First seen in 1969, the Antonov An-26 Curl-A was the standard short-range Soviet tactical transport during the latter half of the Cold War. Developed from the previous An-24 design, it was first Soviet military transport aircraft to have a fully pressurised cargo hold. Production ended in 1985 after about 1 410 An-26s had been built, most of them for military operators. The type remains in widespread use.
Small numbers of An-26s were converted as An-26RTR Curl-B Elint/Sigint/electronic warfare platforms and have a profusion of swept blade antennas above and below the cabin. Painted as standard transports and often operating from the same bases, these aircraft remain in use with the Russian air force. Former East German special duties An-26 aircraft were designated An-26ST. Similarly modified An-26 aircraft are also in Czech service.
An unusually active combat role was undertaken by An-26s in Angola and Mozambique, where underfuselage bomb racks were fitted for the counter-insurgency role. Some An-26s, most notably those used in Afghanistan, also carried pylon-mounted chaff/flare dispensers. A fire-fighting version of the An-26 has also been developed as the An-26P, with tanks along the fuselage under the wing. Two other special-purpose types built as conversions are the An-26BRL for research into the nature of pack ice, and the An-26L navaid calibration type.
Two major variants have been developed from the An-26. The An-30 Clank features a redesigned nose section with extensive glazing. Serving in the dedicated photographic and survey roles, it has only been built in small numbers. The An-32 Cline replaced the An-26 in production from 1977. It features lvcyenko Al-20D Series 5 turboprops each rated at 5 043 hp. These engines are mounted above the wing to give greater clearance for the increased-diameter propellers. The Indian air force operates An-32s under the local name Sutlej.