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Antonov An-70 - Program History

The An-70 was developed by Antonov as a replacement for its An-12, which is currently in widespread military and civilian use with operators throughout the CIS. It was originally designed to be in production in 1988. With the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, Antonov, located in Ukraine, lost reliable access to the Russian propfans propellers, and the program ground to a halt. Russia did not want to buy a Ukrainian airplane, Ukraine's military did not need such a long range power projection tool, and both countries were broke.

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. An-70 flight and certification tests are conducted to show the aircraft compliance with both the Air Force requirements and the civil AP-25 (FAR-25, JAR-25) airworthiness regulations.

The An-70 first flew in 1994. The An-70 program was thrown into doubt in February 1995 when the sole prototype collided with its An-72 chase plane while on a test flight. At that time completion of a second prototype was still some time off, but this aircraft was completed and flew for the first time on 24 April 1997. At that time first production deliveries were planned for 1998, with the aircraft to be built at Kiev. By the time of the Zhukovsky MAKS '97 air and trade show, the An-70 had made 40 test flights accumulating some 20 hours of total flight time. At the show it was flown by Antonov's chief test pilot Alexander Galounenko, who demonstrated the aircraft's amazing agility by executing very steep climbs and near vertical banked turns.

Valentyn Badrak noted in October 1999 that by "Antonov concern's calculations, the company needs $29 million to organize AN-70 mass production with an annual output of 3-5 machines. General designer Petro Balabuyev estimates aggregate demand for AN-70 at 1,500 aircraft at the minimum for rapid deployment forces across the world. Balabuyev is confident that AN-70 could well enter the markets in Latin America and South-East Asia. But such a turn of evens would only be possible if the governments of Ukraine and Russia came from declaring the priority place for AN-70 to actually providing funds for the project."

Eight West European countries had an urgent need to replace their Transall and Hercules planes, numbering about 300. The Bundeswehr alone intended to buy 70 transport aircraft beginning in 2008. The Ukrainian-Russian transport airplane was on the agenda of the first Russian-German-French summit in Ekaterinburg in early 1998. Yeltsin wanted to persuade Helmut Kohl and Jacque Chirac to construct a European aircraft based on the Antonov plane. The question of joint production of transport airplane AN-70, which could be produced in cooperation not only with Russia, but also with Germany, remained under under discussion in 1998. Of 304 aircraft needed to replace military cargo airplane fleet in Russia, Ukraine and Germany, the latter would take 75 machines compared to Russia's 164 and Ukraine's 65.

But the A400 Future Large Aircraft (FLA) and Daimler Benz Aerospace (DASA), as well as other West European aircraft concerns aggressively advocated their own projects. They argumed that the first Antonov plane crashed in 1995, the engines will not sustain long operations, and dependence on spare parts from Eastern Europe was too risky. Several European members of NATO - including Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Turkey and the United Kingdom - eventually signed on to buy about 200 Airbus Industries A400M heavy lift air transporters, otherwise known as the Future Large Aircraft. After months of consideration, Europe finally preferred thus-far-non-existent A400M to the Ukrainian-Russian An-70. Deputy Head of the Ukrainian State Industrial Policy Committee Valeri Kazakov was strongly against "helping the competitors" should they offer cooperation in designing some parts and assemblies for A400M. Ukraine and Russia had already turned down an offer to help European engineers design the engine for A400M. The A400M aircraft was not expected to be in service before about 2007. To meet short to medium- term requirements, as of 2001 France and Germany were considering leasing some C-17 aircraft, or perhaps the Russian-Ukrainian AN-70 airlifter, though a decision had yet to be taken.

Uncertainty surrounding the Antonov An-70 increased with the wheels-up emergency landing of the only operable prototype in the morning of 27 January 2001. Earlier reports blamed immature D-27 engines designed by ZMKB Progress and manufactured by Motor-Sich (with counter-rotating propellers supplied by Stupino), as the cause of the crash.

By November 2002 Hungary was thinking of asking Russia to deliver large AN-70 cargo planes as part of its debt payments and to help Budapest build up its military in order to meet NATO obligations, said Defense Minister Ferenc Juhasz according to an AFP dispatch. The minister reportedly added that this would only be one option to boost Hungary's air delivery capacity, a pledge the country intends to fulfill.

The Rada [parliament] of Ukraine adopted the law "On the National State Program for Creating a Military-Transport Aircraft AN-70 and Its Purchases through Government Defense Procurements" which entered into force on 25 February 2004. It envisaged implementation from 2004 to 2022 through two stages. The first stage (2004-2006) - completing the development of the Aircraft, carrying out its government test flights, fulfilling a set of works related to accepting the Aircraft into the arsenal, preparing and mastering its production, as well as purchasing two Aircraft through government defense procurements. The second stage (2007-2022) - completing works related to preparing and mastering production of the Aircraft, including upgrading the existing and creating new production capacities, organizing serial production of the Aircraft, and purchasing the needed number of Aircraft through government defense procurements.

The approximate volume of financing for works at the first stage shall be UAH 1,006.509 million, specifically to develop the Aircraft - UAH 128.216 million, to prepare and master the production of the Aircraft - UAH 450.933 million, to produce and purchase two Aircraft - UAH 427.36 million. The existing draft budget for 2009 provided UAH 200 million for the An-70 program. Around UAH 1.2 billion was planned to be allocated from a special fund for the research and development of new arms. [as of 2011 the Ukrainian Hryvna [UAH] was worth = US$0.12]

By 2008 two AN-70 aircraft were being constructed at the Aviant Plant in Kyiv, but slowly. The AN-70 was still a joint project with Russia, but Russia continuously delayed the work. Russia planned to continue financing the project but the financing process was slow. If Russia were to pull out all together, the cancellation charge to Russia would be much greater than staying in. Ukraine would like to find an alternative to the Russian partnership to either prompt the Russians to action or to separate from the Russians on the project. Besides the general problem of Russian partnership, the wings for the AN-70 were produced in Tashkent at a firm that was now a part of a Russian aviation concern [In the USSR the AN-22 was serially produced at Tashkent Aircraft Production Corporation (TAPO im. Chkalova)], so this was another area where they need to find an alternative if they were to strike out on their own.

On 19 December 2008, the An-70 aircraft successfully completed the tests of parachuting and landing of troops, which started in Crimea in November 2008. After returning from Feodosia, the aircraft underwent another set of tests at the training range of the Antonov Design Bureau.

By September 2009 the Antonov Design Bureau was in negotiations with China's AVIC aerospace firm to create a joint venture that would build Antonov's An-70 aircraft in China. Yegor Samusenko of Concorde Capital stated : "We see this news as positive for Motor Sich (MSICH), which produces engines for Antonov airplanes. Assembling the An-70 in China would decrease the Ukrainian share in the value chain of the airplane, but we believe Motor Sich would be able to retain its role as engine supplier: the company currently supplies engines even for pure Chinese airplanes."

Bloomberg reported 19 May 2010 that South Africa's Pamodzi Investments planned to invest US$1 billion over three years into the sales & servicing of Ukrainian Antonov airplanes. Pamodzi and Antonov were in negotiations on opening an Antonov service center in South Africa, mirroring an agreement of Antonov's center in Sudan. South Africa alone currently operates 206 Antonov planes. Yegor Samusenko of Concorde Capital said "We see potential growth in demand for Antonov airplanes, which use Motor Sich (UX: MSICH UK) engines, in Africa. As of 2008, Antonov airplanes comprised 1/3 of Africa's total air fleet. Among three prospective Antonov models, two of them, cargo An-70 and An-124-100, are of interest to the African market. We see demand for 50 Antonov airplanes from Africa in the next 10 years as likely, which could be converted to ~USD 750 mln in engine orders for Motor Sich."

Antonovs Deputy General Designer, Oleh Bohdanov, announced in June 2012 that the company would complete the installation and testing of upgraded equipment on its new An-70 military transport aircraft in 2012. Two of the five An-70 aircraft ordered by Ukraines Defense Ministry were currently under construction, and it may be possible to transfer one of them to the customer by the end of 2012, thus completing the first serial production aircraft. Russias Defense Ministry had ordered 60 An-70 aircraft and had agreed to full financing of the project.

In autumn 2012 the AN-70 with a new composition of equipment left the factory shop and went to the test. To conduct test flights took about half a year. From the autumn of 2012 and the end of March 2014 experienced the An-70 flight 122 made a total duration of 220 hours. Total flying several aircraft prototypes in all phases of the test is 930 hours (753 flight).

Upgraded AN-70 was ground and flight tests, during which experts and development organization GNITS Ukrainian Armed checked the work of the various systems and compliance with the specified characteristics of the machine. In trials to test various features of the new aircraft, such as the modernized systems and equipment; the possibility of short takeoff and landing; navigation accuracy using existing equipment; strength and resource structure; reliability of various systems and capabilities of the aircraft on the transport of specified goods.

In April 2014 ANTONOV Company completed state joint tests of the AN-70 STOL widebody military transport. In the process of ground and flight tests on the modernized aircraft correspondence of the checked parameters and modes to the requirements of the Customer was achieved.

The curtailing of Ukrainian-Russian cooperation opened up new opportunities for the Ukrainian aircraft industry and Antonov planes on the European Union and US markets, according to former first deputy industrial policy minister of Ukraine Volodymyr Ryzhov. But Fred Weir reported 17 June 2014 that "Antonov may suffer the most, since about two-thirds of the components for its current line of products come from Russia-based factories. But a joint venture to build the Russian military's new transport workhorse, the An-70, had already been suspended, leaving Moscow scrambling to find a replacement."

On January 22, 2015, handing of the Order of Ministry of Defense of Ukraine about adoption of the AN-70 military STOL transport by Armed Forces of Ukraine took place at ANTONOV Company. In the enclosure to the order the AN-70 is noted as a transport aircraft of Armed Forces of Ukraine. It is intended for aerial delivery, air transportation of troops and tangible assets, provision of maneuvers and troops activity and decisions of special tasks. Decision about adoption was taken basing on results of tests on the program of Joint State Tests of the AN-70. The act on those results was approved on June 11, 2014. As Mr. Pakholchenko, leading test pilot of State scientific test center of Armed Forces of Ukraine, noted: The AN-70 is easy to be piloted at all difficult flight areas, including short take-off and landing. Optimal ergonomic decisions, applied in the crew cockpit, allow teaching an average pilot flying rather easy. The aircraft forgives pilot lots of things, fixing some of his errors, and differs with high reliability. The AN-70 is the best aircraft I used to pilot!

The two existing frames were transferred to the Ukrainian Air Force. Antonov has also said they could build two more for the Ukrainian Air Force (presumably without access to new Russian parts).

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Page last modified: 10-04-2016 20:54:01 ZULU