Wednesday, March 19, 2014

SU-30MKI fleet facing a readiness crisis: 50% of the SU-30MKIs are unfit for operational flying

March 15/14: Readiness. India’s Sunday Guardian obtains letters and other documents sent by HAL to its Russian counterparts, pointing to serious maintenance problems with India’s SU-30MKI fleet. Compared with India’s older Mirage 2000 and MiG-29 fleets, whose readiness rates hover near 75%, fully 50% of the SU-30MKIs are considered unfit for operational flying. That’s a strategic-class issue for a country like India, and may provide the missing explanation for reports that India could abandon the joint FGFA/SU-50 5th generation fighter program in order to pay for French Rafale jets.
A Sukhoi-30 MKI
This isn’t the first time such issues have arisen (q.v. Dec 16/11), and the Russians have general reputation for these kinds of problems. One February 2014 letter from HAL’s Nasik plant reminds the Russians that they’ve been pursuing a critical issue since March 2013, with no reply:
“…multiple cases of repeated failure of Mission Computer-1 and blanking out of Head Up Displays (HUD) and all Multi-Function Displays (MFD) in flight… As the displays blanking off is a serious and critical issue affecting the exploitation of aircraft (it) needs corrective action/remedial measures on priority…”
From a Dec 24/13 letter:
“Due to non-availability of facilities for overhaul of aggregates [aircraft parts], the serviceability of Su-30MKI is slowly decreasing and demand for Aircraft on Ground (AOG) items on the rise…. Huge quantities of unserviceable aggregates [parts] are lying due for overhaul at various bases of IAF…. It appears that Rosboronexport and Irkut Corporation have limited control over other Russian companies [which provide vital parts like engines].”
One reason the MiG-29 fleet is doing better is that India has worked to build infrastructure like RD-33 engine plants in India, bypassing the Russians entirely.
SU-30MKI with a Eurofighter Top
Russian firms were supposed to set up a SU-30MKI repair-overhaul facility at HAL by December 2013, but that has fallen into a black hole, and so has the posting of aircraft specialists. India itself is often at fault in these scenarios, and indeed they’re reportedly haggling over price – but the specialist support contract reportedly states that they’re to be posted even if price negotiations aren’t finalized. 
SU-30MKs India and Mirage-2000s France
India’s core defense posture demands that they resolve these issues, one way or another. Sources: India’s Sunday Guardian, “Russians go slow, Sukhoi fleet in trouble”.

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