Upgrading of the Su-30MKI fleet of the Indian Air Force (IAF) will be finalized in the next 6-9 months with some aircraft undergoing the upgrade in Russia and the rest in India.
Discussions with the IAF and the Russians (United Aircraft Corporation-UAC) are currently at an advanced stage, V Seshagiri Rao, CEO, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) MiG Complex told the media in response to a question by defenseworld.net at a press conference held at Aero India (AI) 2021 in Bangalore.
HAL, which assembles the Su-30MKI in India has completed the last of the 222 aircraft assemblies under licence from Russia and is expecting a new contract for the upgrade of the Su-30MKI fleet, he said.
The HAL executive statement was corroborated by Sergei Kornev, head of Rosoboronexport delegation at AI 2021 who told the Russian media, "The project (to upgrade Su-30MKI) is at the stage of discussion and the Russian side is ready to offer India a modern upgrade package."
However, both did not disclose details of what systems of the aircraft will be upgraded. Nevertheless, various reports have stated in the past that a modern radar, improved engine, avionics and communication systems would form part of the upgrade.
Defensworld.net has learnt that a modern active electronically scanning array (AESA) radar was one of the main upgrade priorities.
Sources told defenseworld.net that a version of a Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO)- made AESA radar called ‘Uttam” is being considered for the Su-30MKI should it complete development in time for the aircraft upgrade program. Having been tested on the LCA-Tejas jet, ‘Uttam’ AESA could be suitably modified to fit on the larger Su-30MKI, they said.
However, changing the AL-31FP engine of the Su-30MKI with the more powerful AL-41F-1S (article 117S) from the Su-35 would be expensive and impractical given the extensive engine maintenance facilities set up for the current AL-31FP in India.
Russia’s UAC has proposed an upgrade based on the Su-30SM2- an in-development aircraft with the engine, avionics and radar borrowed from the more potent Su-35 jet. However, given the large number of non-Russian systems and components in the Su-30MKI, India may prefer as many locally-made systems as possible. It would still need Russian help to integrate and qualify the new equipment on the Su-30MKI jet.
The integration of the Brahmos heavy air-to-ground missile in the Su-30MKI has given the confidence to HAL-IAF to prefer the indigenous route for the Su-30MKI upgrade.
Full details of what components will go into the upgraded Su-30MKI will be known only after the upgrade deal is finalized between HAL, IAF and the Russians.