The Finnish Air Force has released an interesting shot of an An-72P, an armed border surveillance version of the baseline An-72.
On May 27 a Finnish Air Force F/A-18C Hornet on QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) was scrambled “to identify Russian Antonov An-12 and Antonov An-72 transport aircraft in international airspace above the Gulf of Finland,” says an official news release by the Ilmavoimat.
Actually, the An-72 RF-72019 intercepted by the Finnish Hornet is not a “standard” light STOL (short take-off and landing) military transport aircraft: it’s an An-72P (Patrulnyi), an armed border surveillance variant of the characteristic shoulder-wing monoplane with two squat turbofan engines protruding ahead of the wing and exhaust nozzles located on the upper surface of the wing.
About 10 An-72P are believed to be in active service with the Russia’s Border Guard (subordinated to the FSB – Federal Security Service). According to Russia’s Warplanes Vol. 2 by Piotr Butowski, the An-72P is fitted with navigation and communication systems as well as an OTV-124 optical-TV sight, installed in the port nacelle of the main landing gear and three cameras. Moreover, the aircraft is armed with a built-in UPK-23 gun pod housed in the starboard side of the lower fuselage in fron of the undercarriage nacelle. The An-72P can carry up to 650 kg of weapons (bombs and rocket launchers) on two underwing pylons while four racks inside the cargo cabin above the ramp can carry 100 kg bombs which can be used when the ramp is slid under the cabin.
Interestingly, the An-72P operated by the Border Guard sport pretty interesting camouflaged color schemes. Here below you can see the livery worn by RF-72022. A similar paint job is sported by RF-72020.
As mentioned above, during the same day, the F/A-18C also intercepted an An-12, a more frequent visitor of the skies of the Baltic region than the An-72P. Here’s a hi-rez photo released by the Finnish Air Force after the intercept. The aircraft involved in the close encounter over the Gulf of Finland was an An-12BK with registration RF-95684/24 Blue.