Editor’s Note: We first reported about the liquidation of Antonov’s assets by the government of Ukraine here. Since the announcement, there has been speculation (shocking, we know) the company is still intact and will continue on as it always has. It will be interesting to see what the “truth” ends up being.

Since 1946, the aircraft manufacturer Antonov has produced over 22,000 aircraft. It began in the 1930s as a minor enterprise designing small gliders and entered the military realm in the 1940s with its bizarre concept for a flying tank. Since then it has become famous for producing large transport aircraft. For 27 years its An-225 has been the largest heavier-than-air aircraft ever built. Antonov’s core customers were (from the 1940s-80s) the Soviet Union and its allied nations. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, and Ukraine’s independence, Antonov endured the 1990s which were extremely tough for former Soviet aircraft companies.

Until recently, Russia was Antonov’s primary customer, with Antonov working closely with the United Aircraft Corporation. But as the two nations’ relationship has deteriorated, largely thanks to Russia’s aggressive reactions to Ukraine’s attempt to increase links to the West, it was clear that Antonov could not keep Russia as its primary customer. Antonov’s relationship with Russia was complicated, with the majority of its suppliers still based in the Federation.

Since then, despite last year’s decent profit, Antonov has had to work hard to adapt to a new world. It had also become the centre of fiercely politicised debate. Some have speculated that this final step in Antonov’s liquidation is part of a long-running power struggle between Antonov’s pro-Russian management and the Government. Antonov’s management has long been distrusted for its actual or perceived allegiances; following the 2014 Ukrainian Revolution there was an attempt to dispose of them, a move only halted by fierce defence from the plant workers themselves.

Antonov An-70 cargo transport aircraft. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia)
Antonov An-70 cargo transport aircraft. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia)

Some Russian observers consider the move may be sleight of hand, with Antonov a key cog in a corrupt enterprise. As with Russia, corruption is endemic in Ukraine.

According to a Ukrainian Ministry press release, “The Government has adopted a resolution on the liquidation of the State Aircraft Manufacturing Concern Antonov due to lack of members, as the three companies which comprised the concern exited it and were transferred to Ukroboronprom State Concern.

Time will tell if this is a badge change or the end of the line for Antonov. The latter seems unlikely, as dispute a downfall in sales of new airframes, the global market for support of Antonov aircraft remains. Antonov Airlines (an outfit specialising in moving oversize cargo) remains highly profitable and was a lifeline for the company- what becomes of this operation could prove extremely revealing. Antonov’s assets have been moving to Ukroboronrpom in a controlled manner for some time, and this final step is largely symbolic. It is hard not to see the eagerness with which Russian media has shown in reporting ‘the death of Antonov’ has having some political motivation.

Antonov decided to clarify the matter:

Official statement of ANTONOV Company press service

Hereby we are drawing your attention to the fact that information about liquidation of ANTONOV State Company is not true.
The Government of Ukraine took decision on liquidation of the ANTONOV State CONCERN. The CONCERN consisted of three enterprises: ANTONOV State COMPANY, Kharkiv State Aircraft Manufacturing Company (KSAMC) and State enterprise Plant 410 of Civil Aviation. In 2015, aiming to increase efficiency of the aircraft industry, the Government of Ukraine took decision to pass ANTONOV State COMPANY, KSAMC and State enterprise Plant 410 of Civil Aviation (i.e. all three enterprises of ANTONOV CONCERN) under management of UKROBORONPROM State Concern.

At that, ANTONOV State COMPANY continues to work. It performs full cycle of the aircraft creation – from pre-project scientific researches to construction, tests, certification, serial production and after-sale maintenance. As before, the COMPANY’s production is represented under ANTONOV brand.

The official information is published on the site of Ministry of Economic Development and Trade of Ukraine on the NEWS page.

The proof of the company’s stay of execution will be, as they say, in the pudding.

The original article on Hushkit can be viewed here.

(Featured photo graphic courtesy of Antonov)