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After Viraat, navy’s spy plane ‘Albatross’ set to fly into sunset

By Shubir Rishi
|

The Tu-142M maritime snooping aircraft, better known as 'Albatross' for its massive wing-span, which on several occasions picked up Chinese and Pakistani submarines operating close to Indian waters will be decommissioned later this month.

Set to be replaced by the American-origin P-8I anti-submarine warfare aircraft, the Russian origin Tupolev142M has done 28,000 hours of accident-free flying with the INAS 312 Maritime Reconnaissance Squadron of the Eastern Naval Command based at Arakkonam in Tamil Nadu. The squadron is also inducting the Boeing P-8I and two of these have also been received.

India inked a deal worth US $2.1 billion January 1, 2009 for a total of eight aircraft, and the first aircraft arrived in India on May 15, 2013.

The aircraft were upgraded in the last decade in Russia to plug the gaps till the time the American aircraft arrived in India and joined the operational service, navy officials said.

Inducted in 1988

Inducted in 1988

The 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 aircraft were inducted in 1988 after the navy especially created the INS Rajali naval air base with a 4-km airstrip for it.

All images courtesy: SpokespersonNavy/Twitter

Only three remain

Only three remain

The fuel-guzzling Tupolev142M's were the primary genuine long-range maritime reconnaissance of the Indian Navy. The TU-142MKE has a speed of around 850 kmph, and a battle range of 6,500-km.

Only three of the eight Taganrog-built Tu-142MEs, which were introduced in 1988, remain operational, according to flightglobal. These are operated by the service's 312 Sqn from INS Rajali, Arakkonam.

The replacement arrives

The replacement arrives

The first squadron of Boeing P-8I long-range maritime patrol aircraft was dedicated to the nation on November 14, 2015. Armed with the mighty Harpoon anti-ship missile, the Boeing P-8I Squadron (INAS 312A) will boost Navy's activities such as anti-surface warfare, long-range antii-submarine warfare, surveillance and reconnaissance and littoral missions.

Image: The Boeing P-8I long-range maritime patrol aircraft.

Flexibility to undertake extensive surveillance

Flexibility to undertake extensive surveillance

"The aircraft will provide the Indian Navy the necessary reach and flexibility to undertake extensive surveillance as also to respond swiftly and effectively to contingencies in our areas of interest," says a navy spokesperson.

Operational milestones

Operational milestones

During its short phase of trials and testing with the Indian Navy, the P-8I aircraft achieved many operational milestones including in the search effort for Malaysian Airlines Flight MH 370, the first successful firing of air launched Harpoon Block-II missile in the world, torpedo firing and active participation in major naval exercises.

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