Indian Air Forces Poster Boy ” Sukhoi-Su-30MKI ” might have never been purchased if not to “Help a Friend in need, ” said Retired IAF officials to few years ago.

Same year, when Soviet Union Collapsed, Soviet Union desperately in need of funds and Defence orders in 1991, supplied 8 Sukhoi-Su-27 Long range air superiority fighter to China after almost gap of 30 years. Su-27 deliveries represented a major watershed moment in Sino-Soviet defence relationships, since last supplied aircraft was Mig-19, which was Produced in China without a licence and also supplied to India’s Arch rival Pakistan which created a political rift between two countries.

Russia later wanted similar orders from India too, but Indian Air force was not too impressed by classic Sukhoi-Su-27 air superiority fighter which not only had higher operating cost but also due to economy downturn of 90’s in India had very little budget to operate its current fleet of aircrafts .

In 1992 Pakistani Airforce, was finding difficult to procure additional F-16s from USA and Negotiation with France for the purchase of Mirage-2000E had failed due to Cost factor and started negotiations with Russia on possible Purchase of Sukhoi-27 which were termed cost effective by negotiation team of Pakistani Airforce who had already visited Russia .

In 1994, India displayed interest in the purchase of SU-30K.Several Indian military delegation had visited Russia and had discussed unofficially about possible purchase. Later that year IAF team evaluated SU-30K. India was offered 20 SU-30K in flyaway condition and batch of 60 could be License manufactured in HAL, But still there was no deal yet.

Visiting Russian defence delegation to Pakistan same year offered Sukhoi-Su-27 air superiority fighter to Pakistan Air Force, offer was later Protested by India, Which asked Moscow to maintain Regional Security Balance and to withdraw the offer.

News reports back then were suggesting that there was a great deal of pressure from Russia on India to Purchase SU-30K, But IAF due to engine problems of earlier Soviet Union supplied Mig-29A was finding hard to maintain fleet. according to CAG report, IAF’s Mig-29A fleet availability was only 15-20 %. Premature failures of 75 % of RD-33 engines and poor spare supplies meant IAF wanted to have greater Transfer of Technology (TOT) for Sukho-30 to avoid similar problems anda also wanted new jets equipped with better modern Avionics Suite and newer engines.

In 1996, Russia and India were giving finishing touches on Purchase of New Canard-Configured Sukhoi-30MK which could be heavily funded by India and will be made in Irkutsk Plant which was lying idly after collapses of Soviet Union. Atal Bihari Vajpayee had criticised the deal and alleged Huge commissions were paid for the deal which was cleared by then Defense Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav for supply of 40 Sukhoi-30MKI.

In 1997, First 4 Sukhoi-Su-30K arrived in Pune in an Antonov An-124 aircraft from Russia in complete knock-down (CKD) Kit which was later assembled by Russian engineers. First 8 Sukhoi-Su-30K were to be used for training which could be gradually upgraded to more potent Su-30 MK aircrafts which could be Canard-Configured, with New Avionics Suite which included new Radar along with Thrust vectoring engines.

In 1999, Ten Su-30K aircraft, which was originally destined for Indonesia was instead delivered to India, which brought the number to 18. there were further delays in supply of MK variants due to change in avionics asked by IAF . first Russian-made Su-30MKI variant was accepted into the Indian Air Force in 2002. While original 18 Sukhoi-Su-30K supplied earlier were deemed too expensive to carry out MK upgrades due to changes in airframes and Avionics, Russia agreed to re-take them and supply newer MK instead.