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AWACS airplane An-71 Madcap     

During its career as an An-72 it was fitted with the bigger nosecone of a production aircraft which gave it a 'pelican beak' look but it was still some 990mm shorter, so on conversion to the An-71 it was lengthened accordingly and became aircraft number 01/CCCP-780151.

The second An-71 intended for static tests - which started in April 1985 - was converted from the first An-72 static test airframe whilst the third aircraft (number 03 registered CCCP-780361) used a standard production An-72 airframe taken from the Kharkov assembly line.

A parallel requirement emerged during 1982-83 for a carrier based tactical AWACS platform and consideration was given to using a navalised version of the An-71. After some deliberation it was decided that a specialised carrier capable aircraft was needed which resulted in the design of the E-2 Hawkeye lookalike, the Yak-44E.

Aircraft 01 made its maiden flight from the runway of the Kiev Air plant on 12 June 1985 and made a successful flight to the airfield of Gostomel. It flew 75 times to the end of 1985 logging 117 flying hours.

On the 19th of February 1986, aircraft number 03 was rolled out and joined the flight test program on the 28th. By the time the whole program was frozen in 1990, aircraft 01 had logged 387 flights totalling 650 hours, whilst number 03 had achieved 362 flights of 380 hours.

Today the two airframes languish at the Kiev airfield due to lack of funding - a sad testament to the breakup of the Soviet Union. The ususual layout of the basic An-72 - with its overwing mounted engines, coupled with the odd-looking location of the radome on the fin makes the NATO Air Standards Co-ordinating Committee reporting name of MADCAP seem somehow appropriate.

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