Su-30 MKI

-Subodh Sharma

Project Navchakshu

We have been talking about Super Sukhoi for a quite sometime now. Initially this upgrade package was offered by Russia almost a decade ago. They offered it to India when sensors and electronics were not even developed. Since then, a lot has changed in terms of technology and capabilities. India today can make most of these sensors and electronics inhouse with the help of state owned DPSUs and Private sector companies. The project Navchakshu is part of larger program called “Super Sukhoi”. This upgrade will ensure a complete electronic overhaul, resulting a “Super Flanker” with spectra like electronic warfare suite. Though some of the components will be podded but functionally the fighter jet will be in same league.

Project Navchakshu is to enhance the electronic warfare capability of Indian Airforce’s Su30 MKI. The program will be undertaken completely inhouse and will result in improved Su30 MKI.


The Radar Warning Receiver (RWR) is one of the most important sensors in a modern-day fighter jet. A “Next Generation” Electronic Warfare (EW) suite will require a “Next Generation RWR”. In the case of Super Sukhoi, the Defence Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL) has solved this riddle for the Indian Airforce. We at Alpha Defense can exclusively confirm, “DRDL has developed the next generation RWR for Su30 MKI”.

Super Sukhoi Next Generation RWR

The Next Generation RWR developed by DRDL is a significant improvement over existing DR118 RWR of Su 30 MKI. The RWR development by DRDO is a substantial journey. Over the years, several Radar Warning Receivers and Electronic Warfare Systems such as TEMPEST, TARANG and RWR-118 have been developed indigenously and inducted successfully by the IAF.

Let’s have a look at the various generation of RWR that DRDO has developed.

The RWR system has evolved from the:

1st generation Dawn
2nd generation Tranquil in 1994,
3rd generation TARANG in 2003,
4th generation R118 in 2010, the 6 Antenna R118 in 2012, the RWR and Electronic Support Measure (ESM) in 2014
5th Generation Digital RWR DR118 in 2016.

This new system is 6th Generation of DRDO’s RWR and it will be backward compatible. Thus, it can be integrated with the older systems as well.


R118 was a unique system with 6 Antennas, this upscaling of R118 was undertaken around 2012 while ESM capabilities will added into this newly baked 6 antenna system in 2014.

All this while all the systems were analogue and it was time for DRDO to start working on a digital RWR. The success was termed as Dhruti, the 5th Generation Digital RWR DR118 was declared successful in 2016.

This new system is 6th Generation of DRDO’s RWR and it will be backward compatible. Thus, it can be integrated with the older systems as well.

Super Sukhoi Development Plan and Timeline

The idea is to integrate this Gen Next RWR on a Su30 MKI of the Indian airforce and complete the certification process in a year’s time. The development will involve DRDL as a developer of this next Generation RWR. The Indian airforce as a user and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) as an organization responsible for modifying the Su 30 MKI for the Integration.

This complete activity will be performed in three phases.

  1. Phase 1: This will involve DRDL, Airforce, and HAL to jointly work and create an integration layout for this integration project. During this phase, a mechanical mock-up of wideband receiver units will be created. These mock-ups will be placed on Su30 MKI of the Indian airforce by removing the existing RWR receivers. In addition, a feasibility study on the electrical systems will be done.
  2. Phase 2: In this phase, Aircraft Upgrade Research and Design Centre (AURDC) will be developing the mod-kit. This mod-kit will be used to integrate the actual system on the Su 30 MKI and interface the same using the electrical connectors with Su 30.
  3. Phase 3: During this phase, the aircraft with this improved RWR will be tested for various scenarios.  Once the users are satisfied with the performance of the system, it will be certified and rolled out for other fighter jets in the inventory.

Is Project Navchakshu an effort to develop a system of Spectra class?

The electronic warfare suite of Dassault Rafale, “Spectra” is a very capable and respected system. It provides a long-range detection, identification, and accurate localization of infrared homing, radiofrequency, and laser threats. It incorporates a radar warning receiver, laser warning, and Missile Approach Warning for threat detection plus a phased array radar jammer and a decoy dispenser for threat countering.

Currently, Su30 MKI has an analog RWR as TARANG. While EW suite is a variant of the Russian-produced KNIRTI SAP-518 wingtip-pod-mounted system, which can be augmented by the SAP-14 centreline stand-off jamming module. The aircraft does not have a missile approach warning system.

The earlier attempt to equip the Su30 MKI with a Dual Colour Missile Approach Warning System (DC-MAWS) was failed disastrously. In December 2008, Defence Avionics Research Establishment (DARE) signed a contract with Elisra (now owned by Elbit Systems) for the joint development of the DC-MAWS suite. However, DARE found the infra-red sensors submitted by Elisra to be heavier and bigger in dimension (24cm in height and 4kg in weight) and hence, in May 2009 informed Elisra that the sensors might not be accepted for fitment on the Su-30MKIs.

The other problem was the Installation of six infrared sensors on a Su-30MKI was not cleared in December 2012 by an Expert Committee (EC) at locations specified by DARE, as it would involve cutting the aircraft’s internal structure.

Currently, DRDO has pod-based Jammer and DC-MAWS for the Su30 MKI of the Indian airforce. This combo will provide this aircraft significant electronic warfare capabilities. Though a modified D-29 System developed for Mig 29 UPG is also an option. D-29 is an integrated EW system for Radar warning and jamming that encompasses RWR, ECM, ESM functions and utilizes state-of-the-art active phased arrays for selectively jamming the multiple threat radars. The D-29 system serves primarily as a self-protection jammer that will boost survivability, enhance situation awareness, and increase mission effectiveness.

Why Project Navchakshu is crucial?

Project Navchakshu is significantly important for Indian airforce and its fleet of Su30 MKI. The “Super Sukhoi” program will see a significant electronic overhaul of the system. This will make the aircraft much more capable and future-proof.

With more than 260 aircraft in Inventory, Su30 MKI in a true sense is the “Backbone” of the Indian Airforce. The much-needed upgrade will push this fourth-generation fighter jet into a 4.5 or 4++ Generation league and this enhancement in capability will certainly take Indian airforce “A cut above”.


Click here to know why Super Sukhoi is the ideal approach.

By Alpha Defense

Alpha Defense initially a solo venture but now a defense group by people from various demographics of India covering defense news and updates. We believe in unbiased analysis of every subject in hand. Our mission is to provide simplfiied defense information to the public.