Tupolev Tu-142M

Type: Long Range Maritime Patrol.

Number in Service: There are reportedly 10 aircraft in service, but that number has not been confirmed to date. Thus the official figures stand at eight aircraft. Three aircraft arrived at Dabolim, Goa in March 1988, two more examples were flown in April 1988 and the last three were flown between August and October 1988. Inducted for long-range surface surveillance and anti-submarine warfare.

Aircraft Serial Numbers: IN-311

Dimensions (External): Wingspan - 51.1 metres (167 feet).
..............................Length (overall) - 49.5 metres (162 feet).
..............................Height (overall) - 12.12 metres (39 feet).
..............................Propeller Diameter - 5.6 metres (18 feet).

Engine: The Tu-142M has four KKBM Kuznetsov NK-12MV turboprops, with eight-blade contra-rotating reversible-pitch Type AV-60N propellers. Each turboprop is rated at 11,033 kW (14,795 shp). Recently it was announced that the Indian Navy intended to overhaul & modernise the Tu-142M's turboprops at the Motorostroitel aircraft factory in Samara, Russia. The factory also undertakes the major overhaul of around 15 Indian NK-12MV engines, annually. A flight refuelling probe, fitted above the nose, allows for in-flight refuelling. A flush light each side of probe in upper part of nose aids night in-flight refuelling. Flight International reported that India placed an order in 2006 for the modernization of six NK-12 turboprops.

Accommodation: The Tu-142M has a flight crew of four personnel, which includes the Pilot/Commander, Co-Pilot, Flight Engineer and Flight Signaller. A Flight Gunner serves as the tail gunner at the tail turret. Another five personnel operate as navigators/observers. The Observers perform the duties of Weapon System and Sensor officers, while a senior navigator coordinates the entire ASW phase of the mission.

Operational Speed: 500 knots (925 km/h).

Service Ceiling: 45,000 ft. (13,720 metres).

Range: 6775 nautical miles (12,550 km).

Sensors: The Tu-142M is fitted with the Korshun-K automatic search & sighting system and MMS-106 Ladoga magnetometer which are intended for detecting low-noise, nuclear-powered submarines. Also installed are the NPK-142M upgraded navigation and piloting system, the Strela-142M on-board communication system, the Nerchinsk hydrological defense system, the Sayany on-board defense system and an automatic encoded radio communication system. The aircraft also has a search & attack radar (NATO: Wet Eye) and numerous active & passive sonobuoys, some of which include RGB-15, RGB-25, RGB-55A and RGB-75 buoys.

Armament: The Tu-142M can carry 12 torpedoes, FAB 250 freefall bombs and depth charges. It has a DK-12 rear gun system with two 23mm AM-23 cannons. In the late 1990s, it was announced that the Sea Eagle AShM would be integrated with the aircraft.

Maximum External Stores Load: 20,000 kg (44,090 lbs).

Self Defence: A media report, dated 05 May 2007, stated that five HOMI Electronic Support Measures (ESM) systems have been fitted on-board and additional systems have been ordered. The system is an indigenous development by the Defence Electronics Research Laboratory (DLRL).

Comments: The Tu-142 is the maritime reconnaissance/strike version of the Tu-95 which served as a Russian nuclear weapons capable bomber and is the fastest and highest flying turboprop aircraft in the world. The aircraft's long range (can fly from Bombay to Johannesburg, South Africa and back without refuelling) combined with its heavy payload of 20,000 lbs. is a valuable asset to the Indian Navy's ASW and MR capability. The aircraft is fondly called the Albatross because of the massive wingspan of the aircraft. Also known as the Sentinel of the Ocean, this aircraft can remain airborne for sixteen hours. Negotiations were reportedly on with Rosoboronexport (Russia's Federal State Unitary Enterprise which is responsible for arms exports to foreign nations) to procure six to eight more Tu-142s from refurbished ex-VVS storage stocks. However with the tragic mid-air crash of a pair of IL-38s in October 2002, the Indian Navy shifted her attention to acquire additional IL-38s to overcome the loss and therefore acquisition of additional Tu-142s seems unlikely. They operate from INS Rajali (East) and INS Hansa (West) for regular, long range patrols into the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea.

Defense News reported in March 2004 that the Indian Navy had requested new avionics and electronic warfare suites for the Tu-142, for the detection and interception of surface vessels and submarines within a range of 150 kilometres, as well as the capability to detect mines and carry out long-range and long-endurance surveillance. The upgrade is also expected to enable the aircraft to be linked to the Indian satellite navigation system and be fitted with an observation system that will work in night and day. The primary ambition of the upgrade is to conduct maritime patrol missions and forge a linkage between India's nuclear command center and its futuristic nuclear submarine. The upgrade will further enable the aircraft to carry air-launched versions of the Klub and BrahMos ASCMs.

In the same March 2004 report, Defense News reported that the Indian Navy had approached Rosoboronexport in November 2003 to upgrade their fleet of Tu-142s for a cost no more than USD $555.5 million. However the proposal put forward by Rosoboronexport to upgrade these aircraft with the Morskoy Zmei (Sea Dragon) multi-mission avionics and electronic warfare suite was rejected. The primary reasons were reportedly system performance issues and an exorbitant price tag, listed at USD $888.9 million by Rosoboronexport. In January 2004, a team of Indian Naval Aviation pilots visited Russia to evaluate a Sea Dragon-equipped Tu-142 aircraft. However the Sea Dragon suite failed to meet essential parameters and its detection capabilities were found inadequate. In February 2004, the Indian Navy approached Rosoboronexport again to have Israeli firms collaborate with Russian firms to customise a MMA and EW suite. However that proposal was rejected by Rosoboronexport, on the basis that the upgrade would have to be wholly Russian and must include the Sea Dragon suite.

Again from the same March 2004 report, Defense News reported that the Indian Navy then turned directly towards Israeli firms for the upgrade and that the Ministry of Defence would issue two individual RFPs (Requests For Proposals) to Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) and Elbit Systems to tailor a MMA and EW suite for the Tu-142 fleet. The RFPs are expected to be issued by the MoD in April 2004 and proposals are expected to be due within three months. This upgrade is expected to wholly revamp the Tu-142 into a modern maritime recon and electronic warfare aircraft. It is assumed that this has already taken place. By early 2004, the IN had reportedly completed with the refit of a Tu-142M (IN 315) with the Elta EL/M-2022A (V3) radar. The radar replaced the Leninets Korschun system and a comprehensive ELINT and COMINT package, with nose and fuselage mounted V/UHF antennae and an underfuselage P-band antenna farm, was also incorporated. This upgrade is similar to the upgrade package of the IN's Do-228s and features additional SATCOM, ELINT and EW equipment. It would be interesting to compare the capabilities of the Russian warfare suite with its Israeli counterpart, as the IL-38s are to be upgraded with the Sea Dragon suite.

Interfax-AVN reported in September 2004, that the Taganrog Aviation Company (Tavia) was implementing a contract for the repair of a Tu-142ME aircraft of the Indian Navy. Tavia's Director General, Nikolai Savitskikh, stated, "Another Indian plane of this type is currently under repairs at the aircraft plant. According to the schedule, the enterprise must annually repair one Indian Tu-142ME." He also stated that the enterprise was only repairing the Indian aircraft, not upgrading them. "Eight Tu-142MEs were supplied to India in 1987-1988. They are repaired in turns, all of them have been repaired once and are now up for the second repairs," the Director General said. He also added that repairs of both Russian and Indian Tu-142 planes provide for most of the company's workload.