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An-124 CONDOR (ANTONOV) - Variants

The development of the An-124 by the combat units of the Soviet military transport aviation of the Air Force began in 1987. The machine was adopted by the order of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief Mikhail Gorbachev on March 28, 1991. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, all the An-124 military inherited the Russian Federation.

In 1989, by decree of the USSR Council of Ministers, the Kiev Mechanical Plant was given the right to carry cargo air services to An-124, an air transport enterprise (now called Antonov Airlines) was established for this purpose. On December 30, 1992, the Interstate Aviation Committee issued a certificate of airworthiness of the civil transport aircraft of the An-124-100 modification.

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 at transcontinental carriages. 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.

In 2001 the Interstate Aviation Committee (MAK) awarded the Antonov design bureau, the developer, and Avistar production plant, the manufacturer, a complimentary certificate for the An-124-100 Ruslan heavy weight cargo aircraft extending its lifetime to 24,000 flight hours, 6,000 flight cycles and 25 calendar years. At that time research done by the Central Aerohydrodynamics Institute (TsAGI) and the State Scientific-Research Institute of Civil Aviation (GosNII GA) showed that the Ruslan's lifetime might be increased further to 40,000 flight hours, 10,000 flight cycles and 40-45 years. This meant that the Ruslan can stay in service until the year 2040.

The first civilian aircraft operator was "Antonov Airlines", the second - the Russian company "Volga-Dnepr". In different years, the An-124 was used to transport such cargoes as hydroturbines, an electric generator with a mass of 135 tons, locomotives, spacecraft in capsules, subway cars, yachts, a basalt monument and much more. During the Soviet era, An-124 aircraft were assembled at two plants: Aviant in Kiev, Ukraine, and at Aviastar in the town of Ulyanovsk, Russia. All in all thirty six An-124 aircraft were produced at the Ulyanovsk Aviastar Plant. In 2004 Aviastar assembled the final An-124-100 from the backlog remaining of previous years.

"Aviant" has completed production of the An-124-100s "Ruslan", but it continues manufacturing spare parts for the vehicle, performs various forms of maintenance of An-124s, and converts An-124s into the variant An-124-100. The works is now considering several airlines' offers to restart production of the airplanes of this type. Works on modernization of the basic model of the Ruslan are under way. Motor Sich is working on increasing the supply of motors and improving their specifications and capacities. Vyacheslav Bohuslayev, Chairman of the Board of OJSC Motor Sich, says that the company's designers increased the design resource by 160 times from 500 to 80,000 hours. The thrust of the new engine was increased by about 15-20%, which will increase cargo lift capacity from 120 to 150 tonnes. Meanwhile, the Russians have already begun renewing the assembled stock (parts) at the Uliyanovskiy Aircraft Manufacturing Plant.

On 15 July 2008 Ukraine and Russia agreed to continue studying AN-124-100 Ruslan planes market within the frames of the project on renewal of serial production of these planes, Industrial Policy Minister Volodymyr Novytskyi informed while commenting on his meeting with President of the Russian OJSC United Aircraft Corporation Alexey Fedorov in Kyiv. In order to renew the production of the Ruslan aircraft suspended ten years ago, Volga-Dnepro, the manufacturer of aircraft engines at Motor Sich (Zaporizhzhya), and the Kyiv Antonov Design Bureau (the main designer of the plane), created a special managing company Cargo Planes. The plans also foresee the Uliyanovskiy Aircraft Manufacturing Plant (Russia), where holding frames for the manufacture of the Ruslan have been preserved, and the Progress Design Bureau (Zaporizhzhya), which manufactures aircraft engines, joining the Volgo-Dnepro and Antonov in the near future. Start-up investments into the revival of Ruslan are approximately US $400 mn. This would only be a sufficient amount of investment to revive manufacturing and produce several aircraft units. For full-scale line production, around US $2 bn in investments was required.

During 2017 the Aviation Complex. S.V. Ilyushin began the modernization of military transport aircraft An-124, which are in service with the Russian Air Force. On December 1, 2017, the first modernized Aviastar-JV An-124-100 aircraft was named after the aircraft designer Oleg Antonov.

The An-124-100-150 "Ruslan" passed certificate testing on 25 April 2007. At the final stage of the trial, a piloting-and-navigation system (PNS) was put on the test. The purpose was to make sure it meets the requirements of basic and accurate zonal navigation (B-RNAV and P-RNAV) when performing terminal taking-off and arrival procedures to European airports, where these procedures are certified and should be performed by means of zonal navigation method.

The An-124-100M aircraft, with western avionics and a payload of 150 tons, was to be the initial product of renewed assembly by the Antonov Design Bureau and Volga-Dnipro group of companies, which had signed a contract in 2003 to resume production of the An-124 Ruslan aircraft. The An-124-100M variant complies with chapter 4 ICAO and other new technical requirements.

The An-124-100M-150, a modernized Ruslan with a cargo capacity of 150 tons, is planned for series production starting in 2012 in a broad Russian-Ukrainian cooperation. The new version of the airplane certified by the interstate aviation committee in June of 2007 complies with requirements of European control of zonal navigation P-RNAV, as well as accuracy requirements of piloting airplanes ?-RNP-1. Preparation for the validation of certificate of type by the EASA was already started in 2008. Ruslan International Ltd (UK) established by the partners in 2006 acts as the marketing agent of the Ukrainian and Russian operators. Volga-Dnepr and ANTK Antonov intend to renew the production of the transport airplanes, placing an order on 17 aircraft. Motor Sich will design a modified D-18T engine of 4th series especially for these aircraft.

The proposed An-124-210, with 264-kN Rolls-Royce RB.211-524H-T engines in lieu of the 229-kN ZMKB Progress D-18T offers better field performance, requiring a 2,300m strip for takeoff instead of 2,800 m for the current An-124-100 model.

The An-124-300 is a new version Antonov would like to produce which would use more powerful Western turbofan engines and be able to carry an increased load of 150 tons. Design work is underway to create a supersized An-124-300 designed for nonstop transcontinental flights. The Chinese PLA would ostensibly purchase this freighter to become more competitive in commercial outsized cargo transport.

The An-225 Mriya is a strategic airlift transport aircraft which was built by Antonov, and is currently the world's largest airplane. The design, built to transport the "Buran" shuttle, was an enlargement of the successful An-124 Ruslan. With a maximum gross weight of 640 tonnes (1,411,000 lb), the An-225 is the world's heaviest aircraft.

A New Russian Variant An-124 was announced back in 2016 on the sidelines of the exhibition Gidroaviasalon. There were no concrete terms for the project, but it was noted that "such work is primarily with the Ministry of Defense, because they will become the customer of the aircraft." It was also said that the works in the Ilyushin Design Bureau are conducted in an initiative. Yuri Sytnik, a member of the Russian Presidential Commission for Development aviation, noted in 2018 that Russian designers made no less contribution to the development of the aircraft in comparison with the Ukrainian ones. "The avionics, the chassis design, will be replaced by other engines. The An-124 base, but in practice it will be another plane". In 2017 issues on the creation of a superheavy aircraft were repeatedly raised at various meetings in the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation and the military-industrial complex, support was received from all sides and assurances that such an aircraft is needed.

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