Ilyushin IL-76 (Candid)
Strategic Transport / Tanker Aircraft
Despite its age, the Soviet-era Ilyushin IL-76 aircraft series is still used around the globe in both civilian and military guises.
Authored By: Dan Alex | Last Edited:
Ilyushin IL-76 Walk-Around
Externally, the IL-76 embodied many of the elements of Soviet Cold War aircraft design. It was not the prettiest of aircraft to look at, but she had "it" where it counted - utilitarian to the core. The Candid fitted the cockpit flightdeck to the extreme forward end of the fuselage, characterized by its highly glazed cockpit, coupled with its lower framed deck - also heavily glazed (this position for the navigator and dropmaster). The lower deck was located just under the nose cone in a bulbous fixture. Wings were high-mounted across the top of the fuselage and noted by their bulged center portion atop the aircraft. The wings are also noticeably swept aft and clipped at the tips. Engines were positioned under the wings, two engines to a wing, inside of cylindrical nacelles mounted to forward swept pylons. Their positioning along the high wing arrangement insured that the powerplant wash could steer clear of ground activity when the aircraft was unloaded and loaded with cargo or serviced in general. The empennage was dominated by the single large-area vertical tail fin to which a "Tee" style wing arrangement was applied. The horizontal planes were mounted at the extreme top of the vertical tail, completing the IL-76's unique look. The undercarriage was of a semi-conventional layout, with a single nose landing gear leg fitted under the front of the fuselage and a collection of four main landing gear legs fitted to a bulbous underfuselage emplacement. The nose landing gear sported four tires fitted as two pairs while the four main landing gears each sport larger sets of tires, four to a leg, also fitted as pairs. Standard personnel access doors were positioned along the forward fuselage sides, ahead of the wing assemblies and engines.
The Cargo Hold
The fuselage tapered off to a raised rear endpoint just under and slightly passed the tail fin base (this also being the location of the aft tail turret). The cargo bay was accessed via this raised rear underside via two vertical doors hinged along the outside edges and a lowered ramp. The hold was designed to be completely pressurized (suitable for paratrooper actions) and fitted two overhead winches for help in loading and unloading cargo. The hold could be set to accept three different premade "modules" for the job at hand - air ambulance, passenger and cargo. These modules ensured some level of expediency when conversions were required within time constraints. The floor was constructed of titanium and featured optional-use fold-down conveyors. The loading ramp was also designed to double as a lift with a 66,150lb load capability. All of these details, when taken as a whole, truly showed off the IL-76s strengths in an operational environment.
The Ilyushin IL-76D
When taking the basic IL-76D production model as our example, the aircraft was fitted with four Aviadvigatel (Soloviev) brand D-30KP-series turbofan engines, each rated at 26,500lbs of thrust output. Empty weight was listed at 159,000lb while a maximum take-off weight (MTOW) of 346,000lb was possible. Top speed was approximately 560 miles per hour with a reported range of 3,650 kilometers. The service ceiling capped out at 42,700 feet. Wingspan was 165 feet, 8 inches with a fuselage length of 152 feet, 10 inches. Height came in at 48 feet, 5 inches. Crew capacity could number between 5 and 7 personnel depending on the sortie type.
Though the IL-76 remains a transport-minded airframe at heart, militarized versions have limited weapons capability. More standard is the use of an optional radar-directed manned turret fitted to the base of the tail for self-defense. This position mounts 2 x 23mm GSh-23L cannons. Other forms have utilized optional pylons (two to a wing) in support of bomb ordnance as needed. These fittings are situated to each wing outboard of the engines.
The IL-76 in Afghanistan
The IL-76 performed its vital role in the transportation of troops, supplies and weapons during the Soviet war in Afghanistan. Nearly 15,000 flights were made into and out of the region. Despite the ultimate Soviet military loss in the conflict and the subsequent withdrawal of its forces in the region, the Candid proved her worth in numerous ways and once again displayed the value of logistics planning and execution.
The IL-76 has seen extensive use throughout the world in military and civilian guises as needed by customer. Most notably is its use (and former use) in the Soviet Union/Russia as well as in the United States (civilian), China, India, the Middle East (including Iraq and Iran) and in parts of Africa. The casual observer will note its heavy use among Soviet-allied nations as well as former Soviet states. North Korea, Libya and Cuba all operate different numbers of IL-76s in some capacity. Ukraine operates both the civilian and military versions of the Candid.
A pair of Russian IL-76s landed in Little Rock, Arkansas on September 8th, 2005, to support humanitarian aid to victims of Hurricane Katrina. This marked the first such instance that a Russian-operated aircraft has landed on American soil in this capacity. An Indian-operated IL-76 also contributed aid to the region some five days later.