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Antonov An-225 Mriya

Strategic airlifter

An-225

The An-225 is the currently the world's largest transport aircraft

 
 
Country of origin Soviet Union
Entered service 1989
Crew 6 - 7 men
Dimensions and weight
Length 84 m
Wing span 88.4 m
Height 18.1 m
Weight (empty) 250 t
Weight (maximum take off) 600 t
Engines and performance
Engines 6 x Progress D-18T turbofans
Traction 6 x 229.47 kN
Maximum speed 850 km/h
Cruising speed 800 km/h
Service ceiling 11.6 km
Range (with 200 t payload) 4 000 km
Ferry range 15 400 km
Payload
Maximum payload 250 t
Typical payload 150 - 200 t
Troops ?
Cargo compartment dimensions 43.35 x 6.4 x 4.4 m

 

   The Antonov An-225 Mriya (dream) is a one-off transport aircraft. Currently it is the world's largest transport aircraft. Also it is the longest and heaviest aircraft ever built. It was developed in the 1980s specially for the Soviet space program. The only Soviet factories, capable of building a high-tech Buran spacecraft, were located around Moscow. However the Baikonur cosmodrome was located in Kazakhstan, approximately 2 100 km from Moscow. The Buran could not be transported by road or rail due to its oversized dimensions. So the Soviets needed a large cargo aircraft to carry the spacecraft. So in its mission the An-225 is similar to the US Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft. The first An-225 was completed in 1988 and made its maiden flight during the same year. During this flight the aircraft set 110 world records. Its reporting name in the West was Cossack.

   The An-225 is a larger version of the An-124 and uses a number of its components, such as the same engines and avionics. However the An-225 has got 6 engines instead of 4. It is worth noting that the smaller An-124 is currently the world's largest production military transport aircraft.

   A total of 2 giant aircraft were planned to be built. However only one was completed. Work on the second airframe was abandoned in 2009 and it is still incomplete. Its current completion is around 60-70% and at least $300 million are required to finish the work. It is likely that it will never be completed, because there is no demand for another such large aircraft.

   In 1989 the An-225 made its first flights with Buran space shuttle. In 1991, after collapse of the Soviet Union the aircraft was passed on to Ukraine. The Buran space program was taken over by Russia, but eventually in 1993 it was cancelled due to funding problems. So the aircraft lost its only role, that t is was specially designed for. In the former Soviet Air Force a smaller An-124 was used to carry tanks and other military equipment. Still though the An-225 had a large cargo compartment, and had the capability to carry various loads. In 1994 the sole operational An-225 was placed into storage, together with the second incomplete airframe. Until the late 1990s the aircraft was neglected. Some of its parts were cannibalized to keep other An-124 aircraft operational.

   In the year 2000 the sole An-225 was re-engined, refurbished and modified for heavy cargo transport. It flew again in 2001. The aircraft received international certificates and since 2002 it is in commercial use by the Ukrainian Antonov Airlines. Currently it operates from London Luton airport. This aircraft carries ultra-heavy and oversized loads, that are too heavy or do not fit inside the smaller An-124. From time to time it carries various military cargo.

   This giant aircraft can carry a whooping 250 t of cargo internally, or 200 t externally. For example the US C-5M Super Galaxy can carry only 140 t internally. The An-225 can carry16 shipping containers, or up to 80 passenger cars. Its cargo hold has a titanium floor. Nose of the aircraft folds upwards. The aircraft can kneel in a nose-down position to ease loading and unloading operations. Range with maximum payload is 4 000 km.

   In fact the first flight of refurbished aircraft in commercial service was with military cargo. In Januarry 2002 the An-225 flew from Germany to Oman with 216 000 ready meals for American military personnel, based in the region. This vast number of ready meals weighted 187.5 t and was transported on 375 pallets. The An-225 has been contracted by the US and Canadian governments to airlift military supplies to the Middle East in support of coalition forces. This aircraft can quickly transport huge quantities of supplies. A number of times the Antonov An-225 demonstrated its impressive capabilities by carrying 4 to 5 main battle tanks.

   Since 2002 the An-225 has become the workhorse of the Antonov Airlines fleet. This aircraft transported objects that were previously thought impossible to move by air.

   The An-225 is operated by a crew of 6-7 men, including two pilots, technicians and loadmaster.

   The first and only An-225 aircraft, that is currently active, was optimized for external loads. It lacks rear cargo doors, as lack of such feature allowed to decrease the weight of the aircraft. Also it has twin vertical stabilizers. The second airframe, that is currently incomplete, had some design changes. It was planned to be more effective for cargo transportation. The second aircraft has a rear cargo door and a redesigned tail with a single vertical stabilizer.

   In 2016 Antonov company signed a contract with Aerospace Industry Corporation of China to complete the second airframe and set up license-production of An-225 aircraft in China.

 

 
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