A giant Antonov 124 on Thursday departed RAAF Base Amberley carrying M777 howitzers and Bushmasters bound for Ukraine.
The iconic four-engine plane, one of the world’s heaviest, was created by Antonov Design Bureau in Ukraine itself and has a giant wingspan of 73 metres.
The particular aircraft used was the 100-150 variant, a reinforced version of the original that is capable of transporting a payload of up to 150,000 kilograms.
It follows the federal government announcing it would gift Ukraine 20 Bushmaster Protected Mobility Vehicles – including 14 with Protected Weapon Systems and two ambulance variants – alongside six M777 howitzers with ammunition.
The latest delivery means Australia has so far committed to contributing AU$225 million worth of military equipment to help the war effort in Eastern Europe.
Head of military strategic commitments, Air Vice-Marshal Robert Chipman, praised Australia’s commitment to helping President Volodymyr Zelensky and the government of Ukraine.
“Added to this, is the remarkable work of those at the International Donor Coordination Centre in Germany who have ensured assistance from Australia and other nations is being delivered quickly to the Ukrainian Armed Forces,” he said.
It comes after the government previously used a RAAF C-17A Globemaster to deliver aid to Ukraine.
The previous supply included both lethal and non-lethal military equipment, ranging from missiles and ammunition to medical supplies.
Australia’s vote of confidence in Antonov the airline, meanwhile, comes after a similar AN-225 cargo plane was “destroyed” in a Russian attack on an airfield near Kyiv in February.
Dubbed “Mriya”, which means “The Dream” in Ukrainian, the jet was reportedly under repair and routine maintenance at the Antonov Company site in Gostomel Airport when it was destroyed.
“The biggest plane in the world ‘Mriya’ (The Dream) was destroyed by Russian occupants on an airfield near Kyiv,” Ukraine said in a statement via its official Twitter account, confirming its intentions to repair the damaged iconic jet.
“We will rebuild the plane. We will fulfil our dream of a strong, free, and democratic Ukraine.”
The AN-225 travelled to Australia for the first time in May 2016, when it touched down in Perth, carrying a 135-tonne generator for a resources company.
Anticipating massive public interest in the massive aircraft, Perth Airport even put up a dedicated viewing area for the public to see the six-engine behemoth.
Antonov later released a statement, reading, “Currently, until the AN-225 has been inspected by experts, we cannot report on the technical condition of the aircraft.”
According to the director of the airline, “the engines was dismantled for repairs and the plane wasn’t able to take off that day, although the appropriate commands were given”, the Ukrainian Defence Ministry said in a statement on Sunday.
“Currently, it is impossible to assess the plane’s condition and the possibility and cost of its restoring due the lack of access to the aircraft as the control over the airport is taken by the Russian occupiers.”
The defence ministry said it will cost over US$3 billion to restore the aircraft, and the project will take over five years.