The Sukhoi Su-30MKI[a] (NATO reporting name: Flanker-H) is a twinjet multirole air superiority fighter developed by Russia's Sukhoi and built under licence by India's Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for the Indian Air Force (IAF). A variant of the Sukhoi Su-30, it is a heavy, all-weather, long-range fighter.
Development of the variant started after India signed a deal with Russia in 2000 to manufacture 140 Su-30 fighter jets. The first Russian-made Su-30MKI variant was accepted into the Indian Air Force in 2002, while the first indigenously assembled Su-30MKI entered service with the IAF in 2004. Additional MKIs have been ordered to increase the total from 272 to 314. The IAF had 240 Su-30MKIs in service as of October 2017. The Su-30MKI is expected to form the backbone of the Indian Air Force's fighter fleet to 2020 and beyond.
The aircraft is tailor-made for Indian specifications and integrates Indian systems and avionics as well as French and Israeli sub-systems. It has abilities similar to the Sukhoi Su-35 with which it shares many features and components.[b]
|An Indian Air Force Su-30MKI|
|Role||Multirole air superiority fighter|
|National origin||Russia / India|
|Manufacturer||Hindustan Aeronautics Limited|
|First flight||Su-30МК: 1 July 1997
|Introduction||27 September 2002|
|Primary user||Indian Air Force|
|Number built||240 as of October 2017|
₹358 crore (US$56 million) in 2014
|Developed from||Sukhoi Su-30|
The Su-30MKI was designed by Russia's Sukhoi Corporation beginning in 1995 and built under licence by India's Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). The Su-30MKI is derived from the Sukhoi Su-27 and has a fusion of technology from the Su-37 demonstrator and Su-30 program, being more advanced than the Su-30MK and the Chinese Su-30MKK/MK2. Russia's Defence Ministry was impressed with the type's performance envelope and ordered 30 Su-30SMs, a localised Su-30MKI, for the Russian Air Force. It features state of the art avionics developed by Russia, India and Israel for display, navigation, targeting and electronic warfare; France and South Africa provided other avionics.
After two years of evaluation and negotiations, on 30 November 1996, India signed a US$1.462 billion deal with Sukhoi for 50 Russian-produced Su-30MKIs in five batches. The first batch were eight Su-30MKs, the basic version of Su-30. The second batch were to be 10 Su-30Ks with French and Israeli avionics. The third batch were to be 10 Su-30MKIs featuring canard foreplanes. The fourth batch of 12 Su-30MKIs and final batch of 10 Su-30MKIs were to have the AL-31FP turbofans.
In October 2000, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed for Indian licence-production of 140 Su-30MKIs; in December 2000, a deal was sealed at Russia's Irkutsk aircraft plant for full technology transfer. The first Nasik-built Su-30MKIs were to be delivered by 2004, with staggered production until 2017–18. In November 2002, the delivery schedule was expedited with production to be completed by 2015. An estimated 920 AL-31FP turbofans are to be manufactured at HAL's Koraput Division, while the mainframe and other accessories are to be manufactured at HAL's Lucknow and Hyderabad divisions. Final integration and test flights of the aircraft are carried out at HAL's Nasik Division. Four manufacturing phases were outlined with progressively increasing Indian content: Phase I, II, III and IV. In phase I, HAL manufactured the Su-30MKIs from knocked-down kits, transitioning to semi knocked-down kits in phase II and III; in phase IV, HAL produced aircraft from scratch from 2013 onwards.
In 2007, another order of 40 Su-30MKIs was placed. In 2009, the planned fleet strength was to be 230 aircraft. In 2008, Samtel HAL Display Systems (SHDS), a joint venture between Samtel Display Systems and HAL, won a contract to develop and manufacture multi-function avionics displays for the MKI. A helmet mounted display, Topsight-I, based on technology from Thales and developed by SHDS will be integrated on the Su-30MKI in the next upgrade. In March 2010, it was reported that India and Russia were discussing a contract for 42 more Su-30MKIs. In June 2010, it was reported that the Cabinet Committee on Security had cleared the ₹15,000 crore (US$2.3 billion) deal and that the 42 aircraft would be in service by 2018.
By August 2010, the cost increased to $4.3 billion or $102 million each. This increased unit cost compared to the previous unit cost of $40 million in 2007, has led to the rumours that these latest order of 42 Su-30MKIs are for the Strategic Forces Command (SFC) and these aircraft will be optimised and hardwired for nuclear weapons delivery. The SFC had previously submitted a proposal to the Indian Defence Ministry for setting up two dedicated squadrons of fighters consisting of 40 aircraft capable of delivering nuclear weapons.
HAL expected that indigenisation of the Su-30MKI programme would be completed by 2010; V. Balakrishnan, general manager of the Aircraft Manufacturing Division stated that “HAL will achieve 100 per cent indigenisation of the Sukhoi aircraft – from the production of raw materials to the final plane assembly”. On 11 October 2012, the Indian Government confirmed plans to buy another 42 Su-30MKI aircraft. On 24 December 2012, India ordered assembly kits for 42 Su-30MKIs by signing a deal during President Putin's visit to India. This increases India's order total to 272 Su-30MKIs.
In 2004, India inked a deal with Russia to domestically produce the Novator K-100 missile, designed to shoot down airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) and C4ISTAR aircraft, for the Su-30MKI. Although not initially designed to carry nuclear or strategic weapons, in 2011, there were plans to integrate the nuclear-capable Nirbhay missile as well.
In May 2010, India Today reported that Russia had won a contract to upgrade 40 Su-30MKIs with new radars, onboard computers, electronic warfare systems and the ability to carry the BrahMos cruise missile. The first two prototypes with the "Super-30" upgrade will be delivered to the IAF in 2012, after which the upgrades will be performed on the last batch of 40 production aircraft. The Brahmos missile integrated on the Su-30MKI will provide the capability to attack ground targets from stand-off ranges of around 300 km. On 25 June 2016, HAL conducted the first test flight of a Su-30MKI fitted with a BrahMos-A missile from Nashik, India. The first air launch of BrahMos from a Su-30MKI was successfully carried out on 22 November 2017.
India is planning to upgrade its Su-30MKI fighters with Russian Phazotron Zhuk-AE Active electronically scanned array (AESA) radars. The X band radar can track 30 aerial targets in the track-while-scan mode and engage six targets simultaneously in attack mode. AESA technology offers improved performance and reliability compared with traditional mechanically scanned array radars. On 18 August 2010, India's Minister of Defence A K Antony stated the current estimated cost for the upgrade was ₹10,920 crore (US$2 billion) and the aircraft are likely to be upgraded in phases beginning in 2012.
The Indian Defence Ministry proposed several upgrades for the Su-30MKI to the Indian Parliament, including the fitting of Russian Phazotron Zhuk-AE AESA radars starting in 2012. During MMRCA trials the Zhuk-AE AESA radar demonstrated significant capabilities, including ground-mapping modes and the ability to detect and track aerial targets. At the 2011 MAKS air-show, Irkut chairman Alexy Fedorov offered an upgrade package with an improved radar, and reduced radar signature to the Indian fleet to make them "Super Sukhois".
In 2012, upgrades of the earlier 80 Su-30MKIs involves equipping them with stand-off missiles with a range of 300 km; a request for information (ROI) was issued for such weapons. In 2011, India issued a request for information to MBDA for the integration of the Brimstone ground attack missile and the long-range Meteor air-to-air missile.
In February 2017, it was reported that the planes would be upgraded with AL-41F turbofan engines, same as the ones on Sukhoi Su-35. In August 2017, the Indian government cleared a proposal of Rs. 30,000 crore to equip the planes with new reconnaissance pods.
The Su-30MKI is a highly integrated twin-finned aircraft. The airframe is constructed of titanium and high-strength aluminium alloys. The engine intake ramps and nacelles are fitted with trouser fairings to provide a continuous streamlined profile between the nacelles and the tail beams. The fins and horizontal tail consoles are attached to tail beams. The central beam section between the engine nacelles consists of the equipment compartment, fuel tank and the brake parachute container. The fuselage head is of semi-monocoque construction and includes the cockpit, radar compartments and the avionics bay.
Su-30MKI aerodynamic configuration is a longitudinal triplane with relaxed stability. The canard increases the aircraft lift ability and deflects automatically to allow high angle of attack (AoA) flights allowing it to perform Pugachev's Cobra. The integral aerodynamic configuration combined with thrust vectoring results in extremely capable manoeuvrability, taking off and landing characteristics. This high agility allows rapid deployment of weapons in any direction as desired by the crew. The canard notably assists in controlling the aircraft at large angles-of-attack and bringing it to a level flight condition. The aircraft has a fly-by-wire (FBW) with quadruple redundancy. Dependent on flight conditions, signals from the control stick position transmitter or the FCS may be coupled to remote control amplifiers and combined with feedback signals from acceleration sensors and rate gyros. The resultant control signals are coupled to the high-speed electro-hydraulic actuators of the elevators, rudders and the canard. The output signals are compared and, if the difference is significant, the faulty channel is disconnected. FBW is based on a stall warning and barrier mechanism which prevents stalls through dramatic increases of control stick pressure, allowing a pilot to effectively control the aircraft without exceeding the angle of attack and acceleration limitations. Although the maximum angle of attack is limited by the canards, the FBW acts as an additional safety mechanism.
The Su-30MKI has a range of 3,000 km with internal fuel which ensures a 3.75 hour combat mission. Also, it has an in-flight refueling (IFR) probe that retracts beside the cockpit during normal operation. The air refueling system increases the flight duration up to 10 hours with a range of 8,000 km at a cruise height of 11 to 13 km. Su-30MKIs can also use the Cobham 754 buddy refueling pods.
The displays include a customised version of the Israeli Elbit Su 967 head-up display (HUD) consisting of bi-cubic phase conjugated holographic displays and seven multifunction liquid-crystal displays, six 127 mm × 127 mm and one 152 mm × 152 mm. Flight information is displayed on four LCD displays which include one for piloting and navigation, a tactical situation indicator, and two for display systems information including operating modes and overall status. Variants of this HUD have also been chosen for the IAF's Mikoyan MiG-27 and SEPECAT Jaguar upgrades for standardisation. The rear cockpit has a larger monochrome display for air-to-surface missile guidance.
The Su-30MKI on-board health and usage monitoring system (HUMS) monitors almost every aircraft system and sub-system, and can also act as an engineering data recorder. From 2010, indigenously designed and built HUDs and Multi-Function Displays (MFD) were produced by the Delhi-based Samtel Group Display Systems.
The crew are provided with zero-zero NPP Zvezda K-36DM ejection seats. The rear seat is raised for better visibility. The cockpit is provided with containers to store food and water reserves, a waste disposal system and extra oxygen bottles. The K-36DM ejection seat is inclined at 30°, to help the pilot resist aircraft accelerations in air combat.
The forward-facing NIIP N011M Bars (Panther) is a powerful integrated passive electronically scanned array radar. The N011M is a digital multi-mode dual frequency band radar. The N011M can function in air-to-air and air-to-land/sea mode simultaneously while being tied into a high-precision laser-inertial or GPS navigation system. It is equipped with a modern digital weapons control system as well as anti-jamming features. N011M has a 400 km search range and a maximum 200 km tracking range, and 60 km in the rear hemisphere. The radar can track 15 air targets and engage 4 simultaneously. These targets can even include cruise missiles and motionless helicopters. The Su-30MKI can function as a mini-AWACS as a director or command post for other aircraft. The target co-ordinates can be transferred automatically to at least four other aircraft. The radar can detect ground targets such as tanks at 40–50 km. The Bars radar will be replaced by Zhuk-AESA in all Su-30MKI aircraft.
OLS-30 laser-optical Infra-red search and track includes a day and night FLIR capability and is used in conjunction with the helmet mounted sighting system. The OLS-30 is a combined IRST/LR device using a cooled, broad waveband sensor. Detection range is up to 90 km, while the laser ranger is effective to 3.5 km. Targets are displayed on the same LCD display as the radar. Israeli LITENING targeting pod is used to target laser guided munitions. The original Litening pod includes a long range FLIR, a TV camera, laser spot tracker to pick up target designated by other aircraft or ground forces, and an electro-optical point and inertial tracker, which enables engagement of the target even when partly obscured by clouds or countermeasures; it also integrates a laser range-finder and flash-lamp powered laser designator for the delivery of laser-guided bombs, cluster and general purpose bomb.
The aircraft is fitted with a satellite navigation system (A-737 GPS compatible), which permits it to make flights in all weather, day and night. The navigation complex includes the high accuracy SAGEM Sigma-95 integrated global positioning system and ring laser gyroscope inertial navigation system. Phase 3 of further development of the MKI, will integrate avionic systems being developed for the Indo-Russian Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft programme.
Sukhoi Su-30MKI has electronic counter-measure systems. The RWR system is of Indian design, developed by India's DRDO, called Tarang, (Wave in English). It has direction finding capability and is known to have a programmable threat library. The RWR is derived from work done on an earlier system for India's MiG-23BNs known as the Tranquil, which is now superseded by the more advanced Tarang series. Elta EL/M-8222 a self-protection jammer developed by Israel Aircraft Industries is the MKI's standard EW pod, which the Israeli Air Force uses on its F-15s. The ELTA El/M-8222 Self Protection Pod is a power-managed jammer, air-cooled system with an ESM receiver integrated into the pod. The pod contains an antenna on the forward and aft ends, which receive the hostile RF signal and after processing deliver the appropriate response.
The Su-30MKI is powered by two Lyulka-Saturn AL-31FP turbofans, each rated at 12,500 kgf (27,550 lbf) of full after-burning thrust, which enable speeds of up to Mach 2 in horizontal flight and a rate of climb of 230 m/s. The mean time between overhaul is reportedly 1,000 hours with a full-life span of 3,000 hours; the titanium nozzle has a mean time between overhaul of 500 hours. In early 2015, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar stated before Parliament that the AL-31FP had suffered numerous failures, between the end of 2012 and early 2015, a total of 69 Su-30MKI engine-related failures had occurred; commons causes were bearing failures due to metal fatigue and low oil pressure, in response several engine modifications were made to improve lubrication, as well as the use of higher quality oil and adjustments to the fitting of bearings.
The Su-30MKI's AL-31FP powerplant built on the earlier AL-31FU, adding two-plane thrust vectoring nozzles are mounted 32 degrees outward to longitudinal engine axis (i.e. in the horizontal plane) and can be deflected ±15 degrees in one plane. The canting allows the aircraft to produce both roll and yaw by vectoring each engine nozzle differently; this allows the aircraft to create thrust vectoring moments about all three rotational axes, pitch, yaw and roll. Engine thrust is adjusted via a conventional engine throttle lever as opposed to a strain-gauge engine control stick. The aircraft is controlled by a standard control stick. The pilot can activate a switch for performing difficult maneuvers; while this is enabled, the computer automatically determines the deflection angles of the swiveling nozzles and aerodynamic surfaces.
The Sukhoi Su-30MKI is the most potent fighter jet in service with the Indian Air Force in the late 2000s. The MKIs are often fielded by the IAF in bilateral and multilateral air exercises. India exercised its Su-30MKIs against the Royal Air Force's Tornado ADVs in October 2006. This was the first large-scale bilateral aerial exercise with any foreign air force during which the IAF used its Su-30MKIs extensively. This exercise was also the first in 43 years with the RAF. During the exercise, the RAF Air Chief Marshal Glenn Torpy was given permission by the IAF to fly the MKI. RAF's Air Vice Marshal, Christopher Harper, praised the MKI's dogfight ability, calling it "absolutely masterful in dogfights".
In July 2007, the Indian Air Force fielded the MKI during the Indra-Dhanush exercise with Royal Air Force's Eurofighter Typhoon. This was the first time that the two jets had taken part in such an exercise. The IAF did not allow their pilots to use the radar of the MKIs during the exercise so as to protect the highly classified N011M Bars. Also in the exercise were RAF Tornado F3s and a Hawk. RAF Tornado pilots were candid in their admission of the Su-30MKI's superior manoeuvring in the air, and the IAF pilots were impressed by the Typhoon's agility.
In 2004, India sent Su-30MKs, an earlier variant of the Su-30MKI, to take part in war games with the United States Air Force (USAF) during Cope India 04. The results have been widely publicised, with the Indians winning "90% of the mock combat missions" against the USAF's F-15C. The parameters of the exercise heavily favored the IAF; none of the six 3rd Wing F-15Cs were equipped with the newer long-range, active electronically scanned array (AESA) radars and, at India's request, the U.S. agreed to mock combat at 3-to-1 odds and without the use of simulated long-range, radar-guided AIM-120 AMRAAMs for beyond-visual-range kills. In Cope India 05, the Su-30MKIs reportedly beat the USAF's F-16s.
In July 2008, the IAF sent 6 Su-30MKIs and 2 Il-78MKI aerial-refueling tankers, to participate in the Red Flag exercise. The IAF again did not allow their pilots to use the radar of the MKIs during the exercise so as to protect the highly classified N011M Bars. In October 2008, a video surfaced on the internet which featured a USAF colonel, Terrence Fornof, criticising Su-30MKI's performance against the F-15C, engine serviceability issues, and high friendly kill rate during the Red Flag exercise. Several of his claims were later rebutted by the Indian side and the USAF also distanced itself from his remarks.
In June 2010, India and France began the fourth round of their joint air exercises, "Garuda", at the Istres Air Base in France. During Garuda, the IAF and the French Air Force were engaged in various missions ranging from close combat engagement of large forces, slow mover protection, protecting and engaging high value aerial assets. This exercise marked the first time the Su-30MKI took part in a military exercise in France.
The Indian Air Force first took part in the United States Air Force's Red Flag exercise in 2008. Participating in Red Flag costs the IAF ₹ 100 crore (US$17.5 million) each time. To reduce costs, the IAF decided to take part once every five years. The IAF is taking part in the Red Flag exercise in July 2013, at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, United States. For the exercise, it is dispatching eight Su-30MKIs, two Lockheed C-130J Hercules tactical aircraft, two Ilyushin Il-78 (NATO reporting name "Midas") mid-air refueling tankers, one Ilyushin Il-76 (NATO reporting name "Candid") heavy-lift aircraft, and over 150 personnel.
On 21 July 2015, India and UK began the bilateral exercise named Indradhanush with aircraft operating from three Royal Air Force bases. The exercises included both Beyond Visual Range (BVR) and Within Visual Range (WVR) exercises between the Su-30MKI and Eurofighter Typhoon. Indian media reported the results were in favour of the IAF with a score of 12-0 at WVR engagements. They also claim that the IAF Su-30MKIs held an edge over the Typhoons in BVR engagements though not in as dominating a manner. The RAF issued a statement that the results being reported by the Indian media did not reflect the results of the exercise. According to Aviation International News In close combat, thrust vector control on the Flankers more than compensated for the greater thrust-to-weight ratio of the Typhoon.
A Su-30MKI crashed on 30 April 2009 in the Pokhran region of Rajasthan, at Rajmathai village, around 170 km from Jaisalmer, after departing Pune for a routine sortie, killing one of its two pilots. Defence minister A K Antony, announced that the likely cause of the crash was "failure of the fly-by-wire system". The fleet was grounded for around three weeks. However it was found that the crash was caused by the incorrect position of critical switches behind the pilots and outside their field of view. The aircraft crashed when a critical switch was toggled disabling the flight control system. Wing Commander PS Nara was killed in the mishap, while Wing Commander SV Munje was injured. Critical switches identified by investigators were inhibited.
Another Su-30MKI crashed on 30 November 2009 in Jathegaon, about 40 km from Jaisalmer after a fire warning. Both aircrew ejected safely. As a result, the entire fleet of Su-30MKIs was grounded while the cause of the problem was investigated. It was attributed to accidental ingestion of a foreign material in the engine intake.
A Su-30MKI crashed on 13 December 2011; both the pilots ejected safely. The aircraft had taken off from the Lohegaon Indian Air Force Base near Pune, crashing at Wade-Bholai village, 20 kilometres from Pune. Preliminary reports said that the crash was due to a malfunction in the fly-by-wire system. Wing Commander Gurkirat Singh Sohal, the pilot of the plane was conferred with the Vayu Sena Medal (Gallantry).
A Su-30MKI crashed at the Pokhran range during the rehearsal of the Iron Fist Exercise on 19 February 2013. Just after completing a training mission, the aircraft's right wing exploded, both the pilots ejected safely with no damage to any property or life on ground. A Court of Inquiry was ordered to investigate the crash, and later, the WSO Wing Commander Gaurav Bikram Singh Chauhan was awarded the Vayusena Medal (Gallantry) for his act of exceptional courage.
On 14 October 2014, an IAF Su-30MKI on a training mission crashed 20 km off Pune Lohegaon Air Force Station. Wing Commander Sidharth V Munje and his co-pilot Flying Officer Anup Kumar ejected safely. A court of inquiry has been ordered to investigate the accident. In early November 2014, a team of Russian experts came to India to evaluate the IAF Su-30 fleet, which was grounded after the crash. Findings indicated that the Su-30MKI ejected both of its operators without prior warning due to a fault in the ejection system. Before this incident, Indian Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha stated that the MKI fleet was experiencing "problems".
On 15 March 2017, a Su-30MKI crashed in Rajasthan's Barmer district, injuring three villagers. Both pilots ejected safely.