Last year, North Korea showed off a new camouflage scheme for one of its military aircraft. Kim Jong-Un himself was shown at the controls of one of the planes. The plane was not a new jet; it was a 1940’s biplane. The An-2 can fly low and very slow, useful if one wants to drop commandos behind a southern neighbor’s border without being seen on radar.
The new scheme is green on top and blue on the bottom, obscuring the plane from view both above and below. But, you may ask, why are the North Koreans still flying a bi-plane from the 40’s in 2016?First flown in 1947, the Soviet Union developed the Antonov An-2, as they were rebuilding from World War II. On its first flight, it already seemed like an anachronism. Aviation was already in the jet age by that point. But the incredibly sound design of the plane has kept it in use in its thousands around the globe for 70 years. Plus, it has some amazing features like its remarkable short take-off and landing distances. Also, it can fly backwards.
The Soviet Forest Ministry had the plane designed to fulfill a dual role as a crop duster and utility transporter. Oleg Antonov designed a large, single-engine biplane with room for up to 12 passengers or just over a metric ton of cargo. It needed to work from rough airfields, dirt roads, forest clearings, or anywhere else they could land a plane in the wilderness. This required a simple, tough aircraft able to take off and land in small spaces and be easier to maintain than a helicopter.
The Soviet Union and Poland built over 19,000 An-2s until 1991. China has built thousands more under license. Occasionally, the aircraft continues to be built there.
It’s extremely loud and warm. “Still, it’s an absolute blast once you get it airborne.”