Attrition: Make It Work, Do It Fast, Or Else

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December 29, 2011: India is pressuring Russia to do something about component failures in the Russian designed AL-31 engines that power the Indian Su-30MKI jet fighters. There have been several AL-31 failures lately, both in Indian and Russian Su-30s.

There are currently two Russian engines being built for fighter aircraft. The $3.5 million AL-31 (for the Su-27/30, and the Chinese J-11, and J-10) and the $2.5 million RD-33/93 for the MiG-29 and the Chinese JF-17 (a F-16 type aircraft developed in cooperation with Pakistan). India already assembles the AL-31 engine for the Su-30 and simpler engines for the older MiG-21 and MiG-27. The assembly process is exacting and India has created thousands of technicians and engineers with valuable experience working on these engines.

So far, India has not been able to develop the technology to manufacture core components (that deal with very high pressures and temperatures) and buys these components from Russia. It is some of these components that are failing and India is telling the Russians that the problem must be fixed, soon, or Russia will lose more weapons export sales.

India also does maintenance on all the engines it builds, but really wants to manufacture and assemble the most modern engines completely within India. Russia has been reluctant to export the high-end technology needed to manufacture key jet engine components. Indian personnel maintaining the AL-31 engines have made it clear that there is a growing component quality problem. It's gotten so bad that the Indian prime minister raised the issue during a visit to Russia. A related issue was the exorbitant prices Russia is demanding for upgrades to the Su-30. Indian engineers have enough experience with aircraft, and the Su-30, to know they are being gouged by the Russians. Moreover, as part of the sales contract, India is not allowed to get upgrades elsewhere without permission from the Russian manufacturer.

 

 


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