Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is going to request $4 billion from the Indian Ministry of Defense to upgrade the country’s fleet of Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighter jets, Indian media reports.
The upgrade – dubbed Super Sukhoi – has been announced in 2021. However, it has been hanging in the balance since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
Earlier reports suggest that the program was reoriented towards wider employment of domestic aerospace companies.
The upgrades mostly concern the jets’ avionics and sensor systems. Notably, the slotted planar array radar, which dates back to the 1980s, is bound to be replaced by a Uttam MK3 active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, manufactured by HAL.
The radar is to be complimented by a new domestically-manufactured infrared search and track (IRST) system, although its advantages over the original OLS-30 system remain unannounced.
A modernized cockpit with new displays is also going to be installed, in addition to a new digital flight control computer (DFCC).
The weaponry is also to be upgraded with the ability to carry an expanded range of domestically-manufactured air-to-air missiles, cruise missiles and sensor pods.
150 out of 260 Su-30MKIs operated by the Indian Air Force’ are expected to undergo the upgrade program, which is planned to start in 2024 and deliver the first upgraded aircraft by 2025.
India’s most numerous jet
The Su-30MKI is a fourth-generation fighter jet designed as an India-specific variant of the Sukhoi Su-30, a further development of the Soviet-era Su-27.
50 of India’s Su-30MKIs have been manufactured in Russia, while the rest were built by HAL under license.
Since deliveries ended in 2018, the Su-30MKI remained Indian Air Force’s most numerous combat aircraft, serving alongside smaller fleets of Mirage 2000s, MiG-29s and MiG-21s.
In 2019, India started receiving its most modern aircraft yet, the Dassault Rafale. Production of the Su-30MKI was stopped, and plans to upgrade the aircraft to make it competitive against 4.5 generation jets, such as China’s Shenyang J-16 started.