AN-124-100 JUMBO TO BE MASS PRODUCED

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MOSCOW, April 1 (RIA Novosti) - Russia and Ukraine are going to resume mass manufacture of the An-124-100 Ruslan jumbo jet, though no timeframe has yet been set.

The spokesman for the Industrial and Energy Ministry said that the business plan for resuming the mass manufacture and modernization of the An-124-100 "has been considered but unapproved" at the joint Russian-Ukrainian conference in the Federal Industrial Agency. "The Industrial and Energy Ministry is to approve the business plan alongside the other projects of manufacture of Russian planes", he specified.

"The project for start of the An-124-100 mass manufacture intends joint financial participation of the state and the involved service airlines, though shares have not yet been fixed", the ministerial spokesman said. He noted that precisely mass production of Ruslan is meant, because "one-piece manufacture on individual orders has never ended".

As said at the conference, Ruslan has been included in the aviation industry strategy until 2015. In all, between 40 and 50 such machines are to be made, three to five annually. At the first stage, the production of 15 jumbo jets will be launched.

In specialist estimate, the world carrier market by An-124-100 jumbos is increasing at the annual average rate of 15-20 percent and by 2017 may call for several dozen Ruslan planes.

In five years to come, the market will want an updated Ruslan having a lifting power up to 150 tonnes and observing all the would-be requirements of the International Civil Aviation Organization.

Ruslan -- the biggest-ever mass-produced transport plane - was developed in the late 1970s. It became airborne for the first time in 1982. The jumbo jet's manufacture involved over 500 enterprises across the Soviet Union. It was mass manufactured by the Ulyanovsk-based aviation factory ZAO Aviastar-SP and the Kiev-based state aviation factory Aviant. By now, 56 An-124 Ruslan planes have been made, half of whichare in commercial service.

The project for resumption of An-124 production and step-by-step modernization was born at the airshow MAKS-2003. Then, representatives of the involved parties in Russia and Ukraine agreed upon the program for resuming the production, development and issue of a new An-124 version for the world market.

The new version, An-124-100, will have updated avionics and power plants, a greater load-carrying capacity (up to 150 tonnes) and flying range. The crew is expected to be reduced. Designing of several modifications has begun.

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