Russian 16th Army: 65 years in the air

Russia's 16th Air Army has celebrated at Moscow region's Kubinka aviation base on Saturday to mark its 65th anniversary. The famous “Russian Knights” and “Swifts” aerobatic teams have presented a special new programme, which will a

The 16th Air Army has a long and industrious past. It is one of the most decorated units of the Soviet air force. It began life in 1942 at the Battle of Stalingrad during the Great Patriotic War.

It also took part in the Battle of Kursk and was involved in the liberation of Belarus and the final assaults of Berlin. For most of the next 50 years it was based in Germany, but returned to Russia in the early 1990s.

Based about 100 KM from Moscow, the unit is regarded today as crucial to the security of the Russian capital.

Today's events were a chance to remember the men and women who have contributed to the regiment's history – pilots like Vladimir Akhmadzianov, a Hero of Russia, who has served with the regiment for three decades.

“For 65 years the legendary 16th Air Army has been in action. I'm so proud to serve with it.  As a part of the helicopter division I've worked in Chechnya, Chernobyl, Tadzhikistan, Sierra Leone and Angola. The regiment gain more combat experience every day and never fail to fulfill its missions,” he said.

The show combined both ceremony and spectacle.

A memorial to the first pilots who flew the first jet-propelled Russian aircraft was opened. The ceremony was attended by the Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Air Force, Aleksandr Zelin, and the Governor of the Moscow Region, Boris Gromov.

And then light aircraft looped the loops as they were warming up the crowd for the main event – a dazzling, almost deafening display of aerobatics.