NEW DELHI: After guarding the Indian Ocean region for the last 29 years, the Navy’s iconic long-range maritime patrol aircraft Tupolev-142M, used for anti-submarine warfare (ASW), is all set to bid goodbye to the fleet.
According to a naval official, the Tupolev-142M aircraft, known as one of the most formidable airborne reconnaissance platforms around the world, was part of all major naval exercises and operations of the Navy since its induction in 1988. The Tupolev would be decommissioned in a ceremony at INS Rajali in Tamil Nadu on Wednesday in the presence of Navy chief Admiral Sunil Lanba, a Navy official said.
The Tupolev-142M Long Range Maritime Reconnaissance (LRMR) aircraft was inducted in the Navy at Dabolim, Goa, from the erstwhile USSR, in 1988.
The aircraft subsequently shifted base permanently to INS Rajali in 1992 and became the most formidable LRMR ASW aircraft of the Navy. A total of eight Tupolev-142Ms were inducted into the Navy though currently only three of them are in operation. The Navy official said the aircraft has done the Navy proud by participating in all major naval exercises and operations with distinction.
It saw action during Operation Cactus in Maldives and participated in operational missions off Sri Lanka to provide airborne surveillance.
With its four powerful engines, slender fuselage and swept wings, the Tupolev is the fastest turboprop aircraft in the world and reportedly even fighters find it difficult to intercept it.
“TU-142M aircraft have had a distinguished service with over 30,000 hours of accident-free flying. During its service life, the aircraft underwent several modifications and retro fitments to keep up with evolving technology and changing requirements of the Navy,” the official added.
The official further said, “As a result, the aircraft throughout its service life has been participating in and has been a major factor during all naval operations. Despite being in its twilight years, the aircraft performed exceptionally well during the recent Naval Exercise TROPEX in March 2017.”
The Navy will also celebrate the silver jubilee of INS Rajali, the naval air station synonymous with the Tupolev and its home for nearly three decades. The ‘heritage display’ of TU-142M would also be inaugurated as part of the ceremony, the Navy said in a statement.
The Soviet-era Tupolev will be replaced by a fleet of 12 Boeing P-8I maritime reconnaissance aircraft equipped with harpoon anti-ship missiles, lightweight torpedoes, rockets and new generation sensors and radars.