The Indian air force is planning a staged upgrade programme for its Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighters through to 2017, when Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) is due to complete assembly of 140 aircraft under licence.

"Certainly HAL will not produce all 140 aircraft in a single configuration standard, and we have reached a common viewpoint with the customer on how the aircraft shall be improved as production continues," says Su-30MKI chief designer Aleksandr Barkovsky. "From other programmes we know that we need to have a clear vision on how to maintain the aircraft's competitiveness well into the future, "he adds.

The project follows on from Sukhoi and NPK Irkut proposals to develop a fifth-generation fighter with India based on a "deeply upgraded" Su-30MKI. Although the proposals were ultimately rejected, India asked for some of the design solutions offered to be implemented in HAL-manufactured Su-30MKIs. Sukhoi submitted its proposals for the staged Su-30MKI upgrade to New Delhi late last year.

Sukhoi general director Mikhail Pogosyan says the programme is to be finalised during the first half of 2005, with the Indian air force set to make a decision this month on whether to proceed.

The focus would initially be on integration of new weapons, including the air-launched version of the Russo-Indian Brahmos missile, being developed jointly by India and Russia's NPO Machinostroyenia Yakhont.

Sukhoi's weapons vision calls for extending the range of air-to-air, anti-ship and air-to-ground missiles from 100-120km (54-65nm) to 300km, to fully utilise the capabilities of the NIIP Bars N-011M radar, which has proved able to detect targets at ranges of over 300km. "We have offered a large variety of options for the customer to select from," Barkovsky says.

Source: Flight International