While the Indian Air Force (IAF) has been struggling with a depleting squadron strength for the past several years, the force is simultaneously pursuing a programme to upgrade its existing fighters including the Sukhoi-30MKI. Currently there are 240 Su-30MKI fighters in the IAF arsenal and the plan is to make them more lethal with advanced and state-of-the-art weapons, latest avionics and Russian Phazotron Zhuk-AE Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, which can track 30 aerial targets and engage six targets simultaneously, in partnership with Russia.Also Read - PM Modi Inaugurates Defence Offices Complexes in Delhi. See PICS Here
IAF Vice-Chief Air Marshal SB Deo said the force is hoping that the programme to upgrade the SU-30MKI will start soon. According to senior IAF officials, India received the first Su-30MKI in 2004 and since then there has been massive upgradation in military aviation, technology and weapons system including missiles and bombs. Also Read - Rajnath Singh, Nitin Gadkari Take Flight in India's First 'Emergency Landing' Drill on Rajasthan Highway | Top Quotes
India had awarded Russia a contract in 2010 to fit new radars, onboard computers, electronic warfare systems and the ability to carry the BrahMos cruise missile in 40 Su-30MKIs, which were rechristened as Super-30. The upgraded fighters rejoined the IAF in 2012. Also Read - IAF Gets Airlift As Centre Approves Procurement of 56 Transport Aircraft, 40 to be Made In India
The IAF now wants to equip Su-30MKI with stand-off missiles with a range of 300 km and AL-41F turbofan engines. The force is eyeing the Brimstone ground attack missile and the long-range Meteor air-to-air missile to equip its most potent fighters.
IAF has already ordered 42 more Su-30MKIs increasing the number of fighter from 272 to 314. The plane will be the mainstay of the IAF for the next decade. India’s Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is building the twinjet multirole air superiority fighter under licence from Russia’s Sukhoi.
IAF is down to 33 squadrons (18 fighters each) while the sanctioned strength is 42 to tackle a two-front war with China and Pakistan. It is trying to augment the numbers by inducting Tejas Light Combat Aircraft and 36 Rafale jets.