Brief history of Sukhoi Su-30MKI aircraft & its scale models

It's been said that all the different variants of the Su-30, flown by the Indian Air Force, have now been upgraded & standardised to the latest MKI variant.

BHPian Foxbat recently shared this with other enthusiasts.

The Government of India, in the mid-90s, signed an agreement with the Russians to acquire 40 aircrafts of the Flanker series, that would be customized to Indian requirements. It involved integrating French, Israeli & Indian weapon systems & avionics onto the Russian airframe. The eventual outcome of this customization is identified as the Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighter aircraft. However, since the agreement essentially stipulated virtually developing a new aircraft, with capabilities unmatched by legacy offerings, the time taken for their deliveries to commence too would be large. Hence, in order to fast-track aircraft induction, as an interim measure, it was agreed that Russia would supply India with a baseline MK-series of the Su-30, i.e., Sukhoi Su-30MK.

Even the supply of Su-30 MK was to be distributed into 3 batches, each with increasing capabilities & non-Russian systems integrated. Thus, as per the original plan, the MK-series of aircraft, to be inducted by the Indian Air Force [IAF] were to be designated as:

  • Sukhoi Su-30MK-1
  • Sukhoi Su-30MK-2
  • Sukhoi Su-30MK-3

The batch of aircrafts following MK-3, to be delivered as part of the 40 aircraft deal, would be a fully developed MKI variant. Upon completion of the MKI development programme, all the previously delivered aircrafts were to be subsequently upgraded to the MKI standards. However, upon delivery of the Su-30MK-1 batch, delays in delivering the subsequent aircrafts prompted a decision to induct all following aircrafts in their complete MKI-form, thereby skipping MK-2 & 3.

10 aircrafts meant for delivery to Indonesia were also diverted to India as part of a separate agreement signed between India & Russia in the latter half of the 90s. This is because the Indonesians were unable to make the necessary payment prior to the receipt of the fighters. These aircrafts, originally destined for Indonesia, were designated as the Sukhoi Su-30K aircraft.

The first production Sukhoi Su-30MKI aircraft arrived in India in 2002. In the meanwhile, India also signed another agreement with Russia to begin license production of the aircraft within India, manufacturing around 140 of them. It has been said that all the different variants of the Su-30, flown by the Indian Air Force have now been upgraded & standardised to the latest MKI variant.

The most visible outward difference between the MKI-variant aircraft & the earlier Su-30s inducted is the addition of canards in the MKI, something that is not present in the others.

The first deliveries of Su-30MK-1s arrived in kits at Lohegoan AFB in March 1997, where they were assembled and were formally inducted into the No.24 Squadron on 11 June 1997 by the then-incumbent Prime Minister, Inder Kumar Gujral.

1:48 Indian Air Force Su-30MK-1 SB-006 of No. 24 Squadron (Hawks) based in Lohegaon, AFS.

The kit was made in China and the IAF decals were made in Russia more than a decade ago, luckily was able to find an unsold copy from a seller in Serbia who charged me a princely sum.

The aircraft is carrying 6 R-27ET and R-27ER missiles and 4 R-73 on the outer rails. All the missiles are training rounds as indicated by the black stripes. The first MK-1s were used extensively for training pilots on the new aircraft.

 1:48 Indian Air Force Su-30MK-1 and 1:1 US Navy Essex-class aircraft carrier (USS Intrepid) in the background.

The real SB-006 and other MK-1s.

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