SOURCE: JATIN RAM / FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG
Nearly 10 Il-76 Strategic airlifter that are nearing are due for major overhauls and modernization that were planned to happen from 2025 so that they can continue to be in service for another decade or more to come but with the Ukraine-Russia war and pressure on India to cut off ties with Russia from the west, it’s not clear if a 40-year-old first lot of Il-76 if get their upgrades or will have to be retired early.
Il-76 Strategic airlifter has been suffering from high downtime due to a lack of spares and other material support for long that even after being in service for nearly four decades India has failed to keep average serviceability over 40% let alone come close to benchmark average serviceability of 70% that IAF wanted.
Due to average serviceability of 41% for the Il-76 fleet and 32% for the Il-78 fleet remained grounded, C-17 has become India’s prime and go to strategic transport aircraft that has been used a lot in the last few years, and 11 C-17 fleet has maintained high serviceability rates since its induction due to which it has been accumulating rather high Airmiles off late that many are wondering how long can India push it even though it was inducted only from 2013 onwards.
IAF originally had planned procurement of 16 C-17 fleets and inducted 10 units in the first lot and by the time it got CCS Clearance to procure 3 more in the second lot, the production line of the C-17 had closed down and IAF managed to grab the last unsold C-17 after facing tuff competition from Australia and Kuwait.
Russian heavy-lift Il-76MD-90A military transport plane, the all-new version of the popular IL-76, can fill in for the older Il-76 Strategic airlifter that India might retire in near future but it doesn’t seem that India will be interested in such a big-ticket purchase anytime soon from Russia. In the next 15-20 years, India might be looking at the requirement of nearly 30 military transport plane but with the C-17 production line closed down and procurement of Il-76MD-90A near impossible to procure, India is not left with much choice left. either India can invest in an RTA-90-based Strategic airlifter or procure a similar class western Strategic airlifter from the market.