Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has finalized plans to upgrade the Indian Air Force’s Su-30MKI fleet and may begin modernizing the warplanes during the current year if it receives government approval.
This was confirmed to Defense Mirror by D.K. Sunil, Director (Engineering and R&D) of HAL, at the ongoing Aero India show in Bengaluru, India. He said the upgrade will take place in phases and 3-4 prototypes will be developed, before being tested. Upgrade of rest of the Sukhoi fleet will follow when approved.
The Russian side is expected to be involved in the project, but the HAL official did not reveal to what extent they will take part in it.
Modernization covers installing new avionics, fire control systems and radars onto India’s operationally ready Sukhoi fleet.
HAL is reportedly requesting $4 billion from the defense ministry to kick-start the “Super Sukhoi” upgrade project first announced in 2021. This was delayed after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
Anywhere between 40-50 Sukhoi aircraft are at HAL for overhaul repairs at any given time.
Under this project, obsolete Soviet N011M Bars radar will be replaced with locally developed Uttam AESA radar. The jet will also get other modern avionics and electronics, to put in the Generation 4++ category.
The upgrades will bring Indian Su-30s on par with Russia’s Su-30 SM2, the most advanced Su-30, often called the Super Sukhoi. Su-30SM2 fighters come with an improved on-board radio-electronic equipment, better combat capabilities and target detection range. New high-precision means of destroying air, ground and sea targets at a distance of several hundred kilometers have been introduced into the armament of fighters.
India has been testing indigenous weapons from the Sukhoi jet, such as the BrahMos Extended Range supersonic cruise missile, Astra beyond-visual-range-air-to-air-missile (BVRAAM) and RUDRAM new generation Anti-Radiation Missile. These missiles give an edge to the Su-30MKIs operated by India over similar jets operated by other air forces including China.
Russia, in July 2022, offered to supply completely knocked down (CKD) kits of the Su-30MKI aircraft along with technology for their integration under the Make-in-India program. In addition, it has offered to carry out joint work on the modernization of the existing fleet of Su-30MKI jets including the integration of the latest air weapons, avionics, etc.