As part of a series of training flights, six An-124-100 Ruslan strategic military transport aircraft of the Russian Aerospace Forces flew in formation on January 15, 2020. Such a large deployment of the gigantic aircraft is a world’s first.
The fleet belonged to the 566th Military Transport Aviation Regiment, located at Seshcha Air Base, southwest of Moscow, from which the aircraft took off. The exercise involved personnel from the Seshcha and Tver military transport aviation regiments.
“The purpose of the training flights was to improve the skills of young crews of the An-124-100 Ruslan military transport aircraft in the simultaneous transfer of personnel of military units with standard weapons and military equipment over long distances,” explained the Russian Ministry of Defense in a statement. The exercise was carried out over 600 kilometers (370 miles) in adverse weather conditions, with precipitation, low clouds, and strong winds reported.
With up to 150 tonnes of payload, the An-124-100 Ruslan aircraft is one of the largest transport aircraft in the world, second only to the unique 250-tonne payload An-225 Mriya operated by Antonov Airlines. Eight units of armored vehicles or up to 500 personnel can fit in the hold of the Ruslan, which can fly a distance of over 7,000 kilometers (4,300 miles).
Very popular in the United States, this type of exercise is known as an “elephant walk.” It consists of rolling a large number of aircraft in close formation on a runway before taking off in short intervals. It is a way to evaluate the availability of a country’s air force and is implicitly a strong show of force.