In an exclusive interview with Defenseworld.net, Vitaly Borodich, senior vice-president (military aviation), IRKUT Corp talked about maintenance of Su-30MKI, its future upgrading and recent reports alleging maintenance problems in India.
DW : You have been in charge of Irkut Corporation’s combat aviation programs for many years now. From your personal perspective, what is the concept of the Su-30MKI Program?
Vitaly Borodich: The aim of the Su-30 MKI program is not only on equipping the Indian Air Force (IAF) with state-of-the-art combat aircraft, but also on development of technological cooperation between aviation industries of Russia and India. With the Su-30MKI Program’s implementation, both countries have been developing their own competitive advantages. Russian developments include modern technologies such as phased array radars and thrust-vectoring engines. The IAF has contributed immensely to the program by developing the ideology of a modern fighter, based on a comprehensive analysis of regional conflicts. Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and the Information Technology industry in India have contributed to the program in a big way.
DW : What is the main achievement of the Su-30MKI program?
Vitaly Borodich: Su-30MKI multi-role fighters form the backbone of the IAF combat power and will retain this status in future. Once all current contracts are implemented, the IAF will have 272 Su-30MKIs. Of these, 222 aircraft will be co-produced in India with HAL as our main partner. While implementing the Su-30MKI license production contract, HAL and other Indian companies have mastered new competences and technologies, thanks to the transfer of technology by Russia. Most recently, India has mastered licence production to the extent that certain critical raw material are sourced locally. You could say that it is Indian industries which actually produce the aircraft now. In addition, hi-tech products of Indian origin such as on-board computers are not only installed on Su-30MKIs, but also supplied as integral parts of Su-30 family of aircraft to Air Forces of Russia, Algeria and Malaysia. I must emphasize that designers, engineers and the air forces of our countries, have forged a unique alliance, which has become a solid base for the successful development of Su-30MKI program and a number of new bilateral projects as well.
DW : In what way you see a further development of the Su-30MKI Program?
Vitaly Borodich: The most important step forward in the Su-30MKI program is the deep modernization of the aircraft, which will retain the aircraft’s efficiency and superiority for decades to come. The proposed modernization includes avionics and armaments. Technologies for ‘deep modernization’ are really available and may be implemented within a short period of time. We are considering integration of two major Indo-Russian programs – Su-30MKI and BrahMos meaning the launch of the BrahMos missile by the Su-30MKI. At this moment, their integration is in the development phase. BrahMos JV has manufactured its aviation sample. An aircraft is being redesigned to mount the BrahMos cruise missile onto its underbelly.
DW : There have been concerns in India over the Su-30 MKI’s maintenance and servicing. What is being done in order to improve the Su-30MKIs serviceability?
Vitaly Borodich: The immediate task before us and HAL is the setting up of an overhaul facility for Su-30MKIs in India. Necessary documentation and equipment has been shipped to HAL by now. According to plans of the IAF, a certain number of aircraft have to be overhauled during this year which I believe HAL will make this happen and we are there to support its efforts. A challenge before us is that as the number of IAF bases where the Su-30MKI is deployed increases, mastering of operational serviceability of this complex multi-role fighter on new bases is the challenge. As of today, Indian and Russian experts are focused meeting this challenge in the shortest possible time. We are quite ready to discuss new modes of keeping MKI’s serviceability at the desired level so that our common objective of providing to the IAF’s servicing needs is met. As the previous experience of our joint work has proved, we always manage to find out ways to improve the maintenance of aircraft and systems.
DW : In what way has the IAF contributed to the Su-30MKI development?
Vitaly Borodich: It should be noted that IAF pilots contribute to the fighter’s improvement by providing regular feedback on performance. As top flying aces, they are anxious to find out new ways of taking the Su-30MKI to its maximum potential. Su-30MKI has become a breakthrough aircraft. For example, it is the first serially produced fighter with thrust vector engines which makes the aircraft super-maneuverable. Among combat pilots worldwide, it is the Indians who have mastered it. Besides, the Su-30MKI’s on-board and radar systems can be used in automatic mode. Adaptation of the aircraft’s new features has dictated new approaches both in manufacturing, as well as in the IAF flying units. At the moment, together with the IAF, HAL and Indian industries, we are implementing a set of measures aimed at improvement, additional flexibility and optimization of the whole system of technical maintenance and overhaul, supplying the necessary equipment to an increasing number of combat units. We, in close cooperation with our Indian colleagues are constantly improving the on-board software. Each new version is a step towards increased efficiency of the aircraft and reliability of its systems.
DW : Recently there have been comments in the Indian media on ‘problems in Su-30MKIs’ maintenance. Are you aware of these reports?
Vitaly Borodich: First of all, we do understand a public concern on issues of the state’s defence matters. But in this case, the criticism about the Su-30MKI Program was not based on full and accurate data. Rather it is supposed to have come from stolen electronic documents. The documents contained a lot of routine business correspondence between partners. However, only the negative parts within the documents have been highlighted in the media. We suspect that it may be part of an operation aimed at discrediting the Su-30 MKI program. I’d better leave it to your readers’ speculations on who gains by this negative projection.