November 30, 2009:
Russia has agreed, after three years of planning, to resume production of the An-124 cargo aircraft. At least 70 will be produced initially, and they will sell for about $200 million each. Designed at the end of the Cold War, only sixty were built then. But the market for aircraft that can carry oversize cargo has grown twice as fast as the air cargo market in general. The An-124, and the U.S. Air Force C-5, are the only two transports that can handle oversize material. And the An-124 is the only "jumbo" available for charter. Three years ago, it was proposed that An-124 production would be resumed. Another fifty, or more, aircraft were to be produced, starting in 2008. But there were problems raising the required cash (at least half a billion dollars.) Now the government has come up with the money, and all the resources (suppliers of components) have been organized.
The An-124 "Ruslan" is the world's largest production aircraft and can carry a payload of up to 150 tons. The An-124 cruises at a speed of around 800 to 850 kilometers per hour, it can carry a maximum payload around 4,500 kilometers, or carry less cargo, and more fuel, for up to 16,500 kilometers. There are around 40 An-124s doing commercial work, with another twenty in military service
In the late 1980s, a modification of the An-124, the slightly larger An-225, was built. With two extra engines and a larger wing, the An-225 can carry over 250 tons. A second An-225 was being built when the Cold War ended. Construction was halted, but demand for An-124s has been so strong, that the second An-225 is being completed. New An-225s would cost cover $250 million each. These are a bargain compared to the $225 million cost of a new American C-17 cargo aircraft. The C-17 also only carries around 79 tons of cargo. If sales of the new An-124 take off, more An-225s may be available as well.