The Indian Air Force (IAF) has canceled the tender worth USD2 billion for six A330 MRTT (Multi-Role Tanker Transport) aerial tankers, according to a source in the Indian Ministry of Defense (MoD).
“The MoD has terminated the program to acquire six A330 MRTT aerial tankers from the Airbus Defense and Space Company. We are planning to re-launch the relevant tender. The Ministry will consider other options, for instance, KC-767 by Boeing or Il-78M-90A by Ilyushin together with A330 MRTT,” the source said.
He pointed out that the Indian MoD had selected A330 MRTT over Il-78M (NATO reporting name: Midas) in 2012. “We suppose that the aforementioned aircraft could hardly be compared. A330 MRTT made its maiden flight in 2007, while Il-78M in 1988,” the source added.
The Indian MoD has revealed its interest in the acquisition of the Il-78M-90A aerial tankers developed by the Ilyushin Company (a subsidiary of the United Aircraft Corporation, OAK) on the base of the Il-76MD-90A heavy military transport aircraft. “The Il-78/Il-78M aircraft are rapidly ageing. I suppose that the newest Il-78M-90A aerial tanker meets the Indian MoD’s requirements to full extent.”
At the same time, Russia has been deeply upgrading the Il-78M aircraft to extend their service life by 15-20 years. The Ministry is also interested in such aerial tanker designated as Il-78M2.
“We are planning to consider the option of Il-78M-90A or Il-78M2 acquisition. These planes are supposed to have the best cost-effectiveness ratio. The Indian Air Force (IAF) operates several Il-78MKI tankers delivered in 2003-2006 that could be upgraded to the Il-78M2 level,” the source said.
However, the Russian option will be reviewed on a regular basis. “The MoD is re-launching the tender in order to supply the IAF with the state-of-the-art aerial tankers, not to acquire Russian aircraft,” he said.
The IAF operates six Il-78MKI aerial tankers delivered by Russia. The planes have been issued to the 78th squadron. According to open sources, only two aerial tankers are in flyaway condition. Four remaining aircraft are grounded due to the lack of spare parts.
The Il-78M-90A aerial tanker is developed by the Ilyushin Company. The specifications of the aircraft are classified.
The Il-78M aerial tanker was developed in the 1980s. It has a maximum take-off weight (MTOW) of 210 t, a maximum speed of 830 km/h, a cruise speed of 750 km/h, an operational range of 4,000 km, and a service ceiling of 11,230 m.