In an ambitious, unprecedented move, the Indian Air Force is currently in the final stages of a move that could ruffle feathers in Russia — mating a British missile system with its Russian-origin Su-30 MKI fighters, something it has never done before.
Top IAF sources tell Livefist that a pair of HAL-built Su-30 MKI jets have undergone requisite software modifications to deploy the MBDA ASRAAM heat-seeking close combat air-to-air missile. What the IAF intends to do is fully replace the Su-30 MKI’s current close combat missile — the Russian-built Vympel R-73 — with the ASRAAM in phases.
For a service that has rarely standardised equipment across its diverse fleet of Russian and European aircraft, the IAF’s intentions with the ASRAAM stem from its experience with the successful recent integration of the missile system with its Jaguar deep penetration strike jets. Part of a £250 million IAF contract with MBDA UK in July 2014, the ASRAAM-armed Jaguars are to be declared operationally ready this year.
IAF sources said the first ASRAAM-armed Su-30s would be declared ready around the same time, and will make use of the same testing cycle.
Standardising a weapon system across its fleet would introduce various levels of economy, the kind the IAF has never had a chance to experience. Over the decades, it has operated disparate types of aircraft with their own native weapons, with barriers between those types never once crossed for commonality.
The Indian government’s National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL), an outfit under the Ministry of Science and Technology, was tasked with proving the stability of the ASRAAM on the Su-30 airframe at its Bengaluru wind-tunnels. NAL sources confirm to Livefist that flutter analysis and safety of flight tests were conducted last year. With carriage flight trials underway, guided test-firings will likely take place this summer. (end of excerpt)
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