SOURCE: IDRW NEWS NETWORK (INN)
Indian Navies first Long Range Maritime Reconnaissance Patrol Aircraft (LRMR) Tu-142M landed at INS Hansa Naval base in Goa way back in 1988 and first Naval Tu-142M will complete 27 years of service next month. With Zero aircraft lost to attrition since it induction, Squadron strength still remains 8 aircrafts, but their era soon might be all set to fly into Sunset.
Indian Navy is contemplating whether to Send 3 aircrafts which are due to for major overhauls in Russia. or not to and instead retire them. Major overhauls in Russia is expensive and requires approximately one year for Beriev aircraft company in Taganrog Russia to complete extensive overhaul on the aircrafts.
3 aircrafts have already completed major overhauls recently and last aircraft IN317 was handed over to Indian Navy last August by Russian company while Baseline repairs of two other aircrafts are currently been carried out locally in INA Rajali base . faith of 3 aircrafts which need Major Overhaul in Russia remains with Ministry of Defence (MOD) who have been asked by Indian Navy to sanction funds for an overhaul.
Addition of US supplied P-8I already has improved Indian Navies Maritime Reconnaissance capability with the addition of more P-8I in pipeline in near future, maintaining and operating highly expensive Tu-142M in the fleet is becoming more and more difficult for Indian Navy . Aircraft is not only resource hungry (poor fuel efficiency ) but also requires expensive AMC and supply of Spares from OEM’s to keep them operational which might be some of the reasons Navy fears that Sanction from MOD might not come this time .
After each Major overhaul aircraft can be operational for 5 to 7 years depending on flying hours, So even if that sanction never comes from MOD Tu-142M will remain in the operational fleet for next 5 to 7 years but few aircrafts will have to be retired from 2015 onwards.
Tu-142M with its ability to carry 185 tonnes of fuel and 12.5 hours of endurance created ripples in Australian waters, Australian Military planners considered it as a significant threat and a suspicious purchase due to its ability to take off from forward bases of Indian Navy and its long endurance created some panic down under . Australian Navy monitored its flights in Indian ocean whenever it flew near its water, till the time Indo-Australian relationship improved few years back.
Tu-142M due to ageing avionics suite was updated with the latest Israeli avionics suite which incorporates Elta EL/M-2022A radar in addition to Elbit AES-210 suite and DRDO developed Homi ELINT/ESM package. Aircrafts current generation Avionics suite has considerably improved its ASW capabilities, but age is fast catching up with the old workhorse and with the availability of smaller yet effective aircrafts in its fleet Navy and MOD will soon decide its fate .