SOURCE: MANJUNATH REDDY/ FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG Sukhoi Design Bureau in initial days of MMRCA Tendering process had made an interesting offer to India, which if pursued back then could have saved India not only a lot of foreign exchange but also could have slowed down the fast depletion of the combat fleet of IAF if the offer had been actively pursued said a retired senior ranking employee of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited who doesn’t want to be named but did shed some light on proposal made by Sukhoi officials on development of single-engined Su-30 derivative. According to the senior retired official, OKB Sukhoi in the ’90s had initiated an S-54 advanced trainer, based on Su-27 aerodynamics but the program never reached production stage but what India was offered was further advanced derivative which could have been an aircraft under Max. takeoff weight of fewer than 20 tonnes nearly half the MTOW of a Sukhoi Su-30MKI aircraft. The aerodynamic configuration of the proposed single-engined fighter could have resembled complete front fuselage section of the Sukhoi Su-30MKI and in fact, had same nose cone section which allowed it to carry same forward-facing NIIP N011M Bars (Panther) PESA radar. Front fuselage which was plugged to a mid and rear section which had to be considerably re-done factoring in the smaller air frame size of the jet and could have been powered by a single AL-31F engine featuring three-dimensional TVC generating 130kN of thrust with afterburner sufficient enough to power an aircraft below 20 tonnes. Sukhoi Design Bureau had promised that complete design changes and wind tunnel testing could be completed within 2 years and a first prototype could have been developed in less than 3 years. Majority of the trials could have been to validate the flight characteristic of the aircraft, not the equipment which was all derivative from Sukhoi Su-30MKI, the program could have been completed in less than 7 years if pursued back then. By the time, single-engined Su-30 entered production, HAL could have already reached a high level of indigenization which it was achieving at stages. according to Ex-HAL Official, this could have a much cheaper option for India due to similarities of components and pieces of equipment with SU-30 but it could have also allowed HAL and IAF to recover high cost which India had paid to Russia to secure Transfer of Technology for key sensitive items under su-30 deal. Sukhoi Design Bureau had briefed IAF and HAL officials in India but IAF was not keen on pursuing their offer due to its own agenda to push purchase of western fighter aircraft under MMRCA and HAL management to was not seen aggressive enough to take up this offer with Defence ministry officials even though India could have developed a medium class fighter 4.5 generation fighter aircraft locally instead of spending huge money on another type.
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