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Russian Air Force to receive new batch of Ilyushin Il-76MD-90A transport aircraft.

| 2023

According to Russian social media, Rostec is planning to deliver a new batch of Il-76MD-90A military transport aircraft to Russian troops by the end of 2023. This aircraft is a modernized version of the original IL-76, and several units are currently in various stages of readiness at the Aviastar plant in Ulyanovsk, which is a part of Rostec's United Aircraft Corporation (UAC). This progress was recently reviewed by the Russian Minister of Defense, Sergei Shoigu, during his visit to the facility, which might indicate a priority, possibly in response to the Ukrainian attack on the Pskov airfield that led to the destruction of several IL-76s.

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IL 76MD 90A 925 001   Ilyushin Il-76MD-90A transport aircraft (Picture source: Rostec)

Minister Shoigu's visit had multiple objectives, including an inspection of the Il-76MD-90A production and oversight of the repair and maintenance of the An-124-100, another important component of Russia's heavy transport aircraft fleet. These heavy transport aircraft, undergoing repairs and modernization, will have the option of two engine types: the modernized D-18T and the PD-35, aimed at improving performance and capabilities.

Aviastar, located in Ulyanovsk, has achieved a stable rate of serial production of heavy transport aircraft and has secured orders for the future. Efforts are ongoing to expand production capabilities, focusing on increasing aircraft production volumes.

Minister Shoigu emphasized the significance of this task, given the increased workload of military transport aviation due to a special military operation. He noted that the workload has nearly doubled compared to the most intense periods of the Soviet Union, highlighting the need to maintain and expand the aircraft fleet, including the latest Il-76 modification, to ensure the readiness and effectiveness of military transport aviation.

During this visit, discussions also covered the state and prospects for the development of military transport aviation in light of these increased demands. Minister Shoigu stressed the need to make decisions regarding the replacement of older light transport aircraft with heavier ones, specifically the Il-76MD-90A and the AN-124-100. The production of these aircraft will be accelerated, and modernization efforts will be intensified to meet the growing requirements of the Russian military.

The IL-76MD-90A, which has the unofficial name "Humpy" for the shape of its fuselage, is a military transport aircraft developed by Russia's PJSC "Aviation Complex named after S.V. Ilyushin." It represents a comprehensive modernization of the original Il-76 aircraft, with development efforts dating back to 2006 and completion in 2009. After receiving government approval, Aviastar-SP began preparations for serial production in 2009. The first flight prototype took to the skies in September 2012, following rigorous testing and serial production commenced in 2015.

The modernization of the IL-76MD-90A includes various key improvements, such as a 20% weight reduction in the wing's power structure, the installation of powerful PS-90A-76 engines, reinforced landing gear, and comprehensive updates to the radio-electronic and navigation systems. The aircraft is designed for interregional troop transport, heavy equipment conveyance, cargo logistics, and airdropping of personnel and equipment, offering the capacity to transport a wide range of weapons and military equipment used by Russian airborne forces. It is manufactured at the Aviastar plant in Ulyanovsk.

The IL-76MD-90A has a length of 46.6 meters, a wingspan of 50.5 meters, a height of 14.7 meters, a maximum take-off weight of 210 tons, an empty weight of 88.5 tons, and a maximum load capacity of up to 60 tons with a 321m³ cargo compartment. It can carry up to 109,000 liters of fuel for long-range missions.

Powered by four PS-90A3 engines, each capable of delivering a maximum thrust of 156kN, the IL-76MD-90A has a cruising speed of 780-850 km/h and a minimum speed of 220 km/h. The range varies depending on the cargo load, ranging from 4,000 km with a 60-ton load to 9,700 km with no cargo onboard. The aircraft operates with a crew of 5 people and can transport up to 126 soldiers.

In August 2023, Russian authorities confirmed a drone attack on a military airfield within Russian territory, which likely resulted in the destruction of four Ilyushin Il-76MD transport aircraft. The Russian government accused Ukraine of orchestrating drone strikes in multiple Russian regions, with a significant attack occurring at an air base in Pskov, near the borders of Latvia and Estonia.

The attack on the Pskov airfield caused multiple explosions and a large fire, resulting in damage not only to the military transport aircraft but also to ammunition and fuel supplies. Fortunately, there were no reported casualties in the drone attack.

Eyewitness accounts and social media videos showed several Il-76 aircraft engulfed in flames on the runway. The Ilyushin Il-76, a strategic and tactical transport aircraft with a rich history, has been widely used not only in Russia but also in various other countries. It has been a cornerstone of Russian aviation since its inception in 1971, with over 960 units built to date.

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