STATUS: Active, In-Service
MANUFACTURER(S): Antonov Design Bureau - Soviet Union
OPERATORS: Angola; Armenia; Egypt; Equatorial Guinea; Estonia; France; Georgia; Kazakhstan; Iran; Laos; Libya; Moldova; Peru; Russia; Soviet Union; Sudan; Ukraine
LENGTH: 94.16 feet (28.7 meters)
WIDTH: 104.66 feet (31.9 meters)
HEIGHT: 28.38 feet (8.65 meters)
WEIGHT (EMPTY): 41,998 pounds (19,050 kilograms)
WEIGHT (MTOW): 76,059 pounds (34,500 kilograms)
ENGINE: 2 x Lotarev D-36 turbofan engines developing 14,330 lb of thrust each.
SPEED (MAX): 438 miles-per-hour (705 kilometers-per-hour; 381 knots)
RANGE: 497 miles (800 kilometers; 432 nautical miles)
CEILING: 38,173 feet (11,635 meters; 7.23 miles)
Detailing the development and operational history of the Antonov An-72 / An-74 (Coaler) Tactical Medium Military Transport Aircraft.
Entry last updated on 6/22/2018.
Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com.
Because of the sheer size of the Soviet military during the Cold War era (1947-1991), its various services required various transport types to move man, machines and supplies about. The Antonov An-72 (NATO codename of "Coaler") became a product of the period, intended for the logistically-minded tactical transport role. The rather unique aircraft incorporated turbofan engines over the shoulder-mounted wings which made for maximum clearance of the jet wash and promoted excellent inherent lifting properties. The An-72 was eventually adopted as a successor to the aging Antonov An-26 "Curl" transport family (detailed elsewhere on this site) and would go on to see service with various Soviet states and allied nations around the globe.
First flying in December of 1977 (in prototype form of which two would be built), actual production models were not available until the mid-1980s and, even then, these were highly-modified from their original presented forms. The An-72 was designed with Short Take-Off and Landing (STOL) in mind so robustness and reliability were key qualities but an natural capability became excellent maneuverability despite the size of the aircraft. The high-mounted engines were purposefully placed so the engine exhaust could feed over trailing edge wing devices, effectively increasing low-level performance.
The An-72 ("Coaler-A") platform went on to spawn other variants that included the maritime surveillance-minded An-72P (Patrol), the An-71 "Madcap" AEW (Airborne Early Warning) aircraft and the An-74 "Improved Coaler", the latter with upgraded engines and a more traditional/conventional engine mounting. The An-72P was developed in conjunction with Israeli Aircraft Industries (IAI) and featured a revised "glass" cockpit, specialized Elta-brand radar, and an Electronic Warfare (EW) fit as well as long-range day-or-night observation equipment and related systems/subsystems. It also held provision for rocket and bombs and was armed through a single 23mm GSh-23L series autocannon. The An-72AT was a dedicated transport developed to accommodate foreign shipping containers. The An-72S became a VIP transport and could be used in the MEDEVAC role when configured as such.
About 195 of the series were built under the An-72 and An-74 guises and production has spanning from 1977 to the present. The An-74 was developed (and produced in parallel to the An-72) along the lines of cold weather support and operated through a crew of five, added more fuel storage and installed a larger radar. It was introduced in 1983.
Another notable offshoot, the An-71, emerged in 1985 through a first-flight on July 12th. Only three prototypes of this mark were produced and the variant's program was ultimately cancelled. The version was intended for the Tactical AWACS (Airborne Early Warning And Control = AEW&C) role and carried a dish installation over the rear fuselage.
Current (2017) military operators of the Coaler family line include Equatorial Guinea, Moldova, Russia and Ukraine. The type also sees service in the civilian sector with various operators worldwide. Several have already given up on the series for more modern designs.
As designed, the An-72 featured a length of 92 feet, a wingspan of 104.7 feet and a height of 28.4 feet. Empty weight was 42,000lb against an MTOW of 76,060lb. Power was served from 2 x Lotarev D-36 1A turbofan engines developing upwards of 14,330lb of thrust (each) and maximum speed reached 435 miles-per-hour with a cruising speed of around 375 mph. Range was listed out to 2,690 miles.
The An-72/An-74 series eventually took on the nickname of "Cheburashka", a Soviet cartoon character, owing to its large over-wing engines resembling the character's large ears.
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Our Data Modules allow for quick visual reference when comparing a single entry against contemporary designs. Areas covered include general ratings, speed assessments, and relative ranges based on distances between major cities.
Relative Maximum Speed Rating
This entry's maximum listed speed (438mph).
Graph average of 375 miles-per-hour.
Graph showcases the Antonov An-72 (Coaler-C)'s operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
Useful in showcasing the era cross-over of particular aircraft/aerospace designs.
Unit Production Comparison
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units