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Amid “Concerns,” India Upgrades Su-30MKI to “Super Sukhoi.”

The upgrade program for India's Su-30MKI fighter jets will be carried out by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) at an expected cost of US$7.5 billion (RM33.7 billion), with all work being done within the country.

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(DEFENCE SECURITY ASIAS) — “Concerned” about the enhancement of the air capabilities of neighboring countries like Pakistan and China, India will begin upgrading and modernizing its Su-30MKI fighter aircraft with several new technologies developed by its domestic defense industry.

This is part of India’s ongoing efforts to enhance the capabilities of its primary fighter aircraft into a variant it refers to as the “Super Sukhoi.”

The upgrade program for India’s Su-30MKI fighter jets will be carried out by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) at an expected cost of US$7.5 billion (RM33.7 billion), with all work being done within the country.

However, it still requires cooperation from the United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) of Russia.

The Indian Air Force is the largest user of Su-30MKI aircraft outside of Russia, with 272 licensed-built aircraft by the local company Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).

Su-30MKI
Indian Su-30MKI with Malaysia Su-30MKM during bilateral training recently. (RMAF)

 

The initiative to upgrade the capabilities of India’s main fighter aircraft is expected to commence in 2026, with the aim of ensuring that the Su-30MKI is equipped with technology and capabilities in line with the evolving landscape of modern warfare.

New Delhi could face significant challenges if it does not upgrade its Su-30MKI fighter jets to the “Super Sukhoi” level, as its adversaries such as Pakistan and China now possess more modern fighter aircraft with Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar capabilities.

India’s concerns about the “inadequacy” of its Su-30MKI aircraft arose when the Pakistan Air Force began using the JF-17 Block 3 fighter aircraft, which is said to have DNA from China’s fifth-generation J-20 “Mighty Dragon” aircraft.

In addition to the JF-17 Block 3, Pakistan also acquired China’s J-10C fighter jets, which are equipped with larger AESA radars (transmit and receive modules).

Beijing is also said to have deployed its advanced J-20 fighter aircraft to airbases in northern India during periods of heightened tension between the two neighboring countries due to ongoing border disputes.

J-20
China’s fifth generation J-20 “Mighty Dragon”.

 

India and China have also engaged in armed conflicts on several occasions.

According to local media reports, between 80 and 100 Su-30MKI fighter jets will be upgraded in the initial phase of the program before it encompasses the entire fleet owned by the Indian Air Force.

However, the upgrade efforts will not involve the airframe and engines of India’s Su-30MKI aircraft.

At present, India’s Su-30MKI fighter jets use engines from [missing information].

According to sources familiar with the Indian media, the upgrade efforts will include equipping the fighter aircraft with Beyond Visual Range (BVR) capabilities, new electronic warfare systems, and AESA radar.

The AESA radar that will be used on the Su-30MKI after the upgrade program is a domestic variant known as “Uttam,” which is being developed for the Tejas Mk1A aircraft.

J-10
Pakistan Air Force’s J-10 fighter jet.
JF-17
Pakistan’s JF-17

 

According to Indian defense media, the AESA radar to be installed on the Su-30MKI will have larger Transmit and Receive (TR) modules for enhanced tracking and targeting capabilities.

In addition to AESA radar, the upgrade program for India’s Su-30MKI aircraft will also see the fighters equipped with more powerful flight control systems to enable them to carry hypersonic guided missiles and other guided munitions.

Under this program, the Su-30MKI aircraft will also receive a new Mission Computer, a larger touchscreen cockpit display, and a new weapon systems package.

The program aims to upgrade approximately 25 Su-30MKI aircraft each year, with all aircraft expected to be upgraded by 2034. — DSA

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