From dreams to the skies: Looks of Russian super heavy cargo plane to replace legendary Soviet flying giant Ruslan revealed

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It’s called Slon (elephant) for a reason – the heavy cargo plane, which is being developed in Russia, will be able to carry a payload of up to 180 tons, outmatching the currently used Ruslan aircraft by whopping 60 tons.

The massive plane is designed to transport heavy and outsized cargo to the distances of up to 7,000 kilometers, while traveling at the speed of 850 km/h. It would require a three-kilometer-long strip in order to take off or land.

It’s still a long way before Slon takes to the skies, as scientists at the Central Aerohydrodynamic Institute have just finished building the aircraft’s aerodynamic model.

With the wingspan of 1.75 meters and weight of 120 kilograms, the model is, of course, much smaller than the future transport plane or even an actual elephant. But the replica, which was made of aluminum alloys and structural steel, will provide vital information to the constructors during the tests in the wind-tunnels scheduled for next year.

Slon is slated to become a replacement for the iconic An-124 Ruslan heavy cargo planes, which came out of Antonov designed bureau in Soviet Ukraine in the 1980s.

The production of those aircraft seized in 2004, but Russia still operates several dozen of them for both military and civilian purposes.

Ruslan has the lifting-weight of 120 tons, which was outmatched by a number of other aircraft from different countries. But it’s still Antonov, who holds the record from for the biggest aircraft and the largest total payload ever carried by air.

The unique An-225 Mriya plane was designed for a truly unique task – transporting a spaceship. The images of Mriya traversing the skies with Buran – the Soviet counterpart of NASA’s Space Shuttle – fixed atop of it still boggle the imagination 20 years later.

The plane, which weighs 640 tons and has a wingspan of 88.4 meters, is still operated by a Ukrainian carrier. The maximum payload carried by Mriya exceeded 250 tons.

Also on Building a Russian supersonic business jet: First flight demonstrator will be a rebuilt MiG-29

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