Ilyushin Il-78


Based on (or converted from) the airframe of the Il-76M military freighter, this aerial refueling tanker aircraft entered service in 1987 to replace the elderly and incapable Myasishchev M-4 “Bison”.

Fitted with three Severin/UPAZ PAE external refueling units, one under each wing (which are reportedly sometimes removed on missions involving only a single receiver aircraft) and one mounted on the port side of the rear fuselage, the Il-78 is a three (or sometimes two) point air-to-air probe and drogue tanker aircraft capable of delivering fuel at a rate of 900 to 2,200 liters/min.

Internally the Il-78 has a pair of enormous cylindrical, pallet-mounted fuel tanks in the cargo hold, together containing 35 tonnes of the aircraft’s 100-tonne total transferable fuel load. The refueling process is monitored by an observer occupying the former tail gunner’s position and controlled from the flight engineer’s station in the cockpit. Receiver/tanker rendezvous is facilitated by a simple homing radar housed behind a broad flat aft-facing radome located forward of the standard rear loading ramp.


Official DesignationIl-78
NATO Code NameMidas
U.S. CounterpartBoeing KC-135 Stratotanker (1965)
Primary RoleAerial tanker
National OriginUzbekistan
ManufacturerIlyushin Design Bureau
Wingspan165 feet, 8 inches (50.50m)
Length152 feet, 10 inches (46.59m)
Height at Tail48 feet, 5 inches (14.76m)
EnginesFour Soloviev D-30KP turbofans
Thrust26,455 pounds (117.7kN) per engine
Cruise Speed482 mph (775km/h)
Max Speed528 mph (850km/h)
Service Ceiling34,400 feet (10,500m)
Operating WeightUnknown
Max Takeoff Weight374,785 pounds (170,000kg)
Basic CrewUnknown
Date DeployedUnknown
Total in ServiceUnknown