Jan 28

H/t reader squodgy:

“The Ukraine debacle has claimed one big casualty, the end of the Antonov Aircraft design & manufacturing Bureau, in Kiev, famous for the biggest working Transport plane the An-124 Ruslan. Now starved of Russian funding thanks to Poroschenko & Nuland.
Russia has been forced to encourage the Ilyushin Design Bureau to re-visit the upgrading of the extremely versatile IL-76, which they are now churning out as the backbone of the Russian MATS.”


The Revival of Russia’s Aviation Industry – New Russian Transport Aircraft:

In this series Russia Insider will explore the revival of Russia’s aviation industry.  Today we concentrate on transport aircraft.  In subsequent issues we shall deal with passenger aircraft, military aircraft and helicopters

The revival of Russia’s aircraft industry is a central plank of the Russian government’s policy of reindustrialisation and import substitution.

This is a massively ambitious programme and in a series of articles I shall discuss the various projects that are underway.

In this article I shall focus on cargo aircraft – a sector in which the USSR was once a world leader and to which the Russian government is giving high priority.

Background

Within the Russian aviation industry this has been a particularly troubled sector because of one specific factor that distinguishes it from the others.

This is that during the Soviet period cargo aircraft development had become focused on one design bureau – the Antonov Bureau – which relocated from the Siberian city of Novosibirsk to Kiev in Ukraine in 1952.

The Antonov Bureau duly produced a series of outstanding aircraft such as the AN12 (the Soviet equivalent of the US C130 Hercules), the AN22 (the world’s first wide body) and the truly gigantic AN124 – still the world’s biggest transport aircraft – which taken together became the mainstay of the Soviet air transport fleet.

Since 1991, when the USSR broke up and the Antonov Bureau found itself in now independent Ukraine, the Antonov Bureau has however become increasingly separated from the rest of the industry.

This has created a complex and difficult situation, with Russian purchases of Antonov aircraft – or agreements for their licenced production in Russia – continuously held hostage to the state of Russian-Ukrainian political relations.

The result is that Antonov projects – such as the AN140 medium transport, the AN70 medium transport, and plans for a restart of production of the AN124 – have over the years been subject to a bewildering succession of stop-go orders, with seemingly firm production or purchase agreements made with some Ukrainian governments promptly set aside when those governments are replaced by other Ukrainian governments.

In this one respect, by once and for all showing that industrial cooperation with Ukraine on aircraft projects is impossible, the Maidan coup has been beneficial to the Russian aircraft industry, by finally bringing clarity.

The unfortunate consequence is the recently announced closure of the Antonov Bureau after 70 years of design work.

The end of the connection with the Antonov Bureau means that all current Russian cargo aircraft design work has been assigned to the Moscow based Ilyushin Bureau, which gained experienced in cargo aircraft design during the Soviet period with its successful IL76 aircraft.

The main buyer and user of cargo aircraft will be the Russian air force, which requires large numbers of such aircraft to move troops and supplies around the vast expanse of Russian territory and to project Russia’s military power overseas.

A particularly heavy user of these types of aircraft are Russia’s Airborne Forces – ie. its paratroop units.

These elite infantry number around 40,000 men and are the spearhead of the Russian army – as well as being Russia’s rapid reaction force.

Unlike paratroop units in the West, they are equipped with heavy mechanised equipment including specially designed BMD infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs) and light tanks.  

Russia needs aircraft that are not only able to transport these paratroopers and their equipment across Russia and around the world, but from which they can air drop or parachute as well.

In a country as vast as Russia cargo aircraft also serve a critical economic function, enabling goods and supplies to be moved quickly around a vast country even in remote regions that might otherwise be inaccessible.

Russian cargo aircraft have also proved a success in export markets.

Their exceptional ruggedness has made them the preferred aircraft for transporting air freight especially in less developed countries and in war zones.  They have for example become the preferred aircraft used by humanitarian agencies in relief operations.

IL112

This is a medium freight aircraft designed to transport 6,000 kgs (6 tonnes) of cargo up to a distance of 1,000 km (it can transport a smaller cargo of 2,000 kgs (2 tonnes) up to a distance of 5,000 km).

A twin turboprop aircraft using two St. Petersburg built Klimov TV7-117S engines, it is intended to replace the ubiquitous Soviet era Antonov AN26.

The IL112 has had a complex history.  Originally proposed in the 1980s, the project was abandoned in the 1990s, only to be revived in the late 2000s, with a maiden flight scheduled for 2011.

It was then abandoned again when the military decided to buy the supposedly cheaper Antonov AN140, which is currently being produced under licence in Russia.

In 2013, at a time when economic relations with Ukraine were again becoming strained because of Ukraine’s intention to conclude an association agreement with the EU causing the co-production agreement for the AN140 to be placed in doubt, the decision was taken to revive the IL112 project.

The first flight is expected in 2017, with production following shortly after.

Obviously this will be a heavily modernised aircraft by comparison with the 1980s concept.

Whereas in the West it is the bigger C130 Hercules with its 20,000 kg load that is the workhorse of the US air force’s air transport fleet, the Russian air force uses smaller aircraft with a 6,000 kg load like the AN26 and the IL112 to a much greater degree.

This probably reflects Russia’s less developed road network, which often makes it necessary to transport by air supplies which in the West would be transported by road.  Smaller aircraft like the AN26 and the IL112 are obviously more cost effective for delivering smaller quantities of supplies to remote places than bigger aircraft.

One of the factors that has undoubtedly held up development of aircraft like the IL112 is the hereto low reliability of the Klimov engines, which despite having comparable power ratings and fuel efficiency to Western engines of the same class, have until recently required unacceptably frequent repairs.

This was almost certainly a consequence of the general fall in production standards that took place across the whole of Russian industry in the 1990s, and which particularly effected the gas turbine sector.

It seems this problem has now been solved, allowing the IL112 to enter production in quantity.

IL214

This is the intended replacement for the AN12 and will therefore be an aircraft in the same class as the US C130 Hercules.

Unlike the AN12 and the C130 Hercules, the IL214 is a twin jet (turbofan) aircraft.  Its planned performance reflects this.

Thus the IL214 will be able to transport a 20,000 kg (20 tonne) cargo up to 3,250 km and has a cruising speed of 810 km/hour.

By comparison an AN12 can transport a 20,000 kg (20 tonne) cargo up to 3,600 km and has a cruising speed of 670 km/hour.

The service ceiling (ie. the maximum altitude the aircraft is intended to fly) of the IL214 will be 13,100 metres.  The service ceiling of the AN12 is 10,200 metres.

The figures for the C130H version of the Hercules are a 3,800 km range, a cruising speed of 540 km/hour, and a service ceiling of 10,060 metres.

In other words, by comparison with the AN12 and the C130 Hercules, the IL214 will be able to carry the same payload over a shorter distance (because of the greater fuel burn of the turbofan engines) but significantly faster and higher.

The advantage gained by using the IL214 is that the response time is significantly cut, whilst the greater speed, manoeuvrability, service ceiling and climb rate provided by the turbofan engines makes the IL214 less vulnerable to surface to air missiles.

The disadvantage is that because of the higher fuel burn the cost of operating the IL214 is greater, a fact reflected by its shorter range.

The Russians are unlikely to see this as a significant problem because of the way they tend to use both smaller (AN26 and IL112) and bigger (IL76) aircraft more than the US does.

The US relies on the C130 Hercules as its workhorse and tends to use it in circumstances where the Russians would use either a smaller or a bigger aircraft.  If the fuel burn over the whole range of aircraft the Russians use is taken into account, then the costs probably roughly balance out.

Though a thoroughly modern design the IL214 takes many of its design cues from the bigger IL76 (about which see below).  Its cargo hold is dimensionally identical to that of the IL76, though halved in length.

The engines will be the new 12,500 – 15,600 kgf PD14 engine, which is now entering series production, and which I previously discussed here.

The IL214 began as a joint Indian-Russian project.  Latest reports however suggest the Russians have frozen the Indians out of the project and are proceeding with the project by themselves.

Apparently the reason is arguments over the choice of engines, with the Indians wanting an entirely new clean sheet engine with full authority digital engine control (FADEC).

Developing an entirely new engine would delay the project by at least ten years and add immeasurably to the cost of the whole project.  It is anyway doubtful whether the extra complication of FADEC is justified for a freight transport aircraft.

Given the project’s urgency and the fact the design is apparently almost ready for production, it is understandable the Russians have rejected the Indian objections and have chosen to press ahead with the project by themselves.

In passing, Indian insistence on introducing the most advanced possible technology to any given project – as opposed to technology that is perfectly sufficient and which is already available – is a besetting vice of Indian military projects, and is one reason for their very high cost overruns and the inordinate amount of time they take to come to fruition.

First flight of the IL214 is expected in 2017.  Series production and service is expected shortly after.

IL76/IL(4)76

 Including the IL76 amongst a list of current Russian aircraft projects is open to challenge since this is not a new aircraft.

The IL76 was first conceived as long ago as 1967.  It entered series production in 1974.

It is a large four turbofan aircraft aircraft which in its original form was powered by four Soloviev D30KP low bypass turbofan engines (a civilianised version of an engine originally designed for the MiG31 Mach 3 supersonic fighter).

Whereas in the US it is the C130 Hercules that is the workhorse of the US air transport fleet, in Russia that role is fulfilled by the much bigger IL76.

By general agreement the IL76 is an outstanding aircraft.

It was originally designed to carry a 40,000 kg (40 tonne) payload over a range of 5,000 km in less than six hours.

An exceptionally rugged aircraft, it can operate from short and unprepared airstrips coping with the worst climatic conditions, including those found in Russia’s Polar regions and in Siberia.

It is in all respects a far superior aircraft to the now withdrawn but in other respects comparable US C141 Starlifter, which not only lacked its ruggedness but which had a poorly designed hold, causing it to run out of space for cargo before its similar 40,000 kg (40 tonne) payload had been achieved.

It is the IL76’s combination of a large payload, exceptional ruggedness and ability to operate in the most difficult conditions, which explains its success first in the USSR and now in Russia.

In a country with a heavily overloaded railway system and with a road network that is far less dense than those of the US and Western Europe – especially so in Soviet times –  the IL76 is perfectly adapted for the needs of both military and civilian users who wish to move large cargoes quickly around a vast country.

Not surprisingly, the Russians have therefore built hundreds of them.

Amongst its many roles, the IL76 has become the primary air transport of Russia’s Airborne Forces.  Unusually for an aircraft of this size, it is designed for dropping men and equipment by parachute, and it is actually used in that way.

In 1967, shortly after the Arab-Israeli Six Days War, The Economist published a once famous editorial “Bears Can’t Fly”, in which it claimed the USSR’s inability to intervene effectively in the war was because of its lack of an airlift capability.

That supposedly constrained the USSR’s ability to project its power beyond its own borders, and meant that unlike the US it was not really a superpower.

When that editorial was written what it said was basically true.  It was the arrival in the 1970s of the IL76 – and of the AN22 (see below) – which drastically altered the picture.

The IL76’s range of capabilities means that it has basically swept the board for this type of aircraft in export markets.

It now operates in 38 countries including the US and is the favoured air transport of the Canadian air force for ferrying equipment and supplies to the Canadian forces in Afghanistan.

Another heavy user of the IL76 is the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service, which uses the IL76 for humanitarian and relief operations especially in disaster zones.

The IL76 has also been used as the basis of more specialised aircraft.

The USSR’s – and now Russia’s – airborne warning and control (AWACS) aircraft, the Beriev A50, is a derivative of the IL76.

So is the Russian air force’s principal air refuelling tanker, the IL78, and the Russian military’s primary Airborne Command Post, the IL82.

The Russian air force has shown no interest in replacing this outstanding aircraft.

Despite political pressure, it resisted calls from the Russian government to buy the Ukrainian AN70 – an aircraft that began as an intended replacement for the AN12, but which evolved into an aircraft dimensionally smaller but with a similar range and payload to the IL76.

The Russian government wanted the Russian air force to buy the AN70 as a means of strengthening Russian-Ukrainian industrial and political relations.  The Russian air force never hid its lack of enthusiasm for the Ukrainian aircraft.  Following the Maidan coup, all talk of buying the AN70 has been dropped.

The major problem Russia has faced with the IL76 since the USSR broke up is that the USSR assigned production of the IL76 to a factory in Taskhent in Uzbekistan, which is now an independent country.

Relations between Russia and Uzbekistan have never sunk to the poisonous level of Russia’s relations with Ukraine.  However they have not always been good, and the Tashkent factory has anyway by most accounts become run down because of lack of investment.

The Russians have from time to time been able to place further orders for more IL76s with the Tashkent factory, but understandably enough given the strategic importance of the IL76 to Russia, they were anxious to relocate at least part of its production to Russia.

This was not a straightforward process.  The Tashkent factory owns the intellectual rights to the aircraft, and has possession of the original drawings, which anyway have had to be digitalised to make them suitable for modern manufacturing processes.

Following protracted negotiations, a co-production has been concluded with the Tashkent factory, and a new production line for the aircraft has been opened in Russia at the Aviastar factory in Ulyanovsk.  The first Ulyanovsk built IL76 rolled out in 2014, with first deliveries to the Russian airforce in April 2015.

IL76s being produced today in Ulyanovsk are heavily modernised by comparison with the original aircraft of the 1970s.

Their electronics and control systems have been comprehensively updated, the hold has been enlarged, and the original D30KP low bypass turbofans have been replaced by much more modern and more fuel efficient PS90A-76 high bypass turbofans.

The result is that maximum payload has been increased to 60,000 kgs (60 tonnes) – a 50% increase – though the range with full load continues to be 5,000 km.

This new version of the IL76 is sometimes called the IL476, though the correct designation appears to be IL76MD-90A.

PAK-TA and Heavy Lifters 

Information about the IL112, IL214 and IL(4)76 programmes is in the public domain, so it is possible to write about these programmes with confidence.  That is not the case however with the programmes for newer and bigger cargo aircraft which are known to exist but about which little is known.

At the time the USSR broke up the Soviet air force was in the process of taking delivery of the giant AN124 transport, an aircraft which remains the biggest cargo carrying aircraft ever placed in series production.

The AN124 is capable of carrying an extraordinary 150,000 kg (150 tonnes) of cargo up to a range of 3,200 km, or a smaller load of cargo of 40,000 kg (40 tonnes) up to an extraordinary of 12,000 km.  In 1987 a specially lightened version of the AN124 achieved a world record distance of 20,151 km without refuelling.

Like the IL76 the AN124 is designed to be capable of operating from rough or unprepared airstrips and in a wide range of climatic conditions.

The Antonov Bureau further enlarged the AN124 into the truly gigantic six engined AN225, which can carry a payload of 250 kg (250 tonnes), and which was apparently intended to support the Soviet space programme.  Only one was ever built.  It was mothballed for eight years after the USSR collapsed, but is now once more in service, used to carry super heavy cargoes to commercial order.

Production of the AN124 was assigned by the USSR to two factories, one in Ulyanovsk in Russia, the other in Kiev in Ukraine.  At the time the USSR broke production was in full swing, with around 50 aircraft produced.

Production of the AN124 essentially ended following the USSR’s collapse.  Repeated negotiations between the Russians and the Ukrainians to restart production – principally at the factory in Ulyanovsk – have got nowhere because of the political differences between the two countries.

The major bottleneck is the D18T engine, the USSR’s big high bypass turbofan engine, which powers the AN124, and whose production was assigned by the USSR to the Motor Sich factory in Zaporozhye in Ukraine.

It seems no D18Ts have been produced by Motor Sich since the 1990s, and all attempts to get production restarted have ended in failure.

In what for the Russians must be a particularly bitter blow, some Ukrainian AN124s are now actually leased by NATO for its strategic lift capability.

As with other joint programmes with Ukraine such as the AN140 and the AN70, the Maidan coup has finally provided clarification, and the project of co-producing AN124s with Ukrainian consent at the factory in Ulyanovsk has now been finally and conclusively dropped.

The decision however leaves Russia without a current super heavy air lift aircraft save for the 20 or so AN124s still in service in Russia.

Whilst these do provide Russia with a heavy lift capability (on display when AN124s were used to transport heavy equipment – including S400 missile batteries – to Russia’s Khmeimim air base in Syria) the Russians need more aircraft of this type than the limited number they have.

Besides without Ukrainian support the AN124s cannot be kept in service indefinitely anyway.

At the time it broke up the USSR also had one other ongoing heavy lift aircraft project.

This was the IL106, a project for a heavy lift aircraft that would have been capable of ferrying 80,000 kgs (80 tonnes) of cargo over a range of 5,000 km.

That would have positioned the IL106 between the IL76 and the AN124, just as the analogous US C117 Globemaster was positioned between the C141 Starlifter and the US’s super heavy air lifter, the C5 Galaxy.

The IL106 appears to have been intended as replacement for the AN22, a giant four turboprop air lifter, which was also capable of carrying payloads of up to 80,000 kg over distances of up to 5,000 km, and which when it was introduced into service in the 1960s was the world’s first wide-bodied aircraft.

The AN22 is one of the iconic aircraft of the Cold War.

The Soviets used the AN22 to send relief supplies to disaster zones, starting with the Peruvian earthquake in 1970.

More importantly, the Soviets also used the AN22 to air lift urgently needed military supplies to Egypt and Syria during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, to Angola and Ethiopia in 1975 and 1978 during the wars there, and to Afghanistan in 1979 during the initial stages of the Soviet intervention in that country.

These activities around the world gave the AN22 wide publicity, and it became a symbol of Soviet power.

The AN22 is however now an old aircraft.  It first entered service in 1966.  It is apparently now restricted in the number of landings it is allowed between overhauls.  It is gradually being taken out of service and apparently there are now only five left and these fly very rarely.

The chaos that followed the USSR’s collapse brought the IL106 programme – the AN22’s intended replacement – to an end.  In fact it never got beyond the concept change though the Ilyushin Bureau continued to pretend throughout the 1990s that it was still an active programme.

The Ilyushin Bureau did however produce a scale model which gives an idea of what it would have looked like if it had ever entered service.

The abandonment of the IL106 programme and the dropping of plans to resume production of the AN124, threaten to leave the Russians without a heavy lift capability.

The Russians have a very strong air lift capability for loads of up to 60,000 kg (60 tonnes) provided by the IL(4)76, but they now have only a small number of AN124s and AN22s capable of lifting loads beyond this, and their service life is limited.

The intervention in Syria has however shown the necessity for such a capability.

Not surprisingly the Russians therefore now have a programme to develop heavy lift aircraft in the class of the IL106 and the AN124.  The military’s name for this programme is “Prospective Airborne Complex of Transport Aviation” or PAK-TA.

It seems it was authorised in 2014, with confirmation of its existence being provided to the Russian media in April 2015.

Very little known about this programme.  However it is possible based on information provided by Russian officials to the media to make some educated guesses about it.

IL106

It seems that at least one part of this programme involves – unsurprisingly – reviving the IL106 project.

This was recently confirmed by Sergey Velmozhkin, the deputy head of the Ilyushin Bureau, in an interview with Rossiya 24, who apparently not only referred to the aircraft by this name but who is also reported to have said that the IL106 “….is going to be very big, weighing 80 to 100 tons…”,

These reported weights almost certainly refer to the planned payload of the aircraft rather than to its overall weight.  They may suggest the revived IL106 will be able to carry heavier payloads than the 80,000 kg (80 tonne) payloads of the original 1980s concept, with a payload carrying ability of up to 100,000 kg (100 tonnes).

The revived IL106 will therefore be a different aircraft from the original 1980s design concept, as of course given the time which has lapsed is to be expected.

One particular point of difference is that the IL106 will almost certainly use a different engine from the engine which was originally planned as part of the 1980s concept.

The 1980s concept was planned around the Kuznetsov NK92 engine, a very advanced engine of unusual design which was planned to have around 20,000 kg of thrust.

The NK92 has never materialised despite protracted development so the IL106 will have to use a different engine.

Assuming that the IL106 will be a four engine aircraft – as is almost certainly the case for an aircraft of this type – the engine will almost certainly be the geared turbofan PD18R, an engine also in the 20,000 kg thrust range.

The PD18R is an expanded version of the existing PD14 engine which is now in series production.  Using this engine would be conservative and risk free, reflecting the overall Russian approach.

Ilyushin officials say the preliminary plans of this aircraft will be finalised in 2017, and that the aircraft will be ready for series production around 2022-2023.

This is a very tight timescale of just 5 to 6 years from design to production.  It suggests the project is being given high priority.

However it also suggests a conservative approach, drawing on research from the original IL106 programme of the 1980s, and using existing technology and engines, a fact which also strongly points to the PD18R as the likely engine.

“Project Yermak”

Alongside the undoubted plan to bring the IL106 to production, there has also been a huge amount of internet chatter about a Russian plan for a supersonic aircraft supposedly capable of carrying up to 200,000 kg (200 tonnes) of cargo over a range of 7,000 km.

Allegedly the Russian military is demanding as many as 80 of these aircraft.

A technical manager of Russia’s Volga-Dnepr Group has produced concept drawings of what this supposed aircraft might look like, and there is a widely circulated film based on those drawings which has attracted a huge amount of attention, and which can be easily found on YouTube.

These pictures show a futuristic looking aircraft that would not look out of place in a science fiction film.

They have attracted much ridicule from critics who seem unaware that they are the product of a single individual’s imagination rather than pictures of a genuine state spoaircraft concept.

Is there any truth to these stories?

The source who supposedly leaked the information about this programme claims to have been “shocked by the demands of the military”, which strongly suggests someone out to make mischief.  That is a good reason for doubting the stories are true, especially as they have received no corroboration from any other official Russian source.

Though the ability to carry a 200,000 kg (200 tonne) payload over 7,000 km would indeed add a formidable capability, the tactical advantage to be gained from supersonic flight – which could only save some hours in what would already be a very rapid aerial deployment even if made using conventional subsonic aircraft – is not at all obvious.

On the face of it a supersonic capability would add little of value, whilst adding astronomically to the cost and complexity of the project, making it practically inconceivable that the Russians are considering it.

What is far more likely is that the Russians are planning a heavy lift transport aircraft in the class of the AN124 – for which they have a real need.   It is a virtual certainty however that it does not have a supersonic capability.

If the source who leaked the story about the supersonic transport has pro-Ukrainian sympathies – and there are known to be such people on the liberal side of the Russian elite – then that might explain it.

He might have been deliberately spreading disinformation about an AN124 replacement project, hoping to stir up an outcry during a time of budget cuts against supposed reckless over-spending by the military in order to stop development of what would be a formidable competitor to the Ukrainian AN124.

Do we however actually have any information of a project for an AN124 replacement?

No Russian official has confirmed this publicly.  However hints to that effect have been provided anonymously, as for example in this report, which says

“A whole family of military transport aircraft, ranging from medium to heavy, is to be designed as part of the Prospective Airborne Complex of Transport Aviation (PAK TA) project, a military source has told the Russian online publication lenta.ru

 This confirms that more than one aircraft is being developed, and though the rest of the report is confused it seems the Ilyushin Bureau calls the project “Project Yermak”.

One of these aircraft is the IL106 discussed above, almost certainly using PD18R engines.  The fact the military source is supposed to have said the various new aircraft would be a “family”, also suggests they are all closely related to each other.

That suggests the AN124 replacement will be an enlarged version of the IL106, almost certainly using the new Russian big engine, which is now confirmed to be the PD30, which I discussed previously here.

Since the PD30 is believed to be rather more powerful than the Ukrainian D18T which powers the AN124, its suitability for an AN124 replacement based on the IL106 is obvious.

An enlarged IL106 derivative with four PD30 engines in the class of the AN124 would probably have roughly the same range (5,000 km) and payload (150,000 kg (150 tonnes)) as the AN124.

Talk of an aircraft capable of carrying loads of up to 200,000 kg (200 tonnes) over 7,000 km distances suggests that there may however also be plans for an even bigger aircraft, possibly using six PD30 engines instead of four or – more probably – four new engines expanded from and with higher ratings than the basic PD30.

There would then be three closely related aircraft of different sizes extending from the basic 80-100,000 kg (100 tonne) payload carrying IL106 all the way up the super heavy lifter capable of carrying 200,000 kg (200 tonnes).

That would correspond exactly to the “whole family of military transport aircraft ranging from medium to heavy” whose existence the ‘military source” is supposed to have confirmed to lenta.ru (see above).

Using the same basic aircraft concept to develop a family of different aircraft in different size and weight categories is hardly new.  It was done for example by the Antonov Bureau when they expanded the AN124 to create the outsized AN225.

If this is the course the Russians are following – and all the indications suggest it is – then they will however have to do it in a far more sophisticated way.  An aircraft capable of carrying a payload of 100,000 kg (100 tonnes) cannot be simply stretched to make an aircraft able to carry twice the payload, even if it is given more powerful engines.

What is probably happening is that the various aircraft are being developed in parallel with each other, drawing on shared concepts and components, along the lines of the “modular” approach Rogozin discussed with Putin during their meeting to discuss aircraft engine development, which I discussed here.

The plan seems to be to have all of these aircraft in production by the mid 2020s, which given the conservative approach taken and the shared characteristics of the aircraft, may be possible.

The figure of 80 of supersonic aircraft supposedly wanted by the military, probably quotes correctly the total number of all of these types of aircraft that have been ordered for the first batch.

Summary

After a long dark period Russia’s air transport fleet is on the brink of a dramatic revival.

The plan can be summarised as follows:

Aircraft                                   Payload                            Aircraft Replaced

IL112                                      6,000 kg                           AN26

IL214                                      20,000 kg                         AN12

IL(4)76                                    60,000 kg                         IL76

IL106                                      80-100,000 kg                 AN22

“Project Yermak”            

(large aircraft)                        150,000 kg                       AN124

(very large aircraft)                 200.000 kg                      AN225

Many of these aircraft are closely related to each other or to other aircraft that are also in the process of being produced.

The IL112 is closely related and uses the same Klimov engines as the IL114 turboprop airliner, which is due to re-enter production in 2019.

The IL214 borrows design cues from the IL76 – the aircraft on which the IL(4)76 is based – and has a hold that is dimensionally identical to that of the IL(4)76 though of only half the length.

The IL214, IL(4)76 and IL106 use the same or similar engines.

Not only is the PS90A engine used by the IL(4)76 closely related to the PD14 engine used by the IL214, but the IL(4)76 will itself probably convert to the PD14 before long.  The PD18R – which will almost certainly be the engine that will power the IL106 – is derived from the PD14.

Lastly, the various aircraft that will form the family being developed under “Project Yermak” – including the IL106 – will be based on the same concept and will share engines, components and systems with each other

By taking this conservative approach, reviving old projects with new technology, drawing on what has been already achieved, seeking commonality between aircraft wherever possible, the Russians are moving methodically towards achieving a strategic lift capability by the mid 2020s of a sort possessed by no other power except the US, and covering the whole range of cargo aircraft from the light to the super heavy.

Moreover not only are the new planned aircraft efficient and modern in ways that not all their Soviet predecessors were, but by sharing common design elements and components they should achieve substantial economies of scale, reducing their cost, simplifying their production and making their maintenance easier.

These aircraft will not just have a military application.  Many of them will have important economic uses within Russia’s economy, and they should also be very competitive in export markets.

Taken together, the whole development programme for these aircraft should be a force multiplier, both for Russia’s military and for its civilian economy.

* * *

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