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Last hurrah for Navy’s Winged Stallions: IL 38 aircraft to make 1st & last Republic Day flypast

Last of legacy fleet to be decommissioned by year-end. Long-range surveillance & anti-submarine warfare aircraft proved its mettle in 1978, when it traced wreckage of Air India jumbo.

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New Delhi: Commissioned into the Indian Navy in 1977, the long-range surveillance and anti-submarine warfare aircraft Ilyushin 38 SD will make its first and last flypast over the Kartavya Path in this year’s Republic Day.

The IL 38SDs, the oldest maritime surveillance aircraft in the Indian inventory, have seen their duties being taken over by the American P8is manufactured by Boeing.

Known as the Winged Stallions, the last of the legacy fleet will be decommissioned by the end of this year.

“This is the first and last flight in a Republic Day celebration for the aircraft,” a source in the defence and security establishment said.

The Republic Day flypast will comprise 44 other aircraft, including 9 Rafales, of the Indian Air Force.

IN 301, the first IL 38SD (Sea Dragons) aircraft of the Navy, was decommissioned on 17 January last year after completing 44 years of service to the nation. It remained fully serviceable to the last day of  operational life, and flew a seven-hour mission sortie before bidding adieu.

The aircraft belongs to INAS 315 squadron which was commissioned on 1 October 1977 by Rear Admiral M. K. Roy, and was then commanded by Commander B. K. Malik.

The squadron was initially equipped with three Ilyushin 38s and later two more were inducted. The aircraft provided the Navy with modern maritime reconnaissance and fixed-wing Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) capability.

With these aircraft, the Navy had moved into the arena of airborne long-range maritime reconnaissance capabilities combined with long-range anti-submarine search and strike, anti-shipping strike, electronic signal intelligence and distant search and rescue missions.

The aircraft was used for other operations including in January 1978, when it used the on board Magnetic Anomaly Detector (MAD) equipment to locate the wreckage of the Air India Jumbo which crashed soon after take-off off the Mumbai coast.

The Winged Stallions completed 25,000 hours of accident-free flying in 1996. However, tragedy struck in 2002 when there was a mid-air collision of two IL-38s. The occasion was ironically the celebration of the Squadron’s silver jubilee as well as of over 30,000 hours of accident-free flying.

Seventeen personnel were killed in the accident which also resulted in the loss of these aircraft, two years after they underwent an upgrade in Russia to add 15 more years to their life cycle.

(Edited by Tony Rai)

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