Il-96-400VT Aerial Tanker
From the very beginning IL-96-300 was considered as the basis to create an entire family of wide-body aircraft with common airframe and systems design. At the end of 1980s and early 1990s Ilyushin Design Bureau also studied several military variants of IL-96-300, such as antisubmarine, patrol and reconnaissance versions.
The Il-76 was designed for heavy payloads and operations from rough airstrips, so it has a higher power to weight ratio than is needed in the the AWACS and tanker roles. The Il-76 was chosen for these roles because it was available and the removable nature of the refuelling system showed that it was intended they would still be used for their intended original role of hauling freight and equipment The Il-96, on the other hand, is designed for long range cruise flight with a heavy payload. This means it is better able to perform the AWACS and tanker roles.
On 19 December 2004, Nezavisimoye Voennoye Obozrenie reported that the general director of the Il'yushin Finance Ko aviation leasing company, Aleksandr Rubtsov stated that a version of a refueling airplane is being developed based on the Il-96-400T heavy transport airplane. In July 2005 it was reported that Russia could acquire an in-flight refuelling version of the Il-96 in its 2006-15 procurement plan, says Ilyushin director general Viktor Livanov. "A feasibility plan for developing and manufacturing a tanker based on the Il-96-400T is being discussed. Technically, the development of the new tanker is not complicated."
In December 2004 the Ilyushin company was reported to be developing a tanker-aircraft on the basis of the Il-96-400T heavy transport, Aleksandr Rubtsov, director-general of the Ilyushin finance company, has told Interfax-Military News Agency. "We have started work on the military version of the tanker-plane. Its appearance was determined and shown to the military. We firmly believe that the aircraft will be good," he said.
Russia could acquire an in-flight refuelling version of the Il-96 in its 2006-15 procurement plan, Ilyushin director general Viktor Livanov said in June 2005. "A feasibility plan for developing and manufacturing a tanker based on the Il-96-400T is being discussed. Technically, the development of the new tanker is not complicated, and there is a demand for increasing the Russian air force tanker fleet." Russia's air force command has long been dissatisfied with its fleet size of just 20 Il-78/78M tankers used to support its Tupolev Tu-22M3, Tu-95MS and Tu-160 strategic bombers.
The new airplane may be required by the air force and will replace the Il-78 airplanes serving in the inventory. The ministry for Russian Defense indicated in January 2006 an intention to acquire Ilyushin's Il-96-400VT and VKP designs to meet its future requirements for 20-40 strategic tankers and four airborne command post aircraft. Ilyushin believes it could sell a further 60VT tankers to export users such as China and India, while the Il-96-400 could also replace Russia's Beriev A-50 airborne early warning platforms.
As a freighter the II-96T can carry a maximum payload of 92 tonnes over 5,200kms. By way of comparison, the KC-10 can carry 76 tonnes over 7000 kms. The 76tons of the KC-10 include fuel for consumption and aerial delivery, while the 92tons cargo capacity of the Il-96 do not say anything of its fuel capacity when operated as a tanker. When optimzed/converted to a tanker aircraft it should be superior to the KC-10, similar to the KC-330 (111 tons of fuel), but less efficient. The Tu-330 is being developed as a competitor to the Il-214 MTA, and has been proposed in Tanker version.
On 01 July 2008 the Interfax-AVN website reported that the armaments program for the period until 2020 that was being developed in Russia will envisage building new special- purpose aircraft, according to Viktor Livanov, member of the board of the United Aircraft Construction Corporation (OAK). "The Ilyushin aviation company and the Russian Defence Ministry are considering the future possibility of building an aerial refuelling tanker for the Russian Air Force based on the Il-96-400T aircraft," Livanov said.
According to him, Il-96-400T has a great capacity for being used as a base for various modifications, including a tanker aircraft and an airborne command post.According to unofficial information, the Ilyushin aviation company has already started working on the project to build an Il- 96-400SZ tanker aircraft and an Il-96-400VzPU airborne command post.
The tanker will replace the existing Il-78 and Il-78 tanker aircraft which by 2015-20 will outlive their usefulness and will be taken out of service. It is suggested that between 20 and 40 Il-96-400SZ aircraft be built by this time at the Voronezh aviation plant. This aircraft will be twice as effective as the Il-78, by 80 per cent more effective than the Il-78M and by 25 per cent more effective than the KC-135R, the most popular tanker aircraft in the US Air Force. It will be only slightly inferior to the KC-10A, but after the Il-96- 400SZ is upgraded and NK-93 engines are installed on it, this inferiority will be overcome.
Russia's United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) said on Monday 22 March 2010 it did not plan to enter a lucrative contract to replace the U.S. Air Force's fleet of aerial tankers. John Kirkland, a U.S. lawyer, told various news media last week that UAC would announce a joint venture on Monday with a small U.S. defense contractor to enter the bidding for the $35-bln KC-X aerial tanker deal against Europe's EADS and Boeing Co. "The company officially announces that the media reports referring to John Kirkland's statement about the UAC participation in the tender to deliver aerial tankers to the U.S. Air Force are false," the UAC said in a statement. "The UAC does not plan either to take part in this tender or set up a joint venture [to build aerial tankers]," the statement quoted UAC President Alexey Fedorov as saying. Russian aircraft industry and military experts agreed that even if Russia took part in the tender it would be unlikely to win because the Il-96 was inferior to comparable Boeing and EADS aircraft and Russia's aircraft industry did not have the capacity to produce 179 planes of this class "in the foreseeable future."
On Friday 19 March 2010 the Wall Street Journal reported that United Aircraft Corp. of Russia was planning to bid on the $40 billion Air Force Tanker Program contract. United Aircraft, an aerospace consortium owned by the Russian government, will seek to offer a tanker version of its Ilyushin Il-96 wide-body jetliner, dubbed the Il-98, this person said. The planes would be largely built in Russia, and assembled in the US.
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