Russia: Ilyushin Il-76MD Candid airlifters train to drop bombs

Like on 30 January 2015, Ilyushin Il-76MD (“Candid” in NATO code) airlifters accomplished a unique mission to drop bombs at a range in Tver region, the Russian Defense Ministry said. "Pilots of the military-transport aviation imitated the dropping of day and night flash bombs to mark the target area for airborne assault. They also fired from rear guns at ground targets comprising light armor and automobiles of the conditional adversary," it said.

Russia Ilyushin Il 76MD Candid airlifters train to drop bombs The Ilyushin Il-76MD "Candid" was designed in 1967, during the Soviet era (Picture source: Wikipedia)

The flights took place at an altitude of 400-600 meters at a speed of over 500 km/h in low temperatures. Aircraft deployed in Tver, Pskov, Rostov and Orenburg regions participated in the drills which also engaged young pilots who graduated from military air schools in 2015-2016. The exercise engaged over 10 Il-76MD. Each crew made at least three sorties.

Using bombs with a transport aircraft is not a new idea and not a Russian monopoly: AC-130 gunships were fairly successful when employed as CAS (Close Air Support) platforms. U.S. Air Force has also used transport aircraft to drop GBU-43/B MOAB (Massive Ordnance Air Blast, also known as the Mother of All Bombs) thermobaric weapons. These were dropped with the use of C-130 Hercules aircraft, mostly the MC-130E Combat Talon I or MC-130H Combat Talon II variants. C-17 Globemasters are also said to be capable to deliver this armament.

To give some background information, the Il-76 Candid is a multi-purpose four-engine turbofan strategic airlifter designed by the USSR’s Ilyushin bureau. It was first planned as a commercial freighter in 1967, as a replacement for the Antonov An-12. It was designed to deliver heavy machinery to remote, poorly served areas. Military versions of the Il-76 have been widely used in Europe, Asia and Africa, including use as an aerial refueling tanker or command center.

Let’s remind that the Il-76 Candid was also designed in view of operating as a bomber, which its front bombardier station and rear gun demonstrate. However, heavy and poorly maneuverable aircraft carrying bombs can only be employed during low-intensity conflicts, in areas where virtually no air-defenses exist,otherwise, using a troop-carrier as a heavy bomber to drop dumb bombs through a SAM-infested airspace as enemy airfields are, would be nearly suicidal.