Central Aerohydrodynamic Institute
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TsAGI centenary in the history of aviation: the An-12 Soviet military transport aircraft

14 December 2018

Studies on the air landing of large-size cargo from the An-12 aircraft in the TsAGI subsonic wind tunnel Studies on the air landing of large-size cargo from the An-12 aircraft in the TsAGI subsonic wind tunnel

One of the best military transport aircraft of the USSR the An-12 took its first flight in December 16, 1957. It was meant to become the main “air truck” of the planets in the second half of the 20th century. Scientists of the Zhukovsky Central AeroHydrodynamic Institute (TsAGI) considerably contributed to the development of this machine.

The liner’s history began in the summer of 1955, when the first Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the USSR Nikita Khrushchev visited the Oleg Antonov Design Bureau in Kiev, Ukraine. Supervising the works on construction of the military transport aircraft An-8, which was supposed to fill a special niche in the Soviet aviation, Nikita Sergeevich asked about the foreign analogues of this development. Hearing, that the foreign aircraft of this class has four engines for greater flight safety, Khrushchev expressed a belief that our aircraft had to be four-jetted. So the idea of the An-12 was born.

There were two project versions of the big four-jet aircraft: the passenger (“U”) An-10 and military transport (T) An-12. The layouts of these machines differed only by fuselage tail and empennage. The aircraft aerodynamics was carefully tested in TsAGI. The aircraft mock-up models in scale1/2 — 1/3 were tested in TsAGI large subsonic wind tunnel. The models were tested with engines on to determine the impact on aerodynamics, sustainability, and workload. The tests gave the opportunity to clarify the dimensions of the tail and the aircraft’s controls. The airdrop from cargo compartment was also tested in one of TsAGI’s wind tunnel. The Design Bureau’s location influenced on the engine choice: it was decided to have the Ukraine engine once the plane was developed in Ukraine. Thus The An-12 got the developed in Ivchenko Design Bureau (Zaporozhye) turboprop power AI-20. It was reliable and powerful.

The State tests of the aircraft began in 1958 and were completed in 1959. The aircraft entered the service with the air forces of the Soviet Union the same year. The airliner showed great weight-lift ability of up to 20 tons and a surprising for a transport airplane speed (it found 39 (!) world records for speed and altitude in 1991-1992). It had a multiwheel landing gear with good cross-country ability on ground and snow-covered runways, and vast fuselage. Being reliable and low maintenance, the Antonov An-12 won the respect and affection of Soviet combat pilots. It increased the significance of the Soviet airborne troops in the world as not only people, but also armored self-propelled machinery could be airdropped.

The airliner was widely used for the delivery of humanitarian assistance to countries affected by natural disasters, transportation of refugees. In 1961 the An-12 made a flight along the route Moscow-Antarctica-Moscow, covered the distance of over 26 thousand kilometers for 48 hours and 7 minutes. Today the “air truck” continues to remain at duty not only in Russia, but also in a number of countries in the world where its modifications were delivered in different years. An interesting fact is that theAn-12, a legend of the Soviet transport aviation, was used in the filming of the movie “War of the worlds “Z” with Brad Pitt.

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