Only example of world's largest aircraft destroyed in Ukraine fighting
The world's largest aircraft, the Antonov An-225 Mriya (NATO name Cossack), has been confirmed to be destroyed in the fighting in Ukraine, according to Ukraine Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba and satellite images posted on the internet.
The tragedy of war takes many forms and the invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces has apparently resulted in the destruction of a one-of-a-kind aircraft that is not only a holder of multiple aerospace records, but is also a link to the history of the Cold War and the Soviet space program in its heyday.
The An-225 Mryia, or "Dream", is – or was – a six-engine jet strategic airlift cargo aircraft that was built by the Antonov Design Bureau in the then-Soviet Union as a support aircraft for the USSR's attempt to build its Buran-class orbiters as an answer to NASA's Space Shuttle. Based on the Antonov An124, the An-225 was designed to carry the rocket booster for the Buran and the orbiter itself.
To achieve this, the An-225 had to be a monster of an aircraft, with a wingspan of 88 m (290 ft) and a maximum takeoff weight of 640,000 kg (1,410,958 lb), making it the heaviest aircraft ever built with the largest wingspan of any aircraft in service. It held the record for the largest single item of cargo, the largest commercial payload, and the largest absolute and military cargo.
Entering service in 1988, only one An-225 was built, though work was begun on a second, but this was abandoned after the breakup of the Soviet Union. The remaining aircraft became a major asset of Antonov Airlines, which used it to transport unusually large and heavy items. In addition, the aircraft was a major airshow attraction.
At the outbreak of the war between Ukraine and Russia, the An-225 was at Hostomel Airport, which came under attack by Russian forces on February 24, 2022. Though there were reports that the aircraft had been destroyed, these remained unconfirmed until the announcement by the Ukrainian government and the appearance on the internet of composite photos and satellite images confirming the giant plane's destruction.
In a press release, the state-owned Ukroboronprom group declared that the An-225 would be restored – a job that would take about five years – and that Russia would be required to foot the bill, which is estimated at US$3 billion.