Russian aerodynamics researchers have unveiled a concept for a new heavy transport aircraft to succeed the Antonov An-124.
The aircraft has been tentatively designated 'Slon' – the Russian term for 'elephant' – and is outwardly similar to the An-124 in appearance, with a high-wing, four-engined layout, nose-loading capability and a low horizontal stabiliser.
Moscow's Central Aerohydrodynamic Institute (TsAGI) states that the aircraft would able to transport 150t of freight over a range of up to 3,780nm (7,000km), operating off a 3,000m (9,840ft) runway.
But it would be able to handle a maximum commercial load of 180t – with which it could operate over a distance of 2,645nm.
The institute says this performance means the aircraft could compete not only with the An-124 but also more modern freighters including the Boeing 747-8F.
It states that the main geometric and weight parameters of the concept aircraft "have been determined" and that two variants are being considered, with differing deck widths.
TsAGI adds that it has carried out initial calculations of take-off, cruise, and landing characteristics for both variants.
The possibility of restarting An-124 production, with upgraded capabilities, has long been discussed within the Russian air transport industry.
During the recent MAKS air show in Moscow, freight specialist Volga-Dnepr outlined its requirements for a replacement for the An-124 – of which it operates a dozen.
It stated that a new freighter needs to be 35-40% more efficient, with a payload capability of up to 170t.
TsAGI points out that a heavy transport needs to be compatible, in economic terms, with cargo versions of passenger aircraft models.