Su-30 — back in favour?

(Sitharaman at Air HQrs with CAS Dhanoa and senior commanders of IAF)

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is, at her instance, going to fly in a Su-30 MKI tomorrow. Whether it is just a joy-ride, or an indication of the govt going with this plane as an answer to the urgent need to augment fighter squadrons, is not known. But there are signs that the Modi regime is finally reconciling to reality and the extreme scarcity of financial resources, especially in the period leading up to the 2019 general elections, when the state treasury is sought to be properly husbanded and marshaled for domestic social welfare programmes to maximally impress the electorate.  So, acquisition of the Swedish Gripen E, as also consideration of the Sixties’ vintage Lockheed F-16 Blk 70, has been pushed out of the picture (for now at least). And the finalization of the Rafale deal is also being put off.

It just so happens, as I have been advocating — look up all the posts over the years on this topic — that the Su-30 is at once the best fighter aircraft anywhere and the most cost-effective solution considering India has a 272-strong fleet already and produces it under license. One assumes the GOI will scrape up the monies to upgrade this entire fleet to the “Super Sukhoi” configuration with a new, more powerful, engine, better, more advanced, avionics, and an AESA radar to switch missions mid-sortie, from A2G to A2A and back. And the upgrade project will be for about a third of the cost of the Mirage 2000 upgrade programme. The bulk of the Sukhois will be upgraded at HAL, Nasik

IAF may consider the Su-30 a make-do solution. Were it not for its institutional tilt favouring Western combat aircraft, Vayu Bhavan would have long ago realized and appreciated the Super Sukhoi as an excellent solution to fill up the air orbat with a really superb aircraft.

This decision was also probably prompted by signals from Moscow that the relations were in difficult straits and hurting and a deal like this was needed to affect a recovery.


About Bharat Karnad

Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, he was Member of the (1st) National Security Advisory Board and the Nuclear Doctrine-drafting Group, and author, among other books of, 'Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security: The Realist Foundations of Strategy', 'India's Nuclear Policy' and most recently, 'Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)'. Educated at the University of California (undergrad and grad), he was Visiting Scholar at Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies, and Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington, DC.
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10 Responses to Su-30 — back in favour?

  1. devraj says:

    Sir,india has deployed 24 nuclear armed missiles against china in north east.if india launch all 24 nuclear armed missiles in highly emergency situation
    .will all 24 nuclear armed missiles explode successfully on targets in china,or chances will be 50-60%, means 13-14 missiles explode succesfully in those 24 launched missiles

  2. If the warheads are of 20KT yield, they’ll all explode on target. If they are armed with high-yield fusion weapons, the uncertainty factor is higher because these are not physically tested and proved. Whence the necessity for India to resume open-ended thermonuclear testing.

    • ~!@#$%^&*()_+ says:

      My guess is that its going to be a little more complex and not to our liking.
      Almost all Agnis would by now be MARV capable and hence all will make it to targets.
      The thermonukes too have the same 20KT primary so these warheads too will go off with near 100% certainty.
      Half the problem as rightly pointed out the doubtful (or half strength) secondary. The Shakti tests had doubts on yields and not on the firing up of the secondary. The secondaries did fire otherwise the total final yields do not add up, even by the most conservative of standards, if we presume a completely dud secondaries.
      The real problem is that the Chinese will know our real capabilities and that will affect their response too. By now our real capabilities may have been perfected or they may still be doubtful. But on the D-day the Chinese will get to know for certain exactly as much as we would.
      And what if ours is still not perfected and is only a half strength. You will then have to divide by about 1/4th the sum total of the deterrent capability we are currently understood to sport.

      Regards Su-30 MKI, it may not be needed either unless the push comes to shove. 631 is a fairly serious number and adding 100-200 more LCAs (different blocks/marks) would take that number to 731-831. Can IAF actually train that many pilots and ground staff and rest of the tail. Modi should spare some resources for one or two squadrons of real strategic bombers. He and other PMs after him may need these more, than anything else, given that India will have to fight the US too from now on. This will make both US and Russians happy too.

      Saurav Jha on tweeter says:”By 2025, @IAF_MCC will have in its ORBAT, at the least, 265+ Su-30 MKI (past crashes taken into account) + 60+ Mig-29 + 45+ Mirage 2000 + 125 Jaguar + 100+ Tejas + 36 Rafale i.e 631 plus combat jets”

      • ~!@#$%^&*()_+ says:

        Read “India will have to fight the US too from now on” as “India will have to fight the US fight too from now on”.

        Sorry about that.

  3. Raghuram says:

    Sir I believe it’s time for GOI to realise the importance of encouraging development of the local solutions for all the defence and civilian needs. When our scientists are proving their capability in every field it’s time to stop all imports.

  4. andy says:

    If the IAF must have more than 35squadrons of fighters then they should look no further than the SU30MKI,its simply the most potent fighter around.With its serviceability above a respectable 65% there should be no further room for moaning by the IAF.At around $75millions a piece its a steal for the kind of capabilities it possess.

    The Super Sukhois are a different ball game altogether.

  5. sanman says:

    Some new revelations seem to be coming out about Chinese construction on the Doklam Plateau. This sounds alarming, if true. I don’t see the merit in downplaying this, and claiming that the Chinese will be hampered by the winter. It seems that they’re quite capable of fielding an all-weather force, even in the Himalayas.

  6. Kya says:

    Why does not india take this submarine and modernise it ? Any problem ?

    Russia to Decommission Two Largest Nuclear Subs in the World – Source

    The submarines have already been withdrawn from operational status in the Russian Navy as their further use is unprofitable.
    The two largest nuclear-powered submarines of Project 941 (the Akula code) Arkhangelsk and Severstal are planned to be decommissioned, a source in the shipbuilding industry told.
    “Their further operation is unprofitable: they have already been withdrawn from the Navy, Rosatom is to decommission them after 2020,” the source said.
    Now the only Project 941U submarine remaining in the Navy is Dmitry Donskoy, used to test the Bulava ballistic missile.
    The six Project 941U nuclear submarines are the world’s largest, with a full displacement of 49,800 tons, a length of 172 meters, and a width of 23.3 meters. The Dmitry Donskoy submarine is the flagship in the series — built in 1976, was accepted into combat operation of the Northern Fleet in 1981.
    In 1996-1997, due to a shortage of funds, three missile carriers (TK-12, TK-202 and TK-13), which had been in service for only 12-13 years, were withdrawn from operational status. The Dmitry Donskoy ship had been in the Sevmash repair service for 10 years, for modernization and re-equipping necessary for Bulava testing.

  7. sanman says:

    Lockheed-Martin is making a new proposal to India for assembly of “exclusive custom” F-35 aircraft — what are the opinions on this?

    Would this eliminate the cumbersome end-use clauses?

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