Russia’s United Aircraft has approved a plan to produce two aerial refuelling tankers, based on the Ilyushin Il-96, for the country’s armed forces.

The aircraft is being designated as the Il-96-400TZ, signalling its derivation from the -400T freighter variant.

Voronezh-based airframer VASO built only a small number of the freighters, initially intending delivery to Aeroflot but subsequently handing the aircraft to cargo carrier Polet.

Il-96-400T Polet - AirTeamImages


Russia's defence ministry states that it has agreed to acquire two Il-96-400TZs under a contract with United Aircraft.It says the aircraft will be able to transport over 65t of fuel across a range of 1,900nm (3,500km).

The Il-96 will be equipped with the Zvezda UPAZ-1 aerial refuelling system, which has been previously proven on the Il-78 tanker flown by the Russian air force.

United Aircraft says it has approved a state contract to build and deliver the two aircraft.

In a previous board meeting, held earlier this month, the company said it had reached an agreement with lessor Ilyushin Finance covering the purchase of a single Il-96-400T formerly used by Polet.