A new take on an old workhorse, the Ilyushin Il-476 has passed all its tests. The major modernization of the classic Il-76 four-engine transport plane, still used in 38 countries worldwide, is airborne at last.
The long-anticipated air transport has extended range, payload and a fully-computerized airborne system.
The long-anticipated turboprop has finally made its first flight, though six months behind schedule. The aircraft is designed to become the Russian Air Force’s main strategic air-lifter and, like its predecessor the Il-76, is expected to be used extensively as a commercial freighter.
The preorder for the air-lifter from the Russian military alone reaches 100 aircraft, Dmitry Rogozin, deputy prime minister in charge of the military-industrial complex, told the audience at the Russia Calling annual investment forum.
“We’ve put the Il-476 into the air. It is 70 per cent newer than previous versions. It has a new composite wing, new powerplant [engines PS-90A-76] and digital electronics. In fact, this is a new aircraft – and it will have great civilian uses too,” Rogozin reported.
The Il-476 has an advanced aircraft navigation system, sophisticated avionics, new landing mechanisms and computerized cockpit, featuring revolutionary windshield glazing. The aircraft more fuel-efficient and its operation range has been increased by 25 per cent. The payload of the new Ilyushin is 60 tonnes – 20 per cent more than the older Il-76.
The deputy PM specified that production of the aircraft is fully localized in Russia, whereas the Il-76 in Soviet times was assembled in the Republic of Uzbekistan, at the Tashkent Aviation Production Association. After the fall of the Soviet Union, the aircraft factory in Tashkent quickly deteriorated, halting production in 1997.
In 2006, a decision was made to transfer the production of the future transporter from Tashkent to Ulyanovsk. The relocation of the production line has created new jobs and spurred the modernization of the Aviastar aircraft factory, which now has brad new assembly-line for the construction of the Il-476.
Reportedly, apart from the initial two Il-476s that took part in testing, the factory has already started production of four more planes.
The Ilyushin Il-476 has large export potential. Starting from 2009, when construction of the first testing aircraft was only initiated, India began negotiating a contract for six of the planes. Now that the transport aircraft is set to undergo final testing, China, a traditionally large market for Russian aircraft, will also likely express interest in the new air-lifter.