The Ukrainian Foreign Minister confirmed in a tweet that the An-225 was destroyed. By late morning, video from a drone over Antonov airport already showed the aircraft on fire in its hangar, leaving little doubt as to the condition of the aircraft.
The An-225, the cargo plane of all records
Developed as part of the Soviet space programme, the An-225 was to be used to transport the Buran space shuttle or very large components of the Energiya rocket. Only one of the two aircraft was completed before the fall of the USSR (the second aircraft comprises only the central structure of an An-225) and has been flying since 1988. The aircraft, named Mriya, is the largest aircraft in the world, both in wingspan (88.4m) and length (84m).
- The aircraft is now used as a cargo carrier by Antonov Airlines. Mriya has accumulated more than 240 records:
- 253 tonnes of cargo in one aircraft
- carrying the heaviest load (in one piece)
The conflict in Ukraine
The An-225 is based at Gostomel airport, also called Antonov airport. However, the airport is strategic for Russia during the conflict because it is 18 km from the outskirts of Kiev and would allow the creation of an air bridge to bring in troops. Thus, on 24 February, around noon, a helicopter assault was launched by the Russians, who succeeded in capturing the airport. By the same evening, a Ukrainian counter-attack had been repelled. The pilot of the plane confirmed in the evening that the aircraft was intact despite the fighting (article on the subject [french]).
On 25 February, the Russian paratroopers were pushed back in the morning but in the afternoon the Russians finally regained control thanks to a ground assault and numerous bombings. The runway was damaged during the fighting, preventing any air operations from or to the airport. The Antonov company then published at around 10pm that it had no news of Mriya. Today, at around 11am, a video from a drone (see image below) clearly showed that the aircraft was on fire in its hangar.
The loss of this aircraft is, however, a very small detail in this conflict, especially when compared to the ever-increasing death toll.