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. Uh oh. The Russiophobs have arrived. But seriously. the Il-76 was jokingly referred to as the largest bush plane in the world. The reason you would drop flares is to illuminate the area, and then bombs to clear the trees and bushes. Pretty run of the mill exercise.

    • Don’t they have the Russki equivalent of a ‘Daisy Cutter”? A ‘Tulipskii Snipper’ might be of great use for clearing a landing for a MiL, but the taxi across the blast zone would be too bumpy, even for the flat-footed llyushin.

      • Well, the engineering charges like that explode outward in a disk shape, leaving no craters. Alternatively, if it were thermobaric charges, it could burn through vegetation and such. It’s just I cannot think of a plausible scenario where it would be used as a strategic bomber

  2. Seems like it is more of an army engineering tool than a bomber. Use it to clear a strip that the 76 can land on. It has big squishy tires that allow it to land on pretty much any semi-flat surface. It can land in less than 500 ft, about 3 plane lengths. (to put that in perspective, the much larger C-17 needs over 3000 ft to land).
    It is not going to be used as a bomber over Ukraine because:
    1. This is a blind shot to Ukraine’s multiple S-200 and Buk systems.
    2. Long range artillery and cruise missiles are much more discrete.

  3. guys, seriously.. This Il-76 is used with the ongoing weapons trial of VVS. It is only a flying testbed for different test purpose like, weapons seperation, mid-course navigation/accuracy and datalink. How freakin hard can it be 2 understand these things..

  4. The author of this article has gaps in his knowledge about SEAD tactics. No doubt, if the Russian airforce is to penetrate airspace that is heavily protected, they will strike first with long range, standoff munitions such as cruise missiles, and other PGMs. And of course, I can’t imagine that the IL-76 will go in un-escorted.

  5. Anybody who’d try landing a cargo jet in “contested” territory is asking for a plane crash. The Ukrainians tried that at Lugansk with spectacular results – had it not been for the three BMPs on board, the downing might have been called a ‘humanitarian disaster’ (they tried that).

    The American C-17 was designed for such a role – after the Marines went in, by Osprey, to secure the landing area. Or that was the notion back in 1970.

    Pre-landing bombing might just wake up the opposition and ensure they had full ammo belts for the machine-gun ‘welcome’ – probably much worse than the one Ms Clinton got in Bosnia..

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