Russia has created plans to build a fleet of heavy transport aircraft that will be able to fly at supersonic speeds, whilst each carrying payloads of up to 200 tons, according to a report from state-funded news outlet RT.
The futuristic-looking blueprints would allow the country to fly a strategic unit of 400 Armata tanks or 900 light armoured vehicles, with ammunition, anywhere in the world, and airdrop them and accompanying personnel on any terrain.
The only operating aircraft which can carry a comparable payload is the Antonov An-225 Mriya, which can hold up to 250 tons, but this was a one-off aircraft created for the Soviet space program.
The Antonov An-225 Mriya, which can hold up to 250 tons
It's claimed the 80 new cargo aircraft, dubbed PAK TA, will be able to fly at speeds of up to 1,250 mph, at a range of at least 4,500 miles, and could be ready by 2024.
Sergey Tikhonov, of Russian magazine Expert Online, said:
"With the development of a network of military bases in the Middle East, Latin America and Southeast Asia, which is expected to be completed during the same time period (by 2024), it’s obvious that Russia is preparing for a full-scale military confrontation of transcontinental scale."
Artist's concept of the PAK TA
The magazine quoted an anonymous source as saying that the PAK TA project has been ongoing for several years and that the aircraft are planned to replace Russia's currently operating air freighters.
“It means for the first time we have the objective of creating an operational capability to airlift a full-fledged army to any desired place on the planet,” the source is quoted as saying.
"This means delivering a task force the size of the former NATO and the US troops in Iraq, in a matter of hours to any continent. In the context of the current military doctrine that defies comprehension."
With thanks to Aleksey Komarov for images and video.