Production of the Ilyushin Il-96 could continue for nearly a decade to support the Russian military's requirements for an aerial tanker and other special missions, United Aircraft (UAC) chief executive Yuri Slyusar has disclosed.

Continued production of the four-engined widebody also offers a reprieve for the Voronezh Aircraft Production Association (VASO), a UAC subsidiary since 2007. The future of VASO has been in doubt since the conflict between Ukraine and Russia raised questions about the plant's continued access to rights to build the Antonov An-148, a regional airliner designed and also manufactured in Kiev.

Resuming Il-96 production in Voronezh means the 80-year-old aircraft plant will remain in operation, Slyusar told reporters yesterday at the MAKS air show. VASO produced passenger-carrying Il-96s until UAC withdrew the type from the market in 2009, allowing only the freighter version to continue in production.

In January, the Russian defence ministry awarded UAC a contract to build the first two Il-96-400TZ tankers, with the capability of transferring up to 65t of fuel using OPCD-1 refueling pods already developed for Il-78 tankers.

Source: Cirium Dashboard