The upgrade plan of IAF’s Sukhoi Su-30MKI will be rolled out in two phases by the HAL

New Delhi: India’s Sukhoi Su-30MKI fleet is getting a makeover which will equip the fighter jets with a mission control system, new radars, and electronic warfare weapons in a major collaboration with the country’s private sector. The project is expected to cost a whopping ₹60,000 crore and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has been entrusted with the task.

The upgrade will be done in support from the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and the majority of the components required will be sourced from private companies but HAL will take the lead. The project was approved by the Defence Ministry last year, Economic Times reported.

"The upgrade will see significant private sector participation, with HAL as the lead integrator," CMD of HAL CB Ananthakrishnan was quoted as saying by The Economic Times.

A Step Ahead For Make In India

The Air Force put the project on the fast track to upgrade its aircraft, dividing it into two phases. The initial phase focuses on installing new avionics and radars, while the second phase centres on enhancing the flight control systems. Several Russian-origin systems in Indian fighter jets are being replaced with indigenous alternatives, the report said.

The majority of the effort revolves around integrating indigenous systems onto the platform to fortify the fight aircraft’s combat capabilities. This includes the development of a new indigenous radar, enabling the aircraft to detect and strike targets from significantly greater distances. The Air Force had expressed concerns about the radar in older generation jets, which was often outperformed by opponents.

Extensive Upgrades

A majority of the work will involve indigenous systems that are to be fitted onboard the platform to give it a combat edge, ET reported.

This includes a new indigenous radar system designed to detect and engage targets at much larger distances, addressing the limitations of the radar technology in older jets that would get outperformed by systems used by adversaries.

The first phase will also equip the aircraft with a new Electronic Warfare System to jam incoming threats and disrupt enemy communications, alongside new domestic Infra Red Search and Track systems to improve engagement with air-to-air and air-to-ground targets.

Integration of these new systems is expected to commence this year, as the Air Force aims to expedite the modernisation of its entire Sukhoi fleet.

Around 90 fighters are slated for the initial upgrade phase, to be conducted entirely within India.

India procured 272 of these fighter jets from Russia, which are central to the Air Force's operational capabilities.

An additional order for 12 jets was approved last year for ₹11,000 crore, with HAL manufacturing these aircraft with over 50 per cent indigenous components.

With over 600 Su 27/30 aircraft produced and serving in countries like Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Algeria, the project also opens up a significant export market for the upgrades as well.