The An-124 cargo airplanes “Ruslan” have provided for 70% of the French Armed Forces’ air traffic in 2015, according to the French newspaper L'Opinion.
The French military rented the aircraft from the Volga-Dnepr and Antonov aviation companies within the framework of the NATO SALIS programme and a contract with the private French company ICS, which is the operator of Russian and Ukrainian An-124 aircraft services in France.
Contracts for the use of Ruslans cost France €40 million for 1,115 flight hours.
The French Air Force provided for less than a quarter (23.2%) of the total air traffic commissioned by the republic’s armed forces. As noted by the Russian military blog bmpd, which is conducted by the representatives of the Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies (CAST), each of the two contracts for the use of An-124 accounts for approximately one third of the total volume of cargos – 34.7% under the contract with Ruslan SALIS GmbH and 33.7% under the contract with ICS, respectively. The remaining volume was delivered with the help of France’s NATO Allies (7.8%), as well as passing cargos by civil airlines (0.42%).
The Russian-Ukrainian joint venture Ruslan SALIS GmbH, which is made up of the Volga-Dnepr Group and Antonov Aeronautical Scientific-Technical Complex (Antonov, Ukraine), won the NATO tender to provide cargo transportation in the interests of the alliance in 2006. Since then, the contract has been extended several times. Under its terms, two An-124 planes are constantly based in Leipzig and four more can be provided upon request. The total cost of Ruslan operator services for the NATO member countries over this period is estimated at more than €1.5 billion.
French military forces also used Russian An-124 Ruslans and Ukrainian An-225 Mriyas aircraft in military operations, including those that were carried out in Mali in 2013-2014 and in the Middle East.