Ilyushin Il-78

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Ilyushin Il-78M inflight.jpg
An Il-78M of the Russian Air Force
Role Aerial refueling tanker
National origin Soviet Union
Manufacturer Ilyushin
First flight 26 June 1983
Introduction 1984 (Il-78)
Status Active, in production
Primary users Russian Air Force
Ukrainian Air Force
Indian Air Force
Pakistan Air Force
Produced 1984–present
Number built 53[1]
Developed from Ilyushin Il-76

The Ilyushin Il-78 (Russian: Илью́шин Ил-78; NATO reporting name Midas) is a Soviet four-engined aerial refueling tanker based on the Il-76.

Design and development[edit]

IL-78M from 203rd Guards Air Refuelling Regiment

The Il-72 Tanker was developed, and designed in the Ilyushin Aviation Complex in Russia. The main reason behind the development of the Il-78 was an expansion of the transferable fuel load of an earlier version of tanker, the Il-76.[2]

Compared to the 10,000 kg transferable fuel load of the Il-76, the Il-78 is equipped with two 18,230 lb. tanks in the freight hold. This allows an transferable load of 85,720 kg.[citation needed]

Operational history[edit]

All Russian Air Force Il-78s are now part of the special 203rd "Orlovski" Regiment of aerial tankers, based at Dyagilevo (air base).[citation needed]


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.[3]
The Il-78M entered service in 1987 as a dedicated tanker equipped with three permanent fuselage tanks, a higher gross weight of 210 tons, 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.[4]
Il-78M-90A (Il-478)
An upgraded variant based on the Il-76MD-90A. The first prototype was rolled out on 29 November 2017.[5] It had its maiden flight on January 25, 2018 at an Aviastar-SP facility in Ulyanovsk.[6]
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.[7][8]
Multi-role aerial refuelling tanker/transport aircraft, with removable fuel tanks in cargo hold and UPAZ refuelling pods, for the Pakistan Air Force,[9][10] and Chinese Air Force.[11]


An Ilyushin Il-78 simulating aerial refuelling with a Tu-95MS during the Victory Day Parade in Moscow on 9 May 2009.
IAF's Ilyushin Il-78 provides mid-air refueling to two Mirage 2000 fighter planes.
Il-78MKI in service with the Indian Air Force
A Pakistan Air Force Il-78 at Istanbul Atatürk Airport in 2013.

As of March 2009, more than 34 Il-78s were in operation.[1]

  • Pakistan Air Force - four Il-78MP aircraft were ordered from Ukrainian surplus aircraft stocks, fitted with removable fuel tanks and UPAZ refuelling pods.[9][10] The first of the four aircraft was delivered in December 2009.[14][15] A total of four Il-78MPs have been delivered to the PAF as of May 2012.
 United States
  • One former Ukrainian aircraft was imported into the United States with an aim to operate the aircraft for contracted refuelling to United States military by various companies, by 2012 the aircraft was registered to the Bank of Utah.[18][19]

Refuelling Capability[edit]

Transferable Fuel Load in t[20][21][22]
Distance Il-78 Il-78M
1000 km 42 74
2000 km 24 56
3000 km 15 40

Specifications (Il-78M)[edit]

Data from Ilyushin,[23] UAC,[24]

General characteristics

  • Crew: six
  • Capacity: Max 100,000 kg payload (T-6 military jet fuel)[25]
  • 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 (528 mph; 459 kn)
  • Range: 7,300 km (4,536 mi; 3,942 nmi)
  • Service ceiling: 12,000 m (39,000 ft)
  • Thrust/weight: 0.23

See also[edit]

Related development

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era



  1. ^ a b "Il-78 Production Numbers". AeroTransport Data Bank. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ IL-78 Midas Air-to-Air Refuelling / Transport Aircraft, Russia[unreliable source?]
  4. ^ Gordon, Yefim; Kommissarov, Dmitriy (2002). Ilyushin Il-76, Russia's Versatile Airlifter. Midland. ISBN 1-85780-106-7. 
  5. ^ "В Ульяновске выкачен первый самолет-заправщик Ил-78М-90А". 30 November 2017. Retrieved 1 December 2017. 
  6. ^ Jennings, Gareth (January 26, 2018). "Russia marks maiden flight of Il-78M-90A tanker". Jane's Information Group. The maiden flight of the new Ilyushin Il-78M-90A aerial refuelling tanker for the Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) took place on 25 January. The 35-minute flight took place out of the Aviastar-SP production facility located in Ulyanovsk, approximately 600 km east of Moscow. 
  7. ^ Mukherjee, Amit (September 29, 2004). "IAF to get 5th IL-78 refueller soon". The TImes of India. 
  8. ^[permanent dead link]
  9. ^ a b Ansari, Usman (3 November 2008). "Pakistan Eyes Boost in Transport, Lift". Defense News. [permanent dead link]
  10. ^ a b "Pakistan Receiving IL-78 Refuelling aircraft". Defense Industry Daily. 2008-12-08. Retrieved 2009-07-24. 
  11. ^ "中国空军急需空中奶妈 新曝伊尔-78非最强版". 2014-03-27. Retrieved 2014-03-27. 
  12. ^ "Transport / Tanker Aircraft". SinoDefence. Archived from the original on 2014-04-17. Retrieved 2014-04-23. 
  13. ^ Sputnik (2 August 2016). "India considers buying Russian IL-78 after ending Airbus deal". Retrieved 2 August 2016. 
  14. ^ "Pakistan Receiving IL-78 Refueling aircraft". Defense Industry Daily. 2008-12-08. Retrieved 2009-07-24. 
  15. ^ "First aircraft tanker arrives in Pakistan: PAF". GEO Pakistan. December 19, 2009. Archived from the original on April 16, 2010. 
  16. ^ ru:203-й гвардейский авиационный полк
  17. ^ "Ukraine — Air Force Equipment". 
  18. ^ "FAA Registry for N78GF". FAA. Retrieved March 21, 2010. 
  19. ^ " - Aviation Photography, Discussion Forums & News". Retrieved 2 August 2016. 
  20. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-11-04. Retrieved 2012-11-02. 
  21. ^ "Ил-78МКИ - ОАО "Ил"". Retrieved 2 August 2016. 
  22. ^ "Ил-78 - ОАО "Ил"". Retrieved 2 August 2016. 
  23. ^ [1]Ilyushin.
  24. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-11-04. Retrieved 2012-11-02. UAC.
  25. ^ Pike, John. "Il-78 MIDAS". Retrieved 2 August 2016. 


  • Gordon, Yefim (2004). OKB Ilyushin: a history of the design bureau and its aircraft. Ian Allan. ISBN 1-85780-187-3. 

The initial version of this article was based on material from It has been released under the GFDL by the copyright holder.

External links[edit]