Author Topic: Defending the giant - Antonov AN-124M  (Read 2421 times)

Offline KiwiZac

  • Once crowned Mango King by Brian da Basher!
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Defending the giant - Antonov AN-124M
« on: July 11, 2016, 05:49:03 AM »
Hi all,
I thought about doing this with a Revell 1/144 model - how good would a camo'd Ruslan look? - but, really, I can't afford to and I have no place to put it.

Feel free to do with this what you will.  8)

Defending the giant – the Antonov An-124M
As the Soviet-Afghan War dragged into its second decade the Afghani rebels – the Mujahideen – became increasingly better-equipped. As well as increased use of surface-to-air missiles such as the Stinger the Mujahideen began to acquire aircraft from third-party nations. Several Dassault Mirage IIIs - believed to have been donated to the Mujahideen by Pakistan - were flown and maintained by serving Pakistani pilots on secondment. At the same time the escalation of Soviet involvement demanded heavier payloads be flown into the mountainous nation’s dangerous airfields.

The Ilyushin Il-76, for years the backbone of Soviet airlift capability in Afghanistan, was supplemented by the gargantuan Antonov An-124 Ruslan super-heavylift jet. However the massive payload capability of the Ruslan became outweighed by its vulnerability and the combination of SAMs and interceptor aircraft began to take a heavy toll on the limited fleet. The loss of two Ruslans in the space of one week in late 1989 – one to a Mirage interception – forced the Soviets into a corner.

The Antonov design bureau entered into a rapid redesign of the type with a quad-mount tail turret (inspired by the Il-76) and the addition of anti-missile countermeasures. The militarised aircraft was given the designation An-124M (for modifitseerovannyy, or “modified”) and, after the modifications were evaluated and proven on Antonov’s own testbed, three serving examples returned to Ukraine for conversion. As well as the upgrades, each aircraft was completely stripped and repainted in a camouflage scheme like that of serving combat aircraft. The loss of a third unmodified example in February 1990 further proved the need for the An-124M, and another aircraft was pulled from Aeroflot service to be so converted. Because of the pressing need for aircraft Antonov “donated” the original testbed airframe to the air force (rumours abound that an air force officer demanded the aircraft from Antonov executives at gunpoint).

The An-124Ms were first spotted in Afghan airspace on 23 April 1990, when four examples were recorded by international observers around the country. For some weeks it was believed – and reported – that up to eight camouflaged Ruslans (the modifications were not mentioned, due to viewing distances they were almost invisible) were in service but in reality each aircraft received two “bort” or identification numbers to confuse the enemy. The first airframe was Yellow 01 and Blue 03, the second Yellow 02 and Blue 04 and so on, the Yellow bort number being the “correct” identifier for each machine.

The concept was proven in mid-May, when Yellow 04/”Blue 06” was attacked by an aircraft (possibly a Pakistani F-16) which it shot down using the rear turret. Days later Yellow 01/”Blue 03” was targeted by SAMs while on approach to Kabul’s airport, all three missiles missing due to flares. It wasn’t until January 1991 that a Ruslan-M was damaged by an enemy missile, the aircraft landing at Kandahar safely and needing minor repairs.

Following the October 1992 peace treaty the Ruslan-Ms were used to repatriate injured servicemen as well as military infrastructure no longer required, the last such flight coming shortly before Christmas that year.
« Last Edit: July 11, 2016, 05:51:50 AM by KiwiZac »
With warm regards from Whanganui, New Zealand

"Who said Kiwis can't fly...though this one can organise for a kit of the Fletcher FU24 to be produced!"