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SU-30 aircraft is a twin engine, twin seater, multi-role fighter that can simultaneously be operated as an intercepter, bomber and trainer. It is capable of attaining a maximum speed of two Mach with a maximum climb rate of 270 metres per second. The Su-30MK is equipped by the latest radars designed by Indian specialists and with the Akash air-to-air missile. The Sukhoi-30 can be modified into a naval version, if the Indian Government chose to deploy it on an aircraft carrier.

Codenamed `Flanker' by NATO, the twin-seat SU-30, a derivative of the Su-27, is a multi-role fighter bomber and air superiority aircraft which can also be used in the maritime strike role. The Flanker has and operational radius of around 1500 km, and are equipped with an inflight refuelling facility extending their radius by another 500 km.

The Mirage-2000-5 and the SU-30K were the two aircraft that were considered to be feasible alternatives to replace obsolescent aircraft that the Air Force planned to phase out. While both aircraft were still under development, the Mirage-2000-5 was designed ab initio as a multi-role aircraft with identified avionics systems and weaponry. The SU-30K on the other hand was designed only for an air defence role.

The Ministry selected the SU-30K on the grounds that after upgradation into a multi-role aircraft (to be designated SU-30MK) it would still be cheaper than the Mirage-2000-5 and also have superior capabilities in terms of range and the load delivery. It should be noted, however, that the relative superiority of the SU-30MK was based on assumptions that certain avionics systems which were only conceptualised at that stage, would be successfully designed/developed in India and others would be imported from Western sources and then integrated into the SU-30K in order to enhance its capabilities, from a purely air defence role to multi-role capabilities.

The shortcomings of the SU-30K arose from the fact that it was designed and optimised for an air defence role. Their electronic warfare system was unsuitable to meet the Indian threat environment and the radar performance was below expectation. The navigation system lacked accuracy, very limited capability existed for accurate weapon delivery and weapon system controls were poorly integrated. Although, the aircraft was capable of a large weapon load, the air to ground armament did not include any precision guided munitions, a key requirement during the Kargil Operation.

On account of the large size and range of the aircraft, it was difficult for the aircraft to survive against threat of modern air defence weapon systems unless its avionics, radar and electronic warfare systems were upgraded and well integrated.

The Su-30MKI version was designed for India. The Sukhoi SU-30 MKI, an all-weather, long-range air superiority fighter gives punch to IAF's strike capabilities. It features state-of-the-art avionics which include display, navigation, targeting and electronic warfare systems. It is highly maneuverable, giving it a clear-cut advantage in aerial combat. At the same time, its two highly efficient and powerful engines can propel this 38-tonne aircraft to fly at twice the speed of sound and as high as 60,000 feet.

The SU-30 MKI has a range of 3,000 kilometers with internal fuel which ensures a 3-hour-long combat mission. It has an in-flight refuelling capability which increases the flight duration to 10 hours with a range of 8,000 kilometers. The most lethal features of any fighter aircraft are its sensors and weapons. And these make the Sukhoi an Air Dominance Fighter. It has powerful electronically scanned array radar which functions in air-to-air and air-to-land/sea mode simultaneously while being tied to a high-precision laser-inertial or GPS navigation system. It is equipped with modern digital weapons control and electronic counter measure systems. Weapons are the teeth of any fighter aircraft. The SU-30MKI can carry a load of 8,000 kilograms, which includes a wide range of weapons.

The first SU-30MKI was inducted into the Indian Air Force in 2002 and since then it has been the backbone of the Indian Air Force's fighter fleet. The aircraft is tailor-made to Indian specifications.

The forward facing NIIP N011M Bars (Panther) is a powerful integrated Passive Electronically Scanned Array [PESA] radar. The N011M is a digital multi-mode dual frequency band radar. The N011M can function in air-to-air and air-to-land/sea mode simultaneously while being tied into a high-precision laser-inertial or GPS navigation system. It is equipped with a modern digital weapons control system as well as anti-jamming features. N011M has a 350 km search range and a maximum 200 km tracking range, and 60 km in the rear hemisphere. The radar can track 15 air targets and engage the 4 most dangerous simultaneously. These targets can even include cruise missiles and motionless helicopters. The Su-30MKI can function as a mini-AWACS as a director or command post for other aircraft. The target co-ordinates can be transferred automatically to at least 4 other aircraft. The radar can detect ground targets such as tanks at 40-50 km. It was speculated that the passive phased array Radar Irbis-E may be added to the fighter jet by 2010, when the first totally Indian-built Su-30MKI would roll out from HAL Nasik.

The IAF planned to upgrade the first 80 Su-30MKIs to the level 'Super Sukhois' with highly advanced radars and weapon systems. The plan calls for equipping the aircraft with long-range stand-off missiles with a range of 300 km. A request for information (ROI) was issued in late 2012 for procuring such a weapon system from global vendors. These new missiles with a range around 300 kms would be in addition to the 290-km range BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles which would be carried by some 50 aircraft of the force.

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