[Photo] Ukrainian Antonov An-124 cargo visits NAF El Centro, California

An An-124 recently visited at Naval Air Facility (NAF) El Centro to load British Chinooks for their return to the UK.

On Aug. 14, an Antonov 124 of the “Antonov Design Bureau” (Ukraine’s state-owned company currently known as Antonov State Company), visited NAF El Centro, in Southern California. The huge cargo, departed the following day and flew to RAF Brize Norton via Detroit.

The An-124 has become something of a regular visitor to El Centro, moving helicopters from a number of NATO forces (such as British, Danish, Dutch and German) to the local base where they train in “hot and high” conditions prior to deployments to Afghanistan.

Actually, the Ukrainian company’s An-124 aircraft have been used to transport helicopters all around the world.

El Centro’s ready access to large ranges with desert and mountainous terrain (Chocolate Mountains and Yuma, AZ range) make it an ideal location for cost effective pre-deployment training.  Aircraft can depart El Centro and be on range within a matter of minutes making helicopter training particularly efficient.

AN124 El Centro side view

Todd Miller lives in MD, US where he is an Executive at a Sustainable Cement Technology Company in the USA. When not working, Todd is an avid photographer of military aircraft and content contributor.




  1. Hot&High? El Centro sure is hot, but if my memory serves me correctly, the air strip is actually below sea level. The local mountain ranges aren’t nearly as high as those in Afghanistan, but the ruggedness and desolation is comparable.

    • You are right – few places can offer the “high” altitude of Afghanistan for training. Even flying in the Chocolate Mtns is far from what one would experience in Afghanistan. Could have said “hot and desolate”. However given option for training in equivalent circumstances, it’s about the best that can be realized in an “allied” country for hot & high.

  2. The propensity for Russian aircraft designers to hew to the mantra of `unimproved airfield use` is hanging out in all its glory.

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