China and Ukraine to restart AN-225 production

Posted on 3 Sep 2016 by Michael Cruickshank

A Chinese corporation is teaming up with a Ukrainian company to restart production of the AN-225 – the world’s largest aircraft.

Aerospace Industry Corporation of China (AIC) has reportedly signed an agreement with Antonov Company to restart production of the aircraft.

Negotiations between the two companies began in May this year, with the final deal being signed in Beijing on August 30.

The AN-225 is the world’s largest aircraft by a number of different metrics, including weight, and cargo capacity, however just one aircraft was ever built.

Originally the AN-225 was designed to transport the Soviet Union’s Buran space shuttle, a task for which the first craft was brought into service in 1988.

More recently the AN-225 has been used as a heavy-lift cargo aircraft capable of carrying up to 253 tons.

A second craft was partially completed before the collapse of the Soviet Union threw these plans into disarray.

Reportedly, under the terms of the new deal signed with AIC, Antonov will complete the construction of this aircraft and then deliver it to China.

Furthermore, Antonov will supply China with the technical expertise involved in its construction and a new production line for the AN-225 will be established in China.

This will then precipitate the continued series production of the heavy lift aircraft under licence from Antonov.

Sino-Ukrainian manufacturing cooperation

Given that both AIC and Antonov (through Ukroboronprom) are well-connected state-owned enterprises, this deal represents a significant warming in China-Ukraine relations.

Despite muted Chinese criticism of Russia’s actions in Crimea, Ukraine has been happy to accept large amounts of Chinese investment in a number of agricultural and manufacturing sectors.

As well, the technological expertise that China will gain through working with Ukraine on this aircraft will be invaluable for its own efforts to produce locally-built passenger aircraft and jet engines.

Currently no information is available from either party on when the first aircraft will be completed, and when serial production will begin in China.