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The Indian Air Force (IAF) is transforming a significant portion of its Su-30MKI fleet into powerful long-range strike platforms. With around 21 Su-30MKIs already modified to carry 2.5-ton Air Launched Cruise Missiles (ALCMs) like the BrahMos-A, and plans to make more aircraft BrahMos-A capable, the IAF is positioning itself for enhanced offensive capabilities.

An additional 19 Su-30MKIs are proposed to be upgraded for BrahMos-A compatibility, significantly boosting the IAF’s long-range strike power. By modifying and hardening these aircraft to carry ALCMs like the BrahMos-A, India gains a significant edge in the maritime domain.

While the current focus is on BrahMos-A integration, BrahMos Aerospace, the developer of the BrahMos missile, has plans to develop a lighter variant known as BrahMos-NG. Unlike the BrahMos-A, the BrahMos-NG won’t require modifications or hardening of the Su-30MKI’s fuselage, providing a more streamlined and cost-effective solution for all other fighter types in the IAF fleet.

The strategic significance of the modified Su-30MKIs goes beyond their ability to carry ALCMs. With plans to integrate future air-launched ballistic missiles (ALBMs) and hypersonic ALCMs like the BrahMos-II, these aircraft are poised to become mini-strategic bombers. The centerline hardpoints on these modified Su-30MKIs, are capable of supporting a 2.5-ton payload and will serve as the platform for testing and integrating these advanced weapons systems.

The BrahMos-A armed Su-30MKI fleet marks a crucial step for the IAF. It strengthens offensive capabilities, lays the groundwork for future weapon systems, and demonstrates India’s commitment to a robust aerial defence strategy. The BrahMos-NG’s arrival will be another milestone, offering even greater flexibility and potential for the IAF’s air power. While countries like the United States and Russia possess fleets of strategic bombers capable of delivering nuclear and conventional payloads over long distances, India has relied on a mix of fighter aircraft and ground-based missile systems for its strategic deterrence.

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