The Russian defense ministry awarded United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) a launch order for 39 Il-476 heavy airlifters, also referred to as the Il-76MD-90A. The move is partially designed to convey program assurance to potential customers in China and India. These countries already operate “classic” Il-76s. The new version can transport a 114,500-pound payload over a range of 2,700 nm.
On a separate occasion earlier this month, Ilya Federov, general director of engine-maker NPO Saturn, confirmed a Chinese order for 184 D-30KP turbofans, the engine that powers the existing Il-76. Some of the aircraft are in service in China. The contract is reported to have been signed in November 2011 and validated in February 2012.
Fedorov said the contract value is over $1.5 billion, with deliveries due to be completed by 2016. China is known to have been installing D-30KPs into refurbished H-6 bombers (locally made Tupolev Tu-16s) to extend their range. Russian officials try not to acknowledge this fact. China also attempted production of reverse-engineered D-30KPs under the designation of WS-18, but so far their use has been limited due to reliability issues.
The launch order for the Il-476 was placed on October 3, when President Vladimir Putin visited the Aviastar plant in Ulianovsk. After witnessing a demonstration flight by the first flying prototype, the Russian president said that the Rouble 140 billion ($4.5 billion) contract is expected to be followed by foreign sales. He especially mentioned China as a potential client for the renewed Il-76.
“Some six years ago we were talking to our partners in the Asian countries, including the People’s Republic of China. They were ready to buy from us some 50 airplanes. I am sure this new airplane will be in demand both in Russia and our potential partners abroad,” Putin said.
Putin said that the Ilyushin design house began “working in earnest” on a new airlifter derived from the Il-76 platform in 2005. This happened after “long talks with our partners and friends in Uzbekistan” (the final assembly line for the Il-76 was established at the Tashkent Aircraft Production Organization in Soviet times). “Unfortunately, we did not manage to come to terms, due to economic issues. Hence we finally made this decision to set up a new manufacturing line at the Ulyanovsk plant,” Putin continued.
Improvement of the original design included development of a new wing and onboard systems. The Il-476 features Aviadvigatel PS-90A-76 high-bypass engines each producing a thrust of 35,300 pounds, replacing the less powerful (26,450-pound-thrust) and efficient D-30KPs. The Il-476 also has improved avionics including a glass cockpit. It promises a 10- to 15-percent reduction in fuel burn over the Il-76, and greater payload through an increase in maximum takeoff weight, to 463,000 pound. The first operable prototype flew on September 22. State acceptance trials should commence in 2014 with two production aircraft.