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Ilyushin IL-38 (May)

Anti-Submarine Maritime Patrol Aircraft

Soviet Union | 1968

"The Ilyushin IL-38 May has served with the Soviet-Russian Navy since its inception in 1967."

Power & Performance
Those special qualities that separate one aircraft design from another. Performance specifications presented assume optimal operating conditions for the Ilyushin IL-38 (May) Anti-Submarine Maritime Patrol Aircraft.
4 x ZMKB Progress (Ivchenko) AI-20M turboprop engines delivering 4,250 horsepower each driving four-bladed propeller units.
404 mph
650 kph | 351 kts
Max Speed
32,808 ft
10,000 m | 6 miles
Service Ceiling
5,903 miles
9,500 km | 5,130 nm
Operational Range
1,050 ft/min
320 m/min
The nose-to-tail, wingtip-to-wingtip physical qualities of the Ilyushin IL-38 (May) Anti-Submarine Maritime Patrol Aircraft.
9 or 10
129.9 ft
39.60 m
O/A Length
122.8 ft
(37.42 m)
O/A Width
33.3 ft
(10.16 m)
O/A Height
74,296 lb
(33,700 kg)
Empty Weight
139,994 lb
(63,500 kg)
Available supported armament and special-mission equipment featured in the design of the Ilyushin IL-38 (May) Anti-Submarine Maritime Patrol Aircraft .
Up to 20,000lb of internal and external stores including conventional drop bombs, mines, depth charges (nuclear and conventional), anti-ship missiles and torpedoes. Ordnance held within two internal bomb bays and across two optional external hardpoints.
Notable series variants as part of the Ilyushin IL-38 (May) family line.
IL-38 - Base Series Designation
IL-38 SD - Upgraded Indian IL-38 export models; fitted with improved radar functionality, "Sea Dragon" avionics suiteForward-Looking Infrared (FLIR) and ELINT system.
Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 04/04/2022 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site; No A.I. was used in the generation of this content.

The Ilyushin IL-38 (NATO codename of "May") is a maritime patrol and anti-submarine platform utilized solely by the navies of Russia and India. The IL-38 is a militarized development of the IL-18, a civil passenger airliner produced by the same Soviet state bureau. Besides her similar outward appearance to the IL-18, the IL-38 shares only a few key features with the original civil airliner - the most notable of these being the turboprop engines. Additionally, the IL-38 fields a revised nose assembly making her some 13 feet, 1.5 inches longer than the IL-18. The wings have also been relocated forward along the fuselage to compensate for the added mission equipment weight and adjusted center of gravity and the cabin windows prevalent in the civilian model have been reduced in number for the IL-38. As such, the IL-38 is generally regarded as a "new-build" aircraft through-and-through and implementation of specialized onboard systems justify its dedicated role.

A prototype version was first flown on September 28th, 1961. By 1967, the aircraft had entered production under the designation of "IL-38". The aircraft was a regular performer within the inventory of the then-Soviet Naval Aviation service until the fall of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Since then, the IL-38 has operated under the banner of the resurging Russian Naval Aviation service. Since production of the IL-38 completed in 1972, its primary roles have been gradually replaced by the more powerful and long-range four-engine Tupolev Tu-142 ("Bear"). Despite the appearance of the Bear series, the IL-38 still maintains operational value to the Russian Navy even today. Some 57 IL-38 examples are believed to have been produced for the Soviet/Russian Navy with a further 5 delivered to India.

The aircraft sported a smooth cylindrical fuselage and definite streamlined shape. The cockpit was held well-forward in the design, fitted just aft of the nose cone. Under the nose cone assembly lay the weather radar. Located just aft and below the cockpit flight deck was the Berkut (meaning "Golden Eagle" and known as "Wet Eye" to NATO) search radar fitted into a noticeable fuselage blister. Wings were low-mounted monoplanes set ahead of amidships. The engines - four in number - sat within slender streamlined nacelles jutting out from each wing leading edge (two engines to a wing). The empennage was more or less conventional with its tall vertical tail fin. Horizontal stabilizers were fitted slightly aft of the tail fin. Between the horizontal stabilizers and under the tail fin lay a boom housing the Magnetic Anomaly Detector (MAD). Mission ordnance was held within two internal bomb bays - one arranged forward of the wing assemblies to house sonobouys and the other aft to house the weapons proper. A rear starboard side cabin door was the method of entry and exit for the crew. The undercarriage was a conventional tricycle arrangement featuring a pair of four-wheeled main landing gear legs and a two-wheeled nose landing gear leg. The standard operating crew consisted of nine or ten personnel to include the two pilots, a flight engineer, sensor operators, MAD operator, tactical coordinator and applicable mission observers.

Power for the IL-38 was delivered through two sets of ZMKB Progress (Ivchenko) AI-20M turboprop engines, each delivering upwards of 4,250 horsepower and fitting four blade propellers. This supplied the IL-38 with a maximum speed between 380 and 400 miles per hour and a range between 4,400 and 6,000 miles for an operational endurance nearing 12 hours of consistent flight time. Service ceiling was listed at approximately 32,800 feet with a rate-of-climb equaling 1,050 feet per minute. Empty weight was in the vicinity of 74,000lbs with a maximum take-off weight near 140,000lbs. Up to 20,000lbs of external and internal stores can be carried aloft, this in the form of depth charges (nuclear and conventional), mines, conventional drop bombs and air-launched torpedoes. This variety of weaponry - coupled with the onboard sensor, tracking and targeting systems- allow the IL-38 to attack various forms of enemy surface and submarine vessels.

Despite the wide-spanning reach of the communism sphere of influence throughout the Cold War, only India became a foreign operator of the IL-38 and received at least five examples between 1975 and 1983 to be stationed from Goa-Dablomin. As in the Soviet/Russian Navy, the IL-38 served the Indian Navy and differed only in the implementation of the Sea Eagle anti-ship missile system. The Indian IL-38s were at one point flown back to Russia for modernization and upgrading of key systems and are since returning to Indian service (as of this writing) under the new designation of IL-38 SD to indicate the applied changes.

Beyond her inherent anti-submarine and maritime patrol roles, the IL-38 airframe has proven suitable for a few notable conversions - namely an ELINT (ELectronic INTelligence) model, airborne command post, VIP transport and a dedicated general transport variant.

On September 10th, 2010, it was reported in the American media that an IL-38 flew several close routes near the guided-missile frigate USS Taylor in the Barents Sea, coming as close as 50 yards from the vessel's side. The incident was followed the next day by a visit from a Helix anti-submarine helicopter. Such confrontations have always been common between American naval forces and Russian aircraft since the days of the Cold War. These incidents are usually a show of force or exercises completed by either party and rarely lead to any direct military confrontations.

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Global customers who have evaluated and/or operated the Ilyushin IL-38 (May). Nations are displayed by flag, each linked to their respective national aircraft listing.

Total Production: 62 Units

Contractor(s): Ilyushin OKB - Soviet Union
National flag of India National flag of Russia National flag of the Soviet Union

[ India; Russia; Soviet Union ]
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Image of the Ilyushin IL-38 (May)
Image from the Russian Ministry of Defense; Public Release.
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Image of the Ilyushin IL-38 (May)
Image from the Russian Ministry of Defense; Public Release.
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Image of the Ilyushin IL-38 (May)
Front right side view of the Ilyushin IL-38 May.
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Image of the Ilyushin IL-38 (May)
Front view of the Ilyushin IL-38 May.
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Image of the Ilyushin IL-38 (May)
Clsoe up detail view of the forward fuselage and engines of an Ilyushin IL-38 May
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Image of the Ilyushin IL-38 (May)
Clsoe up detail view of the empennage on an Ilyushin IL-38 May
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Image of the Ilyushin IL-38 (May)
Low angled right side view of a passing Ilyushin IL-38 May.
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Image of the Ilyushin IL-38 (May)
Front right side view of an Ilyushin IL-38 May in flight.
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Image of the Ilyushin IL-38 (May)
An Ilyushin IL-38 May is intercepted by an American Navy Grumman F-14 Tomcat
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Image of the Ilyushin IL-38 (May)
High angled right side front view of the Ilyushin IL-38 May in fligth

Developments of similar form-and-function, or related, to the Ilyushin IL-38 (May) Anti-Submarine Maritime Patrol Aircraft Specifications and Pictures.
Going Further...
The Ilyushin IL-38 (May) Anti-Submarine Maritime Patrol Aircraft appears in the following collections:
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