Days After Recruiting Female Pilots, Russian Il-76MD Aircraft Incidentally Erupts In Flames During Takeoff

A Russian military transport plane, the Il-76MD, was reportedly engulfed in flames during take-off from an airfield in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan. 

Israel War: 6 Chinese Navy Warships Stationed In The Middle East Amid US Navy’s Heavy Presence In The Region

The incident that occurred on the night of October 19-20 was first reported through Russian propagandist Telegram channels. 

Based on initial reports, during the acceleration phase, a wheel on the plane experienced an explosion, leading to a fire outbreak. Subsequently, the aircraft veered off the runway and was engulfed in flames. 

There were eight people on board, and the crew remained unharmed. An image depicting the damaged Russian military transport aircraft has surfaced online. 

This incident represents a setback for Russia, as the country has been deeply involved in the Ukraine conflict since February 2022 and has lost several military aircraft. 

Russian Il-76MD plane burst into flames during take-off in Dushanbe

The Il-76MD variant is an enhanced version of the Il-76 medium-range military transport aircraft, known by the NATO codename ‘Candid.’ 

The Il-76MD offers extended flight range and service life while retaining the same power plant and systems as the Il-76M variant. Structural modifications have been made to its airframe to accommodate the increased service life and take-off weight.

When taking off from first-category concrete runways, the Il-76MD can handle a maximum take-off weight of 190 tons, primarily due to increased fuel capacity. 

This enhancement results in a 40% boost in flight range when carrying the maximum payload. Additionally, the Il-76MD can operate from unpaved runways in forward operational areas.

Furthermore, the Il-76MD-90A variant represents a further upgrade of the Il-76MD. This aircraft is reliable for airlifting military personnel, equipment, cargo, and weaponry. 

Notably, it completed its initial factory flight tests in October 2019. The Russian Air Force is receiving and incorporating this enhanced variant into its fleet. 

For instance, on October 18, the United Aircraft Corporation, a state technology conglomerate Rostec component, announced that it had supplied another serially produced Il-76MD-90A military transport aircraft to the Russian armed forces. 

Previous Incidents

Russian military transport aircraft have encountered a series of incidents in recent times. For instance, on September 23, an Il-76 aircraft experienced a crash during its landing in Mali, potentially associated with Wagner Group mercenaries. 

Initial reports indicated that a potential cause of the accident was a malfunction in the fuel tank. Subsequent updates suggested that the crash may have resulted in the tragic loss of up to 140 lives, including Malian military personnel and Wagner Group mercenaries.

In August 2023, Ukrainian drone strikes targeted a Russian airfield, and reports indicated that four Il-76 aircraft were purportedly “destroyed” or left in a state deemed “beyond repair,” with “several other aircraft” suffering damage. 

The ongoing Ukraine conflict has significantly strained the Russian Air Force. Reports indicate that a considerable number of highly skilled Russian pilots have either lost their lives or sustained injuries due to the conflict. 

However, Russia has recently announced that female pilots have officially begun their service in military transport aviation.

First in line Il 76MD 90A assembled and handed over for testing in Ulyanovsk
The first-in-line Il-76MD-90A was assembled and handed over for testing in Ulyanovsk (Picture source: UAC/United Aircraft Corporation)

These newly graduated female pilots have showcased their expertise in military transport aviation and are actively engaged in conducting flight operations.

The training of these female pilots encompassed various specialties, including military transport, long-range, assault, and fighter aviation.

The Ilyushin Design Bureau in the Soviet Union developed the four-engine Ilyushin Il-76 aircraft in the late 1960s. This aircraft was designed to serve as a strategic airlifter capable of carrying passengers and freight. 

It is often used to transport large, oversized cargo to remote destinations with demanding logistical requirements.

Additionally, the aircraft is frequently used to deploy military personnel to distant locations. The plane is pivotal and is commonly used for military and humanitarian missions. 

Although the Ilyushin Il-76 is recognized for its reliability and capacity to transport troops and heavy cargo, the latest incident has also cast doubt on the maintenance practices of the Russian Air Force. 

Justin Bronk, a Senior Research Fellow at the British think tank Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), has previously noted that the Russian military is encountering difficulties due to inadequate training and outdated equipment.

Furthermore, he has highlighted the presence of “known deficiencies” in specific Russian aircraft, such as issues with sensors and weapons, which have impeded their effectiveness in engaging targets.