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In 2005, the European MBDA Consortium began offering the Indian Air Force (IAF) the integration of the Meteor Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air Missile (BVRAAM) with its Sukhoi-30MKI fighters. However, by 2018, European manufacturers informed the Indian government that they would not integrate their weapon into any Israeli or Russian Radar, posing a challenge to the IAF’s upgrade plans.

This issue has significant implications for the IAF’s modernization project, including the upgrade of its frontline Sukhoi-30MKI combat planes, which were intended to be equipped with Meteor missiles. The European Meteor missiles, purchased alongside the Rafales, have the potential to be game-changers with their striking capability of over 100 km.

The Sukhoi-30MKI, renowned for its powerful radar that can function like a mini-AWACS, is eagerly awaiting an upscaled UTTAM AESA Fire Control Radar. The Indian Air Force plans to equip the approximately 150 Sukhoi-30MKI fleet, undergoing Super Sukhoi upgrades, with this radar. The Defence Research and Development Organisation’s (DRDO) Electronics and Radar Development Establishment (LRDE) has submitted a technical proposal for a new radar specifically designed for the Sukhoi-30MKI. The IAF has accepted the proposal, with plans to commence developmental trials of the new radar from 2024-25 using two Sukhoi-30MKI platforms as testbeds.

Sources familiar with the matter told idrw that the IAF still holds a keen interest in equipping the Su-30MKI fleet with the Meteor BVRAAM. IAF is hopeful that with the introduction of the new radar on the platform, the European MBDA Consortium might not have the same objections as before.

Meanwhile, the DRDO is working on the development of the Astra MkIII, a Very Long Range Meteor Class BVRAAM, in collaboration with Russia. However, the missile program has only completed developmental trials from land-based launchers. It is estimated to take 5-8 years before the Astra MkIII enters production.

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