3 February 2015
Legacy in question
In the twentieth spy film of James Bond franchise called Die Another Day (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer & 20th Century Fox (UK), 2002), AN-124 airplane became one of the main elements of the film’s mis-en-scene. Both AN-124 and AN-225 “Mriya”, which featured in the 2012 film (Sony Pictures Releasing US, 2009) survived during crises showed in the films.
On 17 December 2013, Ukraine and Russia signed an agreement to resume production of AN-124 “Ruslan” with D-18T engines. Mykola Azarov who served his last days on the post of Prime Minister in this period announced about the major project in the history of domestic aviation industry. Revenues from 80 produced airplanes were estimated at 12.9 billion USD. Although AN-124 (released in 1982) was not produced in Russia since May 2004, while only four airplanes have been produced between 1995 and 2004 on Russian and Ukrainian enterprises, both sides repeatedly tried to resume the production.
Starting from the Yuschchenko-Putin trade relations in 2006, Ukraine and Russia signed an agreement to resume such a production. Then there were business plans and other treaties, however, the production was not launched. Similarly, the agreement of 17 December 2013 had more of a public relations nature and was designed to be used as a counterpoise to Ukraine’s choice toward European integration. This was further (August’15, 2014) confirmed once Yuriy Slyusar, Deputy Minister of Russia’s Ministry of Industry and Trade, announced that “the Russian-Ukrainian project on resuming the production and modernisation of AN-124 “Ruslan” is not longer considered due to the current political situation.
The company with one of the highest market capitalisation is Apple engineering firm that produces only one of its products – Mac Pro – in its entirety on the U.S. soil. All other products are manufactured in China, while the company purchases vendors and advanced technologies across the world. Industrial outsourcing became a popular trend among successful companies. The suggested concept for production of AN-124 of new generation is based on the synergy of three main participants: (1) “Antonov” State Enterprise as an engineering company / designer / producer for specialised orders for AN-124 and AN-225; (2) Boeing as a production coordinator, as well as that for Western-made vendors; (3) Xi'an Aircraft International Corporation as a serial producer / supplier to the People’s Republic of China and international markets. The new generation AN-124 should be adapted to NATO and U.S. Air Force standards that are most likely to be acceptable for China as well. The most critical aspects of the program are: a) saving up considerable funds during the launch of serial production of AN-124, namely cutting from 20-25 billion USD necessary to design such an aircraft from scratch to just 1 billion USD + implementation of necessary modifications valued at around 0.5 billion USD (without accounting for building up of a new final assembly facility at Xi'an Aircraft International Corporation. As a point of comparison, Airbus Military spent 25 billion EUR and 10 years to produce A-400M); b) “Antonov” gets an immense stimuli to translate all of the design documentation in English, as well as to move to the international standards to ensure industrial collaboration at the highest level. The enterprise is going to focus know-how technologies, administration resource policy and the product’s commercial future in its hands. The estimated value of one new generation AN-124 is going to be around 300 million USD, which would enable the profitability of the whole enterprise.
Cooperation of the three worlds.
Aircraft designers created a plethora of concepts and modification projects of AN-124. Our offer is based on the principles of a successful business model in which all sides succeed. We analysed who would benefit the most from the renewed production of AN-124, as well as what kind of requirements these customers might have to the configuration of the aircraft. “Antonov” State Enterprise has a long-term experience of aircraft design used in China’s Air Force (People's Liberation Army Air Force). At the same time the niche for AN-124 in China remains vacant.
AN-124 might become a promising product for military & civilian purposes if it obtains modern and competitive equipment, especially avionics and navigation sets. Other crucial aspects include FADEC engines and opportunities to use logistics equipment according to the international standards. Industrial collaboration with Boeing might be the most beneficial option to develop similar contracts to the one on AN-72 / 74 in 2006 (see Newsletter from 30 December 2014).
Historic competition between Boeing and Lockheed Martin, as well as a lack of a similar to AN-124 airplane in Boeing’s line, while Lockheed Martin has C-5 Galaxy, may be a powerful incentive for the former to support the project of resuming production of AN-124 of a new generation. The new version is likely to get latest General Electric CF6-80C2 (F138) engines (around 1,700 such engines had been produced) as one of the options, as well as the Honeywell navigation set and organisation of production of significant elements of the aircraft with the leading manufacturers, such as UTC Aerospace Systems that produces chassis.
The serial production can be very interesting to the AVIC corporation, specifically to Xi'an Aircraft International Corporation (est. in 1958, number of employees: 20,000) considering the successful series of trials of Y-20 that will replace outdated IL-76.