Aviastar SP in Ulyanovsk started manufacturing the first development model of the new Russian Air Force tanker aircraft Il-78M-90A, based on the Ilyushin desing of the modernised airlifter IL-76-MD-90. The assembly of fuselage, wing and center wing units is in progress. The works are performed under the contract with the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation for R&D of an advanced tanker aircraft.
Nice detail: the Il-78M-90A under construction will be the first tanker aircraft ever produced fully in Russia. The older IL-78s (called “Midas” by NATO) currently in service well all produced by the TAPOiCh factory in Uzbekistan.
The new air tankers will feature some of the basics of the airlift cousin: a ramp, parachute equipment and the possibility to house fire-extinguishing equipment (if necessary). This will make their use more flexible. Additional fuel tanks inside the cargo compartment and so-called “unified suspension fuelling units” will bring in the tanker characteristics.
Aviastar/Ilyushin enable the IL-78-M-90A to simultaneously refuel two front-line planes (Su-27, MiG-29) with wing-mounted fuelling units, while the tail unit allows refueling of other aircraft like those used for long-range strike and special-purposes. On the ground the IL-78M-90A is able to simultaneously provide ‘gas’ to four aircraft.
The new tankers will be fitted with four new generation engines PS-90A-76s. Those will enable the planes to take-off quicker or take off with heavier loads, while the fuel consumption is about 12 percent less than the engines of the tankers in use now.
Featured image: An Ilyushin IL-78 Midas landing. Archive photo (Image © Ilyushin)