The Ilyushin II-76 Candid is a landmark Soviet-era design. Russia's first four-jet heavy transport, it was conceived and used to fly strategic military cargos into front-line air bases in the most extreme operational conditions.
The II-76 prototype made its first flight in 1971. It was intended as a replacement for the An-12. Production commenced in 1974. The basic II-76 (NATO reporting name Candid-A) transport was built purely for military service. It saw extensive service during the Soviet war in Afghanistan. Over 800 of these cargo aircraft were built, as well as a number of specialized versions. The Il-76 is currently in service with Russia, Algeria, Belarus, China, Cuba, India, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria and Ukraine.
This aircraft was designed to deliver heavy vehicles and machinery to remote, poorly-serviced airfields. It can operate from short and unpaved runways. The Il-76 can cope with the worst weather conditions experienced in Siberia and Arctic regions.
The tough, dependable airframe spawned many variants - some designed to do the basic transport job even better, and others which serve as indispensable combat support roles. A bewildering array of other specialised variants have been developed for roles including mobile hospital, cosmonaut training and airborne command post, airborne laser platform and firefighter.
Il-76M (Candid-B) is a military version of the civilian II-76T (Candid-A), with additional fuel, higher operating weights, a powered lifting ramp, full pressurization, and freight-handling equipment inside the hold;
Il-76MD (Candid-B) is a military version to the civil II-76TD (Candid-A) with uprated D-30KP-2 turbofans to maintain performance at higher ambient temperatures, increased fuel capacity and a strengthened wing;
II-78 (Midas) is the Russian air force's standard in-flight refueling tanker, and is fitted with three UPAZ-1 external refuelling units (one under each wing and one at the rear fuselage). When fitted with fuselage fuel tanks the II-78 can transfer up to 65 tonnes / 84 639 liters (18 618 lmp gal) of fuel at a combat radius of 1 000 km. About 50 of these aircraft were built;
Beriev A-50 (Mainstay) is a variant developed for the AWACS role with a Shmel search radar mounted in a large rotodome above the rear fuselage. About 25 of these aircraft were built;
Beriev A-60 airborne laser testbed. Two of these aircraft were built, however little is known about this project, which is still classified.