Russia claims first flight of carbon ‘An-2’ warbird with US engine

On February 16, 2024, Russian specialized resources reported the maiden flight of the “optionally piloted” Partizan aircraft. This aircraft, with a carbon body, is based on the TVS-2DTS platform, a Russian interpretation of the An-2. Equipped with an American TPE331-12 turboprop engine from renowned brands Honeywell and Hartzell, this aircraft reflects an international influence in its design. 

Russia claims first flight of carbon 'An-2' warbird with US engine
Photo credit: Telegram

According to reports from the Russians, the inaugural flight of the “Partizan” included pilots and lasted approximately 20 minutes, cruising at speeds ranging from 50 to 200 km/h. The objective? To authenticate the aircraft’s characteristics, setting the stage for further improvements to its control system

But there’s a catch. The Partizan project isn’t merely about producing another aircraft. Instead, it represents a strategic move by Russia to build a heavy-duty drone capable of delivering up to 100 kilograms of cargo over distances extending a remarkable 1000 kilometers.

American engine

Interestingly, the use of the Partizan aircraft’s manned mode for passenger transportation on domestic airline flights in Russia is worth noting. Another unique aspect of this project that stands out is that despite being powered by an American turboprop engine, it does not represent an instance of “import substitution”. The aircraft also boasts eight low-capacity electric motors aimed at enhancing flight characteristics. 

Upon the completion of all testing phases and entry into serial production, the Russians declare that the Partizan aircraft, touted as an “optionally piloted” machine, will undeniably witness widespread use across various sectors of their national economy. 

Russia claims first flight of carbon 'An-2' warbird with US engine
Photo credit: Telegram

However, the Russians have not illuminated one factor—their plans for mitigating the potential risk of the unavailability of the engine technology, due to its American origin, in light of possible Western sanctions.

An-2 as a drone swarm leader

It’s important to note that despite the civilian focus of the Partizan aircraft program, the Russians may potentially repurpose parts of this project for military use. An example would be the possible conversion of older An-2s into unmanned target aircraft that tow Lancets. 

Remember that in mid-January of this year, the Russian firm “Yakovlev” announced they had successfully completed state trials of their new light training aircraft, the Yak-152. This model is specially designed for the primary training of future VKS RF pilots. 

During these tests, the Yak-152 demonstrated the tactical and technical performance outlined in its design. But don’t think for one moment that the Yak-152 developers are resting on their laurels. They’re already strategizing for “import substitution in a short period” for the engine, propeller, and other pivotal elements of the aircraft. 

Until the “import substitution” comes into effect, the large-scale manufacturing of the Yak-152 will be on hold. However, once it transpires, we can expect this aircraft to join the fleet and enhance the efficiency of current combat training aircraft.

The Antonov An-2

Russia built a Yak-152 piston trainer, but it has no serial engine
Photo by Anna Zvereva

The Antonov An-2, affectionately known as ‘Annushka’ or ‘Annie’, is a prolific single-engine biplane that hails from the Soviet era. Making a significant debut in 1946, this aircraft has operated in various skies worldwide, cementing its status as one of history’s longest-produced planes. The famous Soviet aircraft designer, Oleg Antonov, and his team at the Antonov Design Bureau are credited with this remarkable invention. 

A true testament to endurance, ‘Annie’ boasts an impressive lifting capacity and resilience that enables it to handle basic runways, even in the most challenging environments. With the ability to reach a top speed of 258 km/h [160 mph], cover a distance of 845 km [525 miles], and ascend to an altitude of 4,500 m [14,750 ft], the impressive An-2 offers unparalleled versatility and adaptability in the aviation industry. Equipped to transport up to 12 passengers or carry a payload of approximately 2,140 kg [4,700 lbs], this aircraft is as practical as it is dependable.

Application of An-2

Primarily serving as a light utility and agricultural facilitator, the An-2 is typically seen in roles such as crop dusting and aerial firefighting. However, this is an aircraft of many roles, serving as an air ambulance, a vehicle for scientific research, a parachute dropper, and even participating in military operations. The strength of the An-2 lies in its simplicity of design and durability, which make it the ideal choice for quick and efficient operations in remote and isolated areas with minimal ground support. 

To understand the applications of the An-2, one needs to examine its various roles. As an agricultural aircraft, it is loaded with pesticides and other chemical compounds, which are subsequently dispensed over farmlands and crops. In a military setting, the An-2 transforms into a transport vehicle, a scout in reconnaissance missions, and even enters light combat scenarios, given its capacity to house small weapons and light artillery. 

Despite its age, the An-2’s value hasn’t diminished. Countries across the globe continue to keep it in service, a testament to its enduring reliability and versatile applications. These unique features, along with their varied uses, not only spark the interest of aviation enthusiasts but also captivate professionals, making it a topic worth further investigation.


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