The Antonov Àn-124 Ruslan (NATO reporting name: Condor) is a former Soviet/Ukraine-Russia transport aircraft and the world’s largest-ever, series-manufactured cargo airplane.
According to industry experts, the global market for An-124-100 cargo operations is growing by between 15-20% annually and, by 2017, to keep pace with this demand will require the production of dozens of new Ruslan freighters. In response to the vast market potential for the unique operational capabilities of the An-124, Volga-Dnepr Group, the world’s largest operator of Àn-124-100s, has joined forces with the airplane’s designer, Antonov Design Bureau, and other interested parties in both Russia and Ukraine to resume manufacturing of the airplane at the Aviastar-SP factory in Ulyanovsk, Russia.
Volga-Dnepr initiated the project to resume production of a new, modernized version of the An-124-100 featuring modern avionics, a modified power plant, increased payload capability up to 150 tons and longer operational range in order to comply with all perspective ICAO requirements. The new version will also require a smaller number of flight crew.
Design work on several An-124 variants is already under way. The first step in the project launch process came when the Russian/Ukrainian partners signed an agreement on the Priority Measures for Resumed Production and Phased Modernization of the An-124-100 by Russia and Ukraine-based companies. This agreement was signed at MAKS-2003, the sixth International Aviation and Aerospace Show in Moscow.
In 2004, the two participating States established a Working Group which drafted a business plan and identified the steps required to achieve resumed production and modernization of the airplane.
In March 2005, the Russia Federal Agency for Industry hosted a meeting of Russian and Ukrainian partners at which the An-124-100 Resumed Production and Modernization business plan was approved.
The project to build a new An-124 will see the revival of Russia’s aircraft manufacturing industry and preserve the country’s leading position in the global outsize air cargo market. It will also expand cooperation between the Russia and Ukraine through the successfully implementation of large industry projects and help to establish an environment for the next technology breakthrough in civil aviation.
In January 2011 at a meeting held in the Antonov aircraft factory, Tatyana Anodena, Chairman of the Interstate Aviation Committee, said that the design life of the An-124-100 had been extended from 25 to 45 years. In addition, the An-124-100 maximum number of cycles had increased from 6,000 to 10,000 and total flying hours had been extended from 24,000 to 50,000 hours.
Alexey Isaikin, President of Volga-Dnepr Group, noted the importance of State support for finance and intellectual efforts to ensure the necessary resources and a system of orders for modernized Àn-124-100s were put in place.