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Russian Cargo Plane Explodes During Pressure Test, Killing One

Popular Mechanics 10/04/2023 Sascha Brodsky
Russia’s military faced another setback when the Il-76 Candid cargo transport plane exploded during a test, killing one person and injuring several others. © FADEL SENNA - Getty Images Russia’s military faced another setback when the Il-76 Candid cargo transport plane exploded during a test, killing one person and injuring several others.

Russia’s military faced another setback on Thursday when a cargo transport plane exploded during a test, killing one person and injuring several others.

When the incident occurred, the new Il-76 ‘Candid’ cargo plane was inside a hangar at the Aviastar factory in Ulyanovsk. It was undergoing pressure tests on the fuselage compartment.

“At one of the assembly stages, the hermetic seal of the fuselage is checked by pumping excess pressure into the compartments,” said the plane’s manufacturer, United Aircraft Corporation (UAC), in a statement. “During these tests, a tragic incident occurred.”

The IL-76MD-90A is made by Ilyushin Aviation Complex, a subsidiary of UAC. The plane is designed to transport military equipment, armed personnel, and large vehicles.

The IL-76MD-90A is an upgraded version of the iconic, Soviet-designed Il-76, one of the biggest planes in the world. It’s got an improved wing structure and glass cockpit. The PS-90A-76 turbofan engines boost performance and payload while offering a more extended flight range and slashing fuel consumption.

Russia hopes to sell the new cargo plane to the Indian Air Force. India owns older models of the Il-76, which have been plagued by maintenance issues.

The Il-76 that was recently destroyed may be another sign of the challenges Russia is facing in the air war in Ukraine. Early in the war, an Ilyushin Il-76 crashed near the city of Ryazan while attempting an emergency landing during a training flight.

Bad Times for Russian Aircraft

Russia’s air force has had a challenging year since the invasion of Ukraine began. A recent report claims that Russia has accidentally shot down several of its own fighter jets. U.S. officials are also quoted as saying Russia is struggling to find enough pilots.

Ukraine has been using a potent mix of Western and old Soviet air defense equipment to keep Russian aircraft at bay. Kyiv claims it has destroyed 300 Russian fixed-wing aircraft and 288 helicopters.

To evade Ukrainian air defenses, Russia has been forced to launch missile attacks while still over its own airspace. And Russian bombs and missiles have been supplemented by Iranian-made Shahed drones.

Russia’s Still Mighty Air Force

Despite the friendly fire incidents, Russia still wields an immense amount of airpower. The country has a mix of fighters, bombers, and attack helicopters, some left over from the former Soviet Union. In fact, Russian aircraft are still challenging American borders. The U.S. recently intercepted Russian aircraft flying off Alaska in international airspace as they approached an identification zone for two straight days.

American officials are trying to figure out ways to blunt Russian aerial attacks on Ukraine. After months of debate, the Biden administration is planning to send its advanced Patriot missile air defense system to Ukraine.

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