TechEurope builds successor to giant An-124 Ruslan transport aircraft

Europe builds successor to giant An‑124 Ruslan transport aircraft

An-124 Ruslan
An-124 Ruslan
Images source: © Getty Images | NurPhoto

12:22 PM EDT, June 29, 2024

Under the ESOCA program, the European aviation industry is developing a successor to the world's largest transport aircraft, the An-124 Ruslan. Many companies are participating in the development of this future machine.

Following the destruction of the only An-225 Mriya aircraft by the Russians, the An-124 Ruslan is now the largest transport aircraft in the world. The design was developed in the Soviet Union during the late 1970s and early 1980s, with serial production starting in 1985.

The Ruslan has a fuselage length of 226 feet, a wingspan exceeding 239 feet, and can carry loads of up to 298,000 pounds (a world record from 1993-2009). Its large cargo hold, equipped with cranes capable of handling 44,000-pound loads, facilitates loading and unloading.

Successor to the An-124 Ruslan aircraft

Although An-124 aircraft still fulfill their roles, their limited availability is problematic. Single Ruslan aircraft fly under the flags of several countries, but Russia and Ukraine manage the majority of this fleet.

Because renting Russian aircraft is politically unfeasible, and Ukrainian and Russian aircraft are becoming increasingly unavailable due to wear and a lack of proper maintenance, Europe needs to develop its heavy transport aircraft.

The primary purpose of the new machine is strategic military transport. The European Commission launched the ESOCA (European eco-System for Outsized Cargo Airlift) program to develop an aircraft with such capabilities.

As noted by Defence 24, the launch of the European program aligns with a significant shift in the aviation industry's capabilities. Post-Soviet states like Russia and Ukraine are gradually losing the ability to build large transport aircraft, while Western Europe will inherit these competencies.

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