Beriev A-50

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41 Taganrog, registration number RF-94268, a Beriev A-50U
Role Airborne early warning and control
Manufacturer Beriev
First flight 19 December 1978[1]
Introduction 1985[1]
Status In service
Primary users Russian Aerospace Forces
Indian Air Force
Produced 1978–1992[clarification needed]
Number built ~40[citation needed]
Developed from Ilyushin Il-76
Developed into Beriev A-100

The Beriev A-50 (NATO reporting name: Mainstay) is a Soviet-origin airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft that is based on the Ilyushin Il-76 transport plane. Developed to replace the Tupolev Tu-126 "Moss", the A-50 first flew in 1978. Its existence was revealed to the Western Bloc in 1978 by Adolf Tolkachev.[2] It entered service in 1985, with about 40 produced by 1992.[citation needed]

Design and development[edit]


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; 350 nmi) for air targets and 300 kilometres (190 mi; 160 nmi) for ground targets.[3]

The A-50 can control[clarification needed] up to ten fighter aircraft for either air-to-air intercept or air-to-ground attack missions. The A-50 can fly for four hours with a range of 1,000 kilometres (620 mi; 540 nmi) from its base, at a maximum takeoff weight of 190 metric tons (420,000 lb). The aircraft can be refuelled by Il-78 tankers.[citation needed]

The radar "Vega-M" is designed by MNIIP, Moscow, and produced by NPO Vega. The "Vega-M" can track up to 150 targets simultaneously within 230 kilometres (140 mi; 120 nmi). Large targets, like surface ships, can be tracked at a distance of 400 kilometres (250 mi; 220 nmi).[citation needed][4]


Development work on a modernized version, the A-50U, began in 2003; state tests started on 10 September 2008, using a Russian Air Force A-50 "37 Red" as a prototype. It replaces analog avionics with a new digital avionics suite, made by NPO Vega, that speeds data processing and improves signal tracking and target detection. Crew rest, toilet and galley facilities are also included in the upgrade.[5]

After completing the joint state tests, Beriev delivered the first A-50U to the Russian Air Force. The aircraft, "47 Red", RF-92957, was handed over at Beriev's facility in Taganrog on 31 October 2011.[6] 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).[5] The fourth A-50U, "41 Taganrog", was delivered to the Russian Aerospace Forces on 7 March 2017. The fifth A-50U, "45 Red", was delivered on 6 December 2018. Eight A-50U aircraft have been delivered as of September 2023.[7][8]

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.[5]

It has been announced by Rostec that production of the A-50U will restart in 2024. However, it is likely that production resumption will be delayed for a few years.[9]

Operational history[edit]

As of February 2024, Russia was believed to have six[10] operational A-50s.

In peacetime[edit]

The aircraft entered service with the 67th Independent Aviation Squadron, Long-Range Airborne Surveillance (67 OAE DRLO) (в/ч 32457) in 1984 at Siauliai in Lithuania.[11] The unit was redesignated the 144th Independent Regiment DRLO, (в/ч 89449) and then later moved to Pechora Kamenka (often referred to as "Berezovka") in 1998.

There was a detachment (two A-50s and one Il-76) as part of the 192nd Guards Kerch Red Banner Military Transport Aviation Regiment (в/ч 26212), Ukurey Airfield Chita Oblast in Russia from 1985 to 1995. It was formed at the Ulan-Ude (Vostochny) airfield in 1985, and flew to Ukurei in 1988. It was disbanded in 1995 and aircraft transferred to the 144th Independent Regiment. The 18th Independent Aviation Detachment DRLO (two A-50s and 1 Il-76) was established at the Vitebsk-Severny airfield from 1985. In 1993, the detachment was disestablished.

Two aircraft "operated round-the-clock over [the] Black Sea during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm of the Gulf War (1990-1991), monitoring United States Air Force operations from Turkey and keeping a watch for "stray" cruise missiles."[11]: 351 

Syrian Civil War[edit]

In late December 2015, the A-50 started operations over Syria, flying from Russia, to support Russian military intervention in the Syrian Civil War.[12]

Russo-Ukrainian War[edit]

In December 2018, it was deployed to Crimea.[13]

External videos
YouTube logo
video icon ⚡️ А-50 — Дыверсія на відэа — Мачулішчы. Новыя кадры з дрона — гэта ўжо не выведка (A-50 — Sabotage on video — Machulishchi. New footage from a drone is no longer intelligence), retrieved 9 September 2023

On 26 February 2023, during the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Association of Security Forces of Belarus (BYPOL) reported that it had conducted a drone attack and damaged a Russian A-50 at the Machulishchy air base near Minsk, Belarus.[14] The attacked base also hosts MiG-31 fighters used to attack Ukraine.[14][15][16] However, satellite imagery of the Machulishchy air base from 28 February showed no significant damage to the sole A-50 located there.[17] The drone operators posted a video of a practice run of the alleged A-50U bombing on YouTube on 2 March 2023, which shows the drone flying into Machulishchy unopposed, then landing on the A-50's rotodome. On 3 March 2023, the drone operators posted a second video showing a drone landing on the domed area on top of the fuselage just forward of the wings followed by a loss of video signal claimed to be due to the actual explosion.

On 17 November 2023, the British Defence Ministry believes that it is "likely" Russian forces are updating their A-50 early warning aircraft in anticipation of the West supplying modern fighter jets such as the F-16. The aircraft may also be integrated with the ground based S-400 missile systems.[18][19][20][21]

Ukrainian forces claimed to have shot down an A-50 over the Sea of Azov on 14 January 2024 while it was on duty in the Kyrylivka area. The A-50 reportedly disappeared from radar and stopped responding to requests from tactical aviation. Later several Western and Ukrainian sources reported that the pilot of a Su-30 aircraft of the Russian Air Force detected the fire and crash of an unidentified aircraft in the area, presumably the A-50.[22][23][24] Forbes journalist David Axe cited one analyst who claimed that Ukrainian Air Force first disabled Russian radars across Crimea, causing the Russians to reestablish radar coverage there by moving their A-50 north to near Berdyansk thus within range of a Ukrainian SAM battery. This claimed downing of an A-50 was further claimed to leave the Russian air force with just two serviceable A-50s.[25] As of 15 January 2024, the Kremlin had neither confirmed nor denied the downing of an A-50.[26] Open source analysts later identified that the aircraft lost was A-50U "37 red" of the 610th Center for Combat Use and Retraining of Military Transport Aviation Flight Personnel (610th CBP i PLS), based at Ivanovo Severny.[27]

On 23 February 2024, Ukrainian official sources claimed the downing of a second A-50U aircraft, over Krasnodar Krai, at 18:44 Ukraine local time.[28][29][30][UA government website 1] Ukrainian armed forces claim to have used a long-range S-200 system to shoot down the A-50 in the evening of 23 February over the Sea of Azov. According to Ukrainian sources, 10 Russians were killed on the plane, including five majors.[31][32][33] The aircraft was later identified as A-50U "42 red" of the 610th CBP i PLS.[34]

Also, the Taganrog Beriev Aviation Scientific and Technical Complex where the A-50 are repaired suffered damage overnight from March 8-March 9, 2024, possibly from a Ukrainian drone strike.[35]


Indian Air Force A-50EI
  • A-50 – Original variant
  • A-50M – Updated[when?] variant of the A-50 fitted with mid-air refueling[citation needed]
  • A-50U – Updated[when?] variant of the A-50M with modern electronics and increased crew comfort[36][37]
  • llyushin/Beriyev ‘Aircraft 676’[38]: 302—305  A single stop-gap telemetry and tracking aircraft
  • llyushin/Beriyev ‘Aircraft 776[38]: 302—305  A single stop-gap telemetry and tracking aircraft
  • llyushin/Beriyev ‘Aircraft 976' (SKIP)[38]: 302—305  (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'[38]: 305—309  A single special-mission aircraft with unknown duties
  • A-50EI – A 2000s export version for the Indian Air Force with Aviadvigatel PS-90A-76 engines and Israeli EL/W-2090 radar[39]


A Russian A-50U at Vladivostok International Airport 2019

Former operators[edit]

 Soviet Union

Specifications (A-50)[edit]

Orthographically projected diagram of the Beriev A-50.

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%)[42]
  • 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 also[edit]

Related development

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration, and era


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  2. ^ Hoffman, David E. (May 2016). "Epilogue | A Note On The Intelligence". The Billion Dollar Spy: A True Story of Cold War Espionage and Betrayal (First ed.). New York City: Doubleday. pp. 525–532. ISBN 978-0-385-53760-5. LCCN 2015003370. OCLC 906798006. OL 27183902M – via Internet Archive. p. 530: In another intelligence windfall, Tolkachev was the first to alert the United States that the Soviet Union was starting to develop an advanced airborne warning and control system, or AWACS, a flying radar station. Once Tolkachev pointed it out, U.S. spy satellites confirmed it. The twenty-ton radar, named SHMEL, or "bumblebee," would be carried on a modified Ilyushin Il-76 military transport jet, with a flying disk for the radar dome, not unlike the advanced U.S. E-3 Sentry system, based on a modified Boeing 707, which was already flying.
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  6. ^ Allport, Dave (1 November 2011). "Russian Air Force Takes Delivery of first Upgraded A-50U Mainstay AEW&C; Aircraft". Key.Aero. Key Publishing. Archived from the original on 11 June 2012. Retrieved 9 September 2023. AFTER COMPLETION of State Joint Tests, Beriev has now delivered the first upgraded A-50U Mainstay airborne early warning and control (AEW&C;) aircraft to the Russian Air Force. The aircraft was handed-over at Beriev's facility in Taganrog on October 31 to an Air Force crew prior to being flown out to its operational base.
  7. ^ Fadeichev, Sergei (29 December 2021). "Defense contractor delivers upgraded A-50U long-range 'flying radar' to Russian troops". TASS. Archived from the original on 22 March 2023. Retrieved 7 September 2023.
  8. ^ "Russia's Aerospace Force obtains another A-50U early warning and control aircraft".
  9. ^ "Rostec Wants to Resume Production of A‑50U AEW&C Systems But New Aircraft Won't Be Ready Any Soon, History Shows". Defense Express. Retrieved 3 March 2024.
  10. ^ Roman Petrenko (25 February 2024). "Russia will be forced to stop round-the-clock duty of A-50 planes if another one is lost – Chief of Ukraine's Defence Intelligence". Ukrainska Pravda.
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  12. ^ Ripley, Tim (13 January 2016). "Russia operates 'Mainstay' AEW&Cs over Syria". Jane's Defence Weekly. 53 (10). Surrey, UK: Jane's Information Group. ISSN 0265-3818.
  13. ^ Ripley, Tim; Cazalet, Mark (12 December 2018). "Russia reinforces Crimea". Jane's Defence Weekly. London. ISSN 0265-3818. OCLC 613908494. Archived from the original on 13 December 2018. Retrieved 8 September 2023 – via Jane's 360. Russia has launched a drive to reinforce its air and land forces deployed on the contested Crimea peninsula, according to open source monitoring and satellite imagery. [...] Open source tracking also indicates that the VKS has deployed A-50 airborne early warning radar aircraft to Saki Air Base on the western coast of Crimea. An A-50 of the 144th Airborne Early Warning Aviation Regiment, the VKS's only unit to operate the aircraft, was tracked flying from its home base at Ivanovo to Saki on 7 December.
  14. ^ a b Roth, Andrew; Beaumont, Peter (27 February 2023). "Belarus partisans say they blew up Russian plane near Minsk". The Guardian. eISSN 1756-3224. ISSN 0261-3077. OCLC 60623878. Archived from the original on 21 August 2023. Retrieved 8 September 2023. What is concerning for Moscow is that the airbase has also been hosting at least one MIG-31 interceptor, which is capable of carrying a nuclear capable hypersonic missile, aircraft whose launches have been responsible of a number of recent air alarms in Ukraine.
  15. ^ "Opposition group: Russian aircraft damaged by explosions in Belarus". The Kyiv Independent. 26 February 2023. Archived from the original on 10 June 2023. Retrieved 8 September 2023.
  16. ^ Tyschenko, Kateryna (26 February 2023). "Belarusian partisans sabotaged in Machulishchy". Ukrainska Pravda. OCLC 1066371688. Archived from the original on 13 April 2023. Retrieved 8 September 2023.
  17. ^ Rogoway, Tyler (28 February 2023). "Russian A-50 Radar Jet Intact After Claimed Drone Attack In Belarus". Archived from the original on 11 May 2023. Retrieved 9 September 2023. The image, taken this morning on February 28, 2023, shows the A-50 Mainstay airborne early warning and control aircraft that was supposedly attacked still largely intact on the flightline at the base.
  18. ^ "Russia Using New Technology to Spot Adversary Aircraft". Voice of America. 17 November 2023. Retrieved 18 November 2023.
  19. ^ "BREAKING NEWS: Russia Uses A-50 AEW&C Aircraft for Enhanced S-400 SA-21 Missile Guidance in Ukraine". Army Recognition. 17 November 2023. Retrieved 18 November 2023.
  20. ^ "The UK Defense Intelligence: russia, Alarmed by Ukraine's Hosting of Western-Supplied Combat Aircraft, Initiates Use of the A-50 MAINSTAY D". Defence Express. 17 November 2023. Retrieved 18 November 2023.
  21. ^ "Russia worried about future F-16 supplies to Ukraine and already bracing for it – UK intelligence". Ukrainska Pravda. Yahoo! News. 17 November 2023. Retrieved 18 November 2023.
  22. ^ "ВСУ сбили над Азовским морем российский самолет-разведчик А-50". Meduza (in Russian). Retrieved 15 January 2024.
  23. ^ Picheta, Rob (15 January 2024). "Ukraine claims it destroyed Russian spy plane in attack over Sea of Azov". CNN. Retrieved 16 January 2024.
  24. ^ Lowe, Yohannes; Hall, Rachel; Lowe (now), Yohannes; Hall (earlier), Rachel (15 January 2024). "Russia-Ukraine war live: Ukraine says it has shot down Russian spy plane; UK to send 20,000 troops to Nato military exercise". the Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 16 January 2024.
  25. ^ Axe, David (16 January 2024). "Ukrainian Crews Set A Complex Missile Trap For Russia's Best Radar Plane". Retrieved 17 January 2024.
  26. ^ Melkozerova, Veronika (15 January 2024). "Ukraine shoots down Russian A-50 surveillance plane and IL-22 command aircraft". Retrieved 17 January 2024.
  27. ^ "ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 349902". Retrieved 31 March 2024.
  28. ^ "В ВСУ утверждают, что сбили российский самолет А-50 над Азовским морем. Российские «военкоры» пишут, что причиной крушения стал дружественный огонь". 23 February 2024. Retrieved 23 February 2024.
  29. ^ "Air Force: Ukraine shoots down another Russian A-50 aircraft over Azov Sea". The Kyiv Independent. 23 February 2024. Retrieved 23 February 2024.
  30. ^ Axe, David. "Incredibly, The Russian Air Force Has Lost Another Rare A-50 Radar Plane". Forbes. Retrieved 23 February 2024.
  31. ^ Roman Kravets; Alona Mazurenko (23 February 2024). "Russian A-50 was downed with S-200 anti-aircraft system". Ukrainska Pravda.
  32. ^ "Another angle of the attack and crash of the Russian A-50 AWACS plane. (Unfortunately with a huge watermark.)". 23 February 2024. Retrieved 25 February 2024.
  33. ^ 10 Russians, including 5 majors, killed in downed A-50 aircraft – Ukrainska Pravda sources
  34. ^ "ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 351939". Retrieved 31 March 2024.
  35. ^ "Satellite images reveal damage at Taganrog plant after drone strike on A-50 repair site". The New Voice of Ukraine (accessed on Retrieved 10 March 2024.
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  39. ^ "Beriev delivered third A-50EI". Take-off Magazine. Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 8 September 2023. The third A-50EI airborne warning and control aircraft serialled KW3553 built by Beriev company for the Indian Air Force (IAF) under a trilateral contract was ferried from Taganrog to Israel on 8 October 2010 for ELTA to fit it with the MSA radar system.
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Ukrainian government references[edit]

  1. ^ Official, N/A. "Повідомлення Мінус А-50У ― ГУР та Повітряні Сили збили черговий літак рф". Головне управління розвідки Міністерства оборони України (Message: Minus A-50U..). Defense intelligence of Ukraine. Retrieved 23 February 2024. Ukrainian language.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]