The Indian Navy’s Ilyushin-38 Sea Dragon Long Range Maritime Patrol aircraft bid farewell after 46 years of glorious service to the nation. The decommissioning ceremony was held on 31 Oct 2023 at INS Hansa, Dabolim. The Chief of the Naval Staff, dignitaries, and veteran officers and sailors of the IL-38 squadron graced the event with families, reminiscing about the yeoman service.

INAS 315 was commissioned on 01 Oct 1977 with the induction of IL-38 aircraft heralding a modern era of airborne Long Range Maritime Reconnaissance and Anti-Submarine Warfare in the Navy. With its unique capabilities, striking prowess and extended reach covering the vast Indian Ocean region, the IL-38 SD has over the years proven itself to be a formidable force multiplier. The mighty ‘Winged Stallion” that adorns the squadron crest has been living up to the squadron motto of ‘Victory is my Profession’, keeping a sharp vigil over and beneath the seas, in its relentless pursuit to secure nation’s maritime boundaries.

The dedicated men and women manning and maintaining these mighty aircraft ensured persistent mission readiness and efficient exploitation of the aircraft and mission systems. In her last legs, the aircraft enabled ‘Aatmanirbhar’ capability enhancement by successfully integrating indigenous Sahayak Air Droppable Containers (which provide critical logistics support to units deployed at sea) and a trial platform for torpedoes. The aircraft was also featured in the 2023 Republic Day Flypast at New Delhi.

Speaking on the occasion Adm R Hari Kumar CNS conveyed his felicitations “to ‘Team 315’-the present and the past; to your predecessors, guides and mentors- and not to forget, to those who are not amongst us today”. Appreciating the strength, focus, energy, and the hardwork of the crew which overcame the numerous constraints,so that the stallions could dominate the skies the CNS stated “And yet, you prevailed; the aircraft performed; the squadron peaked; and the Navy pivoted to an era of normalising sustained LRMR operations across our primary areas of interest”.

The De-induction ceremony of IL-38 SD marks the end of a glorious era that heralded path-breaking capabilities in Maritime Reconnaissance and Anti-Submarine Warfare operations. The operational role of IL-38 SD in a constantly evolving and dynamic IOR as ‘Eyes in the Sky’ and its contribution during various mission-critical deployments would remain forever etched in the history of Indian Naval Aviation.

While flying will come to an end, two of these aircraft will remain stationed permanently at the National Maritime Heritage Museum, Lothal, Gujarat and at Nipani in Karnataka – inspiring the future generations.