Air Transportation: September 27, 2003

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The Russian air force has not bought many new transports since 1991, relying mainly on a Cold War era force of Il-76s and An-124s for long range work.. In fact, the Tashkent Aviation Factory, which is where Il-76s have been built, still has 40 uncompleted Il-76s on the premises. These are left over from the Cold War era, when orders were steady and heavy. The Il-76 is somewhat similar in capability to the U.S. C-17, but uses older technology. The Russians still buy stretched versions of the Il-76 (the Il-76MF). This version first flew in 1995, and has become popular with users of earlier Il-76 models. The Il-76MF has better engines and can carry 50 tons of cargo over 4,000 kilometers. Another popular Il-76 is the tanker version (called the Il-78.) In addition to Il-76s, Russia makes extensive use of it's An-124 transports, which are currently the largest in the world. Even the U.S. Department of Defense has leased An-124s for special jobs. In fact, the An-124 is so popular that most of them are used for commercial work. With a max take off weight of 405 tons, as much as 150 tons can be carried. Originally, the An-124 was built for military use, but it proved so popular that many aircraft are being upgraded to extend their life from 7,500 flight hours each to 24,000. Only 46 An-124s were built up to 1999, with 21 in military service and 27 in civilian service. Production still continues, very slowly. Most work on An-124s is to upgrade them. The Il-76 and An-124 aircraft are competitive on the world market, but the Russian reputation for shoddy workmanship and unreliable support keeps sales of new aircraft very low. The Russian air force does not expect to be buying new transports until the next decade. But for the moment, the Il-76 and An-124 provide all the air transport the Russian armed forces require.


 


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