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A Su-30 MKI of the Indian Air Force.
Role Multirole Air superiority fighter
National origin Russia / India
Manufacturer Hindustan Aeronautics
Designed by Sukhoi Design Bureau
First flight IAF Su-30: 1 July 1997; Su-30MKI: 2000
Introduced 27 September 2002
Status Active
Primary user Indian Air Force
Produced Su-30MKI: 2000-present
Number built 105 as of October 2009[1]
Unit cost US $40 million [2]
Developed from Sukhoi Su-27
Variants Sukhoi Su-35
Sukhoi Su-30MKK
Sukhoi Su-30MKM

The Sukhoi Su-30 MKI[3] (NATO reporting name: Flanker-H) is a variant of the Sukhoi Su-30 jointly-developed by Russia's Sukhoi Corporation and India's Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for the Indian Air Force (IAF). It is an air superiority fighter which can also act as a multirole, strike fighter jet.

The development of the variant started after India signed a deal with Russia in 2000 to manufacture 140 Su-30 fighter jets.[4] The first Russian-made Su-30MKI variant was integrated into the IAF in 2002,[5] while the first indigenous Su-30MKI entered service with the IAF in 2004.[6] In 2007, the IAF ordered 40 additional MKIs.[7] As of September 2009, the IAF has 120 MKIs under active service and planned to have an operational fleet of 280 MKIs by 2015.[1]

Capable of carrying nuclear weapons and tailor-made for Indian specifications, the fighter jet integrates Indian systems and avionics.[8] It also contains French and Israeli subsystems.[9] The MKI variant features several improvements over the basic K and MK variants and is classified as a 4.5 generation fighter.[10][11] Due to similar features and components, the MKI variant is often considered to be a customized Indian variant of the Sukhoi Su-35.[12][13]



Su-30MKI's canards and thrust-vectoring nozzles are two of the most prominent developments over the basic MK variant.[14]

The Su-30MKI was jointly designed by Russia's Sukhoi Corporation and India's Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). The MKI's airframe evolved from that of the Sukhoi Su-27 while most of the avionics were developed by India.[15]

The Su-30MKI is more advanced than the basic Su-30MK and the Chinese Su-30 MKK. The aircraft features state of the art avionics developed by Russia, India and Israel which includes display, navigation, targeting and electronic warfare systems.[16] Other key avionics used in the aircraft were sourced from France and South Africa.[17] It is also speculated that the passive phased array Radar Irbis-E will be added to the fighter jet by 2010.[18][19][20]


Early procurement

In 1996, after 2 years of evaluation and negotiations, India decided to purchase Su-30MKI aircraft. India signed a US$1.462 billion deal with the Sukhoi Corporation on 30 November 1996 for the delivery of 50 Su-30 aircraft. These aircraft were to be delivered in five batches. The first batch were 8 Su-30MKs , the basic version of Su-30. The second batch were to be 10 Su-30Ks with French and Israeli avionics. The third batch were to be 10 Su-30MKIs featuring canard foreplanes. The fourth batch of 12 Su 30MKIs and final batch of 10 Su-30MKIs aircraft all were to have the AL-31FP turbofans. In 2000, another agreement was signed allowing the license production of 140 Su-30MKIs by HAL in India. The deal combined license production with full technology transfer and hence was called a 'Deep License'. The MKI production was planned to be done in four phases: Phase I, II, III and IV respectively.

AWACS killer variant and Anti-Ship variant

Novator K-100 in front of Su-30MK in 1994
Brahmos missile under Su-30MKI maquette at MAKS-2009

In 2004 India inked a deal with Russia to domestically produce the Novator K-100 missile for its Su-30MKI fighters. The Novator K-100 missile is designed to shoot down AWACS and other C4ISTAR aircraft[21] whilst keeping the launch platform out of range of any fighters that might be protecting the target.

The air launched version of BrahMos for the Indian Air Force is ready for testing.[22] An expert committee from the DRDO and the Indian Air Force (IAF) has ruled out any structural modification to the advanced Su-30MKI if it is to be fitted with the supersonic BrahMos.[23] January 10, 2009 it was reported that two Indian Air Force (IAF) Sukhoi-30MKI fighter jets have been sent to Russia for a retrofit program that would enable them to launch the aerial version of the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile.[24]

Latest developments

The United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) and HAL plan to integrate several features developed from the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft program into the Su-30MKI. These features include internal weapons carriage and radar absorbent material, Active Phased Array Radar, and enhancement of situational awareness by incorporating active electronically scanned transmit/receive arrays on the aircraft’s wings and pumping up the defensive-aids suite by installing a combined radar/laser warning system and a missile approach warning system.[25]

In 2007 another order of 40 Su-30MKIs have been made. In 2009, India planned to acquire 230 Su-30-MKIs.[26] HAL has been directed to end the production of 140 of the original 230 jets under transfer of technology by 2015, instead of the originally scheduled 2017-2018.[27]

In 2008, India's Samtel Display System and HAL won a contract to develop and manufacture multi-function avionics displays for the MKI.[28]

In March 2010, sources in the Indian Defense Ministry announced that a contract for 42 more Su-30MKI was in the final phases.[27][29]



IAF Su-30MKI at Nellis Air Force Base

The Su-30MKI is a highly integrated twin-finned aircraft. The airframe is constructed of titanium and high-strength aluminium alloys. The engine nacelles are fitted with trouser fairings to provide a continuous streamlined profile between the nacelles and the tail beams. The fins and horizontal tail consoles are attached to tail beams. The central beam section between the engine nacelles consists of the equipment compartment, fuel tank and the brake parachute container. The fuselage head is of semi-monocoque construction and includes the cockpit, radar compartments and the avionics bay.

Cockpit and ergonomics

The displays include a highly customised version of the Elbit Su 967 head-up display consisting of bicubic phase conjugated holographic displays and seven liquid crystal multifunction displays, six 127 mm x 127 mm and one 152 mm x 152 mm. Variants of the same HUD have also been chosen for the IAF's MiG-27 and SEPECAT Jaguar upgrades, on grounds of standardisation. Flight information is displayed on four LCD displays which include one for piloting and navigation, a tactical situation indicator, and two for display systems information including operating modes and overall operation status. The rear cockpit is fitted with a larger monochromatic screen display for the air-to-surface missile guidance.

Flight control

Mk.3, a further development over the existing MKI variant, will integrate avionic systems being developed for the Indo-Russian Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft program.[30]

The aircraft has a fly by wire (FBW) with quadruple redundancy. Depending on the flight conditions, signals from the control stick position transmitter or the FCS will be coupled to the remote control amplifiers. These signals are combined with feedback signals fed by acceleration sensors and rate gyros. The resultant control signals are coupled to the high-speed electro-hydraulic actuators of the elevators, rudders and the canard. The output signals are compared and, if the difference is significant, the faulty channel is disconnected. FBW is based on a stall warning and barrier mechanism which prevents development of aircraft stalls through a dramatic increase in the control stick pressure. This allows a pilot to effectively control the aircraft without running the risk of reaching the limit values of angle of attack and acceleration. Although the maximum angle of attack is limited by the canards the FBW acts as an additional safety mechanism.

General features

The displays include a highly customized version of the Israeli Elbit Su 967 head-up display consisting of bi-cubic phase conjugated holographic displays and seven liquid crystal multifunction displays, six 127 mm x 127 mm and one 152 mm x 152 mm. The HUD was widely misreported to be the VEH 3000 from Thales. Variants of the same HUD have also been chosen for the IAF's MiG-27 and SEPECAT Jaguar upgrades, on grounds of standardization. Flight information is displayed on four LCD displays which include one for piloting and navigation, a tactical situation indicator, and two for display systems information including operating modes and overall operation status. The rear cockpit is fitted with a larger monochromatic screen display for the air-to-surface missile guidance. The Su-30MKI on-board health and usage monitoring system (HUMS) monitors almost every aircraft system and sub-system including the avionics sub-systems. It can also act as an engineering data recorder


The aircraft is fitted with a satellite navigation system (A-737 GPS compatible), which permits it to make flights in all weather, day and night. The navigation complex includes the high accuracy SAGEM Sigma-95 integrated global positioning system and ring laser gyroscope inertial navigation system.

Pilot ejection

The crew are provided with zero-zero KD-36DM ejection seats. The rear seat is raised for better visibility. The cockpit is provided with containers to store food and water reserves, a waste disposal system and extra oxygen bottles. The KD-36DM ejection seat is inclined at 30º, to help the pilot resist aircraft accelerations in air can move in backward direction.


Two Sukhoi-30MKIs during a Thach Weave maneuver.

Su-30MKI aerodynamic configuration is an unstable longitudinal triplane. The canard increases the aircraft lifting ability and deflects automatically to allow high angle-of-attack (AoA) flights allowing it to perform Pugachev's Cobra. The integral aerodynamic configuration combined with thrust vectoring results in extremely capable maneuverability, taking off and landing characteristics. This high agility allows rapid deployment of weapons in any direction as desired by the crew. The canard notably assists in controlling the aircraft at large angles-of-attack and bringing it to a level flight condition. The wing will have high-lift devices featured as deflecting leading edges, and flaperons acting as flaps and ailerons.[citation needed]


The forward facing NIIP N011M Bars (Panther) is a powerful integrated passive electronically scanned array radar. The N011M is a digital multi-mode dual frequency band radar.[31] The N011M can function in air-to-air and air-to-land/sea mode simultaneously while being tied into a high-precision laser-inertial or GPS navigation system. It is equipped with a modern digital weapons control system as well as anti-jamming features. N011M has a 350 km search range and a maximum 200 km tracking range, and 60 km in the rear hemisphere. The radar can track 15 air targets and engage 4 simultaneously. These targets can even include cruise missiles and motionless helicopters. The Su-30MKI can function as a mini-AWACS as a director or command post for other aircraft. The target co-ordinates can be transferred automatically to at least four other aircraft. The radar can detect ground targets such as tanks at 40–50 km.

A modified Su-30MKI is being developed to carry BrahMos cruise missiles, with induction planned for 2012. The program is experiencing difficulties due to the enormous weight of the missile.[32]


Laser-optical locator system

OLS-30 laser-optical locator system to include a day and night FLIR capability and is used in conjunction with the helmet mounted sighting system. The OLS-30 is a combined IRST/LR device using a cooled, broader waveband, sensor. Detection range is up to 90 km, whilst the laser ranger is effective to 3.5 km. Targets are displayed on the same LCD display as the radar.

LITENING targeting pod

Israeli LITENING targeting pod is used to target the laser guided munitions. Litening incorporates in a single pod all the targeting features required by a modern strike fighter. The original Litening pod includes a long range FLIR, a TV camera, a flash-lamp powered laser designator, laser spot tracker for tracking target designated by other aircraft or from the ground, and an electro-optical point and inertial tracker, which enabled continuous engagement of the target even when the target is partly obscured by clouds or countermeasures. The pod integrates the necessary laser rangefinder and designator, required for the delivery of Laser Guided Bombs, cluster and general purpose bomb.

Electronic countermeasures

Sukhoi Su-30MKI has electronic counter-measure systems. The RWR system is of Indian design, developed by India's DRDO, called Tarang, (Wave in Sanskrit). It has direction finding capability and is known to have a programmable threat library. The RWR is derived from work done on an earlier system for India's MiG-23BNs known as the Tranquil, which is now superseded by the more advanced Tarang series. Elta EL/M-8222 a self-protection jammer developed by Israel Aircraft Industries is the MKI's standard EW pod, which the Israeli Air Force uses on its F-15s. The ELTA El/M-8222 Self Protection Pod is a power-managed jammer, air-cooled system with an ESM receiver integrated into the pod. The pod contains an antenna on the forward and aft ends, which receive the hostile RF signal and after processing deliver the appropriate response.


The tail section of the Su-30MKI showing the TVC nozzles and horizontal stabilizers.

The Su-30MKI is powered by the two Al-31FP turbofans. Each Al-31FP is rated at 12,500 kgf (27,550 lbf) of full afterburning thrust. Two AL-31FP by-pass thrust-vectoring turbojet reheated engines (25,000 kgf full afterburning thrust) ensure a 2M horizontal flight speed (a 1350 km/h ground-level speed) and a rate of climb of 230 m/s. The mean time between overhaul for the AL-31FP is given at 1,000 hours with a full-life span of 3,000 hours. The titanium nozzle has a mean time between overhaul of 500 hours. Al-31FP builds on the Al-37FU with the capability to vector in 2 planes. The TVC nozzles of the MKI are mounted 32 degrees outward to longitudinal engine axis (i.e. in the horizontal plane) and can be deflected ±15 degrees in the vertical plane. This produces a cork-screw effect and thus enhancing the turning capability of the aircraft. There is no strain-gauge engine control stick to change the engine thrust in the cockpit, rather just a conventional engine throttle control lever. The pilot controls the aircraft with help of a standard control stick. On the pilot's right there is a switch which is turned on for performing difficult maneuvers. After the switch-over, the computer determines the level of use of aerodynamic surfaces and swiveling nozzles and their required deflection angles.

Fuel system

The Su-30MKI has a range of 5,000 km with internal fuel which ensures a 4.5 hour combat mission. Also, it has an in-flight refueling (IFR) probe that retracts beside the cockpit during normal operation. The air refueling system increases the flight duration up to 10 hours with a range of 8,000 km at a cruise height of 11 to 13 km. Su-30 MKIs can also use the Cobham 754 buddy refueling pods.[33]

Operational history

The Su-30MKI at Aero India 2005

The Sukhoi Su-30MKI is the most potent fighter jet in service with the Indian Air Force in the late 2000s.[34] The MKIs are often fielded by the IAF in bilateral and multilateral air exercises. India exercised its Su-30MKIs against the Royal Air Force's Tornado ADVs in October 2006.[35] This was the first large-scale bilateral aerial exercise with any foreign air force during which the IAF used its Su-30MKIs extensively. This exercise was also the first in 43 years with the RAF. During the exercise, RAF's Air Chief Marshall, Glenn Torpy, was given permission by the IAF to fly the MKI.[36] RAF's Air-Vice Marshall, Christopher Harper, praised the MKI's dogfight ability, calling it "absolutely masterful and unbeatable".[37]

In July 2007, the Indian Air Force fielded the MKI during the Indra-Dhanush exercise with Royal Air Force's Eurofighter Typhoon. This was the first time that the two jets had taken part in such a exercise.[38][39] The IAF did not allow their pilots to use the radar of the MKIs during the exercise so as to protect the highly-classified N011M Bars.[40] During the exercise, the RAF pilots candidly admitted that the Su-30MKI displayed maneuvering superior to that of the Typhoon.[41]

An earlier variant of the Su-30MKI, the MK, took part in war games with the United States Air Force (USAF) during Cope-India 04, where AESA radar-equipped USAF F-15 Eagles, not allowed to use their AMRAAM missile in long-range BVR mode, were pitted against 3X larger force of Indian Air Force aircraft including older Su-30MKs, Mirage 2000s, MiG-29s and elderly MiG-21 prohibited. The results have been widely publicized, with the Indians winning "90% of the mock combat missions" against the American force. When questioned on the capabilities of IAF pilots, Col Greg Newbech, USAF Team Leader made the following remarks: - "What we’ve seen in the last two weeks is, the IAF can stand toe-to-toe with best AF in the world. I pity the pilot who has to face the IAF and chances the day to underestimate him; because he won’t be going home. Indian hospitality from everyone has been truly overwhelming. The greatest compliment we heard from an IAF pilot, 'You American pilots are just like us, simply down to earth people.' We depart India with great respect for the Indian Air Force. Your pilots, maint and support crew are exceptional professionals."[42].

IAF Su-30MKI jet touches down at Mountain Home Air Force Base during Red Flag exercise.

In July 2008, the IAF sent 6 Su-30MKIs and 2 aerial-refueling tankers, the Il-78MKI, to participate in the Red Flag exercise.[43] In October 2008, a video surfaced on the internet which featured a USAF colonel, Corkey Fornoff, criticizing Su-30MKI's high friendly kill rate and serviceability issues during the Red Flag exercise.[44][45] Several of his claims were later rebutted by the Indian side, the USAF disassociated itself from his comments and it was stated that he did not even participate in the exercise.[46]

A Su-30MKI aircraft crashed on 30 April 2009 in the Pokhran region of Rajasthan after it took off from Pune during its routine sortie, killing one of its two pilots. Defence minister A K Antony, had held that the April 30 crash was due to "a likely failure of the fly-by-wire system". The Sukhoi fleet had then been grounded for around three weeks.[27] However it was found that this crash at Rajmathai village, around 170 km from Jaisalmer, in April was because of the position of the various critical switches of the aircraft. The switches were behind the pilots and they would have to turn them on and off without looking back. At one point, a wrong switch was turned on, leading to the crash on April 30. Wing Commander PS Nara was killed in the mishap, while Wing Commander SV Munje was injured. After investigators identified the problem, a couple of difficult switches were sealed off.[47]

Another Su-30MKI aircraft crashed on 30 November 2009 in Jathegaon, about 40 km from Jaisalmer. The pilots ejected after they saw fire alarm buttons glowing red.[27] Both the pilots are unharmed. This is second such crash of this fighter. The Sukhoi mishaps have come as a setback to the 12 year safety record IAF had achieved with the aircraft which was inducted into the force in 1996.[48] As a result the entire fleet of Su-30MKIs was grounded while the cause of the problem was investigated.[49]



Specifications (Sukhoi Su-30MKI)

IAF Su-30MKI.jpg

Data from KNAAPO[50] and Sukhoi [51] web pages

General characteristics



built-in single-barrel GSh-301 gun (30 mm calibre, 150 rounds)

Air to Air Missiles:

  • 10 × R-77 (AA-12) active radar homing medium range AAM, 100 km
  • 10 × Astra missile active radar homing medium range AAM, 80 km
  • 6 × R-27P (AA-10C) semi-active radar guided, long range AAM 130 km
  • 6 × R-27P (AA-10D) Infrared homing extended range version, long range AAM 120 km
  • 2 × R-27R/AA-10A semi-active radar guided, medium range AAM,80 km
  • 2 × R-27T (AA-10B) infrared homing seeker, medium range AAM, 70 km
  • 6 × R-73 (AA-11) short range AAM, 30 km
  • 3 × Novator KS-172 AAM-L 400 km/Russian air-to-air missile designed as an "AWACS killer"

Air to Surface Missiles:


See also

Related development

Comparable aircraft

Related lists


  1. ^ a b "IAF interested in 50 more Su-30 MKIs". Times of India. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ MKI stands for Russian Modernizirovannyi Kommercheskiy Indiski (Cyrillic: Модернизированный Коммерческий Индийский), "Modernized Commercial for India".
  4. ^ India to build Russian fighters
  5. ^ Indian air force first to field multi-role Sukhois
  6. ^ HAL rolls out first indigenously built Sukhoi-30
  7. ^ IAF to add muscle with 40 more Sukhois
  8. ^
  9. ^ The year of the MiG-29: in 2001, RAC Mig had its best year in the post-Soviet era. Prospects for Sukhoi are improving, too. (Special Report)
  10. ^ The Telegraph - Calcutta : Opinion
  11. ^ Su-30MKI
  12. ^ A close cousin of the Su-30 MKI is the Malaysian version, the Su-30MKK.
  13. ^ Su-35 / Su-37 Super Flanker Multirole Fighter
  14. ^ Renewed interest in Russian-made Su30Mk multi-role fighter bomber
  15. ^ Orders For Su-30MKI Fighters Top $5 Billions
  16. ^ [1]
  17. ^ [2]
  18. ^ The Shifting Balance of Regional Air Power (Passage Radar)
  19. ^ N135 Irbis Fire Control Radar;
  20. ^ Irbis-E
  21. ^
  22. ^ India, Russia develop airborne supersonic cruise missile
  23. ^ 'Su-30 MKI fit to carry Brahmos'
  24. ^ IAF Sukhoi-30MKI jets in Russia for BrahMos aerial version retrofit program
  25. ^
  26. ^ House testimony. 7 August 2009.
  27. ^ a b c d "Day after crash, IAF grounds Sukhoi fleet for checks". Times of India
  28. ^ [3]
  29. ^ "India set to buy 42 more Russian Su-30 fighter jets"
  30. ^ India, Russia certify latest Sukhoi fighter configuration: Jane's
  32. ^ BrahMos to be fitted on Su-30MKI
  33. ^ SU-30 Buddy Refueling System Achieves Successful Final Design Review.
  34. ^ Pandit, Rajat (28 September 2007). "Sukhoi base in east to counter China". Times of India. Retrieved 28 February 2009. 
  35. ^ Pandit, Rajat (14 October 2006). "Sukhois 'splash' UK Tornados over Gwalior". Times of India. Retrieved 2007-07-11. 
  36. ^ Royal Air Force chief to fly Sukhoi
  37. ^ Now, IAF mesmerises Royal Air Force
  38. ^ Exercise Indra Dhanush wraps up at Waddington
  39. ^ Exercise Indra Dhanush 07, RAF Waddington
  40. ^ India’s Sukhois turn it on in UK skies, turn off radars
  41. ^ Typhoon vs SU-30MKI: Lessons from Operation Indra Dhanush
  42. ^ Exercise Cope India 04
  43. ^ IAF's first ever Participation in Exercise ‘Red Flag’
  44. ^
  45. ^ "US Red Flag pilot candidly assesses Su-30MKI’s limits, Rafale’s dirty tricks".
  46. ^ "Final Word from India on You Tube"
  47. ^
  48. ^
  49. ^ What's wrong with IAF's Sukhoi?
  50. ^ Sukhoi Su-30MK, KNAAPO.
  51. ^ Su-30MK Aircraft performance page, Sukhoi.

External links


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