Antonov An-26 (Curl) History

The Antonov An-26 was developed from the An-24 of 1962 for the airliner passenger / general transport role. First flight of the An-26 product was on May 21st, 1969 and production spanned from then until 1986 to which 1,403 examples were ultimately realized. A plethora of variants then emerged and operators have ranged the globe with many airframes still in active service today (2014).

The original An-24 proved a design that was robust for the most harshest of conditions available across the vast Soviet empire - particularly in hard to reach areas of the frontier where few services were available. This propelled a new, modified form to gain traction, one in particular that included a powered loading ramp for ease of moving cargo pallets to and from the aircraft to awaiting bays or transport trucks. With a new ramp design finishing its testing phase, the installation commenced to produce the new working designation of An-26.

As finalized, the An-26 carried over much of the same form and function of the preceding An-24 model including its high-wing design and twin engine layout. The tail unit remained a single vertical fin with low-set horizontal planes. The flight deck was held at the extreme front end of the fuselage aft of a short nose cone. The cargo hold then made up a bulk of the available internal space remaining. Initial production models were recognized simply as "An-26" and were identified in NATO nomenclature as "Curl-A". A combo passenger/cargo-hauler form then became the An-26-100. The local Chinese variant became the Xian Y-7H military transport.

Other limited production variants followed including an Arctic reconnaissance platform with special mission equipment, an atmospheric air lab, an assault transport prototype, various testbeds, a fire-fighting platform, and other proposed (some unrealized) designs.

Operators have gone on to range from Angola and Belarus to Yemen and Zambia. Many military operators have since abandoned the type including Afghanistan, Pakistan, Poland, and Somalia. The United States operated An-26s through the 6th Special Operations Squadron of the United States Air Force from the period of 2003 to 2007. Soviet An-26s were passed on to the emerging states after the fall of the Soviet empire. Most current operators remain civilian in nature including fifteen operating in the Ukraine.

Antonov An-26 (Curl) Specification


Active, In-Service


[ 1,403 Units ]:
Antonov Design Bureau - Soviet Union


- Transport



78.08 ft (23.8 m)


95.80 ft (29.2 m)


28.22 ft (8.6 m)


Empty Weight:

33,069 lb (15,000 kg)


52,911 lb (24,000 kg)

(Diff: +19,842lb)


2 x Progress AI-24VT turboprop engines developing 2,820 horsepower each.


Maximum Speed:

277 mph (445 kph; 240 kts)

Service Ceiling:

24,606 feet (7,500 m; 4.66 miles)

Maximum Range:

1,553 miles (2,500 km; 1,350 nm)


1,575 ft/min (480 m/min)




An-26 "Curl" - Base Series Designation; initial production aircraft.

An-26-100 - Passenger / cargo hauler

An-26A - Assault transport; single example.

An-26A SLK - Modernized variant

An-26B - Civilian cargo hauler

An-26B-100 - Passenger / cargo hauler

An-26BL - Alternative designation covering An-26L.

An-26BRL - Alternative designation covering An-26RL.

An-26D - Long-range variant

An-26KPA - Equipment testbed

An-26L - Testbed

An-26LL-PLO - Airborne testbed

An-26LP - Fire-fighting platform

An-26M - Airborne hospital

An-26P - Fire-fighting platform

An-26REP - Electronic CounterMeasures (ECM) platform.

An-26RL - Surveillance, reconnaissance and monitoring for Arctic circle.

An-26RR - Alternative designation covering An-26RT.

An-26RT - Communications relay platform

An-26RTR - Alternative designation covering An-26RT.

An-26S - VIP passenger carrier

An-26Sh - Navigator trainer platform

An-26ST - East German Air Force special-missions aircraft.

An-26Z-1 - Czech ELINT model

An-50 - Proposed jet-powered variant

Xian Y-7H - Chinese military transport model

Xian Y-14 - Chinese An-26 copy

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