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Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), India’s state-owned aerospace and defence behemoth, has unveiled a three-phase plan to revamp the Indian Air Force’s (IAF) formidable Sukhoi-30MKI fighter fleet. This strategic approach balances the IAF’s critical need for operational fighter jets with the cost and time constraints of such a massive upgrade program.

With over 250 Sukhoi-30MKIs in its arsenal, the IAF relies heavily on these versatile fighter jets for air dominance and strike missions. Recognizing the need to keep this fleet modern and combat-ready, HAL has devised a phased upgrade program, prioritizing older aircraft first.

The first phase will see 84 aircraft upgraded with over 50 major components, starting from 2025-26. Two flying test beds will spearhead the process, followed by upgrades for nearly 20-25 aircraft at HAL’s Nashik facility and subsequently at IAF Base Repair Depots (BRDs). Upgrading in batches allows the IAF to maintain a significant portion of its Sukhoi-30MKI fleet operational while undertaking upgrades on others.

The initial phase will focus on aircraft from the first batches inducted around 2002. These jets will receive the “Super-30” upgrade package, significantly enhancing their capabilities with advancements in radar, avionics, weapons systems, and electronic warfare suites. This prioritization ensures that older jets receive the upgrade first, maximizing the overall fleet’s combat effectiveness while allowing newer aircraft, inducted within the last 5-8 years, to remain operational for longer.

The decision to proceed in phases also stems from the substantial costs involved in overhauling and upgrading such a large fleet. By spreading the process over three phases, HAL can manage resource allocation and avoid straining the IAF’s budget. Additionally, acquiring 12 new Sukhoi-30MKIs alongside the upgrades further bolsters the IAF’s combat capabilities while potentially offsetting some aircraft temporarily unavailable during upgrades.

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