The Ilyushin Il-76 has been the most important transport aircraft in the Russian Air Force inventory since the 1970s. Production has restarted after a two-decade hiatus on an updated version of a type that has also served as a tanker, early warning platform and civilian freighter, among other duties. Piotr Butowski examines the type’s history.
Sergei Ilyushin and his team were tasked in 1966 with designing a transport aircraft capable of carrying 72,753lb (33,000kg) over 3,107 miles (5,000km) when taking-off from an unprepared runway. The US Lockheed C-141A Starlifter of 1963 significantly inspired the design of the Il-76 and the prototype, CCCP-86712, took-off on March 25, 1971 piloted by Eduard Kuznetsov. Two months later the aircraft appeared at the 29th Paris Air Show at Le Bourget. On May 8, 1973 the first series production aircraft built in Tashkent, Uzbekistan flew for the first time. About 80 of the initial version have been built.