July 10, 2012
Credit: Credit: USAF
SINGAPORE — Outsize cargo operator Volga-Dnepr would like to see production of Antonov An-124s resume, but Russia needs to reach an agreement with the Ukraine for this to happen.
Russia wants to manufacture An-124s at the Aviastar factory in Ulyanovsk, southeast of Moscow. But the Ukraine owns the intellectual property to the An-124 design, so Russia must deal with the Ukrainians, according to Colon Miller, Volga-Dnepr’s military operations and key account manager.
Antonov, the original designer of the An-124, is a Ukrainian company.
On the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Military Airlift conference here this week, Miller tells Aviation Week the issue has caught the attention of Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, who is pushing the case for manufacturing An-124s at Aviastar, but so far there has been no breakthrough.
Miller concedes that it will be difficult for Russia and the Ukraine to reach an agreement, especially considering the broader political situation between the two countries. Russia and the Ukraine are involved in a wide range of disputes.
The most recent involves gas. The Ukrainians have been complaining about how much Russia charges them for gas, while the Russians are unhappy that they have to rely on the Ukrainians’ pipelines to reach gas markets in Europe.
Another challenge facing the An-124 program is finding investors.
In an effort to build support for the An-124, Miller says Volga-Dnepr met with U.S. congressional defense authorizers to ascertain what demand there may be in the future from the U.S. armed forces for chartered An-124s. He says that considering the extent of looming U.S. defense cuts, and the fact it means some of the U.S. military’s Lockheed C-5 heavy-lift transporters will be retired, it makes sense to fill that capability gap with some An-124 charters from the private sector.