India can’t replace R-77 without Russian support

India can’t replace R-77 without Russian support

Sat, 06/01/2019 - 09:55
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 By Rohit Srivastava

Recently, a news piece on NDTV's website suggests that the Indian Air Force (IAF) is planning to procure a longer range non-Russia air-to-air missile for its Su-30 fleet. The report claims that post-Balakot strike India is planning to procure Israel made I-Derby ER, an air-to-air missile with 100 km range. This is 20 km more than the range of R-77, a Russian medium-range air-to-air missile which is part of Indian Su-30 MKI arsenal. 

During the dog fight of February 27, IAF did not use R-77 but R-73 which successfully brought down Pakistan Air Force (PAF) F-16. PAF fired AIM-120C-5 an American air-to-air missile with 100 km range which could not hit any Indian fighters. Still, the whole idea of installing an Israeli (or any other) missile on Russian Su-30 seems controversial and hardly plausible.

First, if this really were the plan it would require consent from Moscow. Otherwise, it is not within the legal framework of the Su-30MKI contract signed by the two sides in the year 2000. It would be surprising if the IAF would take such a controversial step for no good reason.

Secondly, the technical support of the Russian aircraft manufacturer, the Sukhoi Design Bureau (SDB) would be inalienably required. Otherwise, who will guarantee the jet’s smooth operation after the installation of a new missile? Fighter aircraft are a sensitive system, if not done properly; even a minor upgrade can interfere with the jet’s control and navigation systems. This is the last thing that any air force can accept.

Thirdly, some of the pieces of equipment on the Su-30 MKI are very sensitive and were transferred to India under the co-producer license. These require special documentation before each maintenance cycle. Providing these documents to any third party, which is inevitable if a non-Russian missile is installed, without Russian approval would be a recipe for a political scandal.


Given the above, it is very unlikely that the IAF will give green light to a longer-range missile installation without notifying Moscow. Official sources on the basis of anonymity confirmed to IDI that no discussions were held on this matter between India and Russia during the current Intergovernmental Commission on Military-Technical Cooperation’s subgroup meet in Russia which finished this Friday.

Moreover, in case India did voice its requirement for a longer-range missile for Su-30 MKI to Russia, then it would be logical for Russia to offer its extended/longer range missiles first. This makes more sense as India is planning to upgrade its Su-30MKI fleet in the near future.

Su-30 pic by Karthik