Stephen Trimble/Washington DC

Antonov has confirmed plans to launch flight tests in 2013 of its new An-178 airlifter, a potential rival to turboprop designs such as the Alenia Aeronautica C-27J and Lockheed Martin C-130J.

The twinjet derivative of the An-158 airliner and business jet still remains in the design stages, with the concept having been revealed less than two years ago.

The An-178 adds a rear cargo door and ramp, but retains most of the features of the high-wing An-158, which is itself a stretched version of the 70-85-seat An-148 regional jet.

Antonov has released conflicting information about the payload capacity of the military development. In a recent interview, a company official described the maximum payload of the aircraft as being 18,000kg (36,700lb). But marketing documents distributed at the Paris air show list the same statistic as 15,000kg.

Launched as a replacement for the An-12, the An-178 is one of several new light airlifters expected to enter the market during this decade. Embraer's KC-390 and the Hindustan Aeronautics/United Aircraft multi-role transport aircraft are the closest competitors.

Antonov recently restarted production of its An-70 strategic transport, and also has revealed that preliminary design activities are being performed on a weaponised maritime patrol aircraft based on the An-168.

Source: Flight International