Sunday, December 20, 2009

Russian Air Force Backing Plan to Restart Production of Upgraded An-124

Russia's big An-124-100 Ruslan freighter appears closer to a new lease on life, provided promised funding and commitments are forthcoming.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev recently approved a plan to restart production of an upgraded An-124 version at the Aviastar-SP plant in Ulyanovsk, under the responsibility of United Aircraft Corp. (UAC). Known as the An-124-500, it would feature a glass cockpit for four crewmembers and enhancements to the aircraft's Motor Sich D18-T powerplant that would boost range and payload and double the aircraft's operating life to 50,000 hr. Deliveries would begin by 2014-15.

Schemes to reinstate An-124 pro*duction have been kicking around for a while but began to take shape with the emergence of UAC, which devised a business plan acceptable to the Russian and Ukrainian governments. The resurgence in government aerospace and defense spending also played a crucial role.

Volga-Dnepr Group--which with UAC and the Antonov design bureau has led the fight to restart production--says the upgrade was recently validated by Russia's Central Aerohydrodyamics Institute (TsAGI) and the State Research Institue of Civil Aviation. However, for the new plan to go forward, Moscow must agree to invest $500 million to retool the plant and refurbish the assembly line, and launch customers must come forward with firm commitments.

VolgaDnepr says it is ready to commit to 20 of the new An-124s during 2011-20 and another 20 during 2021-27.

According to the air cargo operator, studies show the outsize freight service market has grown 30% annually during the past five years, to more than $1.1 billion, and will reach $7 billion by 2030. Consulting company SH&E predicts this will translate into a need for 70 An-124s.

However, it is not yet clear if the defense ministry, which already has a long list of hardware purchases on its wish list, is interested in a new An-124 acquisition just now. The ministry may place higher priority on renovating the 24 An-124s currently listed in the Russian air force inventory, most of which require a major overhaul.


Interesting… I might try some of this on my blog, too. It’s quite interesting how you sometimes stop being innovative and just go for an accepted solution without actually trying to improve it… you make a couple of good points.
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