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.
(OPERATORS list includes past, present, and future operators when applicable)
✓Special-Mission: MEDical EVACuation (MEDEVAC)
Extraction of wounded combat or civilian elements by way of specialized onboard equipment and available internal volume or external carrying capability.
✓Maritime / Navy
Land-based or shipborne capability for operating over-water in various maritime-related roles while supported by allied naval surface elements.
General transport functionality to move supplies/cargo or personnel (including wounded and VIP) over range.
Used in the Very-Important-Person (VIP) passenger transport role, typically with above-average amenities and luxuries as standard.
94.2 ft (28.70 m)
104.7 ft (31.90 m)
28.4 ft (8.65 m)
41,998 lb (19,050 kg)
76,059 lb (34,500 kg)
+34,061 lb (+15,450 kg)
(Showcased structural values pertain to the Antonov An-72 (Coaler-C) production variant)
2 x Lotarev D-36 turbofan engines developing 14,330 lb of thrust each.
Typically None but, if equipped, can include any of the following (An-72P model):
1 x 23mm gun pod.
2 x UB-23M rocket launcher system.
4 x 220lb internally-held conventional drop bombs.
(Not all ordnance types may be represented in the showcase above)
Hardpoint Mountings: 0
An-72 ('Coaler-A') - Base Series Designation
An-72A ('Coaler-C') - Base Production Model Designation
An-72AT ('Coaler-C') - International Cargo Specialized Variant.
An-72S ('Coaler-C') - VIP Passenger Transport
An-72P - Maritime Patrol Variant; fitted with 23mm cannon, 4 x internal bombs, specialized tracking equipment and rocket pods.
An-71 "Madcap" - Airborne Early Warning And Control platform (AWACs); only three prototypes completed before cancellation; 2 x Progress D-436K turbofan engines.
An-74 - Improved "Coaler"; specialized for extreme cold operation; uprated engines; improved avionics system.
An-74A - Enlarged Nose Radome
An-74D - Variant
An-74T - Freighter Variant
An-74TK - Convertible Passenger/Cargo Variant
An-74MP - Maritime Patrol Version
An-74P "Salon" - VIP Transport Variant
An-74-100 - An-74TK with navigation station added.
An-74-200 - An-74TK with reduced flight crew (2).
An-74TK-200C - An-74TK-200 cargo variant.
An-74T-200 - Military transport
An-74T-200A - Military transport
An-74-400 - Proposed "Stretched" Transport Variant.
An-74TK-300 - D-436 turbofan engines in conventional underwing mounting.
An-75 - Proposed modified version of the An-71 prototypes for use aboard Soviet carriers.
An-174 - "Stretched" Transport/Passenger Variant.
Ribbon graphics not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective aerial campaigns / operations / aviation periods.
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