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How Indian Air Force Can Use Its Transport Aircraft IL-76 For Carpet Bombing


The Ilyushin IL-76 is a medium-range, multi-purpose, military transport aircraft but the latest video from the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation shows that they are more than just the back-end operators.

The video shows practical bombing and firing from aerial cannons at ground targets carried out by the IL-76 crews in the Tver region of Russia as part of a control check. The flight altitude varied from 300 to 1000 meters, and the speed exceeded 500 km / h, the defence ministry said.

As per the ministry, the flights were attended by the crews of the Tver, Pskov and Ivanovo air regiments, including young pilots and navigators who graduated from universities last year. Each of the crew members performed at least three sorties for combat use.

India also has the fleet of 17 IL-76 transport aircraft, as well as the seven IL-78 aerial refuelers, known as ‘Gajraj’ in the Indian Air Force. Can the Indian Air Force’s IL-76 can carry out a similar operation, a military analyst and retired IAF Jaguar pilot Vijainder K Thakur says yes, it can.

India and China are set to enter the seventh month of the military stand-off in the Ladakh region, with disengagement nowhere in sight ahead of the bitter winter of the Himalayas. As part of its logistical preparation for the troops in the Himalayas, India has deployed transport aircraft like the C-17, IL-76, C-130J to keep the supply chains moving.

In case the Himalayan conflict escalates, the military transport aircraft, also termed back-end warriors by Air Vice Marshal Manmohan Bahadur (retd), will be playing a major role but not just for the airlifting.

The heavy transport aircraft of the IAF has also airlifted tanks, T-72 and T-90 tanks, and armoured personnel carriers of the Indian Army from the plains to Ladakh against China. Recently, the video had emerged of IL-76 aircraft landing at an airbase in Ladakh.

Indian Air Force had procured these aircraft from the erstwhile Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) between 1985 and 1989. Their first overhaul was due after five years of induction, which was later extended to 10 years.

A report in The Tribune says that the Indian Air Force continuing flying its IL-76 heavy-lift aircraft well past the expiry of their prescribed technical life may be compromising operational missions, posing a high risk to human life as well as aircraft.

However, as per The long-serving IL-76 has had an accident-free innings in the IAF, a fact that most miss, as per Air Vice-Marshal Arjun Subramaniam, a retired fighter pilot from the IAF.

In 2018, the Indian Air Force had sought the defence ministry’s approval for a comprehensive upgrade of IL-76 transport aircraft and IL-78 aerial refuelers, as per a report in The Economic Times.

As per the sources quoted in the report, the upgrade would have included new engines for the aircraft that will substantially increase its service life by up to 15 more years.


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