The Indian Air Force is likely to issue a request for proposal (RFP) to upgrade its large transport fleet of Ilyushin IL-76 aircraft with new avionics, engines besides other changes.
The upgrade plans also include the Phalcon AWACS fleet of three which is based on the Il-76 platform.
It is not yet known if the RFP will be for Indian vendors only or foreign vendors will also be invited. It has been a trend of late with the Indian MoD to invite local companies only for electronics and avionics installation and upgrade projects. It recently issued an Indian companies-only RFI for installation of electronic warfare suits on board its fleet of Mi-17 V5 helicopters.
The IAF currently has the third largest fleet of operational Il-76s in the world. It has been a real workhorse for the service even though the latest entrants to the fleet like the US-made C-130Js and C-17s steal the show. The total number of Il-76 in IAF service is 17.
The Il-78s transporter-tankers operated by the service will also go in for re-engining and a separate RfP will be issued for that.
Known as the 'Gajraj' in the air force, the IL 76 was first ordered in 1983 and has been India's main heavy lift aircraft before the arrival of the Boeing C 17 aircraft in 2013. The upgrade, sources said, includes new engines for the aircraft that will substantially increase its service life by up to 15 more years.
Meanwhile, Russia’s Rosoboronexport has proposed to upgrade the Il-76 fleet to the Il-76MD-90A standard. “It is a comprehensive upgrade which includes the avionics, new fuel-efficient and longer range engines, defensive systems, and undercarriage. Post upgrade, the IL-76 will be able to fly a longer range, land on even more challenging airfields than the present aircraft and carry a heavier payload,” said a source.
Indian media earlier reported that the IL-76 upgrade will cost an estimated INR 4000 crore (US$602 million approx.) and will include substantial spin off for the private defence manufacturing sector.