The An-22 Antei (NATO designation Cock) is a heavy transport aircraft. In the 1960s the Soviet aircraft industry received an order from the Soviet government to develop a cargo aircraft, capable of transporting intercontinental ballistic missiles. Development of new plane was handed to Ukrainian Antonov design bureau, which specialized in development of cargo planes.
Development works on new aircraft, which would become the An-22, began in 1961. The main requirement for the new aircraft was a capability to take-off and land on soft ground. As a result, developers mounted 12 wheels (6 on each side) in the middle of the fuselage. Such landing gear has some advantages, however it is difficult to steer aircraft on the ground, as the weight is unevenly distributed. Each wheel of the chassis can be controlled separately. As a result the An-22 can operate from unprepared airfields.
Maiden fight of the first prototype of the An-22 took place in 1965. This plane received the name Antei (Antaeus). In the same year the plane was presented a the Paris le Bourget air show. At the time the An-22 was the world's largest aircraft, so it made a huge impression of the audience and received highest marks from appraisers. Even today the Antei is the largest turboprop aircraft in the world.
After a year, during test flights, the An-22 broke 12 world records. his plane has got a total of 41 world records, from which 20 is the merit of the famous woman pilot Marina Popovich's crew.
Production of this military cargo plane was launched in 1969. Besides military loads it was also used to carry agricultural equipment and humanitarian loads to Peru and India. The An-22 was actively used in Afghanistan for transportation of the troops, combat vehicles and supplies, as well as during other military conflicts.
A total of 68 aircraft were built during 1965-1975, from which 2 have never flew, 19 have been preserved, 33 removed from service because of maintenance problems as it has hard to keep the ageing planes airworthy, 7 planes have been lost in various accidents. Currently only 7 An-22 planes are in service. Six of tem are used by the Russian Air Force and one belongs to Antonov design bureau and is used for civil needs. It has been replaced with the An-124 Ruslan strategic airlifter.