China-russia Air Bridge Has Intensified: Over 50 Transfers in a Month by An-124 and Il-76 Transport Aircraft

russian cargo aircraft is going in and out of China with a worrysome rate / Open source illustrative photo
russian cargo aircraft is going in and out of China with a worrysome rate / Open source illustrative photo

​Since Noveber 28 there were 54 flights or 48 just this December only, with heavy transport aircraft involved, including An-124 and Il-76 airlifters

About a month ago, Defense Express has detected an abnormal activity of russian military aviation toward China: an entire air bridge between the countries supervised by the "Volga-Dnepr" company. In September, there were only several flights, but in October the numbers grew to more than ten sorties, and in the next month, 34 flights took place by November 27.

However, this time we are speaking of 54 flights since then, or 48 incomplete December only. For reference, just today, at least one An-124 and two Il-76 aircraft took off from Zhengzhou airport.

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An-124 heavy transport aircraft / Open source illustrative photo

The number of aircraft involved in the air bridge has grown as well. Compared to the six aircraft before (two Il-76 and four An-124 "Ruslan"), there are already eight aircraft regularly coursing between the two countries: four Il-76 and four An-124 "Ruslan".

The IDs of Il-76 involved are:

  • RA-76511
  • RA-76950
  • RA-76951
  • RA-76952
russian Il-76
russian Il-76 of the Volga-Dnepr air company / Open source illustrative photo

The IDs of An-124 aircraft involved:

  • RA-82044
  • RA-82047
  • RA-82074
  • RA-82081

These are all the flights of russian "Volga-Dnepr" company that departed from Chinese airports. Most often are flights from Zhengzhou – 38 times so far, Shenzhen Baoan (near Hong Kong) – 8 times, and some others from Xinjiang, Xianyang, and Ürümqi. From these airports, russian planes returned to the russian federation with traditional stopovers in russian Barnaul and Novosibirsk.

What sort of cargo could possibly be transferred from China with such rates is an open question, which we looked into in detail in a dedicated article. Of course, there is still a possibility that nothing but parcels with presents are being delivered to russia and Europe on these transport aircraft since the winter holidays are coming, but there is a catch. China is currently suffering from another wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, which resulted in a global crisis in postal delivery services. And russia is a bad candidate for a transit hub due to the sanctions imposed on all russian aircraft by a large number of countries, and European air companies have stopped flying to russia, too.

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