Does Russia Need An-70 Aircraft?

Probably, the USA will have one soon

Today, the Moscow Zamoskvoretsky Court started considering a lawsuit filed by Air Force Commander, Colonel-General Vladimir Mikhailov against the television company TV-Center and against Andrey Karaulov, who hosts the Moment Istiny (the Moment of Truth) program on the channel. >The high-ranking official sued the television company because of the report shown in the mentioned program on March 30th of the current year. It was said in the report, Russian officials did not take any measures to outfit the troops with new aircraft. It was going about the An-70 aircraft.

Vladimir Mikhailov emphasized in the suit, in an interview with Omsk region governor Leonid Polezhayev, the TV host accused the Russian Air Force commander of "blocking the decision to build the new aircraft, going against Russian and Ukrainian prime ministers' decisions." The claimant believes, host Andrey Karaulov's information was false and defaming, "it caused the moral damage to the reputation of the Air Force commander." "The question of suspending or continuing the production of an aircraft depends on the removal of significant constructive disadvantages, which directly affect the flight safety. Such issues do not depend on someone's will," said Mikhailov.

The claimant demands, the information should be rejected. The Air Force commander also asks to levy one million rubles from the TV host as a compensation of the moral damage. "If the suit is upheld, Mikhailov will transfer the money to one of Russian flight schools," lawyer Igor Shaikov said.

Below are several excerpts from the Moment of Truth program, which was broadcast on March 30th of the current year:

Karaulov: "This is the An-70 aircraft, in which Russia has invested $300 million. Yet, Colonel-General Mikhailov ordered to ruin the project, to suspend the production, to put it mildly. The official suspended the production as soon as the company Polyot launched the series production of the airplane. The company was supposed to build 164 An-70 aircraft. Fifty airplanes were meant for Ukraine, the Czech republic was going to buy three of them. If the production of the plane does not start, NATO will have a plane like this in seven years. Who our generals work for? The An-70 aircraft is the plane of a large carrying capacity, it is capable of carrying up to nine defense technology items or a whole military unit. In addition to it, it can land on a grass surface, which is very important during emergencies or army actions. Doesn't Russia need such a plane? Air Force Commander Vladimir Mikhailov is strongly against this project. Apparently, he stands for the IL-76 aircraft, although Vladimir Putin, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, Russian Prime Minister Kasyanov have said positive things about An-70. Yet, the military official continues having his own way."

Several days before the opening of MAKS-2003 airshow, Vladimir Mikhailov formulated his point of view again: "Let anyone buy the An-70 aircraft, the Russian Air Force will not do it, until Colonel-General Mikhailov has the power." A scandal around the plane took place in April of 2003. The scandal was based on experts' estimates and recommendations. They wrote a letter to Russian Defense Minister Sergey Ivanov. It was mentioned in the letter, the An-70 aircraft had been developed on the level of the outdated An-12 plane. In addition it was said, An-70 technical features did not comply with technical goals of the Russian Air Force.

The discussion about An-70 has been caused with the fact that Ukraine was supposed to develop a 35 ton-capacity transport aircraft. However, they developed a 47 ton-capacity machine, which meant a competition to the Russian IL-76 plane, the carrying capacity of which makes up 50 tons. An-70 has certain technological disadvantages: a considerable part of the lifting force is created with propellers. As a result, experts believe, a malfunction in one of the engines might result in an air crash. On the other hand, the An-70 aircraft is meant for the Air Force, it is supposed to be as much efficient as possible under military conditions. Russian pilots have already called the new airplane a "flying coffin."

The second model of the An-70 plane crashed in January of 2001, when two of its engines failed. Apparently, Russian Air Force is not going to purchase these planes in the nearest future. A trial between the military official and the TV journalist is a private issue. Does Russia need An-70 - the aircraft, which can carry up to nine defense technology items or a whole military unit? The States definitely needs such a plane. During the recent Iraqi campaign, American military officials complained of the lack of transport planes to dispatch marines to Kuwait. They will have such a plane soon.

Author`s name Olga Savka