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Made in Ukraine – Let’s Go Shopping

AN124-100 Pzh 2000

If one was in the market for a range of military equipment and wanting to indirectly support a potential ally to irritate and confound a potential enemy one might look at the defence market place in Ukraine.

A good starting point would be;

Nowadays, Ukroboronprom Ukrainian Defence Industry is the consolidation of a big number of multidisciplinary enterprises related to various fields of defense industry. The enterprises that conduct the economic activity in the area of development, manufacturing, sales, repair, upgrading and recycling of weaponry, military and special purpose equipment, ammunitions, and also participate in military and technical cooperation with foreign countries, have made the Ukrainian Defence Industry membership.

A few examples of things on the Ukraine shelf or development opportunities;

The Falarick 90 gun launched missile that is used by CMI with their various medium calibre turrets and gun combinations, also available in 105mm

Going up the scale is the Skif missile, imagine the endless hours of fun you could have saying you were going skiffing

Too obscure a reference, perhaps a more interesting option would be to look at Antonov.

The first aircraft that springs to mind is the brand new AN-178 currently looking for development partners in Europe. It does look increasingly like Poland will act as the bridge between East and West and Saudi Arabia also has an interest

The AN-178 could fill the gap between the RAF’s Chinook helicopter at 10 tonnes payload and the Atlas at 30 tonnes plus. It reminds me of a slightly larger BAE 146, in essence, it is an AN-158 with a ramp.

The AN-178 can carry 18 tonnes on a cargo deck that is sized to accommodate 463L pallets and ISO containers with what looks like an impressive short field and austere runway performance.


It is early days yes, the first flight only took place a few months ago, but it does look promising, investigate using a Rolls Royce BR700 series engine and it gets even more interesting.


These are kind of semi-serious suggestions but one that I think actually has some value is expanding and extending the Strategic Airlift Interim Service (SALIS). SALIS is a commercial arrangement managed by the Strategic Airlift Coordination Cell (SALCC) in the Royal Netherlands Air Force Base at Eindhoven.

The SALIS-Contract basically consists of two fundamental elements. Firstly, the assured access to strategic airlift capability for outsized cargo. Secondly the ownership and usage of Participants agreed quota of flying hours per annum. The assured access guarantees the assured availability of two (2) AN124-100 under part-time charter for any of the Participants national purpose, and the assured availability of up to six (6) AN124-100 aircraft on priority call for the rapid deployment of forces in support of NATO/EU operations. The SALIS Steering Board is the highest directing body for all SALIS matters.

SALIS has been recently extended to 2016 as the A400M project ramps up deliveries but even with a large European fleet of A400M’s in service there will still be a need for long range heavy strategic lift.

The SALIS participating nations are described below;

The consortium includes 12 NATO nations (Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, the United Kingdom) and two partner nations (Finland and Sweden).

The AN-124-100 Ruslan is a hugely impressive aircraft; 120 tonnes payload and 4,800km range for starters.


Transport von Gro쬰er둻 nach Afghanistan

german army Army Eurocopter HAD Tiger (Tiger) attack helicopter troops Afghanistan NATO-led effort to battle Taliban rebels an-124 missile fired operational isaf (2)

Fünf Gruppentransportkraftfahrzeuge (GTK) Boxer sind auf dem Weg in den ISAF-Einsatz nach Afghanistan. Das neue gepanzerte Fahrzeug soll bei einem der deutschen Ausbildungs- und Schutzbataillonen zum Einsatz kommen. Dies bedeutet einen Zuwachs an Schutz und Mobilität für die Soldatinnen und Soldaten im Einsatz. In ein russisches Frachtflugzeug Antonov wird der Boxer verladen. ©Bundeswehr/Weinrich

An124 cargo bay dimensions


The first thing Europe/NATO should do is extend the SALIS contract beyond 2016 to at least 2022, this provides Ukraine with a stable source of income and in reality, would not cost a great deal when spread across the SALIS nations.

In parallel with this would be an effort to ‘de-Russia’ the agreement comprising two parts, commercial and technical.

Antonov has also been trying to develop the next generation Ruslan for a while, there have also been concepts to create a version with a taller cargo bay for tall industrial loads and a Chinook helicopter without disassembly.

The list of improvements in the AN124-100M-150 includes (from the Antonov website)

  • payload increased from 120 tons to 150 tons;
  • take-off weight increased from 392 tons to 402 tons;
  • flight range increased, including for cargo of 120 tons from 4650 km to 5400 km;
  • aircraft assigned service life is increased to 24,000 flight hours; works on its extension up to 50 000 flight hours/10 000 flights/45 years service life are being performed;
  • the new PO-500 schedule of maintenance has been introduced (maintenance every 500 flight hours);
  • onboard crane equipment providing loading-unloading operations of a single piece of cargo up to 40 tons weight;
  • fuselage structure had been strengthened to enable airlift of a single piece of cargo up to 150 tons weight;
  • Navigation System and radar have been updated;
  • digital anti-skid braking system allowing to reduce landing distance up to 30% have been installed;
  • crew reduced from 6 to 4 members, and the comfort level of the crew rest cabin has been improved;
  • military oxygen equipment has been exchanged for the civil one;
  • reinforced wheels and tires have been installed;
  • new devices for engine control have been installed;
  • modernized systems of reverse control and engine vibration state monitoring have been developed;
  • the SRPPZ-2000 ground proximity warning system installed;
  • A826 inertial navigation system upgraded;
  • Enhanced observation (EHS) has been applied;
  • Minimum Equipment List has been developed and is now being implemented

Added to this list should be an effort to remove any Russian sub-contractor or equipment components and replace with them home-grown or European manufactured items.  The objective would be to move away from any reliance on Russian industry and upgrade the existing aircraft in the SALIS availability pool. This might also reveal opportunities for further development to improve performance or reduce in life costs, Rolls Royce Trent engines perhaps. They would still be civilian owned and managed with no military features.

Funding for this development would be on a loan or shared equity basis, binding Antonov into the European aerospace industry.

Once this non-Russian Ruslan design is available the SALIS partners should fund modifications to any existing aircraft and seriously consider increasing the airframe assured availability number from 6 to 12, or even 15.

This would be a smart move by Europe and/or NATO, a strategic investment in industrial cooperation with Ukraine that supports indirectly their security operations in the East and much less provocative than sending military aid.

The obvious spin-off is a significant improvement in the ability of the SALIS nations to project power and respond to humanitarian disaster relief operations, regardless of the A400M’s fine qualities.

None of this would be ‘easy’ but some obvious joined up thinking between overseas development assistance departments and shared funding models would reduce the overall impact on European defence budgets even further.

12 of the 150M version would be able to move a maximum 900 tonnes in a single lift cycle (assuming the receiving airport has the capacity), or put another way, more than double the entire lift capacity of the RAF’s C17 entire fleet.

Let’s not get too ambitious, but who knows, it might even make the original medium weight FRES concept viable and trade is always better than aid!

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26 Responses

  1. Talking about Antonov, may we have one minute of silence for the good old An-70, that promising plane that never seemed to have any luck or any budget, that nevertheless came so close to production, that promise of cooperation between Ukraine and Russia … and then, the Russo-Ukraine conflict started?

  2. The history of re-engining eastern bloc aeroplanes has always been a bit like ‘…nearly, but not quite…’ The only one that was ever certified was the Tu-204- A promising aeroplane but in the end only one Egyptian operator.

    Much as I rate russian aircraft, for their ‘built-like-a-brick-sh*thouse-ness’ and their simplicity, I can’t see someone going through the multiple hoops of certification, for an uncertain market.

  3. They are also working on a 120mm version of that gun/missile launcher.
    “The Cockerill 120mm high pressure gun provides a strengthened anti-armour capability. This weapon fires all NATO-standard 120mm smoothbore ammunition and the Falarick 120 GLATGM, which permits the effective engagement and penetration of heavy armour to beyond 5km range.”

  4. The AN-178 looks like a nice middle ground transport that could prove to be very busy moving odd bits of kit and supplies ( the bulk of most transport ops I would think ) into small fields close to the place of need. An A400M’ s large range and capacity is wonderful but you don’t send an articulated 39t lorry to deliver7t of 5.56 when a small lorry would be fine. I liked the Brazilian KC-390 but a European design filling the same niche has the edge for me .

    The Ukrainian defence industry I am sure is full of capacity to produce cheap reliable kit an considering the development costs of the AN-178 to flying prototype stage should be encouraged. The $300m for this project would probably not even cover the paper stage of a similar western project.

    The enhancement of the AN-124 to the 150 version again seems a no brainer , the existing versions are booked up continuously and an enlarged version carrying more for less operating cost can only boost demand. I am sure Airbus could build its own design to do the same but given the track record on costs of the A400M why would they? Billions of Euros over 20 years to achieve the same out come decades later?

    Give them the dosh and let it fly!

  5. The mention of the Cockerill 120/105mm family prompted me to ask those who may know about the Galliot muzzle brake. Designed by a Frenchman just after WW1 it was extremely efficient for its day in reducing effective recoil thus heavily lightening the recoil mechanism and the gun mounting . At the time it was used on a limited basis but was deemed at the time far to expensive to machine due to its complex design. However it was used to enable a prototype Mosquito bomber to be fitted with a high velocity 32pdr (94mm) anti – sub/ship/tank gun . This was successfully test fired at the end of the war but again determined to expensive compared to ‘dumb’ rockets fire in salvo.

  6. Further to Galliot, the muzzle brake reduced recoil by over 2/3rds and given todays ability to machine any shape relatively simply or even 3D print high stressed components such as the Gas turbine industry already do in planes you flt in , notably fuel injection nozzles, a black art of high strength ,very high temperature engineering if there ever was one.
    Does any one know of similar being used today , all the images I have seen of muzzle brakes say no. May be the simple clean lines of present brakes exceed their performance but… ?

  7. You’ve been skiffed! = hours of fun

    I’ve been skiffed! = the approximate flight time, only. You’ll be lucky to finish your sentence.

    I thought sticking it up a tree was a nice idea, let down by the significant preparation required, beforehand, in the building a tree house! I had a better idea. Modify the design of the tripod so that two of the legs can be rotated 180 degrees along their longitudinal axis, then fit spikes at the ends and add a stout strap so that you can make it into a platform that can hang off a tree, like this:

    Insert Rambo jokes here…

  8. @Monkey in message 8, do you have the reference for that 2/3rds reduction figure?

    Regarding complexity of design, perhaps it’s too fragile? If you swing your turret around and ding the end of the barrel on something, perhaps this complex shape would get bent. Maybe that’s the virtue of today’s visually simpler and apparently more robust shapes, with the trade-off (for a gun that works despite the muzzle being dinged) being more complex engineering at the breech.

    @TD these comment boxes used to have a little expansion thingy in the bottom right hand corner (looked like three lines drawn across the corner). Can we have it back, please? This slot feels like the letter box on an insurance form, and is just as impossible to fit all my valuable and erudite contributions into!

  9. The 148/178 family are certainly a handsome aircraft, have an element of the beautiful Do-328 about them.

    Antonov were talking to both RR and PW in May for the 148/178’s. GE (CF line) has been mentioned in the past, not seen much recently.

    With regards to “which PZL”, it’s not a single company that Antonov are engaging with but several in an attempt to form a consortia. They need to find alternative suppliers to Russian manufacturers.

    PZL Warszawa-Okęcie is the third PZL not yet mentioned here, and being both majority owned by Airbus Military (EADS CASA) and heavily involved with manufacturing C235/C295/A320 would be high on the priority list to talk to.

    Antonov without the An-70 in its repertoire is quite a sympathetic fit with Airbus. Combine with RR powerplants and Airbus/Antonov/RR becomes quite the formidable European consortia. There’s no reason Antonov can’t “Westernise” (and bring their benefits with them).

    The An-124 has briefly dallied with a RR powered variant in the past (RAF selected C-17 instead), running RB211’s. Trent’s would certainly be the powerplant to look at now.

    Last month we touched upon a (contentious) thought-exercise of the RAF divesting it’s C-17’s (to the NATO pot?) in order to run larger numbers of the long range A400M fleet and retain a flexible C-130 fleet.

    Would there be room for an expanded SALIS agreement and NATO funded C-17 pool?

  10. A nice bit of interesting wishful thinking but that is about it. I highly doubt the UK would put any serious consideration into buying Ukrainian kit.

    The wisdom of buying kit from a nation as unstable as Ukraine has to be explored first, my Brother has a Ukrainian wife and according to them the stability of the state is at a knife edge. That doesn’t make them a good long term procurement partner.

    Looking at the AN-178 interesting aircraft but it would be a foolish purchase. It is already public knowledge that UK special forces would be rather keen on retaining a few C-130 for their use. Rather than buying a number of aircraft from the Ukraine that would need further development and certification plus the set up of infrastructure it would be wiser to buy some brand new C-130J off the line that would almost seamlessly be able to be operated by the UK.

    (Before somebody says keep some of the current C-130J fleet – they are flogged to death! Better to retire them and cannibalise all the useful spares we can off them.)

  11. Yes he did, read the article to quote TD:

    “The AN-178 could fill the gap between the RAF’s Chinook helicopter at 10 tonnes payload and the Atlas at 30 tonnes plus. It reminds me of a slightly larger BAE 146, in essence, it is an AN-158 with a ramp.”

  12. And further down the article he advocates rolling it (and others) into an expanded SALIS style arrangement.

  13. Doesn’t change the fact he wrote:

    “The AN-178 could fill the gap between the RAF’s Chinook helicopter at 10 tonnes payload and the Atlas at 30 tonnes plus. It reminds me of a slightly larger BAE 146, in essence, it is an AN-158 with a ramp.”

    So my comment was perfectly valid.

  14. Seeing as we’re splitting hairs and that I have nothing better to do while watching Planes: Fire and Rescue with my son but be pedantic…

    …still doesn’t say he advocates a UK purchase. I believe the words he used were “could fill a gap” and “reminds me of”.

    But wait! What’s this?

    The first thing Europe/NATO should do is extend the SALIS contract…

    Hmm. Something Europe/NATO should do, eh?

  15. For the “gap” between a chinook and a400m one would imagine a requirement to conduct austere landings. You would then ask is a turbofan powered aircraft is the best way of conducting that mission.

  16. Just to clarify chaps.

    These are kind of semi-serious suggestions

    This was a reference to buying guided missiles and getting into the AN-178 programme

    I then followed it with this

    but one that I think actually has some value is expanding and extending the Strategic Airlift Interim Service (SALIS)

    i.e. The AN-124 SALIS extension is the one I think we should seriously do, along with a programme of taking Russia out of the SALIS/AN-124 loop and if practicable, increase the number of aircraft in the pool by way of funding additional manufacture to an improved spec.

    Alles Klar

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