Russian defence minister Anatoly Serdyukov and United Aircraft president Mikhail Pogosyan signed a contract on 3 October to equip the Russian air force with 39 Il-76MD-90A airlifters. An extensively reworked version of Ilyushin's 40-year-old Il-76 design, the model features replacement Perm PS-90A-76 engines, a Kupol-M avionics suite from Kotlin-Novator and a new glass cockpit.
The contract was signed at the Aviastar-SP plant in Ulyanovsk, following a 10min demonstration flight of the first prototype Il-76MD-90A, which was witnessed by Russian President Vladimir Putin. The aircraft had made its flight debut from the site on 22 September (below).
"I am sure this airplane will be in demand and its series production will bring about a considerable portfolio of orders for Aviastar-SP," Putin said. Worth 140 billion roubles ($4.5 billion), the award is the largest of its kind placed by Moscow in the past 20 years, he noted.
Putin said he has instructed Russia's defence and finance ministries "to issue all necessary governmental guarantees for the enterprise", to ensure Aviastar-SP can handle both governmental and commercial orders for the Il-76MD-90A. "This new airplane is indeed the one that is much needed today," he said.
Sources suggest that Russia hopes to receive a large order for an export version of the transport from China, which already operates "classic" Il-76s and had previously sought to buy 60 more. That deal fell through because of the inability of the TAPO plant in Uzbekistan, which built about 1,000 Il-76s, to continue cost-effective series production. This prompted Moscow to establish a second production line in Ulyanovsk for the improved variant, with work having begun in 2005.
Aviastar-SP has already produced a ground-test airframe, and is now working on its first three deliverable examples. State acceptance trials should commence in 2014 with two production aircraft, with the air force also planning to retrofit 43 of its in-service Il-76s with PS-90A-76 engines. The activity is expected to extend the type's service life by 10-15 years.
Compared with the legacy Il-76TD/MD, the -90A variant offers a 10% lower fuel burn, and has an increased maximum take-off weight of 210t. The new aircraft will have a range of 2,700nm (5,000km) with a 52t payload, and can also be operated from paved and unpaved runways with an elevation of up to 9,840ft (3,000m).
Aviastar-SP also hosted a governmental meeting devoted to forming a consolidated order for passenger and cargo aircraft and military transports up to 2020.