ON THE DEVELOPMENT OF NEW RUSSIAN MILITARY TRANSPORT AIRPLANES

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Many countries, including Russia, have problems producing military transport airplanes of the new generation. Moscow is currently considering two options. These are the production of the IL-76MF in cooperation with Uzbekistan and the production of the An-70 in cooperation with Ukraine.

The IL-76MF represents a version of the IL-76, which has been in service in the Russian Air Force for over ten years. This airplane is intended to transport heavy cargoes. The new version of the IL-76 is equipped with new engines and an elongated fuselage. The cargo capacity of the new version is also much larger.

For five years, IL-76MF has been undergoing tests and it is almost ready for production. According to experts of the Ilyushin company, the market demand for the new IL model exceeds 100 airplanes in Russia alone. There are also potential buyers in Iran, India and China. This is a large order for the Russian aircraft building industry. Meanwhile, the manufacturers of the IL-76MF have a competitor.

According to estimates, the Russian-Ukrainian An-70 will be able to take off from a runway only 600 meters long carrying a cargo of thirty tons. Carrying a cargo of 47 tons (for instance, a tank of the T-80 type on board), it will be able to take off from a runway 1,800 meters long. Its maximum cruising range amounts to 7,400 meters. Estimates indicate that on the basis of fuel efficiency, the An-70 is 1.6-1.8 times better than the tactical military transport airplanes An-12 and Lockheed S-130 Hercules. The AN-70 is inferior to the IL-76 on the basis of the weight of the cargo transported during one flight, although its operation costs are less (according to the fuel to weight ratio, the An-70 is 1.3 times more efficient and according to the maintenance costs, is 1.5 times less expensive than the IL-76MF). However, according to the range of transported cargoes, the An-70 is superior to the IL-76MF. The An-70 can transport any kind of Russian and foreign armored vehicles, including all the battle tanks used by NATO countries. Experts put this airplane in the category of tactical theater military transport airplanes and claim that it has no counterparts in the world. The Air Force specifications, in accordance with which the new airplane was designed, made provisions for building an airplane capable of taking off on short and unprepared dirt runways and maneuvering at small airfields located close to the front line. The new airplane also had to be able to transport practically all vehicles of the Ground Forces (in addition to the vehicles of the Airborne Forces). The airplane had to have a high flight speed and fuel efficiency. The An-70 has a cruising range of the new airplane close to that of the tactical theater IL-76. The An-70 complies with practically all of these requirements. An international leasing air company for cargo transportation and a consortium for serial production of the AN-70 (An-70T) has already been organized in accordance with a resolution of the Ukrainian President. At any rate, the An-70 is still a “raw” model. Unlike the IL-76MF, it is not prepared for serial production and its upgrading will require additional financing. Initially, German companies planned to invest in the development of the AN-70 (the needs of the Bundeswefhr and other armies of European NATO countries is estimated at 600 airplanes), because the Russian-Ukrainian model had practically no competitors. For example, the modern American military transport airplane S-17A Globemaster-3 (being heavier, and hence more expensive than the An-70) did not find its niche in Europe. Such countries as France, Spain, Holland and even the UK do not need the intercontinental capabilities of the American airplane.

However, Europeans have chosen their own version of the airplane. Quite recently, Germany officially abandoned its participation in the development and production of the Russian-Ukrainian airplane. A few tens of million dollars were invested in the project, but the project was suspended. It is rumored that the Russian Defense Ministry prepared the documents stating the need to organize the Ilyushin transnational corporation. These documents contained estimates, which indicated that the production of the An-70 will cost twice as much as production of the IL-76MF. It is difficult to say if this is true, but during his visit to Tashkent, President Putin discussed the joint production of the IL-76MF for the Russian Air Force with President Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan.

We cannot predict what Russia’s decision will be regarding production of the new military transport airplane, but recently it was reported with reference to the Defense Minister, that Russia and Ukraine managed to find investors and would manufacture the AN-70 in cooperation with China.

Thus, we cannot rule out that Russia will produce two versions of the military transport airplanes. At any rate, it is evident that the Air Force will adopt only one model. Most likely this will be the Russian-Uzbek IL-76MF. This is confirmed by the support given to the IL-76MF by Colonel General Anatoly Sitnov, the Armament Chief of the Armed Forces.

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