First having entered service in 1986, the An-124 Ruslan (also known as the Condor) is a strategic air-lifter and the second largest serially-produced cargo aircraft in the world. The An-124 is designed to deliver and air drop large and heavy cargo over long ranges, including troops, vehicles, and equipment. Twenty five of these aircraft are currently operated by the Russian military, while another eighteen are operated by Russian civilian aviation companies including Volga-Dnepr. The An-124 has a double-deck layout. The lower deck is used for cargo, while the upper deck houses the cockpit, the compartment for crew relief, and a cabin for the troops which contains 88 seats.
The An-124 has a crew of 6. The aircraft is 68.96 meters in length, has a wingspan of 73.3 meters, a height of 20.78 meters, and an empty weight of 175,000 kg. The Ruslan can carry up to 120 tons of freight, 25% more than its American counterpart, the C-5A Galaxy. The An-124 has a maximum speed of 865 km/hr, a cruise speed of up to 850 km/hr, and a maximum range of 5,400 km without refueling (when fully loaded). The service ceiling is 12,000 meters. Due to the aircraft’s reliability and ability to carry heavy payloads, the aircraft has been leased by over 18 countries including Sweden, Germany, France, Finland, Portugal, the UK, Norway, the Netherlands, Canada, Denmark, Belgium, Greece, and the US.
In 2004, Russia and Ukraine agreed to continue the serial production of the An-124, and at least eighty AN-124-150 upgraded aircraft are to be built by 2020. These new aircraft will be certified to take off with a payload of up to 150 tons, the range will be increased, and the crew number will be reduced to 3. Also, all existing An-124 aircraft are being upgraded to extend their service life to 24,000 hours (as opposed to 7,500 flight hours for the original aircraft). Several more variants are planned, including the An-124-100M-150, which is to be equipped with Western avionics, and the An-124-200, which is to be equipped with General Electric CF6-80C2 engines.
Photos taken from russianplanes.