The largest aircraft in the world arrived in Germany on Monday from China, bringing urgent medical supplies as part of efforts to help curb the spread of coronavirus.

The Antonov-225 cargo aircraft, carrying 10,000,000 protective face masks, arrived at Leipzig/Halle airport on Monday morning and was welcomed by German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer.

The masks were procured by the German government.

The flight was made possible by the NATO-supported Strategic Airlift International Solution – or SALIS – which provides countries participating in the programme with access to Antonov heavy transport aircraft.

“A further two flights with an additional 14,900,000 protective face masks are arriving in Germany via SALIS-contracted Antonov aircraft from China. Nine NATO Allies – Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Norway, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia – participate in the SALIS programme which is managed by the NATO Support and Procurement Agency. The aircraft is operated by Antonov Logistics SALIS from Leipzig/Halle airport.”

The sole Antonov AN-225 aircraft was built in the 1980s to transport space shuttles and can carry up to 250 tons of cargo.

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Ian M

I watched a documentary on this leviathan. 1980’s tech, very analogue with a bit of spanner banging. Watching a maintenance tech climb the ladder inside the tail fin to grease the actuators.. amazing!

Robert Blay

Huge bit of kit, id feel safer in a C17 though ?

Daniele Mandelli

I think it was one of these that visited Farnborough in the late 80’s, I was outside the Fox pub on the final approach at the time! Enormous!


I worked at RAE back then and watched it land as well. Small world! I went and had a closer look once it was parked up. It was, back then at least, fitted with three overhead gantry cranes capable of lifting a few tons each! I think the idea was that it could land at austere airfields and self load and unload. When it eventually left, the pilot blipped one of the outer engines to help turn it around for the take off and blew away the land instrument hut, which meant the airfield could not support bad weather landings… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli

Do you remember a B Richardson CR? Worked at RAE 38 years.


Can’t say I do. I worked in R14 and occasionally Q134. R14 was a bit isolated – some things never change 🙂

Daniele Mandelli


Daniele Mandelli

Fox Pub! My brain is going again. |Was the Swan pub. Aircraft almost take the roof off on finals.

Bloke down the pub

Can’t help but suspect that the choice of this aircraft by the German govt was a publicity stunt. I don’t suppose anyone would be talking about it if the delivery had been made by standard airfreight spread over a couple of days.

Robert Blay

Or maybe it’s because it’s big enough to carry 10 million face masks to Germany.

Ian M

It’s just one (the biggest) of the aircraft available to the SALIS nations for heavy lift


My understanding is at there are simolar regular flights to Brize Norton, presumably from various sources and flights from other airfields.

There are I am told long waiting say these days for vital health equipment … thus giant aircraft scouting the world for scarce supplies.

Scott French

Actually the worlds largest aircraft is the Stratolaunch. It was bought last year by Cerberus Capital Management with the intention of renting it out to the USAF for their Hypersonic vehicle launch test programme.

Darren Hall

I wonder what size aircraft the German government will require to take back the rejected masks… Just going by the slop from China that has arrived in the UK, Czech Rep, France, Netherlands, Belgium…. the list goes on and on. As to the aircraft itself, got the opportunity to work on this and many of its smaller 124 sisters whilst in Logistics in the RAF. The Soviets (when it was built) put so many optional extras into their airframes compared to NATO. Cranes, kneeling ability, ramps that detach and slide under the airframe etc etc. Very 1980’s, but it works,… Read more »


Today my local paper said that 3000 face masks issued to Surrey Police could be fake. The certificates of conformity were probably fraudulent.
Re An225. The second could be made airworthy if there was enough demand, or at least that is what the Ukrainians said a couple of years ago.

Mark B

In order to feed a strategy going forward the UK will need home grown kit in substantial quantities. The public will not trust anything else.

If you want something done properly – do it yourself.

Daniele Mandelli


Mr Bell

Totally agree, we’ve used up most of our national supply of PPE, now we are coming off the peak and before the inevitable 2nd wave hits us, can we please now get our act together and make sure we have billions of ffp3 masks, gowns, tyvek suits etc etc so we are not scratching about. Alternatively just allow NHS staff and social care staff to be trained in and use NBC suits and respirators. Simple walk through shower decontamination, hang up to dry and hey presto ready to use when you come back for another 14 hour shift. Oh but… Read more »


Guessing the masks were made in China. lol