IAF to begin Super Sukhoi upgrade: A game-changer in air warfare

According to the Economic Times, the upgradation process of the Indian air force’s Sukhoi (Su30MKI) fleet is set to begin this year. The Rs 60,000-crore project will be executed with support from DRDO, HAL, and many private sector companies.

While the IAF is looking to upgrade the entire Su30MKI fleet, comprising around 260 jets, 84 jets will be upgraded in the first batch.

The upgrade process will be done in two phases, with the first involving the integration of radars, avionics, and sensors, and the second phase focusing on flight control systems. Additionally, state-of-the-art indigenous weapons will be integrated into the fleet.

According to the ET, work on integrating the systems into aircraft is set to begin this year, and the upgrade aims to replace most Russian components with indigenous ones.

Last year, the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) cleared the upgrade of Su30 jets. Additionally, a proposal was approved to acquire 12 additional Su30MKI jets, which will be manufactured with more than 50 per cent indigenous content.

Super Sukhoi upgrade

Virupaksha Gan AESA radar

The most important component of the Super Sukhoi upgrade is the Virupaksha AESA radar being developed by DRDO using Gallium Nitride-based technology.

While Su30 jets are equipped with 400 range Bars PESA radars, these PESA technology may not be relevant in this decade as they can be jammed by advanced jammers.Many countries are switching to AESA for better detection and tracking, including advanced jets like Rafale, Typhoon, and Gripen along with 5th generation jets.

Furthermore, US defense giant is also testing a GaN-based AESA for the Super Hornet, and Swedish Saab for Gripen, offering more range and stealth target detection.

Also read: 15000 Nepalis in Russian Army indicating a potential threat to India?

Virupaksha radar, with its cutting-edge GaN technology, will enhance the Su30 jets’ detection and tracking capabilities significantly.

Dual Band IRST

In 2022, HAL and BEL signed an MOU to co-develop a long-range dual-band Infrared Search and Track system (IRST) for the Super Sukhoi project.

While the Su30MKI’s current IRST relies solely on thermal signatures for detection, the Dual-band IRST will incorporate TV day cameras, infrared, and laser sensors to enable precision targeting of aerial and ground targets. Notably, Rafale features separate IR and visible sensors on the nose, while the Eurofighter Typhoon integrates both sensors into a unified system. The Indian IRST will adopt a configuration similar to Typhoon’s Pirate system.

DR118 and ASPJ

DRDO has developed the DR118, a new generation digital radar warning receiver designed for long-range detection and classification of radar threats from both air and ground for IAF jets. Six sensors integrated into the aircraft airframe provide 360-degree coverage against threats.

Additionally, DRDO has developed the Gallium Nitride-based Advanced Self-Protection Jammer (ASPJ) pod. This pod is designed to jam radar signals using data from radar warning receivers, providing cover for fighter jets from enemy detection.

Also read: Expanding force multipliers: IAF set to acquire 15 AWACS, spy planes and tankers

In the second phase, the Su30 fleet will undergo upgrades with advanced cockpits aimed at improving pilot awareness and flight control systems to enhance the fighter jets’ stability for safer flight.

DRDO’s state-of-the-art weapons, including the Astra series missiles, Rudram series missiles, glide bombs, and BrahMos NG, will enhance the Su30 fleet’s air-to-air and air-to-ground strike capabilities.


With several countries, including Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Algeria, already operating Su30 jets, the IAF’s Super Sukhoi upgrade package holds strong potential for export to other nations as well.

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About Vinay Sadham


The writer is a defence enthusiast and content creator with over 8 years of experience. He runs a YouTube channel called Telugu Defence News. He can be contacted at [email protected]