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Joint transport aircraft set to pile on the pounds

Industry-led collaboration will be entered for competition to replace Antonov An-12

The Indian and Russian militaries are close to completing a requirements review for their collaborative multirole transport aircraft (MTA), calling for the planned Antonov An-12 replacement to have an increased maximum take-off weight (MTOW) and payload.

The MTA is being developed by Russia's NPK Irkut, Ilyushin and India's Hindustan Aeronautics with support from Russia's Rosoboron-export, and was conceived in 2000-1 as a joint system with an MTOW of 50,000-55,000kg (110,000-121,000lb), including a 12,500-15,000kg payload. However, the Indian air force in 2002 revised its specification to request improved hot-and-high performance at maximum payload, and the partners are now understood to have a requirement for a transport with a 65,000kg MTOW, 20,000kg payload and 2,500km (1,350nm) range.

The requirements shift has ruled out an early plan to use the same propulsion system as the Irkut-produced Beriev Be-200 amphibian, and an alternative proposal to use Rolls-Royce Deutschland's BR715. The CFM International CFM56-7 and International Aero Engines V2500 remain under consideration for an Indian version of the aircraft, with Russia's to be equipped with either Perm Motor Complex PS-12 or Nikolai Kuznetsov TRDD-2005 engines. However, the latter systems will not be available until 2012, two years after the type's planned entry into service, so an interim solution using NPO Saturn's D-30KP3 and Perm's PS-90A12 is being considered.

A preliminary design review for the MTA is scheduled for completion in early 2005. First flight of a production prototype is due in 2008.

The Russian air force says it will launch a tender for an An-12 replacement in July-August, with a type selection to take place by year-end. Tupolev's 110,000kg MTOWTu-330VT is expected to be a key rival to the MTA, using the same wing and engines as the Tu-204/Tu-214 airliners. Both the MTA and the Tu-330VThave planned unit prices of $20-27 million.