Indian Air Force Opts for More Su-30MKI, Despite Problems

  • 12:00 AM, December 18, 2011
  • 4410
Despite recent the recent crash of a Su-30MKI, Indian Air Force stands behind its first line strike fighter, increasing the planned fleet to 272 aircraft. An order for 42 additional planes was signed yesterday (December 16, 2011) in Moscow, by Defence Secretary Shashi Kant Sharma and Russian Federal Service for Military-technical Cooperation Director MA Dmitriev. India received the first of 120 Su-30MKI fighters in 1997. Follow-on orders have increased the number to 230. The new fighters will be the first newly upgraded models of the Su-30 MKI, provided with upgraded radar, enhanced cockpit displays and avionics, and designed to carry heavier loads, including the air-launched version of the Brahmos supersonic air-to-surface missile. These 42 new Su-30 MKI will be delivered over four years, beginning 2014. After ramping up local production in India for several years, the Su-30 MKIs are built entirely in India by the Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), under license from the original Russian manufacturer Sukhoi. Until December 2011 the Su-30 MKI fleet demonstrated high reliability and safety record despite two crashes – both in 2009, that were attributed to pilot error (design error that claimed the lives of the two men crew) and foreign object ingestion. The third crash that occurred December 13, 2011 raised for the first time a concern about the safety of the flight control system. Although there were minor incidents with the Su-30 MKI ‘fly by wire‘ system in the past, none was ended in a crash. The recent crash was different. The aircraft was relatively new, among those built by HAL India in 2009. The system gave no indication about the fault, but controls deteriorated over almost 20 minutes, as the pilot, Wing Commander GS Sohal fought to keep the aircraft flying. Realizing the plane was losing control, WC Sohal and his weapon system operator, Flight Lieutenant U Nautiyal ejected, sending the plane to crash near a village of Wade Bolhai. Russian manufacturer is sending an expert team to investigate the accident and come up with the necessary fixes. The cause of the first accident in 2009 was attributed to a misplacement of a critical switch.
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