Source : Tribune India
|An Indian Air Force Sukhoi Su-30MKI (File Photo)|
Chandigarh: The Indian Air Force has initiated a project to carry out life extension studies on its Su-30 MKI frontline fighter aircraft to determine the feasibility of enhancing its calendar life by at least 10 years from 25 years to 35 years.
The IAF has about 260 Su-30s in its inventory, the first of which entered service in 2002. Life extension of an aircraft is different from upgrading the aircraft. While an upgrade involves enhancing the combat capability by introducing newer systems, life extension requires checking the structural integrity of the platform and its subsystems and assessing how long it can function effectively.
In an expression of interest (EOI) issued on October 4, the IAF has stipulated that only Indian firms having the requisite expertise will be allowed to participate in the project, which will be undertaken at the 11 Base Repair Depot located in Nashik. The IAF has undertaken life extension studies on other aircraft and helicopters, allowing platforms to continue in service for longer periods.
The work will be undertaken in three phases. The first phase would involve study of aircraft structural issues, defectation data and analysis of flight data will be carried out by the depot to determine the life extension checks to be undertaken. This includes corrosion removal on the airframe, repair and strengthening of certain load bearing-areas and a few structural modifications.
In the second phase, the industrial partner, which will be responsible for the process and quality control as well as provisioning manpower, equipment and consumables, will carry out life extension checks on one aircraft under the depot’s close supervision.
In the third phase, life extension checks on the remaining aircraft will be carried out independently by the industry in accordance with pre-defined timelines. According to the EOI, three to five aircrafts will undergo life extension checks per year.
The twin-engine heavy, multi-role Su-30 is assembled indigenously by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, which has also been involved in several upgrade projects undertaken on the aircraft over the past decade. It now forms the backbone of the IAF’s fighter jet fleet.
Among the most significant modifications of the Su-30 is adapting it to launch the airborne version of the Brahmos supersonic cruise missile, giving it an enormous offensive punch up to a range of about 500 km. Other past upgrades include integration of air-to-air missiles, avionics, mission software and other sub-systems from varied Indian and foreign sources.
Earlier this week, Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal VR Choudhari had stated that an initial lot of 84 Su-30s would be upgraded indigenously over the next four to five years, for which the Air Staff qualitative requirements have been finalised. This includes a new fire control radar, touch- and voice-controlled avionics and navigation system, electronic warfare suite and self-protection systems.