Air Transportation: Russia Revives Its Fleet


November 5, 2012: The Russian Air Force recently announced ambitious plans to invigorate their aging force of air transports. This is to be accomplished by ordering 170 new aircraft by the end of the decade. These include 20 An-124s, 39 Il-476s, 11 An-140s, 30 L-410s, 50 Il-214s, and 20 An-148s. Currently the air force depends on a lot of Cold War era transports (An-124s, An-22s, Il-76s, and An-12, An-72, An-24, and An-26s). A lot of the older transports cannot be used because of age, or cannot be used much because of the high cost of maintenance. Some of the older aircraft (An-124s and Il-76s) will be refurbished, but most of the remainder will be scrapped as they become too old to be used (too expensive to maintain or simply too unreliable).

The An-124 is the world's largest production aircraft and can carry a payload of 120 tons. Russia has been trying to get it back into production for over a decade. The Il-476 can carry up to 60 tons and is an update of the older Il-76 (which was similar to the recently retired U.S. C-141, which was replaced by the C-17). The An-140 is a twin turboprop transport from Ukraine that can carry up to five tons of cargo or 52 passengers. The L-410 is similar to the An-140 but smaller (it carries about 1.5 tons or 19 passengers). The Il-214 is a twin-jet transport, still in development, that can carry 20 tons. The An-148 is a twin jet passenger aircraft that can carry up to 80 people or nine tons. This one is often used as a “VIP transport” for hauling generals and senior government officials around.

The new aircraft are more reliable and cheaper to operate. If the new aircraft are not purchased (at a cost of nearly $10 billion) the Russian Air Force will have very little transport capability at all in a decade or so.

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