Several factors have shelved the Indian Air Force’s plan to upgrade its Su-30 MKI fighter fleet. The factors include the war between Russia and Ukraine, international sanctions on Russia and the current policy of Make-in-India of the Indian government, according to a report by Hindustan Times.
IAF had planned to equip the Su-30 aircraft with new radars and the latest electronic warfare capabilities to make it more potent as per the latest standards. The Su-30MKI has a checkered past and failed multiple combat missions against Pakistan Air Forces F-16C fighter aircraft.
The deal for the 12 Su-30MKI aircraft worth over $1.2 billion is also postponed as the stakeholders will now have to add more Made-in-India content in the planes as per the current policy of the government to promote Indian defence products over imports; people aware of the situation in the Indian government told news agency ANI.
IAF was planning to upgrade 85 of its planes to the latest standards in collaboration with the Russians and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited. The plan has been put on the back burner for now, given the present situation.
The Su-30 MKIs form the mainstay of the Indian Air Force, as 272 of them have been ordered by the IAF. Still, the Russian manufacturers never supplied new spare parts, engines and electronics, forcing IAF to ground more than 55% of the fleet, according to Indian Controller and Auditor General.
The aircraft is supplied by the Russian manufacturers to Hindustan Aeronautics Limited in semi and complete knocked-down kits, and then they are assembled in the Nasik facility.
The ongoing conflict in Russia and Ukraine has also resulted in delays in the supply of spares for the fighter aircraft fleet.
Sources said that even though the spares situation is manageable, but Indian Air Force is expecting difficulty sourcing spare parts.
However, it is expected that the supply of these spares and other equipment may become an issue shortly, and that is why the force has gone on an indigo ration spree of its imported equipment.
Royal Malaysian Air Forces Su-30MKM, a derivative of Indian Su-30MKI, is currently grounded for the same reason neither India nor Russia can supply spare parts for Su-30MKM.
Hindustan Aeronautics never manufactures any components independently. Ukraine-Russia complicates India’s Make in India initiatives as Indian defense manufacturers rely on parts from Russia and Ukraine.
Inevitably, the IAF’s Su-30MKI could be grounded entirely, allowing French and American manufacturers to gain majority shares in Indian defense markets.
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