Defence News: The Su-30MKI has come to be the backbone of the airforce, but without intention. The heavy class fighter was to be the strike and air superiority machine of the IAF but plagued with low squadron strength, IAF kept on ordering more of the type and now it’s the mainstay. We try to look at the planned and unplanned upgrades that will usher this machine in the Fifth generation territory.
Image: Indian Air Force
There are talks of Sukhoi SU-30MKI upgrade to “Super Sukhoi” standard. Many upgrades are offered to India under the program. I will only talk about the 5 that matter the most and which should turn the MKI into a machine ready to kick some 5th generation fighter bums.
AESA Radar: Number one on the list is the AESA radar, scanning with an electronically steered beam, this radar has lower weight and more range. The radar is stealthy as it does not give away the aircraft position. Lower weight means that the front canards on the MKI can be removed (seen above is the earlier SU-30MKI that did not come with the canards) This reduces the radar RCS and the huge Sukhoi is a little harder to detect. Possible candidate: Zhuk-AE
Engines: AL-41F engines are expected with the upgrade, these are similar to the ones on SU-35. Not that the current Lyulka-Saturn AL-31FP 2d vectoring turbofans are inadequate, but the new engines offer more thrust and 3d vectoring. This will enable the MKI to carry more weapons and increase maneuverability. This upgrade is confirmed.
Stand off missiles: The SU-30MKI will also be equipped with long-range stand-off missiles up-to a range of 300 km and a request for information (ROI) was issued recently for procuring such a weapon system from global vendors. This enables the aircraft to hit ground targets in complex situations with ease. Besides medium range missiles like R-77 (AA-12) with active radar homing medium range 100 km along with other 80 km medium range missiles can also be added. 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.
Better Glass cockpit for pilots: It is stated to be so designed that it will be easier for the pilots to shift to Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft being developed jointly by India and Russia. Ease of targeting, better HOTAS, better situational awareness and faster computing core and other numerous advantages.
Sensor Fusion: Although not offered or planned, we would love to see sensor fusion and fuselage embedded sensors and receivers in the aircraft. These enable hightened battlefield awareness and tactical advantage when facing any opponent. Nothing that DRDO or one of it’s labs cannot work out.
The IAF would have almost 270 Sukhoi-30MKIs by 2017 and the IAF would be in much better situation if it upgrades to the maximum capability level for this type. The advantages will speak for themselves in case of a conflict, or while exploring the option to strike the enemy. Do leave your comments, we love reading and responding to them.