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|An Il-78M of the Russian Air Force|
|Role||Aerial refueling tanker|
|National origin||Soviet Union|
|First flight||26 June 1983|
|Status||Active, in production|
|Primary users||Russian Air Force|
Algerian Air Force
Indian Air Force
Pakistan Air Force
|Developed from||Ilyushin Il-76|
Design and development
The Il-78 tanker was developed and designed in the Ilyushin Aviation Complex in Russia. The main reason behind its development was an expansion of the transferable fuel load of an earlier version of tanker, the Il-76.
The Il-78 has a total transferable fuel load of 85,720 kilograms (188,980 lb), which includes 28,000 kilograms (62,000 lb) from a pair of 18,230-litre (4,010 imp gal; 4,820 US gal) tanks in the freight hold. In comparison, the Il-76 has a capacity of only 10,000 kilograms (22,000 lb).
The Il-78 transfers fuel solely through deployment of the probe-and-drogue refueling method.
- The Il-78 was the original production version with two removable fuselage tanks and a maximum transferable load of 85.72 tonnes (188,540 lb).
- Alternative designation for Il-78 due to retention of all cargo handling equipment and convertible freight hold.
- The Il-78M entered service in 1987 as a dedicated tanker equipped with three permanent fuselage tanks, a higher gross weight of 210 tonnes, and no cargo door or cargo handling equipment. The cargo ramp is retained but non-functional. Total fuel capacity is 138 tonnes (303,600 lb), of which 105.7 tonnes (232,540 lb) is transferable.
- Modernization of Il-78/78M aircraft, using same parts as used in newly produced Il-78M-90A and Il-76MD-90A variants, to enhance service life from 30 to 40 years. First modernized aircraft was rolled out on 25 August 2019.
- Il-78M-90A (Il-478)
- An upgraded variant based on the Il-76MD-90A. First prototype was rolled out on 29 November 2017, and performed its maiden flight on 25 January 2018.
- Export version of Il-78M.
- Customized variant of the Il-78ME for the Indian Air Force. These Uzbekistan-built planes are fitted with Israeli fuel transfer systems and can refuel six-eight Sukhoi Su-30MKIs in one mission.
- Multi-role aerial refuelling tanker/transport aircraft, with removable fuel tanks in cargo hold and UPAZ refuelling pods, for the Pakistan Air Force, and Chinese Air Force.
- Angolan Air Force – 1 Il-78 ordered from Ukraine in 2001. Disposed of refueling equipment and rebuilt into the Il-76TD standard.
- Indian Air Force – 6 Il-78MKI in service. The Indian Air Force refers to the aircraft as "MARS" (Mid Air Refuelling System) and has raised a new unit 78 Squadron. India is also considering procurement of six more Il-78 after scrapping deal with Airbus.
- Pakistan Air Force – 4 Il-78MP aircraft were ordered from Ukrainian surplus aircraft stocks, fitted with removable fuel tanks and UPAZ refuelling pods. The first of the four aircraft was delivered in December 2009. A total of four Il-78MPs have been delivered to the PAF as of May 2012.
- Russian Air Force – 7 Il-78 and 12 Il-78M in service[verification needed]
- Soviet Air Forces – aircraft were transferred to the Ukrainian Air Force after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
- Ukrainian Air Force – inherited 21 Il-78 aircraft after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Since 1993, some of the aircraft were disposed of their refueling equipment and used as cargo aircraft, the other ones were sold to Algeria, India, Pakistan and China, where they are used for air refueling operations.
- In 2005, a Ukrainian Il-78 was bought by the North American Tactical Aviation Inc (NATA), an American private company with an aim to operate the aircraft for contracted refuelling to United States military by various companies. The aircraft latter passed under ownership of the Air Support Systems LLC and got an American civilian registration N78GF. Afterwards, it was mothballed at the North Texas Regional Airport, Texas for 2.5 years. In 2009, it departed from the airport with a Ukrainian crew hired by NATA and was heading to the Wittman Regional Airport, Wisconsin to refuel before leaving the U.S. airspace on the way to Pakistan. As a result of a restraining order, the aircraft was diverted to the Sawyer International Airport, Michigan where it is grounded until today. In 2010, the aircraft was purchased by the Temco Industries Inc and in 2012 it was repossessed by the Bank of Utah Trustee.
|Transferable Fuel Load in tons|
- Crew: six
- Capacity: Max 100,000 kg payload (T-6 military jet fuel)
- Length: 46.59 m (152 ft 10 in)
- Wingspan: 50.5 m (165 ft 8 in)
- Height: 14.76 m (48 ft 5 in)
- Wing area: 300 m2 (3,200 sq ft)
- Empty weight: 72,000 kg (158,733 lb)
- Max takeoff weight: 210,000 kg (462,971 lb)
- Special equipment: 3 x UPAZ-1M 'Sakhalin', (Unifitsirovaniy Podvesnoy Agregat Zaprahvki;— standardised suspended refuelling unit), refuelling pods; Two on pylons under the outer wings, and the third on the port side of the rear fuselage.
- Fuel transfer rate: 900 to 2,200 liters/min
- Powerplant: 4 × Aviadvigatel D-30 KP turbofan engines, 118 kN (27,000 lbf) thrust each
- Maximum speed: 850 km/h (530 mph, 460 kn)
- Range: 7,300 km (4,500 mi, 3,900 nmi)
- Service ceiling: 12,000 m (39,000 ft)
- Thrust/weight: 0.23
- Ilyushin Il-76 – Russian heavy military transport aircraft
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
- Vickers VC10 – British narrow-body airliner
- Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker – US military aerial refueling and transport aircraft
- McDonnell Douglas KC-10 Extender – US aerial refueling tanker aircraft
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