The Il-38 – the military version of the famous Il-1 airliner – made its maiden flight as far back as 1961. Source: Press Photo
The Russian Navy is now equipped with a modernised Ilyushin Il-38 aircraft, designed to hunt down and destroy enemy submarines. The plane is equipped with a conceptually new targeting system and is another example of how platforms long used by the army and navy have been given a new lease of life after modernisation.
The Il-38 – the military version of the famous Il-1 airliner – made its maiden flight as far back as 1961. At that time, the aircraft was equipped with the Berkut targeting and navigation system. The main purpose of these aircrafts was to patrol territorial waters near the Russian coast in search of enemy submarines. As the designers intended, the aircraft crew were able not only to detect enemy submarines but also destroy them with torpedoes.
The military back then acknowledged that Berkut was not as good as it desired. The Soviet forces were especially offended about the fact it was significantly inferior to its U.S. counterpart, the P-3C Orion, as its capability was strictly limited to fighting submarines. In contrast, the P-3C Orion could counteract not only submarines but also surface ships, as well as carry out ocean patrols and radio reconnaissance.
The Il-38 has now been fitted with an updated version of its main combat system. According to its designers, the Novella system is capable of detecting airborne targets at a distance of up to 90 km and surface targets at a distance of up to 320 km. The system supports keeping up to 32 targets in sight simultaneously, both above and under water. It is used to conduct submarine, surface and air radar reconnaissance and provides target designation. The system combines a digital computer with control stations for two operators, each of which is equipped with a 13-inch LCD, and a commander’s station with a large monitor.
Analogue of Poseidon
“All units are connected with each other via special buses. This solution allows customers to integrate any equipment that they desire,” emphasizes Yuriy Yudin, Ilyushin Design Bureau CEO. “Essentially, we have a fully-fledged analogue of the modern American P-8 Poseidon.”
“This aircraft will greatly enhance the combat potential of the anti-submarine component of the navy,” commander of Centre No. 859 for combat deployment and retraining of naval aviation pilots of the Russian Navy, Major-General Aleksey Serdyuk says confidently. “Search capability has quadrupled.” One modernised aircraft will be capable of operating over an area four times the size of that previously covered by the Il-38. The airframe of this aircraft, according to him, is simply magnificent, as it allows the military to carry out operations in the near and far maritime zones.
Supersonic speeds are not required to search, detect, track and destroy modern submarines. The advantage of the Il-38 is that it has a range of 2,200 km. This is quite enough to conduct reconnaissance, unhurriedly patrolling near the coast. In the event that a boat or group of ships is detected by the navy, the Il-38 would be at this point ahead of main forces and would be capable of beginning the pursuit or even an attack on the target or the whole group of targets on its own.
A new life for old weapons
The aircraft has a combat load of 9 tonnes: torpedoes, anti-submarine bombs, marine mines, rescue containers and marine markers (OMAB-12D marine benchmark bombs) and even anti-ship cruise missiles. Under a contract with the Russian Ministry of Defence, the Ilyushin company is modernising five Il-38s.
Modernization, in some cases, is more justified than development of entirely new weapon systems. This is primarily because of the fact that it is neither technically nor economically viable to reproduce certain carriers, such as project 1144 cruisers, in today’s conditions. Similarly, it is not feasible to build new Il-38s from scratch. However, by replacing the electronics and striking capabilities in them, you can both save money and enhance the combat capabilities of well-established carriers which have splendidly proven themselves.
This is an abridged version of an article first published in Russian by Vzglyad.
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