Apr 18, 2014

An-70 passes Ukraine state tests

The Antonov An-70 propfan tactical transport plane has passed state acceptance trials and is finally ready to enter series production.
That might be a cause for celebration in the course of most military equipment programmes, particularly one that has been as tortuous and drawn-out as that of the An-70. The event, however, comes against a background of unprecedented political tension between Moscow and Kiev and uncertainty about the future of their joint military industrial co-operation that could yet see the aircraft consigned to history.
The aircraft is recommended for acceptance into the armed forces and also for serial production.
If the aircraft is ready, however, the intended customers are unlikely to be placing orders any time soon.
Russia has been involved with the programme since its inception in the Soviet-era, and has maintained intermittent involvement since Ukraine became independent. Interest from Moscow has waned in recent years, with the Russian Air Force openly sceptical about the aircraft, particularly in relation to its engine problems. In April 2013, Antonov admitted the Russians had withdrawn from involvement in the test programme in November 2012 because of frustration at its slow progress.
Russia would also be unlikely to want to procure an aircraft partly built in a Ukraine aspiring for NATO or EU membership. Another significant problem for Ukraine would be funding for the aircraft. While Russia has a stated requirement for around 60 aircraft to replace its ageing An-12 fleet, Ukraine has previously said it was ready to buy just a handful (between three and five according to local media - it has a requirement for considerably more).
Some commercial heavy cargo operators such as Volga Dnepr have previously expressed an interest in a civil variant of the type designated An-70T, but series production is all but unthinkable without a major military customer from one of the developer nations.

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