Johns never specified the exact type of paratroop transport which dropped the paratroopers during the Battle of Quarda in Biggles' Special Case. The text states that it had four engines. The nationality of the paratroops was never specified but it was suggested that Col. Alfondari was among them. He was not Turkish although he pretended to be one. The side he was on also operated MIG fighters. This makes it likely he came from Soviet Armenia, one of the other states besides Turkey which laid a claim to Zarat.

Given the criteria above, the only possible candidate for the paratroop aircraft is the Antonov An-12 Cub. The Cub was the main medium range tactical transport of the Soviet forces in the 1960s and the only four-engine paratroop aircraft in their inventory at that time.

The An-10 Cub may be thought of as the Russian equivalent of the C-130 Hercules. Developed from a civilian four-engine airliner, the Antonov An-10, the An-12 Cub first flew in 1957 and soon formed the backbone of the Soviet paratroop forces. The Cub, like the C-130, also featured a large up-swept rear fuselage with large cargo doors and a rear loading ramp, enabling bulky and heavy cargo loads to be carried. In addition, the Cub could also be armed with rearward firing guns as defensive armament. More than 1,200 have been built and the type has also been exported to many countries, especially Soviet allies during the Cold War and has been used extensively both by military forces as well as civilian airlines.. The An-12 was gradually replaced by the jet powered Il-76 "Candid" in the 1970s but some still remain in service. A variant, the Shaanxi Y-8 still remains in licence production in China.

Biggles said in Chapter 12 that he was quite sure he could outrun the "lumbering crate" with his Merlin. In reality the Cub at maximum speed is more than 100 mph faster than the Merlin! For that matter, the Cub is much faster than its Western counterpart the C-130 Hercules. The Russians really make fast turboprop aircraft.


  • Crew: 5: 2 pilots, flight engineer, navigator, radio operator
  • Payload: 20,000 kg (44,000 lb)
  • Length: 33.10 m (108 ft 7 in)
  • Wingspan: 38.00 m (124 ft 8 in)
  • Empty weight: 28,000 kg (62,000 lb)
  • Max. takeoff weight: 61,000 kg (130,000 lb)
  • Useful load: 60 paratroopers (or two BMD-1 armoured vehicles)
  • Engines: 4 × Ivchenko AI-20L or AI-20M turboprops, 3,495 shp (2,490 kW) each
  • Maximum speed: 482 mph (777 km/h)
  • Cruise speed: 415 mph (670 km/h)
  • Range with maximum fuel: 3,450 miles (5,700 km)
  • Range with maximum load: 2,235 miles (3,600 km)


  • Guns: 2× 23 mm cannons in a tail turret (some aircraft only)