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Il-38SD Sea Dragon

By 1973, the Indian Navy had evaluated three types of aircraft the French Atlantic, the British Nimrod and the Russian Beriev 12. The Beriev 12 did not meet the Navy's requirement. The Atlantic and the Nimrod would have to be paid for in foreign exchange which was scarce. The Navy had therefore pressed for the Russian IL 38. The Russian Navy was unable to spare any because they did not have sufficient aircraft for their own needs. Production had stopped and a new model was being developed. The Russian side agreed however to ask their industry of they could produce a few IL 38s for India. The Ilyushin Il-38 formally entered service with the Indian Navy on 1 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 and two more examples joined the squadron in 1983.

In addition to dozens of Russian "Thirty-eights", five of the same aircraft the Indian Navy were upgraded with the "Sea Dragon" airborne search and sighting system, the export name of "Novella." They differ somewhat in the composition of airborne equipment, including retrieval systems. Export SDs are distinguished by the three airfoil shaped struts supporting the ESM/ELINT pod, while Russian aircraft have a lattice structure instead.

The Sea Dragon is a multi-mission package that includes five subsystems. Anti-submarine warfare (radio hydroacoustics and magnetic anomaly), search-and-rescue and ecological monitoring (electrical optics), sea and land surface surveillance (electronically scanned radar) as well as electronic support measures. The Sea Dragon is operational only on the Indian Navy Il-38SDs. The version of the Sea Dragon equipping the Il-38SD is able to detect aerial targets at a distance of 90km and sea going targets at 320km. Its radar can detect such small targets as emergency beacons and can work in synthetic aperture radar (SAR) and inverse SAR modes. The radar can track 32 targets simultaneously and provide targeting for precision guided munitions (PGMs). The Sea Dragon is controlled by a digital mission computer. Built on modular principle with digital databus, it provides integration of customer selected items of additional equipment. Modular architecture and databus allow easy integration of additional items.

The Russian upgrade fitted the aircraft with a Sea Dragon integrated attack suite that uses a computer system to co-ordinate information from the onboard radar, ESM (electronic support measures) and electro-optical sensors, allowing attacks to be made using torpedoes, bombs and air-to-surface missiles. The modernised aircraft will be able to carry the Tactical Missiles Corporation (formerly Zvezda-Strela) Kh-35E (AS-20 'Kayak') subsonic anti-ship missile, but is also expected to be armed with the Russian/Indian BrahMos supersonic anti-ship missile. It is not clear if the Sea Dragon suite (an export derivative of the Novella suite used on the Russian Navy's upgraded Il-38N aircraft) includes the capability to handle BrahMos, or if a further upgrade will be needed.

The contract for the modernization of the five Indian IL-38 in the version of the Il-38SD (Sea Dragon - "The sea snakes") was signed by "Rosoboronexport" as early as September 2001, the amount of the transaction amounted to 205 million dollars. The first hunter arrived in Russia at the end of March 2002. A year later, after repairs, it was moved to the company "Mir" (a subsidiary of the company Leninets ") for the installation of Sea Dragon. The prototype modernized Ilyushin Il-38SD 'May' maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) for the Indian Navy made its maiden flight on 03 July 2003 from Khodinka airfield in Moscow. In late 2005 the customer took delivery of first Il-38SD converted from original Il-38. The second Indian IL-38 appeared in Russia in December 2003. Repair and modernization of one machine was estimated at 17 million dollars. In late 2005, Ilyushin completed the upgrading of three Il-38SD. The remaining four aircraft will be carried out in Indian factories.

Under the agreement, all Indian IL-38 were to be upgraded within three years - until 2005 - but the loss of two Indian "Ilov" on 01 October 2002, the parties made adjustments to the draft. The mid-air collision between two IL-38 long-range patrol aircraft of the Indian Naval Air Squadron (INAS) 315 in Goa was cruel irony. The occasion was not just a celebration of INAS' silver jubilee but also of over 30,000 hours of accident-free flying. All aircrew on board both aircraft were killed and both aircraft were destroyed. By mid-2005 a case was under process to buy two IL-38 surveillance aircraft for Navy as replacement for two such aircraft lost in an accident. On 14 November 2005 the Pentagon notified Congress of plans to lease two P-3C reconnaissance aircraft to India. "The two leased P-3c aircraft will replace two existing Indian Navy patrol aircraft, Soviet-built IL-38 May aircraft, which are quickly reaching the end of their fatigue and operational service life," the Defence Security and Cooperation Agency (DSCA) said. The agency estimated the value of a logistics support contract for the aircraft at $133 million. The DSCA said India needed aircraft for land-based maritime patrol and reconnaissance against submarines and surface warfare ships as well as to protect its economic exclusion zone. "Modernization will enhance the capabilities of the Indian Navy, support its regional influence and meet its legitimate self-defence needs," the agency said.

The existing three IL-38 aircraft in the Navy were being modernized and refurbished in Russia. The refurbishment will enhance the life of the aircraft by another 15 years and also strengthen its surveillance capability. Rosoboronexport's success in the tender for the supply of eight anti-submarine defense planes (to replace the Tu-142 aircraft received by India from the U.S.S.R. in 1986), declared in 2006, largely depended on the situation surrounding the contract for modernizing the Il-38 planes. Two aircraft upgraded in the St. Petersburg facilities had been delivered to the Indian Navy. The third and fourth were ready for delivery, and the fifth will be completed in September.

In September 2007, news arrived that India had suspended the Il-38SD contract payments: Indians said the Il-38SD planes' performance during the tests had not complied with the technical assignment, while the Russian side insisted that the system had operated according to the set regime. People in Ilyushin Co. challenged that statement, specifying that SD operated up to the mark. top officials of Ilyushin insist that the Indian Navy's demands were not stipulated in the contract signed in 2001 for the upgradation of five anti-submarine aircraft.

The Indian Navy needs maritime reconnaissance aircraft (MRA) to replace its ageing fleet of eight Soviet-era Tupolev Tu-42s that are on the verge of completing their service life, and also the remaining two IL-38 aircraft. A four-member Navy team, headed by a one-star officer, observed trials in July 2007 on MRA derivatives of the Airbus A-319, manufactured by the EADS Spain and the Boeing P-8A Poseidon in the US, both with operational capability set for around 2013. Since neither of MRA derivatives exists, the flight trials involved simulations on the Airbus A-320 and the Boeing-737 platforms on representative flight profiles and mission system evaluations. The price at which the EADS would be arming the Indian Navy with the eight MRAs is almost $ 400 million less than the price offered by Boeing.

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Page last modified: 09-07-2011 02:42:34 ZULU