CargoForwarder Global had recently reported that the Antonov Aviation Concern (AAC) which was the holding company of the Antonov aircraft producer, had been forced to close its doors and
was said to be integrated into the Ukraine military system.
There was fear and speculation that further production of the large AN-126 and the smaller AN-178 military transporter was at stake.
But, is this really the case?
Is the AN-178 transporter going to be a serious competitor to the Lockheed C-130?
A recent report published in Fox Business News suggests just that.
The Antonov AN-178 made its first flight last year and just as the AAC folded up had reached a stage whereby most test flights were positive and various military and some commercial companies outside of Russia and the Ukraine were showing a real interest in the aircraft.
As freighters go, it is not a large transport aircraft.
It can carry up to 10 tons of cargo nonstop over a range of 4,000 km.
The maximum payload is slotted at around 18 tons, but this would only apply on shorter routes.
The venerable Lockheed Hercules C-130 transporter made its first flight back in 1956 and has proven to be a real cargo workhorse.
The C-130 was produced in various configurations and has served with air forces and other military departments of almost 80 nations ranging from Abu Dhabi to Vietnam since then.
Payload is somewhat higher at 22 tons than that of the present AN-178 version.
But, will the AN-178 if allowed continued financing and production, be able to position itself as a serious follower for the old Lockheed workhorse?
Airbus A400M transporter is running behind schedule.
Not only that, this aircraft has been plagued with operational hiccups and the final pro-duction cost per aircraft has risen above many possible users budgets.
There were reports last year that the German military were seriously considering scaling down their orders for the larger Airbus A400M and were said to be in discussion with Antonov regarding possible purchases of the AN-178.
Whether this will actually happen, remains to be seen.
AN-178 just as flexible as the C-130
Antonov has always maintained that this new transporter which was conceived to replace the older AN-26 and AN-32 military transporters of which there are more than 400 still in operation, is just as flexible as the older Hercules of which there are over 1,000 still in the air.
It can operate from shorter surfaces, gravel or unpaved runways, be used for airborne early warning missions and much more.
Abu Dhabi’s Maximus Air Cargo signed with Antonov to become the launch customer for this aircraft and Saudi Arabia last year signed with Antonov for 30 AN-178s.
Apparently, there are also firm orders from China and Azerbaijan’s Silk Airways.
Quite a positive order book for an aircraft of which there is still only one flying.
If this new Antonov version were to make a hit then this would certainly be a boost to the Ukrainian aircraft manufacturer and keep the company alive for many years to come.
John Mc Donagh