Sukhoi Su-30MKI

The Sukhoi Su-30MKI (NATO reporting name: Flanker-H) is a super-manoeuvrable twinjet air superiority fighter developed by Russia's Sukhoi and built under licence by India's Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for the Indian Air Force (IAF). A variant of the Sukhoi Su-30, it is a heavy, all-weather, long-range fighter.

Development of the variant started after India signed a deal with Russia in 2000 to manufacture 140 Su-30 fighter jets. The first Russian-made Su-30MKI variant was accepted into the Indian Air Force in 2002, while the first indigenously assembled Su-30MKI entered service with the IAF in 2004. Additional MKIs have been ordered to increase the total to 272. The IAF had 200 Su-30MKIs in service as of August 2014. The Su-30MKI is expected to form the backbone of the Indian Air Force's fighter fleet to 2020 and beyond.

The aircraft is tailor-made for Indian specifications and integrates Indian systems and avionics as well as French and Israeli sub-systems. It has abilities similar to the Sukhoi Su-35 with which it shares many features and components.

Sukhoi Su-30MKI
Class Aircraft
Type Fighter
Manufacturer Hindustan Aeronautics
Origin Russia (USSR)
Country Name Origin Year
Russia (USSR) 1997
Country Name Operational Year Retirement Year
India 2002 View
ManufacturerName Production From Production To Quantity
Hindustan Aeronautics 2002 200 View

Design Characterstics

The Su-30MKI is a highly integrated twin-finned aircraft. The airframe is constructed of titanium and high-strength aluminium alloys. The engine intake ramps and nacelles are fitted with trouser fairings to provide a continuous streamlined profile between the nacelles and the tail beams. The fins and horizontal tail consoles are attached to tail beams. The central beam section between the engine nacelles consists of the equipment compartment, fuel tank and the brake parachute container. The fuselage head is of semi-monocoque construction and includes the cockpit, radar compartments and the avionics bay.


The displays include a customised version of the Israeli Elbit Su 967 head-up display (HUD) consisting of bi-cubic phase conjugated holographic displays and seven multifunction liquid-crystal displays, six 127 mm × 127 mm and one 152 mm × 152 mm. Flight information is displayed on four LCD displays which include one for piloting and navigation, a tactical situation indicator, and two for display systems information including operating modes and overall status. Variants of this HUD have also been chosen for the IAF's Mikoyan MiG-27 and SEPECAT Jaguar upgrades for standardisation. The rear cockpit has a larger monochrome display for air-to-surface missile guidance. The Su-30MKI on-board health and usage monitoring system (HUMS) monitors almost every aircraft system and sub-system, and can also act as an engineering data recorder. From 2010, indigenously designed and built HUDs and Multi-Function Displays (MFD) were produced by the Delhi-based Samtel Group Display Systems.


The forward-facing NIIP N011M Bars (Panther) is a powerful integrated passive electronically scanned array radar. The N011M is a digital multi-mode dual frequency band radar. The N011M can function in air-to-air and air-to-land/sea mode simultaneously while being tied into a high-precision laser-inertial or GPS navigation system. It is equipped with a modern digital weapons control system as well as anti-jamming features. N011M has a 400 km search range and a maximum 200 km tracking range, and 60 km in the rear hemisphere. The radar can track 15 air targets and engage 4 simultaneously. These targets can even include cruise missiles and motionless helicopters. The Su-30MKI can function as a mini-AWACS as a director or command post for other aircraft. The target co-ordinates can be transferred automatically to at least four other aircraft. The radar can detect ground targets such as tanks at 40–50 km. The Bars radar will be replaced by Zhuk-AESA in all Su-30MKI aircraft.

The Sukhoi Su-30MKI is the most potent fighter jet in service with the Indian Air Force in the late 2000s. The MKIs are often fielded by the IAF in bilateral and multilateral air exercises. India exercised its Su-30MKIs against the Royal Air Force's Tornado ADVs in October 2006. This was the first large-scale bilateral aerial exercise with any foreign air force during which the IAF used its Su-30MKIs extensively. This exercise was also the first in 43 years with the RAF. During the exercise, the RAF Air Chief Marshal Glenn Torpy was given permission by the IAF to fly the MKI. RAF's Air-Vice Marshall, Christopher Harper, praised the MKI's dogfight ability, calling it "absolutely masterful in dogfights".

In July 2007, the Indian Air Force fielded the MKI during the Indra-Dhanush exercise with Royal Air Force's Eurofighter Typhoon. This was the first time that the two jets had taken part in such an exercise. The IAF did not allow their pilots to use the radar of the MKIs during the exercise so as to protect the highly classified N011M Bars. Also in the exercise were RAF Tornado F3s and a Hawk. RAF Tornado pilots were candid in their admission of the Su-30MKI's superior manoeuvring in the air, and the IAF pilots were impressed by the Typhoon's agility.

India sent Su-30MKs, an earlier variant of the Su-30MKI, to take part in war games with the United States Air Force (USAF) during Cope India 04 in 2004. The results have been widely publicised, with the Indians winning "90% of the mock combat missions" against the USAF's F-15C. The parameters of the exercise favored the IAF, however. In Cope India 05, the Su-30MKIs reportedly beat the USAF's F-16s.

In July 2008, the IAF sent 6 Su-30MKIs and 2 Il-78MKI aerial-refueling tankers, to participate in the Red Flag exercise. The IAF again did not allow their pilots to use the radar of the MKIs during the exercise so as to protect the highly classified N011M Bars. In October 2008, a video surfaced on the internet which featured a USAF colonel, Terrence Fornof, criticising Su-30MKI's performance against the F-15C, engine serviceability issues, and high friendly kill rate during the Red Flag exercise. Several of his claims were later rebutted by the Indian side and the USAF also distanced itself from his remarks.

In June 2010, India and France began the fourth round of their joint air exercises, "Garuda", at the Istres Air Base in France. During Garuda, the IAF and the French Air Force were engaged in various missions ranging from close combat engagement of large forces, slow mover protection, protecting and engaging high value aerial assets. This exercise marked the first time the Su-30MKI took part in a military exercise in France.

The Indian Air Force first took part in the US Air Force's Red Flag exercise in 2008. Participating in Red Flag costs the IAF ? 100 crore (US$17.5 million) each time. To reduce costs, the IAF decided to take part once every five years. The IAF is taking part in the Red Flag exercise in July 2013, at Nellis US Air Force Base, Nevada, US. For the exercise, it is dispatching 8 Su-30MKIs, 2 C-130J tactical aircraft, 2 IL-78 mid-air refueling tankers, 1 IL-76 heavy-lift aircraft, and over 150 personnel.

The IAF again fielded its MKIs in the Garuda-V exercise with France in June 2014, where they manoeuvred in mixed groups with other IAF aircraft and French Rafales.

On 21 July 2015, India and UK began the bilateral exercise named Indradhanush with aircraft operating from three Royal Air Force bases. The dogfighting saw various encounters Within Visual Range (WVR) combat. Large engagements saw 4 v 4 engagements at beyond visual range and graduated to a massive 8 v 8 engagement. According to Indian television network NDTV, the IAF Su-30s performed extremely well and defeated the RAF Typhoons by a score of 12-0. These claims were later ridiculed by a RAF official, describing the report as "comical".

Role Air superiority fighter
National origin Russia / India
Design group Sukhoi Design Bureau
Built by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (assembled under licence)
First flight IAF Su-30??: 1 July 1997

Su-30MKI: 2000
Introduction 27th Sept, 2002
Status In service
Primary user Indian Air Force
Produced Su-30MKI: 2000–present
Number built 200 as of August 2014
Unit cost 358 crore (US$57 million)
Developed from Sukhoi Su-30
Variants Sukhoi Su-30MKM

General characteristics
  • Crew: 2
  • Length: 21.935 m (72.97 ft)
  • Wingspan: 14.7 m (48.2 ft)
  • Height: 6.36 m (20.85 ft)
  • Wing area: 62.0 m² (667 ft²)
  • Empty weight: 18,400 kg (40,565 lb)
  • Loaded weight: 26,090 kg (57,520 lb) typical mission weight
  • Max. takeoff weight: 38,800 kg (85,600 lb)
  • Powerplant: 2 × Lyulka AL-31FP thrust vectoring turbofans, 123 kN with afterburner (27,560 lbf) each

  • Maximum speed: Mach 2.0 (2,100 km/h or 1,300 mph) at altitude; 1,350 km/h, 839 mph near ground level
  • Range: 3,000 km (1,620 nmi) at altitude; (1,270 km, 690 nmi near ground level; with no external fuel tanks)
  • Ferry range: 8,000 km (4,320 nmi) with two in-flight refuellings
  • Endurance: 3.75 hrs (up to 10 hrs with in-flight refuelling)
  • Service ceiling: 17,300 m (56,800 ft)
  • Rate of climb: >300 m/s (>45,275 ft/min)
  • Wing loading: 401 kg/m² (82.3 lb/ft²)
  • Thrust/weight: 0.96
  • Maximum g-load: +9 g

Guns: 1 × 30 mm GSh-30-1 gun (150 rounds)
12 hardpoints: 2 × wing-tip AAM launch rails, 6 × pylons under-wing, 2 × pylon under-engine nacelle, and 2 × pylons in tandem in the "arch" between the engines. It can be increased to 14 using multiple ejector racks. It can carry up to 8 tonnes of external stores.
Air-to-air missiles:
  • 10 × R-77 (AA-12) active radar homing medium range AAM, 100 km
  • 10 × Astra missile active radar homing medium range AAM, 80–110 km
  • 6 × R-27ER (AA-10C) semi-active radar guided, long range AAM 130 km
  • 6 × R-27ET (AA-10D) Infrared homing extended range version, long range AAM 120 km
  • 2 × R-27R (AA-10A) semi-active radar guided, medium range AAM, 80 km
  • 2 × R-27T (AA-10B) infrared homing seeker, medium range AAM, 70 km
  • 6 × R-73 (AA-11) short range AAM, 30 km
  • 3 × Novator KS-172 AAM-L 400 km, Indian/Russian air-to-air missile designed as an "AWACS killer"
Air-to-surface missiles:
  • 3 × Kh-59ME TV guided standoff Missile, 115 km
  • 3 × Kh-59MK active radar homing anti-ship missile, 285 km
  • 4 × Kh-35 anti-ship missile, 130 km
  • 1 × Brahmos supersonic cruise missile, 300 km
  • 3 × Brahmos-M supersonic cruise missile, 300 km
  • 1 × Nirbhay subsonic cruise missile, 1,000 km
  • 6 × Kh-31P/A anti-radar missile, 70 km
  • 6 × Kh-29T/L laser-guided missile, 30 km
  • 4 × S-8 rocket pods (80 unguided rockets)
  • 4 × S-13 rocket pods (20 unguided rockets)
  • 8 × KAB-500L laser-guided bombs
  • 3 × KAB-1500L laser-guided bombs
  • 8 × FAB-500T gravity bomb
  • 28 × OFAB-250-270 gravity bombs
  • 32 × OFAB-100-120 gravity bombs
  • 8 × RBK-500 cluster bombs

End notes