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An-124 CONDOR (ANTONOV)

An-124 was created in the tradition of An-22 to be the largest production transport aircraft in the world. It is larger than the C-5B Galaxy, but smaller than the An-225 Mriya (NATO named Cossack) which carries the Russian space shuttle. The first prototype (SSSR 82002, Number 318) flew on December 26, 1982. Designed as a military transport, it appeared at the Paris Air Show in Aeroflot colors in June 1985.

It is similar to the C-5A except for the low horizontal stabilizer. The Condor appears to have a wing of higher aspect ratio and a slightly higher sweep. The horizontal tail is larger and is body-mounted rather than T-mounted on the vertical tail. The wing has conventional ailerons, singleslotted Fowler flaps, leading-edge flaps, and upper-surface spoilers. The tail has fixed-incidence and an elevator. The wings are high-mounted, swept-back, and tapered with curved tips and negative slant. Four turbofans are mounted on pylons under the wings. The fuselage is a thick oval in cross-section with a rounded nose and tapering to the rear. The tail fin is swept-back and tapered with rounded tips. Flats are swept-back, tapered, and mid-mounted on the body.

The An-124 includes many features to aid in loading and unloading and has an extensive array of flaps and spoilers to facilitate low-speed flight and short-field operation. The An-124 can unload cargo from both the tail and nose of the jet and is listed in the Guinness Book of Records for carrying the heaviest single cargo item ever, a 135.2 ton electric generator. The Condor has a wider storage area and can carry more weight than the Air Force C-5 Galaxy cargo transportation aircraft. The "Condor" uses a 24-wheel landing gear system, which permits its operation on unprepared fields.

The Condor is the largest aircraft ever mass produced. It was designed by the Soviet aerospace companies Aviastar and Antonov in the late 1970s and conducted its first test flight in 1982. The Condor began flying for the Red Air Force and Aeroflot in 1986. It is capable of hauling 300,000 pounds of cargo and 88 passengers. It holds the world record for extended flight, covering a distance of 20,151 kilometers. It has a maximum airspeed of over 450 knots and a maximum range of 2,900 nautical miles between refueling stops.

The heavy transport An-124 was created in 1982; it is a wide-body aircraft, designed to carry various cargoes, including those, whose loading gauge and weight do no allow carrying them by rail and other means of transportations. The An-124-100 "Ruslan" is a civil version of the airplane. The vehicle was designed to large freight hauling for new building work in Siberia, the North and the Far East, as well as transcontinental carriages. Design details of the An-124, such as the rear cargo door/ramp, indicated that the An-124 was not designed to airdrop heavy equipment and vehicles. The cargo space can place and secure carriage of maritime containers weighing up to 20 t in through the fore and aft hatches, long frameworks and bridge conduits, earthmovers and pipe-laying machines, building cranes and drilling equipment, heavy dump-trucks and tractors, buses, river boats, etc. Modern airborne transport equipment comprising two bridge cranes weighing 10 t each, two winches with the thrust of 29 kN, and roller and tie-down equipment provides for loading and unloading the aircraft without assistance.

The high-pass gear allows operating the airplane both at paved and unpaved runways. Mechanization of handling and two auxiliary power units for power supply and engine ignition secure autonomous operation of the aircraft at poorly equipped aerodromes. High carrying capacity and flight range, the engines economy and autonomous operation of the aircraft provide for a high profitability in operation. The prime cost of cargo carriage by the An-124 is half as high as that by other transport airplanes.

The multipurpose heavy long-haul wide-body transport aircraft An-124-100 "Ruslan" is designed to carry various cargoes, including bulky and heavy goods, as well as equipment, that cannot be carried by rail and land. The vehicle secures cargo transportation at long distances, including transcontinental routes. The An-124 can also carry 88 passengers in an upper deck behind the cockpit.

The aircraft is able to cover the distance of 4500 km with the maximum load of 120 t, it performs flights in all latitudes, in altitudes of up to 10000 m and in temperatures ranging from 60 ? ? below zero to 45 ? ? above zero. It secures operations at the meteorological minimum of 60x600 m ICAO Category I, at the aerodromes that are certified under this category. The wing pylons are fitted with four power units, each with the engine thrust of 23,4T, which provide for rather low fuel consumption (0.6 kg/kf . h) for this type of airplanes. Two auxiliary power units TA-12 ensure the air and land engine starting as well as the aircraft power supply.

The airplane is fitted with the handling equipment, including two cranes, each with carrying capacity of 3 t. The fore and aft cargo hatches are used for handling; they allow maximum using the midship of the cargo space of 6.4x4.4 m. the cargo hatches are equipped with leading footlights, and special systems regulate the height of the cargo hatches doorsills. High carrying capacity and flight range, the engines economy and autonomous operation of the aircraft provide for a high profitability in operation.

With the advent in 1965 of the An-22, the world's first wide-body transport aircraft began the next phase of the multi-year Soviet-American race for supremacy in the creation of giant winged machines. In the US, the development of the new generation Lockheed C-5 Galaxy was in full swing, with payloads and other basic characteristics that were clearly superior "Antey". This fact not only reduced the prestige of Soviet aircraft, but eventually could lead to a sharp increase in the strategic mobility of U.S. troops, which the already controlled half the world. Caring for a response, the CPSU and the USSR issued a decree #564-180 from 07/21/66, "On the main directions of development of aviation technology and weapons on the 1966-70 years." This defined the task to increase domestic payload capacity up to 100-120 tons. And soon Commission Decision of the Presidium of the USSR CM #206 of 08/24/66 was published, and also orders MAP #352 of 08/05/66 and #413 of 13.09.66 of which were the basis for deployment in Kyiv mechanical Plant (KMZ - so then called ASTC Antonov) design work on the subject, which was in charge of the chief designer AJ Belolipetsky. The first and natural step was an attempt by designers to create new aircraft by maximizing the use technological reserve for aircraft An-22. In particular, it was proposed to equip the fuselage of the "Anthea" with a new swept wing, T-tail and four bypass turbojet engines (DTRD) with a takeoff thrust of 25,000 kg each. In the cargo cabin with dimensions 32,7 x4, 4x4, 4 m it was supposed to transport cargo and equipment total weight up to 80 tons at a distance of 3500 km. The estimated take-off weight of the aircraft, named An-122 (the first one with this name), reached 270 tons. In October 1967 Oleg Antonov and VF Eroshin (then head of the planning stages) submitted to the Military-Industrial Commission Presidium of the USSR Council an appropriate proposal. But the Council soon dismissed it, because the weight on impact, aerodynamic quality, fuel efficiency, that is, by all indicators technical level of the plane did not go beyond the average of the 1960s, and could not be considered a worthy competitor, "Galaxy". Leaving hopes to make a new plane "with little blood", Kiev by the middle of next year developed two pilot projects: AN-126 carrying capacity of 140 tons and AN-124 capacity of 120 tons Both are based on the perspective of science and technology and on the basic flight characteristics, as well as surveillance and attack capabilities and defensive systems had to literally outdo American rival. This was particularly true for the AN-126, equipped with six DTRD on pylons under the wings. Cargo compartment with dimensions of 37,5 x6, 4x4, 4 m allowed placement techniques in two rows and simultaneous handling not only through the back, but also through the front ramp. But TsAGI specialists were able to convince the government that the six-motor project aircraft was associated with excessive technical risk.

On 02 February 1972, after a comprehensive study of the problem, the Commission of the Presidium of the USSR for military-industrial issues decided on the choice for the further development of four-engined An-124. Flights on the An-124 program for the State joint tests began in November 1983. Their crews carried the Air Force Institute involving pilots bureau. Until December 1984 a total of 157 flights with 304 total flying hours were performed on plane #01-01, including 18 at high angles of attack.

A total of 57 An-124 planes were built since 1986. Of them, 49 were in operation as of early 2007. About half of them belonged to the Defense Ministry of Russia. The remained were owned by Volga-Dnepro Airlines - 10 units, Ukraine's Antonov Airlines - 7, Russia's Polyot Airlines - 5, Libya - 2 and the United Arab Emirates - 1. Ruslan, in its basic modification, costs $300 million, and that as of late 2013 there were optional orders for 61 aircraft, 50 of which from Russias Volga-Dnepr carrier. Experts estimate market demand to 2030 for this aircraft at approximately 200.

Under cooperative contracts signed June 26, 2008, Aviant Kyiv State Aircraft Plant and Motor Sich JSC will supply to Aviastar-SP CJSC (Samara) parts of airframe and aircraft engines. By 2009 production of An-124 Ruslan started at Samara. According to the project coordinator, some $1.4 billion will be needed to resume serial production of upgraded An-124-100 airplanes: at the first stage (R&D and trial production) $407 million, at the second (serial production) $982 million.

The program of resumption of production of An-124-100 was included in the Strategy of Aircraft Industry Development of the Russian Federation till 2015. In that period, 40-50 airplanes were planned to be built 3-5 a year. Readiness to buy 41 An-124-100 airplanes by 2025 was reported by Volga-Dnepr Group, Polyot, Antonov Airlines and a company from the United Arab Emirates.

The Russian Defense Ministry may purchase some 20 An-124 Ruslan (Condor) heavy-lift transport aircraft according to the 2011-2020 state arms procurement program, a senior official said on 19 July 2010. "We intend to buy about 20 such aircraft," said Deputy Defense Minister Vladimir Popovkin, who is in charge of arms procurement. "We plan to modernize two planes annually, and starting from 2015-2016, if the manufacturers are ready, we will start purchasing them," he added.

The Russian Air Force received three modernized Antonov An-124-100 super-heavy transport aircraft as part of an update program for its transport fleet, Air Force spokesman Col. Vladimir Drik said on 17 May 2012. "The air force has got three modernized Ruslan An-124-100s and four more are being updated at the Ulyanovsk Aviastar factory," he said. "We plan to modernize another ten or so An-124s to An-124-100M standard," Drik said, adding the service will also get "up to ten new-build An-124-300 transports with an increase in payload of up to 150 tons."

Russia's Military Transport Aviation (VTA) commander Lt. Gen. Viktor Kachalkin said 31 May 2012 that the VTA will take delivery of 25 Antonov An-124 super-heavy transport aircraft of various modifications by 2020.

Ukraine and Russia signed a joint production deal to modernize the An-124 heavy lift transport aircraft, with the final document to be signed in September, a Ukrainian government news bulletin said 30 August 2013. The technical details were agreed during the MAKS 2013 airshow just outside Moscow, and the two countries will ink the final deal at a high-profile bilateral meeting in September, the bulletin said. Ruslan planes that are nearing the end of their service life will be modernized and upgraded with new, Ukrainian-made, D-18T engines to be installed at Russias Ulyanovsk plant. The navigation system, landing gear and avionics will also be replaced, extending the An-124s service life through 2025.

As is well known, protests in Kyiv began on November 21, 2013, following the Government of Ukraines announcement that it was suspending preparations to sign an association agreement with the European Union. On February 22, following three months of large protests and violent clashes, former President Yanukovych departed Kyiv. The Ukrainian Parliament established a new government on February 27. Groups that oppose the new government and support closer ties with Russia staged demonstrations in cities throughout eastern and southern Ukraine. Russian troops occupied several government buildings, including airports, and established roadblocks on the Crimean Peninsula. Under these circumstances, it would seem improbable that Ukraine and Russia would continue joint work on this project.




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