Russian outsize freight specialist Volga-Dnepr has reached another development agreement to modernise the Antonov An-124, this time into a version designated the An-124-111VD.
It will have a maximum take-off weight of 402 tonnes and a payload capability of 150 tonnes, with a range of 5,000km with a 120-tonne load.
The upgrade will include powerplant modification to the Ivchenko-Progress D-18T 3M series engine, with full authority digital engine control.
Antonov, which disclosed the agreement during the MAKS Moscow air show, said the engine would have a life of 50,000h and 11,111 cycles.
"This will significantly improve the fuel efficiency of the aircraft, to increase its reliability, as well as reduce noise and maintenance costs," it added.
The heavy transport would have a crew of three and its cockpit would be modernised with digital avionics.
Upgrade of the type has been a long-running effort. Antonov Airlines operates a modernised variant known as the An-124-100M-150, which needs a four-person crew.
Volga-Dnepr, which has 10 An-124s, said the lifetime of the new type would eventually be lengthened to 60,000h and 12,000 cycles, potentially taking service life to 50 years.
The aircraft would be able to comply with requirements for ICAO Category IIIa landing performance, it added.
Volga-Dnepr said the modernisation of the carrier's first aircraft would lay a platform for production launch of a new-build version known as the An-124-300.
Antonov chief Dmitry Kiva said the agreement set out design specifications for Volga-Dnepr's aircraft and added: "The An-124 is undergoing yet another landmark moment in its history. The demand for these unique aircraft has exceeded supply."
Volga-Dnepr Group president Alexey Isaikin added that the modernisation, ready by 2013, would be an "important practical step" towards resumption of An-124 production. He said the company was committed to the type and was prepared to order 40.