June 14, 2012:
Russia has again changed its mind about buying the An-70, four-engine turboprop transport. The VTA (Military Transport Aviation) is ordering 60 An-70s, to be delivered between 2014 and 2020. This comes after two decades of development and several orders and cancellations. Four years ago, after two years of stalling, Russia agreed to put up the needed $300 million to revive the An-70 development program. Venezuela also tried to help Antonov five years ago, by offering to buy a dozen of their new An-70 transports. That did not happen because Russia, which was having political problems with Ukraine at the time, refused to go along.
Since the early 1980s, when the An-70 began development, it 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 in a rugged military transport. Getting that first order has proved elusive, until now.
Antonov, a Ukrainian company, kept An-70 development going through mid-2006, and maintained good relations with the Russian government. But Russia said it wanted to concentrate on further developing its own Il-76 jet transport. There is still a demand for propeller driven transports. Eventually the Ukrainians (and newly elected pro-Russia government) made their case that the An-70 was needed. The new purchase will enable mass production to go into high gear.