The Il-76 has seen extensive service as a commercial freighter for ramp-delivered cargo, especially for outsized or heavy items unable to be otherwise carried. It has also been used as an emergency response transport for civilian evacuations as well as for humanitarian aid and disaster relief around the world. Because of its ability to operate from unpaved runways, it has been useful in undeveloped areas. Specialized models have also been produced for aerial firefighting and zero-G training.
The aircraft was first conceived by Ilyushin in 1967 to meet a requirement for a freighter able to carry a payload of 40 tons (88,000 lb) over a range of 5,000 km (2,700 nmi; 3,100 mi) in less than six hours, able to operate from short and unprepared airstrips, and capable of coping with the worst weather conditions likely to be experienced in Siberia and the Soviet Union's Arctic regions. It was intended to replace the Antonov An-12. Another intended version was a double-decked 250-passenger airliner but that project was cancelled. The Il-76 first flew in March 1971 (1971-03).
Production of Il-76s was allocated to the Tashkent Aviation Production Association in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, then a republic of the Soviet Union. Some 860 of the basic transport variants were manufactured. In the 1990s, modernized variants also equipped with Soloviev D-30 turbofan engines were developed (MF, TF), with a cargo compartment 20 m (66 ft) long by 3.4 m (11 ft) wide by 3.4 m (11 ft) tall; these larger variants were not produced in significant quantity due to the financial difficulties being experienced by the Russian Air Force, which was the primary operator of the type. The prototype of the Il-76MF, conducted its first flight on 1 August 1995.
From 2004 onwards, a number of aircraft in commercial service were modernized to the Il-76TD-90VD version; this involved the adoption of the newly developed PS-90 engine to comply with European noise limitations. In 2005, the People's Republic of China placed an order for 34 new Il-76MDs and four Il-78 tankers. In June 2013, Russian military export agency Rosoboronexport announced an order by China for 12 Il-76MD aircraft.
It was announced in 2010 that the production of a modernized Il-76, the Il-76MD-90A (also known as project Il-476 during the design stage), would begin; a proposed new production line would be located in Aviastar's facility in Ulyanovsk, Russia, and be operated in cooperation with the Tashkent works. At that point, the construction of two Il-76MD-90A prototypes had begun at the Ulyanovsk facility. The 1st serial production Il-76MD-90A was rolled out at Aviastar's Ulyanovsk plant on 16 June 2014. On 29 April 2015, it was reported that the Russian Air Force received the first Il-76MD-90A built at the Ulyanovsk plant "Aviastar-SP" from the 2012 contract for 39 aircraft.
First aircraft were delivered to the Soviet Air Force in June 1974. Next it became the main Soviet strategic transport aircraft. From 1976 it was operated by Aeroflot.
Between 1979 and 1991, the Soviet Air Force Il-76s made 14,700 flights into Afghanistan, transporting 786,200 servicemen, and 315,800 tons of freight. The Il-76 carried 89% of Soviet troops and 74% of the freight that was airlifted. As Afghan rebels were unable to shoot down high-flying Il-76s, their tactics were to try and damage it on takeoff or landing. Il-76s were often hit by shoulder-launched Stinger and Strela heat-seeking missiles and large-calibre machine gun fire, but because the strong airframes were able to take substantial damage and still remain operational, the aircraft had a remarkably low attrition rate during this period of conflict. Building on that experience, the bulk of the Canadian Forces equipment into Afghanistan was flown in using civilian Il-76s. In 2006, the Russian Air Force had about 200 Il-76s. Civilian users in Russia have 108.
On August 3, 1995, a Il-76 piloted by a Russian crew was forced down by a Taliban fighter plane sparking the Airstan incident.
USAF and IAF airmen work inside the cockpit of an Indian Il-76.
In 2004, a Chinese People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) Il-76 carried out a flight mission in Afghanistan, and later in 2011, PLAAF Il-76s were sent to Libya to evacuate Chinese citizens. The two missions were the reported first steps of PLAAF developing long-range transportation capacity.
On 23 March 2007, a Transaviaexport Il-76 was shot down by an anti-aircraft missile while taking off from Mogadishu, Somalia. Everybody on board, seven crew and four passengers, was killed.
Syrian Air Force Il-76s, operating as civil Syrianair aircraft, have been reportedly used to ship weapons, money and other cargo from Russia and Iran to Syria, according to a defected Syrian military pilot. Since the start of the war, in April 2011 (and up to July 2012), around 20 military flights have been conducted to and from Tehran, via Iraqi airspace. Further information exposes that since around 2012, Syrian Il-76s have regularly flown to Moscow's Vnukovo Airport to fetch shipments of Syrian banknotes that have been useful to Bashar al-Assad's government to survive Western sanctions.
Military transport version, (modifitseerovannyy – modified).
Improved military transport version, (modifitseerovannyy Dahl'ny – modified, long-range).
Il-76M / Il-76MD
Built without military equipment but designated as Ms and MDs (Gordon – 'Falsies')
An Il-76MD with quieter and more economical Aviadvigatel PS-90 high-bypass turbofan engines.
Stretched military version with a 6.6 m longer fuselage, PS-90 engines, maximum takeoff weight of 210 tonnes and a lift capability of 60 tonnes. First flew in 1995, not built in series so far, just built for Jordan.
ECM aircraft, major problems with ECM equipment on the Izdeliye-176 only.
Initial Commercial freighter. (two prototypes and 12 production) equipped with Soloviev D-30 Turbofan engines.
Il-76MD to Il-76TD conversions
Complete removal of Military equipment, identified by crude cover over OBIGGS inlet in Starboard Sponson.
Il-76P / Il-76TP / Il-76TDP / Il-76MDP
Firefighting aircraft. The Il-76 waterbomber is a VAP-2 1.5 hour install/removal tanking kit conversion. The Il-76 can carry up to 13,000 U.S. gallons (49,000 liters) of water; 3.5 times the capacity of the C-130 Hercules. Since this kit can be installed on any Il-76, the designation Il-76TP, Il-76TDP are also used when those versions of the Il-76 are converted into waterbombers. The Il-76P was first unveiled in 1990.
('T' for Transport, Транспортный) unarmed civil cargo transport version. NATO code-name "Candid-A". It first flew on November 4, 1978.
The civil equivalent of the Il-76MD, first flew in 1982, equipped with Soloviev D-30 Turbofan engines.
An Il-76TD with Aviadvigatel PS-90 engines and a partial glass cockpit. It was developed specially for Volga-Dnepr cargo company, which operates four aircraft as of 2012.
Civilian mobile Hospital, similar to Il-76MD Skal'pel-MT.
Civil transport stretched version with Aviadvigatel PS-90 engines. It is the civil version of the Il-76MF (none produced).
Domestic Chinese airborne early warning and control conversion of Il-76, developed after A-50I was cancelled and currently in service with the armed forces of China.
CFTE engine testbed
The China Flight Test Establishment (CFTE) currently operates a flying testbed converted from a Russian-made Il-76MD jet transport aircraft to serve as a flying testbed for future engine development programmes. The first engine to be tested on the aircraft is the WS-10A "Taihang" turbofan, currently being developed as the powerplant for China's indigenous J-10 and J-11 fighter aircraft. Il-76MD #76456, acquired by the AVIC 1 from Russia in the 1990s, is currently based at CFTE's flight test facility at Yanliang, Shaanxi Province.
Iraqi development with a radar mounted in the cargo hold, used in the Iran–Iraq War.
Iraqi development (with French assistance) with fibreglass-reinforced plastic radome over the antenna of the Thomson-CSF Tiger G surveillance radar with a maximum detection range of 350 km (189 nmi, 217.5 mi). One was destroyed on the ground during the 1991 Persian Gulf War; two others were flown to Iran where they remained. At least one went into service with the IRIAF. One aircraft crashed following a midair collision with a HESA Saeqeh fighter, during the annual, Iranian military parade in Teheran. It can be distinguished from the Beriev A-50 by having the Il-76 navigator windows in the nose, which the A-50 does not.
Military and civil operators in 38 countries have operated 850+ Il-76 in large numbers. While Russia is the largest military operator of the Il-76, followed by Ukraine and India, Belarus' TransAVIAexport Airlines is the largest civilian operator.
The People's Liberation Army Air Force operates 17 Il-76 aircraft, including three kJ-2000 AEW&C versions and some Il-78 tankers, with a further 30 due for delivery. However, the deal for new IL-476 is canceled, instead China received ten refurbished IL-76 from Russia and is currently developing its own transport the Xian Y-20.
As of April 2018 a total of 80 Il-76 series aircraft have been written off in crashes and other incidents, including the following:
On 23 November 1979, a Soviet Air Force Il-76, registration CCCP-86714, banked left during an approach to Vitebsk Airport. Control of the aircraft was lost and the aircraft crashed, killing the crew of seven; this was the first loss of an Il-76.
On 27 November 1996, a Russian Air Force Ilyushin Il-76MD, registration RA-78804, flew into the hillside of a mountain, minutes after it departed Abakan Airport, and crashed 14 kilometres (8.7 mi) from the airport. All 21 occupants on board lost their lives in the accident.
On 19 February 2003, an Ilyushin Il-76 crashed near Kerman, Iran under unspecified reasons (possibly weather-related). The crash killed 275 people, including hundreds of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.
On 8 May 2003, the rear loading ramp of an Il-76 leased by the Congolese government unexpectedly opened at 10,000 feet after taking off from the capital Kinshasa. Initial reports were that over 120 policemen and their families had been sucked out in 45 minutes, but actual losses were only 14.
On 15 January 2009, two Russian Ministry of Interior Il-76MDs were involved in a ground collision at Makhachkala Airport. One of the aircraft, registration RA-76825, was ready to depart and was positioned at the runway end when the other one, RA-76827, came into land. The wing of the landing aircraft struck the flight deck of RA-76825 and a fire erupted. There were three fatalities in the departing aircraft, out of seven occupants on board. None of the 31 occupants aboard RA-76827 were hurt. RA-76825 was written off as a consequence of the accident.
On 9 March 2009 Aerolift Il-76 S9-SAB crashed into Lake Victoria just after takeoff from Entebbe Airport, Uganda, killing all 11 people on board. Two of the engines had caught fire on takeoff. The aircraft was chartered by Dynacorp on behalf of AMISOM. The accident was investigated by Uganda's Ministry of Transport, which concluded that all four engines were time-expired and that Aerolift's claim that maintenance had been performed to extend their service lives and the certification of this work could not be substantiated.
On 1 November 2009, an Il-76 belonging to the Russian Ministry of the Interior, crashed near the city of Mirny within 2 kilometers after taking off. Eleven people on board were confirmed as killed.
On 28 November 2010 Sun Way Flight 4412, Il-76 4L-GNI, crashed in a populated area of Karachi, Pakistan, shortly after taking off from Jinnah International Airport. All eight people on board were killed, along with two people on the ground. The aircraft was reported to have been trying to return to Jinnah after suffering an engine fire.
On 6 July 2011 a Silk Way Il-76, tail number 4K-AZ55, crashed into a mountain in Afghanistan, while on final to Bagram Air Force Base. Eight people on board were initially confirmed as killed, with one unaccounted.
On 1 July 2016 an Il-76TD (RA-76840) operated by the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations (EMERCOM) went missing in the Irkutsk region while fighting a forest fire; the wreckage was found on 3 July 9 km (5.6 mi) east-southeast of Rybnyi Uyan, Kachug Region on the side of a volcano in the area of an active forest fire; the bodies of the ten crew members were also found. Accident remains under investigation.
On 11 April 2018 an Il-76TD (7T-WIV) operated by the Algerian Air Forcecrashed just after takeoff from an airport at Boufarik — less than 30 km from the capital Algiers—killing at least 257 soldiers and civilians on board.
Aircraft on display
UR-UCI (cn 083414444) preserved in the State Museum of Aviation, Kiev-Zhulyany.