Ukraine to show off its Ruslan cargo jet

Ukraine's Antonov aircraft design bureau is to show off its An-124 Ruslan heavy-duty cargo jet, which helps airlift NATO troops in Afghanistan, before NATO representatives and those of the German Defense Ministry.

Talking to the Novosti-Ukraine wire service, Andrei Sovenko, who heads the Antonov design bureau's press center, noted that the An-124 and Antonov Airlines will be unveiled during yet another stage of talks as regards the use of heavy-duty Ukrainian planes.

The NATO leadership will learn more about the An-124 aircraft and Antonov Airlines May 11-12 during the ILA-2004 international aerospace show at Schonefeld airport near Berlin, Sovenko noted.

In his words, the presentation ceremony mostly aims to acquaint all concerned NATO and EU (European Union) structures with the potential of Ruslan planes, as well as that of Antonov Airlines.

As of today, Ukraine and Russia are the only countries in the world to operate An-124-100 aircraft. Each Ruslan's load-carrying capacity totals 120 tons; meanwhile revamped Ruslan versions can carry 150 tons of freight.

In 2004 the Government of Ukraine and NATO signed a memorandum on using Ukraine's long-range transport aircraft during NATO operations and exercises. In 2003 NATO countries inked a document stipulating the use of Ukraine's An-124-100 cargo jets for long-range missions in the interests of NATO prior to the adoption of the new European A-400-M transport aircraft.

According to preliminary reports, six Ruslan planes are to start operating in line with lease contracts already next year.

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