Antonov Aircraft Company
Antonov State Company, formerly the Aeronautical Scientific-Technical Complex named Antonov (Antonov ASTC) (Ukrainian: Авіаційний науково-технічний комплекс імені Антонова, (АНТК ім. Антонова)), and earlier the Antonov Design Bureau, is a Soviet, and later a Ukrainian aircraft manufacturing and services company. Antonov’s particular expertise is in the fields of very large aeroplanes and aeroplanes using unprepared runways. Antonov (model prefix An-) has built a total of approximately 22,000 aircraft, and thousands of its planes are currently operating in the former Soviet Union and in developing countries.
Antonov StC is a state-owned commercial company. Its headquarters and main industrial grounds were originally located in Novosibirsk, and were later transferred to Kiev. On 12 May 2015 it was transferred from the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade to the Ukroboronprom (Ukrainian Defense Industry).
In June 2016, Ukraine’s major state-owned arms manufacturer Ukroboronprom announced the creation of the Ukrainian Aircraft Corporation within its structure, to combine all aircraft manufacturing enterprises in Ukraine.
Foundation and relocation
The company was established in 1946 at the Novosibirsk Aircraft Production Association as the top-secret Soviet Research and Design Bureau No. 153. It was headed by Oleg Antonov and specialised in turboprop military transport aircraft. The An-2 biplane was a major achievement of this period, with hundreds of these aircraft still operating as of 2013. In 1952, the Bureau was relocated to Kiev, a city with a rich aviation history and an aircraft-manufacturing infrastructure restored after the destruction caused by World War II.
First serial aircraft and expansion
An-12, Cold War-era tactical transport, in flight.
47-year-old An-12 still in operational condition in 2011.
The 1957 introduction of the An-10/An-12 family of mid-range turboprop aeroplanes began the successful production of thousands of these aircraft. Their use for both heavy combat and civilian purposes around the globe continues to the present; the An-10/An-12 were used most notably in the Vietnam War, the Soviet–Afghan War and the Chernobyl disaster relief megaoperation.
In 1959, the bureau began construction of the separate Flight Testing and Improvement Base in suburban Hostomel (now the Antonov Airport).
In 1965, the Antonov An-22 heavy military transport entered serial production to supplement the An-12 in major military and humanitarian airlifts by the Soviet Union. The model became the first Soviet wide-body aircraft, and it remains the world’s largest turboprop-powered aircraft. Antonov designed and presented a nuclear-powered version of the An-22. It was never flight tested.
In 1966, after the major expansion in the Sviatoshyn neighbourhood of the city, the company was renamed to another disguise name: “Kiev Mechanical Plant”. Two independent aircraft production and repair facilities, under engineering-supervision of the Antonov Bureau, also appeared in Kiev during this period.
Prominence and Antonov’s retirement
Antonov An-24, the Soviet Union’s most common regional airliner.
In the 1970s and early 1980s, the company established itself as USSR’s main designer of military transport aircraft with dozens of new modifications in development and production. After Oleg Antonov’s death in 1984, the company was officially renamed as the Research and Design Bureau named after O.K. Antonov (Russian: Опытно-конструкторское бюро имени О.К. Антонова) while continuing the use of “Kiev Mechanical Plant” alias for some purposes.
Late Soviet-era: superlarge projects and first commercialisation
An-225 is the largest operating aircraft in the world.
In the late 1980s, the Antonov Bureau achieved global prominence after the introduction of its extra large aeroplanes. The An-124 “Ruslan” (1982) became the Soviet Union’s mass-produced strategic airlifter under the leadership of Chief Designer Viktor Tolmachev. The Bureau enlarged the “Ruslan” design even more for the Soviet space shuttle programme logistics, creating the An-225 “Mriya” in 1989. “Mriya” is still the world’s largest and heaviest aeroplane.
The end of the Cold War and perestroika allowed the Antonov company’s first step to commercialisation and foreign expansion. In 1989, the Antonov Airlines subsidiary was created for its own aircraft maintenance and cargo projects.