The year was 1991 when India was still struggling to sanctions funds to put together first Technology Demonstrator of Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) aircraft when a high-level Soviet delegation landed in Delhi with a tempting joint venture offer to develop an alternative fighter jet to meet IAF’s light combat fighter jet requirement , which can replace large fleet of soviet supplied Mig-21s .

Soviets offered Su-37 which was a new multipurpose single engine combat aircraft with canards. Combat load of an attack fighter jet combined with the agility of interceptor which was hitherto unknown to the outside world .Su-37 was assessed to be true multi-role aircraft, incorporating fourth generation power plant,avionics and weapons systems, giving it strike capability in all weather , plus retaining performance attributes for interception and air defence.


Back then Soviet Air Force was already taking delivery of latest Sukhoi-Su-27s and Mig-29s from Mikoyan and Sukhoi Design Bureau and development of new light class fighter for Soviet Air Force were no more a priority since by late 80’s there was already shift in Soviet doctrine and medium and Heavy class fighter jets with longer range were preferred over light class fighter jets .

By then Soviets knew that many Countries will soon need new breed of fighter jets to take on latest American 4th Generation offering of F-16s and F-15s fighter jets and Sukhoi-Su-27s and Mig-29s were offered instantly to many countries but void of lack of light class fighter jets was predominant and many attempts were made to bring a partner like India to put together a light class fighter jets for export market and rival Mig OKB were also paralleling working on single engined MiG-33 LFI fighter project for export market which never became fruition .

Su-37 Parameters

Designers of Sukhoi Bureau had a delta wing with a break on the front edge. Close to the wing housed the frontal horizontal tail machine with the obvious influence of its predecessor Su-27 . Sukhoi Bureau also had optimised Su-37 for use at low altitudes and had the ability to carry a 3-tonne payload .

Su-37 could have borrowed maximum avionics from Su-27 and also offered the same package of ammunition and weapons . Saturn AL-31 engine which is used to power Su-27 fighter jet was supposed to be modified for additional safety features for use with single engine fighter jet operation .


LCA designers and Indian military planners for a reason didn’t want to take help from mighty Soviet Aeronautical Design Bureau for fear that Soviet will completely take over the project and so-called Joint venture could have been turned into a solo project where most of the R&D could be carried out by them leaving Indian engineers with less work share on the project .

LCA design and other parameters are primarily influenced by a host of initial collaboration done with British,German,France Aerospace companies ,selection of American engine to power LCA rather than Soviet-era jet engine which was much easily available were some calculated move done by Indian Aeronautical agencies to build a fighter in lines of Western design ideology .

At the end, many other reasons could have also factored in on why India never took the Soviet offer to jointly develop and built Su-37 LCA in India .


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