Air Platforms

Russia marks maiden flight of Il-78M-90A tanker

26 January 2018
A screenshot taken from a video of the first flight of the Il-78M-90A tanker, which took place on 25 January. Source: UAC

The maiden flight of the new Ilyushin Il-78M-90A aerial refuelling tanker for the Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) took place on 25 January.

The 35-minute flight took place out of the Aviastar-SP production facility located in Ulyanovsk, approximately 600 km east of Moscow.

The Il-78M-90A (previously referred to as the Il-478) is based on the new Il-76MD-90A (Il-476) transport aircraft, which is itself a modernised version of the Soviet-era Il-76 ‘Candid’ airlifter. The new tanker version shares the avionic, structural, and powerplant improvements of the upgraded transport aircraft.

These enhancements include a digital ‘glass’ cockpit as well as modernised flight, navigation, and communication systems. Structural improvements comprise a modified wing and reinforced landing gear. The engines have also been updated, giving the aircraft a 60-tonne payload (up from 40 tonnes for the baseline Il-76/78) and a 12% reduced fuel consumption.

The VKS is expected to buy 34 of the new tankers to replace its current Il-78s. The Il-478 can carry 91 tonnes of fuel in its main tanks, plus another 36 tonnes in an auxiliary tank in the cargo hold to give 127 tonnes of transferable fuel.

Want to read more? For analysis on this article and access to all our insight content, please enquire about our subscription options at

(210 of 393 words)