Boeing sizes up An-72 as platform for cargo competition
Boeing has started discussions with Ukrainian design bureau Antonov on a potential sale of Soviet-era designed military transports to the US Army and US Air Force, says George Muellner, Boeing vice-president of Air Force Systems.
Boeing has identified the Antonov An-72, a 70-seat jet featuring overwing-mounted engines, as a potentially attractive candidate for the army’s proposed Future Cargo Aircraft (FCA) fleet and the air force’s requirement for a new Light Cargo Aircraft (LCA) fleet.
A Boeing evaluation team has already travelled to Antonov’s headquarters in Kiev, Ukraine, says Muellner. “It’s an interesting aircraft,” he says. “It has a lot of good characteristics.”
The An-72 prototype made its debut flight in 1977. Deliveries of production models started in earnest in the early 1990s. About 50 An-72s are known to have been delivered to eight operators, including the Russian military, Ukraine’s border guard service, the Peruvian air force and the Moldovan air force, according to data provided by Flight International affiliate AvSoft.
Compared with potential competitors for the FCA and LCA orders, the An-72’s most distinctive feature would be its overwing-mounted jet engines. The design includes the FCA’s required rear cargo ramp and can seat up to 57 paratroops or 68 troops. If Boeing offers the An-72 to the US military, it may have to integrate Western engines and a glass cockpit – perhaps the Boeing C-130 Avionics Modernization Programme (AMP) suite.
So far, the army’s pending FCA competition has attracted bids from only two turboprop manufacturers. The Global Military Aircraft Systems (GMAS) team is offering the Alenia C-27J Spartan and Raytheon/EADS North America team is proposing the EADS Casa C-295, CN-235 or both.
Boeing has another option if it decides not to propose the
An-72. The company is in discussions with Alenia about joining the GMAS team, which includes
L-3 Communications and Lockheed Martin, as a final assembly partner, says Muellner.
Boeing is waiting for the army and air force to publish a final set of requirements for the aircraft before making a decision. The Pentagon has directed army and air force officials to study the feasibility of merging the FCA and LCA programmes into a joint requirement (Flight International, 17-23 January).
STEPHEN TRIMBLE / WASHINGTON DC