Antonov’s An-124 Condor began as a Soviet super-heavy military transport aircraft that would be even larger than the American C-5 Galaxy. After coming out on top in that particular ‘mine is bigger than yours’ contest, the An-124 outdid its American rivals again by going on to a surprising second career in the civilian sector. It has become the de facto global standard super-heavy cargo aircraft for outsize loads. Even NATO uses the Condor these days, via its SALIS lease of 6 AN-124s to meet the military transport needs of 17 participating nations.
On the flip side, that popularity means existing AN-124s are accumulating flight-hour fatigue, and some of them have yet to be upgraded with newer electronics and engines. As the fleet ages, freight carrier Volga-Dnepr chairman Alexei Isaikin was quoting forecasting An-124 capacity shortages by 2008. Hence the Dec 15/06 negotiations held at ANTONOV ASTC headquarters with key customers Volga-Dnepr Airline JSC and Aviastar JSC, and subsequent talks with Russia concerning new military airlifters.