China’s grandiose plan to build an entire fleet of the world’s biggest aircraft, Antonov 225 (AN-225), the six-engine heavy-duty plane which can carry up to four battle tanks at a single go, has defin
China’s grandiose plan to build an entire fleet of the world’s biggest aircraft, Antonov 225 (AN-225), the six-engine heavy-duty plane which can carry up to four battle tanks at a single go, has definite implications for India in terms of lightning deployment of men and material, experts have said.
Just last week, China’s Aerospace Industry Corporation of China (AICC) had inked an agreement with Ukraine’s Antonov company to jointly produce such planes in two stages. Antonov’s website said: “The first stage of this interaction consists in construction of the second modernised AN 225 Mriya at Antonov company and delivery of this aircraft to AICC. The second stage is organisation of the joint series production of the AN-225 in China under licence of Antonov company.” The first plane will be delivered in 2019.
While the AN-225 plan doesn’t seem India-specific and appears fairly innocuous as far as India is concerned, its impact on India can be considerable.
“Such a big aircraft is not for the Air Force, it is primarily for the ground forces. Having said that, China is a very big country with bigger adversaries and its threats are multifaceted. But such aircraft can definitely come in very handy against India too,” leading defence analyst Ajay Lele told this newspaper, adding that it is too early to draw conclusions especially as it remains to be seen for what purpose the aircraft will be used. “But the plane will definitely offer advantages as far as smart and swift movement of troops and war material right up to the border areas is concerned,” Mr Lele added. A serving Army official said on condition of anonymity: “China in all probability will have airfields or is planning to build big airfields to land the AN 225.” The world’s first and sole AN-225 in existence is out on rent and now transports heavy-duty cargo like gas and wind turbines or to fly out military supplies for Nato forces based in West Asia. The plane was built in 1988 to carry the Soviet Buran, a reusable spaceplane, on its back. The plan was put into the backburner after the collapse of the Soviet Union. “China has a fetish for things big and also to showcase their military’s capability. This AN-225 plan is a part of that,” said Brigadier Rumel Dahiya (Retd) of the Institute of Defence and Strategic Analysis.
BOX: The six-engine AN 225 weighs 640 ton. It is 84 meters in length and has a wingspan of 88 meters. It has a top speed of 850 kmph.
It can carry upto 250 tons and is powered by the powerful Ivchenko Progress D-18T turbofan, which produces 23 tons of thrust.
An AN 225 is big enough to fit in and fly four tanks, helicopters, light fighter aircraft, big numbers of paratroopers, not to speak of other heavy artillery and missiles and missile launchers.