Design and development
The Antonov An-2 was designed to meet a 1947 Soviet Ministry of Forestry requirement for a replacement for the much lighter, largely wooden-airframed Polikarpov Po-2, which was used in large numbers in both agricultural and utility roles. Antonov designed a large single bay biplane of all-metal construction, with an enclosed cockpit and a cabin with room for seats accommodating twelve passengers. The first prototype, designated SKh-1 and powered by a Shvetsov ASh-21 radial engine, flew on 31 August 1947. The second prototype was fitted with a more powerful Shvetsov ASh-62 engine, which allowed the aircraft's payload to be significantly increased from 1,300 to 2,140 kg (2,870 to 4,720 lb), and in this form it was ordered into production.
On the static display of "Oldtimer Fliegertreffen" Hahnweide 2011
Initial Soviet production was performed at State Factory 473 in Kiev, Ukrainian SSR, where the bulk of up to 5,000 units had been produced by 1960. Later Soviet production (after 1965, of model An-2M especially) was conducted at State Factory 464 at Dolgoprudniy, Russian SFSR. After 1960, however, most An-2s were constructed at Poland's WSK factory in Mielec; it is believed that in excess of 13,000 aircraft were built in Poland prior to principal manufacturing activity being terminated during 1991. However, up until 2001, limited production was undertaken using remaining stocks of components, spares and maintenance coverage, such as a small batch of four aircraft that were produced for Vietnam. China also builds the An-2 under licence as the Shijiazhuang Y-5. It has been occasionally and erroneously reported that there was East German production of the An-2, however, while An-2s often underwent extensive refurbishment in East German facilities, there were actually no new aircraft constructed there.
The An-2 is commonly used as a light utility transport, parachute drop aircraft, agricultural work and many other tasks suited to this large slow-flying biplane. Its slow flight and good short field performance make it suited for short, unimproved fields, and some specialized variants have also been built for cold weather and other extreme environments. The Guinness Book of World Records states that the 45-year production run for the An-2 was for a time the longest ever for any aircraft — and challenging the well over two decades-long run of the much lighter, late-1920s origin Polikarpov Po-2 biplane it was intended to replace — but the An-2's production duration run record was itself recently exceeded by the four-turboprop-engined, 1954-origin Lockheed C-130 Hercules military transport.
Closeup of a private An-2TP
During the early 1980s, Antonov experimented with a development of the An-2 powered by a modern turboprop engine. The unit used was a 1,080 kilowatts (1,450 hp) Glushenkov engine and aircraft fitted with this engine were fitted with a longer, more streamlined nose to accommodate it. It received the designation of Antonov An-3.
During 2013, Antonov announced that it had successfully flown for the first time a new version of the An-2, dubbed the An-2-100, which was fitted with a 3-blade reversible propeller and a 1500 shp Motor Sich MS-14 turboprop running on kerosene rather than Avgas, which is no longer produced in CIS countries. That same year, the company stated that it had received orders for upgrading "hundreds" of the An-2 planes still in operation in Azerbaijan, Cuba and Russia to the An-2-100 upgrade version.
The Siberian Research Institute of Aviation (SIBNIA) has test flown a highly modified Antonov An-2 with carbonfibre winglet-like braces and carbonfibre wing structures. It was equipped with a five-bladed turboprop engine, most probably the Honeywell TPE331 already installed on a modernized version of the An-2 that entered service in 2014. According to Russian aviation company Sukhoi, this aircraft was built to demonstrate the aerodynamic and structural changes that were planned for an eventual An-2 replacement announced on 10 June 2015. The autoclave-cured carbonfibre composite materials – including wing panels, spars and ribs – were produced by the Novosibirsk Aviation Plant. Sukhoi says the design change improved the speed of the An-2 by 50%, and testing also has shown the minimum flying speed of the aircraft is “close to zero”.