Russia is to begin developing a prototype Airborne Warning And Control System (AWACS) aircraft based on the upgraded Ilyushin Il-76MD-90A (Il-476) airframe, it was announced on 21 November.
Although plans to do so were first introduced in 2011, the first Il-76MD-90A airframe to be converted into an AWACS prototype arrived at the Taganrog-based Beriyev Aviation Scientific-Technical Complex (TANTK) on the shore of the Sea of Azov on the same day as the announcement, the TASS news agency reported.
The Il-76MD-90A-based platform will be designated the A-100 (the current Il-76 based AWACS, of which there are 20 currently in service with the Russian Air Force [VVS], is designated the A-50 ‘Mainstay’).
While few details pertaining to the A-100 have been released, it has been revealed that it will be built around an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, as opposed to the mechanically scanned radar of the A-50.
IHS Jane’s has previously reported that this new AESA will likely be the JSC REC ‘Vega’ Premier radar that is scanned mechanically in azimuth and electronically in elevation. As with the A-50, the A-100’s radar antenna will be mounted in a rotating dorsal rotodome
While the AESA radar will provide a dramatic improvement in the platform’s ability to detect and track both airborne and land-based targets, as well as making for a more reliable and easier to maintain solution, the move to the Il-76MD-90A airframe will bestow advantages from the new avionics (reduced crew workload), and improved fuel efficiency (cheaper to operate, and with increased time on station).
According to TASS, once developed and fielded, the A-100 will replace the A-50 in VVS service, although no timelines were disclosed. The VVS currently has 39 Il-76MD-90A airlifters under contract, but is understood to have a requirement for 100. It is likely that any A-100 order would be in addition to these airlifters.
According to TASS, the manufacturing cycle for one Il-76MD-90A aircraft is two years, and there are currently 13 such aircraft on the production line.