The largest aircraft in the US Air Force's Airlift Mobility Command (AMC) inventory is the 380-tonne Lockheed Martin C-5 Galaxy, the fleet consisting of 50 C-5B/Cs and 76 older C-5As. The service is expected to upgrade 112 of these aircraft through the Avionics Modernisation Program (AMP), which includes compatibility with the new Global Air Traffic Management system. The AMP is a precursor to an extensive Reliability Enhancement and Re-engining Program (Rerp), under which probably only the C-5B/Cs will have their General Electric TF39 engines replaced by the same company's CF6-80C2s. The first aircraft with the AMP upgrade flew in late 2002, and the first with CF6 engines, giving increased reliability and 20 per cent more thrust, is due to fly in October 2005. Those aircraft benefiting from both AMP and Rerp (Lockheed Martin Aeronautics programmes) will be redesignated C-5M Super Galaxy. Although C-5 reliability is currently poor, the aircraft is seen as an important element of US Air Force strategic airlift, since it can move more cargo over longer distances than the Boeing C-17 (discussed below). Useful C-5 features include doors at both ends, and an undercarriage that can 'kneel' to facilitate loading and unloading. Retirement of the C-5A is scheduled to begin in FY2004, but it seems likely that the C-5B/C will be retained until at least 2040.
In terms of new production aircraft, the current top of the US Air Force's AMC range is the 265-tonne Boeing C-17 Globemaster III, which is powered by four Pratt & Whitney F117 turbofans. It was developed as a replacement for the Lockheed Martin C-141 StarLifter (the service's first strategic jet transport) and entered service in 1995. The C-17 is more reliable than the C-5, can use smaller airfields and can accommodate similar outsize loads. The width of the cargo compartment is 5.49 metres, which is only marginally smaller than the 5.79 metres of the C-5, yet a major advancement over the 3.12 metres of the C-141.
The US Air Force has ordered 180 C-17s, and may well buy around 42 more, starting with its FY2005 budget. The figure of 224 C-17s was established as the minimum viable, based on the now-outdated US Air Force Military Requirements Study for 2005 (MRS-05). However, aside from the massive logistic demands that have arisen in recent operations, the argument for further C-17 acquisition (beyond the projected 224) is supported by the US Air Force's intention to begin phasing out the C-5A in FY2004 and to start retiring the C-141 earlier than originally intended, in FY2006.The US Air Force has so far been buying C-17s at around 15 per year, and over 100 have now been delivered.
Boeing's production of the C-17 is currently running five months ahead of schedule, hence small-scale exports could be delivered within twelve months, without disrupting the US Air Force programme. The United Kingdom is currently leasing four, and has ambitions to require up to five more, either by lease or outright purchase. As a result of Nato's Prague Capabilities Commitment of 2002, Germany is to lead a group of nations that will lease around 12 to 14 C-17s. These numbers presumably exclude the UK-operated aircraft and any that Canada may lease. Norway has announced the intention to acquire a strategic airlift capability by 2010, and may well become a member of the German-led consortium. France is an obvious candidate for the C-17.
The idea of acquiring long-range transport capable of accommodating outsize loads is new to most potential customers for the C-17. Canada's interest stems from a 2001 Future Strategic Options Analysis study, leading to a report by Consulting and Audit Canada, recommending that the C-17, Airbus Military A400M and Lockheed Martin C-130J Hercules should all be considered in replacing that nation's existing five Airbus A310s and 32 old-model C-130s. In the case of Australia, the heavy airlift requirement takes the form of Phase Three of Project Air 8000, coming after the refurbishing of the C-130H and the acquisition of a light tactical airlifter. No funds will be made available for Phase Three until the second half of this decade.
The Soviet response to the C-5 was the 390-tonne Ukrainian-built Antonov An124 Ruslan, powered by four ZMBK Progress D-18T turbofans. Some 26 were built for the military, and at least 34 have so far been built for commercial use. The production line is evidently still open. There are eight An-124-100s on the Ukrainian register, operated by Antonov Airlines, and 28 on the Russian register, owned by Volga-Dnepr, Polet Aviakompania and the 224th Flight Unit, State Airlines, which is described as "operating non-commercial transport flights". These civil-registered aircraft are frequently used for foreign military charters. For example, four Antonov Airlines An-124s were used to transport Canadian materiel to the Balkans in 1998-99. The Russian Air Force plans to restore to flying condition its currently grounded fleet of 20 An-124s.
Given a cargo compartment width of 6.4 metres, the An-124 can accommodate larger items than even the C-5. The An-124-100M is a joint development by Volga-Dnepr and the Antonov Design Bureau, introducing D-18T Series 4S engines, which allow maximum gross weight to be increased to 420 tonnes. Maximum payload is increased from 120 to 150 tonnes, service life is increased to 24,000 hours, and the aircraft will meet Chapter Four noise regulations. The first is due to be rolled out before the end of this year.
Beyond this, Antonov has proposed an An-124-300 with a two-crew glass cockpit, Western engines, a 5.9-metre fuselage stretch and a 6.6-metre wingspan increase, doubling the range of the An-124-100M. The design bureau predicts sales of 20 civil and 50 military aircraft.
The Russian equivalent of the C-141 is the Ilyushin 11-76, of which over 950 have been built, including more than 100 for export. The Russian Air Force is believed to have around 240, and there is a similar number in commercial operation. The Il-76 is somewhat heavier than the C-141, and can take larger loads, having a loading width of 3.4 metres. In 1995 the 200 tonne Il-76MF made its first flight, with a 6.6-metre fuselage stretch, 33 per cent more powerful Perm PS-90A turbofans and updated avionics. It is hoped that the Russian Air Force will have around 120 Il-76s modified to this standard, a programme made more affordable by a trickle of civil conversions to a basically similar Il-76MT standard. The Kuwait Air Force has announced its intention to acquire two Il-76MFs. There have been proposals for an Il-76M-100 with CFM International CFM56-5C engines.
The 132-tonne Antonov An-70, powered by four Progress D-27 propfans, was designed primarily to replace the An-12. With a cargo loading width of 4.0 metres, it can accommodate larger loads than the much heavier Il-76, which it would also partly replace. The An-70 has had its share of accidents, the first prototype being destroyed in a mid-air collision, and the second damaged in a heavy landing that was traced to an oil pipe failure.
Development of the An-70 has so far been funded by both Russia and the Ukraine. In early 2001, the Ukrainian government finalised a contract with Aviant, covering the production of five An-70s out of a planned 65. The first production aircraft is scheduled to fly this year. Russia's Polyot has selected to manufacture the first five of a planned total of 164 An-70s for the Russian Air Force, and the Czech Republic agreed to accept at least two in part-payment for Russian debts. The An-70 was also offered by Russia to Hungary and Poland. Reports early this year indicated that Russia was reconsidering its participation in the development programme but Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov stated in July that flight tests will be restarted after known defects have been rectified, and that Russia is still interested in purchasing the An-70.
Russia may have been influenced to reassess the An-70 by pressure from Tupolev, favouring development of the 103-tonne Tu-330, which would be powered by two Perm PS-90A turbofans (of which the Il-76MF has four). The Tu-330 would provide cockpit, wing, powerplant and systems commonality with the Tu-214 airliner, and it would be an all-Russian product. It has also been claimed that the Tu-330 could be produced for half the unit price of the 30 per cent heavier An-70.
The closest Western equivalent of the An-70 is the 130-tonne, four turboprop-powered Airbus Military A400M, which last May was finally given the green light in the form of a seven-nation development and production contract. The various governments are represented by Bonn-based Occar (Organisme Conjoint de Co-ordination en Matiere d'Armement) defence equipment procurement and programme management agency. The A400M is due to fly in 2008, and deliveries from the final assembly line at Seville in Spain will take place from late 2009 to 2021. The principal airframe manufacturers involved are Airbus, Eads-Casa, Turkey's Tusas Aerospace Industries (TAI) and Belgium's Flabel. Although largely to be built in Western Europe, price guarantees are forcing Airbus Military to look elsewhere for the supply of some materials and the manufacture of some components. For example, Russia's Gidromash has been invited to bid for the undercarriage.
Following the withdrawal of Italy and Portugal and the scaling-down of the German requirement, the A400M total currently stands at 180, consisting of eight for Belgium (teamed with Luxembourg), France 50, Germany 60, Spain 27, Turkey 10 and Britain 25. Exports of around 200 are forecast. Australia, Canada, Japan, Norway, South Africa and Sweden have expressed interest.
The A400M is characterised as usefully filling the gap between the C-17 and the Lockheed Martin C-130J (discussed below), but it requires a new class of engine, for which there is no obvious additional application. In May it was announced that the projected 8200 kW Europrop International (EPI) TP400-D6 had been selected, and that more than 750 of these engines would be required for the domestic market. The EPI team responsible for the three-shaft TP400-D6 combines Industria de Turbo Propulsores (ITP), MTU Aero Engines, Rolls-Royce and Snecma Moteurs. The gearboxes have been subcontracted to FiatAvio. Ground running of the TP400-D6 is scheduled to begin in August 2005.
The A400M cargo hold is 17.71 metres long, four metres wide and 3.85 metres high and offers a 2.5 g maximum tactical payload of 29.5 tonnes (37 tonnes @2.25 g logistic). A typical flight crew consists of two plus one loadmaster.
The Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules has been in production for 35 years. Over 2700 have been delivered, of which approximately 1600 are still in service in over 65 countries. A massive advance in performance is now provided by the 70.3-tonne C-130J, powered by four Rolls-Royce AE2100 turboprops. It is available in two basic forms: the C-130J and the stretched C-130J-30, which is referred to by the US Air Force as the CC-130J. The C-130J can be equipped with Flight Refuelling Mk32B-901E hose-and-drogue units to act as a tanker, which the US Marine Corps refers to as the KC-130J.
At time of writing, 179 C-130Js and C-130J-30s had been ordered, and 96 had been delivered by mid-2003. The sales total includes a six-year contract for 40 CC-130Js for the US Air Force and 20 KC130Js for the US Marine Corps. In the longer term, the US Air Force plans to acquire a total of 150 CC-130J, plus 18 in Special Missions form, while the Marine Corps plans a total of 59 KC-130Js. Foreign sales have taken place to Australia, Denmark, Italy and the UK.
One of the latest and most interesting new projects in the twin-engined tactical transport category is the Ilyushin Il-214 or MTA (Multi-role Transport Aircraft). At around 60 tonnes, this will represent a unique sub-Hercules category. Joint development by India's Hindustan Aeronautics and Russia's Ilyushin and the Irkut Corporation was agreed in principle in 2001, but full-scale development has not yet been launched. One problem is to find a suitable turbofan for hot/high airfield performance, which suggests a further development of the Rolls-Royce Deutschland BR715 or the Ukraine's Progress D-436.
All of the West's twin-engined tactical transports employ turboprops for good airfield performance. The heaviest (and thus most capable) is the 31.8-tonne C-27J Spartan, jointly developed by Lockheed Martin and Alenia Aerospazio on the basis of the latter's G.222. The G.222 has the largest cabin cross-section in its class, and the C-27J derivative adds two of the Rolls-Royce AE2100 engines from the C-130J, and much of the latter's avionics and cockpit displays. The Italian Air Force has ordered five C-27Js and is expected to buy seven more. Early this year Greece signed a contract for twelve C-127Js, with an option on three more. It is hoped that the US Army National Guard will choose the C-27J to replace its 44 C-23s, although this could mean moving the production line from Alenia's Turin plant to Lockheed Martin's facility at Marietta in Georgia. Emphasis is being placed on reducing the price of the C-27J, since all its competitors are smaller.
The 28.5-tonne Antonov An-32-100, powered by Progress AI-20D-5M turboprops, is the latest version of an aircraft that was designed specifically to meet an Indian Air Force requirement to operate from hot (50[degrees]C) and high (15,000 ft) airfields. There are currently around 350 An-32s in service around the world. The new An-32V-200 has a modernised cockpit and additional fuel tankage. A version with Pratt & Whitney Canada PW150A engines has also been proposed.
The closest Western equivalent to the An-32 is the 23.2-tonne Eads-Casa C-295, a more powerful, stretched derivative of the CN-235 jointly developed with Indonesian Aerospace. It was announced that government-owned Indonesian Aerospace temporarily ceased operations, although assurances are given that outstanding orders from Asian military customers for seven CN-235s and one CN-212 (plus eleven NAS332 Super Pumas) will be met.
The C-295 is equipped with Pratt & Whitney Canada PW127G turboprops and Thales' Topdeck system, with liquid crystal displays. The C-295 has been ordered by Spain, Poland, the UAE, and selected by Switzerland. The CN-235 continues to be produced by both companies, and around 250 are now in service in 20 countries. The latest European version is the 16.5-tonne CN-235-300, powered by General Electric CT7-9C3 turboprops.
The lower end of the Eads-Casa or Eads Military Transport Aircraft range is represented by the 8.1-tonne C-212-400 with Honeywell TPE331-12JR turboprops. If civil sales are included, more than 460 C-212s have been sold to 87 operators in 42 countries.
The top of the transport helicopter range is still represented by the 56-tonne Mil Mi-26, powered by two Progress D-136 turboshafts. Over 275 have been built by Rostvertol and the type continues in production. Last year an Mi-26 was used to recover a US Army MH-47E shot down in a mountainous area of Afghanistan during Operation Anaconda.
The heaviest Western product in this category is the Sikorsky CH-53E Super Stallion, with a maximum take-off weight of 33.34 tonnes with external load. Sikorsky has been trying to interest the European helicopter industry in an all-composite, enlarged derivative of the CH-53E for the European rapid reaction force. Germany needs to replace its fleet of almost 100 CH-53Gs, and France and Italy also need heavy-lift helicopters.
Neither the Mi-26 nor the CH-53 has been widely exported, but this is not the case with the Boeing CH-47 Chinook, which has also been licence-built by Agusta and Kawasaki. Deliveries of the CH-47A began in 1962, and around 750 Chinooks deployed to Vietnam. In me post-Vietnam period, almost 500 Chinooks were upgraded to the current 22.7-tonne CH-47D standard, with Honeywell T55-L-712 engines and almost twice the original lift capacity. The latest development is the CH-47F, with 30 per cent more powerful -714A engines. The first delivery took place in May 2002, and all 460-plus US Army Chinooks are to be upgraded to this standard. The Chinook will remain in US Army service until at least 2030.
The 13-tonne Mil Mi-17, powered by Klimov TV3-117MT engines, continues to sell in small batches. If the earlier Mi-8 series (with TV2 engines) is included, over 11,000 have been delivered. One of the latest upgrades is a rear-loading ramp developed by Kazan Helicopters. The Mi-17 is theoretically to be replaced by the long-delayed 15.6-tonne Mi-38, now to be developed only by Mil and Kazan, following the recent withdrawal of Eurocopter from the Euromil consortium. Its first flight is now scheduled to take place around the end of this year.
In broadly the same size category, the AgustaWestland-owned EH Industries is producing the 14.6-tonne EH101 Merlin, which is available as a tactical transport with a rear loading ramp and as a naval helicopter. It is powered by three Rolls-Royce Turbomeca RTM322s or General Electric T700/T6As. The domestic market is represented by 66 Merlins for the British services and 16 for Italy. Some 15 are being delivered to Canada (which may order a further 28), while Denmark has ordered 14 and Japan 5, with an option on 9 more. AgustaWestland is working with Lockheed Martin to market an Americanised US101 to the US services. Its principal competitor is the twelve-tonne Sikorsky S-92, powered by two General Electric CT7-6D engines.
The 10.6-tonne NHIndustries NH90 has two of the engines used in the EH101 (i.e., RTM322s or T700s), and is likewise being produced in tactical transport and naval forms. NHIndustries is jointly owned by AgustaWestland (32 per cent), Eads (62.5) and the Netherlands' Stork (5.5). In June 2000, a contract was signed for an initial tranche of 243 (plus options on 55 more) out of the total of 605 planned for France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Portugal. In September 2001, Finland, Norway and Sweden chose the NH90 in their Nordic Helicopter competition, representing 52 aircraft plus 17 on option. The Swedish SAR version is to have the cabin roof raised by 25 cm. A year later Greece selected the NH90 as its new medium-lift helicopter, of which up to 60 units are required. Boeing is reportedly negotiating to market the NH90 in the US. The NH90 appears to clash to some extent with the 11-tonne Eurocopter EC725 Cougar Mk2+, although the former has the advantage of a rear loading ramp.
At the lower end of the transport scale, the US Army plans to remanufacture and upgrade up to 1217 Sikorsky UH-60A/L Black Hawks to ten-tonne UH-60M standard, a fleet that may be supplemented by 300 new-build aircraft. The first rebuilt aircraft is due to fly around the time these words are published, and production deliveries will begin in 2006. The UH-60 has been exported to 25 nations, some of whom will clearly adopt this upgrade.