India is poised to get fifth generation aircraft sooner than expected. While an Indo-Russian programme to develop a fifth generation fighter aircraft is already under way, Russia has agreed to provide India with an advanced version of the Sukhoi-30MKI, which boasts of fifth generation capabilities and stealth features.
The Indian Air Force, which currently has over 100 Sukhoi MKIs, has placed an order with Russia for about 280-300 aircraft, which are likely to come in the form of the Super Sukhois.
This development is expected to provide India a considerable edge over Pakistan. In January 2011, China had agreed to deliver its J-20 fifth generation fighter – touted to be the world’s most advanced fighter aircraft — to Pakistan.
The timeframe of the delivery of the Super Sukhois has not been specified, but India plans to deploy four squadrons of the advanced aircraft in the northeastern sector by 2015.
The Super Sukhoi has come about after India decided to get rid of some of its outdated combat jets and replace them with superior ones. As part of that, India decided to return 18 Sukhoi-30K aircraft to Russia and replace them with the advanced Sukhoi-30MKI, which is being christened as “Super Sukhoi” that boasts of fifth generation features.
The 18 Sukhoi-30Ks were part of the first production batch.
According to a US-based Defense Update report, Russia, the manufacturer of the aircraft, has agreed to replace the aircraft by production versions of the advanced Su-30MKI (the Super Sukhoi), in a ‘buyback’ transaction as the Su-30K were found to have downgraded avionics as compared with the advanced Su-30MKI aircraft.
Further, the aircraft, of which 10 have already been sent back (the remaining eight by November), would be inducted into the Belarusian Air Force.
The Super Sukhoi, apart from having a new cockpit, has upgraded radars and will also be equipped with the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile.
Commenting on the decision to return the older aircraft, Air Commodore (Retd) Jasjit Singh, director, New Delhi-based Centre for Air Power Studies (CAPS), told DNA that India had been asking for the Sukhoi-30K to be replaced for sometime now and that the decision to go in for the upgraded version of the aircraft is a step in the right direction.
“The Sukhoi-30K were manufactured and delivered to India in the mid-1990s and it is an aging aircraft. The IAF may have found it to be cost-effective to send back the aircraft instead of upgrading it on par with the latest model. Besides the upgrades would have taken three-four years, which is not logical with a fleet of aircraft which has already completed half its lifespan,” said Singh.