ZHUKOVSKY (Moscow Region), August 20 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's Defense Ministry has decided to resume production of one of the world's largest cargo planes, the An-124 Ruslan (Condor), the country's Air Force chief said on Thursday.
Col. Gen. Alexander Zelin told reporters at the MAKS-2009 air show outside Moscow that the aircraft would be used both for commercial domestic flights and for carrying NATO troops to Iraq.
The An-124 was designed by the Antonov Design Bureau in 1982, and was produced in Kiev and Ulyanovsk until 1995. The plane has a maximum payload of 150 metric tons with a flight range of around 3,000 kilometers (1,864 miles).
The cargo jet is the world's third largest after the An-225 and the Airbus A380F.
Russia and Ukraine reached a preliminary agreement to resume production of the An-124 in April 2008.
This is great news for India & China. Both countries desperately want to build up their strategic airlift capabilities. Officially its not for export but India and China can be expected to each order or at the minimum inquire about purchasing 4-8 transports. Till now the only military alternative (which is somewhat inferior in terms of capabilities) has been the C-5 Galaxy-a plane which has only been used by the United States Air Force and never even as a civilian airlifter.
There are C-5's stored at AMARC which "can" possibly be restored to flight condition and sold atleast to India, but this is very unlikely as the IAF wants an airlifter with a long future-something the stored C-5's cant provide. It is also very unlikely that the US government will sanction such a deal.
China has no other option, with programs just beginning,nearing completion or experiencing difficulties in the transport aircraft area it is proving it lacks the experience to design a large aircraft from scratch and produce it. China will unlikely to develop such a complex airframe and such powerful engines for atleast another decade by looking at current progress, therefore the AN-124 will both provide good service but also provide valuable experience in operating & repairing such type of aircraft and also provide a blueprint of sorts for a future domestic effort.
Nevertheless with the new lease of life and orders from cargo companies as well as the Russian Air Force itself the AN-124 has quite some time to receive more orders.