India received its first two Sukhoi Su-30MKIs late last month after the multirole fighters were shipped from Russian manufacturer IAPO's factory in Irkutsk, central Siberia, on board an Antonov An-124.

IAPO chairman Aleksei Fiodorov says the remaining eight aircraft in the initial batch will be delivered "within weeks". IAPO will deliver 22 aircraft next year in two batches.

Su-30MKI development began in 1996, when India awarded Sukhoi a contract worth $1.5 billion for eight Su-30K interceptors (without canards and thrust vectoring)and 32 Su-30MKIs, ahead of the prototype's first flight in July 1997. The interceptors were delivered in 1997. Su-30MKI development delays prompted India to order 10 additionalSu-30Ks in 1998, which were delivered the following year.

In December 2000, India awarded IAPO a $3.3 billion contract for local assembly of 140 aircraft over 17 years at Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL). The HAL plant in Bangalore will roll out its first Su-30MKI in 2004. By 2007 the annual production rate will be 10 aircraft.

The fighter's Rif mission system was integrated by RPKB Ramenskoye and includes items of French, Israeli, Indian and Russian origin, including Thales multifunction colour displays and an Elop head-up display (HUD).

IAPO hopes the Su-30MKI deliveries will improve the company's financial situation and help clear debts amassed from funding research and development (R&D) and setting up production.

Su-30MKI R&D has cost about $400 million, provided by IAPO and Sukhoi. India "buys aircraft and does not pay for research and development", says Fiodorov.

Source: Flight International