The Il-76, NATO code name "Candid
," is a cargo aircraft
designed in the Soviet Union
, and looks roughly similar to the C-141 Starlifter
and C-17 Globemaster III
. Many are used by Aeroflot
and the Russian Air Force
, while many more are found in the hands of commercial operators like Air Koryo
, and Libyan Arab Airlines
. Several other air forces use Il-76's, including those of the Czech Republic
(where it's called the Galaraj
), and Yemen
had many Il-76's before Gulf War II
: several Il-76 carcasses could be seen in the post-battle aftermath at Saddam International Airport
The plane first flew in 1971, and has since replaced the older An-12 Cub in a variety of mission roles. With its high-mounted wing and rugged landing gear, the Il-76 can operate from the most primitive airstrips in Siberia, and with a cruising speed of nearly 500 mph (800 km/h), it can cross Russia's vast width in no time at all. Its maximum payload is just over 110 000 lb (52 000 kg) in a cargo bay large enough to hold 140 passengers, 125 paratroopers, a medical unit, or oversized items up to 80 feet long and 10 feet wide.
Like the Boeing 707, the Il-76's airframe has been refitted for all sorts of purposes. The A-50 Mainstay is an AWACS airplane used by Russia, China, and India, while the Il-78 Midas is an Il-76 equipped for in-flight refueling. The Il-76DMP is used for firefighting, where it can carry and dump more than 40 tons of water or foam. The Il-76SK is used as an airborne command post, and the Il-76MPP is used for electronic warfare. Other Il-76's have been equipped for free fall training and operations in Antarctica, among other missions. Military-spec Il-76's are also lightly armed, with two 23mm machine guns sticking out of the tail to dispatch hungry F-16's.
Over 700 have been built, and they continue to fly around the world today.