Indian CAG Blast Hindustan Aeronautics For Cost Blowout of Su-30MKI

Disagreeing with the opposition’s interpretation of an audit report that found that Su-30 fighter jets supplied to the Indian Air Force by the local firm HAL are costlier that those supplied by the Russian OEM, the India government has clarified that the version being locally manufactured have been modified for enhanced operational capability.

India’s defence ministry has listed several reasons for the higher costs of the Su-30 fighter jets supplied to the Indian Air Force (IAF) from the local production line, in comparison to those supplied directly by the original Russian manufacturer.

CAG Report

The 218-page CAG report tabled in Indian Parliament notes that the operational readiness of Su-30MKI was low due to high rate of AOG (Aircraft on Ground), low serviceability and less achievement in flying hours.

India’s autonomous auditing agency Controller and Auditor General (CAG) says the Russian-made Su-30MKIaircraft with the Indian Air Force (IAF) suffer from poor serviceability, which is just around 55 percent to 60 percent against the prescribed norm of 75 percent.

India has so far ordered a total of 272 Su-30MKI which are license produced in India by state owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). India originally received the standard Su-30MKI but later worked with the Russians to license produce the Su-30MKI with thrust vectoring engines.

Defense Minister’s Assessment

Subhash Bhamre, former Minister of State for Defence, said that the foremost reason for the higher cost is that the specifications of the Russian SU-30 and indigenously manufactured SU-30MKI are not the same; hence, a one to one comparison of cost may not be appropriate.

The Indian Air Force Gets First Locally Overhauled Su-30MKIState-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is currently producing the Su-30MKI at a flyaway cost of around $121 million per aircraft, which is around $61 million higher than the Su-30 jet supplied by Russia.

“Additional modifications are incorporated in the indigenous Su-30MKI to enhance the operational capability and to suit Indian Air Force (IAF) requirements. Owing to the low volume of production of the Indian SU-30 MKI as compared to the —Russian SU-30, economies of scale come into play,” Minister Subhash Bhamre argued while replying to a query raised by a fellow parliamentarian. 

Bhamre added that being a Transfer of Technology (ToT) programme, the total cost also involves payment of license fee to the Russian side. 

HAL imports raw materials and proprietary components from Russian firms and assembles them at its production facility in Nasik. HAL is presently assembling the last 23 Su-30MKI on order from the Ministry of Defence.

Su-30MKI Crashed

“Import of raw materials and proprietary components from Russia involves dependency on Russian Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) for the offered kit costs, which are not proportionate with the kit contents,” Bhamre added.

The twin-seater, twin-engine Su-30MKI, developed by Russian aircraft maker Sukhoi and license-built in India, constitutes the backbone of the IAF. While the first 50 Su-30 aircraft were built in Russia, over 200 fighter jets were assembled in India.

Low Operational readiness

The 218-page CAG report tabled in Indian Parliament notes that the operational readiness of Su-30MKI was low due to high rate of AOG (Aircraft on Ground), low serviceability and less achievement in flying hours.

An IAF official said the high rate of AOG means that out of 210 Su-30MKI with the IAF, around 115-126 aircraft are grounded for repairs and serviceability, which the officer said affects the combat worthiness.

The Su-30MKI suffers from technical problems in the fly-by-wire systems and radar warning receivers, the IAF official said.

The poor serviceability is mainly on account of lack of spares, which come from Russia. IAF has lost six Su-30MKI since it received the first batch in 2002.

Maintenance Issues

“IAF has changed the maintenance drill of the Su-30MKI after finding that there are maintenance problems with the engine. So far, around 35 engine failures in the Su-30MKI have been noticed, including failures on account of power plant,” another IAF official said.

Su-30MKI Crashed

The Indian defence ministry has also argued that indigenous manufacturing will create advanced skill sets in the country, a step towards self-reliance.

“Indigenous manufacturing will result in a lower life cycle cost and reduced dependency on OEM on repair and maintenance and faster turn-around time and quick support to IAF bases,” Minister Bhamre further added. 

Last year, HAL had offered to produce 40 additional Su-30MKI for the IAF at much a much lower court, but India turned down the offer.

“Since the facilities are indigenously established, future production supplies are likely to be cheaper if a new order for bulk production is placed on HAL,” Bhamre concluded.

Meanwhile, the producer of Sukhoi aircraft, United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) of Russia, is also holding talks with other domestic companies, including the Tata group of industries, Reliance Infrastructure, Larsen & Toubro (L&T), and Bharat Forge on setting up a joint venture for manufacturing spares for the Sukhois, a Ministry of Defense source said.

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