The world’s biggest military transport aircraft

19 June 2019 (Last Updated November 26th, 2019 13:00)

Giant airlifters such as the An-124 Ruslan, C-5M Super Galaxy and C-17 Globemaster III enable the quick transportation of heavy equipment, supplies and troops directly to remote areas.

The world’s biggest military transport aircraft

Airforce-technology.com lists the world’s biggest military transport aircraft based on maximum take-off weight.

Antonov AN-124 Ruslan

The AN-124 Ruslan (Nato reporting name: Condor), developed by Antonov, is the world’s biggest military transport aircraft thanks to its giant take-off weight of 392t. The An-124-100 can carry a payload of 120t and is capable of transporting heavy and oversized cargoes, as well as various combat vehicles.

The first flight of the AN-124 Ruslan was conducted in December 1982. The aircraft features a pressurised cargo compartment that is 20% larger than that of C-5 Galaxy. The front and rear cargo doors of the aircraft ensure rapid loading/off-loading of heavy cargoes with ease.

The aircraft is powered by four Ivchenko Progress D-18T turbofan engines developing 229.85kN thrust each. The multi-wheel landing gear of the AN-124 ensures operations from unpaved runways. The aircraft has a cruise speed of 800km/h to 850km/h and a range of 7,500km.

C-5M Super Galaxy

The C-5M Super Galaxy, manufactured by Lockheed Martin, is the biggest military transport aircraft used by the US Air Force (USAF). It is an improved version of the C-5 Galaxy strategic airlifter and can take-off with a maximum weight of 381t, including a payload of 129,274kg. The C-5M can transport a typical load of six Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles or five helicopters.

The first C-5 Galaxy entered service with the USAF in 1970 while the C-5M was inducted in 2009. The 75.5m-long, 19.8m-high C-5M allows for quick loading/unloading from the front and rear simultaneously.

The C-5M Super Galaxy can fly at a normal cruise speed of 518mph (0.77 Mach) for a maximum range of 7,000nmi. The power-plant comprises four GE CF-80C2 turbofans generating a thrust of 50,580lb (225kN) each.

KC-10 Extender

The KC-10 Extender is a tanker and cargo aircraft in service with the US Airforce and the Royal Netherlands Air Force. The aircraft has a maximum take-off weight of 267.6t while its cargo and fuel load capacities are 77t and 161t, respectively.

Designed primarily for aerial refuelling, the aircraft can perform the missions of a tanker and cargo aircraft by refuelling fighters and can simultaneously carry support personnel and equipment on overseas deployments.

The KC-10 Extender is powered by three General Electric CF6-50C2 turbofan engines, which produce a thrust of 52,500lb (233.5kN) each. The power plant ensures a maximum speed of 996km/h and a range of 7,081km with cargo and 18,507km without cargo.

C-17 Globemaster III

The C-17 Globemaster III is a high-wing, military-transport aircraft developed by McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing) for the US Air Force. It is capable of transporting heavy, oversized payloads and supplies, as well as troops to small airfields in remote areas day and night. The aircraft has a maximum take-off weight of 265.3t and payload capacity of 74,797kg.

The first C-17 aircraft was inducted into USAF service in January 1995. Boeing has delivered more than 259 C-17s to 36 export customers to date. The aircraft provided support during Operation Joint Endeavor and Allied Operation in Kosovo.

The aircraft is fitted with four Pratt & Whitney PW2040 turbofan engines, which develop a thrust of 40,440lbf (180kN) each to enable a cruise speed of 833.6km/h (0.77 Mach). The maximum range with 18.1t (40,000lb) payload is 10,390km (5,610nmi), which can be increased with in-flight refuelling.

A330 MRTT

The A330 MRTT (Multi-Role Tanker Transport), built on the basis of the A330 commercial airliner, is a new-generation aircraft from Airbus Military for military transport and air-to-air refuelling missions. The MRTT has a maximum take-off weight of 233t making it suitable for dedicated transport missions involving payloads weighing up to 45t.

The maiden flight of A330 MRTT was held in June 2007, and 37 aircraft were operational with seven international air forces as of May 2019.

The aircraft can be powered by two General Electric CF6-80E1A3, Rolls-Royce Trent 772B or Pratt & Whitney PW 4168A turbofans. The maximum cruise speed (TAS) and ferry range are 1,018km/h (Mach 0.86) and 14,800km (8,000nmi), respectively.

Antonov An-22 Antei

The AN-22 Antei (Nato code name: Cock) developed by Antonov is currently operated by Russia’s military-transport aviation regiments. The aircraft has a maximum take-off weight of 225t and can transport payloads of up to 60t.

The AN-22 made its first flight from Svyatoshin airfield in February 1965. A total of 66 AN-22 aircraft, including AN-22A variants, were produced by January 1976. The aircraft has a wide cargo compartment with a 638.8m³ volume to accommodate oversized cargoes.

The turboprop-powered aircraft is equipped with four Kuznetsov NK-12MA turboprops driving four contra-rotating propellers. The power plant provides a maximum speed of 740km/h and a range of 5,250km.

Xian Y-20

The Y-20, developed by Xi’an Aircraft Industrial Corporation (Xian) for the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF), is the biggest indigenous strategic airlifter ever built in China. The aircraft has a maximum take-off weight of 220t and can carry a payload of 60t.

The Y-20 project was launched in 2006 and the first prototype made its maiden flight in January 2013. The aircraft entered service with the PLAAF in 2016.

The aircraft features rear cargo-loading system and retractable landing gear. The power plant of the Y-20 prototypes consists of four D-30KP-2 or WS-18 turbofan engines whereas the production aircraft is expected to be equipped with WS-20 engines.

Ilyushin Il-76

The Ilyushin Il-76 (Nato code name: Candid) developed by Ilyushin Aviation Complex can take-off with a maximum weight of 210t including 60t of payload. The aircraft is primarily operated by the air forces of Russia, India and Ukraine.

The Ilyushin Il-76 made its first flight in March 1971 and entered service with the Soviet Air Force in June 1974. The military transport versions of Il-76 include Il-76MD, Il-76MD-90, Il-76MD-90A and Il-76MF.

The base Il-76 aircraft is powered by four D-30KP turbojets whereas the upgraded Ilyushin Il-76 military aircraft are equipped with four PS-90A-76 turbojet engines developing a thrust of 156.9kN. The cruising speed of the aircraft varies between 770km/h and 850km/h, depending on the model.

A310 MRTT

The A310 MRTT is a multi-role military aircraft based on the civilian Airbus A310. The variant is in service with the German Air Force and the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). The A310 MRTT operated by the RCAF is designated as CC-150 Polaris.

The aircraft has a maximum take-off weight of 157t and maximum payload capacity of 41.6t. It can be configured to carry out passenger and freight transport, medical support and air-to-air refuelling, or a combination of these missions.

Powered by two GE CF6-80C2A2 high-bypass turbofan engines, the aircraft can attain a speed of 1,029km/h (Mach 0.84) while carrying a payload of 32,000kg. The A310 MRTT offers a range of 11,000km at cruising speed of 860km/h.

Airbus A400M

The A400M from Airbus Military is one of the most advanced turboprop military transport aircraft in the world. It is currently the most versatile airlifter and intended to replace C-130 Hercules and C-160 Transall aircraft. The A400M can house a payload of 37t and take-off with a maximum weight of 141t.

The first flight of the A400M was held in December 2009 and the first aircraft was delivered to the French Air Force in August 2013. The aircraft can be used for the transportation of heavy and oversized loads and personnel, airdrop, air-to-air refuelling and medical evacuation missions.

The aircraft is powered by four EuroProp International TP400-D6 turboprop engines driving two pairs of eight-bladed propellers. The ferry range of the aircraft is 8,700km and the maximum cruise speed is 555km/h.

Kawasaki XC-2

The XC-2 (previously C-X) is a next-generation military transport aircraft developed by Kawasaki Heavy Industries for the Japan Air Self Defence Force (JASDF). The modern tactical mid-sized airlifter is intended to replace the Kawasaki C-1 and C-130 Hercules fleet of the JASDF. The XC-2 has a maximum take-off weight of about 141t and offers longer range and higher payload capacity than the C-1 and other similar aircraft in its class.

The maiden flight of the XC-2 was successfully conducted at the JASDF’s Gifu base in January 2010. The aircraft can be deployed in airlift missions in support of disaster relief and international operations.

The twin-engine power-plant of the XC-2 includes two GE CF6-80C2K1F high-bypass turbofan engines generating a thrust of 266kN each. The maximum speed of the aircraft is 890km/h and the ferry range is 10,000km.

Antonov An-70

The AN-70 is a new generation, medium-range Short Take-Off and Landing (STOL) military transport aircraft developed by Antonov. The aircraft can transport any air-portable military and engineering vehicles currently operational with armies worldwide. It has a maximum take-off weight of 130t and can lift 40t of cargo from unpaved airfields.

The maiden flight of the first AN-70 prototype was conducted in December 1994. The fuselage of the first serial production aircraft was assembled in December 2012 after a number of delays in the production phase.

The AN-70 is equipped with four Progress D-27 prop-fan engines, each driving an SV-27 counter-rotating propeller. The power-plant provides a maximum speed of 780km/h while offering 20% to 30% fuel economy when compared with modern turbojet aeroplanes. The AN-70 can fly for 6,600km with a 20t payload and offers a ferry range of 8,000km.

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