MOSCOW --- India's air superiority Sukhoi-30MKI fighters will soon be converted into 'Super Sukhois' by upgrading them with fifth generation combat jet features, the Russian original equipment manufacturer Irkut Corporation has announced.
The upgrade will include a new cockpit, an upgraded radar and advanced stealth characteristics to make the plane less visible to enemy radar than the existing Indian Air Force (IAF) Sukhoi-30 fleet, Irkut's president and chairman Alexy Fedorov said at the Moscow Air Show here.
The IAF currently has five operational Sukhoi 30MKI squadrons numbering around 100 aircraft. It will ultimately have over 230 Sukhoi-30MKIs or 13 squadrons in its fleet.
The fleet is under licenced production at the Bangalore-based Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and the entire fleet will be upgraded to the 'Super Sukhoi' configuration.
"The upgrade will apply not only to the aircraft in service with the Indian Air Force (IAF) but also to those yet to be delivered to India and to be licence-manufactured by HAL," Fedorov said.
Most significantly, the aircraft will be able to carry a heavier weapon load, including the airborne version of the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile, he added.
Fedorov said the 'Super Sukhoi' will be a potent aircraft similar in features to a fifth generation aircraft. However, he refused to provide specific details of the upgrade, stating that the exact nature of this was still to be decided between the Indian and Russian sides.
Discussions are currently on regarding various aspects of the proposed upgrade, he said.
The Irkut chief did not provide any indication of the cost of the upgrade project. However, going by the general cost trends of similar upgrades, the price could run close to $1 billion.
Meanwhile, HAL is upbeat over its participation in the cutting-edge technology fifth generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) project.
The Sukhoi T-50 aircraft -- also called the PAK-FA -- unveiled at the Moscow International Air Show (MAKS) 2011 Wednesday will make India the only country outside of the US and Russia to have a fifth generation fighter.
HAL chairman Ashok Naik, who is here for the MAKS, told Defenseworld.net that HAL’s participation in the project is "well on track" with a preliminary design contract signed between India and Russia for $295 million.
The preliminary designing could take about 18 months to conclude. Detailed design work would then follow during which the full scope of the project would be defined. The basic requirement for the Indian fighter would be a twin-seater configuration, he added.
"HAL is keen to complete the design phase and move forward on the project," Naik said, adding that the specific details of the Indian components that will go into the FGFA will be decided during the detailed design phase.
HAL will be working with its Russian partner United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) in co-developing an export version of which the IAF will be the first customer.
India has expressed a requirement of 250 to 300 PAK-FAs, which are scheduled for an Indian induction beginning 2016-17 and the procurement cost of the fleet is likely to exceed $35 billion. Russia too requires equal numbers of the jet.