The Indian Navy plans to buy an unspecified number of state-of-the-art, air-to-surface missiles for its three Il-38 maritime surveillance aircraft.
The service has obtained approval from the Ministry of Defence to float global tenders next month, a senior Navy official said. The weapons will replace the Il-38s’ aging British Sea Eagle missiles.
The Navy official said the program will be worth around $100 million. Among those invited to submit proposals will be Israel’s Rafael Armament Development Authority, European missile house MBDA and Russia’s arms export agency, Rosoboronoexport.
Navy officials also have been talking to Russia about a deal that would provide two used Il-38s for a low price if the Navy bought Russian KH-35 missiles for its Il-38 fleet. The Navy official said that would make the KH-35 an automatic front-runner in the coming competition.
In 2001, the Navy ordered upgrades for its five Il-38s from Rosoboronoexport, but two of those planes crashed during a 2002 air show in Goa.
The service has been pressuring the Defence Ministry since then to approve the purchase of replacement planes and the modernization of the three Il-38s left in the fleet. One already has been upgraded and returned, and the two other planes are being upgraded now at the Russian Design Bureau Ilyushin. The cost of the upgrades has not been released.
The upgrades include an anti-submarine system, integrated radar, digital avionics, a thermal imaging system, infrared sensors, a sonobouy system, a magnetometer, navigation system, Novella mission sensor suite, Sea Dragon search radar, new navigation communication systems, thermal imaging/infrared cameras, magnetic anomaly detectors, electronic support measures and radar for tracking approaching missiles.
The Navy is sending a delegation to Russia in the next couple of weeks to discuss the purchase of two used Il-38SD aircraft, a roughly $10 million deal that has been approved by the Ministry of Defence.
The Navy official said the upgraded Il-38SD aircraft has a fully digital Sea Dragon suite designed to detect and intercept surface vessels and submarines within a range of 150 kilometers, as well as detect mines and carry out surveillance.
The suite also can detect airborne targets and can be linked to the Russian Glonass satellite navigation system, a Russian diplomat here said. The modernization will allow the aircraft to remain operational for a further 15 years.