Russia may start buying Ukrainian-built An-70 propfan military transport aircraft in 2012-2013, deputy commander of the Russian Air Force Maj. Gen. Viktor Bondarev said on
"The plane is undergoing factory tests, and next year it will be tested by [Russian] military pilots," Bondarev said.
A final decision on the purchase of the An-70 will be maid by a state commission on the basis of the tests results, General Bondarev said.
The An-70 is a medium-range propfan-powered military transport plane developed by Ukraine's Antonov design bureau. The Antonov company first tested a prototype An-70 in 1994, but a lack of Ukrainian state funds, and political disputes between Moscow and Kiev have prevented large-scale production of the aircraft.
Russia said in 2006 that it would pull out of the project, and buy the Il-76MF instead, after the program suffered a series of setbacks including problems with the propfan engine and two crashes involving prototypes.
The recent thaw in Russian-Ukrainian relations saw Moscow renew long-stalled funding to Ukraine in 2009 for eventual joint production of the plane, although the Ukrainian Defense Ministry said last year it would not finance the project.
There are up to 300 transport aircraft in service with the Russian Air Force, including An-12 Cub, Il-76MD and An-124 Condor transport aircraft.
The An-70 is intended to replace Russia's ageing An-12 aircraft.
Russian Airborne Troops Commander Lt. Gen. Vladimir Shamanov said last year that his service had ordered 40 An-70 planes under the new state arms procurement program for 2011-2020.