Russia’s United Aircraft Corp. (UAC) has reported assembly of the first Il-476 flight prototype, a modernized version of the Ilyushin Il-76MD heavy transport aircraft.

The prototype was shown publicly for the first time during the unofficial ceremony at the Aviastar-SP production facility in Ulyanovsk in mid-December. A UAC representative told Aviation Week that the official rollout ceremony will be in early 2012, while the first flight is expected in the spring.

The Il-476 is the first aircraft of this type assembled in Russia. Previous Il-76 modifications have been manufactured at the Tashkent-based TAPO plant in Uzbekistan, which is not controlled by UAC. Compared to the basic model, the Il-476 features a reinforced wing, modernized landing gear, new Perm PS-90A-76 engines and a digital cockpit. Altogether, the improvements are aimed at increasing the aircraft’s payload from 50 to 60 tons, as well as the range by 27% and to reduce the fuel consumption by 18%, according to designers.

The center wingbox and the wing of another Ilyushin Il-476 prototype are undergoing static and endurance tests at TsAGI Central Aerohydrodynamic Institute in Zhukovsky, near Moscow.

UAC expects that the new transport will be purchased first by the Russian air force, but the military so far has not placed a contract for this type. The civil version, named Il-76-90A, reportedly will be available for commercial operators in 2015.