The Soviet Air Force had stationed 2 military transport divisions in Ukraine, and when the USSR collapsed Ukraine inherited some 200 giant Il-76 military jet cargo planes — nearly one-half of the Soviet inventory. Short of money and with far more air-lift capacity than it needed, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry subsequently leased 62 Il-76s to private companies in Ukraine. Now the ministry has had second thoughts and is canceling those leases and recalling the Il-76s back to the colors. According Defense Ministry spokesman Serhiy Nahoryansky, the ministry wants to use these aircraft in its own air cargo company. He charged that some of the cargo companies had displayed a "careless attitude" towards the planes and were not maintaining them properly. (Reuter, May 8)
Roughly equivalent to the American C-141, the Il-76 can carry up to 40,000 kilos of cargo or 140 paratroopers. Ukraine also nationalized 30 tanker variants of the Il-76 after the country became independent, taking over the only such tanker regiment in the Soviet Air Force. Russian military transport aviation has never been able to make up for these losses and its limited airlift capability is one of the reasons for the current downsizing of Russia’s airborne forces.
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