In a bid to plug the shortfall of fighter aircraft in the Indian Air Force (IAF), India has asked Russia to help build another squadron of Sukhoi-30MKI (Su-30MKI) fighter jets in India, reports Business Standard. HAL Nasik is already manufacturing 222 of the fighters as part of an existing contract under a Russian license.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has approached Russia to supply HAL with the necessary raw materials and sub-systems required to produce 18 more Sukhois.

Production of the additional Sukhoi squadron can be initiated as early as next year. The IAF could have to shell out approximately Rs 5,850 crore for 18 extra fighters considering the current rate of Rs 450 crore per unit.

If the latest request for additional fighters is approved by the Russians, the IAF will eventually end up with a total of 14 Sukhoi squadrons, a total of 290 fighters.

The Sukhoi Su-30MKI deal has been a ‘Make in India’ success story even prior to the formal launch of the programme; the Sukhoi-HAL contract was based on an arrangement to incrementally shift production of the fighter to Nashik in four phases.

However, several constraints, including raw material sourcing issues, have kept the indigenisation of the fighter’s manufacturing to just over 50 per cent.

India first purchased the Sukhoi Su-30 MKI in 1996, and since then the aircraft has received constant upgrades. Russia incorporated canards and a thrust-vectoring engine into the aircraft at the instance of the IAF, which demanded improved aerodynamic performance.

In 2014, HAL was able to integrate the BrahMos air-launched cruise missile (ALCM) onto the fighter, enabling it to target enemies up to 295 km away.