Sukhoi-30 MKI, Air Force's Most Modern Fighter Jet, Plagued by Engine Trouble
(Source New Delhi; published Mar 17, 2015)
NEW DELHI --- Sukhoi-30 MKI, the most powerful and modern fighter jets in Indian Air Force's stable, has been hit by mid-air engine failures. Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said in Parliament today that as many as 35 instances of engine failures were reported in 2013-14 - that's nearly three a month.

In all, there are 69 instances of engine failure in the last four years, the minister said. Inquiries by the Air Force have revealed that in as many as 33 instances, the engines failed because of impure fuel, in another 11 cases, the problem was caused by excessive vibration and in eight others, engine failures were reported because of low pressure in the lubricant tanks, the Defence Minister said. About five SU-30 MKI have crashed since 2009.

Like all twin-engine jets, the Russian made Su-30s are capable of landing on a single engine. But to reach its maximum potential of carrying a total eight tones of payload including bombs, missiles and spare fuel tanks, the jet needs both its AL-31FP engines to function.

Engine failures is fast becoming a major concern for Air Force and also puts a question mark on India's ability to defend its skies. Another problem area that senior Air Force officers point out is serviceability. "Serviceability of the aircraft is about 50 per cent only," an officer said. It means at any given time, roughly half out of a fleet of 200 jets are available for operational purposes. This becomes crucial in times of emergencies like war.

Mr Parrikar said that the engines were scheduled to be overhauled after every 1000 hours of flying, but the defects started showing-up after only 500 hours of flying. The minister said that Russia-based NPO Saturn, manufacturers of Su-30 Al-31FP engines, offered to make "nine technological improvements" during overhauls, and added that after the modifications the engines were flying for upto 900 hours.

To address the growing capability gap, especially that created by increasing obsolescence of MiG-21, India is talking to France to buy 126 medium multi-role Rafale fighter jets. But the negotiations have been dragging on for three years. Although the acquisition has got mired on per unit cost and number of man hours required to produce it in India, a resolution of these issues can be expected when Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits France in April.


Su-30 Fleet Plagued By Engine Woes, Poor Serviceability
(Source: Hindustan Times; published Mar 17, 2015)
NEW DELHI --- India’s Sukhoi-30 fleet is plagued by engine troubles and is also battling poor serviceability.

Defence minister Manohar Parrikar Tuesday said the Russian-origin fighters recorded as many as 35 engine failures/engine-related problems between January 2013 and December 2014.

Failure of bearings, used to reduce friction between moving parts, was the cause behind engine trouble, Parrikar told Rajya Sabha. As bearings operate under severe conditions, metal fatigue can cause particles to flake off or fragment leading to complications.

Parrikar said India had resolved the bearing problem by “arranging better lubrication (to prevent wear and tear), better fitment of bearings and better quality of oil.”

“Out of total 69 cases in the last three years, 33 cases are due to finding of chips in the oil, 11 due to vibration in the engine (caused by bearing problem) and 8 cases because of low pressure of lubricating oil,” Parrikar said in a detailed reply in the House. In all, engines coming in for overhaul will have nine modifications.

Five Su-30 fighters have crashed during the last five years, setting off alarm bells in the IAF and raising a question mark over the safety of India’s frontline fighter.

The IAF operates close to 200 twin-engine Su-30s, with another 72 to be inducted. But only 110 fighter planes are fully serviceable. Parrikar said the serviceability currently stood at 56-57% but was likely to climb to 70% by the year-end.

“Serviceability has improved by 7% in last 8-9 months to reach to 56-57%,” he said. The earliest Su-30s were inducted into the IAF in 2000.

“The number of mid-air engine failures is not shocking factoring in the flying hours the fleet has logged. But poor serviceability is a matter of concern. Ideally, it should be around 75% during peacetime,” former IAF chief Air Chief Marshal PV Naik told HT.

Parrikar acknowledged India was staring at issues concerning spares and vendor support after the disintegration of Soviet Union.

India and Russia are currently sparring over what led to the crash of a Su-30 MKI near Pune last October. Russia blames human error for the crash, but the IAF refuses to accept it, deepening the mystery surrounding the crash.

HT was the first to report on October 22, 2014, the two pilots reported automatic seat ejection, a freak occurrence that led to the crash and grounding of the entire fleet for several weeks.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Russia's Irkut Corporation has blamed pilot error for a series of accidents in which Indian Air Force (IAF) Sukhoi Su-30MKI ejection seats misfired, JDW reported from Aero India in February.
It quoted Vitaly Borodich, Irkut’s senior vice-president for Military Projects, as saying that an investigation had found that "there have been no technical problems with the ejection seat - this is a human factor."
This was the third reported incident involving India Su-30s suffering an apparent ejection seat misfire, JDW said. In 2008 an airman conducting ground tests in Bareilly was killed when the ejection seat fired from the aircraft and in 2014 two Su-30 pilots ejected when the jet was taxing for take-off in Jodhpur. Both survived.)


prev next

Press releases See all

Breaking News from AFP See all

Official reports See all