Portugal welcomed some rare birds last week, as four Indian Sukhoi Su-30 Flankers and four Sepecat Jaguars landed at Beja airbase. The fighter jets were accompanied by two Ilyushin Il-78 tanker aircraft and two C-17 Globemasters whole on their long, long way to Alaska for exercise Red Flag.
India is sending the aircraft plus a contingent of 150 personnel to the prestigious military exercise within the framework of military cooperation between New Delhi and Washington. The last time India attended Red Flag was in 2008. Then, only Su-30s were involved and the stage was not Alaska, but Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.
Red Flag features aircraft from the US and other NATO countries and provides an opportunity for the Indian Air Force to train in complex war environments. Aircraft such as the F-22 Raptor and other fighter jet will be involved and thus provide a good experience for Indian Jaguar pilots and Su-30 crews in particular.
The ferry of the aircraft from India to Alaska was a complex operation. The jets and their support aircraft routed via Bahrain, Egypt, France and Portugal, from where they crossed the Atlantic to Canada before finally arriving in Alaksa for Red Flag.
The Russian Ministry of Defense has concluded a new contract with the Irkut aircraft manufacturing corporation for 30 more Sukhoi Su-30SM Flanker C fighter aircraft. The contract was announced on Sunday 3 April.
Deliveries of this latest batch of advanced fighter jets are to be concluded by the end of 2018. Total orders for the Russian Air Force now stand at 90. Meanwhile, the Russian Navy is also eyeing the type.
Over the last few months, Russian Air Force Su-30SM jets also participated in Russian air raids over Syria. The majority of those aircraft was pulled back from Syria in March.
As predicted late last year here at Airheadsfly.com, Belarus is moving to purchase a number of Sukhoi Su-30SM fighter aircraft to replace aging MiG-29 Fulcrums. A preliminary agreement was signed between Belarus and Russia earlier in February.
The pending deal concerns twelve aircraft, with deliveries due to start in 2020. A formal contract has yet to be signed, but that seems a formality as relations between Moscow and Minsk have always been close. Russia operates up to sixty Su-30SM jets.
Belarus recently started operational use of the Yak-130, eight of which were ordered earlier. These aircraft replace obsolete L-29 Delphins.
On paper the Indian Air Force has roughly 700 fighter and strike jets, but in reality slightly only about half are operational raising concern about how effective the military of the 2nd largest population in the world is being protected.
The average aircraft availability measured over the entire year is about 50 to 55 percent, Defence officials have admitted towards the parliamentary committee on defence matters. About 20 percent of those jets are simply grounded because of the lack of spare parts, but Indian Air Force sources say that concerns mostly the older Soviet-era jets like the approx. 120 MiG-21 Bisons, 80 MiG-27 Bahadurs and 130 to 135 SEPECAT Shamshers (Jaguars).
The government watchdog authority also slashed the reputation of the Air Force’s three Ilyushin/Beriev A-50 AWACS aircraft. Lack of trained aircrew, lack of bases to operate from, lack of funds and resources for the aircraft maintenance have seriously hampered the effectiveness of the airborne radar and intelligence gathering platforms.
The Vietnam People’s Air Force’s (QDNDVN) Sukhoi Su-30MK fleet is almost complete. With the delivery of two more of the multi-role fighters just before New Year, only four of 36 ordered Su-30MK2s remain to be delivered.
The final four are expected in two pairs, as with most of the other aircraft they will likely be flown in by AN-124 heavy-lift aircraft from Volga-Dnepr.
Vietnam Su-30 deliveries
Vietnam already had 24 Sukhoi Su-30MK2s when it ordered another dozen in 2013. Early deliveries took place in 2003 (4 aircraft), 2009 (8) and 2010 (12). The Flankers of the 2013 order started to arrive in 2014. Moreover, the Vietnam People’s Air Force flies 12 older Sukhoi Su-27, delivered between 1995 and 1998.
Vietnam Flanker bases
The Sukhoi Su-27SKs, -PUs and -UBKs all fly with the 940th Fighter/Air Training Regiment out of Phù Cát in the middle of the country, while the newer Su-30 operate from Thộ Xuân (Bai Thuong) in the north and Biên Hòa in the south of Vietnam.