Moscow is determined to modernize their aging Antonov 124-100Ms operated by the Russian Military. If nothing is done, the large aircraft’s lifespan will draw to a close in a few years, and this would tear a hole in the country’s transport chain of heavy and oversized cargo. Despite ongoing conversations and concepts made public on various occasions, there is no substitute in sight that could replace the “Ruslans.”
Denis Manturov, head of the Russian Ministry of Industry and Trade, said in an interview with news agency Interfax, that the creation of a thoroughly modernized super-heavy military transporter
An-124-100M "will soon make it possible to consider the aircraft ‘Russian’ and not Ukrainian” (the license holder and initial developer).
Earlier, the politician had emphasized that the modernization project is under way and is being carried out as planned. An assessment that was applauded by Deputy Prime Minister Yuriy Borisov, who announced that Russian engineers had mastered the technical overhaul of the Ukraine-built D-18T engines for the military version of the AN-124-100 ‘Ruslan’. "The first repaired engines have already been received. We hope that we will be able to repair at least 12 engines per year, matching the need of three aircraft. Thanks to this dynamic, we will improve the serviceability of the Ruslan fleet quite rapidly," Mr Borisov told Interfax.
Unclear cost situation
According to estimates, the entire modernization program will exceed 1 billion rubles (roughly 15 million euros). However, sources from the Ulyanovsk-based aircraft manufacturer, Aviastar-SP, speak of expenditures in the region of 3.5 billion rubles with work to be completed by 2022, provided the government secures the funding.
If so, the AN-124-100Ms will receive a new avionic navigation and communication system. The transport equipment, in line with the power and oxygen supply systems, will be upgraded, as will the workstations for the crew. In contrast, the flight characteristics such as speed and operational range are expected to remain the same.
A new Methuselah emerges
Completely new, however, are plans to install an airborne defense system designed to protect the freighter against missile fire. Also, technical devices will be installed to reduce the aircraft’s optical, radar, laser, acoustic, and radio visibility while airborne.
Experts say that Ruslan's service life will be extended to 50-60 years following the upgrade.
To achieve this aim, “all components of foreign origin must be removed and replaced with domestic products under the import substitution program," Interfax cites a voice of the technical team. According to a list, 29 Ukrainian components and three from NATO and EU countries are affected by the change. Excluded from receiving Russia-manufactured new components are the Ukraine developed D-18T engines.
Kiev fiercely opposes plans to convert the military ‘Ruslans’ into freighters “made in Russia”
As CargoForwarder Global reported on earlier occasions, Antonov Design Bureau, the Ukrainian AN-124-100 “Ruslan” developer and license holder, keeps insisting that Russia violates international laws by exchanging original components of the aircraft with (unlicensed) products made in Russia. “Due to the illegal practices, governments should deny landing and take-off rights for the remodeled military freighters and forbid the aircraft to overfly their territory,” an Antonov executive demanded.
Ukraine’s government had often expressed similar views.
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