The Indian Government has approved the purchase of 10 more Sukhoi Su-30 strike aircraft for the Indian air force, in addition to the 40 aircraft which were ordered in 1996.

India has an initial batch of eight Su-30PUs in service (originally built for the Russian air force), which will be upgraded to MKI standard with thrust vectoring and more advanced avionics when these become available. A second and third batch of 10 aircraft will be delivered in 1999 and 2000 respectively. The new Su-30s were intended for Indonesia, "-which has now expressed its inability to buy them", says Indian defence minister George Fernandes.

Meanwhile, work is continuing on the indigenously developed Light Combat Aircraft, following the roll-out of the second technology demonstrator on 14 August. The project has suffered a series of technical problems which have delayed the first flight of the aircraft for several years.

Indian efforts to overcome the problems have been hit recently by sanctions imposed after its recent nuclear tests. General Electric has withdrawn support for the F404-F2/J3 turbofans used in the flight test programme. Work relating to the digital flight control system has also been hit by Lockheed Martin's withdrawal from a contract to undertake development work.

India plans eventually to replace the F404 with an indigenous engine design, the GTX-35VS Kaveri. Three complete Kaveri engines and two Kabini core units have completed more than 300h of bench tests and are to undergo high altitude tests at Russia's Central Institute of Aviation Engines. An indigenously developed full authority digital engine control system is undergoing trials on a Kaveri engine.

Other US equipment may need replacement if the sanctions continue, including Moog actuators and Sundstrand generators.

A separate strand in India's efforts to maintain combat aircraft numbers is Hindustan Aeronautics' work on life-extension studies for the air force's MAPOMiG-21bis, as well as the landing gear for the MiG-27 and MiG-29 airframes. Russian work to upgrade Indian MiG-21s remains stalled.

Source: Flight International