Antonov An-225 Mriya

The Antonov An-225 Mriya (Ukrainian: Антонов Ан-225 Мрія, lit.'dream' or 'inspiration'; NATO reporting name: Cossack) was a strategic airlift cargo aircraft designed in the 1980s by the Antonov Design Bureau in the Soviet Union. It was originally developed as an enlargement of the Antonov An-124 to transport Buran-class orbiters, and only one example was ever completed. After successfully fulfilling its military missions, the aircraft was mothballed for eight years. It was then refurbished and reintroduced into commercial operation with Antonov Airlines, carrying oversized payloads. While a second airframe with a slightly different configuration was partially built, construction was halted more than once due to a lack of funding and interest. This second aircraft was last brought up to 60–70% completion in 2009.

An-225 Mriya
Antonov An-225 Beltyukov-1.jpg
The An-225 in its 2012 livery
Role Outsize cargo freight aircraft
National origin Soviet Union (Ukrainian SSR)
Design group Antonov
Built by Antonov Serial Production Plant
First flight 21 December 1988
Status Destroyed
Primary user Antonov Airlines
Produced 1985
Number built 1
Developed from Antonov An-124 Ruslan

With a maximum takeoff weight of 640 tonnes (705 short tons), the An-225 held several records, including heaviest aircraft ever built and largest wingspan of any aircraft in operational service. The Mriya attracted a high degree of public interest, attaining a global following due to its size and its uniqueness. People frequently visited airports to see its scheduled arrivals and departures.

The completed An-225 was destroyed in the Battle of Antonov Airport during the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine.

DevelopmentEdit

 
The An-225 carrying Buran (1.01) in 1989

The Antonov An-225 was designed to airlift the Energia rocket's boosters and the Buran-class orbiters for the Soviet space program. It was developed as a replacement for the Myasishchev VM-T. The An-225's original mission and objectives are almost identical to that of the United States' Shuttle Carrier Aircraft.[1][2] The lead designer of the An-225 (and the An-124) was Viktor Tolmachev.[3]

The An-225 first flew on 21 December 1988.[4] It was on static display at the Paris Air Show in 1989, and it flew during the public days at the Farnborough Air Show in 1990. Two aircraft were ordered, but only one An-225, (registration CCCP-82060, later UR-82060[5]) was finished. It could carry ultra-heavy and oversized freight weighing up to 250,000 kg (550,000 lb) internally[1] or 200,000 kg (440,000 lb) on the upper fuselage. Cargo on the upper fuselage can be 70 m (230 ft) long.[6]

A second An-225 was partially built during the late 1980s for the Soviet space program. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the cancellation of the Buran program, the lone operational An-225 was placed in storage in 1994.[7][8] The six Ivchenko-Progress engines were removed for use on An-124s, and the second uncompleted An-225 airframe was also stored. In the 1990s, a cargoliner bigger than the An-124 was clearly needed. The first An-225 was restored by 2001.[9][10]

 
The An-225 at Farnborough in 1990

By 2000, the need for additional An-225 capacity had become apparent, so the decision was made in September 2006 to complete the second An-225. That second airframe was scheduled for completion around 2008 but was subject to delays.[11] By August 2009, the aircraft had not been completed and work had been abandoned.[12][13] In May 2011, the Antonov CEO reportedly said that the completion of a second An-225 Mriya transport aircraft with a carrying capacity of 250 tons requires at least $300 million, but if the financing is provided, its completion could be achieved in three years.[14] According to different sources, the second aircraft is 60–70% complete.[15][16][17]

Airspace Industry Corporation of China (AICC)'s president, Zhang You-Sheng, told a BBC reporter that AICC first contemplated cooperation with Antonov in 2009 and contacted them in 2011. AICC intends to modernize the second unfinished An-225 and develop it into an air launch to orbit platform for commercial satellites at altitudes up to 12,000 m (39,000 ft).[4] The aviation media cast doubt on the production restart, indicating that due to the ongoing Russia–Ukraine conflict, needed parts from Russia are unavailable, although they could be made in China instead.[18] That project did not move forward but UkrOboronProm, the parent company of Antonov, continues to seek partners to finish the second airframe.[19]

In April 2013, the Russian government announced plans to revive Soviet-era air launch projects that would use a purpose-built modification to the An-225 as a midair launchpad.[20][needs update]

On 25 March 2020, the freighter commenced a series of test flights from Hostomel Airport near Kyiv, after more than a year out of service, for the installation of a domestically designed power management and control system.[21]

DesignEdit

 
Three of six Ivchenko Progress D-18T turbofan engines on the An-225

Based on Antonov's earlier An-124, the An-225 had fuselage barrel extensions added fore and aft of the wings. The wings also received root extensions to increase span. The wings are anhedral.[22][10] The flight control surfaces are controlled via fly-by-wire and triple-redundant hydraulics.[9] Two more Progress D-18T turbofan engines were added to the new wing roots, bringing the total to six. An increased-capacity landing gear system with 32 wheels was designed, some of which are steerable, enabling the aircraft to turn within a 60-metre-wide (200 ft) runway. Like its An-124 predecessor, the An-225 had a nose gear designed to "kneel" so cargo can be more easily loaded and unloaded.[9]

Unlike the An-124, which has a rear cargo door and ramp, the An-225 design left these off to save weight, and the empennage design was changed from a single vertical stabilizer to a twin tail with an oversized, swept-back horizontal stabilizer. The twin tail was essential to enable the plane to carry large, heavy external loads that would disturb the airflow around a conventional tail. Unlike the An-124, the An-225 was not intended for tactical airlifting and was not designed for short-field operation.[1]

 
The An-225's main landing gear

Initially, the An-225 had a maximum gross weight of 600 t (660 short tons; 590 long tons), but from 2000 to 2001, the aircraft underwent modifications at a cost of US$20 million, such as the addition of a reinforced floor, which increased the maximum gross weight to 640 t (710 short tons; 630 long tons).[23][24][25]

Both the earlier and later takeoff weights establish the An-225 as the world's heaviest aircraft, heavier than the double-deck Airbus A380. Airbus claims to have improved upon the An-225's maximum landing weight by landing an A380 at 591.7 t (652.2 short tons) during testing.[26][a]

 
The nose gear on the An-225

The An-225's pressurized cargo hold was 1,300 m3 (46,000 cu ft) in volume; 6.4 m (21 ft 0 in) wide, 4.4 m (14 ft) high, and 43.35 m (142 ft 3 in) long[9][28][29]—longer than the first flight of the Wright Flyer.[30][31][32]

Operational historyEdit

 
The Antonov Airlines An-225 landing at Hostomel Airport, 2014

The Antonov An-225 Mriya was originally operated from 1988 to 1991 as the prime method of transporting Buran-class orbiters for the Soviet space program.[27] "Antonov Airlines" was concurrently founded in 1989 after it was set up as a holding company by the Antonov Design Bureau as a heavy airlift shipping corporation. This company was to be based in Kyiv, Ukraine, and operate from London Luton Airport in partnership with Air Foyle HeavyLift.[6][33] While operations began with a fleet of four An-124-100s and three Antonov An-12s, the need for aircraft larger than the An-124 became apparent by the late 1990s.[34]

By this time, the Soviet Union was no longer in existence and the An-225 was sitting unused without a purpose. The An-225 was thus re-engined, modified for heavy cargo transport, and placed back in service under the management of Antonov Airlines. The An-225 became the workhorse of the Antonov Airlines fleet, transporting objects once thought impossible to move by air, such as 130-ton generators, wind turbine blades, a tank, and even diesel locomotives.[35] It also became an asset to international relief organizations for its ability to quickly transport huge quantities of emergency supplies during multiple disaster-relief operations.[34]

Under Antonov Airlines, the An-225 received its type certificate from the Interstate Aviation Committee Aviation Register (IAC AR) on 23 May 2001.[36] The type's first flight in commercial service departed from Stuttgart, Germany, on 3 January 2002, and flew to Thumrait, Oman, with 216,000 prepared meals for American military personnel based in the region. This vast number of ready meals was transported on 375 pallets and weighed 187.5 tons.[37] The An-225 was later contracted by the Canadian and U.S. governments to transport military supplies to the Middle East in support of coalition forces.[34] An example of the cost of shipping cargo by An-225 was over 2 million kr. (about €266,000) for flying a chimney duct from Billund, Denmark, to Kazakhstan in 2004.[38]

Antonov Airlines ceased cooperation with AirFoyle and partnered with Volga-Dnepr in 2006. This in turn led to the An-225's blue and yellow paint scheme which was added in 2009.[39][40] When the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the world in early-2020, the An-225 participated in the relief effort by conducting flights to deliver medical supplies from China to other parts of the world.[41][42][43][44]

The aircraft was popular with aviation enthusiasts, who frequently visited airports to view its scheduled arrivals and departures.[45]

RecordsEdit

The airlifter holds the absolute world record for an airlifted single-item payload of 189,980 kg (418,830 lb),[46][47] and an airlifted total payload of 253,820 kg (559,580 lb).[48][9] It also transported a payload of 247,000 kg (545,000 lb) on a commercial flight.[49]

On 11 September 2001, carrying four main battle tanks[9] at a record load of 253.82 tonnes (279.79 short tons) of cargo,[48] the An-225 flew at an altitude of up to 10,750 m (35,270 ft)[50] over a closed circuit of 1,000 km (620 mi) at a speed of 763.2 km/h (474.2 mph).[51][52] The hire cost can be US$30,000 (GB£23,220) per hour.[4]

On 11 August 2009, the heaviest single cargo item ever sent by air freight was loaded onto the An-225. At 16.23 m (53 ft 3 in) long and 4.27 m (14 ft 0 in) wide, its consignment, a generator for a gas power plant in Armenia along with its loading frame, weighed in at a record 189 tonnes (417,000 lb).[46][47]

On 11 June 2010, the An-225 carried the world's longest piece of air cargo, two 42.1 m (138 ft) test wind turbine blades from Tianjin, China, to Skrydstrup, Denmark.[53][54]

DestructionEdit

 
An image believed to show the An-225 Mriya ablaze in its hangar
 
Wreckage of the An-225 Mriya, showing its collapsed forward end and remaining wing
 
Hostomel Partially Cleaned

The aircraft's last commercial mission was from 2 to 5 February 2022, to collect almost 90 tons of COVID-19 test kits from Tianjin, China and deliver them to Billund in Denmark, via Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.[55][56] From there it returned on 5 February to its base at Antonov Airport in Hostomel,[56] where it underwent an engine swap.[55] On the advice of NATO it was prepared for evacuation, scheduled for the morning of 24 February, but on that day Russia invaded, with the airfield being one of their first targets.[55] A ban on civilian flights was quickly enacted by Ukrainian authorities.[55] During the ensuing Battle of Antonov Airport, the runway was rendered unusable.[55]

On 24 February, the An-225 was said to be intact.[57] On 27 February, a photo was posted on Twitter of an object tentatively identified as the An-225 on fire in its hangar.[58][59] A report by the Ukrainian edition of Radio Liberty stated that the airplane was destroyed during the Battle of Antonov Airport,[60] which was repeated by Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba[61] and by Ukroboronprom, Antonov's parent organisation.[62] The Antonov company initially refused to confirm or deny the reports,[63][60] and said it was still investigating them.[64]

Also on 27 February, a press release by Ukroboronprom[62] stated that the An-225 had been destroyed by Russian forces.[65] Ukroboronprom said that they planned to rebuild the plane at the Russians' expense.[62] The statement said: "The restoration is estimated to take over 3 billion USD and over five years. Our task is to ensure that these costs are covered by the Russian Federation, which has caused intentional damage to Ukraine's aviation and the air cargo sector."[66][67] The Ukrainian government also said that it would be rebuilt.[67][68]

AftermathEdit

On 1 March, a new photograph, taken since the initial conflict, was tentatively identified as the tail of the aircraft protruding from its hangar, suggesting that it remained at least partly intact, however, further evidence proved to show that the aircraft is inoperable due to the extreme damage it sustained.[69] On 3 March, a video circulated on social media, showing the aircraft burning inside the hangar alongside several Russian trucks, confirming its likely destruction. Nonetheless, Antonov stated again that until the aircraft is inspected by experts, its official status could not be fully known.[70][71]

On 4 March, footage on Russian state television Channel One showed the first clear ground images of the destroyed aircraft, with much of the front section missing.[69]

Following Russia's withdrawal from northern Ukraine, the second unfinished aircraft airframe was reported to be intact, despite Russian artillery strikes on the hangar housing it at the Antonov factory at Sviatoshyn airfield.[72][73]

Major Dmytro Antonov, the pilot of the An-225, alleged on 19 March 2022 that Antonov Airlines knew that an invasion was imminent for quite some time, but did nothing to prevent the loss of the aircraft. In his YouTube channel, he accused the management of the company of not doing enough to prevent the destruction of the aircraft, after having been advised by NATO to move the aircraft (ready to fly status) to Leipzig, Germany, in advance.[74][75] Multiple Antonov staff have denied his allegations.[76]

On 1 April, drone footage of Hostomel Airport showed the destroyed Mriya, with the forward fuselage completely burned and destroyed, but with the wings partly intact.[77]

Investigations into rebuilding the An-225 are being undertaken, including the possibilities of cannibalising the second, incomplete An-225, or salvaging the remnants of the first plane to finish the second. However, there are several obstacles to rebuilding. Many of the aircraft's Soviet-made components were from the 1980s and are no longer made. Engineers quote a price of US$350–500 million, although there is uncertainty regarding whether or not it would be commercially viable and worth the cost.[78] However, Andrii Sovenko, a former An-225 pilot and aviation author, said:[78]

It's impossible to talk about the repair or restoration of this aircraft -- we can only talk about the construction of another Mriya, using individual components that can be salvaged from the wreckage and combining them with those that were, back in the 1980s, intended for the construction of a second aircraft.

On 20 May 2022, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky announced his intentions to complete the second An-225, to replace the destroyed aircraft and as a tribute to all the Ukrainian pilots killed during the war.[79]

Former operatorsEdit

 
When at altitude, the An-225 had distinctive sextuple contrails
  Soviet Union
  Ukraine
  • Antonov Airlines for commercial operations since 3 January 2002, until 24 February 2022, the sole aircraft was destroyed during the Battle of Antonov Airport.

VariantsEdit

An-224
Original proposal with a rear cargo door. Not built.[80][81]
An-225
Variant without the rear cargo door. One built, second aircraft incomplete.
An-225-100
Designation applied to the An-225 after its 2000 modernization. Upgrades included a traffic collision avoidance system, improved communications and navigation equipment, and noise reduction features.[80][81]
An-325
Proposed enlarged, eight-engined development, unbuilt.[82]
AKS
Intended to carry the Tupolev OOS air-launch-to-orbit spaceplane; a twin-fuselage design consisting of two An-225 fuselages, with the OOS to be carried under the raised center wing. Multiple engine configurations were proposed, ranging from 18 Progress D-18T turbofans to as many as 40 engines, with placements both above and below the wings.[83][84][85] An alternative design for the AKS was to use entirely new fuselages, each with a single tail.[83] The AKS was deemed unfeasible, and no prototypes were ever built.[83]

SpecificationsEdit

The Antonov An-225 Mriya taking off at Hostomel Airport

Data from Vectorsite,[1] Antonov's Heavy Transports,[25] and others[9][10][28][29]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 6
  • Capacity: 253.820 tonnes (559,580 lb)[12]
  • Length: 84 m (275 ft 7 in)
  • Wingspan: 88.4 m (290 ft 0 in)
  • Height: 18.1 m (59 ft 5 in)
  • Wing area: 905 m2 (9,740 sq ft)
  • Aspect ratio: 8.6
  • Empty weight: 285,000 kg (628,317 lb)
  • Max takeoff weight: 640,000 kg (1,410,958 lb)
  • Fuel capacity: more than 300,000 kilograms (660,000 lb)[86]
  • Cargo hold: volume 1,300 m3 (46,000 cu ft), 43.35 m (142.2 ft) long × 6.4 m (21 ft) wide × 4.4 m (14 ft) tall
  • Powerplant: 6 × Progress D-18T turbofans, 229.5 kN (51,600 lbf) thrust each

Performance

  • Maximum speed: 850 km/h (530 mph, 460 kn)
  • Cruise speed: 800 km/h (500 mph, 430 kn)
  • Range: 15,400 km (9,600 mi, 8,300 nmi) with maximum fuel; range with 200 tonnes payload: 4,000 km (2,500 mi)
  • Service ceiling: 11,000 m (36,000 ft)
  • Wing loading: 662.9 kg/m2 (135.8 lb/sq ft)
  • Thrust/weight: 0.234

See alsoEdit

Related development

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration, and era

Related lists

NotesEdit

  1. ^ The Hughes H-4 Hercules flying boat, also known as the Spruce Goose, had a greater wingspan and overall height, but was lighter (at 113 t empty) and 20% shorter due to the materials used in its construction. The H-4 only flew once and for less than a minute, making the An-225 the largest aircraft in the world to fly multiple times.[9][27]

ReferencesEdit

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  58. ^ Breaking Aviation News & Videos [@aviationbrk] (27 February 2022). "Reports that the unique Antonov An-225, the largest plane in the world is on fire at Hostomel Airport" (Tweet). Archived from the original on 27 February 2022. Retrieved 28 February 2022 – via Twitter.
  59. ^ OSINT_Canada [@canada_osint] (27 February 2022). "Satellite imagery matches" (Tweet). Archived from the original on 27 February 2022. Retrieved 28 February 2022 – via Twitter. Satellite imagery matches the paneling type of the hanger[sic], and ground level photo's[sic] match the open back and from the of[sic] hanger[sic]. I believe we can confirm the #An225 has been destroyed
  60. ^ a b У результаті російської атаки згорів найбільший в світі літак «Мрія» [As a result of the Russian attack, the world's largest aircraft "Mriya" burned down]. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. 27 February 2022. Archived from the original on 28 February 2022. Retrieved 28 February 2022. У результаті повітряної атаки російських військ на аеропорт Гостомель під Києвом був спалений один із найбільших та найпотужніших літаків у світі українського виробництва АН-225 «Мрія». Про це Радіо Свобода повідомили два поінформованих джерела на підприємстві «Антонов» та підтвердив міський голова міста Буча. [As a result of an air attack by Russian troops on Gostomel Airport near Kyiv, one of the largest and most powerful Ukrainian-made AN-225 "Mriya " aircraft in the world was burned. This was reported to Radio Svoboda by two informed sources at the Antonov enterprise and confirmed by the mayor of Bucha.]
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External linksEdit

External media
Images
  An-225 image gallery
  Second Antonov An-225 (line no. 01-02) under construction, September 2004
  Second Antonov An-225 under construction, August 2008
  Second Antonov An-225 under construction, August 2008
Video
  An-225 on YouTube The worlds biggest planes: Antonov An-225 in comparison with Airbus A380-800, Airbus A340-600 and Boeing 747-400
  An-225 on YouTube Landing in crosswind