The Soviets built a single Antonov An-225 cargo jet — the longest and heaviest airplane ever built — to carry the Buran space shuttle. Now China wants a fleet of them.
A recently announced deal with Ukraine’s Antonov firm is the latest evidence of Beijing’s strategic aspiration to be able to deploy military forces rapidly, anywhere in the world.
“It would provide China with the large and global lift that not even the U.S. has possessed, except by rental,” said Peter Singer, a strategist and senior fellow at New America who tracks Chinese military technology on his Popular Science blog. “It’s large enough to carry helicopters, tanks, artillery, even other aircraft.”
The six-engine aircraft, which can haul more than 250 tons, would help on the civil side as well, Singer said.
“It opens all sorts of new frontiers in both commercial and military air transport for China,” he said. “A fleet of civilian An-225s could quickly ship heavy, bulky cargo of massive scale ranging from construction equipment to a massive scale of consumer goods.”
Then there are uses that haven’t even been thought of, such as space launch or a mother ship for drones, Singer said.
Antonov announced last week that it had entered a pact with the Aerospace Industry Corporation of China to finish building an An-225 which has sat half-built inside a Ukrainian aircraft hangar for more than 20 years.
“[T]he parties expressed their intentions as for long−term cooperation,” Antonov said in a statement. The second An-225 will be built in Ukraine and the third in China, to be flown by the mid-2020s.
Credit to defenseone.com