Russia upgrades very strategic asset within its air force
As part of an ongoing service-wide modernization program, Russia has upgraded a strategic asset within its air force to increase the range and strike potential of combat aviation.
According to a report disseminated via the TASS news agency, the Il-78M airborne refueling tanker aircraft currently in service with the Russian air force has been upgraded to a new standard, the Il-78MD-90A.
The new prototype of Il-78MD-90A has been completed – it includes wide-vision glass cockpit, four modern PS-90A-76 engines, a modified wing and a reinforced chassis which allows the aircraft to carry more fuel and fly for longer itself.
The report by TASS went on to mention that a number of state trials (military testing) had to be completed before the new aircraft model goes into full serial production and then active service.
The trials are expected to end by 2021 at which point the introduction process can begin.
At the present time, the Russian air force has about 20 Il-78M aerial tanker aircraft – a relatively small fleet compared to the USAF airborne refueling fleet which comprises hundreds of tankers within dozens of squadrons.
In recent years Russia upgraded its strategic airlift fleet of aging Il-76 cargo aircraft to the Il-76MD-90A standard of which 39 planes were ordered.
The new Il-78MD-90A is essentially the same upgrade model for the tanker version of the Il-76.