The Russian naval air arm has accepted a fifth upgraded Ilyushin Il-38N maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) and ordered some more conversions. But service chief Maj. Gen. Igor Kozhin said that the navy is also looking for “a modern and suitable universal platform” to replace the aging Il-20/Il-38 fleet. A selection will be made in 2015-16, he continued. A version of the Il-114 twin-turboprop airliner now seems the most likely candidate.
The Il-38N upgrade features the Novella-P38 maritime mission set from Leninets. It is able to detect aerial targets at a distance of 90 km (50 nm) and track seagoing targets within a 320 km (170 nm) radius. An export version of this system named Sea Dragon can be found on the Il-38SDs of the Indian navy. The aircraft can carry a nine-tonne (19,800-pound) payload including torpedoes, missiles and guided bombs. The Il-38N program has cost 3.45 billion roubles to date.
The Russian MoD previously stated that it would fund 28 Il-38N upgrades. They are produced by the Ilyushin/Myasishchev facility in Zhukovsky. All suitable low-hour airframes willundergo modernization, Kozhin said, but he declined to specify an exact number, since “every used airframe needs a thorough assessment” to determine if it worth extending the airframe life in view of considerable labor required.
As for a new MPA airframe, the Russian navy previously chose the Antonov An-140 twin turboprop. But the Ukrainian government has since discontinued military technical cooperation with Russia. “In my view, the Il-114 is the best choice for the Russian navy”, Georgy Antsev, general director and designer for Morinformsystem-Agat, told AIN. Agat is the system integrator of electronic equipment for the Russian navy and developer of combat-management systems for warships, fire control systems, coastal patrol and protection systems. Antsev said that Agat is cooperating with Ilyushin, Radar-MMS and other partners to promote the Il-114 as an MPA.
One Il-114 airframe—side number 93001—has been used in the role of flying testbed by Agat and Radar-MMS since 2005. “The aircraft proved reliable and up to the job. It can loiter for 14 hours,” according to Antsev. Having completed a number of R&D programs using this airframe, Agat and Radar-MMS have turned it into an advanced-technology MPA demonstrator. At the recent IMDS’2015 maritime show, RA93001 demonstrated the transmission of telemetry and targeting data in real time using a wide-band secure datalink. This was billed as “the first public demonstration of the Kasatka rescue and targeting complex in action.”
The current configuration of the Il-114 testbed features a FLIR under the nose and a magnetometer in the tail section. A semi-automatic dispenser deploys sonobuoys. Two pylons under the fuselage allow for sensor pods or Kh-35 anti-ship missiles to be carried. On the starboard side, a GSh-2-23 twin barrel 23-mm rapid fire cannon pad can be carried. Metric-band antennas are in conformal attachments on both sides of the fuselage. There are two radars, one (KS-9) working in metric waveband (range up to 50 km) and the other (KS-1 or Zarya) in centimetric waveband (range 300 km), with an antenna in an underbelly doom for 360-degree coverage.