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Ilyushin IL-20 (Coot-A)

Special Mission ELectronic signals INTelligence (ELINT) Aircraft

The Cold War Soviet-era Ilyushin IL-20 series continues to perform a vital function within the ranks of the modern Russian Air Force.
Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 9/19/2018
The Ilyushin IL-20 is the militarized form of the base Soviet-era IL-18 "Coot" quad-turboprop passenger hauler. The original IL-18 design saw a first-flight on July 4th, 1957 and production was handled by Moscow Machinery Plant No. 30 to which at least 678 examples were ultimately delivered for various civilian- and military-minded tasks worldwide. Production spanned from 1957 until 1985. The Ilyushin IL-38 is an offshoot of the IL-18 design.

The IL-20 recorded a first-flight in March of 1968.

The IL-20 (also the IL-18D-36 "Bizon") was eventually developed into the primary IL-20M ("Coot-A") variant serving in the ELectronic signals INTelligence (ELINT) role. These are aircraft equipped with special mission systems for the intelligence-gathering role to better serve ground commanders and accompanying aircraft. Crews and systems analyze various captured signals and can help the attacking side better understand, and neutralize, an opponent's defense network. With the neutralization of such a network, the attacking side can operate with near-impunity over contested battlefields.

Beyond this, all other lines and function of the IL-18 have been retained. Four engines power the type (the engines mounted over the wing mainplanes). The mainplanes sit low to either side of the fuselage and the tail utilizes a conventional single-finned arrangement with low-set horizontal planes. A wheeled, retractable tricycle undercarriage is used for ground-running. With the same inherent power from the 4 x Ivchenko AI-20M turboprop engines, the aircraft has excellent range for its class - a much needed quality for an on-station aircraft in the ELINT role.

Key physical features of the IL-20 not seen in a typical IL-18 is the long radar array (side-looking) mounted ventrally (under the belly of the aircraft) and dorsal and fuselage-side-mounted blisters signifying sensors and the like.

Beyond the base IL-20M is the IL-20RT. These were four telemetry and communications relay platforms used for the Soviet space program (since succeeded by the IL-76 series).

Program Updates

September 2018 - An Ilyushin IL-20 was accidentally show down by Syrian air defenses in actions related to the Syrian Civil War (all hands were lost). Russian authorities blamed Israel, claiming Israeli warplanes used the Russian aircraft as a shield against the Syrian air-defense missiles.


Active, Limited Service
[ 10 Units ] :
Ilyushin - Soviet Union / Russia
National flag of Russia National flag of Soviet Union Russia (Soviet Union)
- Electronic Warfare (EW)
117.78 ft (35.9 m)
123.03 ft (37.5 m)
33.46 ft (10.2 m)
(Showcased structural dimension values pertain to the Ilyushin IL-20M production model)
Empty Weight:
77,162 lb (35,000 kg)
143,300 lb (65,000 kg)
(Diff: +66,139lb)
(Showcased weight values pertain to the Ilyushin IL-20M production model)
4 x Ivchenko AI-20M turboprop engines developing 4,250 horsepower and driving four-bladed propeller units.
(Showcased powerplant information pertains to the Ilyushin IL-20M production model)
Maximum Speed:
419 mph (675 kph; 364 kts)
Service Ceiling:
39,370 feet (12,000 m; 7.46 miles)
Maximum Range:
4,039 miles (6,500 km; 3,510 nm)
(Showcased performance values pertain to the Ilyushin IL-20M production model; Compare this aircraft entry against any other in our database)
None. Only ELINT mission equipment carried.
(Showcased armament details pertain to the Ilyushin IL-20M production model)
IL-20 "Coot-A" - Base Series Designation.
IL-20M (IL-18D-36 "Bizon") - Militarized IL-18; equipped for ELINT role with ventral side-looking radar and various antenna and sensor outcroppings about the fuselage.
IL-20RT - Four telemetry and communications relay aircraft modified for the Soviet space program during the Cold War period.

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