The An-124 project was given the go-ahead on February 2, 1972 when the Soviet Government issued a resolution to the Antonov Design Bureau in Kiev, Ukraine, ordering development of the strategic military transport aircraft.
The first project, izdeliye 200 (which was twice as heavy as the Antonov An-22 Cock, izdeliye 100) had reached the stage of full-scale mock-up, when the Soviets recognised they needed a more technologically advanced aircraft. A new government resolution, dated January 24, 1977 launched the izdeliye 400 program, which featured a new supercritical wing and fly-by-wire control system.
The prototype, CCCP-680125 (s/n 01-01), made its first flight on December 26, 1982 in the hands of Vladimir Tersky and his crew. The West initially attributed the designation An-40, and later An-400 to the aircraft. The Soviets unveiled the An-124 in May 1985 and displayed CCCP-82002 (s/n 01-03) at Le Bourget the following month.