Antonov An-70 | Medium-range transport aircraft

Antonov An-70
Antonov An-70

Militarymedia.net - The Antonov An-70 is a Ukrainian new generation medium-range transport aircraft. The development of this heavy load aircraft and short takeoff and landing began in the early 90s. The An-70 was jointly developed by Ukrainian and Russian companies. After the collapse of the Soviet Union the Antonov Design Bureau suffered from funding problems, as well as many other military factories, and the An-70 project almost failed. Despite the difficulties, two prototypes were built and the An-70 made its first flight in 1994. This cargo plane was designed to replace the aging An-12. Generally similar in terms of performance and capabilities to the Airbus A400M. At one time the An-70 was even proposed to replace the troubled A400M at the time. It is also believed to be a major contender for the upgraded Russian Il-76MF.

In 1999 during one of the test flights, the An-70 collided with the An-72, which was accompanying it. The An-72 managed to make an emergency landing, but the An-70 crashed and was completely destroyed. All crew members were killed. Investigations have found, that the crash was due to pilot error, so this fact does not affect the project as badly as the second one. In 2001, 20-30 seconds after takeoff, the pilot had to make an emergency landing outside the airfield. As a result, the plane was badly damaged.

In 2002 Russia and Ukraine agreed on the joint production of this military cargo plane. The Russian government has shown interest in acquiring 160 of these aircraft for its military. But in 2006 due to economic problems and difficult political relations between Russia and Ukraine, Russia had abandoned the project in favor of the Il-76MF and Il-476 transports.

For several years the future of this project was uncertain due to a lack of funds and orders.

In 2008 a larger, turbofan-powered version, the An-70-600, was jointly developed with China. The end result was the Y-20 military transport, which was adopted by the Chinese air force in 2016.

In 2009 Russia signed a deal with Ukraine to renew development of the An-70. Russia is reportedly resuming funding. It is planned that production will be carried out at the Kazan aviation plant. In the same year it was announced, that 2 aircraft would be completed in Ukraine for the Ukrainian Air Force. The first delivery is expected in 2011. The second aircraft is scheduled to be delivered in 2012. In 2015 the An-70 was officially adopted by the Ukrainian air force. The An-70 was also proposed for NATO and European markets, as well as for civilian operators, but to no avail. This military transport plane failed to get an order. It was clear from the start that this aircraft was unlikely to achieve the success it deserved.

The An-70 has a distinctive airlifter layout with four propfan engines. This is the first time, when a large cargo plane is powered by such propulsion. Each Progress D-27 engine has dual counter-rotating propellers (as in the famous Tu-95 strategic bomber and An-22 Antei heavy transport aircraft) and produces 14,000 hp. The An-70 has 20-30% better fuel economy, compared to modern turbojet aircraft. In 2003 during the MAKS air show, this aircraft caught the attention of visitors with a very unusual sound. The developers explain this as a result of the non-traditional shape of the propeller. But during the test flight, the engine was not noticed for its reliability. Until 2002 each of the four engines failed 22 times.

The An-70 has a fly-by-wire system and features a glass cockpit with all electronic instruments.

This aircraft can be operated at various types of airfields. It is capable of landing on soft ground and even snow. The An-70 can operate from poorly equipped airfields without special ground facilities. This has confirmed its ability to use an unpaved 600 m long runway with reduced cargo weight.

This military cargo plane is slightly larger, than the Airbus A400M, but much smaller than the Boeing C-17 Globemaster III. The An-70's pressurized grip has a built-in cargo handling system. It can be equipped with seats for 300 soldiers or racks for 206 liters as an alternative to cargo, vehicles and even helicopters. The An-70 can fly individual items up to a limit of 20,000 kg. This transport plane can carry 20 tons of cargo over a distance of 3,000 km. The maximum service range is 8,000 km.

As a result of Russian military action in Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea, the joint project with Russia was eventually discontinued and the An-70 never reached mass production. In 2018 the prototype of the new An-77 was revealed. This is Ukraine's proposed version of the An-70, which is planned to use Western components, not Russian. It is planned to be equipped with a Western+ turbojet engine.

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