Central Aerohydrodynamic Institute
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TsAGI: a one-hundred year aviation journey

How to manufacture airplanes, when the First World War had barely ended and the Russian Civil War was beginning to flare up, and when the future of the country was clouded over with the smell of war? Did an incipient Soviet state need aviation? The order to build up the Central AeroHydrodynamic Institute, signed exactly a century ago on December 1, 1918, was a “yes.”

Almost all Soviet planes were tested at TsAGI. Its wind tunnels have no equivalents. World-renowned scientists, whose names are included in textbooks on Aero-and hydrodynamics, praised the talents of their Russian colleagues while visiting the Institute. The Zhukovsky Central AeroHydrodynamic Institute (TsAGI) is one of the largest research centers not only in Russia but in the world.

Several generations of famous scientists and engineers have grown up within the walls of TsAGI during its 100 years of existence. Aircraft designers practiced research in aircraft and helicopter manufacturing, architects in house and bridge building, mechanical engineers in car, carriage and ship building. Over time TsAGI became the foundation of the state aviation industry.

Towards a new era

Nikolay Egorovich Zhukovskiy, the pioneer of Russian aviation science, was the first who pitched the idea to create an aerodynamic Research Center. In the early 20th century the name of Zhukovskiy was widely known among the followers of aeronautics. His lift prediction formulas and his work on aerodynamics provided the basis for flying machine creation. He was a Corresponding member of the Imperial Academy of Sciences and a Professor of the Imperial Moscow technical school; and devoted much attention and effort to experiments. He was aided by disciples, who themselves subsequently became world-class scientists: Dmitry Riabuchinsky, Boris Stechkin, Sergey Chaplygin, Andrey Tupolev and others. Some of the experiments took place at the technical school, some at the Kuchynskaya aerodynamic laboratory, but the rapidly developing science required centralization and the most modern technological equipment.

TsAGI celebrates its birthday on December 1, On this day in 1918 the Institute was established by resolution of the Scientific and Technical Department of the Supreme Council of National Economy of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialistic Republic. Turning to the history of the times, the country was eager to follow the path of the world’s progress, one of the most important components of which was aviation.

The Moscow High Engineering School aerodynamic laboratory and the Aviation Design testing Bureau became TsAGI members. The Kuchinskaya aerodynamic laboratory joined TsAGI a year later. At the same time in Moscow in Radio Street they began building TsAGI’s complex (now, the Moscow Research Complex.)

N.E. Zhukovsky became the first head of the Institute and in 1921 his student, Sergey Chaplygin replaced the Professor. TsAGI, under the auspices of Chaplygin, set up its most advanced experimental base. The Institute specialists developed the theories of wing, propeller, stability and controllability of the airplane, flutter (dangerous phenomenon, able to destroy the wing or blade of an airplane), etc. In 1922 A.N. Tupolev, Head of TsAGI’s aircraft Department, built the first all-metal airplane in our country, the ANT-2.

Construction of TsAGI’s second facility was started in 1933 at the Otdykh station of the Kazan Railroad in what is now the city of Zhukovsky. Buildings with large aerodynamic wind tunnels and strength test halls were constructed on fields in the floodplain of the Moskva River in less than five years. The largest wind tunnel in Europe, the T-101, and the vertical T-105 wind tunnel were established there. It is noteworthy that scientists themselves monitored the work progress, advising on installation and equipment of the new test facilities.

For the first few years the Institute specialists carried out both research and design (under the direction of A.N. Tupolev), but challenges increased and the processing chains became longer. One by one other specialized institutions branched out from TsAGI: the Central Institute of Aviation Motors, CIAM(1930), the Institute of Aviation Materials, VIAM (1932), the Gromov Flight Research Institute (1941), and the Siberian Aeronautical Research Institute, SibNIA(1946). Later, the Aircraft Division was reorganized into the famous Tupolev Bureau in 1936.

By 1938 TsAGI’s staff had achieved significant results: they developed and organized the production of the main structural material of aviation at that time, duralumin, created a guide for design and aircraft strength standards and learned how to prevent flutter.

The beginning of the Great Patriotic War, or World War II, prevented the scientists from implementing their plans. They had to stop their research and new wind tunnel construction. The Soviet Government signed a decree for the evacuation of some TsAGI divisions in Novosibirsk and Kazan. But even in such difficult conditions specialists were able to create faster and more agile combat aircraft of the La, Yak, and MiG series, as well as others.

A new stage in the Institute’s development came after the end of the war. Greater speed through jet aircraft took center stage. The research of Academicians S.A. Khristianovich and V.V. Struminsky led to the development of high speed aerodynamics and the sweep theory, which currently are applied to create supersonic (faster than the sound speed) aircraft.

TsAGI played a duel role in the development of new flying machines. In the first phase scientists made recommendations for design bureaus and then tested the finished aircraft and gave them an expert evaluation. In the 1960s they proposed aircraft layout with a variable swept wing as evidenced on the MiG-23, Tu-22Mm, Tu-160, and Su-24; they studied the transport IL-76 and An-124, and the supersonic Yak-141. Later, TsAGI’s scientific groundwork was used during the creation of the fourth-generation Su-27 and MiG-29 fighters. Much attention was paid to passenger aircraft as well. TsAGI tests gave birth to the passenger aircraft Tu-104, Tu-154, Il-86 and Il-96, Tu-204, Tu-334, as well as the only supersonic aircraft in the USSR (one of only two in the world), the supersonic airliner Tu-144.

TsAGI participated not only in aircraft creation, but also in research of aerodynamic, acoustic and mechanical characteristics of satellites and space ships built in the country. But the most ambitious project was the development of the aerospace systems Energia-Buran. Specialists were challenged to build an orbital spaceplane with a booster. Together with TsAGI, 1.285 Soviet enterprises and more than a million people took part in the work. The Institute undertook research on aerodynamics, developed recommendations on the devices’ geometry, studied thermal flight modes and evaluated all necessary aerodynamic coefficients deviations. The return vehicle Buran undertook a unique landing in automatic mode in 1988.

Today, the rate of progress has accelerated. TsAGI scientists are hard at work on Russian aviation industry’s most important aircraft projects: the regional Sukhoi Superjet 100, the short-haul MC-21 aircraft, the fifth-generation fighter T-50, widebody long-haul aircraft, etc. The Institute is proud of its achievements in fundamental and applied science, from aero-and hydrodynamics, aeroacoustics, flight dynamics and aircraft design integrity.

For its significant contribution to the development of aerospace science and technology TsAGI was awarded the Order of the Red Banner of Labour, (1926), the Red Banner (1933), the Order of Lenin (1945), the Honorary diploma of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the RSFSR (1968), and the order of the October Revolution (1971). In 1998 TsAGI was awarded a commendation of the President of the Russian Federation.

In 2014 TsAGI. together with CIAM, GoSNII GA,SibNIA, and GkNIPAS became a member of the National Research Center, “The Zhukovsky Institute,” which effectively coordinates the work of the country’s leading aviation scientific centers.


What associations do these words trigger? — Airplanes, air, wind tunnels? We have all these at TsAGI. All aircraft developed in Russia are tested here. Scientists have tested in wind tunnels things as distinct as high-speed trains, cars, bridges, high-rise buildings, wind-turbine installations and other industrial facilities.

While studying aircraft, scientists measure many characteristics: strength, moments, pressure distribution and loads. They closely analyze airflow, warp, laminar-turbulent transition in boundary layers, test models with simulated turbojet and turboprop engines, etc.

In creating a new Russian aircraft, for example the Sukhoi Superjet 100, TsAGI is responsible for selecting the potential aerodynamic layout. The Superjet is certified now and operates for a scheduled airline, so the Institute is now concentrating on the MC-21 commercial aircraft. A new composite wing, created by TsAGI, is at the center of the aircraft’s design.

Another broad area of research is helicopters. The Institute research staff works with design Bureaus and puts in practice methods to improve the aerodynamic, aeroacoustic and aeroelastic characteristics of rotary wings and steering rotors, as well as vibration reduction methods. For example, TsAGI scientists are conducting research of a fundamentally new stationary [in flight] rotary-wing flying vehicle which will significantly improve the cruise speed compared to regular helicopters.

There are opportunities for innovative technical solutions. Among bold projects there are cryogenically powered aircraft (liquefied hydrogen, natural gas), laminar flow control, deep integration of power plants and gliders.

Flight dynamics and control systems

In recent decades aircraft designers have paid considerable attention to aircraft control systems (CS). Automated CS is a defining element in the design of practically all modern aircraft. It improves stability, controllability, technical and economic characteristics of the aircraft during flight, and increases flight safety.

TsAGI’s research is significant in this area. Specialists analyze stability and controllability of aircraft, develop control algorithms, and help to design control systems (including remote-control systems) for different classes of aircraft, including the Tu-204, the Sukhoi Superjet 100 and the MC-21.

But the control system, as perfect as it is, is not without human participation. TsAGI flight simulators are able to simulate not only static airplane and helicopter control, but also situations that affect a pilot, i.e., simulating actual flight overloads, as well as spins. These technologies were used to create the fourth-generation fighter control systems (the Su-27 and MiG-29), the fifth-generation fighter control system (T-50), the space shuttle Buran, etc.


TsAGI emploees are acknowledged experts in aircraft integrity. Their task is to fully experience airplane and helicopter operations, simulating a variety of flight situations. They stretch, twist, curve constructions, overload fuselages with pressure and sometimes cause samples to fail in order to discover their weaknesses.

The scope of their work is extremely wide. They calculate flutter, taking into account physical processes in the transonic stream (speed near the speed of a sound); conduct endurance tests with a simultaneous exposure of power and climatic factors such as temperature and humidity; do research in vertical (spin) wind tunnel; etc. In addition, scientists develop and test new technologies to track damage in structures of polymer composite materials and explore shock-sensitive coatings that are used to locate barely visible damages.

TsAGI specialists provided strength, aeroelasticity, and endurance tests for the Su-25, Su-35, Yak-130, IL-476, t-50, IL-112, the Sukhoi Superjet 100, MC-21, etc. Scientists give designers recommendations to improve strength of their aircraft and its components.


Why study fluid flow when creating aircraft and helicopters? Russia’s geography gives us an answer. Little-developed and hard-to-reach regions of Russia also need air traffic services, but it is often difficult or even impossible to build flight strips there. Perhaps amphibious aircraft that take off and land on water may provide an answer.

TsAGI specialists develop new technical solutions for amphibious aircraft, air-cushion takeoff and landing airplane, hydrofoil craft, ekranoplanes, and planes with cross-county chassis. In addition, they give recommendations for passenger planes regarding safe emergency water landing.

Experts of the Institute participated in the creation of the most effective firefighting aircraft in the world — the multipurpose amphibian Be-200 and its most important components: the water intake system and the system of dumping water over fires.

Another important project was the development of automatically controlled hydrodynamic elements of the wing for high-speed hydrogliders. They have no equivalents and are applied in modern domestic vehicles.

The Institute scientists conduct research to develop the next generation rocket-torpedo devices, significantly exceeding the previous models in all major tactical and technical indicators.


Aircraft noise is one of the most harmful and concerning environmental issues. It not only causes discomfort to people, but also affects aircraft integrity and the efficiency of onboard equipment.

ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) sets and constantly tighten regulations on aircraft noise levels. These are mandatory requirements and have become the most important competitive parameters for the aircraft to operate within international and national airlines.

TsAGI aeroacoustics scientists study current and future aircraft, looking for ways to reduce noise on the ground and in the passenger cabin. They implemented ICAO standards for the Tu-134/154; Il-62/76/86/96; Tu-204/214; Sukhoi Superjet 100 and reduced acoustic loads level on the Yak-42, Tu-154, IL-204/92/86/96, and Sukhoi Superjet 100. Now, Institute specialists are working on the prospective airliner MC-21 so that it will meet ICAO compliance regulations.

Aerospace Research

TsAGI is involved in many space projects: The ballistic missile R-7, the spaceship Vostok, the spacecrafts Luna, Venera, Mars, Phobos-Grunt, the reusable Energia-Buran system, the International space station, KAZSAT and Express-MD satellites, the Proton and Angara launch systems, reusable space transport system projects and others. The Institute comprehensively solves the problem of aerothermodynamics, dynamics and control, strength, strength and acoustics, power-units and rocket and space equipment. The studies cover all flight stages: launch into outer space, separated parts return, orbital maneuvers and interplanetary flights, Earth and planets entry, and automatic landing.

Industrial aerodynamics

Wind speeds of 20-25 m/s is a storm at the Earth’s surface, but it is a normal phenomena at higher altitudes. High-rise constructions, whether skyscrapers, monuments or bridges, come to the attention of TsAGI scientists as well. They test models in wind tunnels to study wind effect and provide material composition of buildings and structures. Among the objects of such experiments there were the Victory Memorial at Poklonnaya Gora, the new cathedral mosque in Moscow, the Federation Towers of the Moscow International Business Centre “Moscow-City,” a sculpture by Vera Mukhina “Worker and Kolkhoz Woman,” and bridges over the Belaya, Ob, Moskva rivers.

In addition, in TsAGI wind tunnels test subway trains, airships and other vehicles.

Environmental issues and the use of renewable wind energy also occupy the Institute scientists’ energy. TsAGI has various methods and programmes to determine wind-electric calibration, test scale models, as well as test full-scale platforms in wind tunnels.

The Institute holds the leading position in industrial fans and compressor aerodynamic design. Experts use test facilities and complex mathematical models to find the best combination of size, weight, power consumption and acoustic requirements for new fans. Airflow mathematical modeling estimates efficiency and tests technical solutions for ventilation and smoke removal systems (for example, in road tunnels.)

Experimental facility

TsAGI’s facility is unique: installations that have no parallel in accuracy and complexity of measurements, advanced electronic systems against the backdrop of multiple wind tunnels, — this is the Institute’s experimental facility. TsAGI’s complex of aerodynamic wind tunnels and gas-dynamic stands number more than 60 installations that provide flight simulation at speeds from 10 m/s to the relevant numbers M ~ 25.

Large subsonic wind tunnels T-101 and T-104 enable takeoff and landing tests of large-sized aircraft models such as passenger and transport aircraft, military equipped aerobatic aircraft, helicopters, propellers, and engine-on cruise missiles. Aerodynamics, stability, controllability, buffeting and flutter on aircraft at subsonic speeds are successfully studied here.

Subsonic wind tunnels T-102 and T-103 test a large variety of aerodynamic characteristics for various aircraft, including aeroelastic tests for aircraft and civil engineering construction, in particular bridgework.

The vertical subsonic wind tunnel T-105 is designed to study aerodynamic characteristics of helicopters and aircraft, as well as spins in flight.

Transonic wind tunnels T-106, T-128 are designed to test models of military and civilian aircraft. Wind tunnel T-128 has a unique system of adaptive perforation which essentially eliminates the boundary constraint effect and significantly reduces time spent on replacement and training experiments.

Supersonic wind tunnels T-109 and T-113 test models of supersonic aircraft and missiles, dispersing the air flow up to Mach 6. TsAGI specialists test aircraft control and structural systems. If the rockets are small, they can be tested in such wind tunnels with operating engines.

In hypersonic wind tunnel T-116 and T-117 TsAGI tests hypersonic aircraft models, rockets and space vehicles at speeds up to M~20.

Icing is one of the dangers faced by aircraft in flight. The icing process is studied at TsAGI’s Icing wind tunnel where the scientists explore ice formation mechanisms, its influence on aerodynamic characteristics of aircraft, ice control techniques, and anti-ice systems efficiency.

Together with wind tunnels, the Institute has several work laboratories. Aircraft and their parts undergo static and endurance tests in the strength research laboratory. The MC-21 and Yak-152 are among the experiments we do at the present time.

Duplication of real power, climatic, temperature and acoustic loads affecting the aircrafts throughout the range of use is provided by the laboratory of thermal, environmental and acoustic testing for their construction and related elements.

TsAGI solves hydrodynamic tasks by use of a special pool. In particular, the Institute staff research aircraft take off and landing on water, and study cases of emergency landing on water of ground planes and helicopters.

TsAGI’s flight simulators, referred to above, together with TsAGI’s computer complexes allow testing of control systems and simulate flight dynamics in multi-axis simulators. Pilots get the full feel of a real flight, and the Institute specialists monitor their condition and ability to fly.

In addition to all the above, TsAGI has mobile vibration laboratories, as well as motor and compressor stands.

Measuring Equipment and Metrology

The most inventive experiments are worthless unless we provide their accuracy and real-world usefulness. TsAGI sets the bar high for the research of best quality; the Institute’s measuring equipment and methodology meet Russian and international standards.

Scientists are constantly improving and creating new, better and sometimes unique devices and ways to conduct experiments, particularly in aerodynamics, the Institute’s key competencies.

Specialists have created several types of multicomponent strain gauge balances specifically for wind tunnel research. The devices are highly competitive with the best in the world. They can measure the aerodynamic loads at wind-tunnel speeds up to Mach 20, temperatures up to 1700° C and in experiments lasting for a fraction of a second.

The research is much more automated today than during the Soviet period. Institute scientists successfully apply new generation information-measuring and control systems. Experiments become faster and easier with them, and the results are more accurate.

A unique application in TsAGI is the contactless optical measurement of pressure fields by a fluorescent pressure transformer. Professionals can measure pressure and temperature on a model surface at a distance, without distorting the airflow by additional devices. It pushes the experiment closer to real conditions.

Research-and-production complex

Aerodynamic models, pilot metal and composite designs, strain-gage balances and other special equipment are projected and designed here. The Scientific-production complex specialists do not only manufacture but also look for ways to improve the models structures (of size up to 18 m) and improve the workmanship. In addition, staff members develop mathematical methods of automation engineering and software. The products of their research are used at TsAGI wind tunnel tests and other world scientific centers.

System research and conceptual design of promising aerospace engineering

A multidisciplinary computer-aided design approach, involving TsAGI, is an important tool in aerospace technology research and development. It combines knowledge of aerodynamics, aircraft integrity and power plant.

Theories and conceptual design methods, developed in TsAGI, make it possible to exclude risks of not choosing an effective aircraft concept, optimize aircraft performance, highlight its critical technologies and assess their implementation for actual technical industrial projects.

Being the center of Russian Aviation science, TsAGI has accumulated wide experience and now uses it for the development of the country’s aerospace industry. The Institute provides recommendations to improve the effectiveness of federal aviation-focused programs, analyses the aviation sector and outlines ways to its innovative development.

TsAGI assesses civil and military aviation trends and leads the changes. Attention is given to all spheres: from non-traditional aircraft layouts to fundamentally new concepts. This is the way to determine the next-generation aircraft concept.

An aircraft of “flying wing” design is one example. Scientists believe that passengers will be accommodated in comfort on the two decks in the fuselage and wing. This will simultaneously carry more people and improve the performance of the aircraft, including aerodynamics, weight and fuel consumption.

Another interesting development is a lightweight supersonic executive aircraft with a low sonic boom signature, a concept which was created by TsAGI specialists. The aerodynamic characteristics of the aircraft are high in all modes of its flight due to the special layout and suppressor nozzle.

Scientists solve many other tasks. They have made a concept design of a new light multipurpose aircraft with two turboprop/diesel engines; which is affordable. Now, scientists are studying a concept of a multi-purpose aircraft with ultra-short takeoff and landing for local airlines. And their colleagues take on the project to create a long-duration flying machine to monitor the environmental status.

TsAGI explores am aerospace system to send crew and cargo into low-earth orbit. This system consists of a two-boom carrier aircraft and a two-stage rocket with an all liquid system. Specialists expect the first stage will be to return to the takeoff airfield (rather than to an additional airfield ahead), the orbit injection cost will be reduced 2-3 times, and the system will fly with oxygen-hydrogen fuel-so it would be able to carry more pay load.

The non-conventional power sources issue gives the Institute a broad field for research. Thus, in cooperation with other scientific organizations in Russia, TsAGI studies the possibility to create a dual-fuelled aircraft that would work with condensed aviation fuel and kerosene-based aviation fuel. Experts rate the new technology on technical, cost and environmental effectiveness. In addition, the Institute explores the features and capabilities of aircraft using electrical energy and gas fuels. Distribution of gas- fuel power technology in our country will facilitate reclamation and development of remote outlying areas.

International Cooperation

How meaningful is it to be Russia’s leading center of aeronautical science? Of course TsAGI contributes to the development of the domestic aerospace industry, but the Institute has exceptional value on a global scale. Aircraft and helicopters are marketed worldwide, and is based on international cooperation.

TsAGI is a reliable participant of joint research, high-level scientific and technical activities and other cooperation. The Institute has established stable business relationships and continues to interact successfully with leading foreign aerospace companies (Boeing, Airbus, Embraer, SAFRAN, Leonardo, Dassault Aviation, Thales, COMAC, etc.,) research centers and organizations in Europe, Asia and America (DLR-ONERA, NLR, CAE, CARDC, NAL, DRDO, NASA, etc.,) universities (Delft University of Technology, Cranfield University, De Montfort University, the University of the Witwatersrand and others.)

At the moment TsAGI counts 600 contracts and grants with foreign partners and 50 international projects within European Union framework programmes. This interaction is beneficial to all parties: the Institute gains valuable experience, accumulates scientific and technical potential, develops technology and demonstrates competitiveness, while its partners receive competent test results and calculations.

In 2004 TsAGI was awarded the status of a National contact point of the EU-Russia cooperation in aeronautics. It happened with the support of the Russian Ministry of Education and Ministry of Industry and Trade of Russia. It means that the Institute supports and coordinates scientific interaction of all industry enterprises with their European colleagues and expands the participation of Russian organizations in European aerospace research programs. The Institute opened the Contact Bureau in Brussels (Belgium) to quickly communicate with partners.

TsAGI meets with future and current project partners during international activities: Paris Air Show (France), Farnborough (United Kingdom), ILA (Germany), Airshow China (China), Aero India (India), MAKS (Russia), Hydroaviasalon (Russia) and the largest aerospace scientific forums (ICAS, EUCASS, STAI, IFASD, CEAS, etc.)

The Institute is an organizer of prestigious international scientific and technological activities as well. The International ICAS Congress is among of the most significant projects. It was organized in Russia in 2014 for the first time. The 4th IFAR Summit is the traditional meeting of the heads of the world’s leading aviation research centers and took place in Russia for the first time as well. TsAGI organized IFASD 2015- an international forum on aeroelasticity and structural dynamics. In addition, the Institute conducts joint scientific seminars with large foreign aviation organizations-ONERA (France), DLR (Germany), CAE (China). Scientists share results, looking for mutual interests and agree on themes for joint projects.

It is all about the people

In celebrating TsAGI’s centenary we cannot help but think of the future, i.e., whether or not only wind tunnels and laboratories will provide the Institute many brilliant discoveries. Or whether precision instruments will bring the institute recognition; or is it the people-employees, doing their utmost.

In the early days the Institute was supported by scientific schoosl, organized by N.E.Zhukovsky, and over the years it launched several new schools itself. From generation to generation we pass knowledge on about theoretical and applied gas dynamics, aerodynamics, flight dynamics, and aircraft integrity. Multi-generational knowledge sharing is another reason to be proud of TsAGI. Youth come to create airplanes and helicopters, inspired by the example of senior associates. With this aim in view we have specialized technical universities in Zhukovsky and in Moscow: faculty of aeromechanics and flight engineering of the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (State University) and Moscow Aviation Institute faculty (National Research University.) Graduates become TsAGI engineers and scientists, and they are the people who will increase the experience and solve challenges of the future.

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