Russia's Ministry of Defense removed the Antonov An-70 military transport aircraft, jointly developed by Russia and Ukraine, from its national armament program, the Izvestia newspaper reported 02 March 2015. Russia had not been involved in the venture since the February 2014 change of governments in Kiev. The ministry could also request the return of 2.95 billion rubles (nearly $100 million at the 2010 exchange rate) transferred to Ukraine's Antonov design bureau in 2010, when both countries started research and development work on the project, initially launched in the early 1980s. The An-70 was supposed to replace the aging An-12.
The An-70 belongs to a new class of short takeoff and landing tactical military transports. The Antonov-70 is a new propfan powered medium-size wide-body short take-off and landing transport aircraft designed a replacement for the An-12 'Cub'.
The An-70 is capable of carrying practically any item from military armament and equipment nomenclature with a total weight of up to 47 t. The aircraft is capable of delivering 20-35 t of cargo over the range of 5,000-6,600 km at cruising speed of 750 km/h, air dropping of personnel and vehicles including single cargoes of up to 20 t from both high and low altitudes, delivery of 300 soldiers and evacuation of 206 wounded and sick.
Depending upon the type of operation and takeoff weight, the An-70 can be operated on both average-strength hard-surface runways and unpaved 700-900 m strips with low surface strength. In case of short takeoff and landing on 700 m unpaved runways, the An-70 is capable of carrying 20-30 t of cargo over the range of 1,200-3,000 km.
Four D-27 engines with counter-rotating SV-27 propfans ensure high cruising speed and 20-30% fuel saving in comparison with modern airplanes with turbojet engines.
The integrated digital complex of onboard equipment provides operation of the aircraft in all latitudes, all and around-the-clock, in VFR and adverse weather conditions, flights over unmarked terrain, protection against antiaircraft means, formation flying, takeoff and landing on unequipped unpaved airfields. Use of equipment with multiplex channels of data exchange makes it possible to easily modify and adapt the onboard avionics structure to suit any version.
Onboard aerial delivery system ensures autonomous loading/unloading of a wide variety of cargoes and their air dropping. The onboard loading equipment comprises four overhead rail electric motor hoists with total cargo lifting capacity of 12 t, two onboard electric winches each with a 1.5-ton tractive force. At customer option, the aircraft may be equipped with an easily removable upper deck or roller conveyer for container handling automation. Onboard monitoring and diagnostic means make possible the autonomous operation of the An-70 aircraft on poorly equipped airfields without use of any special ground facilities. The aircraft maintenance is based on the "on-condition" strategy.
High technical and operational potential of the An-70 aircraft allows to create on its basis an entire range of versions and modifications for military and civil use: AEW aircraft, flying command post, patrol aircraft, tanker and a family of the civil-aviation An-70T transports.
Development of the An-70 program, which began in 1975, effectively stopped with the collapse of the Soviet Union. The first flight was on 16 December 1994, but the prototype was destroyed on 10 February 1995 in a midair collision. Antonov had a replacement in the air within the year.
An international consortium named the Medium Transport Aircraft (MTA) was established in 1996 by a number of entities. Among those, besides ANTONOV ASTC, were the aircraft series production factories, the aircraft engine and equipment designers, some business corporations and governmental representatives. The MTA consortium arranges and performs all joint research and development efforts, manufacturing, economical and foreign trade activities; it provides for a long-term cooperation and linkage of the financial, material and other resources in order to solve the problems of the An-70 certification, production, sale, leasing, and after-sale support.
As of mid-1998 Germany was interested in evaluating a Westernized version of the An-70 to meet its airlift needs. Germany and other NATO members signed for the rival A400M. Germany was ready to purchase a license from Ukraine to build the airplanes at aviation factories in Western Europe. But the Ukrainian side rejected the proposal, saying 8,000-strong workforce at Antonov and AVIANT needed jobs as well. The Aviant plant in Kiev was to produce An-70s for the Ukrainian air force, which intended to procure 65 such aircraft. The Russian air force had estimated its needs in 164 An-70s. The Czech Republic had long been closely watching An-70, having become the first NATO nation to sign an intergovernmental agreement with Russia on the supply of three such planes in 2005-2007.
By 2003 the promise made by the Russian government in 1999 to buy 164 An-70s over the next 20 years looked totally unrealistic. The An-70's price cannot be much below $50 million per aircraft. In 2003, Vladimir Mikhailov, the Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Air Force, and his deputies mentioned for the first time their intention to hold a competition for a new military transport aircraft to replace An-12, taking an intermediate position in the military transport aviation fleet between the light Il-112V and the heavy-lift Il-76MF aircraft. Only Russian aircraft designers would be invited for the tender, and the outcome of the tender to a significant extent was to be determined by investment capacities of the wining bidder. The conditions specified practically excluded any possibility for the Russian-Ukrainian An-70 to be put into service in the Russian Air Force as a medium range transport aircraft. Russian generals always emphasize that the An-70, with its 47-ton payload capacity, falls within the heavylift aircraft class of the Ilyushin Il-76MF.
On 12 January 2011 it was reported that Ukraine and Russia will assemble the military transport aircraft An-70 on the two main production sites - in Kyiv, Ukraine (Aviant plant) and Ulyanovsk, Russia (Aviastar-SP).
On April 20, 2011, the Defense Ministry of Ukraine announced that the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation intended to begin purchasing of An-70 and An-124-100 "Ruslan" in Ukraine from 2015-2016. This came after Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdiukov and Ukraine's minister Mikhail Yezhel visited the Antonov state-run enterprise (Kyiv). Serdiukov said that from 2015-2016, the Russian Defense Ministry plans to launch acquisition of new military transport aircraft with short takeoff and landing An-70 and modernized heavy transport aircraft An-124-100" Ruslan. According to Serdiukov, the "An-70" program had already been included into the state program of armament of Russia for the period until 2020.
The Russian military is interested in purchasing at least 60 An-70's over the ten years up to 2020. Serdiukov also said that at this stage, the Russia's ministry is doing its best to complete the program of state testing and certification of the aircraft in Russia. "We really like and need this plane," said Serdiukov. He also said that under Ukrainian-Russian co-operation, within forthcoming five years, the Russian Ministry of Defense plans to modernize the existing An-124 "Ruslan" and from 2015-2016 it is ready to begin acquisition of new modernized "Ruslan" planes in Ukraine.
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