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Air Force Confirms Su-27 Flanker On Display At Dayton Museum Was Bought By USAF In 2011

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Su-27
The Sukhoi Su-27 during the aircraft move from restoration to the Cold War Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force on Oct. 25, 2023. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ty Greenlees)

More interesting details about the somewhat mysterious story of the Su-27UB Flanker C “61 Blue” are emerging: for the first time, the U.S. Air Force has revealed they bought the Sukhoi in 2011.

Last year, the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio, acquired a former Ukrainian Air Force Su-27UB Flanker C that has been restored and is currently on display in the Cold War Gallery of the museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

Along with the another two-seat Su-27 (N131SU/31 blue), the Su-27UB Flanker C “61 Blue” (c/n 96310408027, f/n 05-02, built on Mar. 30 1988), now carrying civilian registration N132SU/”32 blue”, was built in 1989 and served first in the Soviet Navy and then the Ukrainian Air Force after the Soviet Union collapsed.

The Sukhoi Su-27 on display next to the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-29A in the Cold War Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.(U.S. Air Force photo by Ken LaRock)

As explained in details in a previous story, the two aircraft were bought from the Ukrainian Government by a company called Terralliance Technologies to be used in a scheme to find oil and gas. Terralliance, that operated in the oil exploration business between 2004 and 2009, paid 22 million USD for the two jets, as well as more than 4 million USD for an option to purchase two others, and hired Pride Aircraft to disassemble the aircraft, put them back together once in the U.S., install western avionics and make them airworthy again.

Meridican Capital LLC provided financing and this is the reason why the aircraft was registered to the company.

The Sukhoi Su-27 during the aircraft move from restoration to the Cold War Gallery on 10/25/2023 at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.(U.S. Air Force photo by Ken LaRock)

The Su-27s never flew a mission for Terralliance: the company ran out of money in 2009 and the Flankers were sold to the U.S. Government. A certificate of airworthiness was issued to Pride by the FAA in December 2009; a second COA was issued for the Su-27 in 2010 to Tactical Air Support, a company that provides contract adversary air services to U.S. military forces.

The aircraft, based at Rockford airport, Illinois, were operated for some time by Tactical Air Support retaining their Ukrainian splinter camouflage, only replacing the “61 Blue” tactical code with a new “32 Blue”.

The Sukhoi Su-27 during the aircraft move from restoration to the Cold War Gallery on 10/25/2023 at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.(U.S. Air Force photo by Ken LaRock)

They were later sold again in 2011, although the new owner was not disclosed. Their airworthiness certificates expired in 2013 and Flankers were removed from the US register in 2018. However, what they were used for between 2011 and 2023, when the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force managed to acquire “32 Blue”, has never been disclosed: someone suggested that TacAir continued to operate the Su-27 for adversary services while others said that the Sukhois were transferred to the U.S. Air Force to perform similar activities as part of a foreign material exploitation program.

Finally, confirmation came from the Museum’s website which, on the recently-published page dedicated to the Su-27, says that the US Air Force bought it in 2011. It is the first time this information has been disclosed.

The Sukhoi Su-27 during the aircraft move from restoration to the Cold War Gallery on 10/25/2023 at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.(U.S. Air Force photo by Ken LaRock)

The Red Hats

For several decades, the U.S. Air Force has maintained and flown a fleet of foreign aircraft for both evaluation and adversary training.

The Red Hats was the nickname of a group of pilots and engineers of the 4477th Test and Evaluation Squadron (4477 TES), a USAF squadron whose nickname was “Red Eagles” equipped with MiG-17s, MiG-21s and MiG-23s and created to expose the tactical air forces to the flight characteristics of fighter aircraft used by Soviet Union during the Cold War under project Constant Peg. Today the Red Hats have become an unnumbered unit within the Detachment 3, AFTC test wing. The unit, operating from Groom Lake, operates a variety of Russian-developed aircraft, including the MiG-29 and the Su-27P, one of which was observed dogfighting with an F-16 inside Area 51 back in 2016.



On Sept. 5, 2017, Lt. Col. Eric Schultz was killed in an a mysterious crash 100 miles Northwest of Nellis AFB in the Nevada Test and Training Range, midway between Tonopah Test Range and Groom Lake.

Speculation about the crash was fueled by Air Force media releases that did not indicate the type of aircraft that was being flown by Lt. Col. Schultz on the same day when the accident occurred. There was also a delay in the story reaching news media that raised further questions since the accident was reported after another, unrelated accident involving two A-10s, was reported sooner.

But AviationWeek.com correspondent Guy Norris wrote on September 11, 2017, that “Sources indicate Schultz was the Red Hats squadron commander at the time of his death. The Red Hats became an unnumbered unit within the Detachment 3, AFTC test wing after the 413th flight test squadron (formerly 6513th test squadron) was deactivated in 2004.”

In 2022, writer Steve Davies, citing two unnamed sources, provided an unconfirmed account of the incident in a video on his YouTube channel stating that “Doc” Schultz had been killed at the controls of an Su-27UB Flanker-C at the time.

The current status of the Flanker N131SU/31 blue is unknown and for this reason there are chances the other former Ukrainian Air Force Su-27UB was the Flanker involved in the crash at Area 51 that cost the life of “Schultz



 

 

David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.



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