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Why No AN-124 Competitor?

Sat Jun 24, 2006 3:41 am

The AN-225 contrail thread, and questions within, got me thinking back to something I wondered about - why is there no AN-124 competitor.

The AN-124 was built as a military counter for the C-5, in a 'they have one, we must have one', and the AN-225 was built out of necessity for the Buran project.

Both models have proven invaluable on the commercial market after the Soviet Union collapse in the 1990s, with new AN-124s coming off the production line and older verisons being brought up to the new standard. This pretty much proves its viability, if people are buying then theres a market, and with old AN-124s only rated for 7,500 hours and new ones rated for 24,000 hours, theres got to be a case for followon sales.

So why has there never been a competitor? The Boeing 747 freighter comes nowhere near in terms of lifting power or capacity, the C-5 never sold a civilian airframe, and unless Im forgetting about an aircraft or two there doesnt seem to be anything else in the AN-124s class.

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RE: Why No AN-124 Competitor?

Sat Jun 24, 2006 4:14 am

Quite simple: The market is too small. Even if you want to sell a military version, which might then make a compromise necessary, and that won't make civilian operators happy.
At max, you could sell 100 aircraft in the next 25 years, but you still have about 10 bn development costs. The price would then be at about 600 million, too high for any sales.
Exceptions confirm the rule.
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RE: Why No AN-124 Competitor?

Sat Jun 24, 2006 4:23 am

Like A342 said, the market is tiny. Sure, new ones will be built, but not in orders of 30 or 50 or so.... in ones and twos. It was developed for the military, and with the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia needed money and offered them up for commercial use. They've been fairly successful, but this is not a huge market by any means - even if the An-124 did not exist, the market would not be large enough to develop an aircraft for it. It is a good combination of an already available aircraft, an operator/country's desire to find work for it, and it being a plane that can do something most can't.

Further, the C-17 was offered to commercial operators by both McDonnell Douglas (MD-17) and later Boeing (BC-17X). Both times, it got zero bites. It is an airplane that, although somewhat smaller than the An-124, is capable of the same mission. It was too expensive to purchase or operate. The need to move cargo of this mission is so rare that it doesn't make sense for operators to buy these aircraft, instead when the need arises, to charter one.
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RE: Why No AN-124 Competitor?

Sat Jun 24, 2006 4:38 am

The oversized cargo market is small and is generally dominated by truck/rail/shipping companies. And even fewer need to have big stuff moved halfway across the globe quickly. Even then many of those companies/industries that have a need for that have developed their own systems... think of the A300 Super Transport (Beluga).

As is stands given the size of the market the development costs of such a large aircraft are too high for the return on investment... luckily for us the Soviets made that investment in the 80s. And frankly the large number of older Soviet designed cargo transports makes the business case for a dedicated commerical outsized freighter even worse.
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