Why in India they belittle the advantages of Russian fighters

You can take into account the statement of the Deputy Director of the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation Vladimir Drozhzhov, who on July 9, 2019 announced that the Indian Air Force will purchase 18 new Su-30MKI fighters.

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Speculation is continuing about how India evaluates the combat qualities of Russian fighters compared to aircraft made in France. All this makes one recall how and why New Delhi bought the Su-30MKI, how these fighters changed the balance of power in the region and how they really look like foreign counterparts.


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Back in 1962, India began to buy from the USSR the best MiG-21 fighters at that time in the world, and in 1967 it itself began to manufacture them. In total of 657 such aircraft were produced in various modifications; the upgraded MiG-21s are still in service with the Indian Air Force. One of them distinguished himself in an air battle over Kashmir, where in March last year he shot down a Pakistani F-16.

It is clear that then the 21st Migari began to become obsolete, Moscow stopped their production in 1985, and completely abandoned operation in the early 1990s.

Russia delivered to India at different times a large number of aircraft (the Indian Air Force fleet is now 80 percent equipped with Soviet and Russian equipment), including fighters. In addition to the mass MiG-21s, these were the multi-purpose MiG-29s (including deck-based ones) and the supersonic MiG-27 fighter-bombers.

Of course, the USSR has never been a monopolist in this market. The French “line” in the Indian Air Force is represented by multipurpose Mirage 2000 (H / TH) in the amount of 50 pieces and Jaguar fighter-bomber (joint development of Great Britain and France) in the amount of about 100 aircraft. All of them are also outdated.

But a separate line in this list was and continues to be the Russian Su-30MKI multi-role fighter, modified and improved specifically for India and manufactured in this country as well. With the receipt of the Su-30MKI in service in the 1990s, India achieved the desired air superiority – in fact, this fighter is intended to dominate the sky.

Having become interested in the exhibition model of the Su-30MK (multipurpose, commercial) at one time, India received during the negotiations the opportunity to purchase an aircraft with higher combat capabilities. These could include an improved aerodynamic layout with front horizontal tail, a new remote control system, as well as engines with a controlled thrust vector. In addition, the aircraft was supposed to be equipped with a phased array antenna. As a result of India, a highly maneuverable multi-functional fighter was proposed, which by its maneuverability and combat capabilities was not equal in the world at that time.

The Indian side put forward a number of additional requirements for the Su-30MKI (“I” is exactly the Indian). They concerned on-board electronic equipment, where, along with Russian systems, French, Israeli and Indian equipment were supposed to be on board the fighter. The navigation, electronic indication and electronic countermeasures systems were replaced, the on-board computer system was built on the basis of Indian processors.

Deliveries of the Su-30 began literally right away. Initially, it was the Su-30K, designed to train Indian pilots to fly this type of aircraft. As the Su-30MKI improved (and this work continued constantly), they were delivered to India, and the first models were brought to their level already in place. The fighter was finally brought to mind in 2004, and at the same time in India, the development of the licensed construction of the Su-30MKI began. At the first stage, only the assembly of fighters completely manufactured in Russia was provided. On the second, finished units and systems were supplied to the customer, on the third, units and parts, and on the fourth, only materials and raw materials, and the manufacture of all parts, assemblies, units, systems and final assembly was carried out directly in India. Now in India, 12 units of fighter jets are produced annually, by March 2020, the company can release the 272nd such aircraft. In the same place, at the factories of the HAL corporation, AL-31FP engines for MiG-30MKI fighters are produced under a Russian license.

The Indian Air Force plans to operate the Su-30MKI until 2030–2040 and even later, which largely determines the balance of forces in this region. It’s worth remembering that in May 2018, as the Indian press reported, the HAL concern invited the Indian Air Force to assemble another 40 Su-30MKI fighters, and if the contract is implemented, the total number of these aircraft assembled in India or purchased will be 312 units . For comparison: in the fighter aviation of the Russian Aerospace Forces there are “only” 103 Su-30SM and 20 Su-30M2 units.

You can take into account the statement of the Deputy Director of the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation Vladimir Drozhzhov, who on July 9, 2019 announced that the Indian Air Force will purchase 18 new Su-30MKI fighters.

In general, somehow, everything does not fit in with the current statements abounded by the Indian press about the low qualities of the Su-30MKI fighter compared to the French Rafale.

In particular, the publication Economic Times writes that the ability of prolonged barrage of French aircraft is one and a half times higher than the Su-30MKI. In addition, it is alleged that the Rafale flight range is from 780 to 1055 km, while for the Su-30MKI it is 400-550 km. French fighters can make five combat flights per day, and Russian – three, the newspaper writes.

How true are these claims?

For a real comparison, the Su-30MKI and Rafale will not take advertising booklets at air shows, but their actual performance characteristics. At “drying”, the flight range is 3,000 kilometers at altitude (at a speed of 2125 km / h) and 1270 km near the ground (at a speed of 1350 km / h), the combat radius is 1,500 km. The practical ceiling is 17,300 meters. The flight duration is 3.5 hours without refueling (it is not by chance that it was called the “flying wolf” for endurance in a long flight).

We look at the “virtues” of Rafale. Its flight radius is 1800 kilometers, while the combat radius in the version with suspension for weapons is 1389 km. The maximum speed at high altitude is 1915 km / h, the practical ceiling is 15,240 meters.

These aircraft can be called peers. The Su-30 had its first flight at the end of December 1989, in the updated version of the MKI for India – in 1997. Then its production was carried out as part of the international cooperation Russia – France – Israel – India. At Rafale A, the first flight was performed on July 4, 1986, the beginning of operation was in May 2001.

“Comparing two fighters of approximately the same class does not make much sense, because everyone will have both advantages and certain disadvantages,” a military expert, former officer of the headquarters of the Moscow Air Force and Air Defense District Vladislav Shurygin, told the newspaper VZGLYAD. – Even if we turn to historical experience, then, let’s say, the legendary Soviet air ace Alexander Pokryshkin considered the American “aerocobra” to be his favorite airplane (Bell P-39 Airacobra – approx. VIEW). At the same time, the American pilots themselves did not like this fighter, and one of them gave it an assessment as an aircraft designed to describe large slow low circles. There is still the matter of who is at the helm and what is his management experience. If we talk about the high accident rate of “dryers” in Indian aviation, then here too there are some nuances.

This is also due to the fact that most military airfields in India are located near large cities, the outskirts of which abound in huge dumps, flocks of birds circling above. More than 10 percent of disasters and incidents with the Indian Su-30MKI occurred precisely as a result of a collision with birds in the sky. And if, for example, in China, a PLA pilot will fight until the very end for his plane in a critical situation, knowing that the loss of a combat vehicle threatens him not only with dismissal, but also with prison, then Indian pilots prefer to catapult at the slightest danger. There are nuances with the maintenance of military aircraft in different countries, but in India it does not shine.

More than one generation of Hindu pilots who have been studying from the bench of the aviation school and skillfully exploiting them has become winged at the Russian “dryers”. Again, it’s too early to write off the Su-30MKI – the fighter has been brought to the level of 4 ++ and for at least several decades is capable of being the basis of India’s strike air power. Replacing them at once with Rafale certainly will not work, including due to the high price of the issue of French fighters.

It seems to me that there is an element of a kind of bluff on the part of the Indian authorities, who stick out the alleged shortcomings of the Su-30MKI just to reduce the amount of further contracts. “

By the way, the Indian concern HAL, which announced the cessation of production of the Su-30MKI from March 2020, makes a subtle but significant clarification – “in the absence of new orders.” So, if there is a need, or rather money in the military budget of India, the conveyor for the production of fighters will also work. And Russia can contribute to this – by lowering its contract price.

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