Russia has flown its first prototype A-100 Airborne Warning And Control System (AWACS) aircraft based on the upgraded Ilyushin Il-76MD-90A (Il-476) airframe, it was announced on 20 November.
The A-100 Premier, as the Ministry of Defence (MoD) of the Russian Federation named it, made its maiden flight out of the Taganrog Aviation Scientific and Technical Complex (TANTK), located near the Sea of Azov in the far west of the country. According to the MoD, all of the aircraft’s systems, including those associated with the rotating dorsal rotodome, were checked-out during the flight ahead of further trials.
This first flight milestone came three years after Russia’s TASS news agency announced that the first Il-76MD-90A airframe had arrived at the TANTK facility for conversion into the A-100 AWACS configuration in 2014, and six years after plans to do so were first disclosed in 2011.
While few details pertaining to the A-100 have been released, it has been revealed that it will be built around an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, as opposed to the mechanically scanned radar of the current A-50 (NATO reporting name ‘Mainstay’) that it is intended to eventually replace. Jane’s has previously reported that this new AESA will probably be the JSC REC ‘Vega’ Premier radar that is scanned mechanically in azimuth and electronically in elevation. State media said that this radar can detect airborne targets out to 600 km, and ships out to 400 km.
While the AESA radar will provide a dramatic improvement in the platform's ability to detect and track both airborne and land-based targets, as well as making for a more reliable and easier to maintain solution, the move to the Il-76MD-90A airframe will bestow advantages from the new avionics (reduced crew workload), and improved fuel efficiency (cheaper to operate, and with increased time on station).
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