Revamping 90 Su-30MKIs: new avionics and radars on the horizon

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India has initiated a major renewal program for the Republic Air Force‘s Su-30MKI fighter planes, with an investment of $7.5 billion. This substantial undertaking involves significant collaboration from the private sector, according to local sources. Hindustan Aeronautics Limited [HAL], with the support of the Defense Research and Development Organization [DRDO], is leading this comprehensive overhaul of the Su-30MKI fighter fleet, according to a report by TASS. 

Photo credit: Twitter

In the initial phase, about 90 aircraft are expected to receive upgrades like modern avionics and enhanced radar systems. The plan then turns to improving the flight control systems of these aircraft, as indicated in the report. An Indian source also revealed that the first phase includes outfitting the fleet with Indian-manufactured infrared search and tracking systems. These enhancements will significantly augment the aircraft’s capacity to attack both airborne and land targets, further supported by a new radio-electronic warfare system. 

Before this, Dmitry Shugaev, the head of the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation of Russia, indicated that discussions were continuing between Russia and India to boost the licensed production of the Su-30MKI fighters by an impressive 50 units.

The ‘all-seeing’

Local reports have confirmed the specific radar that will be incorporated into the Su-30MKI fighter aircraft. Affectionately named ‘Virupaksha’, this technologically advanced radar system was developed by the esteemed Indian Defense Research and Development Organization [DRDO]. Its primary function is long-distance surveillance and tracking of distinct aerial targets. 

Derived from the name of a revered Hindu deity, Virupaksha—known for his omnipresent and all-encompassing insights—the radar system embodies similar capabilities in its operations, providing a comprehensive perspective on situational awareness. 

Operating in the S-band frequency range, the Virupaksha radar surpasses traditional limitations. It is adept at detecting and maintaining a consistent tracking of a broad array of targets. This includes aircraft, helicopters, drones, and even ballistic missiles

Setting the Virupaksha radar apart is its utilization of the revolutionary phased array technology. This allows for quick scanning of expansive areas while also ensuring the accurate and immediate provision of information about the targets detected during the scanning process.

High resolution

Photo credit: Reddit

The Virupaksha radar boasts impressive technical specifications, delivering high-resolution detection and tracking of targets, even those with ultra-low radar cross-sections. This makes it formidable against stealth aircraft. Furthermore, it has an excellent update rate, ensuring real-time and accurate information about a target’s position, velocity, and altitude. 

While the specifics about the operational range of India’s Virupaksha radar are classified, it’s known that it exceeds hundreds of kilometers. You’ll find its versatility remarkable, as it can be deployed in a range of landscapes including coastlines, plains, and rugged mountainous regions. This adaptability makes it ideal for a variety of operational situations. 

But the capabilities of the Virupakha radar don’t stop there. It presents a multitude of capabilities and applications. The radar can seamlessly integrate into a larger airspace defense network, offering valuable data for both air surveillance and missile defense strategies. Moreover, its applications extend to civilian needs as well, as it can significantly enhance air traffic control, contributing to improved safety and operational efficiency in civilian air transport.

Photo credit: Reddit

About Su-30MKI

Developed by Russia’s Sukhoi and domestically manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited [HAL], the Su-30MKI is a twinjet air superiority fighter specially designed for the Indian Air Force [IAF]. Serving as a custom variant of the original Sukhoi Su-30, this model has rewritten the rules to cater specifically to the demands of the IAF. 

Under the hood, the Su-30MKI relies on the raw power supplied by a pair of AL-31FP bypass turbojet engines. These engines are not only reliable but also acclaimed for their significant thrust output. Each one can generate an impressive maximum thrust of 123 kN. So the aircraft accelerates to a maximum speed of Mach 2—which translates to approximately 2,120 km/h.

Photo credit: EurAsian Times

The Su-30MKI boasts an operational range of an estimated 3,000 km without the need for refueling. You can extend this already considerable range even further with in-flight refueling or the use of drop tanks. Plus, with an operational ceiling of 17,300 meters, the aircraft excels in high-altitude operations, making it a versatile solution for a wide range of missions.

Su-30’s armament

When examining firepower, the Su-30MKI packs a serious punch. The aircraft is outfitted with a 30mm GSh-30-1 cannon, together with an impressive assortment of additional armaments such as air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles, bombs, and rockets. Remarkably, it can carry up to 8,000 kg of weaponry. 

As for its avionics, the Su-30MKI beautifully melds Russian, Western, and Indian technology. This all-inclusive system includes a radar warning receiver, an electronic warfare system, and a Tarang radar jamming system. To further augment the pilot’s operational capabilities, the aircraft is fitted with a modern glass cockpit, complete with a HUD. 

In summary, the Su-30MKI is an extremely versatile and efficient aircraft. It’s deftly engineered to fulfill a wide spectrum of roles such as air superiority, ground attack missions, reconnaissance, and electronic warfare. With its complex systems and robust engines, the Su-30MKI is undeniably among the world’s most formidable fighter aircraft.

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