Nizhny Novgorod Aircraft construction plant SOKOL was created in 1932. It is one of the leading companies of the airspace industry in Russia. To this day, it has produced more than 43,000 aircrafts. The company is the successor of the Gorky aircraft building plant, named after Sergo Ordzhonikidze, operating from October 21, 1929. It was on that day that the Labor and Defense Council of USSR passed a resolution to construct the aircraft building plant № 21, in Nizhny Novgorod, which was built within a very short amount of time (in 21 months) and on 1st of February , 1932, the plant was ready for operation. In August, 1932, the first aircraft took off – the I-5 fighter, a biplane of mixed structure, designed by a team lead by the outstanding designer Nikolay Polykarpov. From 1932 till 1934, the I-5 fighter was in mass-production, and starting in 1934, a new high-speed fighter, the I-16 was developed. The first prototypes of the I-16 were tested by Valery Chkalov, a Soviet Union Hero and a chief-pilot of the plant between 1934 and 1938, a legendary pilot who became famous all over the world with his non-stop flight from Moscow to USA over the North Pole.
The I-16 had 22 versions and was the primary fighter of Soviet Air Force up to the beginning of 1942: it fought in the Spanish skies, over Hasan lake and the Halhin-Gol river. Soviet pilots were flying this aircraft during the initial period of Second World War. In November, 1941, under the guidance of the future Chief Designer Semyon Lavochkin, the plant started a mass-production of the La family of planes (the plant supplied a total of 17,691 aircraft to the armed forces... every forth fighter manufactured in the country. The first La-5 successfully participated in Stalingrad battle and was equal to the typical Luftwaffe aircraft - FW-190. La-5FN in quantity was first tried out in the summer of 1943 in air fights on Kursk Duga: it exceeded German fighters in many of the characteristics and was further acknowledged, along with La-7, as one of the best fighters of the Second World War. This fighter, designed by Lavochkin, helped the worlds famous pilot, three times Soviet Union Hero Ivan Kozhedub, take down 63 fascist aircraft.
The year of 1949 was the starting point of the creative relationship between the plant and Mykoyan Design Bureau. From that time, the plant became the world’s well known producer of the MiG fighters. The first aircraft of this family is the MiG-15 jet aircraft designed by A. Mykoyan and M. Gurevich. It was mass-produced in the plant from 1949 to 1952. In 1950-1952 the combat performance of this aircraft was proven in Northern Korea sky. The MiG-15 fighter was produced under the license in Poland and Czechoslovakia.
Between 1952 and 1954 the plant produced MiG-17 fighters, and from 1955 to 1957, the MiG-19, the first soviet supersonic aircraft was produced.
In 1959 the plant started mass-production of the famous MiG 21, which became the most prolific supersonic fighter in the history of world aviation.
From 1969 to 1985, the plant was mass-producing the fighter-interceptor MiG 25 - the first fully welded aircraft in aviation history, with 80% of airframe structure made of high-strength steel and titanium. The MiG 25 has established 29 world speed records, including climbing capacity and flight altitude; it not only defined the further development of world aviation, but initiated a new generation of combat aircraft. The development and mastering of this aircraft gave rise to a technical revolution in the company. Reconstruction, which began at the end of the 60s, made the Gorky aircraft building plant one of the most "high-tech" manufacturers in the industry. Starting in 1979, the plant was mass-producing a heavy long-range interceptor... the MiG 31, the first home-grown combat aircraft of the fourth generation.
During 45 years of the MiG family mass-production the plant manufactured about 13,500 combat aircrafts; the most famous of them – the MiG 21 and MiG 29UB – were exported to more than 30 countries around the world. During the 1990s the company started the major upgrade project for the MiG 21 / 29 / 31 fighters.
In 1996 the Nizhny Novgorod aircraft building plant started a joint program with the Yakovlev Design Bureau, developing a challenging aircraft - the YAK-130 intended for pilots and flight personnel training. Later on, when a combat-trainer YAK-130 was fully developed, it was capable of acting as a multifunctional tactical fighter. In April 2004 the manufacture of the first combat-trainer YAK-130 was completed at Sokol, and the aircraft, in its final configuration, made its first flight from the company's airfield.
Main Current activities of the Sokol plant:
- Design Works
- Production of Military Aircrafts (MiG 31E Fighter-Interceptor, Fighter-trainer MiG 29UB, version B Combat trainer Yak-130)
- Aircraft’s upgrades (MiG 21 BIS upgraded)
- Civil Aircraft Production (M-101T - light passenger turboprop)
- Flights in fighter jets MiG 29 for tourists from Russia and other countries
Sokol is a member of the United Aircraft Corporation of Russian Federation. In 2008 the UAC Board made the decision to give the exclusive rights for manufacturing of the main range of MIG fighters to the Sokol air base in Nizhny Novgorod.