Setember 26, 2023
ON SEPTEMBER 16, INDIA’S MINISTRY OF DEFENCE approved the purchase of 12 Su-30MKI fighter jets for the Indian Air Force (IAF). This is the largest purchase of Russian-made equipment for our armed forces since the special military operation began. The extra 12 fighter jets and related equipment are expected to have an estimated cost of approximately INR 11,000 crore. People who know about this situation have been telling the media that, in recent months, it has become easier to make payments for orders, so now, we can send money to Russian defence companies more smoothly.
The Ministry of Defence will buy the 12 fighter jets from Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). This company makes the Su-30MKI planes in India under a licence. In 2016, the head of HAL said that they had learnt how to make the Su-30MKI with the technology Russia had given them. He said all the parts needed for technology transfer were now made in India by HAL and they had fully learnt, and adopted, the technology for both the airframe and engines. In July 2022, the government-owned Russian military company Rostec announced that they were prepared to provide kits to help HAL produce an additional 12 Su-30MKI fighter jets.
THE TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER DEAL
Right now, over half (51%) of the Su-30MKI planes’ value comes from aeronautical parts made in India. This is slightly more than the 49% that was originally agreed upon with Russia when they signed a contract in 2000 to build 140 planes in India. According to the Indo-Russian contract, India must get 5,800 titanium blocks and forgings, as well as aluminium and steel plates, from Russia. Additionally, 7,146 items, such as nuts, bolts, screws and rivets, must also come from Russia. These components are crucial for making the Su-30MKI fighter jets. These Russian materials will be sent to HAL in a kit.
The Rosoboronexport company, as part of the ‘Make in India’ programme, is prepared to provide more technical kits for assembling the Su-30MKIs and collaborating on their upgrade. This includes adding new aviation weapons and avionics to these aircraft. The aircraft will, thus, incorporate various avionics and communications instruments that are manufactured in India and these will be combined with locally produced weapons systems.
The extent and details of the upgrade have not been decided yet. The IAF has already thought about making the Su-30MKI as good as the Su-35S. Russia has upgraded its Su-30SM fighter—which is similar to the Su-30MKI, but with Russian technology—to a level close to the Su-35S. Giving the IAF’s existing Su-30MKI a significant upgrade may involve changing the engines and the main structure of the aircraft. This would need HAL and Russia’s UAC to work together on the development. UAC stands for United Aircraft Corporation’, a Russian state-owned aerospace and defence conglomerate that oversees the production of various aircraft, including such fighter jets as the Su-30MKI.
India has 260 SU-30MKIs in service. The Su-30MKI is a two-seater, twinjet multirole air superiority fighter that is tailor-made to Indian specifications and integrates Indian systems and avionics, as well as French and Israeli sub-systems. It is derived from the Sukhoi Su-27 and has abilities similar to the Sukhoi Su-35. It is the backbone of the IAF’s fighter fleet.
SU-30MKI & SU-35A: A COMPARISON
The SU-35S is more efficient than the SU 30 MKI in several aspects, such as:
- The SU-35S has a higher thrust-to-weight ratio of 1.13 compared to the SU-30MKI’s 0.92. This means that the SU-35S can accelerate faster and climb higher than the SU-30MKI
- The SU-35S has a lower radar cross-section of 1 square metre compared to the SU-30MKI’s 4 square metres. This means that the SU-35S is harder to detect and track by enemy radars than the SU-30MKI
- The SU-35S has a more advanced radar, the Irbis-E, which can track up to 30 air targets and engage up to eight simultaneously, at a range of up to 400 kilometres. The SU-30MKI has a hybrid ESA radar, the Bars, which can track up to 15 air targets and engage up to four simultaneously, at a range of up to 200 kilometres
- The SU-35S has a longer combat radius of 1,600 kilometres compared to the SU-30MKI’s 1,270 kilometres. This means that the SU-35S can operate farther from its base and stay up longer in the air than the SU-30MKI