Naval Air: August 19, 2001


The first updated IL-38N Russian "May" maritime patrol aircraft has started flight testing. Mays have been flying since the 1960s, but this is a new variant with new sensors and different flight handling characteristics. The new sensors have yet to be fitted but the housings for them have been. The distinctive under-nose radome remains, but will now mount the new Novella radar. The old tail boom Magnetic Anomaly Detector remains, but will be controlled by more powerful computers. A new box-like structure is mounted over the forward fuselage; this will contain an electronic eavesdropping antenna. A FLIR (infrared) systems is mounted in a small turret under the nose. These changes will turn the IL-38 from an anti-submarine plane to a true maritime patrol aircraft, capable of coastal patrol, electronic recon, search-and-rescue, and attacking surface warships. Western intelligence reports that 57 IL-38s were built with 36 still in service, but a Russian salesman at an air show insists that 50 of this type are still flying (plus five owned by India) and that most will be upgraded into IL-38Ns.Stephen V Cole


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