Antonov’s AN-70 has had a long and difficult development history from its first studies and concepts in 1979. Roadblocks have included the dissolution of its sponsoring state in 1991, the crash of the initial prototype aircraft in a 1995 collision with its chase plane, and the selection of the EADS A400M development project as the basis of Europe’s Future Large Aircraft (FLA). Antonov’s project has been kept alive on a shoestring budget by the participating companies, who believe that they have a winner on their hands if they can just bring it into production. The A400M’s struggles and cost escalation, and the C-130J‘s 20-ton limitations, have validated that assessment – but assessments don’t meet payroll, or pay for equipment.
The FLA loss was indeed a bitter blow to a Ukrainian program that had already seen many setbacks. As the program inched along in limbo for many years, it even looked like the FLA loss might turn out to be fatal, consigning the AN-70 to “what if” status on par with Canada’s fabled CF-105 Avro Arrow fighter. Recent developments, more than 30 years after the project first began, have finally changed that status.