Antonov is planning a "next-generation" An-124 Ruslan, with a stretched fuselage, increased wingspan, longer range and new engines. The aircraft, dubbed the An-124-300, borrows design features from the six-engined An-225, and would transport 150,000kg (330,000lb) of cargo from western Europe to the US West Coast.

Antonov plans to increase the Ruslan's fuselage length by 5.9m (19.3ft), increasing cargo cabin volume to 1,300m3 (45,800ft3). A redesigned centre wing section will increase wingspan by 6.6m to 79.9m and give greater fuel capacity.

The -300 would carry a payload of 150,000kg over 8,100km (4,380nm) or 120,000kg over 10,000km, compared with the current An-124-100M's 2,820km and 4,700km, respectively. It will also have a two-crew glass cockpit, and yet to be selected 66,000-77,000lb-thrust (295-340kN) engines, probably of Western origin. Volga-Dnepr chairman Aleksei Isaikin says: "It is what we have been asking for years, to put together all innovations tried on the An-225 and certain Ruslan airframes".

Antonov is confident that if the outsize cargo market continues to grow, there is a market for 20 more An-124s. Early Antonov Airlines- and Volga-Dnepr-operated Ruslans will also need replacing in five or six years at current utilisation rates.

The design bureau also foresees a requirement for up to 50 military -300s, and Antonov has begun discussions with the Aviastar and KiGAZ plants about production.

Meanwhile, the first increased weight An-124-100M is nearing completion at Aviastar, and is due to be rolled out later this year (Flight International, 18-24 February). It features a 20t increase in maximum take-off weight to 420,000kg, a maximum payload of 150,000kg, and higher thrust ZMKB Progress D-18T Series 4S engines rated at 55,000lb. The first aircraft will enter service with Volga-Dnepr in 2004.

Source: Flight International