Ukraine and Russia have agreed to buy 13 of the new An-70 military transports being produced in Ukraine. This ends four years of efforts to revive the Cold War era project. It was two years ago that Russia agreed to put up the needed $300 million to revive the An-70 transport aircraft development program. Venezuela tried to help the Antonov aircraft company, four years ago, by offering to buy a dozen of their new An-70 transports. But Russia, which was having political problems with Ukraine at the time, refused to go along. Since the late 1980s, when the An-70 was in development, it has been pitched as a low cost alternative for nations needing C-130 or A400M type medium military transports. But political and financial problems have delayed moving ahead.
The An-70 is a powerful, four engine, prop-driven aircraft similar to the American C-130. 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 6,600 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 sees a potential export market of 700 aircraft, and expects 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. China may be lost, however, as they are now building a similar aircraft, the Y-8, also based on the old Russian An-12.
The An-70 has a top speed of 800 kilometers, a maximum 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 first prototype crashed in 2001, and part of the problem was design flaws with its D-27 turboprop engines. The Soviet Union always had problems with designing and building durable and reliable aircraft engines. These problems have been resolved, or so the Russians and Ukrainians insist.
Antonov, a Ukrainian company, kept An-70 development going through mid-2006, and maintained good relations with the Russian government. Russia said it wanted to concentrate on further developing its own Il-76 jet transport. But there is still a demand for propeller driven transports. The new program plans to have the 13 An-70s ordered delivered in the next five years. The first one will be ready for delivery next year.