The third Beriev/Ilyushin A-50U, the most updated version of the Russian AWACS, has been delivered to the Russian Air Force on Wednesday 25 March 2014.
The aircraft (aka as Mainstay by NATO) was officially handed over at the Taganrog Aviation Scientific & Technical Complex factory airfield, where it was named Sergei Atayants – the man who oversaw the creation of the A-50 construction. After the ceremony the plane’s crew took off to Ivanovo Severny Airbase, where all A-50s are based.
The A-50U standard is also known as No. 37. It gives the plane a more powerful radar, better power systems, new avionics, newer computers and a satcom system. The new radar can detect multiple air and surface targets and relay this information to other air and ground stations.
Although the aircraft is officially named the Beriev A-50U, the airframe is basically a modified Ilyushin IL-76 airlifter. The Russian Air Force hopes to upgrade another 20 to 23 aircraft from its inventory to the No. 37/U status. The first U-version came into service in 2011. Earlier this month the Russian Air Force forwarded one of its A-50s to Belarus, in a reaction to NATO putting up its AWACS aircraft to monitor Ukrainian airspace.
Source: Russian Ministry of Defence with additional reporting by AIRheads’ editor Marcel Burger