircraft need updating and the groundwork has been laid for a fifth generation multi-mission fighter (specialists call it PAK FA -- promising front-line aviation complex), new economic realities require the GLIC to develop new approaches to aircraft flight testing, General Mikhailov said. The GLIC is a hard worker that never stops
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