Indian Navy will decommission its Soviet-origin Tupolev-142M turboprop long-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft later this month.
The ‘Albatross’ (Tu-142M) are being replaced by 12 Poseidon-8I long-range patrol aircraft India bought from US for $3.2 billion. Eight of these aircraft have already been inducted in the Navy. The Poseidon are armed with Harpoon Block-II missiles, MK-54 lightweight torpedoes and rockets, Economic Times reported Wednesday.
The Tu-142M aircraft will now be retired at the naval air station INS Rajali in Arakkonam in Tamil Nadu at a ceremony on March 29," ET quoted an unnamed officer as saying.
The fuel-guzzling TU-142M aircraft were the first true LRMR of the Indian Navy. With a 50-metre wing-span and a combat radius of 6,500-km, the TU-142M has a speed of around 850 kmph. "They also have the highest flying altitude among turboprops, with an operational ceiling of over 13,000 metre," said an officer.
With a 10-member crew, the TU-142Ms can also carry at least five torpedoes as well as free-fall bombs and depth charges. "But the sensors and weapon systems of TU-142Ms have become outdated with age, apart from requiring heavy maintenance and costly spare parts," said an officer.
"If the TU-142Ms were hawk-eyes, the P-8Is are far more potent intelligent hawk-eyes," he added. This comes in the backdrop of Chinese submarines, both conventional as well as nuclear, making forays into the IOR on a regular basis now, with an operational turnaround at Karachi, as was earlier reported by TOI.
Much like the TU-142Ms earlier, the P-8Is now work in conjunction with medium-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft like the IL-38s and Israeli Searcher-II and Heron UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) to establish a three-tier surveillance grid in IOR.