At Eurasia Airshow 2018, Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) and Ukroboronprom‚Äôs (UOP) Antonov jointly announced that they would proceed with the development and production of Antonov‚Äôs An-188 military transport aircraft. The announcement follows an earlier agreement signed by the governments of Turkey and Ukraine in 2016 to jointly manufacture airliners and transport aircraft.
Antonov revealed the An-188 during the 2015 Paris Air Show as a turbofan-engine variant of the An-70, which had originally been slated (in the 1990s and 2000s) as a propfan-based competitor to the Airbus A400M Atlas. At the time, Antonov could not commit to a firm date as to when the An-188 would fly, but it had always intended to configure the An-188 with Western-origin engines and onboard electronics.
The joint-production agreement between Antonov and TAI both maintains this framework, but it extends it as well by promising a ‚ÄėNATO-standard‚Äô aircraft. Based on Ukroboronprom‚Äôs press statement, Antonov‚Äôs commitment to NATO compliance involves ‚Äúwesternization of all components, implementation of modern and reliable technical solutions, as well as full compliance with NATO standards.‚ÄĚ
The An-188 has the essential inputs ‚Äď i.e. a credible funding source and launch customer in the form of Turkey, pursuit of existing turbofan engines and electronics and Antonov‚Äôs expertise ‚Äď to materialize. As per Ukroboronprom‚Äôs press statement, TAI and Antonov will proceed to the ‚Äúpractical implementation of the project (An-188) in the near future.‚ÄĚ However, specific timelines have not been provided.
Antonov originally revealed the An-188 during the 2015 Paris Air Show. The An-188 was to be a variant of the ill-fated (but potentially returning) An-70 propfan-based military transport aircraft. However, instead of using the Motor Sich D-27 propfan engines currently on the An-70, the An-188 was slated to use four Western-origin turbofan engines along with Western avionics and other onboard electronics. The An-188 was not simply a ‚ÄėWesternized An-70‚Äô, but a separate (but related) platform with enlarged wings. With TAI committing to NATO-standards, Antonov‚Äôs original plan for the An-188 will remain.
According to Ukroboronprom, the TAI-Antonov An-188 will have a payload capacity of 50 tons, which can translate into carrying most kinds of cargo including helicopters, containers, troops and other items. In addition, the An-188 will be designed to operate from runways as short as 600 to 800 m. The An-188 will leverage the short take-off and landing (STOL) capability to undertake an array of mission profiles, from military-lift to humanitarian operations in relatively inaccessible areas. Finally, the An-188‚Äôs turbofan engines will offer long-range flight and fuel-efficiency for competitive lifecycle and operating costs.
Based on these specifications, the An-188 will possess a heavier payload capacity than the C-130J-30 (20 tons) and the Airbus A400M (37 tons). It appears that the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) foresee the An-188 as a strategic airlifter different in intended scope and role from the A400M or C-130. In fact, Turkey already operates the A400M and is among the Atlas‚Äô industrial workshare partners. Thus, it is unlikely TAI would compete with not just its own product, but a key program of its industry partners in the European Union.
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