Su-30MKI: The next stage
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