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Antonov An-12

Tactical transport aircraft


The An-12 was the most important transport in the Soviet military service

Entered service 1959
Crew 5 - 6 men
Dimensions and weight
Length 33.1 m
Wing span 38 m
Height 10.53 m
Weight (empty) 28 t
Weight (maximum take off) 61 t
Engines and performance
Engines 4 x Progress (Ivchyenko) AI-20K turboprops
Engine power 4 x 4 000 shp
Maximum speed 777 km/h
Cruising speed 640 km/h
Service ceiling 10.5 km
Range (with maximum fuel) 6 800 km
Range (with maximum payload) 3 600 km
Ferry range ?
Maximum payload 20 t
Troops ~ 130 men or 100 paratroops
Vehicles 2 x BMD-2
Cargo compartment dimensions approx 13.5 x 3 x 2.4 m
Cannon 2 x 23-mm


   The An-12 (NATO reporting name Cub) is a Cold War era transport aircraft. Antonov's design bureau at Kiev built its first large military transport in 1955 with the twin-turboprop An-8 becoming a standard type. From this was derived the civil An-10 with four engines and a pressurized fuselage, from which in turn came the mass-produced An-12 military transport with full-width rear loading doors. First prototype flew in 1958.

   From its entry into service in 1959, the An-12 became the most important transport in Soviet military service. Production of this aircraft ceased in 1973. Over 1 200 aircraft were built. The An-12 was widely exported. Although replacement by the Ilyushin II-76 began in 1974, some 560 An-12's out of 800 delivered, were still in front-line duty as transports in 1986. The majority of these aircraft were An-12B machines, this variant becoming the standard transport in Soviet service from 1963. Together with the Il-76 it formed the backbone of the Soviet Airlift Command throughout the Cold War.

   Approximately 250 'Cub' transports still serve with the Russian Air Forces; smaller numbers fulfil intelligence gathering roles with the Russian Naval Aviation. 'Cubs' also serve with CIS air arms in Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan. Outside the CIS, An-12s are remain in active service in Angola, Eritrea, Guinea, Iraq, Mozambique, Sudan, Yemen and possibly some other countries. This military cargo aircraft is still widely used around the world with civil companies.

   In many aspects the An-12 is similar to the Lockheed C-130 Hercules. However the An-12 weights less and is slightly smaller. It has a maximum payload capacity of 20 t. It can carry two BMD-2 airborne combat vehicles. Alternatively it accommodates up to 100 paratroops. These can be dispatched in about 45 seconds with the rear doors folded upward.

   This airlifter is operated by a crew of five or six men, including two pilots, navigator, flight engineer and radio operator. Also there is a tail gunner.

   Oddly, most An-12 airlifters lack an integral ramp for vehicles, instead using a ramp carried separately and latched into position after the clamshell-style doors have been opened upwards on each side. Though some versions of the An-12 have a C-130 style ramp. Also, the main fuselage is unpressurised. Most version only have a pressurized passenger compartment for 12 passengers to the rear of the pressurized flight deck. This compartment accommodates cargo handlers and vehicle crews.

   Some aircraft carry two 23-mm NR-23 cannon in a tail turret. The tail turret is based on that of the Tu-16 bomber. Most surviving aircraft have their guns deleted. Early production models were also fitted with bomb pylons.

   The An-12 was produced in many variants. Only some versions are mentioned here. Rebuilds for a multitude of special roles have been legion. Construction of the An-12 in the USSR ceased in 1973, but unlicensed production of the aircraft in the People's Republic of China as the Shaanxi Y-8 continues.




   An-12B improved production version with detachable fuel tanks. It is powered by a more reliable Ivchenko AI-20M engines. These engines have the same rating as the previous AI-20K;

   An-12BP. NATO reporting name Cub-A;

   Electronic intelligence aircraft. NATO reporting name Cub-B;

   An-12PP electronic warfare aircraft. NATO reporting name Cub-C. It is an even more extensive rebuild with equipment housed in large nose/tail/canoe radomes conferring a significant active jamming capability;

   Shaanxi Y-8 Chinese unlicensed copy of the An-12. Its production still continues and new variants appear. This aircraft is widely used in China.


Video of the An-12 tactical cargo aircraft








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