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The Antonov An-2 was designed to meet a 1947 Soviet Ministry of Forestry requirement for a replacement for the much lighter, largely wooden air framed 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 seats for 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, and in this form it was ordered into production.
Initial Soviet production was 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 was 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 over 13,000 aircraft were built in Poland before principal manufacturing activity ended 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, no new aircraft were constructed there.
The An-2 is commonly used as a light utility transport, parachute drop aircraft, agricultural work and other tasks suited to a large slow 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 challenged 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 exceeded by the four-turboprop, 1954-origin, Lockheed C-130 Hercules military transport.