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Aero India 2023

IAF asks HAL to expedite Sukhoi production

A file photo of Sukhoi-30 MKI.

NEW DELHI (BNS): To bolster its arsenal with Sukho-30 MKIs – the most potent fighter planes at its disposal – Indian Air Force (IAF) has urged the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) to expedite production of the Russian-origin jets.

IAF has to date inducted 98 of the 230 twin-engine Sukhois contracted from Russia while HAL has been assigned to manufacture 140 of the jets under transfer of technology, according to a report in The Times of India.

The air force wants HAL to increase the production rate of Sukhois from the present 14 to 18 per year, as also “not bunch them towards the end of the year”, a senior officer was quoted as saying in the report.

Besides the 140 Sukhois, HAL will also be assembling 40 more of these “air dominance” fighters.

“The first lot of these 40 Sukhois should begin to roll out from 2011 onwards,” the officer said.

As IAF plans to deploy the fighter planes on its eastern and western strategic bases, “the slow pace of deliveries from HAL has meant that the first of the two Sukhoi squadrons earmarked for Tezpur (Assam) in the eastern sector will only be fully operational by early-2010”, the report said.

The Tezpur base in Assam has deployed four Sukhois to counter any threat emanating from China. IAF has identified Chabua (Assam), Halwara (Punjab) and Jodhpur (Rajasthan) as the new airbases to house the fresh stock of Sukhois.

‘‘But with Sukhois not available in required numbers, training and flying operations are obviously being adversely impacted,’’ said the officer. Fresh inductions are also crucial because IAF is grappling with a sharp dip in the number of its fighter squadrons, down to just 32 from its ‘‘sanctioned strength’’ of 39.5.

“While a Sukhoi-30MKI, capable of simultaneously operating as a bomber and an interceptor, can be loosely said to be equal to three MiG-21s, numbers do matter at the end of the day,’’ the report said, quoting another IAF official. “We will only start feeling good as a force around 2015 and achieve 39.5 squadrons by 2017 or so. We would like 42 squadrons by 2022,” he added.

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Brahmand World Defence Update 2023

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