The Indian Air Force (IAF) is planning to upgrade its fleet of Su-30MKI fighter jets with state-of-the-art avionics, radars, and electronic warfare suites. The upgrade program, dubbed “Super Sukhoi”, aims to extend the service life of the Russian-origin combat aircraft by more than 20 years.
The Su-30MKI is a twin-engine, multi-role fighter jet that has been the mainstay of the IAF’s combat fleet since its induction in 2002. India has ordered 272 of these aircraft from Russia, and recently cleared an additional order for 12 more jets for ₹11,000 crore.
The Su-30MKI is known for its versatility and adaptability, and has participated in various missions, including the Balakot airstrike in 2019.
However, to ensure its relevance in modern warfare scenarios, the IAF has initiated a comprehensive upgrade program that will involve revamping the aircraft with cutting-edge technologies. The upgrade will include enhanced beyond visual range capability, new electronic warfare suites, and a new radar system.
The new radar, called Uttam, is an indigenous active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar that can detect and track both air and ground targets with improved accuracy and range.
The upgrade program will also involve the integration of all-Indian components and systems, highlighting India’s push for self-reliance in defence production. Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) will be the lead agency for the upgrade, in collaboration with the IAF and other partners. The initial phase of the program will cover the first lot of 84 Su-30MKI jets, followed by another 150 jets in later stages.
The “Super Sukhoi” upgrade will not only enhance the capabilities of the Su-30MKI, but also increase its operational life span from 25 years to 35 years. This will ensure that the Su-30MKI remains the backbone of the IAF’s fighter fleet for at least the next 15-20 years.
The upgrade will also open up export potential for India, as it can offer the upgraded package to friendly foreign nations that operate the Su-27/30 type of aircraft, such as Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Algeria.