Russian president backs plan for giant freighter aircraft

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Russian president Dmitry Medvedev has thrown his weight behind plans to resume serial production of an upgraded new generation of the giant Antonov AN-124 freighter aircraft.

The worldwide market for ramp aircraft has grown at 30 per cent a year over the  past five years, according to Volga-Dnepr. In 2008, the market for AN-124 services was worth over $1.1 billion compared to $768 million in 2007.

The market is expected to grow up to $3 billion by 2020 and $7bn by 2030. A market study conducted by SH&E consulting company has confirmed the requirement for 70 AN-124 airplanes by 2030, taking into account the growing volumes of extraordinary cargo.

Medvedev joined Alexey Isaikin, president of Volga-Dnepr Group, and other industry and government officials for a tour of the aircraft and the Aviastar aircraft production factory in Ulyanovsk.

Volga-Dnepr currently has ten AN-124-100 aircraft, making it the world’s largest operator of the freighters. It now has over 50 per cent of the global outsize and heavyweight air cargo market.

The group is committed to order 20 of the new upgraded AN-124 aircraft in the period from 2011 to 2020 and a further 20 aircraft from 2021 to 2027. The project is hoping to gain further support from the Russian Government in the form of an order for military versions of the freighter to enable the production program to commence.

The upgraded AN-124 would be able to carry up to 150 tonnes of cargo and its flight range will be increased to 4,000 kilometres at maximum payload (15,000 kilometres at zero payload). The most significant element of the new specification is the deep modernization of the aircraft’s avionics system and improved operating performance.

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