September 10, 2005
Once more, China has come to the rescue of a dying Russian defense industry. Previously, order from China had rescued manufacturers of Russian warplanes and warships. Now China is paying $1.5 billion for 38 Il-76 transport planes and Il-78s (tanker versions of the Il-76). Based on the older American C-141, the Il-76 is actually manufactured in Uzbekistan.
That's because one of the Russian aircraft plants moved east during the German invasion of 1941, ended up in Central Asia, a part of the Soviet Union that became independent Uzbekistan in 1991. The Chkalov Tashkent Aircraft Production Company is the only one still manufacturing the Il-76. Over 900 Il-76s were manufactured over the last thirty years, with nearly a hundred exported, so far, mainly to Cuba, Iraq, China, India, Libya and Syria.
After ten years of development, and selling, the latest version, the Il-76MF is finally in production. This model has a payload of 60 tons, and a cargo compartment that is 50 percent larger than earlier models. With a full load, the aircraft can fly 4,200 kilometers. Carrying 20 tons, it can go 8,500 kilometers. Four of the new model are under construction, for Russian buyers. The Chinese order will keep the Chkalov plant going for several years, and will make it easier to sell the new models to other customers. Although the aircraft is built in Uzbekistan, some 90 percent of the components come from Russia.