India’s decision to manufacture additional Su-30MKI for the air force has been taken against the backdrop of a delay in the formal tendering process to acquire 110 fighter jets and upgrades of other existing jets, according to a highly placed official in India’s Defence Ministry.
The Indian government has formally requested Russia to extend the production licence of Su-30 MKI that was granted to Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), as India wants to produce more of the fighter jets in its local facility.
“The government put forth the request to Russia to extend the production licence for more Su-30MKI fighter jet earlier this month”, a government official told Sputnik on the condition of anonymity.
The official added that at least 48 more Su-MKI fighter jets will be manufactured at the Nashik facility of HAL, which is currently producing the last batch of 23 Su-30 fighters, of the 222 it was mandated to build under the initial license.
Last year, HAL offered to produce 40 more Sukhoi-30MKI fighters for the IAF at a cost of around $64 million per unit, which is lower than that of the multi-role fighter Rafale.
The IAF is currently facing a shortage of at least 11 squadrons (18-20 jets in a squadron) of fighter jets due to ageing MiGs and delays in fresh procurement. The IAF desires the strength of some 42 combat squadrons by the year 2027-32 in order to meet the contingencies of a two-front war with China and Pakistan.
The delivery of the first Rafale fighters of the 36 contracted jets from France will begin from September this year.
“The IAF is still in the process of inducting the Su-30MKI and will start inducting Rafales later this year. The shortfall in IAF strength has occurred due to slack spanning many years in past procurement. A six-month delay that gives a possible new government time to take stock of available alternative options, such as government to government purchase or continued production of Su-30MKI, makes sense”, Vijainder K. Thakur, a former squadron leader of the Indian Air Force, observed.
The Indo-Russian contract mandates that all raw material that goes into the Su-30MKI – including 5,800 titanium blocks and forgings, aluminium and steel plates, etc. – must be sourced from Russia. Also, 7,146 items like nuts, bolts, screws, and rivets must be sourced from Russia.