Antonov An-124 Ruslan

An-124 Ruslan
An An-124 of 224th Flight Unit in Moscow, Russia in May 2010
Role Transport aircraft
National origin Soviet Union
Manufacturer Antonov, Aviastar-SP
First flight 24 December 1982[1]
Introduction 1986
Status In service
Primary users Russian Air Force
Antonov Airlines
Volga-Dnepr Airlines
Produced 1982–present
Number built 55[2]
Unit cost
US$70–100 million[3]
Developed into Antonov An-225

The Antonov An-124 Ruslan (Ukrainian: Антонов Ан-124 "Руслан") (NATO reporting name: Condor) is a strategic airlift jet aircraft. It was designed by the Antonov design bureau in the Ukrainian SSR, then part of the Soviet Union (USSR). Until the Boeing 747-8F, the An-124 was, for thirty years, the world's highest aircraft gross weight production cargo airplane and second heaviest operating cargo aircraft, behind the one-off Antonov An-225 (a greatly enlarged design based on the An-124).[4] The An-124 remains the largest military transport aircraft in the world.[6]

During development it was known as Izdeliye 400 (Product #400) in house, and An-40 in the West. First flown in 1982, civil certification was issued on 30 December 1992.[7] In July 2013, 26 An-124s were in commercial service with 10 on order.[8] In August 2014, it was reported that Antonov An-124 production was stopped due to the ongoing political tensions between Russia and Ukraine.[9] The various operators of the An-124 are in discussions with respect to the continuing airworthiness certification of the individual An-124 planes. The original designer of the An-124 is responsible for managing the certification process for its own products, but Russian/Ukrainian conflicts are making this process difficult to manage. Military operators are able to self-certify the airworthiness of their own aircraft, but Russian civil operators must find a credible outside authority for certification if Ukraine is unable to participate in the process.[10]


During the 1970s, the Military Transport Aviation (Komandovaniye voyenno-transportnoy aviatsii or VTA) arm of the Soviet Air Forces had a shortfall in strategic heavy airlift capacity. Its largest planes consisted of about 50 Antonov An-22 turboprops, which were used heavily for tactical roles. A classified 1975 CIA analysis concluded that the USSR did "...not match the US in ability to provide long-range heavy lift support."[11]

Polet Airlines An-124 cockpit

The An-124 was manufactured in parallel by two plants: the Russian company Aviastar-SP (ex. Ulyanovsk Aviation Industrial Complex) and by the Kyiv Aviation Plant AVIANT, in Ukraine. Design work started in 1971 and construction of facilities began in 1973. Manufacturing on the first airframe began in 1979.[12] Ultimately this project brought together over 100 factories contracted to produce systems and parts.

The first flight took place in December 1982 and the first exposure to the West followed in 1985 at the Paris Air Show.[13]

Russia and Ukraine agreed to resume the production in the third quarter of 2008.[14] In May 2008, a new variant—the An-124-150—was announced; it featured several improvements, including a maximum lift capacity of 150 tonnes.[15] However, in May 2009, Antonov's partner, the Russian United Aircraft Corporation announced it did not plan production of An-124s in the period 2009–2012.[16] In late 2009, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev ordered production of the aircraft resumed. It is expected that Russia will purchase 20 new aircraft.[17][18] In August 2014, Jane's reported that, Russian Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Yuri Slusar announced that Antonov An-124 production was stopped due to ongoing political tensions between Russia and Ukraine.[9]


An-124-100 kneeling with front ramp down (aircraft fuselage tilted and front wheels retracted)
kneeling detail
not kneeling - nose gear up

Externally, the An-124 is similar to the American Lockheed C-5 Galaxy, having a double fuselage to allow for a rear cargo door (on the lower fuselage) that can open in flight without affecting structural integrity.[19] It is slightly shorter, with a slightly greater wingspan, and a 25% larger payload. Instead of the Galaxy's T-tail, the An-124 uses a conventional empennage, similar in design to that of the Boeing 747.

The aircraft uses oleo strut suspension for its 24 wheels. The suspension has been calibrated to allow landing on rough terrain and is able to kneel to allow easier front loading.[19] The plane has an onboard overhead crane capable of lifting up to 30 tonnes of cargo, and items up to 120 tonnes can be winched on board.[20]

Up to 150 tonnes (150 long tons; 170 short tons) of cargo can be carried in a military An-124; it can also carry 88 passengers in an upper deck behind the wing centre section. The cargo compartment of An-124 is 36×6.4×4.4 m (118×21×14 ft), ca. 20% larger than the main cargo compartment of C-5 Galaxy, which is 36.91×5.79×4.09 m (121.1×19.0×13.4 ft). Due to limited pressurisation in the main cargo compartment (24.6 kPa, 3.57 psi),[21] it seldom carries paratroopers.[22]

Pilots have stated that the An-124 is light on the controls and easy to handle for an aircraft of its size.[23]

Some airports require pavement protection from the heat and blast effects of the An-124's auxiliary power unit.[24]

Operational history

Germany led the recent effort to lease An-124s for NATO strategic airlift requirements. Two aircraft are leased from SALIS GmbH as a stopgap until the Airbus A400M is available.[25] Under NATO SALIS programme NAMSA is chartering six An-124-100 transport aircraft. According to the contract An-124-100s of Antonov Airlines and Volga-Dnepr are used within the limits of NATO SALIS programme to transport cargo by requests of 18 countries: Belgium, Hungary, Greece, Denmark, Canada, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, United Kingdom, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Finland, France, Germany, Czech Republic and Sweden. Two An-124-100s are constantly based on full-time charter in the Leipzig/Halle airport, but the contract specifies that if necessary, two more aircraft will be provided on six days notice and another two on nine days notice.[26] The aircraft proved extremely useful for NATO especially with ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.[27]

The Deep Submergence Rescue Vehicle "Mystic" being loaded at Naval Air Station North Island, California

United Launch Alliance (ULA) contracts the An-124 to transport the Atlas V launch vehicle from its facilities in Decatur, Alabama to Cape Canaveral. ULA also uses the An-124 to transport the Atlas V launch vehicle and Centaur upper stage from their manufacturing facility in Denver, Colorado to Cape Canaveral and Vandenberg Air Force Base.[28] Two flights are required to transfer each launch vehicle (one for the Atlas V main booster stage and another for the Centaur upper stage).[29] It is also contracted by Space Systems Loral to transport satellites from Palo Alto, CA to the Arianespace spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.[30]

Airbus Transport International, a subsidiary of Airbus, has selected another Russian cargo company, Polet Airlines as "designated carrier" to the company. Polet expects its three An-124-100s will transport astronautic equipment manufactured by EADS, which is Airbus' parent company, and components of the Airbus A380 superjumbo.[31]

As of 2013 the An-124 has visited 768 airports in over 100 countries.[32]

Significant activities

Polet Airlines An-124 being loaded with a downscaled model of an Airbus A380 centre fuselage section in Emirates livery


Volga-Dnepr Antonov An-124-100M-150 with nose door open at MAKS 2005, Moscow – Zhukovskiy; Cubana de Aviación Ilyushin Il-96 in background.
An-124-100 of Maximus Air Cargo at Brno Airport (2010)
An-124 Ruslan
Strategic heavy airlift transport aircraft
Commercial transport aircraft
Commercial transport version fitted with Western avionics
Commercial transport version with an EFIS flight deck
Planned new variant with EFIS based on Rockwell Collins avionic parts
Proposed version
Variant with one seat in the rear and the rest of the cargo area (approx. 1,800 square feet) dedicated to freight
New variant with increased payload (150 tonnes)
Proposed version with General Electric CF6-80C2 engines, each rated at 59,200 lbf (263 kN)
Joint proposal with Air Foyle to meet UK's Short Term Strategic Airlifter (STSA) requirement, with Rolls-Royce RB211-524H-T engines, each rated 60,600 lbf (264 kN) and Honeywell avionics—STSA competition abandoned in August 1999, reinstated, and won by the Boeing C-17A.
variant ordered by the Russian Air Force with new avionics, a new improved braking system and a payload of 150 tonnes.[39]


An-124 of Russia State Transport Company at Perth Airport in the mid-1990s



Former military operators

 Soviet Union


A Volga-Dnepr An-124-100
224th Flight Unit An-124 inflight with 2 Sukhoi Su-27s of the Falcons of Russia at the 2010 Moscow Victory Day Parade.

In July 2013, 26 An-124s were in commercial service.[8]

 United Arab Emirates

Former civil operators

 Soviet Union
 United Kingdom

Notable accidents

As of November 2016, four An-124 hull-loss accidents have been recorded, with a total of 97 fatalities:[46]

Specifications (An-124-100M-150)

Container being lifted into the belly of an An-124 using the on-board overhead crane

Data from Antonov[5]

General characteristics


Flight range


See also

Related development
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era


  1. "Era of Ruslan: 25 years" (Press release). Antonov. 24 December 2007. Archived from the original on 19 March 2008. Retrieved 25 February 2008.
  2. "An-124 Production List". (in Russian). Retrieved 21 May 2014.
  3. Archived 11 January 2009 at the Wayback Machine.
  4. Though the as planned An-124-100M-150 enlarged version has a 7% higher payload than the operational Boeing 747-8F. The 747-8F has over two times the range (5,050 mi or 8,130 km) with a payload of 295,800 lb (134,000 kg) than the An-124-100M-150 with the same payload. The An-124-100M-150 is to carry less than half the payload at the same range.[5]
  5. 1 2 "AN-124-100 Performance". Antonov. Retrieved 10 August 2013.
  6. Nikolai, Novichkov (2 December 2014). "Russia completes initial An-124 upgrade programme". Archived from the original on 19 October 2015. Retrieved 5 July 2015.
  7. E. Gordon, Antonov's Heavy Transports, Midland Publishing.
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "World Airliner Census". Flight International, 16–22 August 2013
  9. 1 2 UPDATE: Time called on An-124 production re-start IHS Jane's Defence Industry. Retrieved 5 May 2015.
  10. "The Tragic Fate of Ukraine's Antonov, Once a Legendary Name in Aeronautics". Sputnik. 16 September 2016. Retrieved 28 November 2016.
  11. Trends in Soviet Military Programs (October 1976) (originally Top Secret), Central Intelligence Agency.
  12. Era of Ruslan: 25 years. Antonov, Accessed: 6 November 2011.
  13. The Condor: A New Soviet Heavy Transport (originally classified Secret), 1986, Central Intelligence Agency.
  14. "Ukraine, Russia to resume production of giant cargo planes". Forbes. Kiev. Thomson Financial. 28 April 2008. Archived from the original on 30 August 2008. Retrieved 28 April 2008.
  15. Taverna, Michael A. "Russia, Ukraine Near Deal On Relaunch of Modernized An-124". Berlin: Aviation Week. Archived from the original on 21 May 2011. Retrieved 16 August 2008.
  16. Kingsley-Jones, Max (7 May 2009). "Superjet the biggest casualty as Russia slashes airliner output plans". Flightglobal. Archived from the original on 10 May 2009. Retrieved 9 May 2009.
  17. Maternovsky, Dennis (2009). "Russia to Resume Making World’s Largest Plane, Kommersant Says". 24 December 2009. Accessed 28 Dec 2009.
  19. 1 2
  20. An124-100 technical specification Ruslan International. Retrieved: 24 July 2010.
  21. Antonov's Heavy Transports. Midland Publishing
  22. Phillips, CPT W. Scott (31 August 1999). "Fixed-Wing Aircraft". Federation of American Scientists Military Analysis Network.
  23. "AVIATION Reports – 2000 – A00O0279". Transportation Safety Board of Canada, 31 July 2008. Retrieved 24 April 2012. Quote: "The AN124 has been described by training personnel and pilots as being very easy to handle for an aircraft of its size. The AN124 tends to be very light on the controls."
  24. Nielsen, Erik. "Copenhagen Airport, Use of auxiliary power unit (APU)". Copenhagen Airport / Boeing. p. 6.5. Archived from the original on 9 May 2013. Retrieved 22 January 2013.
  25. "Strategic airlift agreement enters into force". NATO Update. 23 March 2006.
  26. Strategic Airlift Interim Solution (SALIS) Archived 9 May 2009 at the Wayback Machine.
  27. Antonov An-124 NATO SALIS Program Extended Through End of 2010.
  28. Lockheed Martin Atlas rocket on The History Channel.
  29. Lockheed Martin Delivers Atlas V to Cape Canaveral for NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission. Mars Today, 4 April 2005.
  30. Space Systems/Loral Delivers World'S Largest Satellite To Launch Base
  31. "Airbus Taps Russian Carrier". Kommersant. 25 November 2005.
  32. "30 years since the AN-124 Ruslan maiden take-of". Retrieved 21 June 2013.
  33. Оружие России; Ан-124 "Руслан" (Condor), дальний тяжелый военно-транспортный самолет
  34. Аэрокосмическое общество Украины; Международная авиационная федерация зарегистрировала 124 мировых рекорда, установленных на самолёте Ан-225 Archived 20 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine.
  35. BBC News; Obelisk arrives back in Ethiopia
  37. Germany sends giant pump to help cool Fukushima reactor
  38. SRS pump will head to Japan
  39. "Russian Air Force Gets First Modernized An-124s". RIA Novosti. 17 May 2012. Retrieved 21 June 2013.
  40. bmpd (12 April 2013). "bmpd - Самолет Ан-124: история, настоящее, перспективы" [AN-124: History, Present and Prospects] (in Russian). Retrieved 12 April 2013.
  43. bmpd (9 May 2013). "Петр Бутовски об Ан-124 "Руслан"" [Peter Butovskaya of AN-124 "Ruslan"] (in Russian). Retrieved 9 May 2013.
  44. see also and ru:Сеща (аэродром)
  45. "Libyan Arab Air Cargo (ATDB)". Retrieved 2014-03-03.
  46. "ASN Aviation Safety Database: Antonov 124-100". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 28 November 2016.
  47. "Accident Description, Anotonov 124-100, Tuesday 13 October 1992". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 14 August 2008.
  48. "Accident Description, Antonov 124-100, Monday 15 November 1993". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 14 August 2008.
  49. "Accident Description, Antonov 124-100, Tuesday 8 October 1996". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 22 April 2008.
  50. Velovich, Alexander (17 December 1997). "Multiple engine failure blamed for An-124 Irkutsk accident". Moscow: Flightglobal. Retrieved 2 December 2010.
  51. "An-124 virtual loading at Volga-Dnepr".

Further reading

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