A photo of a Pakistan Air Force (PAF) Ilyushin IL-78 plane surfaced online today. The aircraft is in-flight re-fueling tanker, which was parked at the 360th Aircraft Repair Plant in Ryazan city most likely indicates that Russia would be refurbishing the PAF’s IL-78 four-engine tanker.
In a post by a Russian aviation observer, the 360th Aircraft Repair Plant was spotted with Pakistan Air Force IL-78 Fuel Tanker. The plane is assumed to be there for refurbishing. The required work is expected to be completed by December 2017 as per Quwa.
Currently, the PAF operates four units of the IL-78, which were purchased from Ukrainian surplus stocks in the mid-to-late 2000s. The first unit of IL-78 was received by the PAF in December 2009.
The current fleet is fitted with UPAZ re-fueling pod, which the PAF has been using to fuel Mirage Retrofit Strike Element (ROSE) squadrons so far. The planes were also deployed in the role of heavy-lift transport.
The current requirement of the PAF is to extend the endurance and range of its light-weight fighter aircraft like: the JF-17 Thunder. The PAF also maintains 70 plus F-16s, which require a different fueling mechanism. Therefore, the growing demand is for a tanker, which is capable of both boom and hose-and-drogue refueling to support the F-16 as well as Mirage ROSE and JF-17 Thunder.
The ice is melting between Russia and Pakistan and both countries are trying to establish warm relations in the region. This is one such transaction to cement military relations in the present times.