Super Sukhoi Upgrade

-Ritesh Kumar

In the midst of recent tensions along both the fronts,it’s apparent now that IAF not only speeds up it’s acquisition process for new fighters but also speeds up upgradation of it’s premium air superiority fighter SU-30MKI , that’s long overdue.The backbone of IAF,which once was one of the best air superiority platforms in the world ,is now lagging behind the competition in want of upgrades.
To answer these vows ,a plan to upgrade the MKIs have been in consideration since 2010.The Sukhoi Super 30 upgrade,as what it’s called consists of many changes in various systems of the aircraft to bring it at par with the competition.

An Alpha Defense rendition of Su-30 MKI

SUPER SUKHOI : What is it and how it’s different from the SU-30MKI?

1.Propulsion- SU-30MKI is powered by the Saturn AL31 F engines which provides 122.6 kn of thrust.In Super Sukhoi upgrade ,it will be changed to AL41F (The same engine that powers the Su35) which will provide a 176 kn of max thrust while also being more fuel efficient,hence increasing the range.also more power will translate into more powerful and bigger radars and other avionics.

2.Radar- The MKI ,as of now ,employs N011M BARS radar which is a hybrid PESA system.It has a target detection range of 140 km for a fighter sized target.In super sukhoi it will be swapped with ZHUK-AE FGA35 AESA,having a maximum detection range of 260 km
for a fighter sized target ,and is much more resistant to jamming than current BARS.

3.IRST- Infrared Search and Track is a vital component for a modern fighter.Not only it complements the radar system to detect adverseries but is also a vital asset in detecting fighters having stealth design via their engine heat.Right now MKI employs a highly modified version of OLS -30 IRST having a max detection range of 80 km.After this upgrade it will sport the OLS-50 (The same one used in SU57) ,a QWIP based system with a max detection range of 130km.

4.DSDR- DSDR or digital software defined radio (now built in house) will after upgrade help in frequency hopping and secure communication,with less chances of interception and jamming.

5)Newer Cockpit – Newer Cockpit with LCD touch screens (being procured from Israel)will ease the workload of pilots,while increasing the situational awareness.

6)Reduced RCS- RAM coating will reduce the radar cross section of MKI considerably, increasing it’s chances of survival in multilayered SAM environments.

7) Newer Weapons – with new and powerful radar and irst systems super sukhoi will be able to launch many new weapons of both indigenous and international origins.weapons like ASTRA mk2,R37M,ASRAAM,KH59 MK2,etc. It’s apparent now how much needed this upgrade is for IAF MKIs to retain the edge it did and still has in some areas ,into the future.We can hope it will get done on a priority basis ASAP.

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.

18 thoughts on “Super Sukhoi upgrade”
  1. मे सहमत हूँ की इस अप्ग्रेड को बहुत जल्दी करना चाहिए क्यूँकि यें अकेला अप्ग्रेड कई वर्षों तक चीन और पाकिस्तान को भारतीय वायुसीमा से दूर रखेगा लेकिन हिंदुस्तान में अफ़सरों और मंत्रालयो की लालफ़ीतासाही का क्या करे जब युद्ध सर पर होता है तो तत्काल ख़रीद कर हज़ारों करोड़ बर्बाद और बाक़ी समय फ़ाईल पर कुंडली मार कर बैठे रहते है

    1. Good article but sir can on this upgrade we add Meteor and scalp missile on this platform

      1. @Rahul Typically Europeans donot permit integration of their missiles with Russian aircrafts. So even if it could be done, we might not be permitted to do it.

  2. I think Kavari engine of low thrust around 40 kn needs to develop (we already have,49.5 kn dry thrust) for un manned fighter for days warfare.
    We already have world class avonic and competent expertise.

    1. Well if you are speaking about Ghaatak UCAV, there were plans to power it using the dry Kaveri engine variant of 52 kN that failed to meet the power requirements for LCA Tejas.

  3. I think you are mixing up the thrust of the Al 41 with that of the Project 30 engine (that is currently under development for the Su 57). The Al 41 generates about 45 kN of thrust. The under development Project 30 engine will generate (an estimated) 176 kN of thrust.

  4. Nice and informative article..any information how much overall upgrade will cost per aircraft?

  5. AL41F has been rejected by IAF for Super-Flanker upgrade..
    It’s not a 145kN engine, it’s 137.3kN afterburner, and there’s a 142.2kN emergency thrust just like MiG-21 has a 97.1kN one and issues are similar : fuel consumption goes insane, overheating, risk of engine explosion, alteration of the engine, can’t be used more than 2-3 minutes…

    IMHO, there’d be a more interesting engine to fit : the 115kN version of Rafale’s M88 !!!
    What? Less thrust? In fact, not so : each engine is 623kg lighter than AL-31FP and 707kg lighter than AL41F so the empty weight being reduced and the engine being less fuel thirsty, Safran even says they can make it up to 100kN dry thrust, which would allow supercruise. M88 can be made with thrust vectoring too but there comes the big points :

    1.) SATURN engines need huge maintenance, intensive use being at best 3 missions per 24h. M88 normal use = 5-6 missions, intensive use =11 (!!!)

    2.) The hourly cost of a Su-30 is about $35,000. Rafale using two M88 only costs $10,000-12,000… Even if by using a 50% more powerful version of each engine the hourly cost increases by 50% (in fact, only fuel consumption may increase), worst case scenario, it’s a 50% cut on cost of use. Let’s suppose that Su-30MKI is used the common NATO way (3 pilots with an average 160 flight hours a year in order to be able to do 3 shifts 24/7/52 in case of conflict), using AL-31FP means $16.8 millions a year per aircraft or $4.57 billions for 272 Su-30MKI. At about $15k/h for M88/115kN : $7.2M/y/aircraft; $1.96 billions for the whole fleet… The flyaway cost of two Rafale squadrons is $2.6 billions… Even if M88 costs around the double of AL-31FP’s purchase cost, the engine is soon repaid through the money it spares. Safran did the same when they designed the M56 engine, better known as CFM56 since they did a JV with GE in order to mass produce it. CFM56 is the most built jet engine ever, it made low cost airlines possible by cutting the costs of use of airliners by a half!

    3.) AL-31FP lifespan is 3000 hours at best with 1000h MTBO between full factory overhaul. M88’s core MTBO is 4000h and being made of 31 independent modules, there is no lifespan, you replace the modules when they need to, and you can upgrade the engine when new features become available).

    4.) HAL and Safran build engines together for decades and the JV got French govt. green light to build M88 in India.

    5.) AL-31FP’s total external volume is 6.36m³, M88 = 1.34m³. M88 needs 10.04m³ less room… This plenty of room for extra internal fuel and additional combat systems. Since Su-30 receives Su-35 radar absorbing materials, it can also receive Rafale’s SPECTRA. You may also consider adding one or several RBE-2/AESA radars from Rafale so Su-30MKI can also use the Meteor LRAAM.
    The huge extra fuel added with super-cruise and reduced afterburner consumption allow much longer CAP with much longer time available in supersonic : air-to-air payloads are rather light. Actually, Meteor having a small wingspan you can easily have multiple racks with 5 per rack, thus, carrying 24 at once would be no issue, even added with 4 MICA-NG/IR.

    M88 diameter is so small (69.6cm diameter) that you may even add two rocket-boosters in the engines’ holes, actually, you may even fit a M88 together with the Jaguar’s Adour (57cm diameter). Even fitting two additional Adours would still allow huge internal room as each only occupies 0.74m³.. So, such quad engine possibility would only take 4.16m³ vs. 12.72m³ with the SATURNs…
    Two Adour Mk.106s would bring 75kN more afterburner thrust and 54kN dry thrust, this would mean a total of 254kN dry thrust and 305kN afterburner available.
    Two AL-31FP : 149.2kN/245.7kN(AB)
    Two AL-41 : 172.6kN/274.6kN(AB)/284.4kN (emergency)
    In fact, adding two rocket-engines and/or two Adour Mk.106 would be valuable just in order to take-off in overweight or if serious speed/additional thrust is needed,
    HAL+Safran have built most of Jaguars’ Adour Mk.106s.
    I think that proceeding this way wouldn’t add a lot in cost of use as extra engines would rarely be used and for a short time, this is a much better option than the emergency thrust on AL-41 which poses the same issues as on MiG-21’s Tumanski : no more than 2-3 min of use, each minute weights a hour in the engines’ log-books, risk of engine explosion…
    1.) IN FACT, M88 (in 98kN version) WOULD ALSO ALLOW TO MAKE A TEJAS Mk1 BETTER THAN THE PLANNED TEJAS Mk2!!! A single GE F414 costs as much per hour as using a twin engine Rafale! M88 is also 1.08m³ smaller than the GE F404/F414 allowing to stuff 1000L+ fuel in and if jet engines are produced in India, only the HAL+Safran JV can make it! In fact, I’d even recommend to fit the MiG-29 and Mirage-2000 with M88 : validating a new engine (if smaller) takes only 6 months of work. You may even consider to stuff the MiG-21 with M88/98kN and there’d be so much room left you can even add a BRS parachute so the Bison would stop being a flying coffin! (I’d advise to change the wings for the J-7E’s double-delta and as we are, why not re-using the MiG Ye.8 mod with the canards?), in fact, since there are now chutes sustaining up to 27 tons with opening at 35,000ft altitude and 1000km/h+ that can even be GPS guided (!), BRS becomes a valuable option for any single engine jet-fighter but F-35(!). Some funny thing to do : as Jaguar was already validated for the Honeywell F125 engine which has bigger diameter than M88 (there never was mass order as Honeywell asked $13M/engine!!!!), well, a non afterburner M88-4e would fit, then Jaguar gets 100kN thrust in supercruise instead of (afterburner thrust of) 75kN with Adour Mk.106 or 85kN with F125… Jaguars at Mach1.8-2 without afterburner? And since they have the Elta EL/M-2052 radar, these can even use the I-Derby-ER… All but Jaguar would benefit from hugely extended internal fuel tanks.

    2.) Rafale’s OSF-IT, especially if coupled with DDM-NG and TALIOS since all are QWIPs (quantum IRST) can bust J-20 or FC-31 presence long before these can do the same

    3.) Only 4 radars can be used with Meteor : PS-05 (PESA), Raven-05, RBE-2/AESA and Captor-E, actually, the radar has to be designed around the Meteor’s proprietary datalink. RBE-2/AESA has ALREADY been adapted and flight tested on Tejas by DRDO. HAL insists to go on with Elta radars as they want to license build these : being cheaper, they can syphon more money from tax-payers by overcharging the prices. They oppose the fitting of M88 because these idiots already bought 99 F414 for Tejas Mk2 while they don’t even have a demonstrator flying!!!! Actually, the best option would be re-selling the F404s to Saab, Boeing, KAI and the F414 to Boeing or Saab, or to countries using Gripen, Hornet, Super-Hornet, KAI T-50 or T-7 Redhawk.

    M88 : the generalization of M88 in IAF would dramatically reduce the cost of use of IAF’s jet fighter fleet at a point where you can consider purchasing 2 Rafale and two Rafalized Tejas (DRDO has l the mods ready to achieve it!) squadrons a year on the actual running budget alone!
    It would also freaking improve the logistics as a single type of engine would be used and this one is more reliable than ANY jet fighter engine on market.
    IAF operational capability would be multiplied by about 3.67, this means that 272 Super-Flanker with M88 onboard would have the same impact in a war as having 998 with the Russian engines, not speaking about the extended range, about SPECTRA significantly reducing the radar signature, of using Meteor which has the largest no escape zone of all AAMs on market and the ability of controlling them from tail and/or lateral radar(s) while the nose radar may become Su-57’s Byelka…
    With 4 squadrons of brand new Rafales and Super-Tejas a year added with Supper-Flanker M88 WITHOUT SPENDING MORE, IAF fighter gap would soon be history! In fact, M88 may even rejuvenate all the vintage aircraft in the fleet and with the cost of use slashed by 50% and BRS improving the security even of MiG-21, India may even afford to create an ANG (Air National Guard) which may keep these aircraft in use with lower rate of use, e.g. keeping a single pilot per airframe and doing 2nd line missions, thus at the same time sparing the 1st line aircraft. ADIZ interceptions (visual recognition), coastal defense maritime strikes (BrahMos-NG will allow lighter aircraft than Su-30 or Rafale for regular BrahMos), air support while 1st line fighters maintain air superiority…
    I’d even consider big AAM multi-racks for… Vympel R-60… Why considering this old cow? 43.5kg! A hardpoint that can carry 1000kg can sustain 22.98 R-60s… Motors surely may be replaced with vectored thrust ones to get rid from the most of fins… Interest? It wouldn’t be an issue to have a Mirage-2000 or a MiG-29 carry close to 100 at once… If there are cruise missiles or UCAVs to suppress, the 2nd line fleet can do this, as well as being deployed in low protected areas to avoid air defense gaps, especially along the coasts in case of aircraft carriers operations, including improvided carriers, e.g. some Chinese container carrier made flat-top with ski-jump and loaded with JF-17 using JATOs to take-off… And again, recycling old R-60s can nullify cruise missiles attacks…

    WHAT I’M SPEAKING HERE IS AN IAF WITH 15 SQUADRONS OF 18 SUPER-FLANKERS, 15 OF 18 RAFALEs and 15 of SUPER-TEJAS then keep the Mirage-2000, MiG-29, Jaguar, Bison, maybe even reactivate MiG-23/25/27 in an ANG w.o. need to increase budgets, in fact, once the purchases done, budget needs to maintain the fleet airborne would decrease and at the same time, even if outnumbered in aircraft numbers, IAF+ANG+INAA would be able to generate much more sorties than PLAAF+PAF+PLANAF…


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