SOURCE: SATYAJEET KUMAR/ FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG
The Indian Air Force (IAF) has deferred an upgrade plan of its Russian-origin Su-30MKI multirole fighters to the ‘Super Sukhoi’ standard due to sanctions imposed on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. India’s state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation for years have been negotiating the upgradation of the Su-30MKI fleet is in its 20th year of service and already is showing obsolescence of most of its avionics and Radar technology that was developed nearly 25-30 years ago.
With a fleet of 270 jets, the Whole upgrade to ‘Super Sukhoi’ standard could have cost IAF nearly $5 billion but later to reduce cost it was decided that upgrades will be performed only for 150 jets that are much newer and 100+ older jets will remain un-upgraded barring some weapons upgrade package.
Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) had proposed some radical upgrades to the platform using indigenous technology but in the instance of the IAF it was decided to also include Russian OEM so avoid any backlash or withdrawal of support in maintenance of these jets in long run, but it seems top bosses at IAF are obsessed with MRFA tender for the 114 jets and fund crunch has made them ignore their frontline fighter jets for so long that it might not remain most technologically advanced jet in the region.
Unverified reports claim that IAF is now planning to retire the first 50 jets that were inducted first in 2001 by 2030 owing to their advanced age (30 years in 2030) and also since these jets are coming close to their airframe life since in the early years these jets required heavy flying to train the fresh batch of pilots while HAL License produced newer jets.
The Su-30 fleet at least the last 150 that were inducted by the IAF and relatively are new will instead get batch upgrades that might see a new Aesa radar based on the Uttam and a new avionics package with the addition of a new weapons package, especially in the air-to-air missile segment with the adaption of Astra Mk1, Mk2, and Mk3. But it is clear now that the upgradation of Su-30 has taken a back seat and procurement of new jets under MRFA is a priority of the IAF.
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