Andrew Chuter/BANGALORE

A new version of the Sukhoi Su-30 multi-role combat aircraft with thrust-vector controls, canards and, possibly, Western avionics, is to be delivered to India as part of a $1.8 billion deal signed with Russia.

The 40 aircraft involved in the agreement will all be built by the Irkutsk Aviation Industrial Association (IAPO), says its director, Alexey Fyodorov.

Negotiations are under way with Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) over the manufacture of various aerostructures for use by IAPO in production of the aircraft, and supplies to Irkutsk should start in 1998. HAL chairman R N Sharma says that any further procurement "-will definitely be assembled in India". It is believed that there is an option for a further batch of at least 20 aircraft.

The Su-30MKI, as the Indian version will be known, is due to be delivered by 1999, giving the Indian air force the world's first operational thrust-vectored combat aircraft.

Its inclusion in the Indian inventory will give New Delhi the region's most potent strike aircraft with a range, including refuelling, of up to 5,200km (2,800nm).

Russian officials deny Indian press reports that India had insisted on Moscow halting licensed production of the Su-27 to China as a pre-condition of its deal.

A Russian official says that China has acquired 36 single-seat Su-27Ks and 12 Su-27UBK trainers and has signed a deal allowing licensed production of 200 further Su-27SKs over the next five years. An extension of that agreement is already in negotiation.

Deliveries to India of an initial batch of eight standard Su-30Ks are scheduled to start in 1997. These aircraft will be upgraded to MKI standard after the last of the 32 improved aircraft are delivered. The aircraft are to be shipped in four batches between 1997 and 2000.

Work on a prototype Su-30 MKI, fitted with Sextant Avionique equipment, is nearing completion and the first flight is scheduled for 1997. Standard Su-30s are already coming into service with the Russian air force and Fyodorov says that deliveries will be switched to the MK version. Sextant's VEH3000 head-up display, Totem inertial/satellite-navigation system and multi-function liquid-crystal displays, are part of the deal. "Because we want fast delivery, the chances are that we will go with the avionics already in the [prototype] aircraft," says Sharma. India will be involved in avionics integrations. Sharma says that local production is "mandatory". A similar package is being purchased for the upgrade of India's Mikoyan MiG-21s, and Sextant is also on board India's Light Combat Aircraft prototype.

See India show report, PP14-16.

Source: Flight International