Taking Antonov’s AN-32 to the AN-132

By Bjorn Fehrm 

July 04, 2017, ©. Leeham Co: Antonov showed the new AN-132 multipurpose transport at the Paris Air Show. The aircraft is the first product from Antonov which is reindustrialized to Western standards and technology.

We sat with Antonov’s Vice President of Development, Dr. Alexander Los, to understand the process.

Reindustrializing the An-32

Alexander Los: “The AN-132 is developed from the An-32. This is in turn a remotorized AN-26. India has mountainous borders with China and Pakistan. The country was the launch customer for the An-32. It needed a multipurpose transport with exceptional hot and high capabilities.

So, we fitted the AN-26 with the larger engines from the An-12. By going from 2,800shp to 5,100shp we could give the aircraft the required performance. But the AN-12 engines are from the 1950;ies. They function well, but the range will not be impressive, fuel consumption is high.

With Saudi-Arabia’s Taqnia Aeronautics Co. we entered in a joint venture to convert the AN-32 to a modern Western aircraft, the An-132. It meant we could fit 5,070shp Pratt & Whitney PW150 engines. This keeps the field performance of the An-32 but doubles the range to 2,400nm.

To transfer the AN-32, built as an aircraft with Soviet technology, to a Western standards aircraft was quite an undertaking. But we did it in 18 months.

Figure 1. The AN-132 has a glass cockpit from Honeywell. Source: Leeham Co.

We had to change a lot. Starting with the structure we had to exchange Soviet alloy types with their equivalent Western types. Then we changed all the systems to Western equivalents. We have Honeywell as supplier for avionics, Liebherr for air-conditioning and UTC for APU.  The engines are Pratt & Whitney Canada’s PW150 and the propellers are from Dowty.

The result is an aircraft with double the range, a 23% higher payload (9.2t) and better economics, as the engines consume less fuel and have longer time between overhaul.

Figure 2. The load ramp and payload area of the AN-132. Source: Leeham Co.

The prototype aircraft we show here is produced with the existing tooling at Antonov in Kiev. At Taqnia Aeronautics in Saudi Arabia we are setting up a new modern assembly line. There we can serial produce the aircraft in larger numbers. The manufacturing facilities are built to the latest standards.”

LNC: What about you other aircraft, like the An-70 tactical transport and An-124 strategic transport.

Alexander Los: For both these programs we need to reindustrialize them with Western materials, systems and production facilities. This is something we are working on. We take one step at a time. Now we can present the An-132 as a reindustrialized aircraft. Others will follow.

26 Comments on “Taking Antonov’s AN-32 to the AN-132

  1. That’s quite impressive to double the range with an increased payload, given that the frame remains more of less the same.

    Those old engines must be quite some gas guzzlers.

    • Russian engines and from the fifties no less? You better believe they are gas guzzlers! Russian air frames have always been more advanced than their engines resulting in aircraft that did not reach their true potential, especially in range.

      • Russian engines..please.. the design bureau was in Zaporizhia, Ukraine now known as Ivchenko-Progress ZMKB

        • Sorry old habit, I should have used “Soviet”, also I didn’t know that Ukraine wasn’t part of the USSR.

          • Well they were both part of the soviet union, but the engines are still as Ukrainian as the airframe. Its 25 years since Ukraine became independent. The engine design bureau and the factory that made the engines are both in Zaporizhia, Ukraine. Motor Sich were making aero engines in 1916 so have as long a history as well known western names

  2. “Starting with the structure we had to exchange Soviet alloy types with their equivalent Western types.”

    I’m curious what parts of the structure did they replace and why would the western equivalents be better?

    • “western equivalents be better?”
      Available in the market.
      Its a matter of the original design using soviet standards and those materials are not really available now. As he say: equivalent western material, not necessarily an upgrade in it selves.

    • Hi Geo,

      it was not a matter of replacing the structures with different ones. But Antonov want to transfer all their aircraft to solely use Western materials and technology. The conflict with Russia has made sourcing of materials and technology from Russia unfeasible.

      So it’s a matter to find and qualify alloys that have characteristics close to the ones used for the present production variants of the aircraft. Any changes in the characteristics has to be discussed with the Air worthiness authorities to retain the Type Certificate knowledge for the aircraft.

      • As an interesting aside, would there not already be approximate equivalences, given that, say, the Superjet, has EASA certification?

        • Approximate equivalents would be fast to find. But an aircraft can use up to 10 different alloy types or more. Many are the same alloy family e.g. the Western 2024 alloy, part of the aluminium 2000 series alloys (where the main alloying element is Copper). But the 2024 has itself many different tempers (heat treatments). Then you have 7010, 7050, 7075, 7150, 7175…. with its tempers (7000 series has Zinc as main alloying element). That was just a selection of Al alloys, then we shave Steel, Stainless steel, Titanium…

          For certification you have to select your equivalent and prove that it will serve as well or better than the one you have long in-service experience for (the first variant, AN-24 flies since 1959).

          • Yeah, no, kinda!

            The Young’s modulus , Fty, Ftu etc will be essentially identical, the real difference will be (as you allude to) the fatigue allowables and the crack growth properties.

            But, with EASA etc having certified the Superjet, would Antonov not just have to demonstrate fatigue/crack growth life (of each material at a very select few test cases) within 5-10% of legacy then cut the inspection intervals in half to get a product out the door?

            [It’d certainly be better than some of the stretches of rationalisation I’ve seen!]

    • The alloys are not better, but have a “fit-to-fly” (documented (e.g. fatigue) behavior etc.) approval of EASA/FAA or their military equivalents or whatsoever – hence you can achieve easier any type of type certification.

    • When the Americans took on the English Electric Canberra and turned it into the B58, it was quite a complex task. Even the thicknesses of available alloys was different between the US and Britain. They couldn’t use a thinner sheet – would have been too fragile – and a thicker sheet would add weight. So although the B58 looked like the Canberra (apart from the canopy), the drawings had had to go through some major revision to make it a manufacturable airframe in the US.

        • Same in reverse earlier when the Soviets used some “dropped” B29s as blueprint for their post WWII strategic bomber B-4 / Tu-4.
          Widely scoped changes to get from imperial to metric gauges, different engines, …

  3. I am impressed with the effort spent on detail.

    Bad detail no matter how good the product is usually a turn off, they obviously took a lot of care as to presentation.

    Speaks of good things in my view.

    Not a given but if the same effort went into the non seen parts its a going to be a good bird.

    I would love to see the AN-124 being built again.

  4. Looks like a nice, handy aircraft.

    I can see them doing this with their other airframes too. The 124 is now seemingly indispensable to the world’s economy; there’s just nothing else like it and they’re busy. Making new ones of them would be really quite something.

  5. This seems like a competitor for the Airbus C-295. It seems that the Spanish-built military lifter is winning the vast majority of the western-countries orders for this category of airplanes, that on the other hand seems to be a rather small market sector. Does anyone know how they compare? Will the Antonov be cheaper than the C-295? Because payloads are very similar but the 132’s more powerful engines point to a higher fuel consumption.

    • Richard: BBD has run into that argument with the ATR vs the Q series.

      BBD finally started to emphasize you didn’t have to use the push, you could throttle back and get near ATR economics.

      You pay more for the engine of course.

      That can be offset by route freedom.

      Any time you make a flight, you have to plan an escape that is based on one engine failing. That means you can’t fly some routes directly.

      The Q series frees you up, and returns better economics.

      In this case the AN-132 would have those options open as well as shorter field performance at full load (or hot and or high or both) .

      I can see that being valuable in India, Middle East, Africa. Some areas of South America.

  6. If a plane is ugly, it’s British (Trident, One Eleven, Victor)

    If a plane is complicated, it’s French (Airbus, Concorde, Caravelle)

    If a plane is a gas-guzzler, it’s Brazilian (E-120, E-190)

    But if a planeia at the same time ugly, complicated and also a gas-guzzler, it can only be… RUSSIAN !

  7. Reviving the An-124 could indeed be an interesting opportunity, but it’ll take courage both on the part of Antonov and investors: like the An-132, it’s aimed at a niche market, but will take significantly more money to develop.

    Thing is, unlike the An-132 (C295M, C-27J, soon Il-112V) it would face virtually no direct competition.

    C-5M is not commercially available, being a conversion of a limited pool of military-owned airframes. Most of the other potential contenders are significantly smaller and hence can’t even be properly considered direct competitors in the first place, furthermore they all have additional problems beyond more size.

    The C-17 has been out of production for years, and in the meantime the last of the white tails has been sold, too – with no indication that anybody is willing to sell some of their fleet on to second-hand users. Russia tripped up by doing a C-130J on the Il-76 instead of developing a clean-sheet successor, resulting in a project that incurred most of the costs of a clean-sheet design without delivering anything like the same benefits. China built what Russia *should* have done, an Il-76-class airframe with a large A400M-size cargo hold cross section and a modern wing, but is let down by having no competitive engines to power it.

    In terms of partners, the An-132 could actually provide a good template: Saudi Arabia, unlike its neighbours Qatar, Kuwait & UAE, missed out on the C-17 band-wagon…

    As for the choice of Western engines for the An-124, IMHO they’d be smart to choose the Trent 500. Reliable, the right kind of thrust at the right kind of weight with a significant fuel burn improvement, and likely available cheaply due to the early retirement of the second generation A340.

    You can make a case for the GEnX-2B or Trent 7000 (bleed air!) on the grounds of even lower fuel consumption, but they’re probably too much engine for the job. Too much weight, too much thrust (both of which would be liable to increase the extent of the required structural mods to the An-124 airframe) and a lot more expensive to boot.

    The Trent 500 is 700kg heavier than the original D-18T, which is round about the same gain as the CF6-80C2 over the TF39 on the C-5 but more than 1000kg lighter than the GEnX-2B or Trent 7000. Thrust increase is <20% – but then the An-124 isn't quite as underpowered as the C-5 to begin with, which got a 20% bump with the CF6-80C2.

    Meanwhile, I don't think the 94-inch PW4000 or the CF6 cut it. They would certainly be considerably less costly to maintain than the D-18T and reasonably cheap to buy, but in terms of fuel economy the improvement in cycle parameters is a lot less impressive than the Trent 500.

  8. Darn – “beyond more size” ought to be “beyond mEre size”.

  9. Come to think of it, the Trent 500 also offers an interesting way out of the conundrum of re-engining the An-70…

    I mean, the obvious (and pretty much only direct) Western counterpart to its current D-27 propfans is the TP400-D6 from the A400M, but it seems questionable whether Antonov would like to adopt such a troublesome power plant.

    However, the Kawasaki C-2 with its pair of CF6-80C2s demonstrates that the Trent 500 is in the right ball park for an An-70-size twinjet. In fact, the 500 *was* considered by Kawasaki, and in the end it was commonality with Japan’s 767-based AWACS/tanker fleet that sealed the deal for the CF6. A decision which is sound enough in its own right, but not one that reads across to the more general case of Antonov re-engining the An-70. Or maybe it does, in that commonality wins, which would then favour the Trent 500 for both the An-124 and -70. You get what I mean.

    Another interesting option in this regard would be 4 V2500s, giving commonality with the KC-390 – but that might be too close for comfort to the An-178.

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