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1996 - 8 SU-30K / 32 SU-30MK

In 1996, after 2 years of evaluation and negotiations, India decided to purchase the Su-30 aircraft. In order to improve the declining combat capability of the Air Force owing to fleet obsolescence, the Government of India approved acquisition of 40 SU-30 aircraft and associated equipment at a cost of Rs 6310 crore and concluded a contract in November 1996. The contracted for supply of 40 SU-30 aircraft and associated equipment with its manufacturer at a total cost of US $1462 million, equivalent to Rs 5122 crore. In addition, an expenditure of Rs 1188 crore was estimated on indigenous development and import of avionics systems.

Under the contract, the Irkutsk aircraft production association would deliver 40 Su-30s in different versions to the Indian Air Force. In June 1997 the first batch of eight Sukhoi Su-30 MK fighters were inducted into the Indian Air Force's 24 Squadron at the Lohagaon air base near Pune. India was expected to import a total of 40 Russian fighters by March 1999. Deliveries were initially to start in the spring of 1998, but Indian Defense Ministry experts delayed their decision on the avionics equipment for the planes.

The contract provided for supply of eight SU-30K air defence aircraft during 1997 and 32 upgraded SU-30MK multi-role aircraft between 1998 and 2001. The remaining 32 aircraft were expected to be delivered as per the following schedule:

  1. 10 SU-30 MK-I latter half of 1998 -
  2. 12 SU-30 MK-II latter half of 1999 -
  3. 10 SU-30 MK-III latter half of 2000 -
By another account, the Sukhoi 30 were delivered into 4 different batches, referred as Su 30 MK-I through Su 30 MK-IV.
  1. Su 30 MK-I - The first batch were just probe-equiped Su-27UB trainers, and were second-hand Russian AF Sukhois, although IAF paid for new ones. The original Su 30 K was an interceptor, not a multirole fighter. Sukhoi added limited A/G capabilities to it and made the Su 30 MK out of it.
  2. Su 30 MK-II - By 1998 there was a controversy over the purchase of Su-30 MK II which critics claimed was still on the drawing boards in Russia, the first prototype expected in 1999. It was alleged the Su-30 MK I supplied by the Russians, are Su-27 PU aircraft.
  3. Su 30 MK-III - All older Su 30MK's (I-III) will be transformed to the new MKI standard.
  4. Su 30 MK-IV -
Another account reported that these aircraft were to be delivered in four batches.
  1. The first batch were 10 Su-30K or Su-30MK, the basic version of Su-30.
  2. The second batch were to be 8 Su-30MK with French and Israeli avionics.
  3. The third batch were to be 10 Su-30MKs featuring canard foreplanes.
  4. The fourth and final batch of 12 Su-30MKI aircraft were to have the AL-31FP turbofans.

The 8 SU-30 multi-role aircraft acquired from Russia were operating with the IAF since 1997. The Ministry of Defence indicated in 2000 that the revised schedule for the delivery of the aircraft as follows:
  1. (i) 16 SU-30 MK 1-1 in 2000-2001
  2. (ii) 10 SU-30 MK 1-2 in 2001-2002
  3. (iii) 6 SU-30 MK 1-3 in 2002 later half

As of mid-2000 India had received only eight SU-30K air defence aircraft and none of the upgraded SU-30MK multi-role aircraft in the Rs 6310-crore deal signed with Russia in 1996. There had been no deliveries after May 1997.

India's Defence Research Development Organisation had failed to develop and supply key avionics sub-systems and failed to procure Western avionics to equip the SU-30MK aircraft for its designated multi-role. The upgradation was to be achieved by integrating avionics to be imported or developed by India and supplied to the aircraft manufacturer. While 10 out of the 40 aircraft, scheduled to be delivered during 2001 were to be fully upgraded, the remaining 30 aircraft were required to be upgraded in India/ manufacturer's plant in a phased manner during 2001 to 2002.

By 2000 the original induction program of SU-30MK multi-role aircraft had been delayed by 18 to 24 months and was likely to be further delayed. Meanwhile, the Air Force had to live with the depleted force level and was compelled to use the ageing fleet despite an expenditure of Rs 2432 crore as of August 1999.

The contract contemplated induction of fully upgraded SU-30MK aircraft in a phased manner commencing from the first half of 2001. However, the unrealistic assumptions regarding the capability of timely indigenous development of certain avionics systems and lead time for import of the systems of Western origin for upgradation of the SU-30K air defence aircraft into multi-role SU-30MK version seriously jeopardised the schedule of induction of this aircraft into the Air Force, to make good the phasing out of the older aircraft.

The Ministry chose to follow an uncertain route of joint development by equipping the SU-30K air defence aircraft with modern avionics systems to be imported and supplied by Government of India and through indigenous development and production, to convert it into a multi-role aircraft. The divided responsibility for procurement of the systems and their integration has blurred the responsibility of the manufacturer towards producing an integrated state-of-art multi-role aircraft system. The development and production of key avionics systems like mission computer, display processor, radar computer etc. taken up by the DRDO1 and associated production agencies was delayed by 30 months. Certain sub-systems were still in the development stage.

Not only did the Ministry fail to ensure development of the systems identified for indigenous development, it also failed to place procurement orders for Western avionics items for supply to the manufacturer as per contracted schedule. Selection and procurement of Western avionics systems was delayed by 4 to 24 months. Contracts for some of the systems had not even been concluded by 2000.

The delay compelled the Ministry to re-schedule the delivery of 22 partially upgraded and 10 fully upgraded versions of SU-30MK multi-role aircraft and ultimate upgradation of the eight SU-30K air defence aircraft. As per the revised schedule only six of the fully upgraded MK version were to be supplied by the manufacturer in place of the original 10 aircraft. Even this revised schedule is not likely to be met due to further delays in development and supply of the avionics systems. The delivery schedule of the upgraded MK multi-role version had been shifted by at least 18 months.

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