Saudi Arabia signed a letter of intent with the Ukrainian Antonov company, pertaining acquisition of 30 An-178 transport aircraft. The document also provides for an option of initiating a license manufacturing process. This is yet another Saudi initiative regarding collaboration with the Ukrainian aviation industry and promotion of the Antonov’s aircraft in the Middle East.
The letter of intent, concluded by and between Antonov and the Saudi Taqnia Aeronautics company, is related to the process of manufacturing 30 An-178 aircraft for the Royal Saudi Air Force. The letter also mentions possible provision of a manufacturing/assembly license, referring to the local markets. This is yet another industrial initiative related to the investments made by the Saudi companies, pertaining the cooperation with the Antonov company, looking for new customers.
Taqnia Aeronautics is already dealing with promotional activities related to the specialized (maritime, rescue or VIP) variants of the An-148 aircraft. The Saudi enterprise also has made its contribution to development of the An-132 aircraft (in-depth modernization of the An-32 airframe) realized together with the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) and the Antonov company. The aim of the aforementioned initiatives is to expand the market for the Antonov aircraft. Secondly, the process is to activate the Saudi high-tech industry, outside the area related to processing of the fossil fuels.
Africa and Middle East constitute natural markets for the Antonov’s airlifters, since the Ukrainian aircraft are capable of operating from unprepared runways, so common in this part of the world. An-132 is an advanced modernization of the An-32 airframe, popular among the African users. An-178, on the other hand, is treated as a successor of An-12 or C-160 airframes. When it comes to the payload capacity, An-178 may be ranked between the C-27 Spartan class airframe and larger airlifters, of C-130, An-70 or A400M class.
An-178 has been created on the basis of the An-148/158 airliners, as a large volume cargo aircraft which is capable to carry standard maritime containers, 90 fully equipped troops or up to 80 paratroops. With the maximum load of 18 tonnes, An-178 is capable of covering distances longer than 1000 km. With an average load of 10 tonnes, the aircraft is capable to reach the range of 4000 km. An-178 is characterized by STOL capabilities, and is capable of using unprepared runways, which expands its operational capabilities, particularly within the areas that do not have sufficient infrastructure. Top speed of the aircraft is defined as 825 kilometers per hour. The price is estimated at the level of USD 20-25 million per single example, depending on its avionics and configuration.
The An-178 airframe price, is, according to the claims made by the manufacturer, two times lower than in case of the western designs with similar operational capabilities.