With the war in Ukraine and the destruction of its main facilities, Antonov Airlines recently announced that it was temporarily redeploying to Leipzig-Halle airport. The remoteness of Ukraine will not make it easy to transport equipment and personnel. However, the main reason for this decision is that Leipzig-Halle is already a first-rate hub for Antonov.
Since February 24, 2022 and Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Antonov's various facilities have been damaged to varying degrees. To mention just the two main facilities;
- Antonov/Gostomel Airport: on the first day, the Russians attempted a helicopter assault on the airport, but this was repulsed by the Ukrainians (article on the helicopter assault [Fr]). Fighting raged throughout the area. During their occupation, the Russians destroyed the Antonov Airlines offices and, as a result of the fighting, several aircraft were destroyed - including the An-225 - or damaged to varying degrees (article on the destructions at Antonov Airport).
- Antonov's production line in Kiev was bombed on March 14 by the Russians, destroying part of the facility.
A temporary move to Germany
Antonov Airlines currently uses five An-124-100 Ruslan aircraft. These aircraft were not in Ukraine on February 24 and thus avoided being damaged or destroyed. Antonov Airlines has decided to redeploy them to Leipzig-Halle airport (Saxony, Germany). At present, with the liberation of north-west Kiev, Antonov is seeking to move the equipment still intact or repairable, as well as the various technical, administrative and flight personnel to Leipzig. The airport's remoteness will not make logistical maneuvering any easier.
Antonov Logistics Salis GmbH
This choice is by no means rash: Antonov Airlines has a subsidiary there under the SALIS contract. The "Strategic Airlift Interim Solution" (SALIS) contract was signed in December 2018 between
- NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA), which will manage the contract for 9 states (Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Norway, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia)
- Antonov Logistics Salis GmbH.
The latter is a subsidiary specially created to fulfill this contract (hence the name Salis) and is based at Leipzig airport, where it hosts 2 Antonov Airlines An-125-100s.
This contract is intended to provide the nine states with strategic air carriers in the event of a crisis. Moreover, the contract does not only concern two An-124s, as five An-124-100s can be mobilized in nine days, representing a rotation capacity of 5x171 tons of cargo. By way of comparison (in tonnes), the French Air Force would have to mobilize 22 A400M* transport aircraft to be able to carry out, in a single rotation, the equivalent of the transport capacity of the five An-124-100s. This demonstrates the problem of logistical dependence in Europe and among the majority of NATO member countries. In fact, an article was written a month ago on France's dependence on strategic transport for the Armed Forces (article available here [Fr]). The contract also provides access to An-22 (damaged), An-225 (destroyed) and Il-76 aircraft.
Antonov Airlines has already announced that for the next 12 months, 385 flights and 1,270 landings are planned. The airline has also stated that it will carry out a majority of flights for NATO/EU under the SALIS program, humanitarian flights and possibly some commercial flights.
*As of January 1, 2022, the French Air and Space Force owned 18 A400Ms out of the 50 planned.
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