Central Museum of the Armed Forces – Moscow

Soviet Cold War Air Force propaganda poster
Soviet Cold War Air Force propaganda poster

Soviet air power was characterised by powerful, fast, rugged, heavily armed combat aircraft but technologically and maneuverability wise they were generally regarded as inferior to western designs. Then in the 1980’s two true “Beasts from the East” appeared and changed this opinion all together in the form of the Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-29 Fulcrum and Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker fighters – fast, powerful, maneuverable and equipped with advanced avionics and weapons systems these were potentially superior to many western fighters and a true match in the right hands, to aircraft like the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon and McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle.

Regardless of the role and type of combat aircraft I have always been fascinated by Soviet era aviation and in Moscow the Central Museum of the Armed Forces is a great place to see many Cold War era “Beasts from the East” from the early Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-17 Fresco to the mighty Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker along with various helicopters and training aircraft.

The following are photos taken during my visit to the Central Museum of the Armed Forces on a grey old Moscow day in November 2007. The aircraft are all on display outside and there is plenty to see. You will quickly not that space was somewhat limited, so in some areas aircraft are pretty tightly placed together and difficult to photograph, plus there are tanks, artillery, missiles and even a patrol boat on display!

MiG row at the Central Museum of the Armed Forces Moscow
MiG row at the Central Museum of the Armed Forces
Mil Mi-24 Hind A gunship alongside a Yakolev Yak-50 and a Mil Mi-2 Hoplite helicopter Central Museum of the Armed Forces Moscow
Mil Mi-24 Hind A gunship alongside a Yakolev Yak-50 and a Mil Mi-2 Hoplite helicopter
Clockwise: Mil Mi-24 Hind A, SA-2 SAM and Sukhoi Su-7 Fitter A, Mil Mi-2 Hoplite and Mil Mi-4 Hound Central Museum of the Armed Forces Moscow
Clockwise: Mil Mi-24 Hind A, SA-2 SAM and Sukhoi Su-7 Fitter A, Mil Mi-2 Hoplite and Mil Mi-4 Hound
Il-28 Beagle Central Museum of the Armed Forces Moscow
Ilyushin Il-28 Beagle medium jet bomber
Sukhoi Su-7 Fitter A strike fighter Central Museum of the Armed Forces Moscow
Sukhoi Su-7 Fitter A strike fighter with Mil Mi-2 and Mi-4 helicopters
MiG Row Central Museum of the Armed Forces Moscow
MiG Row
Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-17 Fresco Central Museum of the Armed Forces Moscow
Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-17 Fresco
Early model Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-21F-13 Fishbed Central Museum of the Armed Forces Moscow
Early model Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-21F-13 Fishbed
Early model Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-21SM Fishbed Central Museum of the Armed Forces Moscow
Early model Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-21SM Fishbed
Early model Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-23S Flogger Central Museum of the Armed Forces Moscow
Early model Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-23S Flogger
Sukhoi Su-15 Flagon Central Museum of the Armed Forces Moscow
Sukhoi Su-15 Flagon interceptor
Ka-25 Helicopter Central Museum of the Armed Forces Moscow
Kamov KA-25 Hormone ASW helicopter of the Soviet Navy
Aero L-29 Delfin trainer (Czech design) and Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-25 Foxbat Mach 3.2 interceptor
Aero L-29 Delfin trainer (Czech design) and Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-25 Foxbat Mach 3.2 interceptor
MiG-25 Central Museum of the Armed Forces Moscow
Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-25 Foxbat
The glory of Soviet Aviation the Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-29 Fulcrum and Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker
The glory of Soviet Aviation the Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-29 Fulcrum and Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker
Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-29 Fulcrum multi-role fighter Central Museum of the Armed Forces Moscow
Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-29 Fulcrum multi-role fighter
Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-29 Fulcrum multi-role fighter Central Museum of the Armed Forces Moscow
MiG-29 weaponry
Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker multi-role fighter Central Museum of the Armed Forces Moscow
Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker multi-role fighter
Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker multi-role fighter Central Museum of the Armed Forces
Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker multi-role fighter
A lethal SAM, MiG-29 and Sukhoi Su-24 Fencer strike aircraft Central Museum of the Armed Forces Moscow
A lethal SAM, MiG-29 and Sukhoi Su-24 Fencer strike aircraft
A heavily armed Sukhoi Su-25 Frogfoot ground attack aircraft Central Museum of the Armed Forces Moscow
A heavily armed Sukhoi Su-25 Frogfoot ground attack aircraft
Tanks, surface to air missiles and  self-propelled, radar guided anti-aircraft weapon systems (ZSU-23-4) at the Central Museum of the Armed Forces in Moscow
Tanks, surface to air missiles and self-propelled, radar guided anti-aircraft weapon systems (ZSU-23-4) at the Central Museum of the Armed Forces in Moscow
Artillery, surface to surface missiles, patrol boats and more at the Central Museum of the Armed Forces in Moscow
Artillery, surface to surface missiles, a patrol boat and more at the Central Museum of the Armed Forces in Moscow

Francis Gary Powers U-2 Wreckage

Something very unique from the Cold War pages of history is on display within the main museum building. This is the wreckage of an American Lockheed U-2 Dragonlady which came to fame during the Cold War on May 1st, 1960 when being flown by Francis Gary Powers (a former USAF Captain flying for the Central Intelligence Agency). The U-2 was on a secret joint CIA/USAF spy mission over the USSR when it was shot down by a Soviet SA-2 Surface to Air Missile. An earlier mission in May 1960 over the USSR had been detected by the Soviets but their fighter aircraft failed to intercept the U-2 which had taken off from Pakistan and landed in Iran. As such by May 1960 Soviet air defences were on high alert and unfortunately for Francis Gary Powers they were on the lookout for more U-2 flights.

U-2 Wreckage Francis Gary Powers 1960 Central Museum of the Armed Forces Moscow
Wreckage of the U-2C flown by Francis Gary Powers over the USSR in 1960 (I took this photo in the Central Museum of the Armed Forces in Moscow in 2007)
Wreckage of the U-2C flown by Francis Gary Powers over the USSR in 1960 (I took this photo in the Central Museum of the Armed Forces in Moscow in 2007)
Wreckage of the U-2C flown by Francis Gary Powers over the USSR in 1960 (I took this photo in the Central Museum of the Armed Forces in Moscow in 2007)

Following the disappearance of the U-2 flown by Powers the US government denied the purpose of the aircrafts mission. A press release on May 6th, 1960 stated it was a NASA aircraft used for scientific weather research purposes that had gone off course and was now missing (they even had photos of a U-2 painted up to back up the story!) but they were embarrassed by the Soviets when they not only produced the wreckage of the aircraft but also the pilot and photos taken of Soviet bases (Powers was unable to activate the aircraft self-destruct mechanism before bailing out)!

Fake NASA Lockheed U-2 1960
The fake NASA U-2C May 6th, 1960 (source: NASA)
Francis Gary Powers captured by the Soviets 1960
Francis Gary Powers captured by the Soviets (source: RIA Novosti archive, image #35174)

Powers was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment in the USSR for espionage but was released in 1962 in a spy swap and returned to the United States. Despite extreme interrogation over those 2 years in the USSR he did not reveal any US secrets and was awarded the CIA Intelligence Star in 1963.

Powers later became a test pilot for Lockheed between 1963-1970, then a airborne traffic reporter. He died at just 47 in a helicopter crash in 1977. Posthumously Powers was awarded a number of medals that were presented to his family including the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) in 2000, the CIA Directors Medal in 2000 for extreme fidelity and extraordinary courage in the line of duty; and the Silver Star in 2012 for demonstrating exceptional loyalty whilst enduring 2 years of harsh interrogation.

The Central Museum of the Armed Forces is just one of numerous museums in Moscow where you can see many historic aircraft from World War Two through to the end of the Cold War and the fall of the USSR in 1991. I will feature more of these museums in future posts. From an aviation point of view Moscow is a great destination to see many different types of Soviet era aircraft and well worth a visit.

 

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6 thoughts on “Central Museum of the Armed Forces – Moscow

  1. Thank you for sharing. I will hopefully go to Russia soon. I’ll definitely check it out. Also, Russian Air Force from WWII is not talked about much in the US.. Do you have any suggested reading on them that could help me familiarize myself with them? also, do you have any other Museums in Moscow/St. Petersburg or Russia in general you would recommend? If those posts are coming soon, I can wait. No Worries, I just wanted to make sure and ask!! Thansk

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi there – in Moscow check out Victory Park (WW2 and Cold War era aircraft) and outside of Moscow at Monino is the epic Russian Air Force Museum. I didn’t get a chance to see much in the way of aviation in St. Pete but there is the Artillery Museum and the Cruiser Aurora. There is also the Kubinka Tank Museum – I didn’t get there as back then they were charging ludicrous amounts of money to visit it (I hope that is no longer the case – Kubinka, Odintsovsky District, Moscow Oblast, Russia)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. As for reading. Sorry I don’t have anything in particular to recommend but if you are interested in Soviet Cosmonauts I can recommend Starman about Yuri Gagarin

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