Russia eyes Il-96-400 as tanker

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Russia could acquire an in-flight refuelling version of the Il-96 in its 2006-15 procurement plan, says Ilyushin director general Viktor Livanov. “A feasibility plan for developing and manufacturing a tanker based on the Il-96-400T is being discussed. Technically, the development of the new tanker is not complicated, and there is a demand for increasing the Russian air force tanker fleet.”

Russia’s air force command has long been dissatisfied with its fleet size of just 20 Il-78/78M tankers used to support its Tupolev Tu-22M3, Tu-95MS and Tu-160 strategic bombers (Flight International, 4-10 January). It plans by 2010 to have sufficient aircraft available to support its upgraded Sukhoi Su-27SM fighters, which will be capable of in-flight refuelling.

Powered by four Perm PS-90A1 engines, the Il-96-400 meets international noise-abatement, pollution and flight-safety requirements and can be flown by two crew. But the development of an Il-96-based tanker is at a basic stage and financing remains unclear.

  •  Preparations for testing a modernised Tu-160 bomber with new mission equipment and improved cockpit are nearing completion in Kazan, says Tupolev.

HOWARD GETHIN / MOSCOW