Russian aircraft manufacturer Ilyushin conducted the first flight of an upgraded Il-76MD-M airlifter on February 28. Chief test pilot Nikolai Kuimov headed the design bureau’s crew for the flight, which was uneventful.
The Il-76MD-M is a mid-life upgrade of the four-engine Il-76MD airlifter. The flight-test aircraft, registered as RF-76746, was reworked at Ilyushin’s flight-test facility in Zhukovsky near Moscow. The design bureau plans to complete flight tests later this year and use RF-76746 as the prototype to upgrade 40 Il-76M/MDs now in service with the Russian air force.
Ilyushin is performing the work under contract to the Russian defense ministry. The latter also plans to fund a similar upgrade on a still undetermined number of Il-78M tankers.
The TAPO factory in Uzbekistan built nearly a thousand Il-76M/MDs and delivered the last airlifter in 1992. Forty will be upgraded to the MD-M standard over the next 12 years.
The MD-M upgrade targets the youngest part of the Il-76M/MD fleet—mainly those airframes with the longest remaining service life. The upgrade features a modern avionics suite, a new radio communications set and a self-protection system. The aircraft keeps its original Soloviev D-30KP2 engines. Its service life is extended by 10 years to 40 years.
Some of the MD-M onboard systems are replaced with systems developed for the new Il-76MD-90A transport, which is being produced by the Aviastar factory in Ulianovsk. As of late February, the Russian air force had accepted two of the 39 Il-76MD-90As it has ordered; a third was undergoing acceptance trials. Aviastar will deliver the -90A model through 2021.
Another Il-76MD upgrade solution that centered on replacing the D-30KP engines with Aviadvigatel PS-90A-76 turbofans has been scrapped due to cost. One aircraft, designated Il-76MD-90, underwent flight trials and later provided a testbed for the Il-76MD-90A project. “There will be no massive replacement of D-30KP engines by the newer PS-90A on in-service aircraft,” Ilyushin general designer Nikolai Talikov told AIN.