The Russian navy introduced the first of a planned eight Antonov An-140-100 twin turboprops at Ostafievo naval air station. This follows delivery of four similar aircraft to the Russian Air Force, three of which are based at Chkalovsky airbase. But it is still unclear whether the Russian ministry of defense will order the Ukrainian design in quantity. A rival tactical design, the Ilyushin Il-112, may yet be produced to meet Russia’s light tactical airlift requirements.
The An-140-100 is produced in Russia by Samara-based Aviacor under license from Antonov. Aviacor won a framework contract from the defense ministry in May 2011, followed by an order for 11 in the standard convertible passenger/freighter configuration. This, however, was below the makers’ expectations: Aviacor general director Sergei Likharev expected an order for 15. Ultimately, he expects Russia to procure a total of one hundred An-140s over a period of 10 years.
Last year, defense ministry sources indicated their intent to take 62 An-140s provided that Antonov and Aviacor come up with a “price competitive” offer on the An-140T version. Antonov has promised to complete development of this version, which has a rear loading ramp, in 2015. Aviacor says it needs a large combined order from both military and civil customers to achieve cost-effective production, which can be attained with annual output of 10 to 12 airplanes starting in 2014-2015.
The An-140 is replacing aging An-24s and An-26s in the Russian air force. The service decided to use this type after development of the Il-112 project stalled. Ilyushin began design of the six-tonne-payload LVTS, the Russian acronym for the Light Military Transport Airplane, in 1999. Under a series of small contracts from the defense ministry in 2003-08, Ilyushin produced some 90 percent of the required technical documentation for the Il-112. It also completed wind-tunnel tests and began transferring manufacturing documentation to the Vaso plant in Voronezh, where the new tactical airlifter would be produced.
However, cost overruns and technical issues prompted the defense ministry to discontinue funding this project in 2009. The biggest obstacle is non-availability of a suitable indigenous engine in the 4,000-shp class, after Klimov failed to produce the Bogatyr, a more powerful derivative of the TV7-117 developed earlier for the Il-114 and more recently adapted to the Mil-38-2 helicopter. Reportedly, experimental engines were able to deliver only 2,800 shp instead of the expected 3,500 shp.
Most recently, Ilyushin has lobbied the Russian government to resume the Il-112 project. Russia has now offered the aircraft to India as a 50-50 joint development, in similar fashion to the BrahMos missile and the medium tactical airlifter projects that are already under way. While awaiting a final decision from the government level, the Russian defense ministry has indicated an intention to continue buying the An-140 to meet the pressing need for lightweight tactical airlifters.