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India’s HAL pitches 3 squadrons of cut-price Su-30 jets to carry BrahMos cruise missile

Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd is offering to build three squadrons of new Sukhoi Su-30 fighter jets for the Indian Air Force specifically to carry the BrahMos cruise missile at one-third of the cost of French Rafale aircraft, according to a Business Standard report on Tuesday.

“We are required to modify 40-odd Su-30s to carry the BrahMos ALCM,” HAL Chairman T Suvarna Raju said.

“Instead of upgrading older fighters, with a shorter residual lifespan, it would be better to build three more squadrons of Sukhois with the capability to carry BrahMos missiles,” he continued. “We will offer a very competitive price. Since 2010, we have been delivering the Su-30 at Rs 4.25 billion. We can deliver another three squadrons at that same price.”

HAL is currently building the remaining 23 Su-30s of the 272 it was contracted to manufacture.

The BrahMos is a supersonic medium-range ramjet-powered cruise missile that can be launched from sea, land and air. It is manufactured in Hyderabad by BrahMos Aerospace, a joint venture between India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation and Russia’s NPO Mashinostroeyenia.

The missile was successfully test-fired from an Indian Air Force Sukhoi-30 MKI fighter jet in November, and a BrahMos fitted with an Indian-made seeker was successfully flight-tested in March. Extended-range and hypersonic variants are in development.

The air-launched BrahMos variant is reduced in size, but carrying the 2,560 kg (5,640 lb) missile requires the Su-30s airframe to be reinforced.

According to Business Standard, the 4.25 billion rupee ($63 million) per-airframe price-tag is around a third of what the Indian Air Force is paying for new French Rafales, which cost India around Rs 11.25 billion ($165 million) per jet.

The IAF is set to take delivery of the first of the 36 Dassault Rafales on order in 2019, and pilot and maintainer training is already underway.

However, keeping down the cost of the new Su-30s would mean buying ready-to-build kits from Russia and assembling them in India.

“HAL has already absorbed the technology for building and supporting the Su-30s. Now, the aim is to build those three new squadrons as quickly, and as cheaply, as possible,” Raju said.

According to Business Standard, Indian Defence Ministry sources view the proposal favourably.

India seeking 110 new combat aircraft

In April, India released a request for information for the purchase of 110 new combat aircraft, with a closing date of July 6.

The RFI says 75 percent of the aircraft to be single seat and the remainder to be two-seat variants. It says only 15 percent of the aircraft will be purchased in a flyaway state and the remaining 85 percent must be made in India by a Strategic Partner or Indian Production Agency.

The flyaway aircraft are to be delivered within 36 months, and those built in India are to be delivered within five to 12 years.

Both single- and twin-engine aircraft will be considered.

The deal is estimated to be worth over $15 billion to $20 billion. Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Saab, Dassault, the Eurofighter consortium, and Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation are expected to compete for the contract.

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