Antonov AN-225 destroyed in the Russian-Ukraine war.

Antonov AN-225 Mriya, the world’s largest and heaviest cargo airplane, was destroyed in a Russian attack while parked at an airfield near Kyiv. Following the Russian-Ukraine war, Russian forces reportedly destroyed Mriya in a second air attack on the Hostomel airport, about an hour outside Kyiv.

The Ukrainian authorities confirmed that Russian occupants burned An-225 Mriya after a large air assault operation in Antonov International Airport in Hostomel. Foreign Minister of Ukraine, Dmytro Kuleba, shared a photograph of the plane affirming Russia might have ruined AN-225 ‘Mriya’ (Dream in Ukrainian). The photographic evidence from a satellite verifies the destruction of the aircraft.

An-225 spotted at Pakistan; Photo by Syed Shajie Hussain
An-225 spotted at Pakistan; Photo by Syed Shajie Hussain

Official notice by Antonov Company

Antonov Company, the Ukrainian aircraft manufacturing and service company, provided an update regarding AN225 Mriya on Sunday, stating that they couldn’t confirm the technical conditions of the aircraft until experts scrutinized it. Meanwhile, NASA’s Fire Information for Resource Management System detected fire at 11:1am on Sunday at the hangar in which AN-225 is stored from several NOAA and NASA satellites. However, it wasn’t clear if it was the consequence of actual fire or explosion from military strikes.

On February 24, 2022, Russian troops launched a large air assault operation with Mi-38 helicopters in Hostomel, which is only 23 km from Kyiv, as a part of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Hostomel Airport is the home to the world’s largest cargo aircraft Antonov An-225 registered UR-82060, where it had been on the ground on February 24, undergoing maintenance. The director of Antonov Airlines said that the plane couldn’t be airborne that day as one of its engines was dismantled for repair.

 There were unconfirmed reports regarding the destruction of An-225 while Antonov pilot Dmytro declared that the plane remained intact at its home airport outside of Kyiv at that time.

Qries

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Nonetheless, now that Ukraine’s official Twitter has confirmed the news, the aircraft that has seen more than 30 years of service is no more. The holder of many world records for airlifted cargo, Antonov AN-225 had an estimated service life well into the 2030s, but now it’s gone.

 AN-225 was a head turner and drew a crowd of awed onlookers when it spread its wings, particularly when it made star appearances at air shows. Dating back to the days of the Soviet Union, AN-225 was actually developed to support the Soviet space program and carry Buran orbiters to Kazakhstan’s Baikonur spaceport. Built by the Antonov Serial Production Plant Union, it made its historic flight on December 21, 1989, and entered the successful operation of Soviet military mission. AN-225 Mriya is the only production unit ever built, although the Soviet space program ordered 2 AN-225s. The downfall of the Soviet Union led to formal discontinuation of the Energia-Buran project and a halt to construction work on the second Antonov AN225 Mriya.

Ukraine’s plan to restore AN-225

Ukraine won’t let go of one-of-the-kind AN-225 Mriya too soon and will rebuild the plane as it looks to a better future. The repair of the plane will surely be costly, estimated to be around USD 3 billion, and will take over five years to make Mriya spread its enormous wings up into the air once again. The state-owned weapons manufacturer Ukroboroprom said that their mission was to ensure the Russian Federation would pay for Mriya’s restoration. They deliberately imposed destruction on Ukraine’s aviation and the air cargo sector.

Special capabilities of world’s favorite Antonov An-225 Mriya

Antonov An-225 Mriya is one of the greatest feats of Soviet aviation that helped communism’s ongoing race to space and asset East’s dominance of the skies. Antonov An-225 is an enlarged version of Antonov An-124 military transport with giant turbines entire rail locomotives to get Buran orbiter back to Baikonur spaceport in one piece.

It is the heaviest flying cargo machine of genius inventiveness ever built. It has a maximum takeoff weight of 640000 kgs, a fuel capacity of 300000 kg, and a payload capacity of 253,820 kilograms which can carry enough food to avert famine. The aircraft is a record-breaker on its own right-carrying oversized cargo and loads.

Designed to carry twice the load of Boeing 747 freighter, An-225 is equipped with the largest wingspan of 88.4m and 6 Progress D-18T turbofan engines to power the plane. This awe-inspiring aircraft has a maximum speed of 850 km/hour with a range of 15,400 km. This state of art Antonov An-225 Mriya is the largest aircraft to ever take off multiple times to the skies.

It is not a military aircraft, but it can haul an expeditionary force into combat or serve military force as a super-heavy transport. Only one An 225 built to completion is enough for the modern aviation world and astonishes all with its capabilities. It also provides excellent potentiality for gas, oil, mining, energy, and other industries attributing to its design specifications. The aircraft also can be used as a space vehicle air launcher for the future aerospace system. The application of An-225 Mriya as a flying launch system can reduce the expense of injecting payloads into space.

It can operate:

•        Non-stop intracontinental flight with 200tonnes cargo

•        Intercontinental airlift with 150tonnes cargo

Antonov An-225 Mriya is feasible for bad weather conditions, too, as its wake turbulence cuts through the fog clear the fog out of its path, creating a big hole in the sky with a streak of the clear blue. It has a remarkable flyover as it only makes a couple of flights per year.

An-225 Mriya is an important asset of Antonov Airlines, which various international relief organizations contract to ferry urgent supplies during disaster-relief operations. Canadian and US governments have also contracted the An-225 for transportation of military shipments to Gulf countries.

Ongoing Russian-Ukraine war

On February 24, 2022, Russia announced a special military operation and launched a large-scale invasion of Ukraine which had been in a state of conflict with Russia since 2014. Following Russian Federation Council’s authorization to use military force outside the country’s borders, Russian air and missile began to hit military bases, airports, and major cities across Ukraine, including the capital, Kyiv. Several explosions in Kyiv, Kharkiv, Odesa, and Donbas followed by the entry of Russian troops in Ukraine marked a large conventional warfare operation in Europe since World War II. More than 350 civilians have been killed in Ukraine, and more than 1000 wounded.

Battle of Antonov Airport

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has initiated an ongoing battle among two military forces for control over Antonov airport citing its strategic value. The most direct attack of Russia’s strikes and large-scale air assault took place near the Antonov cargo airport in Hostomel. The battle began on February 24 and has resulted in too much damage to the airport for use by Russian forces. A CNN reporter reported how he accidentally came across Russian troops at Antonov airbase who were attempting to take the Ukrainian capital as they were just 20 miles from the center of the capital. The Ukrainian Interior Ministry claimed that 3 of 24 Russian helicopters were shot down by the Ukrainian army by firing an anti-aircraft missile.

Aircraft loss per Ukraine except for An-225

Excluding An-225, Ukraine has also lost Su-27 fighters over Kyiv. The Ukrainian air force shot down its own Su-27, mistaking it for Russian fighters as Su-27 derived aircraft make up the large majority of the Russian fighter jet. The Su-27s in the Ukrainian Air Force dating back to the 1980s have been prone to a high number of accidents, now being the fifth flanker loss in four years.

Russian invaders have made Ukrainian military infrastructure, air defense sites, airfields, and aircraft major priority targets and have already shot down two Ukrainian Su-24M strike fighters during the initiation of a Russian air campaign in Ukraine. The loss of 2 Ukrainian fighter SU-24s optimized for air to ground roles has highlighted the Russian air superiority advantage from the outset of the conflict. The Ukrainian forces operated Su-24s to retaliate against Russian-backed separatist targets over the territory of the self-proclaimed Lugansk People’s Republic in eastern Ukraine near Russia’s border.

Russian-Ukraine war takes a toll on a wider aviation scale.

As the threat of war grows, Ukraine has closed its airspace to commercial flights, and airlines like Lufthansa, KLM, SAS, Air France, Ryanair, etc., have already suspended their flights to Ukraine. The country’s biggest airline, Ukraine International Airlines, stopped its regular and charter flights on February 24 and extended suspension till March 23 as fears of Russian invasion grew.

In light of the Russia-Ukraine war, many airlines like Air France, Singapore Airlines, Wizz Air, Japan Airlines have suspended flights to Russia indefinitely, while Delta has suspended its codesharing partnership with Aeroflot. As a new sanction against Russia, the European Union has announced bans on Russian planes in their airspace meaning Russian airlines can’t land in, take off, or overfly the territory of the EU. The announcement comes as a result of Russia’s ruthless assault on Ukraine.

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