Note:- The last official statement regarding the operational availability of Sukhoi 30MKI from the government was given in the 2014 CAG report.
India is on the Brink of war due to the situation at LAC which is very complex, and LOC never seems to learn and remains a burning topic always. The 2 front war which was told by experts a decade ago, seems just a step or a wrong decision away. The Air-force is a very important aspect in this scenario and with the fleet of currently around 620 fighters(31 Squadrons), out of which Backbone of IAF, 272 Sukhoi-30 MKI are really strategically important. But if called today(now) IAF’s 143 Fighters will be available. Well, that’s worth thinking…
Why 143 Only? What About Others?
Well, this is the sad reality which is needed to be thrown upon a light. We all know that what are some problems with IAF. First is fewer squadrons for 2 front war i.e. 31 as of now against sanctioned 42. Vintage aircraft (Mig-21, Jaguar) and good aircraft but less in numbers (Tejas and Rafale). Now between this reality, if said 143 Sukhoi-30MKI are available then it would really send a chill upon the spine.
The figure is arrived by a factor called Operational Availability or Combat Readiness. Here the number arrives by the simple calculations itself. In total, the Order of 272 Sukhoi-30 was placed by IAF, out of which 12 were crashed to date. All the Sukhoi-30 have been manufactured by HAL before March 2020 and delivered to IAF.
Now here, 272- 12 (Crashed) = 260 Aircraft. So we will think that yes, we have 260, but here comes the factor, according to this factor (and of course the reputation in the maintenance of Su-30 MKI a totally separate article can be made on it) the number of aircraft are in MRO. Here, MRO means Maintenace, Repair, and Overhaul. Maintenance is a short time(just checking the aircraft), repair means fixing of the damaged part and overhaul means major maintenance(changing airframe part or engine).
According to reports from CAG in 2014 page 62, it was presented that the Sukhoi-30 is having operational availably of almost 55%. Well, this might be an old figure, but look either way more aircraft added earlier could be in MRO. The government signed a deal with Russia as well to bring this percentage to 75%.
The main reason is the unavailability of spares, as many major components (Including Engine and sometimes even screws) still arrive from Russian OEMs and it nearly takes months and sometimes a whole year to arrive. And there are trust issues by Russia to do a ToT of these Components to Indian Private Sectors.
But to date, as per many defense analysts and thinkers, the rate might be still around 55-60% (which is very less than western aircraft which has generally at 80% or more) Now taking the factor into account 260 * 0.55(taking lower one in account) = 143 Aircraft. Now, the cost of each aircraft is around 450 crores (CAG report and HAL sources) so the asset of 52,650 Crores will be non-operational. This also means that 117 aircraft will be AOG (Aircraft on Ground).
Several steps are taken as per many reports and deals from 2014, HAL tried for a 5-year contract (in 2014) for this on basis of data of last 5 years data of MRO and made up the inventory for the same(Known as performance-based logistics). Where the current phase of the contract stands is yet unknown.
Now here I am just talking about the Sukhoi-30 MKI, now think about the older MIG-21, Jaguar, and Mirage-2000 which are also having issues with spares and this directly looks to its operational readiness. As of now for Rafale, the deal is such that in a clause the Rafale has been 75% operational readiness and if not done then Dassult Systems might face the penalty for it. The same is not with the HAL.
The government and IAF might have improved Sukhoi-30 MKI availability, as there is no latest report of CAG in recent times for this. The percentage arrived by the defense analyst and some other sources as well. Now, if it is correct (high chances are there it is) then this is very alarming as 2 front war is really a step ahead only.
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