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The Beriev A-50 (NATO reporting name: Mainstay) is a Soviet airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft based on the Ilyushin Il-76 transport. The existence of the A-50 was revealed to the Western Bloc in 1980 by Adolf Tolkachev.[1] Developed to replace the Tupolev Tu-126 "Moss", the A-50 first flew in 1978. It entered service in 1984, with about 40 produced by 1992.

Beriev A-50 black white.jpg
Beriev A-50
Role Airborne early warning and control
Manufacturer Beriev
First flight 19 December 1978
Introduction 1984
Status In service
Primary users Russian Air Force
Indian Air Force
Produced 1978–1992
Number built ~40
Developed from Ilyushin Il-76
Developed into Beriev A-100


Russian Air Force A-50
Indian Air Force Beriev A-50EI

The mission personnel of the 15-man crew derive data from the large Liana surveillance radar with its antenna in an over-fuselage rotodome, which has a diameter of 9 metres (30 ft).[citation needed] Detection range is 650 kilometres (400 mi) for air targets and 300 kilometres (190 mi) for ground targets.[2]

The A-50 can control up to ten fighter aircraft for either air-to-air intercept or air-to-ground attack missions. The A-50 is capable of flying four hours at 1,000 kilometres (620 mi) from its base at a maximum takeoff weight of 190 metric tons (420,000 lb). The aircraft can be refuelled by Il-78 tankers.[3][4]

The radar "Vega-M" is designed by MNIIP, Moscow, and produced by NPO Vega. The "Vega-M" is capable of tracking up to 150 targets simultaneously within 230 kilometres (140 mi). Large targets, like surface ships, can be tracked at a distance of 400 kilometres (250 mi).[citation needed][5]

Development work on the A-50U began in 2003 and state tests started on 10 September 2008, using a Russian Air Force A-50 '37 Krasnyy' as a prototype. The main element of the modernisation involves replacing the outdated analogue equipment with a new, digital avionics suite supplied by Vega Radio Engineering Corporation. Notable improvements include faster data processing, enhanced signal tracking, and improved target detection. Crew rest, toilet and galley facilities are also included in the upgrade.[6]

After completing the joint state tests, Beriev has delivered the first A-50U to the Russian Air Force. The aircraft, '47 Krasnyy'/RF-92957, was handed over at Beriev's facility in Taganrog on 31 October 2011.[7] It was accepted by an aircrew serving with the 2457th Aviation Base for Combat Operation of Airborne Early Warning Aircraft (Aviabaza Boevogo Primeneniya Samolyotov Dal'nego Radiolokatsionnogo Obnaruzheniya) at Ivanovo Severny, which is the only base using the A-50 operationally (it operates 16 aircraft).[6] The fourth A-50U, '41 Taganrog', was delivered to the Russian Aerospace Forces on 7 March 2017. The fifth A-50U, '45 Krasnyy', was delivered on 6 December 2018.

The A-50U upgrade forms the basis of the concept for Beriev A-100 AEW&C. Its configuration will be similar, but with a new Vega Premier active electronically scanned array radar.[6]

In late December 2015, the A-50 started operations over Syria, flying from Russia, in support of the Russian military intervention in the Syrian Civil War.[8] In December 2018, it was deployed to Crimea.[9]


  • A-50M – Updated variant of the A-50 fitted with mid-air refueling capability.[10]
  • A-50U – Updated variant of the A-50M with new modern electronics and increased crew comfort level.[11][12]
  • Izdeliye-676[13] – One-off stop-gap telemetry and tracking aircraft.
  • Izdeliye-776[13] – One-off stop-gap telemetry and tracking aircraft.
  • Izdeliye-976 (SKIP)[13] – (Airborne Check-Measure-and-Control Center) – Il-76-based Range Control and Missile tracking platform. Initially built to support Raduga Kh-55 cruise missile tests.
  • Izdeliye-1076[13] – One-off special mission aircraft with unknown duties.
  • A-50I – An export version for China. Israel was supposed to provide the radar, but it withdrew from the project after pressure from the United States.[citation needed] The aircraft was fitted with a Chinese radar and became known as KJ-2000.
  • A-50EI – An export version for the Indian Air Force with Aviadvigatel PS-90A-76 engines and Israeli EL/W-2090 radar.[14]


  Soviet Union

Specifications (A-50)Edit

Data from[citation needed]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 15
  • Length: 49.59 m (162 ft 8 in)
  • Wingspan: 50.5 m (165 ft 8 in)
  • Height: 14.76 m (48 ft 5 in)
  • Wing area: 300 m2 (3,200 sq ft)
  • Airfoil: root: TsAGI P-151 (13%) ; tip: TsAGI P-151 (10%)[18]
  • Empty weight: 75,000 kg (165,347 lb)
  • Max takeoff weight: 170,000 kg (374,786 lb)
  • Powerplant: 4 × Soloviev D-30KP turbofan engines, 117.68 kN (26,460 lbf) thrust each


  • Maximum speed: 900 km/h (560 mph, 490 kn)
  • Range: 7,500 km (4,700 mi, 4,000 nmi)
  • Service ceiling: 12,000 m (39,000 ft)

See alsoEdit

Related development:

Comparable aircraft:


  1. ^ The Billion Dollar Spy: A True Story of Cold War Espionage and Betrayal, David E. Hoffman, location 2330, Kindle edition.
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2017-03-12. Retrieved 2017-03-10.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ "Image: A50b.jpg, (1024 × 768 px)". Archived from the original on 2016-03-03. Retrieved 2015-09-03.
  4. ^ "Image: A50.jpg, (1024 × 768 px)". Archived from the original on 2016-03-03. Retrieved 2015-09-03.
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2017-03-31. Retrieved 2017-03-30.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  6. ^ a b c "Beriev delivers first upgraded A-50U Mainstay". Air Forces Monthly (286): 28. January 2012.
  7. ^ "key.Aero, Military Aviation". Archived from the original on 2012-06-11. Retrieved 2015-09-03.
  8. ^ Ripley, Tim (13 January 2016). "Russia operates 'Mainstay' AEW&Cs over Syria". Jane's Defence Weekly. Surrey, UK: Jane's Information Group. 53 (10). ISSN 0265-3818.
  9. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2018-12-13. Retrieved 2018-12-13.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  10. ^ Sputnik. "Russia modernizes fleet of A-50M AWACS planes". Archived from the original on 2012-10-09. Retrieved 2015-09-03.
  11. ^ "Photos: Beriev A-50U Aircraft Pictures | | Photo of prototype A-50U (37 RED) on which the state joint tests of the modernised complex were conducted". Retrieved 2015-09-03.
  12. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2019-01-01. Retrieved 2019-01-01.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  13. ^ a b c d [Gordon, Yefim, OKB Ilyushin, 2004, London]
  14. ^ "Take-off Magazine : Beriev delivered third A-50EI". Archived from the original on 2015-04-02. Retrieved 2015-09-03.
  15. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-04-12. Retrieved 2010-04-09.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  16. ^ "AVIA RU Network: Новости". Archived from the original on 2012-05-29. Retrieved 2015-09-03.
  17. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2019-03-30. Retrieved 2019-03-30.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  18. ^ Lednicer, David. "The Incomplete Guide to Airfoil Usage". Retrieved 16 April 2019.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit