Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has successfully completed the upgrade of first Su-30MKI multi-role combat aircraft at its facility in Nashik, Maharashtra, India.

The company test pilots will now fly the aircraft to validate its performance before handing it over to the Indian Air Force (IAF) next month, as reported by Business Standard.

According to HAL officials, domestic upgrade costs far less than the amount charged by the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), which is typically 35%-40% of the cost of a new aircraft.

Former IAF logistics specialist wing commander Neelu Khatri said: "OEMs usually price new fighters reasonably, but make their money by charging heavily for repair and overhaul.

"Establishing overhaul capability in India defeats this pricing strategy."

An Indian Defence Ministry official said: "Nashik is the world’s only overhaul facility for the Su-30MKI.

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"Potentially, it could get overhaul orders from countries like Vietnam, Malaysia, Algeria, etc, which fly variants of the Su-30."

Leveraging its expertise in Su-30MKI production, HAL Nashik is now domestically manufacturing 31,500 of the 43,000 components that are integrated into the fighter jet, in addition partially indigenising its AL-31FP engines, which are built in Koraput, Odisha, India.

"More than 51% of the Su-30MKI by value is currently made in India, a little more than the 49% agreed with Russia in the contract signed in 2000 to build 140 fighters in India."

HAL Nashik facility chief S Subrahmanyan said: "More than 51% of the Su-30MKI by value is currently made in India, a little more than the 49% agreed with Russia in the contract signed in 2000 to build 140 fighters in India."

As of August 2014, IAF had 200 Su-30MKIs in service, with each set to undergo upgrade after flying 1,500 hours or 14 years, whichever is earlier.

Subrahmanyan said: "The MoD has sanctioned an overhaul capacity of 15 fighters per year; next year, we will overhaul ten to 12 fighters and then stabilise at 15 fighters annually.

"We have already approached the MoD to step up capacity to 30 fighters per year, which will cater for our requirements into the 2030s."

Of the 30 Su-30MKIs that will be upgraded each year, HAL will modernise 20, while the remaining ten would be overhauled at an IAF base repair depot.

Developed by Sukhoi Design Bureau, the Su-30MKI is a long-range air superiority fighter designed to conduct a wide-range of air combat and ground-attack missions in all weather conditions.

Image: An Indian Air Force’s Su-30MKI fighter aircraft at Lajes Field, Portugal. Photo: courtesy of 1st Lt George Tobias.

Defence Technology