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Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is set to manufacture 12 Su-30MKI multirole fighter jets following a recent order. These jets will bolster the Indian Air Force’s (IAF) fleet.

The Su-30MKI is built under license from Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation, with a per-unit cost of $70.3 million for HAL production. This is significantly higher than the $42.15 million price tag for a Russian-built model, according to a senior IAF official.

The reason for the price disparity lies in the level of indigenization. As explained by Bhim Singh, a retired IAF Wing Commander, HAL-built Su-30MKIs are only 51% indigenous. The remaining 49% of parts and materials are still sourced from Russia.

This reliance on Russia extends beyond raw materials, which include titanium blocks, forgings, aluminum and steel plates, and even low-tech items like nuts, bolts, and screws. HAL also depends on Russia for servicing and overhaul of the Su-30MKI fleet.

The Indian government is actively pursuing greater self-reliance in defense manufacturing. While the Su-30MKI program plays a crucial role in the IAF’s capabilities, it highlights the ongoing need to strengthen domestic production capabilities.

The Tejas program, for example, is a major stride towards indigenous fighter jet production. This program, along with efforts to enhance domestic supply chains, is likely to be a key focus area for India’s defense sector in the coming years.