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Il-76 vs Il-96 for Awacs? why cargo transports instead of an airliner?

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  • Y-20 Bacon
    Senior Member

    Il-76 vs Il-96 for Awacs? why cargo transports instead of an airliner?

    ive been wondering, why did the Soviets/Russians went with the Il-76 as the airframe for their AWACS rather than an airliner, like the Il-86/96 etc? (same applies for its customers like China and India)

    US designs tended to use airliners i.e. 707, 767, 737 (balance beam)

    Or conversely we could ask.. why not C-17 for awacs over 767 and 737s?
  • stealthflanker
    Rank 5 Registered User

    #2
    Soviet picked IL-76 as it's already in production and already build up good service records and reliability. That always a plus side.

    Chinese however specifically want Il-76 based platform for their aborted A-50I program.

    US pretty much the same requirements, already produced design, with good serviceability and availability.

    Comment

    • J Boyle
      With malice towards none

      #3
      When the U.S. AWACS was originated in the late 60s, an airliner was the logical...or only...choice. The Lockheed C-141 was out of production and obviously the C-5 was too big and expensive.

      Likewise the C-17 is a fairly expensive aircraft with capabilities (STOL /loading features) an AWACS just doesn't need.
      Besides, as previously pointed out, using an airliner makes major servicing much easier not to mention training and simulators, or as NATO did, use a ex-airliner as an inexpensive/unequipped "bounce bird".
      There are two sides to every story. The truth is usually somewhere between the two.

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      • JSR
        JSR
        Rank 5 Registered User

        #4
        A-100 also has wingtip pods and larger antenna for the platform size.


        Comment

        • Y-20 Bacon
          Senior Member

          #5
          ok so why not the il-86 if airliners are cheaper and easier to support.
          it was certainly available when the Soviets made the A-50

          Comment

          • ananda
            Rank 5 Registered User

            #6
            Perhaps the simple question is, what is Soviet/Russian airliner with the space and capacity of IL-76 that are more reliable or have population in service..?

            Soviet/Russian wide body airliner that potentially can match IL-76was and still is not reliable as Western airliner. Russian airliner that begin to match Western reliability is Sukhoi Superjet..and it's too small.

            Perhaps they will change the thinking when they see their new generation Airliner performance latter on (MS-21 or the C929 JV with Chinese COMAC). Until then, IL-76 family is their only choice..
            Last edited by ananda; 5th January 2018, 07:35.

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            • a89
              a89
              Rank 5 Registered User

              #7
              One advantage was that Il-76 could operate from more airfields than Soviet airliners.
              History and Military Technology blog

              alejandro-8en.blogspot.com

              Comment

              • sandiego89
                Rank 5 Registered User

                #8
                I agree with others that having the type already in service would be a major plus in terms of, spares, support etc, for what was going to be a small fleet.

                I also recall that the US did not want a T-tail as the radar dish would wash out the horizontal stab at higher angles of attack. Obviously others have made it work, but stil seems better to have a lower stab.

                Comment

                • Gerard
                  Rank 5 Registered User

                  #9
                  And the Russians did use a military aircraft before to be converted into an AWACS, the Tu-126 Moss. As did the USA who had experience with conversion of an airliner with the EC-121 Warning Star (Super constellation)
                  For Roundels of the World: http://www.drareg.nl/Markeringen/index.html or Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/481843655359127/

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                  • Freehand
                    Rank 5 Registered User

                    #10
                    C-17 costs much more than a B737 or B767.

                    Comment

                    • Levsha
                      Rank 5 Registered User

                      #11
                      One advantage was that Il-76 could operate from more airfields than Soviet airliners.
                      The only airfields that and A-50 (or E-3) AWACS aircraft can operate from are those airfields which are equipped to handle such an aircraft. Mostly big airfields, with long smooth runways.

                      Comment

                      • Trident
                        Rank 5 Registered User

                        #12
                        Most of the points have been made on the forum before (don't look at me!), but let's summarize them once more in one spot.

                        What you want from a good AWACS platform is:

                        1) sufficient payload to carry the radar hardware
                        2) sufficient cabin real estate to house the operators
                        3) sufficient electrical generating capacity to power the electronics
                        4) the highest possible service ceiling
                        5) the longest possible endurance

                        Some of these are conflicting to various degrees, such as cabin size (which causes drag) and endurance. 1) to 3) require a certain minimum aircraft size - how big depends on electronics technology level - so something like the U-2 (excellent ceiling and endurance!) is out altogether or requires you to accept a heavy radar performance penalty. Nowadays anything the size of a 737 upwards probably satisfies the first three points without compromising anymore - so for the aircraft mentioned so far it becomes a question of endurance and ceiling really. Ceiling (especially once fitted with a radome) is also too close to matter among these platforms, leaving endurance.

                        For the USSR in the early 1980s (choosing the platform for what would become the A-50) the Il-76 is the airframe of choice based on that logic (the rough field capability does no harm, but I doubt it was actually a major consideration). Regarding potential alternatives, I can do no better than to quote what I wrote previously on that subject:

                        "What else was there, back then? The Tu-114 was ideally suited on paper, but experience with the Tu-126 had just shown that radar interference from the huge counter-rotating props was prohibitive (which incidentally means the An-22 and Tu-95/142 are out too). The Tu-154M? Too short legged especially if saddled with bulky Soviet radar electronics. The Il-62M meanwhile was too small and starting to fade into obsolescence by then, same with the M-4 which wasn't even in production anymore.

                        So what about the Il-86? Apart from the Il-76 the only serious contender and certainly large enough to carry a powerful radar system. However its range was actually a bit *shorter* than that of the Il-76 (from Wiki and the Ilyushin site: ~3360km vs. 3800km at max payload, 8200km vs. 8700km ferry)! With that major drawback in mind, its minor advantages in other respects could not outweigh the benefit of commonality with the Il-76 transport fleet. It must have nevertheless been a pretty close-run thing between the two, a number of Il-86s were selected for the similar airborne command post role along with Il-76s (crew comfort for the higher-ranking occupants may have been the decisive point)."

                        So, I feel the Soviets made a prudent choice back then. India went on to adopt it out of a mixture of budget constraints and lack of alternatives - as US equipment was still out of reach at the time, IAI were pretty much the only available radar vendors and the Il-76 was the only large airframe with structural integration already done. That the IAF already operated transports and tankers based on the same aircraft helped, of course. China was even more constrained in their choices, unlike India they could not get another platform of comparable size for any money in the world (the same points about commonality apply as well) - they were even denied IAI as a radar supplier and had to go it alone.

                        As for the recent selection of the platform for the next generation Russian A-100 AWACS however, not going for the Il-96 was almost criminally stupid in my opinion. Before the Il-76 final assembly line was moved to Russia from Uzbekistan at great cost, the Il-96 was already entirely indigenous and it absolutely wipes the floor with even the PS-90-engined Il-76 upgrades (we are talking a difference in the 30 to 40% ball park!) in terms of endurance. Same with not using it for refueling - operating costs should be considerably lower too thanks to the commercial heritage and mechanically simpler airframe.

                        The only thing the Il-76 has going for it today is that it will form the mainstay of the Russian airlifter fleet for some time to come (commonality), but that's pretty much a fall out from the failure to adequately fund An-70 development and thus introduce it into service before the political split with Ukraine. Even then, the Il-96 would at least have engine commonality with the transport fleet - considering the vast gulf in performance between the two, having two airframe platforms rather than one would be a small price to pay. It would also keep the Il-96 line alive without attempting to resurrect the hopelessly outdated passenger model which is doomed to abject commercial failure in the era of 787s and A350s.
                        Last edited by Trident; 5th January 2018, 21:44.
                        sigpic

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                        • JSR
                          JSR
                          Rank 5 Registered User

                          #13
                          Originally posted by Levsha View Post
                          The only airfields that and A-50 (or E-3) AWACS aircraft can operate from are those airfields which are equipped to handle such an aircraft. Mostly big airfields, with long smooth runways.
                          Big AESA radar with various pods/electronics in wing, nose and tail make aircraft even more heavier and hence airlifter is needed for shorter runway. now headphone and confortable ergonomic chair is advanced enough that no need for civil airlines . AWACS also not have windows which is more common with transport . Off course too wide transport like C17/Y20 not suitable.

                          Comment

                          • Levsha
                            Rank 5 Registered User

                            #14
                            The Il-62M meanwhile was too small and starting to fade into obsolescence by then, same with the M-4 which wasn't even in production anymore.
                            The Il-62M is bigger than the Boeing 707(E-3) surely - it's certainly more powerful? Also the Il-62 has a tremendous range, a lot better than the Il-76, and it was also still in production till the 1990s.
                            But no doubt the Soviet military made the right choice.

                            Comment

                            • Trident
                              Rank 5 Registered User

                              #15
                              Il-62M range is not that much better than the Il-76 for the purposes of an AWACS, because adding the heavy radar equipment (~20t on the A-50) brings it almost to the limits of its payload capacity. You then end up with about 8100km:

                              http://www.ilyushin.org/images/air/1/IL-62m/002.jpg

                              For the Il-76 you get about 7400km:

                              http://www.ilyushin.org/images/air/2...L-76md/002.jpg

                              That's not entirely insignificant, but neglects that with the Il-62M's centre of gravity issues it might not be possible to integrate such heavy equipment in a way that meets the requirements of the radar (radome location).

                              For completeness' sake, here are the diagrams for the re-engined Il-76TD (the best case scenario - the military variants are actually slightly shorter-ranged due to heavier empty weight):

                              http://www.ilyushin.org/images/air/2...d-90vd/002.jpg

                              ... and the Il-96-400T (a bit of a non-optimum case, because for an AWACS version empty weight could be cut somewhat by using the shorter Il-96-300 fuselage, while keeping the 270t MTOW):

                              http://www.ilyushin.org/images/air/2...6-400t/002.jpg

                              It's obvious that the performance advantage is impressive to say the least - almost 13000km versus 8700km!
                              sigpic

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                              • JSR
                                JSR
                                Rank 5 Registered User

                                #16
                                A-100 will I am sure used technologies developed for IL-478 that give enhanced range plus high production rate upto 21 a year for IL476/IL478/A100 make over all cost cheaper along with same pilot training.

                                Comment

                                • Y-20 Bacon
                                  Senior Member

                                  #17
                                  Good comments

                                  The T-tail issue is something interesting. is it still a problem in Russian based AWACS as the Il-76 is a T-Tail design?


                                  And glad some one else also thinks the Il-96 would have served as a better basis for AWACS than the Il-76.
                                  I am also surprised the Il-76 had more range than the 86, although I still stand that the 86 would have been a better platform.
                                  Its just as big, same era, mass produced.

                                  With lighter radars and more forms now available, I suspect the MC-21 could also serve as another platform for a smaller AWACS.
                                  Similar to the balance beam awacs 737. Could be useful for export, especially countries like Kazakhstan.

                                  Comment

                                  • Y-20 Bacon
                                    Senior Member

                                    #18
                                    its worth noting the il-86 airframe has been used for other military applications so I don't buy the (il-86 is not suited for military) use

                                    Comment

                                    • JSR
                                      JSR
                                      Rank 5 Registered User

                                      #19
                                      its worth noting the il-86 airframe has been used for other military applications so I don't buy the (il-86 is not suited for military) use
                                      Chinese also use Tu-154M but it does not mean it is suitable for AWACS. small AWACS like Saab-2000 or E-7 are ineffective when you consider fighter radars power. fighter also fly higher than AWACS. MIG-35 is 19kim altitude.

                                      The antenna on E767 is 9 meter. 19 people on board.
                                      https://web.archive.org/web/20080213.../767specs.html

                                      Comment

                                      • JSR
                                        JSR
                                        Rank 5 Registered User

                                        #20
                                        its several generational leap in capability.
                                        https://www.ainonline.com/aviation-n...-plans-new-one
                                        The defense ministry has presented us with its vision and specification. It calls for the new aircraft to be far better than any of the in-service types in Russia and abroad. We are working hard to meet their requirements,” Kobzev told AIN. The A-100 will use the Il-476 platform and an all-new active phased-array radar from the Vega company. This aircraft is expected to fly in 2016

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