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An Il-78 of Jamahiriya Air Transport.
Role Aerial refueling
Manufacturer Ilyushin
First flight 26 June 1983
Introduction 1984 (Il-78)
Status Active, in production
Primary users Russian Air Force
Ukrainian Air Force
Indian Air Force
People's Liberation Army Air Force
Pakistan Air Force
Produced 1984-2006
Number built 53[1]
Developed from Ilyushin Il-76

The Ilyushin Il-78 (NATO reporting name Midas) is a four-engined aerial refueling tanker based on the Il-76.

Design and development

IL-78 Midas from 203rd Guards Air Refueling Regiment

The Il-76 tanker was conceived as long ago as 1968, but the transferable fuel load for the initial version was only 10 tonnes, which was insufficient, so development was shelved. When the higher performance Il-76 became available the tanker project was restarted in 1982 as the IL-78.[citation needed]

In addition to the increased fuel load of the late model IL-76, the IL-78 has two removable 18,230-liter fuel tanks installed in the freight hold, giving transferable loads of 85,720 kg (188,980 lb) (with hold tanks) or 57,720 kg (127,250 lb) (without). Controlled from the gunner station, which is stripped of military equipment, three aircraft can refuel in flight simultaneously from the UPAZ-1A (IL-78) / UPAZ-1M (IL-78M) 26m refuelling pods fitted to the outer wings and rear fuselage.[citation needed] In addition, four aircraft can also be refuelled on the ground using conventional refueling hoses extending from the freight hold. Because of the aircraft's high all-up weight after take-off, which in an emergency would mean landing at weights well in excess of maximum allowable landing weight, the IL-78 has a fuel jettison system with jettison ports at the wingtips.[citation needed]

IL-78 Midas cockpit

Soon after the IL-78 passed acceptance tests in 1984, Ilyushin was instructed to design and produce an upgraded version to be known as IL-78M. The IL-78M is a dedicated tanker and cannot be converted back to the transport role easily. Adding a third freight hold tank increased transferable fuel to 105,720 kg (233,070 lb) and maximum take-off weight (MTOW) to 210,000 kg (460,000 lb), necessitating reinforcement of the wing torsion box. UPAZ-1M refueling pods improved maximum fuel flow to 2,900 l/min [2] (638 Imp gal/min). Because the Il-78M is not "convertible", all cargo handling equipment was removed and cargo doors were deleted, saving approximately 5,000 kg (11,000 lb) in structural weight.[citation needed]

Early versions of the IL-78 have the fuselage pod mounted on a short horizontal pylon, but the Il-78M has the fuselage pod suspended from an identical pylon to the wing pods, attached to a short stub wing. This modification was served to isolate the pod from turbulence generated by the fuselage, with the added benefit of commonality with the wing pod/pylon combination. Some IL-78s were produced with Aeroflot colors and civilian registrations, but production IL-78Ms received military markings, registration and color scheme.[citation needed]

The majority of the twenty IL-78 aircraft on the strength of Ukrainian Air Force have been permanently converted to pure transports, freight hold tanks and refueling equipment being removed.[citation needed]

Operational history

All Russian Air Force Il-78s are now part of the special 203rd "Orlovski" Regiment of aerial tankers, based at Dyagilevo Air Force Base.[citation needed]


The Il-78 was the original production version with two removable fuselage tanks and maximum transferable load of 85.72 tonnes (188,540 lb).
Alternative designation for Il-78 due to retention of all cargo handling equipment and convertible freight hold.[citation needed]
The Il-78M entered service in 1987 as a dedicated tanker equipped with three permanent fuselage tanks, a higher gross weight of 210 tons, and no cargo door or cargo handling equipment. The cargo ramp is retained but non-functional. Total fuel capacity is 138 tonnes (303,600 lb), of which 105.7 tonnes (232,540 lb) is transferable.[3]
Export version of Il-78M.
Customized variant of the Il-78ME for the Indian Air Force. These Uzbekistan-built planes are fitted with Israeli fuel transfer systems and can refuel 6-8 Sukhoi Su-30MKIs in one mission.[4][5]
Multi-role aerial refuelling tanker/transport aircraft, with removable fuel tanks in cargo hold and UPAZ refuelling pods, for the Pakistan Air Force.[6][7]


As of 14 March 2009, 34 Il-78s remain in operation.[1]

A Tu-95MS simulating aerial refueling with an Ilyushin Il-78 during the Victory Day Parade in Moscow on 9 May 2008.

Il-78MKI in-service with the Indian Air Force

A Pakistan Air Force Il-78 at Istanbul Atatürk Airport in 2013..

  • Pakistan Air Force - 4 Il-78MP aircraft ordered from Ukrainian surplus aircraft stocks, fitted with removable fuel tanks and UPAZ refuelling pods,[6][7] first of 4 aircraft delivered in December 2009.[7][9] A total of 4 Il-78MPs have been delivered to the PAF as of May 2012. IL-78 MRTT has a hose drogue refuelling system with a capacity of carrying 85,720 kg(188,977 lb)fuel. It has four turbofan engines, each of which is capable of delivering 118 kN (26,500 lbs) thrust. It can be used in both tanker and transport role too.[10]
United States
  • North American Tactical Aviation, Inc. A private firm that was previously managed by Dwight Barnell, the company also known as "NATA" purchased several Il-78s for their outsourced, air to air inflight operations with various U.S. DoD agencies and sold the Il-78 FAA registered aircraft N78GF to Air Support Systems LLC, which then leased the aircraft to Tactical Air Support Systems Inc.[13][14]
  • Tactical Air Defense Services, Inc. A publicly traded company listed as a U.S. bulletin board stock (TADF.OB) that claims to operate an Il-78 for outsourced U.S. an NATO contracts for air to air inflight operations with various U.S. DoD agencies. Alexis Korybut is the CEO and Chairman, Marc Shubin is a Director and Chief Pilot of the company Tactical Air Services Inc.[15][16]
  • Air Support Systems LLC. A private company that is the registered owner on file with the FAA as N78GF. Air Support Systems LLC is owned by Gary Fears, an individual that is known for casino gaming ties to native American tribes throughout the U.S., Air Support Systems LLC., leased the Il-78 N78GF to Tactical Air Defense Services Inc. of which Gary Fears is the largest shareholder, along with Jamie Goldstein, Don Goldstein, Joel Ramsden, Dwight Barnell, Alexis Korybut and Michael Cariello.[17][18][19]

Potential operators

Specifications (Il-78M)

Data from IL-78MKI Midas at Indian Military Database[5]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 6
  • Capacity: 85,720 kg (188,980 lb) payload (fuel)
  • Length: 46.59 m (152 ft 10 in)
  • Wingspan: 50.5 m (165 ft 8 in)
  • Height: 14.76 m (48 ft 5 in)
  • Wing area: 300 m2 (3,200 sq ft)
  • Empty weight: 72,000 kg (158,733 lb)
  • Max takeoff weight: 210,000 kg (462,971 lb)
  • Special equipment: 3 x UPAZ-1M 'Sakhalin', (oonifitseerovannyy podvesnoy agregaht zaprahvki — standardised suspended refuelling unit), refuelling pods; Two on pylons under the outer wings, and the third on the port side of the rear fuselage.
  • Fuel transfer rate: up to 1361 kg/min (3000 lbs/min)
  • Powerplant: 4 × Aviadvigatel D-30 KP turbofan engines, 118 kN (27,000 lbf) thrust each


  • Maximum speed: 850 km/h (528 mph; 459 kn)
  • Range: 7,300 km (4,536 mi; 3,942 nmi)
  • Service ceiling: 12,000 m (39,370 ft)
  • Thrust/weight: 0.23

See also



  1. 1.0 1.1 "Il-78 Production Numbers". AeroTransport Data Bank. 
  3. Gordon, Yefim; Kommissarov, Dmitriy (2002). Ilyushin Il-76, Russia's Versatile Airlifter. Midland. ISBN 1-85780-106-7. 
  4. Mukherjee, Amit (September 29, 2004). "IAF to get 5th IL-78 refueller soon". The TImes of India. 
  5. 5.0 5.1
  6. 6.0 6.1 Ansari, Usman (3 November 2008). "Pakistan Eyes Boost in Transport, Lift". Defense News. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 "Pakistan Receiving IL-78 Refueling aircraft". Defense Industry Daily. 2008-12-08. Retrieved 2009-07-24. 
  8. "Deal for procuring mid-air refueller aircraft in last phase". 
  9. "First aircraft tanker arrives in Pakistan: PAF". GEO Pakistan. December 19, 2009. 
  10. "Role of strategic tanker in PAF". 
  11. ru:203-й гвардейский авиационный полк
  12. "Ukraine — Air Force Equipment". 
  13. "FAA Registry for N78GF". FAA. Retrieved March 21, 2010. 
  14. Photo of N78GF at
  15. "Tactical Air Defense". 
  16. "Tactical Air Defense Services". Defense Procurement News. Retrieved 2011-10-01. 
  17. "N78GF". 
  18. Wyatt Olson (2003-01-30). "Gamblin' Men - Page 3 - News - Broward/Palm Beach - Broward-Palm Beach New Times". Broward/Palm Beach. Retrieved 2011-10-01. 
  19. "Tactical Air Defense Services Inc. News: Tactical Air Defense Services Receives FAA Approval for Its ILyushin IL-78 Mid-Air Refueling Supertanker". Retrieved 2011-10-01. 
  20. "Venezuela To Spend One Billion Dollar Russian Loan On Air Defense". RIA Novosti. October 2, 2008. 


  • Gordon, Yefim (2004). OKB Ilyushin: a history of the design bureau and its aircraft. Ian Allan. ISBN 1-85780-187-3. 

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