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The Indian Air Force (IAF) is planning for the long haul with its Su-30MKI fighter jets. A proposed integration and upgradation program aims to keep these powerful aircraft operational until the mid-2050s.

This ambitious plan hinges on a significant boost to domestic involvement in the Su-30MKI program. The IAF anticipates achieving a staggering 78% indigenization of the aircraft through this upgrade process. This would essentially transform the Su-30MKI from a Russian platform into an aircraft built and maintained largely by India.

To achieve the 2050 operational goal, the IAF has tasked Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) with exploring ways to extend the lifespan of the Su-30MKI fleet. Currently, each Su-30MKI has a service life of around 6,000 flying hours, translating to roughly 30-40 years of operation. The IAF’s vision looks to extend this by an additional 1,500 hours, potentially adding another 10-15 years of service to each aircraft.

A key aspect of this life extension plan involves collaborating with the Gas Turbine Research Establishment (GTRE) to develop indigenous upgrades for the AL-31F engine that powers the Su-30MKI. This is particularly significant because HAL already manufactures a substantial 87.7% of the engine’s components within India. Upgrading these engines domestically will not only extend their operational life but also enhance their capabilities.

The IAF recently took delivery of the last two Su-30MKI units produced under a previous order in 2021. This was followed by the greenlight for HAL to manufacture 12 additional Su-30MKIs. These new aircraft will replace a Su-30MKI lost in accidents, since 2001.

After All Indian upgrades proposed by the HAL that include new Avionics, Aesa radar, Mission computer, IRST system and all other major Russian sensors that are to be replaced with Indian ones, Aircraft will require little support from Russia. The robust built quality of the Airframe will ensure that aircraft life extension can be carried out even without OEM support.

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