Tag Archives: Il-76MDM

The State of VTA

News on the Il-76MD-90A program provides an opportunity to look at the state of Russia’s VTA, or Military-Transport Aviation.

il-76md-90a-prototype-prepares-for-takeoff

Il-76MD-90A prototype prepares for takeoff

The Il-76MD-90A is a new aircraft, an updated version of the venerable Il-76 transport produced by the Soviets in large numbers during the 1970s and 1980s.

According to most sources, the VTA is supposed to acquire 39 Il-76MD-90A transports by 2020 [or 2021?].  This may have been slashed to 30, others say.  Manufacturer Aviastar-SP reports it has ten of the aircraft in various stages of assembly.

The new transport was at TsAGI in Moscow recently for static structural testing. Prior to that, it conducted flight tests from the Aviastar-SP production facility at Ulyanovsk-Vostochnyy.

Besides new PS-90 engines, the Il-76MD-90A has an all-glass digital cockpit, new flight controls, navigation, and communication systems.  The airframe and landing gear have been reinforced.  It lifts 60 tons while reportedly consuming less fuel.

The original Il-76 had slightly greater cargo capacity than the U.S. C-141.  It’s critical to the mobility of Russia’s Airborne Troops (VDV) and their air-droppable equipment.  Civilian versions of the Il-76 remain in use worldwide.

At present, VTA may operate about 100 Il-76M or Il-76MD, and perhaps ten An-124 transports.  But the number of operational aircraft could be as low as 60 Il-76 variants and a handful of An-124. 

At the outset of the current GPV in 2011, the air forces hoped to procure 100 or more new and updated heavy transport aircraft.  The current inventory needs complete replacement in the 2020s and early 2030s.  But they have relatively little to show well into 2017.

Together with 39 (or 30?) Il-76MD-90A transports, VTA plans to acquire 30 Il-76MDM aircraft.  It’s a renovated Il-76MD with its original engines but the glass cockpit and other updates from the Il-76MD-90A.

Cooperation with the Antonov design bureau and its production facilities is off the table now that military-industrial ties with Ukraine have been severed. Observers once looked for Russia’s VTA to buy 30-50 An-70 transports and the same number of Il-76MD variants and updates.

They also anticipated that Moscow would buy 20 new An-124 aircraft and modernize quite a few existing ones.  No alternative for replacing the super-heavy transport has been proffered.

The PAK TA (future aircraft system — transport aviation) remains a mirage. Moscow could mobilize Aviastar-SP to renew production of the An-124, but it would require a lot of resources and time, plus the facility will already have its hands full with the Il-76MD-90A, etc.

There is also the question of VTA’s smaller transports which are ancient and in dire need of replacement.  The MOD has settled on procurement of 48 turboprop Il-112V aircraft in GPV 2018-2025 to replace some of its aged An-26 fleet.  This decision came after it abandoned efforts to get Antonov’s An-140.  The Russians reportedly will continue to develop the turbojet Il-214 medium transport despite India’s decision to bow out of the once joint effort.  But there’s little tangible in this program to date.

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Kachalkin on VTA Prospects

General-Lieutenant Viktor Kachalkin

This week marked Military-Transport Aviation’s 80th anniversary, and VTA (or ВТА) Commander, General-Lieutenant Viktor Kachalkin made a variety of comments regarding the branch’s future.

Now relatively little’s been said about this subject.  VVS CINC, General-Colonel Zelin insists VTA’s a priority, but hasn’t ventured numbers or dates for new aircraft.  His deputy, General-Lieutenant Sadofyev’s alluded vaguely to modernization of existing aircraft and acquisition of 50 percent new aircraft.  But nothing more specific.  If VTA is the red-haired stepchild of the Air Forces, at least the VDV loves VTA – loves to hate it, that is.  General-Lieutenant Shamanov and other VDV officers never tire of saying that shortfalls and shortcomings in air transport are turning their branch into no more than elite ground troops.

At any rate, on to what Kachalkin said . . . he hopes new An-70 and deeply modernized Il-76MD90A transport aircraft will enter the VTA inventory starting in 2014.  The latter is an updated Il-76MD with new PS-90A-76 engines.  It also goes by the name Il-476.  In the more distant future, VTA looks toward buying a new An-124-300 variant.  The VTA commander believes all this will translate into “dozens” of new aircraft by 2020.

Kachalkin also plans on the “deep modernization” of existing transports into Il-76MDM and An-124-100 variants.

In a Krasnaya zvezda interview, he sums it up this way:

“If the volumes of new aircraft and deep modernization of the existing aircraft inventory announced in the program [GPV-2020] are assessed, then the growth in VTA capabilities is obvious.”

Later he adds:

“Despite the fact that the service life of the greater part of the current VTA aviation inventory is figured at 2020-2030s, the percentage share of new aircraft will grow steadily.  In this context, the mobility of the Armed Forces will increase overall.”

In his KZ interview, Kachalkin mentioned the impact of the “new profile” on his base structure.  VTA now has only one first rank air base at Tver, which is home to multiple aviation groups using basing locations at Pskov, Orenburg, and Taganrog.  As recently as late 2009, the VTA commander spoke of first rank bases at Tver and Orenburg, and second rank ones at Pskov and Taganrog.

Kachalkin indicated an aviation group of not less than 15-20 VTA aircraft will take part in the upcoming Tsentr-2011 operational-strategic exercise.

A couple contradictory points worth noting were also made this week . . .

Deputy Air Forces CINC, General-Major Viktor Bondarev predicted An-70 purchases in 2012-2013, according to RIA Novosti.  The wire service also reminded readers that Defense Minister Serdyukov has said not before 2015-2016.  One guesses Kachalkin split the difference with 2014.