Su-30MKI: The next stage

Vayu Aerospace and Defence - - Aviation Defence & Inindia -

This year, the Su-30MKI pro­gramme will cel­e­brate its 15th an­niver­sary. The IAF re­ceived its first Su-30MKI on 27 Septem­ber 2002, and over the next decade and a half, the fighter has be­come back­bone of the IAF’s com­bat air power, while In­dian in­dus­tries made ma­jor strides in de­vel­op­ment of air­craft pro­duc­tion ca­pa­bil­i­ties. The pro­gramme be­came a key­stone of the mil­i­tary-tech­ni­cal col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween In­dia and Rus­sia. The close co-op­er­a­tion achieved through the Su30MKI pro­gramme was ex­ten­sively lever­aged for fur­ther Indo-Rus­sian part­ner­ship across new joint projects, which will have defin­ing im­pact on the Rus­sian and In­dian avi­a­tion in­dus­tries into the 21st Cen­tury.

The ma­jor pre- req­ui­site of the Su30MKI pro­gramme was the strate­gic part­ner­ship be­tween the coun­tries. In­doRus­sian ties in the mil­i­tary- tech­ni­cal sphere have steadily de­vel­oped over time, “and are rarely ever af­fected by po­lit­i­cal pres­sure, dis­crim­i­na­tion or em­bar­gos.” The Su-30MKI is a prime ex­am­ple of the evo­lu­tion of a re­la­tion­ship that be­gan with sim­ple ‘cus­tomer-seller’ in­ter­ac­tion, and has since grown to joint de­vel­op­ment. The pro­gramme’s suc­cess was largely owed to the fact that it com­bined sta­teof-the art ex­per­tise avail­able in each of the two coun­tries. The In­dian mil­i­tary had for­mu­lated their vi­sion for a new fighter, which was based on the ap­proach re­quired to tackle fu­tur­is­tic com­bat en­vi­ron­ments. Rus­sian de­sign­ers in­te­grated mod­ern tech­nolo­gies such as phased ar­ray radar and thrust vec­tor­ing en­gines into the air­craft, cre­at­ing a com­bat sys­tem that has be­come one of the premier heavy fight­ers of the world. IAF pi­lots have demon­strated the Su-30MKI’s ca­pa­bil­i­ties at mil­i­tary ex­er­cises around the world, more than match­ing the best con­tem­po­rary fight­ers.

Also im­por­tant is the fact that the pro­gramme par­tic­i­pants chose their pri­or­i­ties cor­rectly. Irkut Cor­po­ra­tion Pres­i­dent Oleg Dem­chenko states, “From the very be­gin­ning we were quite cer­tain that the pro­gramme’s aim was not only to pro­vide the IAF with mod­ern com­bat fight­ers, but also to de­velop tech­no­log­i­cal co­op­er­a­tion be­tween avi­a­tion in­dus­tries of our coun­tries.”

In early phases of the pro­gramme, HAL mas­tered do­mes­tic pro­duc­tion of the Su30MKI, and to­day 80 per cent of the fighter is “made in In­dia.” Ac­tu­ally, the Su-30MKI is manufactured in In­dia from raw ma­te­ri­als, while In­dian-made avion­ics are supplied to for­eign Air Forces that have opted for Su30 fam­ily air­craft. Rus­sia has been a strong pro­po­nent of ‘Make in In­dia,’ which has been demon­strated through the Su-30MKI pro­gramme and a range of sci­en­tific and tech­ni­cal col­lab­o­ra­tions be­tween In­dia and Rus­sia that have ben­e­fited from the ex­pe­ri­ences of this project.

The Su-30MKI pro­gramme has en­tered a new stage, cen­tred on af­ter-sales sup­port and fur­ther de­vel­op­ment of the fighter. Air­craft from the first batches, de­liv­ered in the early 2000s, have al­ready been over­hauled at HAL fa­cil­i­ties, and in­creas­ing in-coun­try re­pair and over­haul ca­pac­i­ties

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