The Tu-160 strategic bomber with a tail number 14 (RF-94103) deployed at the Engels air base near Saratov was named after the famous American aircraft designer Igor Sikorsky, the founder of Sikorsky Aircraft, Izvestiya reports.
The command of long-range aviation explained that there were two unnamed Tu-160s at the base and they decided to pay the tribute to the memory of Sikorsky. «This decision was taken by the military council of long-range aviation in August and the new marking was made on the aircraft lately. We know Igor Ivanovich as the Russian designer and originator of Ilya Muromets heavy bomber, the real patriot of Russia», — a source noted.
However, this decision caused argument among the personnel of the air base. One of the officers of Engels air base said that Sikorsky has laid basis of American, not Russian, aviation, especially in the helicopter and amphibian aircraft segment, and he has no special merits for Russia. “Sykorsky vehicles fought against us all over the world – in the Middle East, Angola and Vietnam. Not only transport and special aircraft, but also the Blackhawk attack helicopter. According to the logic of the command we should name the last unnamed Tu-160 after Ernst Heinkel, because his Heinkel HD 37 (I-7) laid foundation of the Soviet fighter aviation”, — he said.
Nevertheless, an officer of the command of long-range aviation said that Igor Sikorsky is not responsible for combat activities of his helicopters. «Enemies used Kalashnikov and SKS against our troops in Afghanistan and Chechnya. But Mikhail Kalashnikov and Sergey Simonov are not the ones to blame», - he said.
The ex-Commander-in-Chief of the Russian air forces, retired General of the Army, Anatoly Kornukov, supported the decision of the military council of long-range aviation. «All the key personnel were present at the meeting of the council and they made the right decision. We can justly name Sikorky the father of the Russian long-range aviation, because it was founded thanks to Ilya Muromets aircraft. The shadowgraph of this famous vehicle was pictured on the chevron of the long-range aviation», — Kornukov said.
The alternate representative of the Duma’s Defense Committee, Viktor Zavarzin, agrees with him. «Sikorsky is the Russian designer, who immigrated from force of circumstances. I see nothing inappropriate in naming the aircraft after him», — the deputy noted.