Thousands of soldiers, dozens of tanks, missile transporters, and three hours of marching – Ukraine really knows how to put on a show. The grand parade, overseen by a raft of dignitaries and leaders, was a celebration to mark the 30th anniversary of independence for the country and featured some of our favorite Ukrainian aircraft in a star-studded flyover.
A grand parade
To celebrate the 30th anniversary of Ukraine’s independence, presidents past and present joined thousands of compatriots in Kyiv in a grand parade, the likes of which you’ve probably never seen before. More than 5,000 Ukrainian soldiers marched through the capital, alongside hundreds of allies from the United States, the UK and Canada.
Also joining the parade were military vehicles, including dozens of tanks, armored transporters, missiles, and air defense systems. Watched over by President Volodymyr Zelensky and an impressive array of dignitaries, the procession took more than three hours to conclude.
But the highlight, for us at least, was a remarkable flyover by an array of military and civil aircraft, including the world’s largest plane – the Antonov An-225. Let by a barrage of helicopters and flanked by fighter jets, the An-225 joined various other Russian and Ukrainian aircraft in celebration of this momentous day.
The Antonov contingent
The An-225 Mriya took off from Kyiv Hostomel Airport, home to Antonov Airlines, at around 11:30, flying for less than half an hour for its moment of stardom. After climbing to around 2,200 feet, it looped around in a big 180 degree turn to head south and line up for the parade.
10 minutes later, it was lined up and ready for the flypast. It passed the city center at around 1,500 feet altitude, flying low and slow, before turning west and heading back to the airport.
President Zelenskyy looks on as Ukraine's Antonov An-225 Mriya, the heaviest aircraft ever built, flies over Maidan during celebrations to mark the 30th anniversary of Ukrainian independence pic.twitter.com/OcU4hCOT1q
— Business Ukraine mag (@Biz_Ukraine_Mag) August 24, 2021
Also in the limelight for Antonov were a pair of An-26 turboprops. These aircraft are used as both civilian and military transport, and were built between 1969 and 1986. Despite their age, many are still used around the world, particularly in military roles. The Ukrainian Air Force has around 22 still in its fleet.
Making an appearance on behalf of the Ukrainian emergency services was an An-32P Firekiller. This special designation of the An-32 twin-engine transport aircraft was certified in 1995 as a special category type. It can carry up to eight tons of liquid, discharging it from two external tanks either both at once or one at a time.
Flying past also were a pair of An-72 aircraft, a transport aircraft capable of very short takeoff and landing. This is largely achieved by the use of the Coanda effect, which sees the aircraft using engine exhaust gasses blown over the wing’s top surface to boost lift. The overwing engines are an unusual design feature, which have earned the type the nickname Cheburashka – a Russian children’s character with the body of a bear cub and oversized monkey ears.
Plane spotting from our Clubhouse. Antonov AN-72, amazing how little runway those short take-off and landing planes need pic.twitter.com/GR9YP5Xlxw
— Immortal Guardians MC (@igmcsa) August 18, 2021
Bringing up the rear of the parade, a huge An-70 aircraft made an appearance. This medium-range four-engine aircraft was developed to replace the An-12, and was the first aircraft to take flight powered only by propfan engines.
The flypast also featured a multitude of smaller military aircraft, including MiG29s, the Ilyushin Il-76, Su-25, Su-27, Su-24 and a plethora of rotary craft. Quite the spectacle, and a fitting celebration for the nation’s 30th year of independence.