The first serial-production Ilyushin Il-76MD-90A (Il-476) strategic transport aircraft has made its maiden flight, the Aviastar-SP production facility announced on 30 December.
Aircraft 0104 flew for more than two hours at Aviastar-SP's Ulyanovsk aircraft factory, about 700 km east of Moscow.
Aviastar-SP said the aircraft's engines, equipment, and general handling were evaluated during the flight.
Following further 'factory tests', the aircraft will be delivered to the Russian Air Force (Voyenno-Vozdushnyye Sily - VVS). The VVS is contracted to receive 39 of the upgraded Il-76MD-90A airlifters. It is understood to have a requirement for up to 100 of the upgraded tankers, as well as 38 Il-76MD-90A-derived Il-478 tankers.
Developed from the Soviet-era Il-76 'Candid', the Il-76MD-90A features a digital 'glass' cockpit as well as modernised flight, navigation, and communication systems.
Structural improvements include a modified wing and reinforced landing gear. The engines have also been updated.
These upgrades give the aircraft a 60-tonne payload (up from 40 tonnes for the baseline Il-76) and a 12% reduced fuel consumption, enabling the Il-76MD-90A to fly up to 8,500 km with a 20-tonne load or 4,100 km with a 50-tonne load.
The Il-76MD-90A development is part of a wider revamp of the VVS's airlift capabilities that should see it replace much of its current Soviet-era stock with new and improved platforms by about 2020.
Besides the Il-76MD-90A, other programmes include the twin-jet Multirole Transport Aircraft (MTA) being co-developed with India; four turboprop Antonov An-70 through co-development with Ukraine; as well as restarting production with Ukraine of the An-124 'Condor'. However, technical, political, and economic problems have afflicted each of these projects to differing extents, calling into question the VVS's ability to field them in the required timeframe.
A different project that should run smoother, as it involves no foreign partners and few technical developments, is the Il-76MDM upgrade programme. Also based on the Il-76, the Il-76MDM involves fitting the same new avionics and systems as the Il-76MD-90A, but instead of being equipped with new PS-90A engines it will retain its original D-30KP powerplant.
This work is being carried out by the VVS's Military Transport Aviation (MTA) maintenance facility in Zhukovsky city, near Moscow, and will not involve Aviastar-SP.
The Il-76MDM upgrade process should increase the service life of 41 of the VVS's current Il-76MD fleet by a further 15 years, but at a third of the cost of buying brand new Il-76MD-90A aircraft.
First serial-production Il-76MD-90A airlifter makes maiden flight - IHS Jane's 360