India’s Front-line Multirole Air superiority fighter Su-30 MKI flies with flaws


The Sukhoi Su-30MKI is a twinjet multirole air superiority fighter developed by Russia’s Sukhoi and built under licence by India’s Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for the Indian Air Force (IAF). A variant of the Sukhoi Su-30, it is a heavy, all-weather, long-range fighter.But this India’s front-line multirole Air superiority fighter aircraft Su-30MKI flies with deficient radar warning receiver, which increases its vulnerability and a flawed fly-by-wire system affecting the flight control and safety parameters of the agile aircraft.

Moreover, Su-30MKI has poor serviceability record, because of which the Indian Air Force squadrons flying the aircraft could not complete half of its scheduled tasks, the Comptroller and Auditor General pointed out in a report tabled in Parliament this week.Which punched several holes in the operational capabilities of IAF as well as Army Aviation Corps.The CAG also slammed the defence ministry’s continuing failure to replace the Cheetah/Chetak fleets.

In five years between 2004-05 and 2008-09, the Su-30MKI fleet could not achieve even 50 per cent of its task. In one year (2005-06), only 31 per cent of the tasks was completed whereas in other years only 40 per cent of the jobs were achieved. The defence ministry accepted low “operational utilisation” and “low serviceability” of the Sukhoi aircraft

Large numbers of Su-30MKI are flying with a deficient radar warning receiver, compromising the survivability of the aircraft. In addition, the fly-by-wire system has poor “reliability index” adversely affecting the stability, controllability, flight safety and flight control of these jets.

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To have fully-fit Su-30MKI squadrons, the CAG report points out that the first service centre for Su-30 MKI was set up eight years behind the schedule, even though supplying spares and maintenance always posed a big challenge. The planned second and third service centres are nowhere on the horizon.

Almost 19 years after the induction of Su-30MKI, the defence ministry is yet to approve the requisite human resources needed to have 11 squadrons of these fighter jets, straining the aircraft’s performance.

Out of 272 aircraft purchased from Russia, 204 jets were delivered to the IAF, which is flying 7 Su-30 MKI squadrons at the moment, based out of Pune, Bareilly, Tezpur, Chabua and Jodhpur. IAF plans to have Su-30 squadrons in Halwara and Sirsa as well.

The Su-30 MKI, however, is not the only example of shoddy aircraft management at the IAF. One of India’s prized possession, Phalcon AWACS, could not carry out almost 60 per cent of its planned tasks because of poor serviceability and delay in setting up the ground station.

Non-availability of air-to-air refuelling system and restriction in operation due to shortage in runway length at the Phalcon’s base in Agra are other crucial reasons that crippled performance of these surveillance aircraft.

But Now India has signed deal with Russia. The agreement allows for the Indian Air Force (IAF) to receive spare parts of Su-30 aircraft within 30 days instead of the previous 12 months. The five year agreement will cut away red tape such as license, customs clearance and bank guarantees which in the past had to be completed for each part ordered. This will allow for the IAF to keep its Su-30 fleet at optimum levels of operational capacity. For two countries who love bureaucracy, 12 months to 30 days is quite an achievement.