Saudi-Ukrainian An-132D Program Stalls
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Saudi-Ukrainian An-132D Program Stalls

By IndraStra Global News Team

Image Attribute: An An-132D prototype with SAUDI VISION 2030 livery / Source: Taqnia Aeronautics' Official Website

Image Attribute: An An-132D prototype with SAUDI VISION 2030 livery / Source: Taqnia Aeronautics' Official Website

Alexander Dmitrievich Donets, the president of the Antonov has confirmed the suspension of the An-132D twin-turboprop/multi-purpose transport aircraft project with Saudi Arabia. He revealed it in an interview with Ukrainian Independent Information Agency of News (UNIAN) on April 29, 2019. An-132D is an improved version of the Soviet era's Antonov An-32. 

According to Donets, the company had fulfilled an initial contract with King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) for a prototype aircraft. On December 20, 2016, the first model of An-132D rolled out in Kiev in the presence of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Saudi representatives. And, the full-fledged flight tests on the prototype began on March 31, 2017, at Antonov airport. Kindly do note, the prototype of An-132D is the first aircraft, produced by the UkrOboronProm (UOP) aircraft cluster which was created in 2016 as part of the reform strategy of Ukraine’s defense industry.

Along with its Saudi partner (Taqnia Aeronautics), Antonov was about to undertake the construction of an assembly facility in Taif. However, a change in programme partner took place in Saudi Arabia, leading to the suspension of the programme. Industry observers (incl. geopolitical watchers) believe the suspension of the joint venture (JV) is a result of the Kingdom’s rapprochement with Russia.

The Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) had previously committed to six aircraft - four in a search-and-rescue configuration and two for electronic warfare - with Antonov hoping for further orders for configurations such as military transport and gunship. But, Donets revealed that the RSAF had also changed the requirements for the aircraft, thereby leading to the preference of another platform to fulfill the acquisition. 

Despite the setback, Donets said that the company had been working to pitch the aircraft to India, which already operates the predecessor aircraft, the Antonov An-32 'Cline'. In 2009, a major upgrade of the Indian Air Force's An-32 fleet kicked off but experienced delays following Russia's annexation of Crimea and its effect on the aircraft's supply chain.

An-132D at Aero India 2019

Earlier this year in February 2019, at Aero India show, the first deputy secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, Oleg Gladkovsky was reportedly discussing the opportunities relating to An-132 with representatives from India's Ministry of Defence (MoD). A crew captained by test pilot Bohdan Zagorulko, copiloted by test pilot Viktor Goncharov and Volodymyr Nesterenko, leading test flight engineer, performed a demo flight also.