Il-976 SKIP is an aircraft command and tracking station. When ballistic and cruise missiles are tested it’s necessary to fix performance of their systems. This task is complicated – if something goes wrong a missile cannot force-land like an aircraft and engineers have to inspect the wreckage trying to find the reason of the crash. For the same reason an airborne laboratory cannot be mounted on a missile – if the missile explodes all recorded data would be lost. The only way out is to equip the missile with a transmitter and monitor operation of its systems by means of telemetry. Ground stations and special aircrafts are used to receive such data.
Il-976 was designed in the 80s, it represents a hybrid of Il-7бMD and A-50. Some pictures of the aircraft are inside the post.