Why India Is Replacing Russian R73 Missile With UK ASRAAM Missile in SU-30?
Indian Air Force’s move to sling British ASRAAM air combat missiles onto its Russian Su-30 fighters was unlikely to go down well with Moscow. And now it’s official — Russia isn’t pleased at all.Russia’s misgivings go deeper than just concerns over technology security or being kept ostensibly out of the IAF’s re-weaponisation drive on a Russian fighter. As Livefist reported, the IAF is looking to fully replace the Su-30 MKI’s current close combat missile — the Russian-built Vympel R-73 — with the ASRAAM in phases, and then standardise the ASRAAM across its fleet of combat aircraft.
While the India-Pakistan air skirmish over Jammu & Kashmir on February 27 gave the R-73 missile a new glow — with the IAF quickly ordering fresh stocks of this and the RVV-AE medium-range missile for its MiG and Su-30 fleets — the order was more by way of topping up reserves. What Russia will actually deem as jeopardised by the ASRAAM-Su-30 integration effort is an ongoing pitch to sell a newer generation version of the R-73 to India — the RVV-MD, along with longer range variants.
Unlike a radar-guided missile, the heat-seeking ASRAAM doesn’t require complex modifications — the IAF, as Livefist reported, has already modified the software on a pair of Su-30s to deploy the ASRAAM. A first test could take place later this year. The ASRAAM, already integrated on IAF Jaguars, will see test firings begin this year, with a move to arm a limited number of Hawk trainers to move forward too.
Integration of ASRAAM in Sukhoi-Su-30MKI jets will mean that MBDA has provided the required source code of the missile system so that it can be integrated with the main Mission computer (MC) and also with fire control Radar (FCR) of the jet, this opens up further cooperation for integration of next-generation Meteor Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air Missile (BVRAAM) which is also developed by the same company. In past, there were reports that had said that the European manufacturer had informed Indian government that they would not integrate their weapon on any Israeli or Russian platform, which was seen as Meteor not making into Sukhoi-Su-30MKI and LCA-Tejas.
It is unclear if Russia’s concerns over the ASRAAM integration will escalate into any kind of flashpoint. The trajectory of the India-Russia relationship on the Su-30 suggests India is using its heft to exercise weapons flexibility. Russia has supplied 222 Su-30 kits to India for assembly at HAL’s license-building facility in Maharashtra. The Indian Air Force has formally asked Russia for 18 more, which will cement India’s already significant place as the world’s largest — by far — operator of the Su-30 type. Add the pipeline proposal to upgrade at least 84 Su-30s to the ‘Super 30’ standard, and you have a slice of the defence pie that won’t stop giving any time soon.
Russia is expectedly indignant about being kept out of the loop on the ASRAAM integration, but it could be a minor fold in the larger circumstances. Russia is executing Indian armament contracts worth $14 billion in total at this time and continues to be one of India’s most sustained suppliers of military equipment.