Tag Archives: Military-Transport Aviation

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.

Frontal, Army Aviation to OSK Commanders

Air Forces CINC, General-Colonel Aleksandr Zelin had many announcements yesterday on the eve of his service’s holiday, but none more interesting than the not-completely-surprising news that frontal and army aviation will transfer from the Air Forces to be directly subordinate to Russia’s four new ‘operational-strategic commands.’

Zelin said:

“The Air Forces will remain a service of the Armed Forces, its Main Command [Glavkomat or Главкомат] will continue functioning, the transfer of four Air Forces and Air Defense commands [i.e. armies] to the commanders of the new military districts — Western, Southern, Central and Eastern is planned.”

“Frontal and army aviation is transferring to the commanders of these districts and, accordingly, to the unified strategic commands.  As regards the aviation component of the RF strategic nuclear triad — Long-Range Aviation, it, like Military-Transport Aviation and the Operational-Strategic Command of Aerospace Defense [ОСК ВКО] will remain immediately subordinate to the Air Forces CINC.”

So what’s happened?

After years of lobbying, army aviation is leaving the Air Forces, but not exactly returning to the Ground Troops.  It is, however, returning to a Ground Troops-dominated environment in the OSKs.

The OSKs look more and more like U.S.-style unified, combatant commands, and the RF armed services like force providers.  

One supposes that the Air Forces, like the Navy, will have to continue playing a very large role in developing doctrine, tactics, acquisition, training, and operations and maintenance of frontal aviation at least, and probably army aviation as well. 

Zelin had more fragmentary comments on this subject.  The Air Forces CINC will retain:

“. . . immediate authority to direct combat training of all aviation and air defense forces, development of all directive documents, and also material-technical support.”

“This entire system is arranged just to optimize command and control and concentrate the main forces and means in the troops [i.e. OSKs].”

He added that these measures must:

“. . . prevent theft and waste of material and financial means and guarantee their strict centralization.”

One wonders how aspects of this ‘material-technical support’ (MTO) role for the Air Forces CINC will track with General-Colonel Bulgakov’s new MTO empire in the increasingly civilian Defense Ministry.