Antonov and Saudi Arabia have signed an agreement on starting An-132 cargo aircraft production in Saudi Arabia, Antonov reports in a press release dated 21 February. A manufacturing complex will be established in Saudi Arabia by Saudi company Taqnia Aeronautics, which will also provice support for other Antonov products.
If everything goes according to plan Cubana will start flying its sixth Antonov An-158 short- and medium haul passenger jet in February 2015.
Antonov announced the transfer is planned for this month. At the same time the Kiev, Ukraine, based manufacturer welcomed a team from Air Koryo at the end of January. The group will evaluate and test this North Korean airline’s second An-148 that is planned to start operations in February or March 2015. Air Koryo, with its headquarters in Pyongyang, also ordered at least one AN-158.
Meanwhile no word yet about a possible series production of the AN-70 military airlifter, despite green light from Ukrainian authorities. The aircraft finished flight testing last year, but the war in Eastern Ukraine with pro-Russian rebels and regular Russian army troops is depleting the Ukrainian government from funds. An export customer might give Antonov some relief.
Russia will add focus to its airborne military presence in the Arctic, but will above all add over 150 aircraft and helicopters to its airborne assets in 2015. A Ministry of Defense spokesperson acknowledged the news recently.
The Russian Air Force will add Su-30CM, Su-30M2, Su-35S Flanker, Su-34 Fullback and MiG-29SMT Fulcrum multi-role fighter aircraft to its inventory, as well as Yak-130 trainers, An-148 and IL-76 transport aircraft, plus Ka-52, Mi-28N, Mi-8AMTSh, Mi-8MTPR, Mi-35M, Mi-26, Ka-226 and Ansat-U helicopters. Combined, their numbers total over 150.
The civilian and military air transport fleets of Russia are very much likely to suffer from the current conflict with Ukraine. Many of today’s Russian aircraft come from the Antonov factories, with its main facilities in Kiev in Ukraine.
Concerns of Russian military strategists and civilian aviation authorities are the future airworthy status of the AN−124−100 Ruslan airlifters, the new AN-140 short- and medium-haul aircraft, the new AN-123 and the to further develop AN−148/An−158 family. According to sources within the Ministry of Industry within the Russian Federation, a working group is already examining the options if the current crisis with Ukraine continues and leads to the break-up between the commercial ties between Antonov and Russian companies.
The Aviastar plant in Russia was destined to resume building the legendary AN-124, which NATO has given the reporting name Condor. The Russian Air Force has already upgraded 14 of these big airlifters to AN-124-100, with another six aircraft planned for a similar overhaul. The Russian Air Force also seeks a new military version dubbed AN-124-300, which will include upgraded avionics for military needs. Current projections call for at least 20 of these new military Ruslans.
26 former Soviet (semi-)military AN-124s are currently flying as commercial transporters, including seven with Antonov’s own air freighter division. Russian Volga-Dnepr and Polet Airlines have combined orders for 10 new aircraft (5 each), but the fulfillment of that purchase is given the current military and political stand-off between Moscow and Kiev highly uncertain.
Of course there are hundreds of Ilyushin IL-76s the Russian Air Force can deploy, but they are not capable of transporting all needed airlift certified military material of the Russian armed forces.
One of the world’s largest cargo airplanes, the Antonov AN-124 Ruslan, will get a second life. Not only will more current aircraft be updated to the AN-124-100 standard, the Ukrainian aircraft manufacturer will actually build up to 80 new aircraft of the -200 and -300 standards.
High representatives of Governments and Defense Industry Complexes of Ukraine and Russian Federation visited the aircraft manufacturing plant in the beginning of December. The Ukrainian delegation was even headed by vice prime minister Yuriy Boyko, the Russian by deputy chairman of the Russian Federation Dmitry Rogozin.
The parties discussed many ways to further co-develop aircraft, especially the production of regional jets of the AN−148/An−158 family, the AN−70 military STOL transport aircraft AND resumption of series production of the modernized version of the AN−124−100 Ruslan transport: the AN−124−200 including restarting the production of an upgraded Ivchenko-Progress D-18T turbofan engine powering the aircraft.
On the side even the possibility of constructing a second giant AN-225 Mriya was discussed. Equipped with six engines the Mriya – once designed for the Soviet space program – holds the record of the world’s largest cargo plane with a max registered load of 253,820 kilograms (559,577 pounds). Since the collapse of the Soviet Union the single Mriya left is commercially deployed by Antonov.
Although a full green light for the series production of the Ruslan (NATO reporting name Condor) and the Mriya (NATO reporting name Cossack) has not been given, the future looks promising. On the civil market there is a demand for a fair priced big cargo aircraft that can compete easily with the more expensive Boeing 747-800 / -900 Freighters.
26 former Soviet (semi-)military AN-124s are currently flying as commercial transporters, including seven with Antonov’s own air freighter division. Russian Volga-Dnepr and Polet Airlines have combined orders for 10 new aircraft (5 each).
Russian Air Force
New AN-124s will be very interesting for the Russian Air Force as well, while Moscow is currently rebuilding its military might everywhere. A sizeable strategic airlift component will be needed to match those ambitions.
Plans already existed to upgrade the 14 aircraft in service and six in storage to the AN-124-100 standard by 2020. They operate out of Tver. But the Russian Air Force has already asked for a new military version dubbed AN-124-300, which will include upgraded avionics for military needs. Current projections call for at least 20 of these new military Ruslans.