Drone footage has surfaced of the Ukrainian Antonov AN-225 destroyed by Russian attacks on Gostomel Airport near Kyiv, as Russian troops withdraw from the Ukrainian capital.
Captured by Ukrainian independent film association Babylon’13, the footage shows the aftermath of Gostomel Airport, which became a target of Russian attacks in the early days of the invasion.
The iconic aircraft, known as the world’s largest, was confirmed by Ukrainian authorities to have been “destroyed” in late February, following an air attack on the airfield by Russia.
The cargo plane, known as “Mriya”, meaning The Dream in Ukrainian, was undergoing repairs and routine maintenance at the Antonov Company at Gostomel Airport when it was attacked.
According to a statement from Ukrainian state defence company Ukroboronprom, which manages Antonov, the aircraft’s engines were “dismantled” at the time the attack started, making any attempt to move the plane impossible.
“The plane wasn’t able to take off that day, although the appropriate commands were given,” it said.
Officials have pledged to rebuild the plane at Russia’s expense, in an endeavour that could cost over $4.1 billion, and up to five years to complete.
“Russia has hit the Mriya as a symbol of Ukraine’s aviation capabilities … which holds records for transportation of biggest commercial cargo and longest and heaviest in the history of aviation monoloading, lifting capacity,” the statement said.
“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.”
The AN-225 travelled to Australia for the first time in May 2016, when it touched down in Perth, carrying a 135-tonne generator for a resources company.
Anticipating massive public interest in the massive aircraft, Perth Airport has put up a dedicated viewing area for the public to see the six-engine behemoth.
The jumbo aircraft is powered with six Ivchenko Progress D-18T turbofan engines and weighs about 285 tonnes when empty.
At the time of its debut in 1988, the AN-225 was 50 per cent larger than any other jet in the world, and now it remains the biggest cargo aircraft in operation.
From 1988 to 1991, it was primarily operated as the transporter for Buran-class orbiters for the Soviet space program.
Then, when obtained by Antonov Airlines, it became the workhorse of transporting extremely large cargo and also has been an asset in rapidly providing supplies for disaster relief programs.
Production of a second An-225 commenced in the late 1980s, but it was never completed.