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
Algerian 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 strategic airlifter.

Design and development[edit]

IL-78M from 203rd Guards Air Refuelling Regiment

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.[2]

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).[2]

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 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.[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 at the Aviastar-SP facility in Ulyanovsk.[5] It performed its maiden flight on 25 January 2018.[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.
  • Pakistan Air Force – 4 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.[17][18] A total of four Il-78MPs have been delivered to the PAF as of May 2012.

Former operators[edit]

 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.[13][25]
    • 106th Heavy Bomber Aviation Division – Uzyn Air Base, Kiev Oblast[23]
      • 409th Aviation Regiment of tanker aircraft[24]
 United States
  • In 2005, an 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 an 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 acquired by the Bank of Utah Trustee.[26][27][28]

Refuelling Capability[edit]

Transferable Fuel Load in t[29][30][31]
Distance Il-78 Il-78M
1000 km 42 74
2000 km 24 56
3000 km 15 40

Specifications (Il-78M)[edit]

Data from Ilyushin,[32] UAC,[33]

General characteristics

  • Crew: six
  • Capacity: Max 100,000 kg payload (T-6 military jet fuel)[34]
  • 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. ^ "Il-78 Production Numbers". AeroTransport Data Bank.
  2. ^ a b "IL-78 Midas Air-to-Air Refuelling / Transport Aircraft". Airforce Technology. Retrieved 27 December 2018.
  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. ^ a b "World Air Forces 2018". Flightglobal Insight. 2018. Retrieved 16 December 2018.
  13. ^ a b "Судьба украинских самолетов-заправщиков Ил-78". 3 September 2016. Retrieved 28 January 2019.
  14. ^ "Transport / Tanker Aircraft". SinoDefence. Archived from the original on 2014-04-17. Retrieved 2014-04-23.
  15. ^ Sputnik (2 August 2016). "India considers buying Russian IL-78 after ending Airbus deal". Retrieved 2 August 2016.
  16. ^ "Ильюшин Ил-78 Бортовой №: 5A-DLL". Retrieved 28 January 2019.
  17. ^ "Pakistan Receiving IL-78 Refueling aircraft". Defense Industry Daily. 2008-12-08. Retrieved 2009-07-24.
  18. ^ "First aircraft tanker arrives in Pakistan: PAF". GEO Pakistan. December 19, 2009. Archived from the original on April 16, 2010.
  19. ^ " наша авиация". Retrieved 16 December 2018.
  20. ^ "43rd Center for Combat Employment and Retraining of Personnel DA". Retrieved 28 January 2019.
  21. ^ "43rd Center for Combat Application and Training of Aircrew for Long Range Aviation". Retrieved 28 January 2019.
  22. ^ "203rd Guards Orlovskiy Heavy Bomber Aviation Regiment". Retrieved 28 January 2019.
  23. ^ a b "106th Heavy Bomber Aviation Division im. 60th anniversary SSSR". Retrieved 28 January 2019.
  24. ^ a b "409th Aviation Regiment of tanker aircraft". Retrieved 28 January 2019.
  25. ^ "Ил-78 на Украине". Retrieved 28 January 2019.
  26. ^ "Il-78M Midas Ukraine". Retrieved 16 December 2018.
  27. ^ "N78GF Aircraft Registration". Retrieved 16 December 2018.
  28. ^ "FAA Registry for N78GF". Retrieved 16 December 2018.
  29. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-11-04. Retrieved 2012-11-02.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  30. ^ "Ил-78МКИ - ОАО "Ил"". Retrieved 2 August 2016.
  31. ^ "Ил-78 - ОАО "Ил"". Retrieved 2 August 2016.
  32. ^ [1]Ilyushin.
  33. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-11-04. Retrieved 2012-11-02.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)UAC.
  34. ^ 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]