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An-124 CONDOR Charter Operations

Volga-Dnepr Airlines is a civilian company based out of Russia and has the world's largest fleet of AN-124 aircraft. The AN-124's unique capabilities and loading equipment make it possible to transport out-sized and bulk cargo, like heavy engines, satellites and helicopters. Volga-Dnepr Airlines transports military aircraft, cargo and servicemembers all over the world. The An-124 is widely used to carry odd-sized and very heavy pieces of air cargo that no other aircraft can accommodate. Past payloads have included space launch and booster components, satellites, helicopters and trains.

The Shuttle/Mir Docking Module is a piece of equipment that was attached to the Mir Space Station. This allows the shuttle to dock with Mir and provides a tunnel for the astronauts to enter and exit Mir. This module came in from Russia at the end of May 1995 on a huge Russian cargo plane called an Antonov-124 (AN-124), following months of work and preparation.

On January 24, 1997, Heavylift-VolgaDnepr requested an exemption pursuant to 49 U.S.C. section 40109(g) to permit it to operate one one-way cargo charter flight between Oakland, CA, and Cape Canaveral, FL, using its AN-124 aircraft on or about February 5, 1997. The flight was to transport one outsized satellite and related equipment on behalf of Space Systems Loral. The applicant stated that Loral had contracted to manufacture and launch a spacecraft satellite from Cape Canaveral, and that its contractual requirements and reserved launch date required the spacecraft to be in place in Florida on February 5. It stated that unanticipated production problems over the past two months and the need to replace hydraulic pumps in the final stages of manufacture delayed production of the satellite and eliminated the use of surface transportation.

On February 11, 1997, Heavylift-VolgaDnepr applied for requisite exemption authority to operate one one-way cargo charter flight between Philadelphia, PA, and Moffett Field, CA (or Oakland International Airport as an alternate) on or about February 24, 1997, using its AN-124 aircraft to transport one outsized telecommunications satellite and related equipment on behalf of Lockheed Martin Astro Space. The applicant stated that production of the satellite was behind schedule, the New Jersey plant where the satellite was under construction was closing as a result of the recent Lockheed-Martin Marietta merger, and the company had decided to complete the satellite's construction at the Lockheed Martin plant in California to eliminate further delays.

By application filed February 27, 1998, Antonov requested an emergency exemption pursuant to 49 U.S.C. 40109(g) to permit it to operate one one-way cargo charter flight between Wichita/McConnell AFB, Kansas, and Seattle/Boeing Field, Washington, on or about March 3, 1998. Antonov proposed to operate the flight, using an AN-124 aircraft, on behalf of the Boeing Commercial Airplane Group, to transport outsized thrust reverser parts and related equipment for B-777 and other Boeing aircraft. In support of its request, Antonov stated that Boeing's thrust reverser manufacturing lines were working around the clock to compensate for material shortages and production delays; that the components involved in this application would not be ready for shipment until March 3; and that, given Boeing's aircraft production schedules, there was insufficient time to ship them by surface means. It stated that delivery by air was thus necessary to avoid assembly and production delays and hardship to Boeing and its customers.

US Pacific Command (USPACOM) decided in 1999 to use the Army's Logistics Civil Augmentation Program (LOGCAP) to provide helicopter lift support in East Timor. Clintondale Aviation would join the LOGCAP team and provide the helicopters and crews for the mission. Under the aviation subcontract, two Mi-8 medium-lift and two Mi-26 heavy-lift helicopters with associated air and maintenance crews would furnish the desperately needed lift support. Delivering the Mi-8 helicopters had its own complications. The two aircraft were located in Sophia, Bulgaria, and the most expedient way of delivering them to East Timor was by transport aircraft, specifically a Russian-made AN-124. Initial delays were encountered in getting the AN-124 into Sophia because the airport was closed; airspace restrictions within 150 kilometers of the departure airfield were in place in anticipation of a visit to Bulgaria by President Clinton. Once the airport reopened, the AN-124 was allowed to land and load the two Mi-8's, a fuel truck, spare parts, generators, and crewmembers. The AN-124 then headed for East Timor. The need to rest the crew and the inability of the transport to remain overnight in Bacau, East Timor, because of airfield restrictions forced the AN-124 to stop in Jakarta, Indonesia. When the AN-124 finally arrived at Bacau, the helicopters were unloaded, assembled, and prepared for operations. On 28 November 1999, the Mi-8's were ready to support operations.

On May 29, 2001 Chinese officials agreed to return the damaged Navy EP-3 plane they've held on Hainan Island since April 1 -- in pieces. As a compromise, the United States will partially disassemble the plane and bring it home in a Russian AN-124 cargo plane. Quigley said an AN-124 would be leased from an unspecified country because none are in the U.S. inventory. "At the end of the day, we're glad to get the airplane back in a condition that it can be repaired and used again," Pentagon spokesman Navy Rear Adm. Craig Quigley said in a Pentagon briefing. The large size of the AN-124 allows the EP-3 to remain intact enough that it can be repaired after it is back in the United States.

The Russian AN-124-100 aircraft transports the Atlas V boosters (manufactured in Waterton, Colorado, as is the Centaur upper stage) to the launch base. Atlas V currently launches from Space Launch Complex (SLC) 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, with a first flight from SLC 3E at Vandenberg AFB, California, in 2006.

In January 2002, Volga-Dnepr became the first civil aviation company to operate flights to Afghanistan.

Since the Prague Summit in 2002, Allies have made progress in this area. A multinational initiative among several Allies to secure adequate sealift capacity has been a success. Likewise, 16 Allies and Sweden have formed a multinational consortium to contract for on-demand access to Antonov AN-124 airlift.

From 2001 to 2004 DOD leased Russian AN-124 aircraft to carry outsize and oversize cargo because C-5 aircraft were unavailable. In 2003 it was estimated that the 79 AN-124 missions conducted in that year cost DOD $28.9 million.

AN-124-100 "Ruslan" airplane, state registration number UR-82007, serial number 19530501005, property of the state enterprise Aviation Research-and-Design Complex named after Antonov (ARDC), was attached in the Canadian Goose Bay Airport on 28 June 2003. It had delivered there a cargo of ammunition and equipment for Italian Air Force carrying out annual military exercises in Canada. The plane was seized by Canadian authorities executing the respective decision of the Arbitration Institute of Stockholm Chamber of Commerce dated 30 May 2002 in the case brought by TMR Energy Ltd. Company against the State Property Fund of Ukraine.

An AN-124 aircraft, owned by a Ukraine plane maker, was seized in 2004 as the result of a lawsuit by a Cypriot firm. The aircraft was sub-contracted by a charter company used by NATO for an ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) Deployment to Afghanistan. This incident had no political background whatsoever, said Patrick Herman, the Belgian Foreign Ministry's deputy press service chief. According to Patrick Herman, a decision to arrest the plane was made after a Belgian court's ruling in support of the company's claim. As Belgium sticks to the principle of separation of powers, the Belgian Government has no competence to step in and influence what is a purely commercial dispute, Patrick Herman noted. As he stressed, the Belgian Government values good relations between Belgium and Ukraine and is interested in promoting these, but still it cannot but express its concern over the plane crew's refusal to abide by the court's ruling to leave the plane. The AN-124 Ruslan plane was kept at the Melsbroek military airfield, which has one runaway. The crew's refusal to comply with the Belgian laws is inadmissible as causing a precaucious situation and jeopardizing safety of flights, the Belgian Foreign Ministry official insisted.

Russia's mega-plane, the AN-124, was seen flying in and out of Fort Drum's Wheeler-Sack Army Airfield from March 2 to 3, 2005. The plane, manned by a Russian crew, was transporting 1st Battalion, 10th Aviation Regiment's OH-58Ds to Fort Polk, La., in support of the 1st Brigade Combat Team's Joint Readiness Training Center rotation. An AN-124 had not been seen at Fort Drum since Oct. 20, 1998.

On Sept. 12, 2005 Military personnel unloaded a diesel powered water pump flown in by a Russian AN-124 Condor Aircraft to Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base, New Orleans in support of Hurricane Katrina relief efforts. The water pump will be used to help pump out the water from New Orleans left over from Hurricane Katrina. The Navy's involvement in the Hurricane Katrina humanitarian assistance operations are led by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), in conjunction with the Department of Defense.

After years of planning, the first five UH-60 Black Hawks for soldiers of the 1st Support Battalion, or Task Force Sinai, 1st Corps Support Command in Egypt in support of Multi-national Force Observer, departed Pope Air Force Base 02 December 2005. The aircraft utilized by the 1st Corps Support Command to transport the Black Hawks to the Multi-national Force Observer was the Russian Antonov AN-124 Condor. The crew and aircraft was contracted from a Ukrainian-based charter company called Volga-Dnepr Airlines whom specialize in the transportation of over-sized cargo.

As of 2006 NATO leased six Russian and Ukrainian Antonov An-124-100 cargo aircraft under an arrangement known as the strategic airlift interim solution (SALIS). On March 23, 2006, in Leipzig the start of Ruslans use within NATO Strategic Airlift Interim Solution program was officially announced. The representatives of Ministries of Defence of the countries participating in the programme, official persons of NATO, Ukrainian and Russian Embassies took part in this ceremony. EU and NATO use Ruslans in accordance with the Contract signed by NAMSA (NATO Maintenance and Support Agency) representing NATO interests and Ruslan SALIS GmbH, representing interests of ANTONOV ASTC (Ukraine) and Volga-Dnepr group of companies (Russia).

Two of the leased AN-124-100s are constantly based at Leipzig-Halle airport. One of them belongs to ANTONOV AIRLINES - the structural subdivision of ANTONOV ASTC, the other one - to Volga-Dnepr group of companies. These two largest in the world operators of Ruslan aircraft are the equal in rights participants on the program. These companies together created a mechanism consisting of airplanes, crews, complex of maintenance and organization of air transportations. Reliability of its work doesn't raise doubts. It is ensured with both the unique characteristics of the Ruslan and a flight and technical personnel of ANTONOV AIRLINES and Volga-Dnepr.

Four more are in reserve and can be delivered upon the request of the NATO United Command. In addition to that, the European Union uses the AN-124 in its ECAP program (European Capability Airlift Program). The US Air Force had spent $170 million from FY2002 through early FY2007 for An-124 missions. It also appears that the number of An-124 missions was accelerating. The first half of FY07 was on par with FY05 figures when the fiscal year was not yet half over.

The world market of unique and large bulk air cargo transport saw an increase of 18% in 2006, reaching a volume of US $700 mn. The Russian Volga-Dnepr operator earned US $300 mn and Ukraine's Antonov Airlines - US $180 mn from the use of the unique AN-124 Ruslan cargo transport plane. However, taking into account steady market growth in air transportation, the current fleet of the Ruslan aircraft will not be sufficient to satisfy growing demand in 2008.

A Russian Volga-Dnepr AN-124 long-range heavy transport aircraft was parked 20 April 2007 at Moffett Federal Airfield, Calif. The contracted AN-124 transported 129th Rescue Wing deployment cargo to Afghanistan because the high operations tempos of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom have kept C-17 Globemaster III and C-5 Galaxy aircraft fully engaged.

As of 05 April 2008, more than 5,000 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles have been delivered to the U.S. Central Command area of operations. The milestone of 5,000 occurs a little more than three months after the Defense Department kept its promise of 1,500 of the vehicles in theater before the end of 2007. Air Force Air Mobility Command C-5 Galaxy, C-17 Globemaster III and contracted AN-124 Condor aircraft delivered the majority of MRAPs. The Army's Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command scheduled ocean carrier deliveries by sea and handled port operations. The Navy's Military Sealift Command delivered vehicles with its fast sealift ships and large, medium-speed, roll-on, roll-off vessels as well as chartered commercial ships.

The Russian-built Antonov An-124, a colossal cargo aircraft, landed at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma May 19, 2008 delivering a KC-130J simulator for Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152. With the addition of the simulator, Marine Corps KC-130J pilots on Okinawa will no longer have to travel to the states for simulator training. The An-124 was chosen to transport the massive simulator because the 226-foot plane is equipped with a crane inside the cargo hold to move heavy loads.

In June 2008 USMC Reservists were brought in from Texas and Georgia all the way to central Norway to conduct the deployment process for some of the equipment stored in cave locations under the supervision of the Marine Corps Prepositioning Program Norway. About 30 vehicles, generators and trailers onto four aircraft headed to Morocco to support the yearly exercise called Africa Lion. A U.S. military C-130 and three huge Russian AN-124 cargo planes were loaded over the course of several days by the Marines and the Norwegian military.

United States Army members from the 3rd Barged, 2nd Infantry Division, Ft. Louis, Wash., off load Army M115 Striker vehicles from an Antonov AN-124 cargo aircraft, Sept. 4, 2008, Ramstein Air Base, Germany in support of exercise Cooperative Spirit 2008. Cooperative Spirit is a multinational exercise involving United States, British, Canadian, Australian, and New Zealand forces in preparation for a deployment to Iraq. Seven Russian-made Antonov AN-124 cargo planes loaded with the U.S. Army's newest, most advanced and highly-lethal Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicles arrived at Ramstein Aug. 31-Sep. 4, and the Soldiers from the 21st Theater Sustainment Command were there to conduct reception, staging, onward movement and integration. Each AN-124 can hold a maximum of four Stryker vehicles and two ISU-90 cargo containers.

In the Air Force's C-5 Galaxy, a maximum of three Stryker vehicles, and depending on the weight, one ISU-90 container can be loaded into a single aircraft, said Love. But with the AN-124, four Stryker vehicles and two ISU-90s, regardless of their weight, can be loaded into a single AN-124, which has a 25 percent larger payload than a C-5 Galaxy. AN-124s have been known to carry locomotives, yachts and a variety of oversized cargoes.

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