Upgrading of the Su-30MKI fleet of the Indian Air Force (IAF) will be finalized in the next 6-9 months.
Discussions with the IAF and Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation are currently at an advanced stage, HAL CEO V Seshagiri Rao said.
HAL is expecting a new contract for the upgrade of the Su-30MKI fleet after it completed the last of the 222 aircraft assemblies under license from Russia, he said.
The UAC has proposed an upgrade based on the Su-30SM2, an in-development aircraft with the engine, avionics, and radar borrowed from the more potent Su-35 jet.
However, given a large number of non-Russian systems and components in the Su-30MKI, India may prefer as many locally-made systems as possible.
It would still need Russian help to integrate and qualify the new equipment on the Su-30MKI jet.
Rosoboronexport Delegation Head Sergei Kornev said, “The project (to upgrade Su-30MKI) is at the stage of discussion and the Russian side is ready to offer India a modern upgrade package.”
However, both sides did not give details of what systems of the aircraft will be upgraded. Nevertheless, reports in the past have suggested that a modern radar, improved engine, avionics, and communication systems would form part of the upgrade.
A modern active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar was one of the main upgrade priorities.
Sources said ‘Uttam”, which is AESA radar made by the Defence Research and Development Organization, is being considered for the Su-30MKI should it complete development in time for the aircraft upgrade program.
“Having been tested on the TEJAS jet, ‘Uttam’ AESA could be suitably modified to fit on the larger Su-30MKI,” they said.
However, changing Su-30MKI’s AL-31FP engine with the more powerful AL-41F-1S from the Su-35 would be expensive and impractical, given the extensive engine maintenance facilities set up for the current AL-31FP in India.
The integration of the BrahMos heavy air-to-ground missile in the Su-30MKI has given the confidence to HAL-IAF to prefer the indigenous route for the Su-30MKI upgrade.
Full details of what components will go into the upgraded Su-30MKI will be known only after the upgrade deal is finalized between HAL, IAF, and the Russians.