Tanker and UAV developments


THE RUSSIAN MoD is considering an order for no fewer than 14 Ilyushin Il-78M-90A tankers, with delivery of the aircraft stretching out to 2027. This was announced by the Russian deputy minister of defence, responsible for the procurement, Alexey Krivoruchko, during his visit to the Aviastar-SP plant in the city of Ulyanovsk. He hinted of a long-term contract, with the possibility of increasing the number of aircraft ordered.

Placing the production order, however, will be subject to a positive result of the type’s flight testing. The first Il-78M-90A built at Aviastar-SP, based on the design of the Il-76MD-90A transport, was rolled out on November 29, 2017, and made its maiden flight on January 25, 2018.

Expectation is the first phase of the test programme, the so-called flight-design testing, carried out by Ilyushin, will be completed by the year-end, after which the aircraft will be handed over to the Russian Air and Space Force (RuASF) to undergo the much more comprehensive state flighttesting effort. The Il-78M-90A programme has incurred a serious delay; according to the original plan, the first aircraft was to take to the air in 2016.

The Il-78M-90A is intended for the RuASF Long-Range Aviation branch, used mainly for refuelling Russia’s two main strategic bomber types – the Tu-95MS Bear and Tu-160 Blackjack – in addition to refuelling RuASF and Russian Naval Aviation special-mission and tactical combat aircraft on an asneeded basis.

Two removable tanks in the cargo hold carry 50 tonnes of aviation fuel transferred to the receiver aircraft by three newly developed Zvezda UPAZ-1M refuelling pods with a higher transfer rate of 3,000 litre/min.

Krivoruchko also announced the RuASF is set to receive three Il-76MD-90A new-generation transports for the RuASF’s Military Transport Aviation branch this year. To date, two initial-production aircraft have been delivered – one in 2015 and another one in 2016 – while none was delivered in 2017. The announcement represents a change to the original production plan at Aviastar-SP, which called for five aircraft this year.

Krivoruchko confirmed there are ongoing talks for the Il-76MD- 90A’s procurement contract amendment with the United Aircraft Corporation (UAC), the parent company of Ilyushin and Aviastar-SP. Such an amendment is set to address the price and some technical parameters as the original procurement contract for 39 aircraft, dating back to October 2012 and priced at RUB 140 billion, has rendered the Il-76MD-90A’s production a loss-making business for UAC.

Katran maiden flight

The Katran vertical take-offand landing UAV system is among the latest development programmes by Russian Helicopters. Developed in secret during 2016 and 2017, Katran was shown in public for the first time during the military parade in Moscow on May 9, 2018. According to Anatoly Serdyukov, head of the aviation cluster of Rostec industrial conglomerate (the parent company of Russian Helicopters), the Katran is currently undergoing ground testing and is due to commence flight testing in the autumn, a programme slated for completion in 2019.

The air vehicle uses coaxial rotors and is based on the design of the Rotorfly flight helicopter, powered by a Rotax piston engine. Its maximum take-offweight is 450kg (992lb), the payload is up to 150kg (331lb) and maximum speed is 81kts (150km/h), with an endurance of up to four hours.

The programme is being undertaken by the KumAPE plant in Kumertau, a subsidiary of Russian Helicopters, and calls for two air vehicles ordered by the Almaz- Antey Corporation, set to act as the main contractor for the Katran system, which also comprises a sophisticated truck-mounted ground control station.

The main potential customer for the Katran is the Russian MoD, but to date no order has been placed. Katran’s principal role is reconnaissance with an additional proposed attack mission using flightweight guided missile; the air vehicle has already been displayed with two tube-launched missiles suspended under its fuselage.

The RuASF fleet of Il-76MD-90A transport aircraft is set to increase. Aviastar-SP is due to deliver three new aircraft by the end of the year.
Alexander Mladenov
The Il-78M-90A tanker seen in mid-July after the initial part of its design testing at Ulyanovsk.