Ignore Russia took control of the Crimean peninsula in 2014 for a few moments, ignore the ongoing fights in Ukraine’s eastern areas with Russian troop, intelligence and command & control involvement. The Russian military is still building its logistic strength on the legacy from the country it has been trying to destabilize for years. For its short-haul fixed-wing flights.
Designed and originally made by Antonov in Ukrainian Kiev, the new Antonov AN-140-100 turboprop aircraft is still finding its way to units of the Russian armed forces, be it in small numbers. The latest passenger and cargo aircraft of the type went to the Russian Navy’s Pacific Fleet, on 14 February this year.
How many officially are in service is hard to say. Moscow planned to have at least 20 operational, but after the conflict with Ukraine resulted in an industrial break-up between Antonov and the Russian partners, the air frames already in Russia are planned to be finished with solely Russian equipment. As far as our sources go, we estimate the number of operational AN-140-100s within the Russian armed forces to be between 8 and 14, but Moscow wishes for more. Russian Aviacor is believed to deliver at least six of the machines it had on its premises in various stages of unfinished construction.
The AN-140-100 is able to transport up to 52 people or about 19,000 lbs (about 8,500) of cargo (including fuel weight) over 2,290 miles (3,700 km) of distance. It can operate from unpaved airstrips, which makes it an ideal aircraft to operate in island rich environments where unprepared or short airstrips are common.
The Russian Pacific Fleet naval aviation division is happy to receive a bunch of new and updated aircraft: consisting of AN-140-100s and IL-38s.
The first new Ukrainian designed but locally produced Antonov AN-140-100 joins the force this December, with a second machine in the first half of 2016, the Russian Ministry of Defence writes in a statement.
“Dolphin” detecting targets
During 2015 four modernized Ilyushin IL-38Ns made it back to operational duty with the Asian maritime force of “the Motherland”. Now on anti-submarine and maritime patrol duties the IL-38Ns are able to detect targets up to 49 nautical miles (90 km) and track them within a 173 nautical miles (320 km). The “Dolphin” – as the NATO-reporting name for the type goes – is even able to carry out attacks independently, carrying up to 9 tons of torpedoes or depth charges.
The Russian Ministry of Defence boasts the IL-38N has an increased capacity of four times the original aircraft. The Pacific Fleet’s IL-38s – old and new – operate from Yelizovo and Nikolayevka airbases.
Antonov AN-140-100 by Aviacor
The origin of the new AN-140-100s transport aircraft is not clear. Russia reportedly stopped production after its forces collided with the military of Ukraine inside Ukrainian borders supporting pro-Russian rebel forces. Ukraine is home of the Antonov aircraft factory and design bureau of the type. The new delivery may mean that Russia’s Aviacor is able to fulfill at least half of the latest full order of six aircraft with the machines that were believed not to make to the end of the production line before manufacturing was ended.
Russia has stopped production of the AN-140, which was a joint project between Ukrainian Antonov and Russian Aviacor, based in Samara. The Russia initiated military operations against the Ukrainian military in the Crimean peninsula and in Luhansk and Donetsk regions of Ukraine have practically killed the supply of necessary production material from Ukraine.
Earlier Moscow seemed hopeful to continue production of the AN-140. So far only 33 AN-140s have been produced, with three more aicraft reportedly almost ready at the Aviacor plant but with not enough material to make it to their first flights. Aviacor lately delivered two AN-140s to the Russian military, but was unable to fulfill the latest full order of six. The Russian forces reportedly got at least between 10 and 14 AN-140s in 2013 and 2014.
A civilian version with 52 seats was ordered by Yakutia Airlines, with at least four out of eight delivered. In Ukraine six AN-140s are known to be operational (3 with Antonov, 3 with Motor Sich and 2 with the Illich-Avia company) with no new orders in sight. Five AN-140s crashed in service, of which the last two in Iran locally produced for HESA Airlines.
The Ukraine Ministry of Defence has started planning the purchase of Western-made aircraft. Considering the new active fighting role that the Ukraine military was forced to take up in 2014, sources within the department say there is an urgent need for modern combat aircraft.
At the earliest by 2020 the Ukrainian Air Force should receive an affordable new multi-role fighter and a modern UCAV – or armed drone. In about a decade the armed forces of Ukraine should field a new air fleet.
In the current doubtful economic situation of the Ukrainian state, a balance of affordability and capability will be most logic. Although the Kiev is holding its options open, the Dassault Rafale and the Eurofighter Typhoon are already deemed not to be included in the final selection. More likely is that Ukraine will either choose the Lockheed Martin F-16C/D Fighting Falcon or strike a leasing deal with Swedish SAAB for the Gripen C/D or new E/F. Both the F-16 and the Gripen are known for their relatively low costs per flight hour and – especially the Gripen – for their easy maintenance.
After Russia pushed Ukraine out of the Crimean peninsula and provided military support and combat troops to the pro-Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine, the Ukrainian air forces faced a sudden change in daily missions they were not prepared for.
“In the 23 years of Ukrainian independence the only experience we had was transport, medevac and reconnaissance. We didn’t have the money nor the training to perform ground attack and other combat missions,” Lieutenant General Sergei Drozdov Deputy Commander of the Air Force Armed Forces of Ukraine said during the recent IQPC Fighter Conference in London. Himself a trained fighter pilot with more than 2,000 flight hours on the Aero L-39, Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 (“Fishbed”), the MiG-29 (“Fulcrum”) and the Sukhoi Su-27 (“Flanker”) he said: “Our combat aircraft were built mostly in the 1980s and early 1990s. They are inferior to modern aircraft and their in bad physical condition.”
With no money yet for a new modern fighter jet, for now the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence hopes for the best doing indigenous upgrades for another 10 to 15 years on the Russian made fighter jets and ground attack aircraft, plus Czech made L-39 trainers that can be used for light attack. Mothballed jets are brought back into service.
Once more money is in place the future of Ukrainian military airlift is likely to build on the new developed Antonov AN-70 tactical transport aircraft, an aircraft that could even become a competitor for the Western European Airbus A400M, and on the smaller Antonov AN-140.
The Ukrainian Air Force training and light attack fleet could be more exotic in the near future. Although planes like the Alenia Aermacchi M-346 is considered a worthy successor of or supplement to the L-39, a deal with China cannot be ruled out. Involvement and possibilities of Ukrainian aviation industries to participate in the purchase of new hardware is always a key issue in the purchase policy. As late as November Ukrainian officials were discussing the Hongdu (HAIG) L-15 Falcon, at the 2014 Airshow at Zhuhai near Macau in Southern China. Ukraine already produces the Ivchenko AI-222 turbofans for these aircraft.
While the Ukrainian military for now has to soldier on with its old and sometimes renewed hardware, a slow move to more Western aircraft is certainly looming at the horizon. In Kiev the defence ministry is already plotting the path to that future.
The Russian Aviacor aircraft manufacturing plant will start producing Russia’s own military Antonov AN-140s from the year 2017, the company director confirmed to Russian press agency RAI Novosti. Thereby the Russian Armed Forces will fly both AN-140s and IL-112Vs as short- and medium-haul tactical airlifters, since the Ilyushin design bureau already got an order for 60 IL-112Vs.
How many of the AN-140S (side door) and AN-140T (ramp) types will be produced by Aviacor has not been released. Aviacor currently already assembles AN-140-100s under license from Ukranian Antonov. Apparently the recent combined visit of a Ukranian-Russian delegation to Antonov included the signing of transfer of technology and production rights to Russia for the new military versions of the AN-140s.
The new Antonov aircraft – both produced in Ukraine and Russia – will replace AN-24s (NATO reporting name Coke), AN-26 (Curl), AN-30s (Clank), AN-32s (Cline) and the Yak-40 (Codling), Aviacor said in an October press release. Together with the IL-112V that is if one looks at the order of 60 to Ilyushin.
The current AN-140-100 is designed mainly for passenger transport and can accommodate up to 52 people. It has six-bladed propellers. By having the engines and propellers on a high-placed wing, the risk of damage on unpaved runways is limited.
The first flight of an in Russia assembled AN-140 was in August 2005. Aviacor (Samara Aviation Plant) produces the -100 version since 2006.