The Russian Air Force has tested a strategic cargo plane in bomber role

Russia has turned an Il-76 strategic cargo plane into bomber during recent trials

The Russian Air Force has conducted tests with an Il-76MD (NATO codename Candid) aircraft carrying  training bombs during trials organized in the Tver region, north of Moscow, Ilyushin announced on Jan. 30.

According to the company, the aircraft carried four 50-kg P-50T dumb bombs on hard-points under the wings.

T-50 bomb

The “attack run” would see the crew find the airfield, visually inspect it with flares and then drop the bombs ahead of landing on the field, located well behind the enemy lines.

The drops should be conducted with 500 km/h of speed (ca. 270 knots) and 500-1000 m (1650 – 3280 feet) of altitude.

Ilyushin claims that bombs will make it possible to employ the Il-76MD in operations which would involve airfields with unprepared or unfamiliar runways, located in a contested territory.

VVS aims to train 10 crews in the new “strike” role; teams that, according to IHS Jane’s, will be stationed in the Tver, Orenburg, Pskov, and Taganrog regions.

IHS Jane’s additionally notes another issue – the place where the specially trained crews are stationed, excluding the Orenburg region, which borders Kazakhstan, will make it possible for the transport jets to conduct strikes over Ukraine or the Baltic States.

Generally speaking, using bombs with a transport aircraft is not a new idea. One should take into account the (armored and heavily armed) U.S. AC-130 gunships which were fairly successful when employed as CAS (Close Air Support) platforms. U.S. Air Force has also used transport aircraft to drop GBU-43/B MOAB (Massive Ordnance Air Blast, also known as the Mother of All Bombs) thermobaric weapons. These were dropped with the use of C-130 Hercules aircraft, mostly the MC-130E Combat Talon I or MC-130H Combat Talon II variants.

C-17 Globemasters were also said to be capable to deliver this armament.

Il-76 landing

Even though transport aircraft have been successfully transformed in bombers in the past, the heavy and scarcely maneuverable aircraft carrying weapons can only be employed during low-intensity conflicts, in areas where virtually no air-defenses exist. Otherwise, using a troop-carrier as a heavy bomber to drop dumb bombs through a SAM-infested airspace, as the one surrounding an enemy airfield, would be almost suicidal.

Il-76 taxi

Image credit: Ilyushin


About Jacek Siminski
Standing contributor for TheAviationist. Aviation photojournalist. Co-Founder of Expert in linguistics, Cold War discourse, Cold War history and policy and media communications.


  1. The “pro-American” (viz Obama via CNN) forces have a dandy armored personnel carrier ‘bus’ tricked out to look like an ambulance. Nifty. And they have been photographed using a real ambulance and yellow school buses to transport armed men and weapons in the Debaltsevo area.

  2. Night missions where? In western Europe? You don’t waste a big plane with long range for harassment and interdiction missions – unless, like bombing the Ho Chi Minh Trail, its a ‘strategic mission of vital National importance’.

  3. Look up ‘CABS’ (Cargo Aircraft Bombardment System’ and ‘MCALS’ (MALD Cargo Aircraft Launch System). The thing which cargo aircraft do best is fly like an airliner on a fixed fuel burn for payload schedule, -very efficiently-, at very high altitudes. We’re talking 40K, Mach .8 and 4-8,000nm. This is _very useful_ in low intensity conflicts where you are looking at a need to surge up a major CAS presence in a Tet Offensive precursor condition of limited activity to let the enemy know you are aware of them.
    But it is even more effective when you shift to heavier cruise weapons like the 400nmAGM-158B and hopefully something to replace the 700nm AGM-86C. Because you are looking to launch outside enemy ADIZ reactionary controlled airspace in a cruise point-to-point mode that allows strategic initiative from someplace like Eilsen all the way down to Paya Lebar or even RAAF Curtin, non stop. Having a LARGE force of airlifters allows you to do this on an ’18 shots every hour’ basis while highly intelligent weapons like LRASM can be cycled into holding orbits and then told to criss cross a given area and hunt down a specific target class. All with minimum cuing and far more rapid deployment than USN forces from Yokosuka or Naha.
    Throw in MALD/MASSM as 300-500nm Decoy and ISR drones like our BQM-34 Lightning Bug effort in SEA (flew 2/3rds of the recce missions up north, long after RF-4 and RF-101 manned assets were deemed unsurvivable) and what this effectively means is that you can look beyond 50-100 LRSB to instead exploit an existing transport infrastructure with launches from _inside_ protective HAVCAP orbits which pick them up on approach and cycle them out, beyond threat longrange intercept distance. Maybe throw in an SM6 equipped Burke or three for good measure.
    What they talk about here with the direct bombing attacks is, IMO, useless unless you are doing Forced Entry missions. It sounds a lot like the Blind Bat sorties mixed in with a little ‘Hard CSAR’ as the 50kg weapons remind me of BZ (incapacitant gas) bombs which we used to drop as a barrier capability of last resort when CBU-24/25 wasn’t targetable due to extremely close enemy proximity to downed aircrew etc. Makes _everyone_ sick as a dog, unable to stand and often times psychotically delusional.
    But if you have to put down a Company Team just outside a major urban center in a hostage rescue or nuclear default ‘securing’ op, it could give you the roll-off window to get your vehicles down and moving while the C-17s or An-124s _never stop rolling_ on some highway.
    Again, this is kind’ve one of those things you would do only as a last resort when your objective was too deep to sortie in fighter cover and/or you needed a SOLL-II type profile all the way in, just to survive the AD and/or maintain operational surprise.
    But it is doable, though I would prefer something closer to a BLU-82 or M121 as ‘popup’ with an airburst to get maximum aerosol dispersal over a wide area. Obviously, you’re going to have to go in full-MOPP and NBC filtered on your ARMOR and drive the heck out of the zone as fast as you can.
    But then again, didimau’ing off the LZ surrounds is pretty much SOP with special insertion anyway. It will be even more important when you extract with the wolves nipping at your heels.

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