China is trying to expand its military reach with the biggest plane in the world

A recent deal between Beijing and Ukraine’s Antonov Company to restart production of the largest-ever cargo plane could potentially remedy the logistical woes of China’s People’s Liberation Army.

China’s military, still largely dependent on railroads for moving troops and heavy freight, could gain a lot from having the gigantic aircraft.

The plane, the AN-225 Mriya, holds 240 world records for its size and strength. It has six massive engines creating over 300,000 pounds of thrust, and the plane can reportedly carry a 200-ton load nearly 2,500 miles.

An-225 Mriya | Creative Commons photo by Dmitry A. Mottl

An-225 Mriya | Creative Commons photo by Dmitry A. Mottl

Such capability would be game-changing for the People’s Republic of China.

“It would provide China with the large and global lift that not even the US has possessed, except by rental,” wrote Peter Singer, an avid China watcher on Popular Science. “It’s large enough to carry helicopters, tanks, artillery, even other aircraft.”

For the most part, as Singer mentioned, China will rent the massive planes, but the agreement does allow for China to domestically build An-225s.

Additionally, the Center for Strategic and International Studies uncovered the fact that China has been developing large, military-grade runways, as well as military hardened hangars on it’s reclaimed islands in the South China Sea. Having massively improved freight dynamics in the region could greatly benefit China.

But the herculean plane lends itself to civil applications too. China could easily use it to move construction supplies, to offload its glut of steel, or to bring supplies to its several building projects as part of the “One Belt, One Road” initiative.

As Marcus Weisgerber at DefenseOne points out, the adoption of old, soviet-era technology from Ukraine is an instance of history repeating itself, as China’s sole aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, is also a refurbished Ukrainian hull.

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