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Ilyushin IL-20 (Coot-A)

Special Mission ELectronic signals INTelligence (ELINT) Aircraft (1969)

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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: 09/19/2018 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site.
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).

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.


Service Year

Soviet Union national flag graphic
Soviet Union

In Limited Service.


Ilyushin - Soviet Union / Russia
National flag of Russia National flag of the Soviet Union Russia (Soviet Union)
(OPERATORS list includes past, present, and future operators when applicable)

117.8 ft
(35.90 m)
123.0 ft
(37.50 m)
33.5 ft
(10.20 m)
Empty Wgt
77,162 lb
(35,000 kg)
143,300 lb
(65,000 kg)
Wgt Diff
+66,139 lb
(+30,000 kg)
(Showcased structural values pertain to the Ilyushin IL-20M production variant)
Installed: 4 x Ivchenko AI-20M turboprop engines developing 4,250 horsepower and driving four-bladed propeller units.
Max Speed
419 mph
(675 kph | 364 kts)
39,370 ft
(12,000 m | 7 mi)
4,039 mi
(6,500 km | 12,038 nm)

♦ MACH Regime (Sonic)
RANGES (MPH) Subsonic: <614mph | Transonic: 614-921 | Supersonic: 921-3836 | Hypersonic: 3836-7673 | Hi-Hypersonic: 7673-19180 | Reentry: >19030

(Showcased performance specifications pertain to the Ilyushin IL-20M production variant. Compare this aircraft entry against any other in our database. View aircraft by powerplant type)
None. Only ELINT mission equipment carried.

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.

General Assessment

Values are derrived from a variety of categories related to the design, overall function, and historical influence of this aircraft in aviation history.
Overall Rating
The overall rating takes into account over 60 individual factors related to this aircraft entry.
Rating is out of a possible 100 points.
Relative Maximum Speed
Hi: 500mph
Lo: 250mph
This entry's maximum listed speed (419mph).

Graph average of 375 miles-per-hour.
City-to-City Ranges
Ilyushin IL-20M operational range when compared to distances between major cities (in KM).
Max Altitude Visualization
Small airplane graphic
Design Balance
The 3 qualities we look at for a balanced aircraft design are altitude, speed, and range.
Aviation Era Span
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Showcasing era cross-over of this aircraft design.
Unit Production (10)
This entry's total production compared against the most-produced military and civilian aircraft types in history (Ilyushin IL-2 and Cessna 172, respectively).

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