India plans to upgrade its fleet of Sukhoi-30MKI fighter jets with more advanced avionics, radars and weapons to further bolster their combat capabilities, with detailed talks currently under way with Russia for the project.
The IAF is also finalising with Russia the procurement of 12 more Sukhois to replace the ones lost in crashes, which will be built by defence PSU Hindustan Aeronautics, as well as 21 additional MiG-29 jets that will cost around Rs 230 crore each.
“The Sukhois will be upgraded in near future to further enhance their operational capabilities,” said IAF chief Air Chief Marshal Rakesh Kumar Singh Bhadauria. The IAF has so far inducted over 250 of the 272 Sukhois originally contracted in batches from Russia for well over $12 billion, with the bulk of them being licensed-produced by HAL.
The Sukhoi upgrade project will include the latest avionics, a much more powerful radar “almost as good as an AESA (active electronically scanned array) one”, state-of-the-art electronic warfare systems and the like. “There will be new computer systems for greater weapon control and integration of new missiles and PGMs (precision-guided munitions),” said a source. Forty-two of the twin-seat Sukhois, which have a cruising of 3,200 km or a combat radius of about 1,500 km without mid-air refuelling, are also to be armed with the supersonic BrahMos cruise missiles to constitute a deadly package of precision-strike capability from long or “stand-off distances”.
The IAF has based the fourth-generation “air dominance” Sukhois on both the western and eastern fronts, from Halwara, Jodhpur and Sirsa to Bareilly, Tezpur and Chabua, to cater for Pakistan and China. Along with the Mirage-2000s, the Sukhois are the most potent fighters in the country’s air combat fleet till the 36 Rafales get inducted under the Rs 59,000 crore deal inked with France in 2016.