Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is expected to red-flag serviceability, product support and pending upgrade of India's frontline Su-30 MKI multi-role fighter with President Dmitry Medvedev at the annual summit meeting on Friday in Russia.
Top government sources said that Air Headquarters has urgently requested the Prime Minister to raise the issue of engine serviceability with his Russian counterpart after few incidents of engine failures have occurred in the long range twin-engine fighter. The Su-30 MKI is powered AL-31 FP engine, whose variant also powers the Chinese Su-30 MKK fighter.
While the Indian Air Force is tight-lipped about the issue and would like to play it down, the top brass has conveyed to government that "shaft bearing failures" have occurred in some engines. "In peacetime, the fighter can land on the other engine but this can be a life and death situation in adverse conditions, said a senior official.
Sources said that IAF had conveyed to the Russian manufacturer of Su-30 MKI that it needed to make design changes to prevent any future engine failures. However, the manufacturer raised objections to the lubricants used by the IAF in the Su-30 MKI engine. But after it was proved that the engine was still failing despite the use of oil recommended by the manufacturer, the IAF decide to escalate the matter to the government level. Since it was inducted in 1997, Su-30 MKI has performed well with IAF despite three crashes, none of which have been attributed to engine failures.
The other issue of concern is the pending upgrade for Su-30MKI fighters, which have now been in IAF service for over eight years. While the Air Headquarters wants the manufacturer to upgrade avionics and weapon platforms, the matter is stuck not on technical but on the commercial aspects as the original manufacturer is bargaining hard for better price.