India is sending a maritime reconnaissance aircraft to Djibouti, to join
the anti-pirate air patrol being conducted from there (Djibouti shares a border
with northern Somalia). It's not been decided which type of maritime
reconnaissance aircraft to send. Currently, India uses two manned aircraft
types (Russian Il-38s and Tu-142s) and Israeli UAVs (Herons and Searcher IIs).
It would be cheaper to send a UAV, but these do not carry weapons, which the
two manned recon aircraft do, along with more powerful sensors.
recently six upgraded Il-38 Russian maritime reconnaissance aircraft. India
first received their IL-38s in the late 1970s, and they were overdue for an
upgrade two decades later. The refurbished Il-38s have sensors that enable them
to detect surface vessels, aircraft and submarines up to 150 kilometers away.
Mines can be detected a few kilometers away, depending on their type. The
sensors include a synthetic
aperture/inverse synthetic aperture radar (for night and fog operations),
high-resolution FLIR (forward-looking infrared), LLTV (low light television)
camera, new ESM (electronic support measures) system and a new MAD (magnetic
anomaly detector). The aircraft can now carry antiship missiles, in addition
torpedoes, bombs, depth charges and electronic decoys. The refurb is expected
to keep the aircraft viable until about 2020. Meanwhile, India is trying to buy
two more Il-38s from Russia.
India received another Russian built Tu-142 maritime reconnaissance aircraft.
Beginning in 1988, when it received three of these aircraft, India has bought
more and now has a fleet of nine. The Tu-142, which was introduced in the
1970s, is the patrol version of the Tu-95 heavy bomber. This aircraft entered
service 51 years ago, and is expected to remain in service, along with the
Tu-142 variant, for another three decades. Over 500 Tu-95s were built, and it
is the largest and fastest turboprop aircraft in service. Russia still
maintains a force of 60 Tu-95s, but has dozens in storage, which can be restored
to service as either a bomber or a Tu-142.
The 188 ton aircraft has flight crew
consisting of a pilot, copilot, engineer and radioman, and an unrefueled range
of 15,000 kilometers. Max speed is 925 kilometers an hour, while cruising speed
is 440 kilometers an hour. Originally designed as a nuclear bomber, the Tu-142
version still carries up to ten tons of weapons (torpedoes, mines, depth
charges, anti-ship missiles, sonobuoys) and a lot more sensors (naval search
radar, electronic monitoring gear). There are two 23mm autocannon mounted in
the rear of the aircraft. The mission crew of a Tu-142 usually consists of
eight personnel, who operate the radars and other electronic equipment. Patrol
flights for the Tu-142 can last twelve hours or more, especially when in-flight
refueling is used. Maximum altitude is 45,000 feet, although the aircraft flies
much lower when searching for submarines. India requires aircraft like these
for patrolling the vast India ocean waters that surround the subcontinent.
India wants to upgrade the electronics on its Tu-142s, but has been put off by
the high price, and low performance, of what the Russians have offered. So
Israeli suppliers have been consulted to see if there is a better solution
ago, India, using UAVs purchased from Israel, formed its first UAV maritime reconnaissance squadron (the 342nd). The
unit has eight Searcher II UAVs and four Herons. The Searcher II san stay aloft
for 16 hours at a time, and is built to operate for 2,000 hours before a major
system failure. The Heron is similar to the U.S. Predator, and can stay up for
fifty hours at a time. The radar and vidcam sensors enable the UAVs to provide
unprecedented coverage on short notice. Israel is also using a version of the
Heron for maritime reconnaissance. Israel is particularly eager for these UAVs
to succeed at maritime recon, for that would open up a huge market for Israeli
made UAVs and sensors. Israel has been the leader in UAV technology for over
two decades, and has been supplying India with UAVs to the Indian navy for five