Antonov An-124 Ruslan

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An-124 Ruslan
An-124 Ruslan.jpg
Antonov An-124 Rusłan preparing to land at Wroclaw-Strachowice airport
Role Heavy transport aircraft
National origin Soviet Union
Design group Antonov
Built by Antonov Serial Production Plant
Aviastar-SP
First flight 24 December 1982[1]
Introduction 1986
Status In service
Primary users Russian Air Force
Antonov Airlines
Volga-Dnepr Airlines
Produced 1982–2004
Number built 55[2]
Developed into Antonov An-225

The Antonov An-124 Ruslan (Ukrainian: Ан-124 Руслан; Russian: Антонов Ан-124 Руслан, lit.'Ruslan'; NATO reporting name: Condor) is a large, strategic airlift, four-engined aircraft that was designed in the 1980s by the Antonov design bureau in the Ukrainian SSR, then part of the Soviet Union (USSR). The An-124 is the world's 2nd heaviest gross weight production cargo airplane and heaviest operating cargo aircraft, behind the destroyed one-off Antonov An-225 Mriya (a greatly enlarged design based on the An-124) and the Boeing 747-8.[4] The An-124 remains the largest military transport aircraft in service.[5] The lead designer of the An-124 (and the An-225) was Viktor Tolmachev.[6]

During development it was known as Izdeliye 400 (Product #400) in house, and An-40 in the West. First flown in 1982, civil certification was issued on 30 December 1992.[7] In July 2013, 26 An-124s were in commercial service with 10 on order.[8]

In August 2014, it was reported that plans to resume joint production of the Antonov An-124 had been shelved due to the ongoing political tensions between Russia and Ukraine.[9] The sole remaining production facility is Russia's Aviastar-SP in Ulyanovsk. The various operators of the An-124 are in discussions with respect to the continuing airworthiness certification of the individual An-124 planes. The original designer of the An-124 is responsible for managing the certification process for its own products, but the Russia-Ukraine conflicts are making this process difficult to manage.[citation needed] In 2019, there were 26 An-124s in commercial service.

Development[edit]

During the 1970s, the Military Transport Aviation Command (Komandovaniye voyenno-transportnoy aviatsii or VTA) arm of the Soviet Air Forces had a shortfall in strategic heavy airlift capacity. Its largest planes consisted of about 50 Antonov An-22 turboprops, which were used heavily for tactical roles. A declassified 1975 CIA analysis concluded that the USSR did "...not match the US in ability to provide long-range heavy lift support."[10]

Polet Airlines An-124 cockpit

The An-124 was manufactured in parallel by two plants: the company Aviastar-SP (ex. Ulyanovsk Aviation Industrial Complex) in Ulyanovsk, Russia and by the Kyiv Aviation Plant AVIANT, in Ukraine. Design work started in 1971 and construction of facilities began in 1973. Manufacturing on the first airframe began in 1979.[11] Ultimately this project brought together over 100 factories contracted to produce systems and parts.

The type's maiden flight took place in December 1982; the first exposure of the An-124 to the West occurred during 1985 when it appeared at the Paris Air Show.[12]

In the early 2000s, Volga-Dnepr upgraded its freighters with engine improvements to meet Chapter 4 noise regulations, structural improvements to increase service life, and avionics and systems changes for four persons operations down from six or seven.[13]

Russia and Ukraine agreed to resume the production in the third quarter of 2008.[14] In May 2008, a new variant—the An-124-150—was announced; it featured several improvements, including a maximum lift capacity of 150 tonnes.[15] However, in May 2009, Antonov's partner, the Russian United Aircraft Corporation announced it did not plan production of An-124s in the period 2009–2012.[16] In late 2009, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev ordered production of the aircraft resumed. At the time Russia was expected to procure 20 new aircraft.[17][18] In August 2014, Jane's reported that, Russian Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Yuri Slusar announced that Antonov An-124 production was stopped due to ongoing political tensions between Russia and Ukraine.[9]

As of late 2017, An-124s are being upgraded by the Aviastar-SP plant in Ulyanovsk, Russia, with three upgraded planes due to be ready by 2018.[citation needed] After Russia–Ukraine relations soured, Antonov had to source new suppliers and pushes to westernize the An-124. In 2018, GE Aviation was studying reengining it with CF6s for CargoLogicAir, a Volga-Dnepr subsidiary. This would likely provide a range increase, and Volga-Dnepr Group operates 12 aircraft, implying a 50-60 engines with spares program.[13]

In January 2019, Antonov revealed its plans to restart the An-124 production without support from Russia.[19]

Aviadvigatel indicates a further development of its PD-14 for an upgraded version of the Russian-manufactured An-124, titled PD-35, with 50% more power than the present Ukrainian Progress D-18T engines.[citation needed]

Russian replacement design[edit]

At MAKS Air Show in 2017, the Central Aerohydrodynamic Institute (TsAGI) announced its An-124-102 Slon (Elephant) design to replace the similar An-124-100. The design was detailed in January 2019 before wind tunnel testing scheduled for August–September. It is intended to be produced at the Aviastar-SP factory in Ulyanovsk. It should transport 150 t (330,000 lb) over 3,800 nmi (7,000 km) (up from 1,675 nmi, 3,102 km), or 180 t (400,000 lb) over 2,650 nmi (4,910 km) at 460 kn (850 km/h). The Russian MoD wants a range of 4,100 nmi (7,600 km) with five Sprut-SDM-1 light tanks, their 100 crew and 300 armed soldiers.[20]

The planned An-124-102 is larger at 82.3 m (270 ft) long from 69 m (227 ft), with a 87–88 m (286–290 ft) span versus 73.3 m (240.5 ft) and 24.0 m (78.7 ft) high compared with 21.0 m (68.9 ft).[21] A new higher aspect ratio, composite wing and a 214–222 t (472,000–489,000 lb) airframe would allow a 490–500 t (1,080,000–1,100,000 lb) gross weight. It should be powered by Russian PD-35s developed for the CR929 widebody, producing 35 tf (77,000 lbf) up from 23 tf (51,000 lbf). Two fuselages are planned, one for Volga-Dnepr with a width of 5.3 m (17.4 ft) from the An-124's 4.4 m (14.4 ft), and one for the Russian MoD of 6.4 m (21 ft) wide to carry vehicles in two lines.[20]

On 5 November 2019, the TsAGI released pictures of a 1.63 m (5 ft 4 in) long and 1.75 m (5 ft 9 in) wide model, ahead of windtunnel testing.[22][23][24] On 26 March 2020, TsAGI released new pictures of a wind tunnel model, announcing that the researchers of the Institute had completed the first cycle of aerodynamic testing; the results confirmed the characteristics laid down during preliminary studies.[25]

Design[edit]

An-124-100 kneeling with front ramp down (nose undercarriage retracted)
Kneeling detail
Not kneeling – nose gear extended

The Antonov An-124 Ruslan is a large, strategic airlift, four-engined aircraft. Externally, it bears numerous similarities to the American Lockheed C-5 Galaxy, having a double fuselage to allow for a rear cargo door (on the lower fuselage) that can open in flight without affecting structural integrity.[26] The An-124 is a slightly shorter fuselage, has a slightly greater wingspan, and is capable of carrying a 17 percent larger payload. Instead of the Galaxy's T-tail, the An-124 is furnished with a conventional empennage, similar in design to that of the Boeing 747. The An-124 is powered by four Lotarev D-18 turbofan engines, each capable of generating up to 238–250 kN of thrust. Pilots have stated that the An-124 is light on the controls and easy to handle for an aircraft of its size.[27]

The landing gear of the An-124 is outfitted with a oleo strut suspension system for its 24 wheels. This suspension has been calibrated to allow for landing on rough terrain and is able to kneel, which allows for easier loading and unloading via the front cargo door.[26] The aircraft is equipped with an onboard overhead crane, capable of lifting up to 30 tonnes of cargo, while items up to 120 tonnes can be winched on board.[28] Up to 150 tonnes (150 long tons; 170 short tons) of cargo can be carried within a single An-124 configured for military purposes; it can also carry 88 passengers in an upper deck behind the wing centre section. The cargo compartment of the An-124 is 36×6.4×4.4 m (118×21×14 ft), ca. 20% larger than the main cargo compartment of the C-5 Galaxy, which is 36.91×5.79×4.09 m (121.1×19.0×13.4 ft). Due to limited pressurisation in the main cargo compartment (24.6 kPa, 3.57 psi),[29] it has seldom been used to carry paratroopers.[30] Due to the heat and blast effects of the aircraft's two TA18-200-124 auxiliary power units, some airports require pavement protection to be deployed.[31]

Operational history[edit]

An-124 during unloading of an Atlas V rocket main stage

During the 2000s, Germany headed an initiative to lease An-124s for NATO strategic airlift requirements. Two aircraft were leased from SALIS GmbH as a stopgap until the Airbus A400M became available.[32] Under NATO SALIS programme NAMSA is chartering six An-124-100 transport aircraft. According to the contract An-124-100s of Antonov Airlines and Volga-Dnepr are used within the limits of NATO SALIS programme to transport cargo by requests of 18 countries: Belgium, Hungary, Greece, Denmark, Canada, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, United Kingdom, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Finland, France, Germany, Czech Republic and Sweden. Two An-124-100s are constantly based on full-time charter in the Leipzig/Halle airport, but the contract specifies that if necessary, two more aircraft will be provided at six days' notice and another two at nine days' notice.[33] The aircraft proved extremely useful for NATO especially with ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.[34]

Mobile air traffic control tower loaded onto an An-124 to Haiti

United Launch Alliance (ULA) contracts the An-124 to transport the Atlas V launch vehicle from its facilities in Decatur, Alabama to Cape Canaveral. ULA also uses the An-124 to transport the Atlas V launch vehicle and Centaur upper stage from their manufacturing facility in Denver, Colorado to Cape Canaveral and Vandenberg Space Force Base.[35] Two flights are required to transfer each launch vehicle (one for the Atlas V main booster stage and another for the Centaur upper stage).[36] It is also contracted by Space Systems Loral to transport satellites from Palo Alto, CA to the Arianespace spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana[37] and by SpaceX to transport payload fairings between their factory in Hawthorne, California and Cape Canaveral.[38]

By 2013, the An-124 had reportedly visited 768 airports in over 100 countries.[39]

By late 2020, three civil operators of the An-124 remained. Antonov Airlines with seven aircraft, Volga-Dnepr Airlines with 12, and Maximus Air Cargo with one. In November 2020, Volga-Dnepr reported that it was indefinitely grounding its fleet of An-124 aircraft to inspect the 60 engines (including spares) following the 13 November 2020 unconfined engine failure at Novosibirsk.[40] As of 29 December 2020, the first Volga-Dnepr An-124-100 was back in service.[41]

Significant activities[edit]

The Deep Submergence Rescue Vehicle "Mystic" being loaded at Naval Air Station North Island, California, United States
  • In May 1987, an Antonov An-124 set a world record, covering the distance of 20,151 km (10,881 nmi) without refuelling.[42] The flight took 25 hours and 30 minutes; the takeoff weight was 455,000 kg.[citation needed]
  • In July 1985, an An-124 carried 171,219 kg (377,473 lb) of cargo to an altitude of 2,000 m (6,600 ft) and 170,000 kg to an altitude of 10,750 m (35,270 ft).[43]
  • In June 1994, an An-124 flew the first IE 201 Class diesel-electric locomotive from the General Motors Diesel works in London, Ontario, Canada to Dublin, Ireland for clearance testing and crew training, before subsequent units were delivered by ship.[44]
  • An An-124 was used to transport the Obelisk of Axum back to its native homeland of Ethiopia from Rome in April 2005.[45]
  • An An-124 was used to transport an EP-3E Aries II electronic intelligence aircraft from Hainan Island, China on 4 July 2001 following the Hainan Island incident.[citation needed]
  • An An-124 Ruslan was used to transport the first Bombardier Movia-series railcar for the Delhi Metro on 26 February 2009.[46]
  • In July 2010, an An-124 was used to transport four 35-foot and three 21-foot skimmer boats from France to the US to assist with the clean-up of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.[47]
  • An An-124 was used in April 2011 to airlift a large Putzmeister concrete pump from Germany to Japan to help cool reactors damaged in the Fukushima nuclear accident.[48] The An-225 was used to transport an even larger Putzmeister concrete pump to Japan from the US.[49]
  • An An-124 was used in May 2018 to transport an 87,000 lb die tools from Eaton Rapids, Michigan, US to Nottingham, England to restart Ford F-150 production after a fire in the Eaton Rapids Magnesium Casting Facility.[50]
  • Several An-124s were used by the German Bundeswehr to airlift military equipment from Mazar-i-Sharif to Leipzig during the 2021 German troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. Among the equipment were two NH-90 helicopters.[51][52]
  • During the COVID-19 pandemic, several An-124s were used to cargo masks and other medical equipment from China to foreign countries. For example, Terio International Inc. dispatched their first one on June 7th 2020 between Nanjing and Montréal, which was done as a direct flight.[53][54]
  • On 24 February 2022, an An-124 with registration number UR-82009 was confirmed to be destroyed by Russian artillery during the Battle of Antonov Airport, Kyiv.[55] Five other Ukrainian An-124s were diverted to Leipzig at the conclusion of their commercial flights.[56]

Variants[edit]

Volga-Dnepr Antonov An-124-100M-150 with nose door open at MAKS 2005, Moscow – Zhukovskiy; Cubana de Aviación Ilyushin Il-96 in background
An-124 Ruslan
Strategic heavy airlift transport aircraft
An-124-100
Commercial transport aircraft
An-124-100M-150
Commercial transport version fitted with Western avionics
An-124-102 Slon
Commercial transport version with an EFIS flight deck, developed by TsAGi
An-124-115M
Planned new variant with EFIS based on Rockwell Collins avionic parts
An-124-130
Proposed version
An-124-135
Variant with one seat in the rear and the rest of the cargo area (approx. 1,800 square feet) dedicated to freight
An-124-150
New variant with increased payload (150 tonnes)
An-124-200
Proposed version with General Electric CF6-80C2 engines, each rated at 59,200 lbf (263 kN)
An-124-210
Joint proposal with Air Foyle to meet UK's Short Term Strategic Airlifter (STSA) requirement, with Rolls-Royce RB211-524H-T engines, each rated 60,600 lbf (264 kN) and Honeywell avionics—STSA competition abandoned in August 1999, reinstated, and won by the Boeing C-17A.
An-124-300
Variant ordered by the Russian Air Force with new avionics, a new improved braking system and a payload of 150 tonnes.[57]

Operators[edit]

Military[edit]

 Russia

Former military operators[edit]

 Soviet Union

Civil[edit]

A Volga-Dnepr An-124-100
AN-124 of Antonov Airlines at Long Beach Airport. Cargo: composite parts for Airbus A350 XWB.

As of Late 2020, 20 An-124s were in commercial service.[69]

 Russia
 Ukraine
 United Arab Emirates

Former civil operators[edit]

 Libya
 Russia
 Soviet Union
  • Aeroflot Soviet Airlines – transferred to the Russian Aeroflot fleet
 United Kingdom
  • Air Foyle (in partnership with Antonov Design Bureau) – joint venture dissolved 2006
  • HeavyLift Cargo Airlines (in partnership with Volga-Dnepr Airlines) – ceased operations 2006
 Ukraine

Notable accidents[edit]

As of June 2019, five accidents with An-124 hull-losses have been recorded involving a total of 97 fatalities,[74][73] including:

  • On 13 October 1992, CCCP-82002, operated by Antonov Airlines crashed near Kyiv, Ukraine during flight testing, suffering nose cargo door failure during high-speed descent (part of test program) resulting in total loss of control. The airplane came down in a forest near Kyiv, killing eight of the nine crew on board.[75]
  • On 15 November 1993, RA-82071, operated by Aviastar Airlines crashed into a mountain at 11,000 feet (3,400 m) while in a holding pattern at Kerman, Iran. There were 17 fatalities.[76]
  • On 8 October 1996, RA-82069, owned by Aeroflot but operated by Ayaks Cargo, crashed at San Francesco al Campo, Italy, while initiating a go-around after a low visibility approach on Turin Caselle airport's runway 36. There were four fatalities.[77]
  • On 6 December 1997, RA-82005, operated by the Russian Air Force, crashed in a residential area after take-off in Irkutsk, Russia. All 23 people on board and 49 people on the ground were killed.[78]
  • On 13 November 2020, the second engine of RA-82042, operated by Volga-Dnepr Airlines, suffered an uncontained engine failure after takeoff from Novosibirsk, Russia. Subsequently, after landing there, the aircraft suffered a runway excursion and the nose landing gear collapsed.[79] On 25 November, the airline voluntarily grounded its entire fleet of An-124 aircraft.[80] By 29 December, the first Volga-Dnepr An-124-100 was back in service.[41]

Specifications (An-124-100M)[edit]

Three sides view

Data from Jane's all the World's Aircraft 2006-07[81]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 6 (pilot, copilot, navigator, chief flight engineer, electrical flight engineer, radio operator) + 2 loadmasters
  • Capacity: 88 passengers in upper aft fuselage, or the hold can take an additional 350 pax on a palletised seating system / 150,000 kg (330,693 lb)
  • Length: 69.1 m (226 ft 8 in)
  • Wingspan: 73.3 m (240 ft 6 in)
  • Height: 21.08 m (69 ft 2 in)
  • Wing area: 628 m2 (6,760 sq ft)
  • Aspect ratio: 8.6
  • Airfoil: TsAGI Supercritical[82]
  • Empty weight: 181,000 kg (399,037 lb)
  • Gross weight: 214,000 kg (471,789 lb) maximum fuel weight
  • Max takeoff weight: 402,000 kg (886,258 lb) *Maximum landing weight: 330,000 kg (727,525 lb)
  • Fuel capacity: 348,740 l (92,130 US gal; 76,710 imp gal)
  • Powerplant: 4 × Progress D-18T high-bypass turbofan engines, 229 kN (51,000 lbf) thrust each

Performance

  • Cruise speed: 865 km/h (537 mph, 467 kn) max
800–850 km/h (500–530 mph; 430–460 kn) at FL 328-394 (32,800–39,400 ft (9,997–12,009 m) at regional pressure setting)
  • Approach speed: 230–260 km/h (140–160 mph; 120–140 kn)
  • Range: 3,700 km (2,300 mi, 2,000 nmi) with max payload
8,400 km (5,200 mi; 4,500 nmi) with 80,000 kg (176,370 lb) payload
11,500 km (7,100 mi; 6,200 nmi) with 40,000 kg (88,185 lb) payload
  • Ferry range: 14,000 km (8,700 mi, 7,600 nmi) with max fuel and minimum payload
  • Service ceiling: 12,000 m (39,000 ft) max certified altitude
  • Wing loading: 640.1 kg/m2 (131.1 lb/sq ft)
  • Thrust/weight: 0.23
  • Take-off run (maximum take-off weight): 3,000 m (9,800 ft)
  • Landing roll (maximum landing weight): 900 m (3,000 ft)

See also[edit]

Related development

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration, and era

References[edit]

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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

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