HomeGlobal Defence UpdatesRussia Projects 'Ruslan' Power! Conducts 'Synchronized Takeoffs' With Seven An-124-100 Heavy Aircraft

Russia Projects ‘Ruslan’ Power! Conducts ‘Synchronized Takeoffs’ With Seven An-124-100 Heavy Aircraft



In a landmark tactical flight exercise, the Russian Aerospace Forces carried out simultaneous takeoffs of seven An-124-100 Ruslan aircraft for the first time.

On December 16, the Ministry of Defense announced the exercise details. It also released a video displaying the synchronized takeoffs of the aircraft, followed by a controlled and smooth landing. 

The Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation said that the flights were conducted under the leadership of Aerospace Forces Military Transport Aviation Commander Lieutenant General Vladimir Benediktov.

According to the report, the Military Transport Aviation (BTA) Command of the Aerospace Forces executed a tactical flight exercise involving the crews of An-124-100 Ruslan aircraft. 

The exercise aimed to assess the preparedness of young military transport aircraft crews in simultaneously transporting military personnel, weapons, and equipment over extensive distances.

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The Defense Ministry added that Lieutenant General Vladimir Benediktov led the flights, with the participation of the BTA command leadership. 

The crews of the Ruslan aircraft practiced various maneuvers, including takeoffs, flights along prescribed routes, and landings within condensed time intervals.

The Ministry also added that despite challenging weather conditions such as precipitation, low clouds, and strong wind gusts, the flights were successfully carried out at altitudes exceeding 4,000 meters. 

The exercise covered a substantial total route distance exceeding 1,000 kilometers, with the aircraft maintaining an average speed of 500 km/h throughout the maneuvers.

Lieutenant General Vladimir Benediktov, the Aerospace Forces’ Military Transport Aviation commander, underscored that the exercises involved the active participation of young crews.

“Today, we can afford to conduct exercises in such a composition, part of the forces of newly formed crews, without distracting crews that already have extensive experience from performing their tasks,” he said.

An-124-100 Ruslan Aircraft

The An-124-100, known by its NATO reporting name Condor, is a massive cargo transport aircraft designed by Antonov ASTC based in Kyiv, Ukraine. 

Manufactured by Aviant State Aviation Plant in Kyiv and Aviastar in Ulyanovsk, Russia, this four-engine giant has become a crucial asset for Russia’s military capabilities due to its substantial load-carrying capacity and extensive range.

The Russian military routinely conducts exercises deploying forces and heavy equipment over long distances within the country. 

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The two manufacturing plants cumulatively produced 54 Antonov An-124 aircraft, with 18 completed in Kyiv and 36 in Ulyanovsk. 

The primary operator of the An-124 is the Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS), boasting the largest fleet of these colossal transport aircraft, currently numbering 26. The VKS began integrating the An-124 into its fleet in 1987, with the last of the 26 aircraft arriving in 1991. 

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The widespread use of these aircraft by the VKS underscores their significance in supporting Russia’s strategic airlift capabilities, particularly for transporting heavy and oversized cargo over long distances.

The An-124’s origins trace back to the late 1970s when the Antonov Design Bureau in Kyiv, Ukraine, developed it to meet the Soviet Air Force’s need for a super-heavy transport aircraft. The design surpassed its US counterpart, the Lockheed C-5 Galaxy, offering superior flight and load-carrying performance. 

The initial design proposed by Oleg Antonov in 1972 underwent significant advancements and evolved into a jet-powered machine resembling the C-5. 

Borrowing design elements like the upward-hinging nose and ‘kneeling’ landing gear for efficient loading, the An-124 featured technologies such as a supercritical wing profile and a fly-by-wire flight control system.

Equipped with Ivchenko-Progress D-18T high-bypass ratio turbofans, the An-124 represented a technological leap forward for the Soviet Union regarding heavy-lift capabilities. 

The large cargo hold of the Antonov An-124-100 Ruslan is designed to accommodate various military equipment efficiently.

Among the configurations possible, it can transport up to four helicopters, including Mi-24/28, Ka-52, or Mi-8 models. Alternatively, the cargo hold can house up to three Sukhoi Su-25 attack aircraft, Su-27/30/35 fighter jets, or MiG-29 fighters.  

However, maintaining the operational readiness of the Condor has presented challenges, leading to ongoing overhaul and upgrade efforts by local engineers spearheaded by Ilyushin, a Russian aircraft manufacturer. 

These upgrade initiatives aim to incorporate cutting-edge technologies from the Russian aerospace industry, enhancing the Condor’s capabilities, reliability, and durability. 

In October 2023, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu confirmed plans to upgrade the AN-124 fleet, intending to increase the long-range cargo plane fleet by 2025.

The ongoing upgrade efforts reflect a commitment to ensuring the An-124 remains a formidable asset in Russia’s military aviation inventory. 

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