12:55 Monday, 17 January: An Antonov An124-100 'Ruslan', RA-82074 of Volga Dnepr Airlines, touched down at RAF Coningsby, Lincolnshire, the first time such a large aircraft has set foot in the county. Chartered by HeavyLift, the Russian giant was to collect two partially-dismantled Tornado F3s, and transport them to RAF Mount Pleasant in the Falkland Islands, as replacement aircraft for duty with 1435 Flight. This was very much an experimental trial, to see if the cost savings afforded by a single transport aircraft outweigh the expense of flying the jets across the Atlantic with the necessary tanker support, plus prolonging the fatigue lives of the fighters by reducing hours in the air. Dismantling of the Tornados included removal of the tail fin and wing, so resulted in considerable man-hours, both at Coningsby and Mount Pleasant, but overall it has been considered that benefits are to be realised by the operation, and an assessment will be made at the end of the trials to see if it will be repeated. The Ruslan departed the following morning at 09:30.
Another reason the Ruslan was used on this occasion is that there were two Tornado F3s at Mount Pleasant which had suffered CAT 3 damage, and the only way to get them back to the UK for repair was by airlift. The Ruslan is due back at Cardiff Airport on Monday 24th with the CAT 3 aircraft, and St Athan is waiting for to assess them for repair.