As India continues to consider options for the acquisition of a next generation fighter jet from Russia – seeking to provide its Air Force with a new heavyweight high performance combat jet to counter the fast growing capabilities of its neighbours – Russian Trade and Industry Minister Denis Manturov has reiterated that a contract for joint manufacture of such an aircraft incorporating Indian defence technologies remains possible.
Russia is marketing a number of high end combat jets to India, and alongside continued sales of MiG-29 and Su-30MKI fighters the country is also expected to purchase the Yak-130 fighter-trainer and the MiG-35 next generation medium fighter in the near future.
An offer to upgrade Indian Su-30 fighters to a ‘4++ generation’ standard is also under consideration – under which the jets would integrate new AL-41 thrust vectoring engines, Irbis-E radars and possibly R-37M hypersonic long range air to air missiles.
India has shown a strong interest in Russia’s Su-57 next generation heavyweight fighter, although with the aircraft having yet to enter service in the Russian Air Force itself Delhi is likely waiting to assess its performance before committing to a purchase. The possibly remains that India will purchase an initial batch of ‘off the shelf’ Su-57 jets from Russia to evaluate their capabilities – before entering into a contract for joint production.
This would be consistent with its acquisition strategy for the Su-30 – as before joint manufacturing of the Su-30MKI India purchased and evaluated the Su-30K from Russia. The capabilities of the jointly manufactured Su-30MKI variant were far superior to the Su-30K, but operating the jet familiarised the Indian Air Force with the airframe and its performance limitations – much as a Su-57 could do to precede a joint next generation program.
It is also possible that India intends to purchase more sophisticated future variants of the Su-57, likely to be dubbed ‘Su-60’ or something similar, once these become available – and possibly in a twin seat configuration which its Air Force has long favoured.
With next generation technologies from Saturn 30 engines to new hypersonic missiles and artificial intelligence systems being developed near continuously for the Su-57 program, such high end derivatives are likely to begin to emerge around the mid 2020s.