Procurement: Must Have More Su-30s

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September 19, 2010: Indonesia has decided to buy six more Su-30 jet fighters from Russia. Indonesia already has ten Su-27s and Su-30s, but wants 16 of these modern aircraft so they will have a full squadron. Although expensive, the Russian fighters are modern, and look great. They are also relatively cheap to maintain. Still, to save money, Indonesia has gone to China for help in training pilots to fly its five Su-30s. Russia is not happy with this, and fears that China is going to try and sell its illegal (according to Russia) copies of the Su-27 (the J-11) to countries like Indonesia. Russia has promised litigation if that should happen. China has produced over 120 J-11s so far.

Neighboring Malaysia got rid of its MiG-29s because they are so expensive to maintain. But it's not just Russian aircraft. Last year, Qatar offered to give Indonesia ten Mirage 2000 jet fighters, and Indonesia turned down the gift. The problem was the high maintenance costs of the aircraft. Another problem was that Indonesia would have to establish a maintenance operation just for the Mirages. Currently, Indonesia is switching from American fighters (ten F-16s, and 16 F-5s) to Russian Su-27s and 30s. The Indonesian Air Force budget simply doesn't have the money to deal with just ten Mirage fighters.

The 33 ton Su-30 is similar to the U.S. F-15, but costs over a third less. Developed near the end of the Cold War, the aircraft is one of the best fighters Russia has ever produced. The government helped keep development efforts alive during the 1990s, and even supplied money for development of an improved version of the original Su-27, which was called the Su-30. This proved to be an outstanding aircraft, and is the main model now in production. There are now several Su-30 variants, and major upgrades. While only about 700 Su-27s were produced (mostly between 1984, when it entered service, and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991), Su-30 production is fast approaching 1,000 aircraft (including license built ones in China and India), and will probably get to 2,000, if aircraft made under license in China and India are included.

The Su-30 has not yet been used in combat, and the reputation of Russian aircraft in action is not very good. But the Su-27/30 is designed more like the Western aircraft that have been defeating Russian designs for the last sixty years. In training exercises, the Su-30 has done well, and the aircraft is built to take heavy use during many training flights. In the past, lack of flight time for training was the biggest problem with Russian warplanes.

 

 

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