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An-22 Antei Cock

For a time, the world's largest airplane was the Soviet Union's turboprop-powered Antonov An-22 Antheus. Antonov designed the An-22 Antheus to carry the Soviet Army's mightiest fighting vehicles, including main battle tanks and missile launchers. Its NK-12 turboprops, which also power the Tu-95/Tu-142 "Bear" family of Russian bombers and maritime patrol aircraft, are the most powerful turboprop engines in service. Each of its four tremendous 15,000 shp engines turns two four-bladed counter-rotating (rotating in opposite directions) propellers.

June 15, 1965, the fifth day of the XXVI International Paris Air Show. The announcer, interrupting the morning broadcast, announces: "The world's largest aircraft arrives from the Soviet Union," and continues with doubt in his voice: "This air giant can accommodate 720 passengers or raise 80 tons of cargo." Soon in Le Bourget landed An-22 - a giant transport machine, which was initiated by General Designer OK Antonov name "Antey." "The ship was expected to be monstrous, shapeless, paunchy, but at the end of the runway it was elegant and a thoroughbred, touching the ground very gently, without the slightest shaking ..." - wrote the French newspaper Humanite the next day. As soon as Antey landed in Le Bourget, he certainly immediately became the number one sensation there. The press paid him a lot of attention. "The Soviet Union shows us that it was much ahead of others in creating powerful cargo transport planes," the French newspaper Figaro said on June 16, 1965.

The "Russian miracle" - this is how the visitors of the air show in Le Bourget spoke about this military transport plane, where the An-22 "Antey" was first shown to the public in the summer of 1965. Sharp-tongued French journalists dubbed this gigantic machine the "Flying cathedral". Having set a world record for carrying capacity - up to 100 tons (two and a half times more than the American C-141), having distinguished themselves in Afghanistan, Chechnya and other hot spots, Antey has been in service almost half a century.

The An-22 aircraft mock-up was demonstrated on 12 October 1961. It had provisions for the Initsiativa-2 radar and defensive air-to-air missiles put instead of passive radar interference protection in the front hemisphere offered six months before. Later it was decided to protect the aircraft by 45-mm active anti-radar rounds.

The mock-up committee headed by Marshal N.S. Skripko ended its work in November 1961 concluding that flight and technical parameters of the aircraft in general corresponded to the resolution of the Council of Ministers. It also stated that employment of the Tu-95s power plant would make takeoff run unacceptably long and would require building too large airfields instead of 2nd Category ones. The flight test programme scheduled to start in 1963 was delayed almost for two years because of technical problems unsolved by the industry.

The design bureau estimated that overall weight of the defensive weapons and Kupol-22 navigation and targeting system would reach 4,000 kg. At the same time estimated flight range with the overload takeoff weight of 192 tonnes would not exceed 8,370 km while instead of the preset 9,500 10,000 km for the non-military payload of 10 tonnes. The main weight reserve that could be sacrificed were defensive weapons and some avionics. This issue was discussed in the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in summer 1964.

The design bureau finished construction of the first prototypes airframe on 22 April 1963. Minister of Aviation Industry of the USSR P.V. Dementyev who visited the design bureau three moths later urged that the whole aircraft should be built as soon as possible in cooperation with Tashkent Aviation Plant.

So in August 1964 the first prototype started flight tests. It was equipped with the Initsiativa-4-100 radar. In July 1961 the government took decision to replace it with the Kupol optical/radar navigation and targeting system on the fifth flight test prototype (in fact it was installed only on the first aircraft of the second batch). The second flight test prototype was built in Tashkent.

The An-22 aircraft made its maiden flight piloted by the crew headed by Yu. Kurlin on 27 February 1965 [some sources report 24 February 1965]. It took off from Svyatoshino airfield in Kiev, flew one hour six minutes, and landed at the military air base in Uzin where it continued its production tests.

A civil version of the An-22 appeared in Aeroflot markings at the Paris International Air Show at Le Bourget at the Paris Air Show in 1965. The largest transport aircraft of the time, An-22 set a number of world records.



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