Antonov An-225 Mriya (Cossack) Super Heavy Transport
edited by Tim Wing
The Antonov An-225 Mriya (Ukrainian Dream, UEDF reporting name: Cossack) was a strategic airlift cargo aircraft that was designed by the Soviet Union’s Antonov Design Bureau in the 1980s. The An-225’s name, Mriya (Мрiя) means Dream or Inspiration in Ukrainian. It was powered by six turbofan engines and was the longest and heaviest airplane ever built with a maximum takeoff weight of 640 tons. It also had the largest wingspan of any aircraft in operational service.
The Antonov An-225, initially developed for the task of transporting the Buran spaceplane, was an enlargement of the successful Antonov An-124. The first An-225 was completed in 1988. This airlifter still holds the absolute world records for an airlifted single item payload of 189,980 kilograms by a conventional aircraft, and an airlifted total payload of 253,820 kilograms by a conventional aircraft.
- Role: Strategic airlifter
- National origin: Soviet Union / Ukraine
- Design: Antonov
- Manufacturer: Kyiv Mechanical Plant
- First flight: 21 December 1988
- Status: Retired
- Primary user: Soviet Airforce, Aeroflot
- Produced: 1988-1992, 2001-2006, 2014-2016
- Number built: 18
- Developed from: Antonov An-124
The Antonov An-225 was designed to airlift the Energia rocket’s boosters and the Buran space shuttle for the Soviet space program. It was developed as a replacement for the Myasishchev VM-T. The An-225’s original mission and objectives are almost identical to that of the United States’ Shuttle Carrier Aircraft.
The An-225 first flew on 21 December 1988 with a 74-minute flight from Kiev. The aircraft was on static display at the Paris Air Show in 1989 and it flew during the public days at the Farnborough air show in 1990. Two aircraft were originally ordered. After the arrival of the SDF-1, there was a sudden need for its unique talents. Consequently, an additional 30 aircraft were ordered by the Soviet government and by the United Nations Earth Government. It could carry ultra-heavy and oversize freight, up to 250,000 kg internally, or 200,000 kg on the upper fuselage. Cargo on the upper fuselage could be 70 meters long.
Based on Antonov’s earlier An-124, the An-225 had fuselage barrel extensions added fore and aft of the wings. The wings also received root extensions to increase span. Two more Progress D-18T turbofan engines were added to the new wing roots, bringing the total to six. An increased-capacity landing gear system with 32 wheels was designed, some of which were steerable, enabling the aircraft to turn within a 60 meter wide runway. Like it’s An-124 predecessor, the An-225 had nose gear designed to kneel so cargo can be more easily loaded and unloaded. Unlike the An-124, which had a rear cargo door and ramp, the An-225 design left these off to save weight, and the empennage design was changed from a single vertical stabilizer to a twin tail with an oversized horizontal stabilizer. The twin tail was essential to enable the plane to carry large, heavy external loads that would disturb the airflow around a conventional tail. Unlike the An-124, the An-225 was not intended for tactical airlifting and is not designed for short-field operation.
Initially the first two An-225s had a maximum gross weight of 600 tons, but from 2000 to 2001 these aircraft underwent modifications such as the addition of a reinforced floor, which increased the maximum gross weight to 640 tons. All new build airframes from this time period onwards included these reinforcements as well. Both the earlier and later takeoff weights establish the An-225 as the world’s heaviest aircraft, being heavier than the cargo variants of Boeing’s 747.
The An-225’s pressurized cargo hold was 1,300 cubic meters in volume; 6.4 m wide, 4.4 m high, and 43.35 m long — longer than the first flight of the Wright Flyer. Only the Boeing 747-LCF had a bigger cargo hold at 1,840 cubic meters.
During the last years of the Soviet space program, the An-225 was employed as the prime method of transporting the Buran space shuttle. The An-225’s story would have ended here had it not been for the arrival of the SDF-1. After the alien ship’s arrival, a pressing need became apparent for a heavy airlifter for transporting the various components needed for the re-construction of the ship as well as for the many other ships of the newly created United Nations Space Agency (UN Spacy). This prompted the construction of an additional ten airframes.
After the Zentraedi Rain of Death, the Mriya’s heavy carrying capacity was needed during the Earth’s reconstruction period. Thusly, the newly formed United Earth Government (UEG) funded the refurbishment of the three surviving An-225s as well as the construction of an additional six new build aircraft. It was this funding that enabled Antonov to get back on its feet in the post war years. Ironically, by time the aircraft were finished, relations had soured between East and West and none of these aircraft were ever used by the UEG. They did, however, play a role in the rebuilding of the Soviet Union and her satellite states in the Eastern Block of Soviet Independent States.
The An-225 has since become the workhorse of the Aeroflot’s fleet, transporting objects once thought impossible to move by air, such as 150-tonne generators. It also become an asset to international relief organizations for its ability to quickly transport huge quantities of emergency supplies during the reconstruction era.
Soviet Union (Soviet Air Force, Aeroflot)
- Crew: 6
- Length: 84 m
- Wingspan: 88.4 m
- Height: 18.1 m
- Wing area: 905 m2
- Aspect ratio: 8.6
- Empty weight: 285,000 kg
- Max takeoff weight: 640,000 kg
- Fuel capacity: 300,000 kg
- Cargo hold – volume 1,300m3, length 43.35m, width 6.4m, height 4.4m
- Powerplant: 6 × ZMKB Progress D-18 turbofans, 229.5 kN (51,600 lbf) thrust each
- Maximum speed: 850 km/h
- Cruising speed: 800 km/h
- Range: 15,400 km with maximum fuel; range with 200 tonnes payload: 4,000 km
- Service ceiling: 11,000 m
- Wing loading: 662.9 kg/m2
- Thrust/weight: 0.234
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Primary source: Wikipedia Antonov An-225
Content by Tim Wing
Copyright © 2015 Tim Wing