Soviet Union Table of Contents
Military Transport Aviation provided rapid strategic mobility for the armed forces. Its missions were to transport the Airborne Troops for rapid intervention by parachute and to supply and resupply Soviet forces abroad, and deliver arms and military equipment to Soviet allies around the world. In 1989 Military Transport Aviation had five air divisions, including 200 An-12, 55 An-22, 340 Il-76, and 5 An-124 transport aircraft. Having entered service only in 1987, the An-124 was the first Soviet transport that could lift outsized equipment such as main battle tanks.
In addition to these military transports, in wartime the 1,600 aircraft of Aeroflot, the national airline, would be used to augment the capabilities of Military Transport Aviation (see table 46, Appendix A). For this reason, the Ministry of Civil Aviation closely coordinated its activities with the General Staff and the Air Forces. Aeroflot flight crews, for example, were reserve officers of the Air Forces. Moreover, in 1989 the Soviet minister of civil aviation was an active-duty general officer.
Military Transport Aviation assumed a high-profile role in foreign policy in the 1970s when it airlifted weapons to such allies as Egypt, Syria, Ethiopia, and Angola. In December 1979, its transport aircraft flew 150 sorties to drop and land an Airborne Troops division and its equipment into Afghanistan. Western analysts estimated that Military Transport Aviation can lift one Airborne Troops division a distance of 4,000 kilometers. With Aeroflot transports and passenger aircraft, three divisions can be lifted at once.
Data as of May 1989