Ukrainian Forces Recapture The World’s Biggest Cargo Jet After Repelling Russian Assault (Updated)

The fate of the Antonov An-225 Mriya remains unknown after its home airport fell under Russian control.

byBrett Tingley| UPDATED Feb 25, 2022 6:14 PM
Ukrainian Forces Recapture The World’s Biggest Cargo Jet After Repelling Russian Assault (Updated)
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The fate of the world’s largest fully operational aircraft is uncertain in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The one-off Antonov An-225 Mriya, from the Ukrainian "Мрія," or “Dream,” has been at Hostomel (or Gostomel) airport northwest of Kyiv since it landed there on February 5. While there has been heavy fighting at the airport, there are unconfirmed reports that the Mriya is still intact, at least for now, although it is now in Russian hands.

Author's note: See the bottom of this article for an update on who controls Hostomel Airfield. Make sure to check out our up-to-the-minute coverage on the ongoing conflict in Ukraine here.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaking in front of the An-225 Mriya at the Antonov aircraft factory in Kyiv, Ukraine, in May 2021., AP

The An-225 is based at Hostomel Airport, sometimes referred to as Antonov Airport, which is used primarily as a commercial cargo hub. The airport is owned by the maker of the An-225, the Antonov aircraft manufacturing company, and is currently operated by its subsidiary, Antonov Airlines. According to FlightAware.com, the An-225 is confirmed to be at the airport after flying there from Billund, Denmark nearly three weeks ago. 

Hostomel Airport., Google Earth
Hostomel Airport's main ramp area., Google Earth
The location of Hostomel Airport in relation to Kyiv. , Google Earth

Dmytro Antonov, a Captain for Antonov Airlines, reportedly posted a message to social media today stating that despite the airport falling to Russian forces, Mriya remains “whole.”

It's not clear if this means entirely undamaged or if it means the aircraft remains more or less intact.

An-225 in all its glory., Wikimedia Commons/Vasiliy Koba

The Mriya took its first flight in 1988, boasting a maximum take-off weight of 1.4 million pounds. For comparison, the U.S. Air Force’s largest cargo plane, the Lockheed Martin C-5 Galaxy, has a maximum take-off weight of around 840,000 pounds.  

Wikimedia Commons/Larske

The Mriya is powered by six Progress D-18 turbofans and has a wingspan of 290 feet, the largest in the world aside from Stratolaunch's experimental Roc launcher aircraft. The plane carries as much fuel as fourteen 737-800s.

The engines of the An-225., Wikimedia Commons/Matti Blume

One of the primary roles the An-225 was designed for was to airlift the Energia rocket boosters and Buran orbiters for the Soviet space program, similar to NASA's highly-modified Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft

A Buran reusable space shuttle on the back of the An-225 Mriya., Wikimedia Commons/Vasiliy Koba

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the cancellation of the Buran program, the Mriya sat dormant between 1993 and 2000. In 2001, the aircraft was refurbished for charter operations

More recently, the truly massive aircraft was used to transport medical supplies around the world in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Crews loading more than eight million protective face masks onto the An-225 to be sent from China to Germany in April 2020. , AP

Footage published to social media today reportedly taken close to Hostomel Airport where Mriya is based shows clouds of black smoke rising as Russian Mi-8 helicopters fly overhead. BuzzFeed’s Christopher Miller reported earlier today that Ukrainian authorities confirmed that Russia has seized control of the airport. 

CNN’s Matthew Chance, on location at the airport, said that the commander of the Russian airborne unit confirmed to him that they have taken control of the airport. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky also confirmed that Ukraine has lost control of the airport that Mriya calls home. 

Reuters reported earlier that Ukrainian officials said they had downed three Russian helicopters as they attacked the airport. There are also claims that the runway at the airport has been damaged, but these remain unconfirmed as of now.

The An-225 at Hostomel airport is the only one in existence, although a partially-completed fuselage of another has sat for decades at an Antonov plant outside Kyiv. 

The unfinished Mriya 2., Antonov

Now that Hostomel Airport has fallen to Russian forces, it's unclear what will become of Ukraine's "Dream," the An-225 Mriya. It's possible Ukrainian forces will take it back, but any more fighting only invites a greater risk of damaging or even destroying the famous flying giant. We will be continuing our rolling coverage of the conflict in Ukraine as it develops and will update this story as more information about Mriya's fate surfaces.

UPDATE: 4:25 PM EST -

The Ministry of Defence of Ukraine now says that fighting continues at Hostomel airport, and that Ukrainian forces have prevented additional Russian troops from landing. It isn't clear what the current situation is, but it appears the airport is once again contested.

UPDATE 5:05 PM EST -

Satellite imagery from Planet Labs confirms that as of 10:02 AM local time yesterday, the An-225 was at Hostomel airport.

Planet Labs

UPDATE:

The airfield is now back in control of Ukrainian forces. By every available indication, the battle that occurred there was a ferocious one. Details are very limited, but apparently, a contingent of Russian special forces flew to the airfield as reinforcements aboard a number of helicopters. Some claim as many as six of these helicopters were shot down with the loss of all those onboard. This happened in broad daylight, which put the helicopters at great risk. Once again, these details could change drastically at any time, but it seems Ukrainian forces scored a major victory today and Russia took a major loss. This airport was clearly seen as of extremely high value to Russian war planners. 

As for the An-225, we have no idea if it survived all this.

UPDATE:

Antonov has given an update on its AN-225. It sounds like the plane is still intact, at least as of yesterday, although fighting is still going on around it. This also offers a final confirmation that it is indeed at the airport.

 

Make sure to check out our up-to-the-minute coverage on the ongoing conflict in Ukraine here.

Contact the author: Brett@TheDrive.com

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