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India to upgrade Su-30MKI fighters and Mi-17 helicopters

The Indian Air Force (IAF) is planning to upgrade its Sukhoi Su-30MKI ‘Flanker- H’ multirole combat aircraft and Mil Mi-17-family ‘Hip’ utility helicopters, the military service’s Air Chief Marshal Rakesh Kumar Singh Bhadauria told Indian media on October 4.

India to upgrade Su 30MKI fighters and Mi 17 helicopters An Indian Air Force Su-30MKI (Picture source: Alan Wilson)

According to Bhadauria, India has a plan to update Su-30MKIs and Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-29 ‘Fulcrum’ fighter jets and the Hip helicopters. "The MiG-29 upgrade program is progressing. The Su-30MKI aircraft are also planned to be upgraded, further enhancing their operational capability," said the IAF chief, adding that the military service’s Mi-17V-5 helicopters had already entered their modernization. "The Mi-17-1V ‘Hip’ and Mi-17 chopper fleet is being upgraded with ‘glass cockpits’, avionics, and electronic warfare suite," said the TV channel NDTV, quoting Bhadauria. According to the marshal, India had also initiated mid-life modernization of several foreign platforms, including the Mirage 2000 fighter jet and the Jaguar fighter-bombers.

The head of the IAF also covered the development of Indian air defence. "Our air defence network has also been strengthened by the induction and integration of modern sensors and weapon systems. We are progressively nearing our goal of establishing a robust network centric operations capability," said Bhadauria.

The marshal also indicated a firm intention to acquire additional Sukhoi combat aircraft and LCA (Light Combat Aircraft) Tejas fighter jets.

It should be mentioned that India is in efforts to enhance the combat performance of its Su-30MKIs. In mid-September, an IAF Flanker-H aircraft successfully test-fired the newest Astra beyond-visual-range (BVR) air-to-air missile (AAM) at a distance of more than 70 km. During the test, the air platform took off from an air base in the West Bengal region, said the Economic Times newspaper. According to the Indian Ministry of Defense, "various radars, electro-optical tracking system, and sensors tracked the missile and confirmed its engagement with target".

The Diplomat magazine says that the Astra AAM has a maximum firing range of 110 km (when launched at an altitude of 15 km; this distance reduces to some 44 km at an altitude of 8 km). Therefore, the IAF will receive a very effective weapon that s capable of engaging aerial targets at medium distances.

In late august the news agency Asian News International (ANI) reported the IAF’s intention to acquire 33 additional air platforms (including 21 MiG-29 and 12 Su-30MKI multirole combat aircraft).

The IAF is a large operator of Russian-made aircraft. According to the Military Balance 2018 book published by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), the military service flied approximately 250 Su-30MKI, 55 MiG-29 (including more than 12 upgraded MiG-29UPG), 7 MiG-29UB (UB for ‘operational trainer’) ‘Fulcrum’, 115 MiG-21 Bison, 20 MiG-21M/MF ‘Fishbed’, 39 MiG-21U/UM ‘Mongol’, 65 MiG-27ML ‘Flogger’, and 20 MiG-23UB ‘Flogger’ combat aircraft and 149 Mi-17V-5, 35 Mi-17, and 45 Mi-17-1V helicopters.

India to upgrade Su 30MKI fighters and Mi 17 helicopters 02 An Indian Air Force Mi-17 (Picture source: Vinay Bavdekar)

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