China to Expand Military Reach with a Fleet of the World’s Largest Planes

An Antonov An-225 cargo plane at Camp Bastion, Afghanistan, in March 2011. | Lance Cpl. Samantha H. Arrington


Ukraine’s Antonov has entered a pact with a Chinese firm to restart production of the An-225.

The Soviets built a single Antonov An-225 cargo jet — the longest and heaviest airplane ever built — to carry the Buran space shuttle. Now China wants a fleet of them.

A recently announced deal with Ukraine’s Antonov firm is the latest evidence of Beijing’s strategic aspiration to be able to deploy military forces rapidly, anywhere in the world.

“It would provide China with the large and global lift that not even the U.S. has possessed, except by rental,” said Peter Singer, a strategist and senior fellow at New America who tracks Chinese military technology on his Popular Science blog. “It’s large enough to carry helicopters, tanks, artillery, even other aircraft.”

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