Russian heavy cargo transport planes An-124 Ruslan and Il-76 of the Russian company “Volga-Dnepr” have made at least ten flights from Russia to China over the past seven days, Ukrainian OSINT group Defense Express reports.
Flight tracking services record regular flights of Russian heavy cargo air fleet from Moscow (Russia) to Zhengzhou airport (China). Russian cargo planes frequently skip turning on transponders to make it harder to track them down.
Several flight tracking services, such as Radarbox, report nine An-124 flights to China and only three flights back to Russia over the past seven days. Such data may indicate that the Russian aircraft turned off their transponders during some of the flights to China and back.
Russian cargo planes with the aircraft numbers RA-82074, RA-82044, RA-82081 were involved in the said flights (see the read-out below), Defense Express reports.
The intense activity of Russian cargo aircraft attracted attention of local spotters in China who managed to record a video of the Russian An-124 Ruslan landing at Zhengzhou airport (China). This video has leaked to social media. The comments to the video assume that the Russian cargo plane has landed in China to pick up some “military aid, namely equipment, body armor, helmets and clothes,” Defense Express reports. However, it is not possible to either confirm or refute such an assertion at this point.
There is a strong tendency for increasing amount of Russian cargo aircraft flights from Russia to China within the last three months. While in September 2022 there was only three flights made by the Russian cargo planes An-124 Ruslan of the company “Volga-Dnepr”, the amount of flights has soared to reach 34 in November 2022. Several Russian planes An-124 and Il-76 (owned by the company “Volga-Dnepr”) frequently fly to China at the same time to pick up unknown cargo, according to Defense Express.
Russia employs no less than six heavy cargo planes to build an air bridge to China, according to Defense Express. At least four Russian heavy cargo aircraft An-124 Ruslan and two Il-76 have been spotted landing at Zhengzhou airport in China over the past week:
Cargo planes An-124 had the following aircraft numbers:
Cargo planes Il-76 had these aircraft numbers:
The number of Russian cargo planes that land in China at the same time tend to grow noticeably, while intervals between the flights become shorter. The record-breaking amount of four Russian cargo aircraft was registered landing at Zhengzhou airport in China simultaneously on November 23, Defense Express reports.
It must be noted that the aicraft carrying capacity of An-124 is 120 tons, while Il-76 can transport 47 tons of cargo at a time. Therefore, during 34 registered flights from China to Russia in November alone Russian aircraft may have transported 1 500 tons of unidentified cargo.