Sukhoi Design Bureau – History

Sukhoi Design Bureau is generally accepted as being the leading Fighter Design Bureau of the former Soviet Union, although ironically, probably less well known in the West than MiG, principally because the Soviet Union kept the Sukhoi aircraft for their own use, only selling Migs to the Warsaw Pact and other ‘friendly’ nations.

The range of aircraft has been most impressive and included an all-titanium Mach-3 bomber of extraordinary sophistication, which was actually cancelled by Kruschiev in the mistaken belief (although shared with a variety of contemporary Western politicians) that there was no future in manned aircraft!

Su-27 Fighter Aircraft

The involvement of Sukhoi in aerobatic aircraft came through the brilliant designer, Slava Kondratiev, who was one of the leading lights at Yakovlev, and who indeed designed the then state of the art aircraft – the Yak-55 and –55M. He could see that the future lay in composite aircraft, but Yakovlev refused to accept that a proper aircraft could be made out of ‘plastics’ and Sukhoi, eager to show off their skills, gave Kondratiev a free hand to design a composite aerobatic aircraft, which resulted in the world-beating SU-26, and its production version the SU-26M.

The design and construction of this aircraft is in fact done by Advance Sukhoi Technologies, in fact a privately owned company, albeit with largely the same management as the (still today) majority state-owned Sukhoi Design Bureau. The aircraft are largely manufactured within the Sukhoi Design Bureau at Policarpov Street in central Moscow, where the back of the factory opens on to the old Central Moscow Airfield, which is now disused, but does give AST the ability to wheel aircraft out of the factory for immediate test flights.

Always his own man, Kondratiev began to find Sukhoi too constraining, so he left, having laid down the basis for the almost totally composite SU-29 two seater and SU-31 single seater, to set up his own design bureau, Technoavia. In the meantime Boris Rakitin took over as chief designer of AST and brought these two products to fruition. The organisation produced some 190 aircraft which have been solid literally throughout the world, as well has having been the most successful competition aircraft of all time.

Sadly, it would seem that production of these exceptional aircraft has stopped and is unlikely to restart, although all jigs, tooling etc still exist.