The TsAGI, Central Aerohydrodynamic Institute of Russia, has revealed a new configuration for the design of the “Slon” (Elephant) heavy transport jet.
The massive aircraft is being developed as a replacement for the An-124, the main military freighter that entered service in the 1980s in the Soviet Union.
A 2 meter long mockup for wind tunnel testing is being evaluated with a longer fuselage thanks to a new rear section. In addition, the Slon features an improved wing-fuselage fairing and redesigned engine pylons for the PD-35 turbofan, currently under development.
The most striking change, however, is the installation of winglets on the wingtips in order to reduce aerodynamic drag. According to TsAGI, the model can receive several types of winglets that will be tested by the end of the year in the wind tunnel.
“The Slon aircraft is primarily optimized for civil use. Thanks to the enlarged fuselage, we will be able to offer customers the transport of large volumes of cargo for the estimated flight range, and the wing with modified wing tips will ensure high aerodynamic quality,” said Alexander Krutov, researcher at TsAGI.
Russia has been studying a successor to the An-124 Ruslan since relations with Ukraine were strained and Antonov lost its biggest customer.
The An-124 was developed as a response to the US Air Force’s Lockheed C-5 Galaxy, offering a payload capacity of 120 tons, then the largest in history for an aircraft in its category.
The Slon should outperform the An-124 by a large margin. The Russian plan is for the massive freighter to be able to fly distances of 7,000 km with up to 180 tons of cargo on board. There is no forecast when the aircraft will be produced so far.