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In a recent visit by India’s External Affairs Minister, S. Jaishankar, to Russia last month, Russia reiterated its offer to supply the AL-41F-1S (article 117S) aircraft engine for India’s Sukhoi-30MKI fleet. The AL-41F-1S is a modular two-shaft turbofan engine equipped with thrust vector control and integrated digital control systems.

Currently, the Indian Air Force’s (IAF) Su-30MKI fleet is powered by the AL-31FP (122.6 kN) engine. However, in a significant development, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has recently received approval for the upgrade of the Sukhoi-30MKI, where 84 Su-30s from the first batch will undergo a comprehensive transformation. The upgrade includes the installation of all-new avionics and an Indian-developed Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) Radar. Over 50 major subsystems will be replaced by indigenous systems.

As part of this upgrade process, HAL will also manufacture new batches of AL-31FP engines within the country. These engines will be used to replace the older, worn-out engines in the upgraded jets. This move aligns with India’s efforts to enhance self-reliance in defence manufacturing.

Russia has persistently urged India to consider the AL-41F-1S engine for the Sukhoi-30MKI fleet. The AL-41F-1S engine boasts a thrust of 142.2 kN, a notable improvement compared to the current AL-31FP engines with 122.6 kN of thrust. Additionally, Russia asserts that the 117S engine is compatible with its predecessors, the AL-31F and AL-31FP engines. This compatibility enables the use of the 117S engine for upgrading the entire fleet of previously built Su-27-/Su-30-type aircraft, requiring only minor modifications to the engine nacelle and equipment.

The enhanced performance of the AL-41F-1S engine is attributed to a new low-pressure compressor with increased airflow and efficiency, as well as a new turbine featuring an improved blade cooling system.

Despite Russia’s proposal, both the Indian Air Force and HAL have decided against opting for a new engine. The decision is grounded in the fact that the AL-31FP engines are already locally manufactured in India. Moreover, substantial improvements have been made within the country to extend the technical life of these engines. Additionally, a comprehensive ecosystem for engine spares has been established domestically, further reinforcing the decision to continue with the existing engine technology.

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