Illyushin Il-38

Type: Long range maritime patrol aircraft.

Aircraft delivered to date: IN301 (1977) - upgraded to 'SD' standard
...................................IN303 (1977) - upgraded to 'SD' standard
...................................IN305 (1983) - upgraded to 'SD' standard
...................................IN306 (to be delivered in 2008) - upgraded to 'SD' standard
...................................IN307 (to be delivered in 2008) - upgraded to 'SD' standard

Note: A tragic mid-air crash occurred on 01 October 2002, during the squadron's silver jubilee celebrations. IN302 and IN304, which were flying parallel to each other, had a mid-air collision above the Dabolim airport in Goa. All twelve aircrew (six aboard each aircraft) were killed and both aircraft were also destroyed.

Dimensions (External): Wingspan - 37.42 metres (122.9 feet).
..............................Length (overall) - 36.9 metres (129.1 feet).
..............................Height (overall) - 10.7 metres (33.4 feet).

Engine: The IL-38 has four 3125kW (4190 ehp) Ivchenko Al-20M turboprops, driving four blade propellers.

Accommodation: The IL-38 has a flight crew of three personnel, which includes a Pilot, a Co-Pilot and a Flight Engineer. The operational crew is believed to be nine personnel, which includes a tactical coordinator, sensor operators, a MAD (Magnetic Anomaly Detector) operator and observers.

Operational Speed: 347 knots (645 km/h).

Service Ceiling: 32,800 ft. (10,000 meters).

Range: 3887 nautical miles (7200 km).

Sensors: The IL-38 has a search & attack radar (NATO: Wet Eye), a MAD (magnetic anomaly detector) system, an ESM (electronic support measures) system and numerous active & passive sonobuoys.

Weapons: The IL-38 can carry torpedoes, FAB 250 freefall bombs and depth charges. The aircraft has been retrofitted to carry the Sea Eagle AShM. The BrahMos ASCM is expected to replace the Sea Eagle AShM in due course. The addition of the R-73RDM2 short-range, air-to-air missile is also being contemplated.

Role: Shore-based, long-range ASW (Anti-Submarine Warfare) recon into the Indian Ocean.

Comments: The IL-38s formally entered service with the Indian Navy on 01 October 1977, with the commissioning of INAS 315 Winged Stallions at INS Hansa in Dabolim, Goa. The squadron was formed with just three aircraft in 1977 (IN301 to IN303) and two more examples (IN304 & IN305) joined the squadron in 1983. The first three aircraft were from ex-AV-MF (Russia's Naval Air Force) stocks and latter two aircraft could also have been acquired from the same source, but that is yet to be confirmed beyond reliable doubt. The IL-38s regularly fly 10 - 12 hour endurance sorties over the Arabian Sea and have proved to be reliable in the roles of maritime reconnaissance (MR), anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and search & rescue (SAR). Due to the loss of two aircraft, Russia donated two aircraft free of charge from ex-AV-MF (Russia's Naval Air Force) stocks.

The Indian Navy launched an upgrade program to extend the life of the IL-38 maritime patrol aircraft and a $150 million contract was signed in September 2001 to modernize five aircraft. Leninets Institute of Russia was given the task of fitting the Morskoy Zmei (Sea Dragon) multi-mission avionics & electronic warfare suite and the Ilyushin Aircraft Construction Company first checks & upgrades the airframes and engines prior to fitting the Sea Dragon system, designed by Leninets. The first aircraft (IN-305) arrived in Russia for the upgrade on 29 March 2002 and returned to India on 15 January 2006. This modernization will allow the aircraft to remain operational for 15 years. The aircraft are flown from India to Russia where the refits take place. The upgraded aircraft go by the designation IL-38SD and costs US $30 million per aircraft.

A number of media outlets reported in September 2007 that the Indian Navy has suspended payments for the $150 million contract, as the Sea Dragon suite has not lived up to expectations. The system allegedly failed to discover a submarine that was at the target distance from it and thus the Indian Navy has asked for additional tests to be conducted before further payments and delivery of aircraft take place. Viktor Livanov, CEO of the Ilyushin Aircraft Construction Company, states that there is nothing wrong with the system or the aircraft and that the Indian Navy is putting forward more demands to the technical characteristics of the aircraft not stipulated in the contract. He noted, "All the functions of Sea Dragon were proven during live tests, but India continues to insist on further improvements. But that can't continue indefinitely." It remains to be seen how this issue will be resolved, as the Indian Navy desperately needs additional maritime surveillance platforms to monitor its long coastline.

The fully digital Sea Dragon suite is designed to detect & intercept surface vessels and submarines, as well as detect mines and carry out surveillance. It can track more than 30 targets at one time from a distance of up to 320 kilometers. The suite can also detect airborne targets and can be linked to the Russian GLONASS (GLObal NAvigation Satellite System). It encompasses a new synthetic-aperture/inverse-synthetic-aperture radar located in a canoe fairing on the belly, a high-resolution FLIR (forward-looking infra-red) sensor, a LLTV (low-light television) camera, a new ESM (electronic-support-measures) system and a new MAD (magnetic anomaly detector) system in the aft section of the aircraft. The IL-38s will also be fitted with radio-frequency and infrared sensors, as well as decoys. Indian elements are a key part of the upgrade with DRDO (Defence Research and Development Organisation) supplying the aircraft's new electronic intelligence system, electronic countermeasures station system, digital firing decoys and radio communication system.

IN306 at the Zhukovsky airfield near Moscow during MAKS 2007, the annual Russian air exhibition, held from 21 to 26 August 2007. Image © Ken DuffeyIN 303 flies over Yelahanka AFS, Bangalore on 07 February 2007. Image © Sergey KrivchikovThe first Indian Navy IL-38 (IN 301) at the Sheremetyevo International Airport in Moscow, Russia on 24 June 2005. The aircraft arrived in Russia for its upgrade to the 'SD' standard. Image © Teemu Tuuri - FAP ( © Kapil ChandniImage © Kapil ChandniIN 304 at Pushkin, St. Petersburg (Russia) being modified with what appears to be ESM antennas on either side of the nose. While date of this photo is not known, it is not dated during the time of the recent 'SD' upgrade. This aircraft had a mid-air collision with another IN 302 over Dabolim, Goa on 01 October 2002. Image © Chris KnottIN 302 being prepared for flight at Dabolim, Goa. Date not known. This aircraft had a mid-air collision with IN 304 over Dabolim, Goa on 01 October 2002. Image © Pushpinder Singh Chopra via Anandeep Pannu