A special version of the Il-76MD-90A (Il-476) airlifter, developed for special forces support was tracked online during flight test recently.
A really interesting aircraft was spotted conducting flight testing over the Black Sea on Sept. 26, 2017: the Il-76MD-90A “78650”, the first “Candid” modified to carry out special operations.
According to the Russian media outlet “Izvestia” the example “78650” is a flying testbed for a heavily modified Il-76MD-90A variant equipped with “unique on-board radio-electronic systems that would allow the aircraft to stealthily deliver paratroopers and special forces behind the enemy lines, remaining invisible and invulnerable to the enemy.”
How the aircraft can evade radars and remain invisible is unclear, anyway, the experimental Candid can be distinguished from the baseline IL-76MD-90A by the presence of an opto-electronic station mounted on the lower nose section of the aircraft and for the “President-C” system used designed to protect aircraft from MANPADS (Man-Portable Air Defense Systems) and IR (heat-seeking) missiles by laser and radiofrequency/electronic jamming of the missile guidance.
The aircraft is also equipped with advanced avionics, modernized communication suite and flight navigation system as well as a new collision warning system for low-level flying.
The example “78650,” used to test the new Special OPS variant of the Candid strategic cargo, is the same aircraft involved in the flight-test and certification program for the Il-76MD-90A airlifter (first flight on Sept. 22, 2012). According to “Izvestia,” the aircraft returned to the Aviastar manufacturing facility in Ulyanovsk, where new equipment was installed, in 2014.
With the modified Il-76, Moscow aims to field all-weather, day and night aircraft capable to airdrop special forces or cargo well inside the enemy territory or to land on unprepared airstrips behind the enemy lines. More or less what the U.S. special operations aircraft (such as the MC-130s or the C-17 Globemaster IIIs) have been doing for some decades.
— Air Force Freak (@AlRFORCEFREAK) September 26, 2017
Needless to say we don’t know what type of sensor the Il-76 “78650” was testing over the Black Sea on Sept. 26; nevertheless, it is at least interesting that the activity of this highly modified aircraft filled with equipment required to undertake clandestine missions can be tracked online (by means of the usual Mode-S/ADS-B transponder) using Flightradar24.com.
Top image created by editing a Flightradar24 screenshot with a chart published by Izvestia.