The Russian defense ministry has extended its commitment to the Antonov An-140 twin turboprop to a total of 11 units, following acceptance of two such aircraft earlier this year. In the meantime, Russia and Ukraine are negotiating on setting up a final assembly line of the An-72 light tactical twinjet at the MoD’s 308th Aircraft Repair Plant in Ivanovo, which has been long doing repair and maintenance on the type. Formal government-level agreement on the matter is expected later this year.
The moves are explained by the fact that Russia’s Light Air Lifter (LTS) program has failed. It was started in late 1990s, to produce a next-generation tactical airlifter to replace long-serving An-24/26/30/32 turboprops and, partially, An-72/74 jets. The Ilyushin Il-112 design that was proposed as the LTS was in active development in 2008-2010 under supervision of the United Aircraft Corporation (UAC), funded by the Russian defense ministry. The project is believed to have been cancelled in late 2010 because of excessive costs. By that time Ilyushin had completed wind-tunnel testing and issued approximately 20 percent of the documentation for series production at VASO plant. In late 2010 UAC approached Antonov to determine whether the two could jointly develop a cost-effective program to meet the Russian air force requirement for an An-26 replacement.
It seems that after a thorough analysis, the Russian defense ministry has decided to go for a less expensive option. This includes procurement of An-140 transports with little modifications to the factory’s passenger standard, plus of An-74 aircraft at the Ivanovo plant using kits from the Kharkov State Aviation Plant that currently manufactures the aircraft. So far about some 30 An-140s and more than 200 An-72/74s have been assembled.
The first An-140-100 was officially accepted into service this spring, after extensive trials conducted by dedicated defense establishments. Both An-140s are operated from Chkalovskaya air force base for the transportation of personnel, cargoes, mail and “special missions” using both paved and unpaved runways, the air force said.