The Russian Pacific Fleet conducted an anti-submarine warfare exercise on the Kamchatka peninsula in Russia’s Far East and in the Arctic Ocean involving four Ilyushin Il-38/N “Dolphin” maritime patrol and anti-submarine warfare aircraft on April 30, the Russian Navy said in a press statement.
“At the first stage, pilots practiced taking off, landing and flying in pairs in different weather conditions in the Kamchatka region,” the statement reads. “At the second stage, crews of the anti-submarine squadron practiced locating and following ‘enemy’ submarines in the far Arctic zone of the fleet’s responsibility.”
Overall, four aircraft took part in the exercise, which involved tracking submarines in the Arctic Ocean.
It is unclear what type of submarine participated in the drill. In past exercises, the Russian Navy used Type 877 Kilo-class diesel-electric attack submarines (SSK) as stand-ins for enemy subs. (Notably, the Pacific Fleet is slated to receive six improved Project 636.3 Kilo-class SSKs by 2025.)
The Il-38 and Il-38N are derivatives of the four-engined turboprop Ilyushin Il-18 transport aircraft, used as a maritime patrol aircraft in the Soviet Navy. The Il-38 first entered service in the 1970s.
The Il-38N is an improved variant of the original Il-38 and has reportedly been retrofitted with the new Novella maritime surveillance mission system, which enhances the aircraft’s electronic reconnaissance and tracking capabilities.
In recent years, Russian Navy Il-38N aircraft have increasingly been spotted near the Japanese islands, with the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) periodically scrambling fighter jets to intercept and escort the Russian planes.
The Russian Pacific Fleet has also been conducting anti-submarine warfare exercises at shorter intervals over the past few years as the fleet is rebuilding its capability in that area.
Next to Ilyushin Il-38 and upgraded Ilyushin Il-38N planes, Russian naval aviation in the Far East deploys the Tupolev Tu-142MZ maritime reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare aircraft for anti-submarine warfare missions.
Elements of the Russian Pacific Fleet’s surface fleet, a submarine, and aircraft are currently participating in a naval exercise with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) in the East China Sea and Yellow Sea.
The Sino-Russian naval exercise, dubbed Joint Sea 2019, also includes an anti-submarine warfare drill.
As I reported earlier this week, Japanese maritime reconnaissance planes spotted the Russian fleet cruising to the exercise 150 kilometers northeast of the island of Tsushima on April 24.
The flotilla includes a Steregushchiy-class frigate, a Slava-class guided missile cruiser, a Ropucha-class large landing ship, an Igor Belousov-class maritime search-and-rescue support vessel, and a Kilo-class SSK.