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FRANCE NOTES ITS ARMED FORCES’ CRITICAL DEPENDENCE ON AN-124 RUSLAN AIRLIFT AIRCRAFT



The French Armed Forces are highly dependent on the An-124 heavy military transport aircraft.


Unloading of French military equipment in N’Djamena (Chad) from the An-124 of the Antonov Airlines in the framework of Serval operation against militants in Mali, 2013 (Photo: French Defense Ministry)

The article is based on this post by BMPD blog

On March 28, French deputy Francois Cornut-Gentille presented a report, anxiously describing the situation with air transport means of the French Armed Forces, the Air&Cosmos magazine reported. According to the magazine, Cornut-Gentille claimed that there is a high dependence on Russia and Ukraine in this field.

The report, which was presented at a hearing in the Finance Commission of the French National Assembly, noted that the French Armed Forces are heavily dependent on Russia and Ukraine, as well as on the An-124 heavy military transport aircraft, designed for strategic transportation. “It is a fact that Russians and Ukrainians control the transfer of our troops to theaters of military operations,” the deputy said.

And this situation is unlikely to be changed soon. Appearance of the Airbus A400M military transport aircraft, which is intended for transportation of military cargo of less weight, will not weaken this dependence. While the An-124 is capable to carry 100-120 tons of payload, the А400М can lift five times less, just 25-30 tons. In addition, as the deputy noted, large-sized cargoes, such as tanks or helicopters, cannot be transported by the A400M.

The problem remains large-scale. As the report noted, the AN-124 aircraft are operated by three airlines: one Ukrainian and two Russian, and for this reason these planes have become a strategic tool for the Russians. In addition, 98% of spare parts for them are produced in Russia. Cornut-Gentille reminded that Moscow unhesitatingly used these aircraft as a mean of pressure in 2015, after the cancellation of the contract for delivery of the Mistral amphibious assault ships, also known as helicopter carriers. The Russian 224th Flight Unit state company, one of the companies that operate the An-124, stopped flights in the interests of France. According to the French deputy, “leasing An-124 becomes a political factor.” A new round of deterioration of relations between the two countries could completely paralyze France’s possibilities for air transportation.

Currently, France is able to transport by air only a quarter of its military transport needs, using five Airbus aircraft (two A340 and three A310) and 14 Boeing (eleven C-135 and three KS-135). In 2015, France examined the possibility to get the Lockheed Martin C-5 Galaxy aircraft at its disposal in order to solve this strategic challenge. Although, at that time, nothing apparently came of this undertaking, the situation may become even more complicated after the coming to power of US President Donald Trump.

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