Antonov An-124 Ruslan
The Antonov An-124 Ruslan (Ukrainian: Антонов Ан-124 "Руслан") (NATO reporting name: Condor) is a strategic airlift quadjet. It was designed in the 1980s by the Antonov design bureau in the Ukrainian SSR, then part of the Soviet Union (USSR). Until the Boeing 747-8F, the An-124 was, for thirty years, the world's heaviest gross weight production cargo airplane and second heaviest operating cargo aircraft, behind the one-off Antonov An-225 (a greatly enlarged design based on the An-124). The An-124 remains the largest military transport aircraft in current service. The lead designer of the An-124 (and the An-225) was Viktor Tolmachev.
|An An-124 of 224th Flight Unit|
|National origin||Soviet Union|
|Built by||Aviastar-SP |
Antonov Serial Production Plant (former)
|First flight||24 December 1982|
|Primary users||Russian Air Force|
|Developed into||Antonov An-225|
During development it was known as Izdeliye 400 (Product #400) in house, and An-40 in the West. First flown in 1982, civil certification was issued on 30 December 1992. In July 2013, 26 An-124s were in commercial service with 10 on order. In August 2014, it was reported that plans to resume joint production of the Antonov An-124 had been shelved due to the ongoing political tensions between Russia and Ukraine. The sole remaining production facility is Russia's Aviastar-SP in Ulianovsk. The various operators of the An-124 are in discussions with respect to the continuing airworthiness certification of the individual An-124 planes. The original designer of the An-124 is responsible for managing the certification process for its own products, but Russian/Ukrainian conflicts are making this process difficult to manage. Military operators are able to self-certify the airworthiness of their own aircraft, but Russian civil operators must find a credible outside authority for certification if Ukraine is unable to participate in the process.
During the 1970s, the Military Transport Aviation (Komandovaniye voyenno-transportnoy aviatsii or VTA) arm of the Soviet Air Forces had a shortfall in strategic heavy airlift capacity. Its largest planes consisted of about 50 Antonov An-22 turboprops, which were used heavily for tactical roles. A declassified 1975 CIA analysis concluded that the USSR did "...not match the US in ability to provide long-range heavy lift support."
The An-124 was manufactured in parallel by two plants: the Russian company Aviastar-SP (ex. Ulyanovsk Aviation Industrial Complex) and by the Kyiv Aviation Plant AVIANT, in Ukraine. Design work started in 1971 and construction of facilities began in 1973. Manufacturing on the first airframe began in 1979. Ultimately this project brought together over 100 factories contracted to produce systems and parts.
The first flight took place in December 1982 and the first exposure to the West followed in 1985 at the Paris Air Show. In the early 2000s, Volga-Dnepr upgraded its freighters with engine improvements to meet Chapter 4 noise regulations, structural improvements to increase service life, and avionics and systems changes for four persons operations down from six or seven.
Russia and Ukraine agreed to resume the production in the third quarter of 2008. In May 2008, a new variant—the An-124-150—was announced; it featured several improvements, including a maximum lift capacity of 150 tonnes. However, in May 2009, Antonov's partner, the Russian United Aircraft Corporation announced it did not plan production of An-124s in the period 2009–2012. In late 2009, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev ordered production of the aircraft resumed. It is expected that Russia will purchase 20 new aircraft. In August 2014, Jane's reported that, Russian Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Yuri Slusar announced that Antonov An-124 production was stopped due to ongoing political tensions between Russia and Ukraine.
As of late 2017, An-124s are being upgraded by the Aviastar-SP plant in Ulyanovsk, Russia, with three upgraded planes due to be ready by 2018. After Russia–Ukraine relations soured, Antonov had to source new suppliers and pushes to westernize the An-124. In 2018, GE Aviation was studying reengining it with CF6s for CargoLogicAir, a Volga-Dnepr subsidiary. This would likely provide a range increase, and Volga-Dnepr Group operates 12 aircraft, implying a 50-60 engines with spares program. In January 2019, Antonov revealed its plans to restart the An-124 production without support from Russia.
Russian replacement designEdit
At MAKS Air Show in 2017, the TsAGI announced its Slon (elephant) design to replace the similar An-124. The design was detailed in January 2019 before Wind tunnel testing scheduled for August-September. It should be produced at the Aviastar-SP factory in Ulyanovsk but would be a difficult investment without substantial foreign orders. It should transport 150 t (330,000 lb) over 3,800 nmi (7,000 km) (up from 1,675 nmi, 3,102 km), or 180 t (400,000 lb) over 2,650 nmi (4,910 km) at 460 kn (850 km/h). The Russian MoD wants a range of 4,100 nmi (7,600 km) with five Sprut-SDM-1 light tanks, their 100 crew and 300 armed soldiers.
It would be larger at 82.3 m (270 ft) long from 69 m (227 ft), with a 87–88 m (286–290 ft) span versus 73.3 m (240.5 ft) and 24.0 m (78.7 ft) high compared with 21.0 m (68.9 ft). A new higher aspect ratio, composite wing and a 214–222 t (472,000–489,000 lb) airframe would allow a 490–500 t (1,080,000–1,100,000 lb) gross weight. It should be powered by Russian PD-35s developed for the CR929 widebody, producing 35 tf (77,000 lbf) up from 23 tf (51,000 lbf). Two fuselages are planned, one for Volga-Dnepr with a width of 5.3 m (17.4 ft) from the An-124's 4.4 m (14.4 ft), and one for the Russian MoD of 6.4 m (21 ft) wide to carry vehicles in two lines.
Externally, the An-124 is similar to the American Lockheed C-5 Galaxy, having a double fuselage to allow for a rear cargo door (on the lower fuselage) that can open in flight without affecting structural integrity. It is slightly shorter, with a slightly greater wingspan, and a 25% larger payload. Instead of the Galaxy's T-tail, the An-124 uses a conventional empennage, similar in design to that of the Boeing 747. The An-124's main engine is the Lotarev D-18 (238–250 kN).
The aircraft uses oleo strut suspension for its 24 wheels. The suspension has been calibrated to allow landing on rough terrain and is able to kneel to allow easier front loading. The plane has an onboard overhead crane capable of lifting up to 30 tonnes of cargo, and items up to 120 tonnes can be winched on board.
Up to 150 tonnes (150 long tons; 170 short tons) of cargo can be carried in a military An-124; it can also carry 88 passengers in an upper deck behind the wing centre section. The cargo compartment of An-124 is 36×6.4×4.4 m (118×21×14 ft), ca. 20% larger than the main cargo compartment of C-5 Galaxy, which is 36.91×5.79×4.09 m (121.1×19.0×13.4 ft). Due to limited pressurisation in the main cargo compartment (24.6 kPa, 3.57 psi), it seldom carries paratroopers.
Pilots have stated that the An-124 is light on the controls and easy to handle for an aircraft of its size.
Germany led the recent effort to lease An-124s for NATO strategic airlift requirements. Two aircraft are leased from SALIS GmbH as a stopgap until the Airbus A400M is available. Under NATO SALIS programme NAMSA is chartering six An-124-100 transport aircraft. According to the contract An-124-100s of Antonov Airlines and Volga-Dnepr are used within the limits of NATO SALIS programme to transport cargo by requests of 18 countries: Belgium, Hungary, Greece, Denmark, Canada, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, United Kingdom, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Finland, France, Germany, Czech Republic and Sweden. Two An-124-100s are constantly based on full-time charter in the Leipzig/Halle airport, but the contract specifies that if necessary, two more aircraft will be provided at six days' notice and another two at nine days' notice. The aircraft proved extremely useful for NATO especially with ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
United Launch Alliance (ULA) contracts the An-124 to transport the Atlas V launch vehicle from its facilities in Decatur, Alabama to Cape Canaveral. ULA also uses the An-124 to transport the Atlas V launch vehicle and Centaur upper stage from their manufacturing facility in Denver, Colorado to Cape Canaveral and Vandenberg Air Force Base. Two flights are required to transfer each launch vehicle (one for the Atlas V main booster stage and another for the Centaur upper stage). It is also contracted by Space Systems Loral to transport satellites from Palo Alto, CA to the Arianespace spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana and by SpaceX to transport payload fairings between their factory in Hawthorne, California and Cape Canaveral.
Airbus Transport International, a subsidiary of Airbus, has selected another Russian cargo company, Polet Airlines as "designated carrier" to the company. Polet expects its three An-124-100s will transport astronautic equipment manufactured by EADS, which is Airbus' parent company, and components of the Airbus A380 superjumbo.
- On May 1987, an An-124 set a world record, covering the distance of 20,151 km (10,881 nmi) without refuelling. The flight took 25 hours and 30 minutes; the takeoff weight was 455,000 kg.
- In July 1985, an An-124 carried 171,219 kg (377,473 lb) of cargo to an altitude of 2,000 m (6,600 ft) and 170,000 kg to an altitude of 10,750 m (35,270 ft).
- An An-124 was used to transport the Obelisk of Axum back to its native homeland of Ethiopia from Rome in April 2005.
- An An-124 was used to transport an EP-3E Aries II electronic intelligence aircraft from Hainan Island, China on 4 July 2001 following the Hainan Island incident.
- In July 2010, an An-124 was used to transport four 35-foot and three 21-foot skimmer boats from France to the US to assist with the clean-up of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill
- An An-124 was used in April 2011 to airlift a large Putzmeister concrete pump from Germany to Japan to help cool reactors damaged in the Fukushima nuclear accident. The An-225 was used to transport an even larger Putzmeister concrete pump to Japan from the United States.
- An An-124 was used in May 2018 to transport an 87,000 lb die tools from Eaton Rapids, Michigan to Nottingham, England in order to restart Ford F-150 production due to a fire in the Eaton Rapids Magnesium Casting Facility.
- An-124 Ruslan
- Strategic heavy airlift transport aircraft
- Commercial transport aircraft
- Commercial transport version fitted with Western avionics
- Commercial transport version with an EFIS flight deck
- Planned new variant with EFIS based on Rockwell Collins avionic parts
- Proposed version
- Variant with one seat in the rear and the rest of the cargo area (approx. 1,800 square feet) dedicated to freight
- New variant with increased payload (150 tonnes)
- Proposed version with General Electric CF6-80C2 engines, each rated at 59,200 lbf (263 kN)
- Joint proposal with Air Foyle to meet UK's Short Term Strategic Airlifter (STSA) requirement, with Rolls-Royce RB211-524H-T engines, each rated 60,600 lbf (264 kN) and Honeywell avionics—STSA competition abandoned in August 1999, reinstated, and won by the Boeing C-17A.
- Variant ordered by the Russian Air Force with new avionics, a new improved braking system and a payload of 150 tonnes.
- Russian Aerospace Forces
- Russian Air Force – 12 in service, 14 in reserve. In 2008, a contract was signed with Aviastar-SP for modernization of 10 aircraft by 2015. As of June 2019, at least 9 aircraft were modernized.
- 12th Military Transport Aviation Division
- 18th Military Transport Aviation Division
- 224th Air Detachment of Military Transport Aviation – Migalovo (air base), Tver Oblast
- Russian Air Force – 12 in service, 14 in reserve. In 2008, a contract was signed with Aviastar-SP for modernization of 10 aircraft by 2015. As of June 2019, at least 9 aircraft were modernized.
Former military operatorsEdit
- Soviet Air Force – aircraft were transferred to Russian and Ukrainian Air Forces after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
In July 2013, 26 An-124s were in commercial service.
Former civil operatorsEdit
- Libyan Arab Air Cargo – had 2 aircraft in service (1 seized by Ukraine, 1 destroyed on ground at Mitiga International Airport)
- Aeroflot Russian International Airlines – retired from fleet in 2000
- Ayaks Cargo (Ayaks Polet Airlines)
- Polet Airlines – ceased operations 2014
- Rossiya Airlines – retired from fleet
- Transaero Airlines – retired from fleet
- Aeroflot Soviet Airlines – transferred to the Russian Aeroflot fleet
- Air Foyle (in partnership with Antonov Design Bureau) – joint venture dissolved 2006
- HeavyLift Cargo Airlines (in partnership with Volga-Dnepr Airlines) – ceased operations 2006
- Antonov AirTrack – ceased operations
- Titan Cargo – company ceased operations 2002
- TransCharter Titan Cargo – ceased operations 2003
- On 13 October 1992, SSSR-82002, operated by Antonov Airlines crashed near Kiev, Ukraine during flight testing, suffering nose cargo door failure during high-speed descent (part of test program) resulting in total loss of control. The airplane came down in a forest near Kiev, killing eight of the nine crew on board.
- On 15 November 1993, RA-82071, operated by Aviastar Airlines crashed into a mountain at 11,000 feet (3,400 m) while in a holding pattern at Kerman, Iran. 17 fatalities.
- On 8 October 1996, RA-82069, owned by Aeroflot but operated by Ayaks Cargo, crashed at San Francesco al Campo, Italy, while initiating a go-around after a low visibility approach on Turin Caselle airport's runway 36. Four fatalities.
- On 6 December 1997, RA-82005, operated by the Russian Air Force, crashed in a residential area after take-off in Irkutsk, Russia. All 23 people on board and 49 people on the ground were killed.
- On 22 June 2019, 5A-DKN of Libyan Arab Air Cargo was destroyed on ground during shelling of the Mitiga International Airport.
Data from Antonov
- Crew: 4–6 (pilot, copilot, navigator, senior flight engineer (+flight engineer, radio man) + 2 loadmasters)
- Capacity: 88 passengers or the hold can take an additional 350 on a palletised seating system
- Payload: 150,000 kg (330,000 lb)
- Length: 68.96 m (226 ft 3 in)
- Wingspan: 73.3 m (240 ft 5 in)
- Height: 20.78 m (68 ft 2 in)
- Wing area: 628 m² (6,760 sq ft)
- Empty weight: 175,000 kg (385,000 lb)
- Useful load: 230,000 kg (508,000 lb)
- Loaded weight: 405,000 kg (893,000 lb)
- Max. takeoff weight: 405,000 kg (893,000 lb)
- Powerplant: 4 × Progress D-18T turbofans, 229.5 kN (51,600 lbf) each
- Maximum speed: 865 km/h (467 kn (537 mph))
- Cruise speed: 800–850 km/h (430 kn (490 mph))
- Range: 5,200 km (2,808 nm, 3231 mi)
- Service ceiling: 12,000 m (39,370 ft)
- Wing loading: 645 kg/m² (132.1 lb/sq ft)
- Thrust/weight: 0.23
- Take-off run distance (maximum take-off weight): 2,520 m (8,270 ft)
- Landing roll distance at maximum landing weight: 900 m (3,000 ft)
Notable appearances in mediaEdit
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
- Airbus Beluga
- Boeing 747-400F
- Boeing 747-8F
- Boeing C-17 Globemaster III
- Lockheed C-5 Galaxy
- Ilyushin Il-106/PAK VTA
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