India claims the war in Ukraine will not adversely impact its Su-30MKI, a backbone fighter, but that remains to be seen.
Officials in the defence establishment have raised concerns about the ability of Russian companies to provide a steady supply of parts and spares for the fighter fleet, given stringent sanctions that have been imposed following the Ukraine offensive.
A large number of Su-30MKIs ‘on the ground’ has the Indian Air Force (IAF) looking to speedily finalise a contract with Russia for 12 additional fighters to be built by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
However, Russia’s war in Ukraine is affecting the supply of spares and equipment for the IAF. The force has already had its fighter squadrons drained to 29, these hinging around some 272 Su-30 MKIs.
The IAF’s supply of spares and equipment is, however, being hampered by Russia’s war in Ukraine. The force’s fighter squadrons have already been reduced to 29, relying on 272 Su-30 MKIs.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s two-day visit to Delhi from 31 March could possibly seal a deal. However, it is unclear whether the renewal of an expiring five-year Su-30MKI maintenance contract with the IAF would be renewed.
The Indian Air Force (IAF) which is facing a shortage in its fighter squadrons, is hopeful that increasing the low availability rates of Su-30 and other fighters in service will offset some of the shortfall, it informed the Parliamentary Standing Committee on defence. However, that delivery schedule could be potentially impacted due to the Russian offensive in Ukraine and the Western sanctions on which officials said they are assessing the situation.
“But there is an interesting fact that we have ended up spending a large amount when we got the funds last to last year and last year also on revenue spares. There is an interesting aspect that a very large number of Sukhoi-30 and other fighters are on ground and we are hopeful that when those spares start coming from this year onwards, we are hopeful that will be able to actually add some squadrons,” an IAF representative told the committee as per a report tabled in Parliament.
More than 44 systems in the fighter jets – the Indian Air Force (IAF) has a Sukhoi 30 fleet strength of 272 – are to be replaced in a deep overhaul that will involve the Defence Research and Development Organisation, Bharat Electronics Ltd and Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. Discussions on such an upgrade have been on for almost a decade but the final plan is yet to be approved, with some blaming bureaucratic hurdles reports ET Online.
Experts agree that this is urgently needed to maintain India’s combat edge. “As the largest fighter fleet of the IAF, and now approaching two decades in service, there’s no question that the Su-30MKI is due for an upgrade. The global standards of military and aerospace technology have changed massively since the turn of the century, as has India’s own domestic capability,” said the Observer Research Foundation’s Angad Singh. One major upgrade will involve replacing the legacy radar in the fleet with an Indian-made Uttam Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) system that is expected to significantly enhance the combat capability of the jets. Dependence on Russian suppliers for the engines is expected to continue.
In the last 7-8 years, several steps have been taken to increase the serviceability rates of the Russian equipment in use, especially the Su-30MKI fleet which constitutes a significant number in the IAF inventory. Part of the measures are long term spares and support agreements as well as Joint Ventures in India with Russian original equipment manufacturers for faster turnaround.