March 17, 2012: The Russian Navy recently received the first of the upgraded Il-38N maritime reconnaissance aircraft. There have been several upgrades since the Il-38N first entered service eleven years ago. These were major upgrades of an aircraft that had been in service since the 1960s. The latest upgrades enable the aircraft to detect ships within 320 kilometers. There is also a new thermal (heat) sensor, more powerful computers, and increased capability in all sensors.
Existing Il-38Ns can detect surface vessels and aircraft and submarines up to 150 kilometers away. Sensors carried include a synthetic aperture/inverse synthetic aperture radar (for night and fog operations), high-resolution FLIR (forward-looking infrared), LLTV (low light television) camera, ESM (electronic support measures) system, and a MAD (magnetic anomaly detector). The aircraft can carry anti-ship missiles, in addition to torpedoes, bombs, depth charges, and electronic decoys.
The Il-38N is a 63 ton, four engine turboprop aircraft with a crew of ten, endurance of about ten hours, and it can carry nine tons of weapons. The 63 ton American P-3 has very similar characteristics. Russia built 176 Il-38s while the U.S. built over 600 P-3s.