Not Just Armies, But Antonovs

Ooh, more Iran-war nonsense, this time from none other than mouthpieceful Russia Today, via this thread. There seems to be a meme floating around that there was a war between Russia and Georgia because the Russians intervened to prevent the Americans using Georgian airbases to attack Iran (obviously, a war with Iran is the universal explicator for everything). Quote:

Shortly after that, a phone call came from a college friend who had just come back from Kandahar in Afghanistan, where he had seen American battle tanks being unloaded from a Ukrainian-registered Antonov-124 “Ruslan”, the heaviest and largest cargo airplane in the world. The friend asked if I had any idea what tanks would be good for in Afghanistan, and I said I didn’t. It’s an established fact from the Soviet war in Afghanistan that tanks are no good for most of the country’s mountainous territory. They are good for flatlands, and the main body of flat land in the region is right across the border in Iran.

Later in August there was another bit of unofficial information from a Russian military source: more than a thousand American tanks and armored vehicles had been shipped to Eastern Afghanistan by Ukrainian “Ruslans” flying in three to five shipments a day, and more flights were expected.

Wrong! For a start, the Canadian and Danish armies brought their Leopard 2 tanks to Afghanistan. But far more importantly; there are 26 active An-124s in the world (not counting ones operated by the Russian air force). You could load, at the very most, two M1A1 Abrams tanks in one plane. To move a thousand tanks – if the US Army has that many spare, which sounds unlikely – you’d therefore need 500 flights, or 19 sorties for the complete available fleet.

You couldn’t get the complete fleet anyway, as it has regular contractual commitments; if you could round up 12 An-124s for the job…well, with 122 tonnes of cargo, the plane has a still air range of 2,335 miles. This means it will need to make multiple stops between Kabul and anywhere in the US; at a cruising speed of 490mph, each hop would be about 4h 45mins long, so at least a 13 hour haul, which implies you’re only going to get one trip every two days. So that would be about 83 days’ work. At a cost of about $20,000 an hour that’s $478 million in air chartering alone.

So this is evidently drivel. But why would Russia Today be pushing it? Perhaps this story in Le Monde might tell us something. Despite all the buffoonery, the Russian government has decided not to break off an agreement permitting NATO to send supplies through Russia to Afghanistan, and will further be providing 4 Mi-8 helicopters for EUFOR in Chad. Now that it’s all out of the papers, both parties are paying the price for their harder statements by trimming back their actions. Although, you have to wonder what Sarko offered or threatened to get them out of Poti.


  1. 1 ‘George, bomb Iran.’ « lunartalks

    […] well. George won’t be doing it with airlifted tanks. But he must be so tempted.  Seven years and ten months with all those nukes just sitting there […]




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