The Ilyushin Il-38 is a maritime patrol and anti-submarine warfare (ASW) aircraft designed by the Russia-based Ilyushin Aviation Complex. Derived from the Ilyushin Il-18 turboprop transport aircraft, the Il-38 can be deployed in surveillance, search and rescue, maritime reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare operations. The aircraft can detect and intercept surface vessels and submarines.
The first aerodynamic prototype of the Il-38 completed its maiden flight in September 1961. The aircraft is currently in service with the Russian Navy and the Indian Navy. The Russian Navy upgraded the aircraft to extend its service life to 2015.
The Indian Navy placed an upgrade contract for five aircraft in 2001. The programme will extend the operational life of the aircraft up to 15 years. Two upgraded aircraft were delivered in January 2006 and third was delivered in 2008. The operational problems with the new avionics and electronic warfare system caused delays in further aircraft deliveries. The last aircraft was delivered in February 2010.
The upgraded Il-38 of the Russian Navy and Indian Navy are designated as Il-38N and Il-38SD respectively. The aircraft’s anti-sub system was replaced with the modern and compact system known as Novella (export name: Sea Dragon).
The system consists of several sub systems, including an anti-submarine warfare, a search-and-rescue and ecological monitoring, an electronic support measures, a sea and land surface surveillance system.
The new fully digital system comprises a high-resolution radar, display, thermal imaging subsystem, infrared sensor, a magnetometer and an electronic intelligence (ELINT) system.
Ilyushin Il-38 aircraft design
The Ilyushin Il-38 design is based on the Il-18 aircraft. The airframe length was increased by 4m and the wings were moved forward. The tail has an magnetic anomaly detector (MAD) and a search radar under the forward fuselage.
The aircraft is fitted with two internal weapons bays, one forward and the other behind the wing. The forward weapon bay houses sonobuoys and the behind one houses weapons.
Il-38 ASW cockpit
The partial glass cockpit accommodates a pilot, co-pilot, flight engineer and operational crew, including a tactical coordinator, sensor operators, an MAD operator and observers.
Ilyushin Il-38 avionics
The Il-38 avionics suite includes a radar, a forward-looking infrared (FLIR) turret below the nose and the ELINT system. The system is mounted on struts above the forward fuselage.
The upgraded avionics and electronic warfare suite features a new synthetic-aperture radar / inverse-synthetic-aperture radar (SAR / ISAR), a search and attack radar, a high-resolution FLIR sensor, a low-light television camera, a new electronic support measures system, an MAD and active and passive sonobuoys. The sensor suite can detect air targets at a distance of up to 90km and sea going targets at 320km, and simultaneously track up to 32 targets.
The aircraft is fitted with two internal weapons bays on the forward and backward sides of the wing to carry missiles, torpedoes, FAB 250 free-fall bombs and depth charges.
The aircraft has been retrofitted to carry the Sea Eagle anti-ship missiles. The missile can reach the moving targets in 110km range. It is also equipped with R-73RDM2 short-range air-to-air missiles.
The aircraft is also equipped with radio communication system and electronic countermeasures system.
The Indian Navy aircraft can be armed with an air-launched BrahMos supersonic cruise missile. BrahMos is jointly developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) of India and NPO Mashinostroeyenia of Russia. It has a speed of Mach 2.8 and can hit targets within the range of 290km.
Ivchenko Al-20M engines
The aircraft is powered by four Ivchenko Al-20M single-shaft turboprop engines driving four four-bladed propellers. The engines deliver a power output of 3,125kW.
Ilyushin Il-38 aircraft performance
The Ilyushin Il-38 can fly at a maximum speed of 650km/h. It has a range of 9,500km and service ceiling of 10,000m. The aircraft can climb at a rate of 320m per minute. The maximum take-off weight of the aircraft is 63,500kg.
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