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Il-78 Midas - China / India

Il-78 to India

In March 2002 it was reported that a contract for the delivery to India of three Il-78 tankers was signed by the Tashkent Aviation Production Association (TAPO). An agreement was signed in February 2001 with Uzbekistan for procurement of six IL-78 Flight Refuelling Aircraft. These aircraft would be delivered by December 2003. This information was given by the Defence Minister Shri George Fernandes in a written reply to Shri Rumandla Ramachandraiah in Rajya Sabha 15 May, 2002. Each IL-78 costs around Rs 130 crore.

The pods, which are the fuel transferring systems, are procured from Israel. These pods are spindle-shaped systems powered by a ram-air-turbine (RAT) that runs on the wind as the giant IL-78 moves along. Placed near the extreme ends of the wings, and the third near the tail, these pods house the hose which ends in a drogue or funnel-shaped structure. During the refuelling process, while the hose is reeled out, the recipient aircraft comes and guides its fuel probe into the drogue.

As of 2003 six IL-78 Flight Refueling Aircraft were planned to be inducted into the Indian Air Force. The introduction of Su-30 MKIs and IL-78MKI in-flight refuellers has bestowed a strategic reach. India's Number 27 Squadron, the "Flaming Arrows", initiated a new era of strategic reach for the IAF by being the first to carry out air-to-air refuelling with IL-78 flight refuelling aircraft in March 2003.

The Russian Il-78MKI lost the tender for the supply of six aerial tankers worth $1 billion to India, which selected the European Airbus A330 as the preferred vendor, citing its lower operational costs. This is not the first Indian tender to be lost by Russian manufacturers in recent months. The base price of the Russian Il-78 tanker was quoted as lower than that of the A330, but when factoring in maintenance and fuel costs, the A330 seemed to have better value. This tender is itself a rebid of a 2009 tender, in which the Il-78 competed against the A330. The European tanker was preferred then as well, but the countrys Finance Ministry blocked the deal, saying the A330 was too expensive.

Il-78 to China

Negotiations continued with China for the delivery of four Il-78 tanker airplanes under the aegis of Rosoboronehksport. According to a 2005 contract between Rosoboronexport and China's Defense Ministry, worth $1.5 billion, Russia was supposed to deliver 34 Il-76 Candid medium-range military transport aircraft and four Il-78 Midas aerial refueling tankers. The first deliveries under the contract were due to begin in 2007, but in 2006, Uzbekistan's Tashkent Chkalov Aircraft Association, the manufacturer of the aircraft, refused to sign a production contract with Rosoboronexport at the contract price. As a result, the agreement was delayed, and Beijing suspended negotiations on this and several other military contracts with Russia.

Since then, the Tashkent-based company became part of Russia's United Aircraft Corporation, and the planes will now be assembled at an aircraft manufacturing plant in Ulyanovsk in central Russia. In September 2008 it was reported that Russia will continue negotiations on a contract to deliver 34 transport planes and four aerial tankers to China earlier frozen due to a disagreement over prices. "We are returning to the contract and renegotiating the price of these planes," Mikhail Zavaliy, a Rosoboronexport official told reporters at an air show in the Krasnodar Region.




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