Minsk, Mazowiecki, Poland

In August training preparations were being conducted for the national fly-past over Warsaw to celebrate the Polish Armed Forces Day. Towards the end of August the same air parade would be demonstrated at Radom Air Show. I was provided with security clearance to attend and document the proceedings at the 23rd Tactical Air Base at Minsk Mazowiecki, home to the  Mikoyan Mig-29A of the 1st Aviation Squadron. The base also played host to the SU-22 Fitters of the 40th Aviation Squadron from 21st Tactical Air Base at Swidwin, whom would also participate in the flypast. There would be a total of six aircraft of each type taking part.

On Wednesday 19th August I arrived at the main gate. Following a thorough security check we were given a briefing which explained the itinerary for the day, health and safety matters and restricted areas. Wearing appropriate personal protective equipment we walked 1.5km to the control tower location where we would view most of the preparations from.

Moments after our arrival pilots exited the 'briefing house' and walked towards their aircraft. On the ramp immediately to our right were a mix of 10 Mig-29 A and UB types, each being prepared for action by ground-crew. The powering up of engines during warm-up procedures produced immense plumes of smoke which is a very recognisable characteristic of the Mig-29.

To our left, but hidden behind a forest of trees, more engines could be heard starting up. These belonged to the SU-22 Fitters. Moving off their holding position the aircraft turned onto the taxiway, making their way towards the runway. There was a light north-east breeze which would mean using runway 09.

The SU-22s lined up on the runway in pairs for the first launch of the day. Engines were spooled up and wheel brakes released. The first pair consisted of '3201' and '3713', the latter sporting a horse's head with free flowing golden hair art-work on the nose. The aircraft stayed nicely together, lifting off just in front of the enthusiasts. The other two-pair followed suit.

Once the SU-22s had departed the Mig-29s turned onto the taxiway passing only metres in front of the group. Pilots were most accommodating powering up and waving for the line of camera's. In similar fashion to the SU-22s the Mig's lined up in pairs on the runway.

First to depart were '4113' and '4116'. Paired take-offs are a fundamental part of the flight training process and requires a great deal of hand-eye and feet co-ordination.

My sincere thanks goes to Lt. Col. Artur Golawski (PAO Officer) for arranging security clearance and making this photographic report possible.

In addition to the Mig-29's and SU-22's, the following aircraft would participate in the air parade:
F-16 'Block 52' Fighting Falcon
Mil Mi-24 Hind
PZL SW-4 Puszczyk
Lockheed C-130E Hercules
CASA C-295s
PZL M28 Bryza
PZL-130 TC II Orlik
PZL TS-11 Iskra trainers

Along with the fly-past preparations Minsk was to continue as an operational base. Several other Mig-29s departed throughout the day to carry out normal training exercises. There was even a surprise in the shape of two US Air Force Apache Gunships that appeared from behind some trees and gave us a low level pass. We were informed that the Apache's were present to showcase the aircraft to the Polish Armed Forces who are looking to purchase a new attack helicopter. 

NAF El Centro, California
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