"Mriya", the world’s largest plane and iconic symbol of Ukraine, has been destroyed in the ongoing Russian invasion after forces attacked an airfield near Kyiv.
Developed in the 1980s, the Antonov AN-225 Mriya (translating to "dream" or "inspiration") was a Soviet strategic airlift cargo aircraft that held the titles of the largest wingspan and heaviest aircraft ever built. It was viewed as a symbol of freedom in many spheres within Ukraine, as well as having a large following from global aviation enthusiasts.
Reports began emerging of a large fire in the hangar thought to house the AN-225, and speculation quickly arose over whether the monster aircraft was housed within. Dmytro Kuleba, Minister of Foreign Affairs, tweeted to confirm the destruction of the plane yesterday, and state defense company Ukroboronprom, which manages Antonov, has since corroborated it.
The company now hopes to rebuild the AN-225 at a cost of $3 billion USD.
“The occupiers destroyed the airplane, but they won’t be able to destroy our common dream. Mriya will definitely be reborn. The restoration is estimated to take over 3 bln USD and over 5 years. Our task is to ensure that these costs are covered by the Russian Federation, which has caused intentional damage to Ukraine’s aviation and the air cargo sector,” said Ukroboronprom in a statement.
The Mriya was an astonishing feat of engineering for its time, with a wingspan of 88.4 meters (290 feet) and a gross weight of 640 tons. Powered by six Progress D-18T turbofan engines, the Mriya could travel at a maximum speed of 530 miles per hour (850 kilometers per hour) and an altitude of up to 9,000 meters (29,527 feet).
It was initially designed to carry boosters and orbiters of the Soviet space program, alongside the transport of ultra-heavy freight up to 250,000 kilograms (550,000 pounds), and soon became a powerhouse of cargo transport.
The AN-225 even participated in COVID-19 relief efforts in the early 2020s, delivering critical medical aid worldwide.
In February 2022, the AN-225 was parked in Antonov Airport in Hostomel, Ukraine, where it was reportedly undergoing repairs. One of the engines was dismantled, preventing takeoff.
On February 24, during the Battle of Antonov Airport, Russian forces delivered mass troops via helicopter to the airport near Kyiv in an attempt to capture the site and gain a strategic forward airfield. In a battle involving suspected Russian paratroopers and resistance from the Ukrainian Armed Forces, the airport "changed hands" multiple times, and the resistance to Russian occupation is ongoing. Russia claims to have secured the site; Ukraine denies this and alleges neither side has gained control, but that the airport is too badly damaged to be used regardless.
It is thought that during this invasion on February 24, the hangar containing the AN-225 was set alight and the aircraft was destroyed. Antonov now states the iconic plane will be rebuilt entirely at the expense of Russian occupiers.