Saturday, December 10, 2022

At $500M, Resurgent Ukraine Is Rebuilding World’s Biggest Aircraft AN-225 ‘Mriya’ At A Secret Location – Antonov

The largest military cargo aircraft in the world and Ukraine’s prized possession, AN-225 Mriya, was destroyed by Russian forces just a few days into the invasion. Months later, the Ukrainians have meticulously begun rebuilding their most cherished aviation dream from the ground up.

At the end of February, Ukrainian officials announced that the Antonov AN-225, the largest aircraft in the world, was destroyed by the Russian troops.

The massive aircraft built by Antonov, known as “Mriya” (“dream” in English) in the Ukrainian language, was severely damaged a few days after combat began.

As it was, the ‘dream’ was shattered, with its nose, wings, and engines badly damaged. Some of the empennages look undamaged from the first look.

Destroyed An-225: Via Twitter

Ukraine’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dmytro Kuleba, confirmed the news soon after the attack and said in a tweet, “Russia may have destroyed our ‘Mriya,’ but they will never be able to destroy our dream of a strong, free and democratic European state. We shall prevail!”

The manufacturer of the A-225 aircraft “ANTONOV” recently announced that the design work of a brand new  AN-225 “Mriya” had already started and the construction of this new project would cost about 500 million Euros.

It said in a tweet, “According to the available expert assessment, currently, there are about 30% of components that can be used for the second sample. The cost of building the plane is estimated to be at least 500 million Euros.

However, it is too early to talk about a specific amount. More information will be available after the victory.” This is indicative of the fact that work on the new Mriya is still in a very preliminary stage.

Earlier, Ukroboronprom, the Ukrainian government-owned defense firm that oversees the Antonov, said in a statement that the aircraft had been damaged but would be rebuilt for $3 billion at Russia’s expense.

The revised cost estimated by Antonov is significantly lower. While it is not being built at Russian expense per se, the resuscitation of the Ukrainian dream has begun.

The Antonov AN-225 Mriya was a one-of-a-kind transport aircraft originally built during the Soviet era to transport Soviet spacecraft. For about 34 years, the aircraft remained the world’s largest transport aircraft and has functioned as the backbone of Antonov Airlines’ fleet since 2002. Previously unthinkable airborne objects were moved by this aero-giant.

The remarkable aircraft set more than 200 records over its lifespan, including airlifting the largest cargo and flying the longest load. When it was not fully loaded, the Mriya had a reported range of nearly 10,000 miles or roughly the distance between the cities of New York in the US and Sydney in Australia.

Ukraine Antonov Mriya
Ukraine Antonov Mriya

It was initially planned that two such Mriya aircraft would be built, but only one could ever be completed. Work on the second airframe was abandoned in 2009.

The company later faced financial difficulties and producing another aircraft required $300 million. Additionally, there was simply no demand for another plane of that type.

After the mammoth aircraft was damaged earlier this year, there is finally the need for another Mriya. There are speculations that the AN-225 Mriya will be outfitted with brand-new and repurposed components from the original aircraft.

These claims could not be corroborated, and no such communication from the manufacturer has been forthcoming.

The Destroyed But Not Forgotten Ukrainian Dream

After the news of AN-225’s destruction, the manufacturer said that the aircraft had been on the ground near Kyiv on February 24, undergoing maintenance.

The statement read, “According to the director of Antonov Airlines, one of the engines was dismantled for repairs, and the plane wasn’t able to take off that day, although the appropriate commands were given,” it said.

The Gostomel Airport, where the aircraft was stationed in a hangar, was taken over by the Russian airborne troops soon after the invasion began. The satellite imagery also revealed that the hangar in which the AN-225 was parked was severely damaged, causing grief in Ukraine’s aviation community, where the aircraft has enjoyed near cult status.

In April 2022, Ukraine’s Interior Minister Denys Monastyrsky stood before the wrecked giant cargo aircraft, striped with the yellow and blue of the Ukrainian flag.

According to the report, the Interior Minister revealed that the Gostomel Airport was chosen as the staging ground for the Russian troops to attack Kyiv and secure a decisive victory.

However, in an unanticipated event, the Ukrainian troops fiercely fought with the invaders, and the Russian plan faltered.

“The initial idea was that cargo planes with paratroopers and vehicles would land here, and it should’ve been an entrance point to Kyiv,” said Monastyrsky. Going by the graphic description provided by the report after more than a month of fighting, the airport seemed to be one of the first battlegrounds where the Russians failed to make a breakthrough.

However, the Ukrainian dream was a tragic casualty amid defending the capital from the invaders.

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