After 46 years of service to India, the Ilyushin-38 Sea Dragon Long Range Maritime Patrol aircraft of the Navy has retired. At the INS Hansa in Dabolim, the ceremony to decommission the ship occurred today.
INAS 315 was officially put into service on October 1, 1977, with the induction of IL-38 aircraft. This event began a new era of airborne Long Range Maritime Reconnaissance and Anti-Submarine Warfare for the Indian Navy. The IL-38 SD has proven itself to be a potent force multiplier throughout its service life thanks to its one-of-a-kind capabilities, striking prowess, and extended reach that covers the vast territory surrounding the Indian Ocean. The ‘Winged Stallion’ that is featured on the squadron crest has been putting its motto, ‘Victory is my Profession’, into practice by maintaining a keen watch over and below the water in its unrelenting effort to protect Indian maritime borders.
The “Sea Dragon” targeting and navigation complex, located on the Il-38N’s upper fuselage, is instantly recognisable. Five Il-38 basic patrol aircraft were upgraded to the Il-38SD type under a contract signed by Russia and India in September 2001. The contract was valued at $205.05 million.
The Il-38N was an improvement upon the Russian export type Il-38SD (Sea Dragon). Since the project was initially a secret, the exact differences between them was only be conjectured. On the other hand, it is common knowledge that the “Novella-P-38” search and targeting system could be installed on the Il-38N.
This complex has the capability of detecting aircraft up to 90 kilometres away and ships up to 320 kilometres away from their location. Additionally, the device can track 32 objects simultaneously, whether in the air or underwater.
In its last days, the aircraft allowed for the enhancement of capabilities by successfully integrating indigenous Sahayak Air Droppable Containers (which offer essential logistical support to forces deployed at sea) and a trial platform for torpedoes. Both of these developments were significant. In addition, the aircraft participated in the Republic Day Flypast in New Delhi in 2023.
Before the arrival of P-8I maritime reconnaissance aircraft from the United States, the Indian Navy relied on Soviet-built aircraft like the Tu-142MK-E and Il-38 for aerial surveillance and observation and anti-submarine operations in open waters. The German Dornier 228 light aircraft was used for maritime border and coastal surveillance.