Air Transportation: The Agony of the An-70

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June 4, 2006: Russia has pulled out of the An-70 development project. The An-70 has been pitched as a low cost alternative for nations needing C-130 or A400M type medium military transports. The AN-70 is a powerful prop-driven aircraft. While the C-130 can haul 20 tons, and the A400M 37 tons, the AN-70 can carry 47 tons (for up to 1,350 kilometers.) Carrying 20 tons, the AN-70 can travel 7,400 kilometers. The aircraft also excels in one area the Russians were always good at; the ability to operate from unpaved, and short, runways. The Russian-Ukrainian company developing the AN-70 expected to sell lots of them to countries like India and China, and others that want the most for their money for a rugged military transport.

The An-70 is a turboprop transport with a top speed of 800 kilometers, a range of 8,000 kilometers and is intended as a replacement for the venerable, and popular, An-12. The An-70 has been in development since 1984, and that effort was interrupted by the collapse of the Soviet union in 1991. Despite the cut in funding, the first flight took place in 1994, and a second in 1997. The project limped along on a much reduced budget. The prototype crashed in 2001, and part of the problem was design flaws with it's D-27 turboprop engines. The Soviet Union always had problems with designing and building durable and reliable aircraft engines. These problems have not been resolved, and some Russian aircraft companies buy foreign engines for their transports.

Antonov, a Ukrainian company, says it will go on alone with An-70 development. Russia wants to concentrate on further developing its own Il-76 jet transport. While nice on paper, it prospects don't look good for the An-70.

 


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