The An-12 (NATO code name "Cub") is one of the most famous Soviet types, developed by Oleg K. Antonov's design bureau in the late 1950s. Predecessor of the An-12, the twin-engined An-8 was the Soviet Union's first true cargo aircraft (it had a special ramp installation in the rear of the fuselage for easy freight loading), but at that time comparable foreign designs were equipped with four engines, for flight safety. At the end of 1955 the design bureau led by Oleg Antonov received orders for two new four-engined aircraft: the civilian An-10 and the military An-12.
Many successful features adopted on the An-8 were used during development of the A-10 and An-12 projects. Very soon, in March 1957, the first flight of the An-10 took place, and of the An-12 in December of the same year. After much intensive testing, series production began in the following year at the Irkutsk aircraft factory. In 1960 the Voronezh aircraft factory joined in production, and in 1962 Tashkent's factory. Production ceased in 1973 after 1,213 of this type had been produced. The An-12BK, equipped with more powerful AI-20M engines and some minor changes, was a widely used variant which began production in 1967. Other interesting modifications of the type are the polar An-12PL, the An-12BKL bomber which could carry up to 12 tons of bombs, the An-12BK-PPS with special radio equipment, the An-12BKT tanker, the naval rescue An-12PS and others.
Apart from the USSR, many countries have operated the An-12: Czechoslovakia, Poland, Yugoslavia, Cuba, Egypt, Iraq, Bulgaria, India, Algeria, Indonesia, Guinea, Ghana, Yemen, and China. China later built its own unlicensed copy of the An-12, designated the Y-8.
From the late 1950s onwards, the An-12 entered service in the Soviet national economy as well as with the arms of the military. The An-12 was the first Soviet military aircraft adopted by the Soviet Airmobile Paratroop forces; it was only plane which could carry AFV vehicles.
The An-12 had a long military service life: during the India-Chinese conflict in 1962, and in the 1965 India-Pakistan border conflicts, it was extensively used by the Indian Air Forces for transport and bombing. Egyptian An-12s delivered troops and UN peacemakers to the conflict zone during the Six Day War in 1967 and the Yom Kippur War in 1973. At the time of the Prague Spring in 1968 the An-12 very quickly delivered Soviet troops to the Czech capital. After the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979, many An-12s together with more modern IL-76s transported a huge quantity of Soviet troops and military freight to the country.
Even in the1990s "obsolete" An-12s still served in many countries. It took part in civil war in the former Yugoslavia and Angola; and Russia has used An-12s in anti-terror operations in Chechnya since this conflict began in 1994. In Afghanistan, An-12s belonging to the Taliban terrorist movement had been re-equipped for the bomber role, but were very quickly destroyed in late 2001, when operation Enduring Freedom began. At the end of 2000, about 167 of this type were still in service. Many An-12s are being used by air cargo companies, and Russia and Ukraine retain the type in their Air Forces at the present time.