By Anantha Krishnan M
Express News Serrvice
Bangalore: The made-in-India Sukhoi (Su-30MKI) is up and flying. Amidst the Diwali light and sound show around, the Ozar air base in Nasik witnessed a silent, yet stellar affair. The desi Sukhoi, a 4.5 generation fighter, took to the skies for the first time and performed a 55-minute supersonic ballet. Also flying high was the swadeshi pride considering that this was the first aircraft manufactured from a complete raw material phase. The striking feature was the pilots pulling 9g at the first attempt itself, a strong pointer towards its structural integrity.
Indian Air Force (IAF) sources confirmed to Express that the Sukhoi was piloted by Wg Cdr S C Sharma with co-pilot Wg Cdr S S Mallick in the rear. The Aircraft Manufacturing Division of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), Nasik, produced this metal bird with close to 28,000 parts and using 1,20,000 tools.
“This flight was undertaken with full confidence in the technical prowess and expertise of HAL. It went smoothly as planned without any hitch. The aircraft handled beautifully and all the systems behaved as required. We cloaked an excellent flight,” the pilots were quoted by sources, from their debrief session, soon after the touch-down.
HAL has so far delivered 99 Sukhois to the IAF, out of a total order of 180 aircraft, produced under licence from Russia at an approximate cost of Rs 250-300 crore each. The raw material phase Sukhoi is the first from Phase-IV of the project. The avionics and accessories have come from HAL’s Lucknow, Hyderabad and Korwa Divisions, while the engine was produced at the Koraput Division.
“As per the original compressed programme, they (HAL) will have to complete the deliveries by 2014-15. It is unlikely that this deadline will be met now and we expect a delay of three years,” IAF sources said. Express has learnt that the delay in design and development phase of Sukhoi in Russia impacted the receipt of technology and tooling in India. In addition, HAL too had issues in absorbing new technologies and setting up of capital infrastructure.
The Sukhoi’s powerplant (AL31FP) -- a technology marvel by itself -– is specially modified with vector thrust jet nozzle (for high flexibility and maneuverability of the aircraft). It has modular construction ensuring higher technological characteristics of assembly, operation and flexibility at the IAF bases.
The icing on the cake of this India shining story is that 90 per cent of engineers, designers, technicians and managers part of this homegrown project are youngsters in the average age group of 25 to 40 years. The IAF pilots will now test-fly all the profiles before the final acceptance of the aircraft.
(Copyright@The New Indian Express)