Il-38 – 55 years in the skyOn September 29, 1961, the first flight of the first Il-38 experimental long-range antisubmarine aircraft took place. The aircraft commander was Vladimir K. Kokkinaki, an honoured USSR test pilot, double Hero of the Soviet Union.
The aircraft development began in response to the threat of deployment of atomic submarines with nuclear-armed ballistic missiles in the global sea by a potential aggressor.
On June 18, 1960, the Council of Ministers of the USSR issued a decree on the development of Il-18-based Il-38 long-range antisubmarine aircraft with Berkut hydro acoustic system.
On May, 04, 1960, the Air Force Commander-in-Chief approved the mission requirements for the Il-38 aircraft: tactical radius of action – 2 200 km, patrol time in the search area at heights from 500 to 2 000 m with the load of 5 850 kg – not less than 3 hours, minimum permissible equivalent air speed – 350 km/h.
The first flight of the first experimental Il-38 aircraft was carried out on September 28, 1961, six months ahead of the schedule prescribed by the governmental decree.
On April 09, 1963, the factory stage of the state testing began at the Feodosia branch of the State Red Banner Research and Test Institute of the Air Force, at Kirovskoye airfield, with Aleksandr M. Tyryumin as the project pilot. From the Il-39 state testing certificate: «In the history of our industry, the development of Il-38 aircraft with Berkut automated system onboard using a digital data computer is the first experience of making aircraft antisubmarine systems which significantly increase the efficiency of domestic antisubmarine aviation in combatting missile carrying submarines».
In December 1967, the first Il-38 production aircraft was constructed, and in March 1968 the vehicle was set in operation in the armed forces – the first Il-38 entered service of the 24th separate antisubmarine long-range air regiment of the Northern Fleet (Kipelovo airfield, Vologda region). The commanding officer of the regiment was Viktor Potapov, who in 1988-1994 was the Chief of Naval Aviation in the rank of colonel-general of aviation. It is planned to call in his name the Il-38N aircraft, which is now under modernization carried out by Ilyushin Aviation Complex.
On January 17, 1969, Il-38 was officially introduced into service of the naval aviation.
On November 3, 1971, S.V. Ilyushin, A.I. Zhukovsky, D.I. Koklin, Y.A. Kutepov, and A.V. Shaposhnikov became the laureates of the State Prize for Achievements in the field of Fine Mechanics and Optics, which they received for Il-38 long-range antisubmarine aircraft.
Il-38 aircraft had been produced up until 1972. Sixty-five aircraft overall were manufactured for the USSR Navy and the Indian Air Force. The first aircraft for the Indian navy was delivered on August 24, 1977.
In 2012-2015, Ilyushin Aviation Complex OJSC fulfilled a State contract for repair and serial modernization of the first batch of Il-38 antisubmarine aircraft of the Naval Aviation of the Russian Navy into Il-38N configuration. In total, under the terms and conditions of the contract, five aircraft were modernized. A new contract for modernization of another batch of Il-38 antisubmarine aircraft has been concluded with the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation.
The modernization involves installing the new Novella-P-38 target search and track system on the aircraft, which considerably increases the number of functions performed by the aircraft, as well as their combat capabilities. This a strong contribution made by Il OJSC, United Aircraft Corporation, and JSC «CSPA «Leninetz» to the increase of the defence capacity of our homeland. With the help of the new target search and track system, the modernized aircraft is able to successfully perform the tasks of patrol, submarine-hunting (using an extended weapons list in comparison with baseline version of Il-38), radioelectronic surveillance over surface and air targets, mine planting, maritime search and rescue, and ecological monitoring of water surface.