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.
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