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|An Il-78M of the Russian Air Force|
|Role||Inflight refuelling tanker|
|First flight||26 June 1983|
|Status||Active, in production|
|Primary users||Russian Air Force
Ukrainian Air Force
Indian Air Force
People's Liberation Army Air Force
Pakistan Air Force
|Developed from||Ilyushin Il-76|
Design and development
The Il-76 tanker was conceived as long ago as 1968, but the transferable fuel load for the initial version was only 10 tonnes, which was insufficient, so development was shelved. When the higher performance Il-76 became available the tanker project was restarted in 1982 as the Il-78.
In addition to the increased fuel load of the late model Il-76, the Il-78 has two removable 18,230-liter fuel tanks installed in the freight hold, giving transferable loads of 85,720 kg (188,980 lb) (with hold tanks) or 57,720 kg (127,250 lb) (without). Controlled from the gunner station, which is stripped of military equipment, three aircraft can refuel in flight simultaneously from the UPAZ-1A (Il-78) / UPAZ-1M (IL-78M) 26m refuelling pods fitted to the outer wings and rear fuselage. In addition, four aircraft can also be refuelled on the ground using conventional refuelling hoses extending from the freight hold. Because of the aircraft's high all-up weight after take-off, which in an emergency would mean landing at weights well in excess of maximum allowable landing weight, the Il-78 has a fuel jettison system with jettison ports at the wingtips.
Soon after the Il-78 passed acceptance tests in 1984, Ilyushin was instructed to design and produce an upgraded version to be known as Il-78M. The Il-78M is a dedicated tanker and cannot be converted back to the transport role easily. Adding a third freight hold tank increased transferable fuel to 105,720 kg (233,070 lb) and maximum take-off weight (MTOW) to 210,000 kg (460,000 lb), necessitating reinforcement of the wing torsion box. UPAZ-1M refuelling pods improved maximum fuel flow to 2,900 l/min  (638 Imp gal/min). Because the Il-78M is not "convertible", all cargo handling equipment was removed and cargo doors were deleted, saving approximately 5,000 kg (11,000 lb) in structural weight.
Early versions of the Il-78 have the fuselage pod mounted on a short horizontal pylon, but the Il-78M has the fuselage pod suspended from an identical pylon to the wing pods, attached to a short stub wing. This modification was served to isolate the pod from turbulence generated by the fuselage, with the added benefit of commonality with the wing pod/pylon combination. Some Il-78s were produced with Aeroflot colours and civilian registrations, but production Il-78Ms received military markings, registration and colour scheme.
The majority of the twenty Il-78 aircraft of the Ukrainian Air Force have been permanently converted to pure transports, freight hold tanks and refuelling equipment being removed.
- The Il-78 was the original production version with two removable fuselage tanks and 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 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.
- Il-78M-90A (Il-478)
- Based on the Il-76MD-90A. Prototype will delivery to 2015.
- 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 6-8 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.
As of March 2009, more than 34 Il-78s were in operation.
- Indian Air Force - 6 Il-78MKI (As of February 2014[update]). The Indian Air Force refers to the aircraft as "MARS" (Mid Air Refuelling System) and has raised a new unit (No 78 Sqn).
- According to a Debkafile 22 July 2015 report, the Islamic Republic of Iran has ordered 100 Il-78's in order to expand the operational range of their air force in the Middle East. This is controversial for both Iran and Ilyushin, as this is a violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1747 arms embargo.
- 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 4 Il-78MPs have been delivered to the PAF as of May 2012.
- Russian Air Force - 19 aircraft in the 203rd Guards Air Refuelling Regiment, which is based in Dyagilevo.
- One former Ukrainian aircraft was imported in to 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.
|Transferable Fuel Load in t|
- Crew: 6
- 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 (528 mph; 459 kn)
- Range: 7,300 km (4,536 mi; 3,942 nmi)
- Service ceiling: 12,000 m (39,370 ft)
- Thrust/weight: 0.23
- Related development
- Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
- "Il-78 Production Numbers". AeroTransport Data Bank.
- IL-78 Midas Air-to-Air Refuelling / Transport Aircraft, Russia
- Gordon, Yefim; Kommissarov, Dmitriy (2002). Ilyushin Il-76, Russia's Versatile Airlifter. Midland. ISBN 1-85780-106-7.
- Первый опытный образец самолета-топливозаправщика на базе Ил-476 будет готов к 2015 году
- Mukherjee, Amit (September 29, 2004). "IAF to get 5th IL-78 refueller soon". The TImes of India.
- Ansari, Usman (3 November 2008). "Pakistan Eyes Boost in Transport, Lift". Defense News.
- "Pakistan Receiving IL-78 Refuelling aircraft". Defense Industry Daily. 2008-12-08. Retrieved 2009-07-24.
- "中国空军急需空中奶妈 新曝伊尔-78非最强版". www.huanqiu.com. 2014-03-27. Retrieved 2014-03-27.
- "Transport / Tanker Aircraft". SinoDefence. Retrieved 2014-04-23.
- "Israeli Media: Iran Wants to Buy 100 Russian Tanker Aircraft". Sputnik News. 22 July 2015.
- "Pakistan Receiving IL-78 Refueling aircraft". Defense Industry Daily. 2008-12-08. Retrieved 2009-07-24.
- "First aircraft tanker arrives in Pakistan: PAF". GEO Pakistan. December 19, 2009.
- ru:203-й гвардейский авиационный полк
- "Ukraine — Air Force Equipment". GlobalSecurity.org.
- "FAA Registry for N78GF". FAA. Retrieved March 21, 2010.
- Photo of N78GF at airliners.net
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