An Ilyushin IL-76 cargo plane from Belarus, flying for Rubystar Airways, skidded off the runway and blew up at Gao International Airport in Mali earlier this week. The ghastly incident was captured on a video and made public recently.
In the accident on September 23, the Soviet-era plane touched down but could not stop, finally crashing and exploding in a huge blast, with dark smoke billowing from the wreckage, as seen in the horrifying video. This indicates that the Il-76 was being filmed from behind as it landed.
The video in question, shown below, shows the four-engine airlifter descending before landing on runway 06L of the airport.
The airlifter’s Mali registration number is TZ-98T. There is currently no confirmed information on what happened to the aircraft crew, while previous stories have raised the possibility that some people may have been recovered from the rubble.
The wreckage near the airport in Mali was inspected, with initial reports suggesting a total loss of the airframe.
Since the crash, speculations have been rife that it belonged to the notorious private mercenary group Wagner, which had a fallout with Russia earlier this year after fighting for several months against Ukrainian forces.
Still unconfirmed, the linkages with Wagner garnered much attention in the Il-76 crash, mainly since the company made headlines for leading a mutiny against the Kremlin.
The Wagner connection has also been intriguing since the company’s head, Yevgeny Prigozhin, recently died in an Embraer Legacy 600 aircraft crash.
2023-09-23: Video footage emerged of the crashed Ilyushin IL-76 (TZ-98T) at Gao Airport, Mali. The aircraft is seen landing on runway 06 at overrunning the end of it at high speed until it broke into parts and caught fire. pic.twitter.com/pDo7lL9IwT
— JACDEC (@JacdecNew) September 27, 2023
Mali’s military government has used the Wagner PMC’s resources since early 2022 to strengthen its position in domestic chaos and during military instability. The internal unrest in the nation, which began in 2012 with a separatist uprising in the north, has persisted for more than ten years.
However, according to specific local accounts, the Wagner company was neither affiliated with nor owned the aircraft. Instead, the aircraft involved in the crash belonged to the Mali Armed Forces and was likely transporting military equipment for the service.
Plane crashes are common in Mali, where militant organizations are notorious for bringing aircraft down. For instance, a Russian- Sukhoi Su-25 strike plane crashed in the Gao region earlier this month. That was the second Su-25 to crash this year.
Reports from the time suggested that the Coordination of Azawad Movement (CAM) soldiers fired on the jet, which could have partly caused the air crash. This accident happened soon after a terrorist attack on the Gao airport the day before, which resulted in the death of at least 15 military men.
Earlier in April, a military attack helicopter crashed in a residential neighborhood of Mali’s capital, Bamako, when it returned from an anti-extremist operation. The incident followed an ambush on an army supply mission earlier that day in the Sahel country’s restive north.
The country also lost two L-39 Albatros jet trainers acquired from Russia and a Hind Mi-24D attack helicopter that it received from Bulgaria.
Although the Mali Air Force has had to contend with several air crashes, the Il-76 may be significant given that this famous aircraft has become vintage.
Il-76 Is Vintage But Still Pushing Through!
The Soviet Union’s Ilyushin Design Bureau created the four-engine Ilyushin Il-76 aircraft in the late 1960s.
The plane was built to perform passenger and freight flights as a strategic airlifter. The aircraft frequently delivers oversized freight to distant locations with stringent requirements. Military personnel are also transported by plane for deployment to other far-off sites.
A famous military transport aircraft, the Ilyushin Il-76 is renowned for its adaptability and capacity to transport troops and heavy cargo. It plays a key role and is frequently employed for military and humanitarian missions.
With a high-set, swept wing and T-shaped tail unit, the aircraft has a traditional aerodynamic design. There is pressure in the rear compartment, cargo hold, and crew cabin. An oval piece of the beam-type fuselage covers the crew cabin.
The aircraft is outfitted with a defensive assistance package with two cannons, fire-control radars, two radar warning systems, jammers, infrared flare cartridges, and chaff dispensers. On removable pylons, aerial bombs or radio beacons are suspended from external bomb racks.
The onboard equipment is designed to carry out airlift and airdrop missions during the day and night under hostile air defense conditions and VFR and IFR (visual and instrument flight rules) weather conditions. The aircraft has been modified several times since it first entered service.
For instance, the Russian defense ministry receives Il-76MD-90A from the United Aircraft Corporation, a division of the state-owned company Rostec. The new machine comes equipped with the more modern PS-90A-76 engines, an improved airframe with a more powerful braking system, and the installation of digital onboard radio-electronic equipment with a screen indicator. The aircraft’s flight range and carrying cargo have increased due to modernization.
Before the crash in Mali, the aircraft in the Russian Air Force also met a tragic fate when four Il-76 military transport aircraft parked at Pskov Air Base in Russia came under attack by drones allegedly belonging to Ukraine.
The first such aircraft was delivered to the Soviet Air Force in June 1974 and has remained the backbone of Russia’s military transport fleet ever since. It was deployed extensively in several battle zones, including Afghanistan and Syria. Since it was a Soviet aircraft, Ukraine also has quite a few in its inventory.
Russia, Algeria, Belarus, China, Cuba, India, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria, and Ukraine operate the Il-76, and 112 aircraft were in operation in Russia in 2021. A curious 2022 event saw the airlifting of Russian peacekeepers to Kazakhstan by nearly 70 Russian Il-76 military transports.