The Indian Air Force (IAF) plans to raise four more Su-30MKI fighter squadrons in the near future, as it prepares to induct the tenth unit of the aircraft in Punjab along the Pakistan border. No 220 Squadron ‘Desert Tigers’ is the first Su-30MKI squadron deployed in the Western Air Command (WAC) at Halwara Air Force Station in Punjab. By December 2012 the IAF plans to commission the tenth Su-30MKI unit – No 15 Squadron ‘Flying Lancers’ also to be based in Punjab, Air Chief Marshal N A K Browne said the new unit is expected to become operational in the middle of next 2013. In addition to the new squadron established in the northeast, four additional squadrons will deploy in the near future bringing the total force to 13-14 squadrons. Two new squadrons will deploy in India’s eastern sector, bringing the total count to four squadrons, two additional squadrons will deploy to the south and an additional unit will be stationed in the Punjab. Browne added.
India and Russia are expected to sign a new $3.5-billion deal for the procurement of 40 additional SU-30MKI fighter aircraft, of the Super Sukhoi upgraded configuration. With the delay in the fielding of MMRCA (of which a contract has yet to be signed), the Su-30 MKI fleet will reach a total strength of 270 aircraft by 2014-2015, making it the mainstay of the Indian air force. India ordered the first 90 Su-30MKI from Russia in 1996 and 2007. License for the local production of 140 planes by Hindustan Aaronautics Industries (HAL) was obtained in December 2000. This production, in several batches, is scheduled for completion by 2017. The agreement for the procurement of 42 upgraded Su-30s was reached last year. These aircraft will have a new cockpit, advanced radar and certain stealth features. It will also be better equipped as a multi-role strike fighter, becoming the first aerial platform to be capable of carrying the Brahmos cruise missile. With the first delivery expected in 2014-15, the SU-30MKI will become IAF’s leading fighter aircraft.