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France is Short on Ukrainian An-124 Ruslan Planes But There's No Replacement

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An-124-100 of the Antonov Airlines fleet / Open source illustrative photo
An-124-100 of the Antonov Airlines fleet / Open source illustrative photo

The problem with wide-body transporters has been known since a few years ago, but only now manifests in serious consequences

General Stéphane Mille, Chief of the French Air and Space Force said he was "worried about the future, as there is no short-term solution" to the shortage of strategic airlift aircraft for long-range deployments of French military personnel and equipment, the officer noted while giving a speech to the parliament of France.

Previously, the French Armed Forces relied on An-124 Ruslan transport aircraft leased from the Ukrainian company Antonov. The contract was awarded under the SALIS project. Now, due to Ukraine being at war, the availability of the planes has dropped. On top of that, the aircraft from this fleet is also nearing its end of service life. Finding an alternative became challenging, Opex360 reports.

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An-124-100 of the Antonov Airlines fleet
An-124-100 Ruslan aircraft of the Antonov Airlines fleet / Open source illustrative photo

The editors detailed that earlier, when the French military required wide-body aircraft for long-distance airlift, they could charter Ukrainian AN-124-100, An-22, An-225, or even Il-76 of russian operators. But this option is no longer available.

There is also a remark that in 2017, now-former MP François Cornut-Gentille warned the French army of excessive dependence on strategic transport aircraft borrowed from other countries.

At present, French forces only have А300-600ST Beluga on an unlimited basis but those are not adapted for carrying military cargo.

Back in the day, Airbus tried a project aimed to create the A380-800F airlifter, which could take up to 150 tons of payload aboard. This project was shut down in 2007, though. But now, the Opex360 authors suggest, it could become a key to the problem of strategic air transport for the French military.

Sketch of the A380-800F transport aircraft in development
Sketch of the A380-800F transport aircraft in development / Open source illustrative graphic
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