Super Sukhoi upgrade program halted again due to MRFA Tender

Due to sanctions placed on Russia, the Indian Air Force has postponed an upgrading plan for its Sukhoi-30MKI multirole fighters of Russian origin to the “Super Sukhoi” level. The upgrade of the Sukhoi-30MKI fleet, which is in its 20th year of service and already displaying obsolescence of the majority of its avionics and Radar technology that was developed nearly 25 to 30 years ago, has been under negotiation between Hindustan Aeronautics Limited and Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation for years.

The IAF could have spent nearly $5 billion to upgrade its entire fleet of 270 jets to “Super Sukhoi” standards, but later it was decided to cut costs by only performing upgrades on 150 jets that are significantly more modern, leaving more than 100 older jets unaltered save for some weapons upgrade packages.

It appears that top IAF brass are preoccupied with the MRFA tender for the 114 jets, and financial constraints have forced them to ignore their frontline fighter jets for so long that it may no longer be the most technologically advanced jet in the region. Hindustan Aeronautics Limited had proposed some radical upgrades to the platform using indigenous technology.

Due to their advanced age (30 years in 2030) and the fact that they are approaching the end of their airframe life, the IAF is currently planning to retire the first 50 jets that were inducted first in 2001 by 2030. In the early years, these jets required heavy flying to train the new batch of pilots, whereas HAL License produced newer jets.

The last 150 Su-30s, which are still relatively new and were inducted by the IAF, will instead receive batch upgrades. These could include the addition of a new Aesa radar based on the Uttam and a new avionics package with new weapons, particularly in the air-to-air missile segment with the adaptation of Astra Mk1, Mk2, and Mk3. But it is now evident that the Su-30 upgrade has been put on hold and that the IAF’s top goal is to purchase new jets through MRFA.

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