On December 27th, the Russian Ministry of Defense’s official Zvezda TV published an exclusive sneak-peak at final stage of testing of the IL-78M-90A Aerial Refuelling Tanker.
Engine racing is a necessary part before the first test flight. During it, the operation of all internal systems is inspected. First of all – the engine starting system, secondly – the proper launch of all other systems of the aircraft, all onboard systems and the navigation equipment.
The engine start and operation are recorded by a computer and analyzed by special software. For the purpose, there are test blocks, specifically installed on the aircraft that conduct the test and gather the necessary information. After the engine racing begins, the analysis of all of the air tanker’s systems also begins.
Furthermore, the emergency escape system is also inspected. It is through it that the crew is evacuated in the case of an incident or another emergency scenario. The opening and closing of the side doors are also inspected. In the case of an emergency, they can also be used to evacuate the aircraft.
In the final phase of the engine racing, the engine runs at maximum throttle, during which the total thrust is approximately 60 tons (at maximum engine performance).
The IL-78M-90A is equipped with a digital glass cockpit, which provides a 360-degree view of the surroundings by integrating multiple electronic flight instrument displays and modern computer systems, which reduce the crew workload and enhance mission safety. All of these are tested.
The test pilot, Vladimir Irinarkhov described the system as elevating control to a “new level,” providing “new opportunities,” mostly “ease of use.”
An ARLO A-100 “Premier” aircraft is also being developed, based on the IL-78M-90A, which made its first flight in November 2017. 10 aircraft have been manufactured since production began. The first one took flight on October 4th, 2012, while the last one on December 22nd, 2018.
Airforce Technology provided a look at the specifics of the IL-78M-90A Aerial Refuelling Tanker. In short, it is based on the IL-76MD-90А military transport aircraft. It has an enhanced propulsion unit and modern avionics, it can be used to provide aerial refuelling for the long-range, front-line and special mission aircraft.
“The IL-78M-90A aerial refuelling aircraft is 46.6m-long, 14.76m-high, and has a maximum take-off weight (MTOW) of 220t. Its payload capacity has been increased to transport large volumes of fuel.
The wing assembly has been modified to incorporate two modern fuel tanks with a total capacity of 111,940l. The wing area and wing spans are 300m² and 50.5m respectively. The tanker accommodates six flight crew members.
The fuselage has a diameter of 4.8m and is configured to carry approximately 50,300l of fuel, while a large cargo ramp at the rear enables airdropping. The modular airframe can be converted to support other roles such as fire-fighting and cargo transportation.
The aircraft is outfitted with reinforced nose and main landing gear to support the increased maximum take-off weight (MTOW).”
In terms of refueling capabilities, the tanker carries a total of 3 UPAZ-1M hose and drogue refueling pods, two of which are mounted on the main wings and the third one is on the right side of the rear fuselage. The fuel transfer speed of the UPAZ-1M pod is between 2,300 L and 3,000 L per minute.
“The wing-mounted pods allow inflight refuelling of two frontline aircraft such as MiG-29/35 and Su-27/30/34/35 simultaneously using TNA-150M turbo-pump unit, while the rear-mounted pod allows for the refuelling of a long-range or special aviation aircraft.
The aircraft has the ability to refuel up to four aircraft simultaneously on land.”
Regarding its engines, it is equipped with 4 PS-90A-76 two-shaft turbofan engines. Each engine produces a maximum thrust of 16,000kgf. The aircraft has a maximum speed of 600-850km/h and can reach a maximum altitude of 13,100m.