Ukrainian drones damage several Ilyushin Il-76MD transport aircraft

On August 30, 2023, Russian authorities confirmed that a drone attack last night on a military airfield deep within Russian territory likely led to the destruction of four Ilyushin Il-76MD Candid transport aircraft.

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Ukrainian Drone Attack Targets Russian Air Base Damaging Several Ilyushin Il 76MD Transport Aircraft 925 001 Russian Ilyushin Il-76MD Transport Aircraft at Pskov  (Picture source: Twitter account of Ukraine_defence )

The Russian government accused Ukraine of orchestrating drone strikes in six different Russian regions, including a significant attack on an air base in Pskov, a city near the borders of Latvia and Estonia. The strike resulted in multiple explosions and a large fire, causing not only the destruction of military transport aircraft but also ammunition and fuel supplies.

Mikhail Vedernikov, the Governor of the Pskov Region, reported that there were no casualties in the drone attack on the Pskov airfield: "I was present at the location as the incident unfolded. Preliminary assessments indicate no loss of life. We are currently evaluating the extent of the damage," Vedernikov stated on his Telegram channel.

Eyewitness accounts and social media videos show several Il-76 aircraft engulfed in flames on the runway. The airfield is located approximately 660 kilometers (around 411 miles) north of the Ukrainian border.

The Ilyushin Il-76, a strategic and tactical transport aircraft, has been a cornerstone of Russian aviation since its inception. Originating in Russia, this aircraft was designed by the Ilyushin Design Group and has been in production since 1971. The first flight of the Il-76 took place on March 25, 1971, and it was formally introduced into service in June 1974.

Built by the Tashkent Aviation Production Association and Aviastar-SP, the Il-76 has been widely used not only in Russia but also in various other countries. It has been the mainstay of several air forces, including the historical Soviet Air Forces, the Russian Aerospace Forces, the Ukrainian Air Force, and the Indian Air Force. With over 960 units built to date.

The Il-76's role as both a strategic and tactical transport aircraft makes it a unique asset in military and civil operations. It has the capability to transport heavy machinery, troops, and humanitarian aid. The aircraft's versatility is demonstrated by its variants, which include the Ilyushin Il-78, a refueling tanker, the Beriev A-50, an airborne early warning and control aircraft, and the KJ-2000, a Chinese modification for similar purposes.

Although Ukraine has not officially claimed responsibility for the recent attack, it has generally refrained from commenting on operations within Russian territory. Observers note that Ukraine appears to have escalated its use of explosive drones for strikes within Russia in recent weeks. It is likely that additional systems across Russia have been impacted, although specific details about these devices remain unclear at this time. This drone operation by Ukraine is unquestionably among the most extensive since the conflict began, and widespread damage has been reported across Russia.

Ukrainian Drone Attack Targets Russian Air Base Damaging Several Ilyushin Il 76MD Transport Aircraft 925 002Russian Ilyushin Il-76MD transport aircraft  (Picture source: Vitaly V.Kuzmin )

Ukrainian drones damage several Ilyushin Il 76MD transport aircraft 925 003Image of the destruction of some aircraft at Psokv Air Base ( Telegram account of Vkpelmen )