My dad noticed it flying quite low today, sadly we do not have a better photo.

4-propellers and uniquely shaped tail assembly.

Plane was spotted in northern Poland, around 9.30AM, near border with Russia/Kaliningrad.

Plane photo

  • $\begingroup$ Have a look at my answer - and especially the many images of each type of craft. I do not know the exact location but (see map in my answer) given the appearance and the various locations mentioned, the IL38 appears the more likely choice. I may be wrong, of course :-). $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 9, 2019 at 12:44
  • $\begingroup$ See the map in my answer - can you identify the location at which the photo was taken and the direction that the photographer was facing. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 10, 2019 at 7:22

3 Answers 3


The fuselage extension at the back of the empennage is similar to that of a Lockheed P-3 Orion Lockheed P-3 Orion from Wikipedia


Where you spotted it would help with probabilities.

However - the tail marks it out as a Maritime Patrol aircraft, of which the only low-wing 4-engine one is the P-3 Orion operated primarily by the US and Oz.

  • $\begingroup$ Added time & location details to question, thank you. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 9, 2019 at 8:25
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    $\begingroup$ There's one other low-wing 4 engine maratime patrol aircraft, the Ilyushin Il-38. Although indeed this looks more like the P-3 Orion. $\endgroup$
    – Sanchises
    Commented Apr 9, 2019 at 8:38
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    $\begingroup$ I think your answer would benefit from some information as to what exactly about the tail makes it obviously a maritime patrol aircraft. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 9, 2019 at 10:14
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    $\begingroup$ @AlexanderKosubek Agreed. The MAD boom on the tail is there specifically for submarine hunting. $\endgroup$
    – J...
    Commented Apr 9, 2019 at 11:27
  • $\begingroup$ For interest: I'd have suggested a P3 - New Zealand (where I live) also operates them although I believe they are about to be phased out. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 9, 2019 at 11:56

While I personally would have thought it was an Orion P3 (as it resembles the Orions flown by the NZ airforce), I suggest that Sanchises suggestion of an Ilyushin IL38 (not II38) seems more likely. This is based on numerous online images of both craft 'at a distance' and the location. The wing shape appears (to me) more like that of the IL38, and one could 'pretend' (given the small image size) that the outer engines appeared somewhat smaller, as is the case with IL38's 'at a distance'.

The IL38 is or was operated by USSR/Russia and India.
Depending on how close the location was to the Russian border the aircraft may have been in Russian or Russian-Kaliningrad airspace. The latter would seem to be an entirely likely location for such an aircraft. It is also entirely possible (and I have no knowledge either way) that Russia has overflight rights for military aircraft between Russia proper and the Kaliningrad exclave.

enter image description here

Apart from the US Navy (whose aircraft may turn up almost anywhere :-) ) none of the 18 operators of the P-3 are anywhere near the location noted. .

Many P3 Orion photos here
Many Ilyushin IL38 photos here

Here is an image of a US Navy P3 Orion.
It will be seen in many of the images linked above that from a distance the wings tend to appear slightly swept forward due to the larger rear root to tip taper compared to the leading edge taper.

enter image description here


Here is a diagram of an IL-38

Looking at the many IL38 images linked above shows the wing to appear at a distance as thinner and squarer ended than a P3 Orion.

enter image description here

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    $\begingroup$ I don't see the radar bulge though, which I think should show up even on the low quality picture. $\endgroup$
    – Sanchises
    Commented Apr 9, 2019 at 12:49
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    $\begingroup$ Among the P-3 opeartors, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal and Spain are all in NATO, so could reasonably be flying near Kaliningrad. Amsterdam and Oslo are closer to Kaliningrad than Moscow is. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 9, 2019 at 15:39
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    $\begingroup$ @DavidRicherby the Netherlands haven't operated the P-3 for over a decade. The aircraft were given to Germany (for free). $\endgroup$
    – jwenting
    Commented Apr 10, 2019 at 4:51
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    $\begingroup$ @jwenting Thanks. I just followed the link in the answer, which said "operators", implying current. I've edited the answer to point to Wikipedia instead. Russell, could you please edit your claim about none of the operators except the USN being close? Germany is right next door. Germany, Greece, Norway, Portugal and Spain are all in NATO so could be flying over Poland. Berlin and Oslo are closer to Kaliningrad than Moscow is, and Athens is only about 50km farther away. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 10, 2019 at 9:16
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    $\begingroup$ Also, the aircraft was described as flying low so, unless it appeared very close to the border, it was probably on the Polish side. It's not like it was at 30,000ft and was 20 miles from the observer. And even if Russia does have overflight rights to reach Kaliningrad, they'd be over Lithuania and Belarus, not Poland. That seems unlikely anyway, since Lithuania is in NATO and Kaliningrad is accessible via the international waters of the Baltic. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 10, 2019 at 9:20

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