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.
© 2013 AIRheads’ Marcel Burger with source information from Antonov