Beriev A-50 Airborne Early Warning and Control Aircraft (AEW&C), Russia

The Beriev A-50 (NATO reporting name “Mainstay“) is a Soviet-built Airborne early warning and control (AEW) aircraft based on the Ilyushin Il-76 transport. The existence of the A-50 was revealed in 1980 by Adolf Tolkachev. 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.

The A-50 airborne early warning and control aircraft (AEW&C) was developed and manufactured by the Beriev Aircraft Research and Engineering Complex Joint Stock Company based at Taganrog in the Rostov Region of Russia. The A-50 aircraft was developed from the llyushin IL-76MD military transport aircraft manufactured by the Ilyushin Aviation Complex Joint Stock Company based in Moscow.

The aircraft is known in the West by the Nato codename Mainstay. Beriev aircraft normally carry the Russian designation Be- followed by the number, however, the A-50 aircraft retained the well-known A-designation which Beriev allocated to the original prototype.

The A-50 aircraft detects and identifies airborne objects, determines their coordinates and flight path data and transfers the information to command posts. The A-50 also acts as a control centre, guiding fighter-interceptors and tactical air force aircraft to combat areas in order to attack ground targets at low altitudes. The role of the A-50 is comparable to that of the US’s E-3 AEW system developed by Boeing.

A-50 Mainstay programme and development

The A-50 entered service with the Russian Air Force in 1984. Currently, 16 aircraft are operational in the Russian Air Force. The upgraded version, the A-50U was first announced in 1995 but did not enter testing until 2008. It then entered service in 2011. The upgraded A-50Us have extended the aircraft’s the service life to 2020.

The modernised A-50 aircraft can now take more fuel on board with the same take-off weight, while increasing the range and mission time performance. A satellite navigation system integrated into flight and navigation complex offers a dramatic increase in the navigational accuracy.

Mainstay AEW&C radar system

The A-50U airborne radar warning and guidance system is the Schnel-M produced by Vega. It comprises:


  • radar station
  • data reduction system
  • interrogator-responder and signal transmission system
  • digital computer complex
  • identification friend or foe (IFF) equipment
  • command radio link to guide fighters
  • encoding communication system
  • radio communication equipment
  • telemetry / code equipment
  • registering equipment.

The radar and guidance systems have the capacity to track 50 to 60 targets simultaneously and to guide ten to 12 fighter aircraft simultaneously

Development work on the A-50U began some years ago and State Tests started on September 10, 2008, using Russian Air Force A-50 ’37 Red’ as a prototype. The main element of the modernisation involves replacing the outdated analogue equipment with a new, digital avionics suite supplied by Russia’s Vega Radio Engineering Corporation JSC. 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.

These upgrades form the basis of the concept for Beriev A-100 AEW&C. Configuration will be similar to the A-50U, but with a new VegaPremier active electronically scanned array radar.

Beriev A-100 AEW&C Vega Premier AESA radar

The new Vega Premier AESA radar in the dome will have electronic steering in elevation while azimuth is control by the rotation of the dome. The array will rotate once every 5 seconds, thus improving the radar’s ability to track fast moving targets. Butowski, Piotr. “Model Reveals A-100 Configuration”. Air International, April 2014. Retrieved: 21 July 2014. @jsonpedia.org


The A-50 is fitted with a self-defence system when flying en-route and over patrol zones. The self-defence system ensures protection from guided and unguided weapons of the enemy’s fighters attacking the aircraft from its front and rear hemispheres. The self-defence system includes an electronic countermeasures system.

The aircraft can also be protected from the enemy’s fighter aircraft via guidance of friendly fighters.

The aircraft radio and electronics systems are robust against hostile jamming and provide good combat performance in dense electronic countermeasures environments.

Flight control and navigation

The aircraft is fitted with the NPK-T flight control and navigation system used to ensure air navigation during all flight stages in all-weather day and night and all-year operations performed at all geographical latitudes. The system also provides flight control and navigation data intended for mission specific systems and equipment.


The A-50 carries out patrol missions at an altitude of 5,000m to 10,000m. The patrol service ceiling is 10km. The maximum flight range of the aircraft is 5,000km and the flight endurance is seven hours 40 minutes. At a range of 2,000km, the A-50 can remain on patrol for up to one hour 25 minutes.

The aircraft is manned by five flight crew and ten mission crew. The maximum take-off weight of the aircraft is 170,000kg. It can travel at a maximum speed of 800km/h.


  • A-50M – Modernized Russian Version fitted with mid-air refueling capability.
  • A-50U – updated Russian variant
  • Izdeliye-676 – One-off stop-gap telemetry and tracking aircraft.
  • Izdeliye-776 – One-off stop-gap telemetry and tracking aircraft.
  • Izdeliye-976 (SKIP) – (СКИП – Самолетный Контрольно-Измерительный Пункт, 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. Has fixed radar cover filled with other equipment and glassed navigator cockpit, (One prototype and five production conversions).
Izdeliye-976 (SKIP)
  • Izdeliye-1076 – One-off special mission aircraft with unknown duties.
  • A-50I – variant with an Israeli radar, designed for China but project cancelled under pressure of United States
  • A-50E/I – With Aviadvigatel PS-90 A-76 engines, with Israeli EL/W-2090 radar made for the Indian Air Force
A-50E/I Indian Air ForceA-50E/I with Aviadvigatel PS-90 A-76 engines Indian Air Force


 Soviet Union

Specifications (A-50)

General characteristics

4 × Soloviev D-30 KP turbofan, 117,68 kN (26,500 lbf) each


Source: airforce-technology.com/wiki/from the net

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