Seeking to enhance the capabilities of its Sukhoi-30 combat aircraft, the Indian Air Force is now planning to upgrade the capabilities of its frontline planes by equipping them with longer range air-to-air missiles and advanced target detection capabilities.
The upgrades in capabilities are being discussed with the original aircraft manufacturer Russia, which supplied the planes to India in the late 1990s.
"We are looking for enhancing the capabilities of the aircraft by equipping it with more potent weapons including air-to-air missiles with kill ranges up to 120 kilo metres like the Meteor missiles which are being fitted on the Rafales," sources told MAIL TODAY.
Under the plans to enhance the capabilities, the air frame of the planes would also be strengthened to allow it to carry heavier missiles with longer ranges for carrying out special operations, the sources said.
The aircraft is already being upgraded for carrying the Brah-Mos supersonic cruise missile which would be hitting targets in ranges up to 300 km.
ENHANCING ENEMY DETECTION CAPABILITY
The Air Force is also planning to enhance the enemy detection capabilities with advanced radar like the Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar which can help the IAF pilots to track enemy planes and target more effectively and at longer ranges, the sources said.
The IAF has placed the orders for 272 Su-30MKIs from Russia in different batches and they have been deployed across the country at different locations in 12 squadrons.
After the phasing out of the MiG-series planes including the MiG 21s and the MiG 27s, the Su-30MKIs would be mainstay of the Air Force with responsibility of looking after both the Eastern front with China and Western front with Pakistan.
Under the upgraded plans, the IAF is looking to involve the first few batches of the aircraft that it received from the Russians known as Mark I. The rest of the aircraft would be upgraded as the batches keep getting enhanced capabilities.
About three years back, the IAF had also issued a Request to Information to the European vendors for acquiring stand-off missiles with ranges beyond 300 kilometres for being fired from the Sukhois.
For the upgrade project, Russia is also trying to involve European companies for providing weapon systems and avionics and has already started talking to some of the vendors there.
The plan for upgrading the Sukhois has been hanging fire for close to a decade now as the discussions on the issue had started between the two countries around 2009-10 itself.
However, the project cost has escalated hugely in these years as the Russians are now asking somewhere between US$ 7-8 billion (Rs 45,000-52,000 crore) for the upgrades.