Widgets Magazine
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why this old biplane from the 1940s is still hanging around

(Dung Tran)

There are some planes that hang onto service even though time and technology have long passed them by. One of these planes, which first flew in 1947, is something that could've once been considered state-of-the-art... in 1918.

And yet, somehow, this plane is still in service with militaries today. The Antonov An-2 Colt is, arguably, an outdated junk-heap. Even the UH-60 Black Hawk is faster than this fixed-wing plane (the Black Hawk has a top speed of 183 mph, the Colt maxes out at a paltry 160). Additionally, the An-2 can haul a dozen passengers while the UH-60 can, in some cases, carry 22. Can you say "outclassed?"


Only in terms of maximum range does the An-2 take an edge over the ubiquitous Black Hawk (it's got a range of 525 miles, which is longer than UH-60's 363). So, how has this plane survived so long?

This recognition drawing shows just how state of the art the An-2 is... for 1918.

(DOD)

As history has proved, there's strength in numbers. This plane was in production for over 50 years with the Soviet Union, Poland, and Communist China. A production run that long was responsible for the creation of at least 18,000 airframes. No matter what you use them for, that staggering number of planes won't be simply disappearing any time soon.

As you might have guessed by now, the An-2 is also very popular because it's extremely cheap, especially second-hand (some are for sale for as little as $6,170).

The last thing you'd expect from a cheap, fragile aircraft is a combat role — but over its long career, it's seen plenty of action. This plane was used primarily by communist forces in the Korean War and Vietnam War. It also played the part of a makeshift bomber in the 1991 Croatian War for Independence.

An-2s are getting upgrades - this An-2-100 has a turboprop engine.

(Doomych)

Like the famous C-47 Skytrain, the An-2 has been continually upgraded throughout its storied career to keep it flying for decades to come. Modern Colts make use of turboprop engines and composite wings.

Learn more about this very common (and somewhat antiquated) biplane cargo hauler in the video below!