Tashkent Production Plant TAPO, Ilyushin and CFM International (CFMI) have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) covering development of an Ilyushin CFM56- powered Il-76MF freighter.

The agreement calls for the potential launch of the programme by the end of the year, pending the sale of "at least five" aircraft, according to CFMI president Gérard Laviec.

The MoU covers the supply of CFM56-5C4s. The Franco-US powerplants would replace the indigenous Perm PS-90As.The Russian engines are rated at 35,275lb (157kN) thrust, compared with the CFM56 variant's 34,000lb (151kN).

Full launch will "depend on whether there will be a genuine customer or not", says Laviec, who adds that as many as 20 suitable stretched "MF" airframes are available for modification immediately. The marketing effort for the programme will be conducted by a joint Ilyushin/TAPO/CFMI team, with the Russian airframe designer taking the lead.

The agreement also covers the re-engining of standard Il-76 airframes, he adds.

CFMI will supply off-the-shelf engines, nacelles, thrust reversers and strut attachments based on the equipment in production for the Airbus A340. The only significant new investment required by the US-French company will be the development of new engine control software.

The group has agreed not to attempt to secure US Federal Aviation Administration or any other Western certification, believing that the cost and delays involved would outweigh any marketing advantages. "It is for a niche market," says Laviec, who expects that the outsize cargo capability and austere field performance of the re-engined freighter will create new markets in Asia, the CIS and the Middle East.

Source: Flight International