An Ilyushin IL-76 equipped as water bomber (Image © Russian Ministry of Defence)

Russia fields strategic water bombers in Siberia

With Winter turning into Spring many countries face the challenge of wildfires. Russia is no exception, where part of the emergency response is done by standard strategic airlifters: the Ilyushin IL-76TD and its cousins.

Three of these have lately been involved in extinguishing fires in Siberia, using VAP-2 spray tanks and installation. The Russian Emergency Response Ministery (MCHS Rossii) has the lead in these missions. The IL-76TD got support from an Russian Air Force IL-76 “Candid”, plus from the MCHS fleet two Beriev BE-200s amphibious firefighters, two Mil Mi-8 helicopters and a single big Mil Mi-26 helicopter. All combined they dropped 700,000 litres of water with the Air Force Candid providing a fifth of the anti-fire power.

The great thing with the big converted airlifters is that they are also used to transport necessary equipment, fire suppression substances and food/aid supplies to areas struck by the fires, about 100 tons in the case of recent the Siberian operations. By combining a relatively environmental-friendly retardant powder (OS-5) with 2.8 times more water the flames can be fought more effectively, while the powder increases the effect of the water on the ground and thereby reducing the number of sorties needed to combat the hazard.

Fire-fighter planes have been busy, with responding to wildfires in the Buryatia region earlier. Russia has been fielding the IL-76s in the fire-fighting role since 1992, with the design started in 1989. The current VAP-2 spray tank systems consists of two cylindrical tanks with each 21,000 litres capacity. The system is attached to the floor of the cargo compartment and can be rolled out/in the Candids by a wheeled trailer.

It takes about 1.5 to 2 hours to load and secure the fire-fighting system in the plane. About 25 minutes is used to fill the tanks once they’re in the plane. Typical drop altitudes are between 150 and 320 feet, with each retardant/water load taking about 6 to 8 seconds to be released onto the fire. The VAP-2 system is already compatible with Russia’s new IL-76MD-90A aircraft, without the need of any modifications.

Russia’s MCHS Rossii and Russian Air Force fire-fighting IL-76s are known to fly from the Pskov, Taganrog, Tver and Orenburg Airbases.

2015 editor Marcel Burger, based on source information by Ilyushin Aircraft Company
Featured image: An Ilyushin IL-76 equipped as water bomber (Image © Russian Ministry of Defence)