Antonov assembles first An-178 fuselage for Ukraine

Antonov revealed on May 20 that it has completed the fuselage assembly for the first of three An-178-100P medium-lift strategic transports, which are destined to be delivered to the Ukrainian Air Force.

The roll out of the first An-178-100P fuselage from Antonov’s production line comes just five months after the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence (MOD) ordered three examples of the type for air force use. It also marks a major milestone in the delivery of the type to the Ukrainian air arm, while highlighting the aircraft production capabilities of Ukraine’s domestic defence industry.

On December 29, 2020, the Ukrainian MOD signed a memorandum of cooperation with Antonov. As part of the deal, the defence ministry placed an order for three An-178-100Ps in what was the nation’s first domestic military aircraft order since it gained its independence in 1991. The first An-178-100P is scheduled to be delivered to the Ukrainian Air Force in 2023.

First Antonov An-178 fuselage for Ukraine [Antonov]
Antonov rolled out the first assembled An-178-100P fuselage at its production facility on May 20, 2021. This aircraft is the first of three examples that will be delivered to the Ukrainian Air Force from 2023. Antonov

Antonov states that the airframe assembly for the first aircraft is scheduled to be completed by the end of this year. The firm adds that “production of details and aggregates for the second and third airplanes is in progress.”

Ukraine’s acquisition of the An-178-100P will enable the air force to begin to explore the possibility of withdrawing its ageing fleets of Soviet-era medium-lift tactical transports from operational service. Notably, the Ukrainian Air Force’s Antonov An-26 (NATO reporting name: Curl) fleet is starting to show its age and has been the subject of a rising number of attrition cases in the last decade.

In 2020 alone, there were two attrition cases involving Ukrainian An-26s. The first occurred on June 26, when an aircraft was damaged while undergoing maintenance in Kiev. However, this aircraft was repaired by July 9. On September 25, 2020, an An-26Sh crashed during a training flight in the Kharkiv Orblast. Of the 27 people on board the aircraft at the time, just one person survived.

The An-178-100P has been designed to transport personnel, munitions and light military equipment to both air bases and austere environments across the battlespace, with the latter being delivered via landing or parachute methods. Powered by two Progress D-436-148FM high-bypass turbofan engines, the platform boasts a cruising speed of 825km/h and a range of 3,680km (with a cargo load of 10 tonnes).

It is able to carry a maximum payload of 18 tonnes and has an operational service ceiling of 40,000ft. Antonov also states that the An-178-100P can also be modified to conduct search and rescue, medical evacuation, humanitarian assistance/disaster response (HA/DR) and civil transport missions.