The world’s largest cargo plane, the Ukrainian-made Antonov-225 Mriya, was burned during a Russian attack on a strategic airfield near Kyiv, according to Ukrainian state arms manufacturer Ukroboronprom. At the time of invasion, the AN-225 was under repair at Gostomel Airport and did not have time to leave Ukraine.
“Russian occupiers destroyed the flagship of Ukrainian aviation, the legendary AN-225 ‘Mriya’,” Ukroboronprom said on its website. “This happened at the Antonov airfield in Gostomel near Kyiv, where the plane was. It will cost over US$3 billion to restore the plane (and) the restoration shall be time consuming.”
The AN-225 holds records for transportation of the world’s biggest commercial cargo and its makers say it will take at least five years to restore the plane. the manufacturers said they will try to make Russian pay for the repairs.
“Russia has destroyed our Mriya,” Ukroboronprom said, “but the dream of Ukraine to get free from the occupier cannot be destroyed. We will fight for our land and our home until we win. And after the victory, we will definitely finish our new Mriya, which has been waiting for this in a safe place for many years. Everything will be Ukraine,” said Yuriy Husyev, director general of Ukroboronprom.
The aircraft, which first took off in 1988, was used to transport large amounts of humanitarian aid around the world, especially at short notice. It was also used to transfer Soviet spacecraft.
William Davies, associate defence analyst at GlobalData, said “the destruction of the AN-225 aircraft by Russian forces is the latest blow to Ukraine’s defence industry and aerospace infrastructure which received significant investment in 2021, with the aim of providing Ukrainian forces with high-tech locally sourced equipment. The AN-225 was built with an extremely large storage capacity of 950 cubic meters to carry the Soviet Union Buran space orbiter.
“The plane’s nearest rival, the Boeing 747F, carries more than a third less cargo with a storage capacity of 650 cubic metres,” Davies said. “When the plane was later converted to carry commercial and military cargo its size and speed made it a viable alternative to shipping and rail transportation as it could transport five main battle tanks at a time and specialised as a carrier of energy production systems, electric generators and fuel for nuclear power stations. As the AN-225 had relatively few applications and only took around 10 flights a year, no alternative aircraft was ever produced to replace it and in the absence of an equivalent alternative it will be missed as global carrier of cargo.”