The aircraft we preset today holds the title for being the largest Russian military cargo transport aircraft. If you have not guessed it by now, then let us tell you, it is the Antonov An-124 Ruslan which has the NATO designation Condor. The Antonov An-124 Ruslan is the strategic airlift quad jet that was designed back in the 1980s by the company named Antonov Design Bureau working in the Ukraine SSR and then in USSR.
For the last 30 years before the Boeing 747-8F made its first flight, the Antonov An-124 Ruslan held the title like being the heaviest gross weight production cargo aircraft in the world as well as the 2nd heaviest operating cargo aircraft in the world just behind another Antonov aircraft named Antonov An-225 Mriya. It is currently the largest military cargo transport aircraft to be in continuous service. The man who was the lead designer for this massive giant was known by the name Viktor Tolmachev who is also the designer for Antonov-225 Mriya.
During the course of its development, the aircraft was known by the name Izdeliya 400 and in the West as An-40. It flew for the very first time back in 1982 with the civil certification being issued back on December 30th, 1992. By the time it was July 2013, nearly 23 of these Antonov An-124 Ruslan aircraft were in civilian service as well as 10 under production for commercial service.
Back in 2013, there as news of resuming the joint production of the Antonov An-124 Ruslan program with the cooperation of Ukraine and Russia but then in 2014, the project status was shelved due to politic tensions between these 2 nations.
For our readers today, we have gathered a list of interesting facts about the Antonov An-124 Ruslan; the largest Russian military cargo transport aircraft.
Back in the late 1970s, one arm of the Soviet Air Force designated as Military Transport Aviation was lacing with a strategic airlift capacity for heavy payload. Their largest aircraft at that time was the Antonov An-22 which was mainly used for tactical roles. The project for the Antonov An-124 Ruslan was started in two different sites; one in the Russian company named Aviastar-Sp and the Ukrainian company named Kyiv Anviation Plant AVIANT. The airframe was developed by 1979 and for the other systems and parts; nearly 100 different companies were included in this massive joint project.
The very first Antonov An-124 Ruslan was ready for its first flight back in December of 1982 and was presented to the public back in 1985 at the Paris Air Show.
Cargo Carrying Capabilities:-
For the loading and unloading of the cargo payload, the Antonov An-124 Ruslan has been fitted with both cargo and the nose doors which are used for both loading and unloading purposes. This simultaneous cargo loading and unloading allows for the Antonov An-124 Ruslan to be a great strategic asset in moving tons of cargo.
Once empty, the aircraft weighs a total of approximately 175500 kilograms and as for its Maximum Takeoff Weight (MTOW), it is approximately 405000 kilograms.
A single one of these giants is powered through 4 of the Ivchenko Progress D-18T turbofan engines; each of them developing a thrust of about 51600 lb/ft.
This engine configuration of the Antonov An-124 Ruslan allows for it to fly at a top speed of almost 540 mph while the cruising speed is about 500 mph. The maximum ferry range of the Antonov An-124 Ruslan is about 9756 miles while in emergency cases; the range is about 3300 miles. The aircraft flies at a ceiling altitude of about 40000 feet but considering all factors, this operational ceiling is about 39370 feet.
The general design of the Antonov An-124 Ruslan is comprised of a deep and wide fuselage assembly that is capped by a single flight deck that is high-mounted from the front and at the rear has the elevated tail assembly. This elevated nature of the aircraft allows for the rear cargo doors to be only accessed with structural clearance.
This elevated design for the Antonov An-124 Ruslan demands strong structural support for the aircraft in its very center and for that, its undercarriage has about 24 wheels, which is divided into 2 undercarriages under the fuselage’s main section. The nose is also provided structural support by placing two wheeled legs on the turns.
Like any other massive transport aircraft, the Antonov An-124 Ruslan also makes use of the wings that are shoulder-mounted for providing outstanding ground clearance. Each of these wings is also managed by a pair of nacelles under the wings which offer the needed thrust for the aircraft.
In Civilian service:-
The Antonov An-124 Ruslan is not only a hit for the military service but it is highly appreciated by the civilian market as well for its massive material hauling capabilities. Currently, Libya owns 2 of these Antonov An-124 Ruslans with Ukraine operating 7 units. In UAE, they only have a single one of these aircraft. As for the Russian firms like the following, they each own one of these Antonov An-124 Ruslan aircraft.
- Russian State Transport Company
- Transaero Airlines
The only military operator of the Antonov An-124 Ruslan is the Russian military with a fleet of nearly 25 of these Antonov An-124 Ruslan aircraft.
Since the production started way back in 1986, nearly 56 of these aircraft have been produced with many variants being produced with the base model being a transport one.
The commercial cargo designated as An-124-100 and the An-124-100M-150 were designed by fitting the aircraft with Western avionics. Another commercial variant is designated as An-124-102 and the An-124-135 being the Ari Freighter version.
The sot advanced and the modern aircraft in the Antonov An-124 Ruslan family is the An-124-300 which entered service of Russian Air Force in great numbers.
Total numbers produced and Unit Cost:-
The production for the Antonov An-124 Ruslan was started way back in 1986 and after the political conflict between Russia and Ukraine; the production was halted back in 2004. By that time, nearly 55 of these aircraft were in service of both military and civilians. The unit cost for an Antonov An-124 Ruslan is about 70 to 100 million dollars.
Updates on An-124 program:-
The latest update on the Antonov An-124 Ruslan program was from 2018 when the Cargo-LogicAir partnered with another company named General Electric for studying the plans for the re-engine of the An-12. The most likely candidate is the CF6-80C2 turbofan engines.