by Elco B
Sat Mar 25th, 2006 at 10:25:23 AM EST
Ah yes, again about a Russian plane.
This giant plane was subject of an agreement on the Brussels European top this week. How a plane of the former enemy became a strategical asset of EU and NATO.
First some technical stuff : Developed primarily as a strategic military freighter (in which role it can carry missile units and main battle tanks), the first prototype An-124 flew on December 26 1982. A second prototype, named Ruslan (after a Russian folk hero), made the type's first western public appearance at the Paris Airshow in June 1985, preceding the type's first commercial operations in January 1986. Since that time the An-124 has set a wide range of payload records, a recent achievement being the heaviest single load ever transported by air - a 124 tonne (273,400lb) powerplant generator and its associated weight spreading cradle, a total payload weight of 132.4 tonnes (291,940lb), set in late 1993.
Dimensions : Wing span 73.30m (240ft 6in), length 69.10m (226ft 9in), height 20.78m (68ft 2in). Wing area 628.0m2 (6760sq ft).
Remember my previous post about the Cri-Cri ? The photo below schows the An-124 in front but also a Cri-Cri and his pilot.
Capacity of the plane : flightcrew of six consisting of two pilots, two flight engineers, navigator and communications operator. Upper deck behind the flightdeck area features a galley, rest room and two relief crew cabins. Upper deck area behind the wing can accommodate up to 88 passengers. Main deck cargo compartment can carry a range of bulky and oversized cargos. The An-124's total payload in weight is 150 tonnes (330,695lb).
More than 60 of this plane are build and since the high demand for heavy lift operations more are in production now with even higher capacity ( over 160 tonnes payload) The USA has nothing that can meet with the An-124 and because of their never ending wars, their own heavy-lift capacity is overstretched so they cannot support their allies (Nato).
European country's military do not have real heavy-lift capacity, They have 30 tons payload planes like the Hercules C-130. For heavier duty's they have to hire or lease civilian freighters (like Jumbo's 747).
Airbus is developping the new A400 Military heavy-lift plane wich will boost the capacity of several European country's. But the A400M will not be in service before 2012 ! That's where the Antonov 124 comes in.
Military heavy lift in Europ is now organised by one organisation : SALIS Coordination Centre in Eindhoven, the Netherlands. SALIS = Strategic Airlift Interim Solution. This is an agreement now signed by 16 country's to coordinate all military airtransport. (Canada, the Czech Republic, Germany, Denmark, Finland, France, Hungary, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia and the United Kingdom - were joined by Sweden on 23 March.)
With the current engagements, the European military can now organise their transport efficiently and avoide needless costs. That way a Belgian Hercules returning from DR Congo can pick-up French troops in a nearby country avoiding two empty long distance flights. Also the heavy lift to and from Afghanistan is organised by the new pool.
Its a long and very complicated story: but the final agreement on SALIS is now signed and ratified.
There was a ceremony in Leipzig on 23 mars to make the whole thing official. A contract between 16 NATO countries and Ruslan SALIS GmbH, a subsidiary of the Russian company Volga Dnepr, based in Leipzig is working now.
The contract provides for two AN-124-100 aircraft on full-time charter, two more on six days notice and another two on nine days notice.
The contract fits in a set of frameworks so all participating country's can organise their transports, in a Nato framework but also a European and national framework.
Guess who pay's fo all this ?