AN-124: History, Present and Prospects

Start of operation of turboprop military transport aircraft An-22 in 1965 marked a new phase in the confrontation between the Soviet Union and the United States in the Cold War. This heavy military transport aircraft capable of lifting loads of up to 88.45 tons, forced the United States to redouble their efforts, which led to the emergence of the jet Lockheed C-5A Galaxy. The new military transport plane has significantly increased the possibility of the U.S. in strategic transport than in comparison with his adversary, the Soviet Union and the situation could not be ignored. July 21, 1966 the Central Committee of the Communist Party issued a decision in which it was formulated by the requirement to transport aircraft capable of carrying a payload of 100-120 tons.


A month later, the first of the two directives (second followed in September) was issued Kiev Mechanical Plant (because at that time was called the Antonov Design Bureau), according to which required a turbojet aircraft, surpassing the characteristics of the C-5A. Chief Designer of AJ Belolipetskii led a team of designers, which was originally considered projects with swept wing, T-tail, and four turbofan engines, and the fuselage of the An-22 remained unchanged. Designated the An-122, a new project allowed to carry 80 tons of cargo at a distance of 3500 km. In October 1967, Oleg Antonov and VF Eroshin transferred the project to the Military-Industrial Commission under the Council of Ministers of the USSR, but it was quickly rejected because it does not give significant advantages in comparison with the AN-22 and still lagged from its American rival.

Alternative designs were developed, and by mid-1968 Antonov focused on two projects that have received the name of AN-124 and AN-126, which can carry 120 tons of cargo and 140, respectively. Both projects are distinguished by using the most advanced technology available, the An-126 with six different engines and opening up the nose. However, the government decided that the development shestidvigatelnogo aircraft is a high technological risk, and it was rejected in favor of less large AN-124 with four engines.

Birth of An-124

The group "Antonovites" was staged large-scale task is not only to create a plane, but the plane, whose payload is two times higher than would be that of the predecessor. In addition, they had to reduce the number of man-hours required on service and increase operational autonomy. The project was implemented in the late 1960's — early 1970's., And a full-size mock-up was created in 1973 found, however, that the various aspects of the program do not meet the general problem, and the work was suspended. Since the program was slow, in 1976, Oleg Antonov decided to completely revise the draft. He restated the purpose of the program and issued new terms of reference, which were also approved by the Central Committee of the CPSU and the Council of Ministers. To distinguish the previous version of the An-124 from new, it was given the name "Ruslan".

Work resumed, and engineers have focused their efforts on a large wing of the aircraft. Opinions are divided. One part of the designers felt that the wing has to be a traditional swept with a slim profile, while others called for the supercritical profile, which was considered a step forward. It allows you to apply a thicker wing without increasing aerodynamic drag, in addition, it was easier to produce, and the additional amount allowed to increase fuel capacity and range. The main argument against the supercritical wing was: it had never been used by Soviet aircraft and is a fairly high technical risk. But Oleg Antonov decided that the benefits are worth it, and approved the project.

Due to the size of the proposed project the An-124 is also believed that the aircraft need wire control system (EDSU), which allows you to manage large aircraft in all flight modes. The designers spent a lot of time in order to determine the size of the cargo compartment, making any possible combination of military and civilian cargo on a specially constructed for this stand. Again, Oleg Antonov eventually fixed the size of the cargo compartment, the width of which was 6.4 m other approved design features was the rear ramp and flip nose right in front of the cockpit, which allows through-loading operations. In this case, the nose gear could "squat", thus making it easy to load bulky cargo. To facilitate the transportation of cargo in bulk cargo compartment on board installed two cranes 5t embedded in an aircraft structure.

Once approved the overall size of the An-124 has also been approved by two-deck fuselage, and each had its own deck sealing system. All sections of the equipment have been grouped on the upper deck behind the cockpit, which enables you to troubleshoot on the ground or in flight. Antonov asked the Zaporozhye CB "Progress" to develop a motor for the plane. CB under the leadership of VA Lotareva developed the D-18 engine with a thrust of 23 kN, which is more than the engine General Electric TF39-GE-1 mounted on the C-5A Galaxy. Designed primarily as a military transport aircraft An-124 was equipped with two independent auxiliary power units mounted on each side of a main landing gear fairings, which allows you to run all the engines simultaneously.

The construction of the mighty "Ruslan"

The construction of the first prototype of the An-124 was preceded by an extensive program to improve and experienced testing individual components. In an unprecedented short period of time was tested about 3,500 sites that were used to build a full-scale test rig. For the static tests of individual units, which were held at the Kyiv mechanical factory Antonov, had spent more than 60 thousand hours.

Assembly of the first prototype of the An-124 started at the Kiev Aviation Plant in 1979, almost at the same time started to re-manufacture for serial production aircraft. For the production of the An-124 was attracted nearly 100 contractors, but the main partner "Antonovskoe" factory in Kiev was the Tashkent Aviation Production Association. Chkalov (Chkalov). Chkalov was responsible for the release of the tips of the wings, center wing and fuselage oversized frames that are in the collection were transported from Tashkent to Kiev for two specially modified An-22. The construction of the aircraft was nearing completion, but the engine has not yet been delivered. Development of the D-18 was behind schedule, and the first tests on the stand was completed just three months before the first flight.

October 24, 1982 the first prototype was ready and in front of invited guests and workers rolled out of the production hall with custom registration CCCP-680125 (serial number 01-01). Due to security reasons, the first taxiing and speed runs were made in the dark. In the first runs, it became clear that the engines still in the early stages of development and require more work. Two months later, the prototype was towed to the factory airfield runway Kiev / Svyatoshino and produced a series of high-speed runs in all weather conditions.

When completed, it remained on the runway for two hours waiting for the weather to improve. Once it has improved, factory test pilots VI Terek and AV Galunenko decided to bring the D-18 engines at full power, and the An-124 first flew. During the first flight, the crew conducted a series of tests to determine the stability of the aircraft and general handling. The only problem occurred during landing, when in the cockpit began to feel strong vibrations from swaying ("shimmy") dual nose gear, which caused minor damage.

At the first stage of testing, during which was made 141 flights totaling 251 hours, the problem was discovered, to pursue "Ruslan" in the early years. Low gas dynamic stability of the D-18, especially at takeoff, could lead to a surge and then at the same time stopping the engine. A year after the first flight of the prototype made its first flight with the registration of the second prototype of the USSR-680345 (serial number 01-03). Then check changed on the USSR-82002, and in May 1985 the aircraft was presented by the Soviet media. Two weeks later, he made his debut in the West at the Paris Air Show, then got the NATO code «Condor».

In a desperate attempt to create the An-124 good reputation and refute Western views on the possibilities of aircraft, Oleg Antonov, organized a series of record-breaking flights, designed to confirm the certificate of the aircraft. July 26, 1986 VI Terek with the crew set a new record of 21 during one of the first flight of the prototype, including an absolute record for the load and height: 171 219 kg were raised to a height of 10,750 meters, which was much higher than all the achievements of C-5A Galaxy. Third An-124 CCCP-82005 (serial number 01-107) joined the test program, and it was the first aircraft built Ulyanovsk.

October 13 program grasped a heavy blow when the second prototype was lost in the crash. During the tests on control at maximum dynamic pressure, collision with a bird caused the destruction of the nose cone, which was followed by the destruction of the bow, whose wreckage fell into the engines. Unable to return to the airport, the plane crashed in a forest near Kiev, all on board were killed. Fortunately, this disaster did not affect the test program, and December 30, 1992 The Interstate Aviation Committee issued the An-124 type certificate.

Start of operations

The original plan provided for the construction of the first batch of AN-124 in Kiev, but in 1983 the Soviet government decided to expand its production in Ulyanovsk Ulyanovsk Aviation Industrial Complex (now of "Aviastar-SP"). Production of the first stage was to reach 90 units.

Except for the first six copies of the first series in Kiev were to be released for another 30 planes the second, third and fourth series, but prior to the transfer of production in Kiev only released 17 series copies. One glider remained unfinished in Kiev for many years, but in 2002, the Russian airline "Atlant-Soyuz" purchased unfinished aircraft. Although at the last moment "Atlant-Soyuz" refused the deal, the buyer was found, and the aircraft was handed over to the Ministry of Defence of the UAE, while Ukrainian is the registration UR-CCX (sic, actually UR-ZYD, as correctly indicated in the table — Periscope. 2). First built in Ulyanovsk "Ruslan" was the plane with the registration of the USSR-82005 (serial number 9773054516003), made its first flight in October 1985

Commercial version

As soon as the military orders came to naught, Antonov quickly realized the possibilities of AN-124 for transporting heavy loads on the civilian market freight. Initially, the military "Ruslan" began to carry freight in the interests of commercial operators. But without the appropriate type certification and on-board equipment, which would enable the secure operation of aircraft in international airspace, international aviation authorities banned the operation of aircraft for civilian purposes. At CB had no other option but to develop a modified civilian version. Work on the program was carried out jointly with JSC "Aviastar-SP".

First of all, the plane was cleared all the military equipment, cockpit, flight, radio and navigational equipment were finalized. Production of the first civilian version, get the index of An-124-100, launched at the Kiev factory Antonov "AVIANT" in 1990 issued the first two aircraft: the USSR-82027 (serial number 19530502288) and the USSR-82029 (serial number 19530502630) were involved to the extensive flight test program, which resulted in a type certificate.

Further improvements have been made to comply with ICAO regulations, to which Russia joined. These included the installation of sound-absorbing panels in the engine nacelles D-18 to meet the requirements of Chapters III and IV, and specified levels of emissions. In 1996-1997. "Aviastar" has begun work on a deep modernization of the operation of the aircraft, including the installation of a global positioning system 3M and anti-collision of aircraft in the air TCAS-2000 manufactured by Honeywell Electronics, as well as collision warning system with the ground. Powerplant aircraft also took the form of a revision to the installation of the D-18 series 3, and the number of crew "Ruslan" reduced from six to four.

Airline "Volga-Dnepr" was the first customer for the new version, by signing a contract for a single instance in July 2003, the prototype of the An-124-100M RA-82801 left the shop "Aviastar" March 16, 2004 and a month later, on April 11, made the first flight.

Future production

When in 2004 the production of the An-124 stopped by the time it was released 56 gliders. Currently in service is 38 "sides." 24 of them are owned and operated by civilian operators, and 14, are reported to be in the Air Force of Russia. Of the remaining 18, 13 produced aircraft is currently in storage, but five have been charged after air accidents.

Back in September 2004, the Government of Russia and Ukraine declared the resumption of production, version of AN-124-100M was issued jointly "Aviastar" and "AVIANT" in the period 2006-2020. In July 2008, the airline "Volga-Dnepr" has expressed interest in buying from the United Aircraft Corporation 40 AN-124-100M-150 since 2011 and for the period up to 2027

By October 2010 the KLA announced that it has 62 orders for the new "Ruslana". However, by mid-2011 Ukrainian engine manufacturer D-18 JSC "Motor Sich" said that the resumption of production postponed to 2016, citing financial difficulties and congestion Ulyanovsk plant. At the same time, "Aviastar" were renovation and modernization of the remaining Russian AN-124. July 20, 2011 the last instance, owned and operated by "flight", completed the renovation and was transferred to the center of the flight for the passage of the pre-sales testing.

Resuming production of An-124 remains in question — there is no evidence that signed at least one contract, but the program is not officially considered closed. There are several reasons to believe that the contract with the Ministry of Defense of Russia from 10 to 20 An-124 is moving forward with the program of modernization of the remaining aircraft in the Air Force. According to some experts, the signing of this contract can be a way out of the impasse and to start mass production. With the anticipated growth in the market for heavy and oversized loads in the next 20 years will see an increased demand for the An-124, equipped with the most modern technologies and integrated systems.

Existing civilian operators AN-124

The operator

Registration number

Serial number


Delivery year

Antonov Airlines





























Libyan Air Cargo



































































Maximus Air Cargo





Original publication: A Russian Giant — Airliner World, December 2012, Barry Woods-Turner

Translated by Andrey Frolov

Like this post? Please share to your friends: