Russia is reported to have just over 115 IL-76 medium-heavy strategic transport planes, but they’re leftovers from the Soviet era. On Oct 1/12 they unveiled the modernized “IL-476” variant, and within days Russia’s Defense Ministry had signed a RUB 140 billion contract to begin recapitalizing the VVS fleet, alongside the 60 AN-70 medium tactical transports ordered in August 2012.
The order also launches the IL-476 as a competitor in the global medium-heavy transport market. Production of Ilyushin’s design will be undertaken by state-owned UAC’s Aviastar subsidiary in Ulyanovsk.
UAC’s releases refer to IL-76MD-90A aircraft, and the 2 designations can be used interchangeably. The IL-476 has a number of similarities to the new civil IL-76TD-90VD, with quieter and more efficient Aviadvigatel (Perm) PS-90A-76 engines, modern digital avionics and navigation suites, plus a modernized wing design that includes a modified fuel system, reinforced landing gear, and a reinforced body for military missions. Payload has reportedly increased to around 52t/ 57.3 tons, with a range of about 5,000 km fully loaded.
Compared to previous IL-76 aircraft, the IL-476 reportedly offers an 18% boost to range, a 12% improvement in fuel consumption, better performance in hot temperatures and high altitudes, and a 10.6% improvement in cargo load. It also reportedly complies with international noise and emission standards, which affects the routes it can be certified to fly.
This level of performance places them well above competitors like the 35t+ capacity Airbus A400M turboprop, but below the more expensive Boeing C-17’s 77.5t capacity. On the other hand, the C-17’s production line is expected to shut down within a few years, leaving the global medium-heavy market to the IL-476, Airbus A400M, AN-70, and China’s new Y-20.
In August 2011, RIA Novosti reported that future buys are expected to bring the IL-476’s Russian orders to about 100 planes over time, with another 50 planes expected as exports.
In the past, Russian IL-76 prices have even allowed them to compete with medium airlifters like the C-130. Russia’s problem has been their reputation for poor reliability, and poor service. So far, Russian officials have acknowledged IL-476 talks with India and China. Both countries already use the IL-76 family, but India has just begun supplementing its fleet with Boeing’s C-17s, and China has just introduced its own Y-20.
Contracts & Key Events
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Nov 21/14: A-100 AWACS. Russia’s fleet of about 20 A-50 Airborne Early Warning & Control (AWACS) jets is based on the IL-76, but they’re developing a new AWACS that will be based on the IL-476. The A-100 will feature a more advanced advanced active phased array radar, in place of the older Liana that equips the A-50.
The Beriyev Aviation Scientific-Technical Complex (TANTK) has now received its 1st IL-476/ IL-76MD-90A, and will begin the conversion process shortly. At present, there are 13 IL-76 family aircraft in various stages of production at Aviastar, whose projects include the new Sukhoi 100 passenger aircraft and modernization of Russia’s AN-124 fleet to AN-124-100 “Ruslan” status. Sources: ITAR-TASS, “Russia to develop new AWACS aircraft based on IL-76MD-90A plane”.
July 4/14: The 1st serial production IL-476 transport is painted, and given the name “Ulyanovsk” to mirror its factory’s location. Russia’s Scientific-Research Institute of Aviation Materials (VIAM) had to develop a couple of new paint types for the new plane. Sources: Aviastar-SP, “The Painting Of The First Serial IL-76MD-90A Transport Aircraft Is Finished”.
June 16/14: The 1st serial production IL-476 is rolled out for painting at Aviastar’s Ulyanovsk plant. Sources: Aviastar-SP, “The First IL-76MD-90A Production Airplane Was Delivered For Painting”.
Feb 21/14: Maidan. Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych is deposed and flees Kiev, shortly after signing an extensive economic cooperation agreement with Russia. The move was very unpopular in the Ukraine, and his ouster was preceded by mass demonstrations involving many thousands of people. By Feb 23/14, offsetting pro-Russian protests in the Crimea begin a domino effect of their own.
As of November 2014, Russia has annexed Crimea and its naval base in Sevastopol, and is waging and supporting undeclared war that is slowly pushing the Ukraine’s eastern border back. The eventual goal appears to be a land bridge to Crimea, and control over at least some of the Ukraine’s heavily industrialized eastern centers, which have substantial populations of ethnic Russians.
Russia was already leaning toward the IL-476 as its future transport, (q.v. Feb 11/13), but the invasions push the Ukraine to stop all defense cooperation with Russia, effectively placing the AN-70 in limbo and leaving the VVS with no alternative but the IL-476.
Oct 4/13: A year after the new type’s 1st flight and launch contract (q.v. Oct 4/12), Aviastar offers some updates:
“This year the aircraft has completed pre-schedule the first stage of demonstration flight-factory tests. After what the aircraft was delivered to the Ministry of Defense to carry out national united tests. To the mid of the year 2014 all of the planned testing program… will have been completed…. “Nowadays our assembly capacities allow production of 6-8 aircraft per year already. According to the tasks, that were given us by the United Aviation Corporation (???), we are supposed to produce 18 aircraft kit per year to the year 2018″, – noted [Aviastar] director… Sergey Dementiev.”
Sources: Aviastar-SP, “IL-76?D-90? : One Year In The Sky”.
Feb 11/13: Russia’s VVS may be about to recommend withdrawal from the AN-70 program, in favor of the new IL-476 jet transport:
“The Russian Air Force is preparing to brief against the country’s proposed acquisition of the An-70 transport aircraft, according to Russian media reports…. drew particular attention to production delays in the programme, with production models of the aircraft still not ready for static testing…. also cited criticisms about the aircraft’s wings, developed in the 1980s and built by the now-defunct Tashkent Aircraft Production Organization (TAPO) based in Uzbekistan; the electronic control systems; and avionics.
The first An-70 fuselage was completed in December 2012, but work at the Russian plant in the city of Kazan has yet to commence. The delays have caused concerns in Russia…”
If Russia’s political leadership terminates their 60-plane order, it would probably spell the end of the AN0-70 project, and remove a global competitor to the IL-476. See
IHS Jane’s | Flight International.
Feb 5/13: +9 Russia? VVS MTA commander Col. Gen. Vladimir Benediktov says that the force will receive a total of 48 IL-476 heavy transport planes by 2020, rather than the 39 announced by all of the parties concerned.
RIA Novosti appears to be the only source for this report.
Jan 28/13: Testing. Aviastar SP announces that their IL-76MD-90A has performed its 1st major flight test from Ulyanovsk-Vostochny, after it had been painted and all its systems and equipment had been checked and tested. The flight lasted 4 hours 25 minutes, and future test flights will take place from Zhukovsky, near Moscow.
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Nov 30/12: Competition. China orders 10 used IL-76s from Russia’s arms vendor Rosoboronexport as an interim measure. Sergei Kornev, head of Rosoboronexport’s aviation equipment department, tells AIN that the follow-on IL-476 is being offered to China, and also to India.
China would later go on to unveil its own Y-20 heavy jet transport, reportedly powered by the same D30K engines that equip the IL-76. The IL-476’s much-improved PS-90A-76 engines would certainly be helpful as templates for boosting China’s own “WS-20” engine development efforts. A small order for IL-476s would secure them, but China could also ask for a direct engine sale. Or poach engineers as Russia moves to consolidate its aviation work. Or take a leaf from the Americans, and hope the civilian CJ-1000A engine being developed for China’s C919 passenger jet succeeds as a military crossover play. AIN | WSJ China RealTime Report re: Y-20 | Flight International re: Y-20.
Oct 4/12: Contract. Russia’s Defense Ministry signs a RUB 140 billion (about $4.5 billion) contract for 39 IL-476s, to begin recapitalizing the VVS MTA’s fleet. Deliveries are expected to run from 2014 through 2020.
This contract would equate to about $115 million per plane, but the VVS will also be paying for spares, training infrastructure and training for the new aircraft, and other initial fielding costs. The contract is signed on the same day as the new type’s 1st flight.
They IL-476s will serve in the future Russian air force alongside the 60 AN-70 medium tactical transports ordered in August 2012, and UAC expects about 59 more IL-476 orders from Russia over time. UAC | RIA Novosti | RIA Novosti follow-up.
1st flight & initial order: 39 for Russia
Oct 1/12: Rollout. The IL-476 is formally presented by Minister for Industry Denis Manturov, after performing 2 short test flights. Note that some of the statistics in this article, especially percentage improvements, are contradicted by official sources. The IL-476 does offer improvements, but the figures are different. Pravda.
* Aviastar SP – IL-76MD-90A.