Ten-year airframe life extension and installation of Sea Dragon search and targeting system complete Ilyushin's upgrade

Ilyushin has completed the first flight of an Il-38 May maritime patrol aircraft upgraded to SD standard. The flight on 9 July was from Khodynka in Moscow to the Gromov flight test and research institute at Zhukovsky.

The airframe is an upgraded Indian navy Il-38 and is due for redelivery by the end of this year.

Work at Ilyushin's experimental factory included a 10-year airframe life extension as well as installation of the Leninets Sea Dragon multi-sensor search and targeting suite.

The Sea Dragon is an export derivative of the Novella developed for Russian navy Il-38Ns. It can detect airborne targets at 90km (50nm),sea targets at 320km and track 32 targets simultaneously.

The Il-38SD is believed to be compatible with the 290km-range Russian/Indian Brahmos missile, as well as the shorter-range Zvezda-Strela Kh-35 and Kh-31A/P.

Sea Dragon is based around a digital mission computer with two operator stations, each with a 330mm (13in) liquid crystal display. A commander's station has a larger display. The system is modular, with a common database, and allows integration of customer-specified sensors and equipment.

India awarded Russian state arms agency Rosoboronexport a $205 million contract in September 2001 for the upgrade of five Il-38s to SD standard.

The deal was thrown into doubt following the mid-air collision of two of India's five Il-38s during an air show in October last year (Flight International, 29 October-4 November 2002). To save the contract, Russia agreed to give India two Il-38s free of charge. India's programme promises to cut Russia's own costs associated for a life extension and modernisation of the country's Il-18 transport, Il-20 electronic reconnaissance and Il-38 aircraft, which share the Il-18 airframe.

The Russian navy plans to upgrade the "majority" of its Il-38s to Il-38Ns. It is thought 25 Il-38s remain in frontline squadrons with another 10 in training units. An Il-38N prototype flew in early 2001and began state acceptance trials in November last year. These are to be completed by year-end, enabling deliveries next year.

Source: Flight International