India’s defence major HAL has completed the production of 272 Su-30 MKI fighter jets for the Indian Air Force (IAF) and is expecting more orders for the advanced multi-role fighter jet. Nitin J Ticku brings you an analysis on why the Su-30 MKI fighter jets will continue to remain the backbone of the IAF.
Hindustan Aeronautics Limited has been producing the SU-30 MKIs which has been the backbone of the Indian Air Force under licence from Russia United Aircraft Corporation. HAL had requested the approval of Indian Defence Ministry for assembling 72 SU-30 MKI jets at its Nashik facility in Maharashtra. The total order was for the project was around $5 billion dollars and the cost of per aircraft was around $70 million dollars.
In a statement issued by HAL, the company expressed hope regarding additional orders from the IAF in future. “The order book is likely to attain a healthy position during the next fiscal year 2020-21”. HAL had recorder a whopping turnover of ($3 billion) Rs 21,000 crores for the previous year 2019-20.
The IAF currently has 30 squadrons and needs 42 squadrons i.e around 240 jets to counter a two-pronged threat from the eastern and the western border. Each squadron has around 18-20 fighter jets. Currently, India has 260 SU-30 MKI jets.
Earlier this year as EurAsian Times reported, the Tigersharks squadron of SU-30 MKI equipped with supersonic Brahmos cruise missiles was inducted into the IAF at Thanjavur in Southern India to guard India’s interest in the Indian Ocean Region. The SU-30 MKIs have also been deployed at Halwara, Pune, Jodhpur, Sirsa, Bareilly, Tezpur and Chabua to counter threats from Pakistan and China.
The SU-30 MKI performs multiple roles from strategic bombing to strike fighting and is an all-weather aircraft that can strike locations on land and sea with pinpoint accuracy in day and night. The Indian Government is planning to equip the fighter with Irbis-E Stealth Hunter Radar to target stealth fighter jets.
Multiple fighters equipped with Irbis-E radars will share data from their sensors and have a very high degree of situational awareness allowing them to destroy stealth fighters from a range of 58 km to as far as 90 km. The radar will be more resistant to jamming by its enemies.
Also in the plan is the decision to integrate the jets with Saturn AL-31FS engine which is more powerful than the current AL-31FP and has a longer life span will increase the jets endurance and also make it more survivable and better suited to carry heavy weapons.
There are also plans to integrate the fighter jets with R-37M air to air missiles which have a greater range than their R-77 and R-27 variants and will give IAF superiority over Pakistan and China. With Irbis-Radar systems, IAF can better use the R-37 munition which is a hypersonic missile with a formidable speed of Mach 6 and a range of 400 km.
It also makes these missiles far more effective against Air Borne Early Warning And Control System (AWACS) radar systems. Another planned integration is the deployment of K-77 air-to-air missiles with a short range of 200 km but with missile radar capable of detecting enemy fighters in an unmatched 360-degree arc. India is also in talks with Russia to develop a more advanced version of BrahMos missiles which is likely to have a speed more than Mach 5 and even higher manoeuvrability.
The SU-30 MKI is expected to be the backbone of the IAF with all the planned improvements in the foreseeable future with its current fleet of 260 jets and another 240 aircraft in the offering. Also once the French Dassault’s Rafale fighters arrive and start operating alongside SU-30MKIs, it will become a deadly combination for India’s enemies and certain to make Indian skies safer.
Nitin J Ticku is a MARCOM specialist with a deep interest in Education, Defence and Geopolitics. Nitin holds a double masters degree in Business Management and Journalism and is a frequent contributor to the EurAsian Times.