Far Sight

Indigenously Developed IRST for IAF SU-30 MKI Fleet

A FORCE Report

The Indian Air Force (IAF) will soon have access to an indigenously developed Infra-Red Search and Track System (IRST) for its Sukhoi SU-30 MKI fleet to replace the aircraft’s Russian origin IRST. The SU-30 MKI is built under license in India by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) at its Nashik factory. HAL and Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) have now entered into a co-development and co-production contract for manufacture of a new Long Range Dual Band IRST for the IAF’s SU-30 MKI fleet. Both government-owned entities have entered into the contract under the MAKE-II Defence Acquisition Procedure (DAP) 2020. The procurement quantity is for at least 100 IRSTs.

Indigenously developed IRST soon to be co-developed by HAL-BEL

As is typical with Indian defence procurement, even an upgraded sub-system to be fitted on an aircraft that has been license produced in India for over a decade, has taken more than four years to fructify into a contract award. It was in May 2018, that the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), chaired by then Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, accorded its approval for the design and development of a Long Range Dual Band IRST for the IAF’s SU-30 MKI fleet under the ‘Make II’ sub category. As per the original timeline for induction, the IRST was to have been ready for induction between 2018-2021.

At present no public details have been made as to when the new IRST’s will be available for integration on IAF SU-30 MKI aircraft and how long the retrofit on existing aircraft will take. As we are already in 2022, it would not be unreasonable to assume a two to three year design, development and certification cycle followed by a squadron’s worth of aircraft being upgraded every year, post 2025. It is also unknown as of now as to whether the severe Western sanctions on Russia will impinge on the upgrade effort in India.

According to an HAL release, the IRST system will be a high end strategic technology product in the field of defence avionics and technically competitive to existing IRST system in the global market with features of Television Day Camera, Infrared & LASER sensors in single window for air to air and air to ground target tracking and localization.’

As per the broad specifications/ Preliminary Staff Qualitative Requirements (PSQR) laid out by the air force, the new IRST being developed would be able to perform long range IR detection in a large Field of View (FoV) and be able to display super narrow Infra Red (IR) and Electro Optical (EO) FoV images to the pilot associated with an automatic tracking of Air-Air and Air-Ground targets. The IRST was also to support 3D localization by an eye-safe Laser Range Finder.

HAL has produced 222 Su-30MKI aircraft under license from the Sukhoi Design Bureau of Russia. The company received a total of three contracts for manufacture of the SU-30 MKI in India—140 aircraft (December 2000), 40 (March 2007) and 42 (December 2012). HAL delivered the first SU-30 MKI produced under license to the IAF in November 2004. With production of these aircraft now completed, HAL is waiting for a final order of 12 aircraft.



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