The new plane, named Il-78M-90A, successfully took to the skies for the very first time on January 25. The plane was designed by the Ilyushin Aviation Complex and manufactured by Aviastar-SP in the city of Ulyanovsk.
It has become the very first aerial tanker produced in Russia since the demise of the Soviet Union, as the plant which used to manufacture earlier models of Il-78 remained in Uzbekistan. While the new Il-78M-90A bears a strong resemblance to its predecessors, the plane basically retains only its old airframe, featuring entirely new equipment. The machine is based on the modern Il-76MD-90A transport planes, also manufactured by the Ulyanovsk plant.
The new plane is fitted with new wings and modern PS-90A-76 engines, which are more powerful and some 14 percent more fuel-efficient than those of the Soviet-era models. The new machine therefore boasts a larger flight range and can carry more juice to refuel other planes. The Il-78M-90A has also retained an important perk from the original Il-78, as it can easily be converted into a general-purpose transport plane in the field. The aircraft can also be fitted with fire-extinguishing equipment.
The tanker can simultaneously refuel two smaller jets, such as Su-30s or MiG-35s, as well as one larger, long-range plane while airborne. When it is on the ground, the Il-78M-90A can refuel up to four other machines.