NEW DELHI: IAF’s Su-30 fighter plane pilots are focusing on beyond visual range combat and night flying capabilities even as they gear up for the installation of the ‘game changer’ BrahMos missiles, with a strike range of nearly 300 kms, in the aircraft.
They are also looking forward to the plane’s next generation ‘Super 30’ version which will have advanced avionics.
Explaining the concept of the beyond visual range (BVR) fights, senior IAF officials at a forward base close to the border with Pakistan explained that future wars are unlikely to have close combat fights like in wars in 1965 or 1971.
“Nowadays, the fighter jets are very modernised with state-of-the-art radar systems. What matters now is BVR which means that one can engage with the enemy in air without actually seeing him. Once the enemy is locked in, a BVR missile is fired,” Wing Commander Sharad Sharma, who has clocked more than 1000 hours on the Sukhoi, said.
The BVR missiles carried by Sukhoi currently have a range of about 50-70 kms. But what will truly turn the tide is the integration of the supersonic missile BrahMos with the Sukhoi.
Fighter pilots at the base, one of the newest of the Sukhoi, say that the BrahMos will be game changer.
“Imagine, one can fire a missile nearly 300 kms away from the target. Installations across the border can be targeted by our fighter jets without even crossing the border,” a senior pilot explained.
The first test, a dead weight one, of the BrahMos integrated Sukhoi is likely to take place early next month or even this month-end.
The second test will be by firing a dummy missile while the third and fourth stages of testing will be with actual missile, but without the 200 kg warhead to validate the guidance system and accuracy. Two Sukhois will be used for the tests which will be completed in the next one year.
The fourth generation Sukhois were inducted into the Indian Air Force in 2002 and is the frontline fighter aircraft of the country. But the DRDO, HAL (the production agency) and the Sukhoi Design Bureau in Russia are working together on ‘Super 30’ Project.
“The Super 30 Project will make the aircraft a 4.5 generation one. While there won’t be modification to the air frame, the planes will be equipped with next generation radar system, software, integrated touch display and a helmet- mounted display,” IAF officials said.
The Sukhois, which have a range of 3,000 kms without mid-air refueling and over 8000 kms with two refuelings, have a capacity to carry up to 12 missiles, including a combination of air-to-air and air-to-surface. The fighter plane can carry up to 32 bombs also.
The Sukhoi fighter aircraft pilots are carrying out intensive training for night operations.
“In 1962 and 1971 wars, our fighters did not have night flying capability. We feel that future wars may be fought in the skies during night time and hence a lot of focus is being given to night flying. Flying at night is a different game altogether in comparison to day time flying,” they said.