Despite the existing problems, it seems that Moscow and Kiev have long-term mutually beneficial joint plans in the military technological field. The topic of the project for the development and construction of military transport airplane An-70 surfaced in the dialogue between the two countries again. Recently, De-fense Minister of Ukraine, Yury Yekhanurov, announced that he talked to his Russian colleague about this issue in February.
Yekhanurov added, “Russian De-fense Minister Serdyukov said that Russia was interested in this project and they would work. So far, there have been no practical steps but the Russian party confirms that it will work in this direction in principle.” According to Yekhanurov, the An-tonov corporation is currently testing this airplane.
Yekhanurov added, “however, all work is being done very slowly because of the current situation.” According to him, the Ukrainian De-fense Ministry already ordered two such airplanes to Kiev-based Aviant.
Earlier, it was reported that the Russian party was going to restart financing of a project joint with Ukraine for the creation of military transport airplane An-70. In 2006, the Russian Defense Ministry an-nounced withdrawal from the An-70 program explaining that IL-76 was the main airplane of the Russian mili-tary transport aviation. In accordance with the estimates approved by the parties, expenditures of Russia and Ukraine on the An-70 program amount to approximately $1.5 billion and the need for financing for the accomplishment of research and de-velopment is about $100 million.
Meanwhile, the production of IL-76 was not started in Russia yet ei-ther. There are certain difficulties in the transfer of production of this air-plane from Tashkent (Uzbekistan) to Ulyanovsk (Russia). Thus, the An-70 project may be interesting for Mos-cow again, at least for the sale of this airplane to third countries and possi-bly to NATO. So far, the alliance agrees with aviation cooperation both with Moscow and Kiev.
For example, the united fleet of Ukrainian and Russian heavy trans-port airplanes An-124-100 Ruslan with a cargo capacity of 120 tons will continue the fulfillment of strategic transportation in the framework of NATO’s program SALIS (Strategic Airlift Interim Solution) in the inter-ests of 18 countries of NATO and European Union. During the interna-tional aerospace show Farnborough-2008 (UK), General Director of Ruslan International, Valery Gabriel, reported that according to results of negotiations with NAMSA (NATO Maintenance & Supply Agency) be-tween April and May, an agreement was achieved on prolongation of the contract on use of Ukrainian and Russian Ruslans in the framework of SALIS singed at the end of 2005.
Gabriel explained, “signing the prolonged contract is scheduled for autumn: we plan to do this until No-vember. The contract will be pro-longed for two years.”
According to him, under the con-tract terms two An-124-100 will re-main permanently based in Germany in the airport of Leipzig and four airplanes will be provided to the cus-tomer at demand. According to the company, since January 2006 the united fleet performed 687 flights in the framework of SALIS, had fight time of 6,500 hours and transported more than 306,000 tons of cargoes. The main destination countries are Afghanistan, Congo, Chad and Dji-bouti. The leading international op-erators of Ruslan airplanes are Rus-sian company Volga-Dnepr and Ukrainian Antonov Airlines. At the end of 2005, they signed a three-year contract worth 600 million euros with NAMSA with a possibility of prolongation on transportation of cargoes in the interests of NATO and European Union. The contract was signed according to results of victory in a NATO tender the terms of which implied the provision of strategic transportation of the alliance until 2012, that is until the beginning of operation of new European transport airplanes A400M.
Restarting series production of modernized Ruslan with a cargo ca-pacity of 150 tons – An-124-100M-150 – is planned for 2012 in a broad Russian-Ukrainian cooperation. The new version of the airplane certified by the interstate aviation committee in June of 2007 complies with re-quirements of European control of zonal navigation P-RNAV, as well as accuracy requirements of piloting airplanes Р-RNP-1. Preparation for the validation of certificate of type by the EASA was already started. Ruslan International Ltd (UK) estab-lished by the partners in 2006 acts as the marketing agent of the Ukrainian and Russian operators. At present, this company controls 35% of the international market of transportation of super heavy and bulky cargoes and the share of Ruslan SALIS GmbH (Germany) is 11%