Ukrainian cargo airline Antonov Airlines has transported urgent medical equipment to Namibia onboard the giant AN-225, the world’s largest plane. The airline took the mission on short notice under the Strategic Airlift International Solution (SALIS) program, flying from Leipzig-Halle Airport, Germany to Windhoek, Namibia.

The mammoth An-225 operated a short notice medical supply mission to Namibia. Photo: Antonov

Antonov’s AN-225 medical mission

Antonov Airlines has flown its mammoth AN-225 ‘Mirya’ aircraft on an urgent medical mission to Namibia. The giant plane, a favorite with aviation enthusiasts around the world, transported a range of medical and humanitarian cargo supplied by the German Military Medical Command.

The aircraft has a payload of 250-tonnes. Photo: Antonov

According to Antonov Airlines,

“… [the cargo] was a mixture of masks, anti-viral gowns, medicines, and other personal protective equipment (PPE), transported on behalf of Germany’s Federal Ministry of Defence at the request of the Namibian Government.”

Supplies onboard included masks, PPE and medicine. Photo: Antonov

The medical supply mission was undertaken as part of the Strategic Airlift International Solution (SALIS) program. The AN-225 departed from its home base at Kyiv-Antonov, Ukraine to Leipzig-Halle Airport, Germany on July 5th, where it loaded up the cargo. It then departed for Windhoek, Namibia on July 7th, making a single refueling stop in Accra, Ghana on the way.

The Strategic Airlift International Solution

The Strategic Airlift International Solution (SALIS) program is a joint NATO and EU initiative to provide strategic air supply for humanitarian and military missions. The program has worked with Antonov Airlines and Volga-Dnepr Airlines, two carriers known for their fleet of outsized cargo aircraft, including the AN-124.

The mission was conducted under the Strategic Airlift International Solution (SALIS) program. Photo: Antonov

According to NATO,

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, the NATO-supported Strategic Airlift International Solution (SALIS) has played a key role enabling NATO nations to airlift urgent medical equipment and respond to the crisis.”

The AN-225 flew from Leipzig to Windhoek, stopping off to refuel in Accra. Photo: Antonov

The program has managed to airlift over 950 tons of medical supplies since the pandemic broke out in March 2020. The first SALIS flight was conducted in February 2006, with the program since clocking in over 2,200 missions and more than 44,100 flying hours.

A key partner in cargo operations

Antonov Airlines is a highly sought-after partner in the cargo world owing to its unique fleet of large cargo planes. According to ch-aviation, the airline has seven AN-124’s in its fleet along with the one mammoth AN-225. The airline’s capacity to transport outsized cargo has made it a key partner in many military, humanitarian and industrial cargo missions.

Antonov Airlines’ fleet of huge cargo aircraft includes seven AN-124s. Photo: Antonov

Hajo Busche, NSPA SALIS Officer, heaped praise on Antonov Airlines, saying,

“Our SALIS contractor has a very professional team. During these missions, they have been available 24/7, rising to all challenges successfully and delivering a first-class service.”

The AN-225 was developed in the Soviet Union during the 1980s. Photo: Antonov

The AN-225 “Mriya” can carry a 250-tonne payload and is known as the largest aircraft in the world. Antonov Airlines proudly states that the plane can “carry volumes of cargo that cannot be matched by other aircraft.”

Have you ever seen the AN-225 in person? Let us know where you saw it in the comments.

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