November 17, 2011:
After two years of haggling and negotiation, Ukraine is delivering four of six An-32 air transports to Iraq, ahead of schedule. The An-32 is actually a modernized and the most recent version, of the Russian An-24 transport.
The original design is from the early 1960s, when the Soviet Union sought to develop a large military air transport force. Over 1,100 AN-24s were built, and over 600 are still in use. Before the end of the 60s, some 600 of an improved version, the An-26, were built, and about 300 are still flying. It's easy to confuse the An-24 and An-26, and journalists (and government officials) often do so. In the 1970s, even more powerful versions (An-30, An-32), entered service, but only about 360 of these were made. The 27 ton An-32 is basically an An-26 with better engines and modifications for tropical operations. This version can carry 6.7 tons of cargo or up to 50 passengers. The twin-engine transport has a max speed of 540 kilometers an hour and range of 2,500 kilometers. The crew consists of two pilots and a loadmaster. The An-32s cost about $10 million each and the ones for Iraq are newly built.
Iraq bought An-24s from the Soviet Union during the Cold War, but these were all gone by 2003. Antonov built the original An-24 series to be simple, rugged and easy to use and maintain. They succeeded. Four decades later, it should not be surprising that nearly a thousand An-24 series aircraft are still working. That's not the first time this has happened. After 70 years, there are still several hundred American DC-3 transports working in odd (and often remote) parts of the world.