India’s ministry of defence, air force and Russian firms are in active discussions for the mid-life upgrade of 44 Sukhoi Su-30 MKIs.
The upgrade programme involves the integration of five new missiles and the fitting of Russian, Western and indigenously developed systems. The major upgrades are related to the radar, weapon control system, mission computer, and communications suite.
State owned airframer Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) is aggressively pursuing the lead role for the upgrade programme as it continues to produce the aircraft under license.
Earlier this week, the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), led by India’s defence minister, also approved the indigenous design and development of a long range dual band infrared imaging search and track system (IRST) for the Su-30 MKI. At least 100 units are to be procured.
It is not clear if the programme will also include structural upgrades allowing carriage of the 2.5t BrahMos supersonic cruise missile.
The air force wants approximately 40 Su-30 MKIs to be modified to accommodate the BrahMos. HAL is proposing new build aircraft for this requirement in order to keep the production line at Nasik alive for at least four more years.
The airframer now has 30 Su-30 MKIs left to produce, having delivered 192 aircraft as of April as per MoD figures. The remaining aircraft will be delivered by 2020-21.
Su-30 MKIs form the backbone of the air force’s fighter fleet, making up 14 of its 31 active fighter squadrons. Seven have been lost since the type was inducted in 2002.
The air force’s remaining combat squadrons are made up of Mirage 2000s, MiG-29s, Sepecat Jaguars (all receiving upgrades) and upgraded MiG-21s and MiG-27s. The air force is also working up towards its first full Tejas light fighter squadron.
Corrected: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the number of aircraft lost in accidents.