Tag Archives: IL-78

Russia: long-range bombers at War in Syria

UPDATED 20 November | For the first time the Russian strategic bomber fleet has been waging war in modern combat, launching long-range air strikes against targets / areas in Syria last night.

UPDATE | More footage has appeared of Russian bombers launching cruise missiles or dropping bombs, some of them under the watchful eye of -rather surprisingly – Iranian F-14 Tomcats. See here.

According to the Russian Ministry of Defence the attack fleet last night included 5 Tupolev Tu-160 “Blackjack”, 6 Tu-95MS “Bear”, 14 Tupolev Tu-22M3s “Backfire, 8 Sukhoi Su-34 “Fullback” and 4 Sukhoi Su-27SM “Flanker” all flying in from land-bases in Russia with flights lasting 4 hours and several thousands of miles. With at least the fighter aircraft probably supported by IL-78 “Midas” tanker aircraft.

Cruise missiles

Sources in Western capitals have acknowledged their governments were informed far ahead of the Russian operations this time, which included the launch of 34 cruise missiles. The attacks were concentrated on the Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor areas, as well as Aleppo and Idlib. The Russian planned 127 sorties against 206 targets, with 82 sorties against 140 objectives done. Syrian troops are said to have started a ground offensive about 15 to 25 miles from Idlib.

Latakia Airbase

Part of the Russian Expeditionary Wing based at an Syrian military airbase near Latakia (Khmeymim) also went airborne. The wing now consists of eight fighter-bombers (4 Sukhoi Su-30SMs, 4 Sukhoi Su-34s), 12 strike/bombers of the Sukhoi Su-24M “Fencer” type, 12 close-air support and attack aircraft of the Sukhoi Su-25SM “Frogfoot” type, a dozen Mil Mi-24 “Hind” attack helicopters and 4 Mil Mi-8 “Hip” assault helicopters.

A Tupolev Tu-95 bomber of the Russian Air Force (Image © RAF)
A Tupolev Tu-95 bomber of the Russian Air Force (Image © RAF)
A Tupolev Tu-22M3 of the type that simulated attack on Sweden during Eastern 2013 (Image © Max)
A Tupolev Tu-22M Backfire, an aircraft similar to the western Rockwell B-1B bomber. (Image © Max)
A hyper-modern Russian Su-34 photographed by a RNoAF F-16 crew on an much published intercept in October 2014 (Image © Forsvaret)
A hyper-modern Russian Su-34 photographed by a RNoAF F-16 crew on an much published intercept in October 2014 (Image © Forsvaret)
Archive photo of a Russian Air Force Su-27SM3 performing at the Zhukovsky airshow in August 2012 (Image (CC) Alan Wilson)
Archive photo of a Russian Air Force Su-27SM3 performing at the Zhukovsky airshow in August 2012 (Image (CC) Alan Wilson)

25 extra long-range aircraft

Moscow plans to augment the wing for now with 25 extra long-range aircraft (likely bombers and tanker aircraft), eight Su-34s and four Su-27SMs all operating from land-bases within the Russian Federation on lengthy strike missions to Syria against forces such as ISIL/Daesh.

French warcraft

Apart from Russia, French warcraft bombed targets they say are from ISIL/Daesh as well during the same night in Northern Syria, in what could may have been jointly co-ordinated attacks. France is stepping up its military operations in the area after ISIL has claimed responsibility of the terror attacks in Paris during the weekend. The attacks claimed the lives of at least 129 people. The French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle – with on board Rafale multi-role fighters – is steaming towards the Eastern Mediterranean.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image (top): The Tu-160 (Image © Tupolev)

Production started on IL-78 tanker for Russian Air Force

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.

Source: Ilyushin
Featured image: An Ilyushin IL-78 Midas landing. Archive photo (Image © Ilyushin)

Russia buys large IL-96 tankers

The Russian Ministry of Defence announced on 8 January 2015 that it ordered the state-owned United Aircraft Corporation to produce two four-engine IL-96-400TZ tankers. The order means a small boost for the big aircraft designed by Ilyushin as wide-body airliners, since 29 of the type were produced since production began in the early 1990s.

The IL-96 is mostly known as the official Russian presidential ride, with this IL-96-300PU supplemented by 7 other versions within the government fleet and 2 in production. Cubana is the only remaining airliner flying the type, with 5 in service and 3 on order. Ilyushin holds one aircraft, making the total active fleet 14. Aeroflot replaced its IL-96s with ten Boeing 777-300s. The Russian flag-carrier retained a full Western produced fleet of Airbuses and Boeings until the arrival of the first of up to 50 Sukhoi Superjet 100 in 2011.

Receiving aircraft will be refuelled by the IL-96-400TZs with wing-mounted air-to-air refuelling pods. They will be able to deliver 65 tons of fuel and have a operational range of about 2,200 nautical miles (3,500 km).

The IL-96-400TZ order is the first step in the modernisation of the in-flight “gas company” of the Russian Air Force, which has currently only 20 Ilyushin IL-78s (“Midas”) on strength. That’s still a bleak number compared to the 450 tankers in the US Air Force’s active, reserve and Air National Guard fleets. Plans exist to replace the aging IL-78s – a derivative of the IL-76 strategic airlifter – in due course by a modified version of the much improved and new IL-76MD-90A.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger, including source information of the Russian Ministry of Defence

Ilyushin Il-96-300PU RA-96016, the Russian Presidential aircraft, landing at Moscow-Vnukovo in 2008 (Image (CC) E233renmei)
Ilyushin Il-96-300PU RA-96016, the Russian Presidential aircraft, landing at Moscow-Vnukovo in 2008 (Image (CC) E233renmei)

Air-to-air petrol: Russian style

Of course you have seen loads of images of Western air-to-air refuelling pictures here at Airheadsfly.com. But somehow we missed the Russians a bit doing the same trick. So here they are, thanks to some nice footage released by the Russian Ministry of Defence on 9 December 2014.

It shows pilots of the Russian Central Military District spending some time – about 4 hours to be more precise – up in the yonder flying at 295 to 300 knots at a 30 feet distance of a Ilyushin IL-78 tanker to get petrol in mid-air. The 30 or so crews from air bases in the Chelyabinsk, Perm and Krasnoyarsk regions went up both at day and at night, flying their Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-31BM (“Foxhound”) long-range interceptors and Sukhoi Su-24M (“Fencer”) strike aircraft.

Patrolling a designated part of the Russian airspace, aircraft maintenance and escorting transport aircraft was part of the recent training missions as well.

Source: Russian Ministry of Defence

Related: Backfires and bears over the Baltic Sea

Paired up: a Sukhoi Su-24M and a MiG-31BM photographed in mid-air. Photoreleased on 9 December 2014 (Image © Russian Ministry of Defence)
Paired up: a Sukhoi Su-24M and a MiG-31BM photographed in mid-air. Photoreleased on 9 December 2014 (Image © Russian Ministry of Defence)
A Russian Air Force MiG-31BM catching "the bucket". Image released on 9 December 2014 of recent in-flight refuelling training (Image © Russian Ministry of Defence)
A Russian Air Force MiG-31BM catching “the bucket”. Image released on 9 December 2014 of recent in-flight refuelling training (Image © Russian Ministry of Defence)
A Sukhoi Su-24M ("Fencer") on a snowy airbase of the Russian Central Military District (Image © Russian Ministry of Defence)
A Sukhoi Su-24M (“Fencer”) on a snowy airbase of the Russian Central Military District (Image © Russian Ministry of Defence)
A Russian Air Force Su-24M getting fuel in mid-air during a training exercise in December 2014 (Image © Russian Ministry of Defence)
A Russian Air Force Su-24M getting fuel in mid-air during a training exercise in December 2014 (Image © Russian Ministry of Defence)

NATO: ‘significant’ Russian military flights over Europe

The Su-34 strike aircraft, NATO reporting name Fullback (Image © Sukhoi)
Russian Su-34  Fullbacks were seen in European skies over the last two days.  (Image © Sukhoi)

It’s a return the former times as NATO forces detected and intercepted various groups of Russian military aircraft over the Baltic Sea, North Sea, Atlantic Ocean and Black Sea on Tuesday 28 and Wednesday 29 October 2014. The Russian operations represent an unusual level of air activity over European airspace and are described by NATO as ‘significant military manoeuvers’.

In the very early hours of Wednesday 29 October, NATO radars detected and tracked eight Russian aircraft flying in formation over the North Sea in international airspace. Royal Norwegian Air Force F-16 aircraft, presumably from Bodø airbase, scrambled, intercepted and identified the Russian aircraft, which included four Tu-95 Bear H strategic bombers and four Il-78 air-to-air tankers. Two Tu-95 Bear H bombers eventually continued south-west, heading down the Norwegian coast. The Russian aircraft continued over the North Sea, by which time Typhoon fighters from the United Kingdom scrambled in response.

The Bears continued down over the Atlantic Ocean and ended up west of Portugal, where the two Russian aircraft were intercepted and identified by Força Aérea Portuguesa F-16s from Monte Real airbase. The Russian aircraft then finally turned back heading north-east, flying to the west of the United Kingdom and back towards Russia.

A Tupolev Tu-95 bomber of the Russian Air Force (Image © RAF)
Tupolev Tu-95 bomber of the Russian Air Force… (Image © RAF)
Strike a pose! Portugal operates a few dozen F-16s, of which 15108 was delivered in the mid-nineties. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
… were intercepted by Portuguese Air Force F-16s twice on Wednesday. Once over the Atlantic, and once over the Baltic Sea. (Image © Dennis Spronk)

Black Sea
Also on Wednesday 29 October, NATO radars spotted four Russian 2 Tu-95 Bear-H bombers and 2 Su-27 Flanker fighter jets flying over the Black Sea in international air space. Turkish Air Force fighter aircraft intercepted the Russian aircraft and NATO continued to track them in international airspace.

Baltic Sea
It doesn’t end there. Russian aircraft – two MiG-31 Foxhounds, two Su-34 Fullbacks, one Su-27 Flanker and two Su-24 Fencers – were seen flying over the Baltic Sea in international airspace, including  Portuguese F-16 Fighters assigned to the Baltic Air Policing mission were scrambled in response and the Russian aircraft returned to Russian airspace.

Tuesday
One day earlier, on Tuesday 28 October, another flight of seven Russian combat aircraft was detected while flying in international airspace over the Baltic Sea.  These also included Foxhounds, Fullbacks , Flankers and Fencers. German Typhoon fighter jets from NATO’s Baltic Air Policing Mission intercepted these flights, while Denmark and non-NATO members Sweden and Finland also sent up fighter aicraft.

A MiG-31E Foxhound against the background of its motherland (Image © Mikoyan Gurevich)
A MiG-31E Foxhound against the background of its motherland. Several of these were met over the last few days…. (Image © Mikoyan Gurevich)
A German Eurofighter EF2000. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
…. by German Eurofighter Typhoons. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

According to NATO, the Russians did not file flight plans or maintain radio contact with civilian air traffic control authorities. They were also not using on-board transponders. This could pose a risk to civil aviation as civilian air traffic control cannot detect these aircraft or ensure there is no interference with civilian air traffic.

Source: NATO