2015 was a landmark year for the Ukrainian aircraft industry leader, Antonov.
The latest development by Antonov Design Bureau – the An-178 military transport aircraft – was unveiled on 16th April 2015, and made its maiden flight on 7th May. Inauguration ceremony for the An-178 took place at Gostomel airfield, near Kiev; after about an hour in the sky, the airplane made a successful landing.
Antonov estimates the current market for An-178-class airplanes at 380 units. By developing the An-178, the Ukrainian firm decided to fill the market niche for transport aircraft with a payload capacity of up to 18 tons, which effectively remains unoccupied today.
The An-178 is designed for transportation of medium to maximum payloads from 15 to 18 tons. This segment of the marketplace is virtually vacant thus far, except for aging or obsolete An-12 and C-160 airlifters which all need a replacement. The new aircraft can find itself in the heavier payload category than the An-74 or Europe’s C-27J and C-295. The predecessor of the An-178, the An-12, has been flying for a few decades now, so Antonov will not be a newcomer to the military airlift domain.
The An-178 is propelled by two Ivchenko-Progress turbojet engines instead of four turboprops seen on the An-12. However it will far surpass the latter in terms of fuel burn rate. The An-178 design provides the key advantages as follows:
· capacious cargo bay allowing for accommodation of standard IATA shipping containers;
· digital avionic equipment;
· “glass” cockpit;
· pressurized cargo hold.
The An-178 has a cargo bay cross section that is larger than that of the An-12’s, as claimed by the designer. Cargo compartment floor area will amount to 40 m² with loading ramp or 33 m² without it, and inner volume of cargo bay with or without loading ramp will be 125 m³ and 112m³, respectively. By way of comparison, cargo bay volume makes up 110 m³ in the An-12, 65 m³ in the C-27J and only 64 m³ in the C-295. In its cross section, the cargo bay in the An-178 is 2,746mm wide and 2,750mm high, which is clearly optimized for standard 2,440 x 2,440mm shipping containers. If compared to the An-158 on which basis the An-178 was designed, the latter will have its center wing section enlarged and expanded. This will provide enough space for three Humvee vehicles (13.3 tons), or as many Land Rover jeeps (9.7 tons), or two ZIL-131-class trucks (13.4 tons). The aircraft would allow for autonomous operation during 30 days. Meanwhile, labor intensity of maintenance personnel will be reduced substantially – down to 2.5 personnel per each flying hour – this all against the background of possible dual use as military/commercial airlifter.
Antonov is working on two versions of the An-178 transport: one with a side door and the other with a loading ramp. Alternative sources of avionic equipment being considered for the An-178 include suppliers such as Honewell and Collins.
The cockpit is designed for a crew of two pilots. The An-178, like each and all of Antonov-series military transport aircraft, can operate both on unpaved and concrete runways no shorter than 915 meters. Cruising speed is set at 825 km/h. The aircraft has a range of 1,000 km with full load and 4,000 km with a 10-ton load. A configuration with additional fuel tanks is being considered, allowing for cargoes up to five tons to be delivered to 6,000 kilometers. By way of comparison, the An-12 can deliver a 10t load to 3,200 kilometers at a cruising speed of 600 km/h.
There are preliminary orders for some 100 An-178s, according to Dmytro Kiva, the chief designer at Antonov. Among the potential customers are Saudi Arabia and some of the Gulf states. Cargo carrier Silk Way Airlines of Azerbaijan ordered ten An-178s just on the day the aircraft made its maiden flight. There is also an agreement concluded with China on the delivery of two An-178 aircraft and the establishment of an industrial partnership for production of the aircraft in China.
Te new Ukrainian military transport aircraft was inaugurated to the public at the 51st International Air Show Le Bourget 2015 in June, and raised a lot of interest among the visitors to the event.
Also at Le Bourget, Antonov unveiled its new light transport aircraft An-132 project developed for Saudi Arabia. Taqnia Aeronautics Company, a subsidiary of Saudi Company for Technological Development and Investment (TAQNIA), signed an agreement with Antonov in May 2015 to develop and manufacture the An-132 light cargo planes in Saudi Arabia. Under the agreement, King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST), Taqnia Aeronautics Company and Antonov will redevelop the existing An-32 aircraft to produce a new variant with improved payload, range and takeoff characteristics. The program will also encompass the development of a new cockpit with state-of-the-art US-made navigation systems, which will allow the crew to efficiently operate the aircraft in adverse conditions. Additionally, new equipment and systems will be integrated into the aircraft to significantly enhance its capabilities. The new An-132 will be able to deliver payloads of up to 9.2 tons to a range of 3,175 km, at a cruising speed of 550 km/h, and it can be configured for transportation of 71 troops or 41 paratroopers.
Prototype production started in September of this year, and as early as in 2017 the new An-132 is expected on display at Le Bourget.
The An-32 platform was selected after studying the requirements of Saudi Arabia and the global market for light transport aircraft in the military and civil sectors. The light transport aircraft is primarily intended to transport cargoes, while its secondary roles will include aerial delivery of cargoes on parachute platforms, airdropping of paratroopers, medical evacuation, reconnaissance, maritime surveillance, and other military and civilian missions.
For its part, the Ukrainian Navy Command announced it is developing a program to modernize its aviation arm by equipping it with a new maritime patrol aircraft system based on the Antonov aircraft technology. The program particularly includes the replacement of the aging Be-12 ASW/SAR aircraft with multirole patrol airplanes An-148-300MP.
The future maritime patrol aircraft system An-148-300MP will be developed as a derivative of the An-148-300 regional jet technology for use in roles that include maritime patrol, the conduct of surface warfare, electronic reconnaissance, electronic surveillance, electronic warfare, radio intelligence, search and rescue operations.
To perform these roles, the An-148-300MP will be fitted with radar and optronic sensors for surface search, as well as windows on each side of the fuselage for visual search tasks.
The composition of the weapons package will be configured to specific customer requirements. Particularly the modification designed for the Ukrainian Navy will carry anti-ship missiles in underwing pylons.
According to Antonov, the An-148-300MP is designed to have the maximum flight duration of 10 hours, patrolling altitude of 1,525 m and patrolling speed of 370 km/h, and will be able to fly to 2,650 km during a six-hour mission.
The An-148-300MP project -- which was presented by deputy chief designer at Antonov, Oleh Bohdanov at the Ukrainian-Polish forum on “Antonov Aircraft Westernization” in Bydgoszcz, Poland -- will be performed by a consortium consisting of Ukrainian and Polish companies, under the import substitution program.
The above described new Antonov products provide striking evidence that Ukraine’s aircraft industry -- despite the break-up of cooperation with Russia and warnings by Russian officials about the potentially disastrous consequences of this decision for the Ukrainian aviation sector – is strong enough not only to operate sustainably, but also to produce modern, high-quality technologies.