Russia to revamp military transport aircraft fleet

( RIA Novosti ) - The Russian Air Force has outlined plans to modernize the country's ageing fleet of military transport aircraft, the Air Force's commander said on Tuesday.

According to various sources, there are up to 300 transport aircraft in service with the Russian Air Force, including An-12 Cub, An-72 Coaler, An-124 Condor and Il-76 Candid planes. Most of the aircraft entered service in the 1960s and 1970s and are considered unsafe by modern safety standards.

Colonel General Alexander Zelin said the Air Force had recently determined which planes would be chosen as the core of the military transport fleet in four categories.

"In the light transport category, we have opted for the Il-112V plane," he said, adding that the aircraft is still at the design stage.

"There are some problems with financing, and the project has been delayed, but I think the aircraft will make its maiden flight as early as in 2009," Zelin said.

In the medium-lift category, Russia relies on a joint Russian- Indian project set to be implemented in three to four years. Russia and India signed last year an intergovernmental agreement on the joint development of a multi-role transport aircraft (MTA).The MTA medium transport aircraft project envisions the development of a transport plane with a 20-ton cargo capacity to be in service with the Russian and Indian Air Forces.

The Il-76ND and its upgraded variant, Il-76MF, will constitute the core of the heavy-lift transport fleet, the Air Force commander said. An assembly plant for these aircraft is being built in Ulyanovsk, in the Volga region.

According to Zelin, the An-124 and its modernized version, the An-124-100, will remain in service as a strategic heavy airlift transport aircraft. Russia currently deploys an air regiment equipped with these planes.

First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov said on February 27 that Russia's fleet of military transport aircraft had become dangerously obsolete and the country may be left without military cargo planes by 2015.

However, comprehensive upgrading may extend their service life until 2020-2025, he said.

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