Indian Air Force (IAF), which has been planning to upgrade a number of Su-30MkI aircraft, is now in advanced talks with Russia and defense PSU Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). A decision is likely in the next six to nine months. The Russian Su-30 aircraft are IAF’s largest fighter fleet with 268 — including 220 produced by HAL in Nashik — of the 272 planes contracted already inducted. IAF has lost nearly nine planes to crashes over the years.
As part of earlier upgrades decided by IAF, 42 Su-30s are already being modified to carry supersonic BrahMos missiles and Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) has already cleared procurement of 12 more. This proposal will need the approval of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) too before a formal order can be placed.
Credit- Aviation Wall
As reported by defense officials, HAL, which is producing the Su-30s in Nashik, had a contract to make 222 planes. Of these, it has completed production of 221, and acceptance tests for the last one are currently taking place.
V Seshagiri Rao, CEO, HAL MiG Complex, said: “Some numbers (of Su-30) will be upgraded jointly with Russia. Subsequently, the upgrades will happen indigenously. We are also looking at enhancing our repair and overhaul capabilities, besides bringing some new production lines (HTT-40) here. With all this, the plant will have adequate work.”
“...Discussions with IAF are in advanced stages, we will know in six to nine months,” he added. Further, aside from BrahMos, Su-30 aircraft are also being equipped with Astra missiles. HAL’s Sukhoi Complex in Nashik has 5,000 people and the PSU was hoping to execute the joint project with Russia for a fighter generation fighter aircraft at the plant after it completes the Su-30 orders. India has, however, scrapped the FGFA program
The reason for the upgrade is not just to counter Chinese PLAAF but it is to also make sure that depleting squadron strength of IAF doesn't hinder its operational capabilities. Moreover, SU-30 provides IAF with an advantage over PAF because of its supermaneuverability, however, in the case of PLAAF, the advantage gets nullified because PLAAF already fields more than 400 Sukhois of its own.
In order to counter both China and Pak in case of a two-front war, IAF will have to maintain a significant technological edge over PAF and PLAAF. SU-30s currently form the backbone of IAF and are expected to serve beyond 2040. According to some defense reports, IAF is also looking forward to acquiring a "Super-Sukhoi" upgrade package for its SU-30Mkis, which will match its capabilities to that of SU-35 aircraft.