India and Russia are currently negotiating the upgrade of the Indian Air Force’s Su-30MKI aircraft which could be finalized in the next 4-6 months.
A Russian team was in New Delhi to discuss the upgrade earlier this month, defensenews.com cited Indian MoD sources as stating and added that some Some194 aircraft are to be upgraded at a cost of US $8 billion.
The upgrade of the existing Su-30MKI into what is called ‘Super Sukhois’ involves advanced avionics, radar and weapons and had been first proposed four years ago. “The upgradation will involve majorly two parts. First is the modernization where the cockpit and all systems would be improved,” Alexei I Fedorov, the then President and Chairman, Irkut Corporation had said in 2012. “The second part would be the incorporation of AESA radar together with the ability to launch Brahmos air-to-ground supersonic cruise missile,” Fedorov had said.
Irkut is currently negotiating to incorporate the AESA radar in the Sukhoi-30MKIs besides modernizing the cockpit with a head up display and other systems. This is designed such that it will be easier for the pilots to transition to the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft being developed jointly by India and Russia.
The upgraded Super Sukhoi would also have stealth characteristics, though the details of this are not known. The Super Sukhoi can also be equipped with other long range missiles like R-27P (AA-10 D) infrared homing extended range version of 120 km distance.
India has already launched part of the upgrade program on its own. The Indian Air Force recently completed demonstration flight of the BRAHMOS supersonic cruise missile system integrated Su-30MKI fighter jet earlier this month. It had earlier tested the Astra home-grown BVR missile on the aircraft.
In the past few months the IAF in conjunction with the Russian Irkut has improved the serviceability of the aircraft as a result of which the aircraft availability for flight operations has improved. This could have prompted the IAF to look at an upgrade to extend its performance and also service life.