Editor's note: This story was updated June 18 to correct the name and title of Ruslan Korzh, Ukraine's deputy minister of economic development and trade; and Antonov President Dmitry Kiva's statement that the AN-128 could be certificated next year.

PARIS — Undaunted by the undeclared war going on with Russian-backed separatists for the east of the country, Ukrainian airlifter specialist Antonov arrived in Paris for this week's air show with a new aircraft, plans for new developments and a restructured company to help restore its market position.

Antonov's AN-178 twin-jet airlifter took to the air for the first time May 7 but little over a month later is gracing the static display at Le Bourget as one of the few new military aircraft on display this year.

It's part of a drive that Ruslan Korzh, Ukraine's deputy minister of economic development and trade, described as "restoring the leadership" of the local industry in the global market when he talked to reporters at the show.

Roman Romanov, the director general of Ukroboronprom, the national export agency that which now runs Antonov as part of a recent management restructuring, said the target was to get back to producing 200 aircraft a year.

Antonov was once at the heart of transport aircraft industry in the Soviet Union before the communist regime collapsed. Now it has fallen on tougher times with its work force shrinking dramatically and traditional production ties broken with Russian companies.

All military programs with Russia have ceased but Antonov's president and chief designer, Dmitry Kiva, said some civil support work continues.

Part of the revival effort now underway at Antonov is based on sales of the AN-178. Set to replace older generation AN-12 and C-160 light transports, the multipurpose aircraft sits between the Airbus C-295 and Lockheed Martin C-130J-30, according to Kiva, speaking at the air show this week.

The AN-178 is a military version of the AN-158 regional airliner on offer from Antonov for several years.

Kiva, speaking through an interpreter, said the aircraft could be certificated and ready for first delivery next year, by the end of this month giving operators an aircraft with a ramp and a maximum range of 4,000 kilometers with a 10-ton load.

The basic aircraft uses mainly Ukrainian systems and power plant, but Kiva said the company was also looking at a second version of the AN-178 equipped with western systems and turbofans.

One of the reasons for being at the show was to explore potential partnering and supply arrangements with other aerospace companies, Kiva said.

Antonov has recently launched a collaborative project with Saudi interests to develop and build the light transport turboprop AN-132 aircraft and is looking for more collaborative deals.

The airlift company recently took part in discussions with the Polish aerospace industry on increased collaboration and supply of Polish components as well as assisting in the wider westernization of several of Antonov's aircraft types, including the AN-178.

Among the ambitious list of programs Antonov has on the drawing board right now is an update of the mighty AN-124 airlifter, and development of a turbo fan version of the ANAn-70 strategic airlifter.

Known as the ANAn-188, the aircraft will have a larger wing than the ANAn-70 and be powered by turbofans rather than props.

Kiva though was unwilling to give any idea of development timelines and potential partners in the program to further develop an aircraft that Germany and others flirted with adopting to meet Western European airlift requirements before the Airbus A400M program was eventually launched.

Email: achuter@defensenews.com

Andrew Chuter is the United Kingdom correspondent for Defense News.

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