Indian Air Force (IAF) pilots fly cutting-edge multirole combat fighters made by Sukhoi, the Su-30MKI. Developed jointly by the Sukhoi Design Bureau and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), the Su-30MKI is a variant based on the Su-30 fighter aircraft, equipped with thrust vectoring control and canards. With its exceptional capabilities and cutting-edge technology, the Sukhoi Su-30MKI has become a cornerstone of India’s air defense system.
Development and Production
The journey of the Su-30MKI began in 1995 when the Indian Air Force developed an advanced multirole fighter aircraft. The aircraft was designed by Sukhoi and manufactured by the Irkutsk Aircraft Production Association, currently called the Irkut Corporation.
Between 1995 and 1998, Sukhoi built two prototypes of the Sukhoi-30MKI. The prototype, Su-30I-1, made its maiden flight in July 1997. Production of the aircraft commenced at the Irkutsk plant in 2000, with the first pre-production aircraft completing its maiden flight in November 2000. In October 2000, India signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Russia to start the licensed production of Su-30MKIs at HAL’s plant.
The Indian Air Force placed an order for 272 Su-30MKIs, making it one of the most significant orders for this aircraft. This order signified India’s commitment to enhancing its air power and defense capabilities.
Orders and Deliveries
The procurement process for the Sukhoi 30MKI began in November 1996 when India placed an order for eight Su-30K fighters and 32 Su-30MKI aircraft. These aircraft, fitted with enhanced avionics, engines, and weapons, were delivered in batches.
Under a contract with Rosoboronexport signed in December 2000, HAL was responsible for the licensed production of the Su-30MKI aircraft. The production was divide into four phases, aiming to complete the program by 2015 and produce 140 Su-30MKIs.
The Indian Air Force received its first ten Su-30MKI aircraft from Russia around the middle of 2002. They entered service in September of that year. An additional batch of 12 aircraft was handed over in 2003.
In November 2004, HAL rolled out the first Su-30MKI assembled in India. This marked a significant milestone in India’s indigenous manufacturing capabilities. The IAF received the first batch of two domestically made Su-30MKIs in March 2005. Recognizing the aircraft’s performance and abilities, the IAF ordered 40 Su-30MKIs in 2007.
December 2012 witnessed another contract between HAL, the Ministry of Defence, and Rosoboronexport. With the completion of this transaction, the total number of Su-30MKI aircraft ordered has reached 222. As of January 2020, the IAF operates 260 Su-30MKIs, and an additional 12 are expect to be delivered by the end of 2020.
Design and Avionics
The Sukhoi Su-30MKI boasts an aerodynamic airframe constructed using titanium and high-intensity aluminum alloys. The twin stabilizers and horizontal tail consoles are join to tail beams, while the semi-monocoque fuselage head houses the cockpit, radar sections, and avionics bay. The equipment bay, fuel storage, and braking parachute mechanism all fit in the space between the engine nacelles. With a length of 21.9m, a wingspan of 14.7m, and a height of 6.4m, the Su-30MKI has a maximum take-off weight of 38,800kg.
The Su-30MKI has a tandem glass cockpit, meaning it can carry two pilots simultaneously. The major cockpit instrumentation is from Thales, and there are seven active-matrix liquid crystal displays (AMLCD) and an Elbit Su 967 head-up display (HUD) in the forward cockpit. Samtel Display Systems’ multifunction displays (MFD) can be found in HAL-built planes.
The Su-30MKI’s fly-by-wire (FBW) flight control system, which allows for greater mobility and precision, is one of its most notable features. The plane has several cutting-edge avionics and sensors, such as a passive electronically scanned array radar (N011M), a laser-optical locator system (OLS-30), and a Listening target designation pod (LTD) for guiding missiles from the air to the ground. Zhuk AESA (active, electronically scanned array) radar will replace the N011M radar, significantly improving the plane’s capabilities.
Weapon Systems and Countermeasures
Equipped with a 30mm Gsh-30-1 cannon with 150 rounds of ammunition, the Su-30MKI has 12 hardpoints capable of carrying up to 8 tons of external stores. This allows the aircraft to carry a wide range of air-to-surface missiles, such as the Kh-29L/T/TYe, Kh-31A/P, Kh-59M, Nirbhay, and the air-launched version of the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile.
Integrating the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile into the Su-30MKI fleet is a significant achievement for the Indian Air Force. The BrahMos missile, with a range of 290km, enhances the aircraft’s air-to-surface strike capabilities. The successful integration of the cruise missile was complete in November 2017, and subsequent live firings have demonstrated its effectiveness.
In addition to air-to-surface missiles, the Su-30MKI can also carry a variety of air-to-air missiles, including the Vympel-built R-27R, R-73, and R-77 missiles. The aircraft can also have rocket pods and KAB-500 and KAB-1500 laser-guided bombs, providing a versatile and powerful arsenal.
To enhance its survivability and self-defense capabilities, the Su-30MKI is equip with a Tarang radar warning receiver (RWR) developed by the Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO). The aircraft also features chaff/flare dispensers and active jammers, providing countermeasures against enemy threats.
Sukhoi Su-30MKI Engine
Powering the Su 30.MKI are two Al-31FP turbojet engines, each generating a full afterburn thrust of 12,500kgf. These engines, equipped with thrust vector control, enable the aircraft to achieve a high speed of Mach 1.9 in horizontal flight and a rate of climb of 300m/s. With a full unrefueled flight range of 3,000km, the in-flight refueling system extends the range to 8,000km with two refuelings.
1. What is Sukhoi 30 MKI?
Sukhoi 30 MKI is a multirole fighter jet develop by Russia’s Sukhoi Aviation Corporation. It is a variant of the Sukhoi Su-30 aircraft use by the Indian Air Force.
2. What are the critical features of Sukhoi 30 MKI?
Sukhoi 30 MKI is known for its long-range strike capability, advanced avionics, and maneuverability. It has a twin-engine configuration, can carry a variety of weapons, and has a maximum speed of Mach 2.
3. How many Sukhoi 30 MKI jets does India have?
Currently, the Indian Air Force operates a fleet of around 272 Sukhoi 30 MKI aircraft, making it one of the most significant assets in the Indian defense system.
4. What is the role of Sukhoi 30 MKI in the Indian Air Force?
Sukhoi 30 MKI plays a crucial role in India’s defense strategy. It is an air superiority fighter capable of engaging aerial and ground targets. It also can perform long-range strike missions.
5. How does the Sukhoi 30 MKI compare to other fighter jets?
The Sukhoi 30 MKI is consider one of the most advance fighter jets in the world. Its capabilities, such as supercruise, thrust vectoring, and long-range strike capability, make it a formidable aircraft in aerial combat scenarios.
The Sukhoi Su-30MKI is a testament to India’s commitment to enhancing its air power and defense capabilities. India has successfully incorporated advanced technology and indigenous manufacturing capabilities into the aircraft through joint development and licensed production. With exceptional maneuverability, advanced avionics, and a wide array of weapon systems, the Su-30MKI has become a cornerstone of India’s air defense system. As the Indian Air Force continues to operate and expand its fleet of Su-30MKIs, it ensures the country’s readiness to face future challenges and maintain its air superiority.