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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Air Show Offers Both Old and New

APPutin and a group of officials inspecting a model of one of the military jets highlighted at the MAKS 2007 air show at the Zhukovsky airfield on Tuesday.
ZHUKOVSKY, Moscow Region -- Flashes of both the past and the future were on full display Tuesday at the largest air show in Russia's post-Soviet history as President Vladimir Putin pledged to revive the country's aerospace industry.

"Russia faces the challenge of remaining a leader in the production of combat aircraft," Putin said at the opening of the MAKS 2007 air show at Zhukovsky airfield east of Moscow. "Russia, which today boasts new economic possibilities, will continue to focus close attention on advanced technology and its development."

One of a raft of deals signed Tuesday pointed ahead, toward the greater commercial aviation revenues the sector so covets, in the form of an agreement on a joint venture between U.S. giant Boeing and domestic manufacturer VSMPO-Avisma to provide titanium parts for Boeing's 787 Dreamliner jets. But the deals also emphasized traditional strengths, with the sale of six Sukhoi fighter jets worth $350 million to Indonesia and an increased focus on space in the form of a tie-up with the European Space Agency to build a new space shuttle.

The air show comes one week after Putin's announcement of another return to the past, the resumption of Soviet-era regular patrols over the Atlantic and Pacific oceans by Russian strategic bombers.

Alexander Burutin, Putin's defense aide, said at the show that Russia might also resume the production of bombers.

"Our Air Force pilots are ready," Burutin said, Interfax reported. "This would increase their military prowess, which is strong anyway."

At the show, Putin and First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov, widely viewed as the leading contender to succeed him as president, were treated to a performance by the country's best military and passenger aircraft.

As the show started, Putin and Ivanov spoke with each other without paying much attention to a blue Su-30 fighter jet streaking overhead. But soon, dozens of jets performing acrobatics managed to turn their heads to the sky.

Putin looked pleased, while Ivanov frequently broke into a broad smile -- at one point shaking his head in apparent admiration for the display.

Next to them sat Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, along with Sergei Chemezov, head of state arms trader and main sponsor Rosoboronexport, Air Force chief Alexander Zelin and a number of other senior military and civilian officials.

Putin stressed that the centerpiece for the show was the state-controlled Unified Aircraft Corporation, which recently merged the country's leading aviation companies and designers with the goal of increasing their ability to compete internationally.

"It is planning a more active entry into the world market with competitive passenger and transport jets," Putin told the show's participants.

"The MAKS air show has always been an important marketing tool and one of the deciding factors in the commercial progress of Russian military-technical cooperation with other countries," Chemezov said in a statement.

Denis Sinyakov / Reuters
A delegation of Pakistani military officials visiting MAKS 2007 on Tuesday.
Rosoboronexport has already signed a total of $2.5 billion in agreements for aircraft deliveries this year, the company said.

Uniformed officials from countries as varied as China and Zimbabwe also put in an appearance at the show.

"Russia is a very strong state, particularly in aviation," said Cheng Wan Ming, a senior Chinese air force official.

Given announcements like that of the resumption of regular Russian bomber flights, General William Hobbins, the U.S. Air Force commander for Europe, was relatively upbeat.

"I will not discuss the political side, but I will tell you that the military-to-military relationships are better than they've ever been," Hobbins said, Agence France Presse reported.

While Russian officials have been billing MAKS 2007 as the country's answer to France's Le Bourget air show, some foreign participants complained Tuesday that the event still had a long way to go when it came to organization.

"We came to look for business in Russia," said Jean-Guy Mutez, business development director for helicopters at Goodrich, a U.S.-based supplier to aerospace and defense industries.

Mutez said MAKS resembled Le Bourget in many respects, but that getting into the show proved more complicated. Traffic was congested on the way out to Zhukovsky, and visitors were searched three times by security personnel upon arriving at the event.

All the same, many in attendance were hoping that the show would generate some positive changes in the sector.

Svetlana Kapanina was the only female guest seated along with Putin, Ivanov and the other officials. The world female aerobatic champion, nicknamed the Siberian Angel, said she told Putin that although Russian pilots ought to walk proudly with their heads up high, they have been brought to their knees by poor wages and the meager state support they receive.

Kapanina said it took her four years of court battles just to receive her monthly pension of 1,100 rubles (about $42.50).

Ivanov told her he was aware of the problem and promised to help, while Putin appeared genuinely surprised, she said.

"Unfortunately, it looks like our little problems are not being brought to the attention of our leadership," Kapanina said.