Russia Revives Large Airlifter Design Work

 - January 28, 2016, 9:06 AM
This is how the Il-106 looked when first revealed by the Ilyushin design bureau 25 years ago. (Photo: Ilyushin)

The Ilyushin design bureau has resumed work on a very large, four-engine airlifter that was first drafted in the late 1980s. The move comes after support for the Russian air force fleet of An-124 Ruslan heavy airlifters by the Antonov design bureau ended, as a result of the poor relations between Russia and Ukraine.

The Il-106 was originally meant to be a replacement for the aging An-22 turboprop heavy airlifter. Work commenced in 1987, and a draft design was completed in 1992, but funding shortages halted further progress.

But recently, Ilyushin general manager Sergei Velmozhkin told Russian TV that “the Il-106, a new airlifter being developed in Russia, shall be able to land on unpaved runways…this machine is going to be huge, [able to carry] a payload of 80 to 100 tons. Unlike previous designs, it shall be able to land on unprepared runways.” He said that the new aircraft was in the An-124 class.

Ilyushin general designer Nikolai Talikov also confirmed that a big airlifter is being developed. “We can speak about it seriously by 2022-2023” after design work is complete, he said.

The Il-106 was resumed after the Russian defense ministry requested the industry develop what it calls “Perspective Aviation Complex of Military Transport Aviation.” Subsequently, in late 2014/early 2015, United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) came up with a number of proposals, including the “Ermak project.” Details remained scarce until sources within Ilyushin began speaking of the Il-106 program resumption.

A scale model of the Il-106 appeared briefly at Ilyushin stands during airshows a quarter century ago. It revealed a classic ramp-airlifter design bearing resemblance to the Il-76 and An-124, but with winglets and a relatively wider and shorter fuselage. With a length of 58 meters (190 feet), and a wingspan of nearly 60 meters 197 feet], the Il-106 would have a maximum takeoff weight of 258 metric tons (569,000 pounds), and an empty weight of 135 metric tons (298,000 pounds). Cruise speed would be 820-850 km/h [442-460kt], and typical range would be 5,000 km (2,700nm). Field performance: takeoff and landing lengths between 1,400 and 1,550 meters (4,600 to 5,100 feet). The six-meter-wide cargo cabin (about 20 feet) would have a length of 34 meters (111.5 ft) and height of 4.6 meters (15 feet).

Power was to have come from four Nikolai Kuznetsov NK-92 ducted-fan engines each developing 18 metric tons of thrust (39,700 pounds)and developed for record-low fuel burn. Coupled with good lift qualities of the wing (area 370 sq m), these design elements were expected to delivermarkedly lower fuel burn on the Il-106 compared with the previous generation of Soviet airlifters.

Since neither the NK-92 nor its derivative NK-93 has been completed, the reborn Il-106 must have another engine. Most likely, it would be an up-rated version of the PD-14 engine from Aviadvigatel design house. The baseline PD-14 was developed for the Irkut MC-21 airliner, and is now on the brink of flight test on an Il-76 flying testbed.