The Russian air force command has composed a letter outlining its complaints about the progress of the Antonov An-70 transport, and has also prepared a step-by-step contingency plan for its withdrawal from the joint programme with Ukraine, Russia's Izvestia newspaper says.

Quoting unnamed sources in the command, it says the air force is concerned about the slow pace of development following test flights in September 2012. One source says a decision to quit the programme "could be made by the end of 2013", with support for the withdrawal primarily coming "from above", referring to the Russian government.

Moscow previously pulled out of the project in 2006, but rejoined it in 2010 as part of a broader effort to reintegrate the Ukrainian and Russian aerospace industries.

 An-70 - Antonov


The air force is particularly displeased with the lack of progress by Antonov in producing an An-70 airframe in time for static development tests. It is also concerned that wing production for the propfan aircraft has been delayed by slow progress in talks between the Tashkent aircraft factory (TAPO), which formerly made them, and a Ukrainian factory in Kharkov which is due to take over production.

According to a timetable announced by former air force commander Alexander Zelin, Russia's Kazan aircraft plant had been due to build 21 An-70s by 2014-2015. However, current commanders say this is impossible without a complete static test prototype.

Only one An-70, originally built in the early 1990s, is currently flying.

Antonov told Izvestia its contract with Russia includes penalty clauses, and that co-operation between Ukraine and TAPO is "going well". The programme is on schedule, and an all-electronic flight-control system has been developed for the aircraft within two years at the Russian air force's request, it says.

Meanwhile, the head of Russia's Military Transport Aviation command Col Gen Vladimir Benediktov said on 5 February that the air force will get 48 Ilyushin Il-76MD-90A transports, rather than the 39 announced in a contract last year.

Source: Flight International