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Russia’s advanced aerial refueling tanker performs debut flight

The perspective aerial refueling plane boasts an increased flight range thanks to its four new-generation engines

MOSCOW, January 25. /TASS/. Russia’s latest Ilyushin Il-78M-90A aerial refueling tanker has performed its debut flight, the Ilyushin Aircraft Company told TASS on Thursday.

"Today, on January 25, the flight model of the Il-78M-90A perspective aerial refueling plane performed its first flight. The plane was piloted by Ilyushin Chief Pilot, Hero of Russia, Merited Test Pilot of Russia Nikolai Kuimov," the company said in a statement.

Vice-President of the United Aircraft Corporation and CEO of the Ilyushin Aircraft Company Alexei Rogozin said that some foreign partners were showing interest in the latest aerial refueling tanker.

"Today the upgraded Il-78M-90A aerial tanker performed its first flight, which lasted 35 minutes. The new plane differs from its predecessor by its modified wing, new engines and the control system, and also has a large lifting capacity and a big volume of fuel carried aboard. The plane has been developed for Russia’s Aerospace Force but some of our foreign partners are also showing interest in the tanker," Rogozin said.

New aerial refueling tanker

Russia’s improved aerial refueler modification is derived from the latest Il-76MD-90A military transport plane while its designing, the development of design documentation and its production were carried out using modern digital technologies.

The perspective aerial refueling plane boasts an increased flight range thanks to its four PS-90A-76 new-generation engines and can take a larger amount of fuel on its board for aircraft refueling compared to previous models. These engines consume 12-14% less fuel than D-30KP motors mounted on earlier modifications of aerial fueling tankers.

Besides, the latest refueler features a completely new aircraft navigation system and also an all-glass cockpit, which helps reduce the crew workload and enhance flight safety.

The aircraft is furnished with three hose and drogue air refueling pods: two units on the outer wings and one on the right side of the rear fuselage. The Il-78M-90A will be capable of refueling two frontline aviation planes at a time. The tail unit allows refueling long-range and special aviation aircraft. On the ground, the Il-78M-90A can simultaneously refuel four planes.

"The latest Il-78M-90A aerial refueling tanker has retained its capability as a military transport plane. Re-equipping won’t require a large volume of work and can be carried in aerodrome conditions. If necessary, fire-fighting equipment can be mounted on it," the company said.

First Russia-assembled Il-78 plane

The Ilyushin Aircraft Company is the principal developer of the new aerial refueling tanker while its producer is Aviastar-SP enterprise.

Serial-produced aerial refueling tankers will be assembled at the Ulyanovsk-based Aviastar-SP where work is currently underway to install a final assembly line for Il-76MD-90A heavy military transport planes and Il-78M-90A refuelers.

The new plane will be the first aerial refueling tanker produced in Russia. Before that, all Il-78 aircraft were assembled in Uzbekistan.