First Sukhoi-30 overhauled at Nashik, highlights HAL’s growing capability - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

Home Top Ad


Thursday 23 October 2014

First Sukhoi-30 overhauled at Nashik, highlights HAL’s growing capability

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 24th Oct 14

Next week, Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), Nashik will, complete the first ever overhaul of a Sukhoi-30MKI fighter. HAL test pilots will now test-fly the aircraft to ensure that it has emerged from the overhaul as good as new. Indian Air Force (IAF) chief, Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha, has been invited to Nashik next month to accept the overhauled fighter back into his combat fleet.

HAL’s new overhaul facility will save the IAF hundreds of crore rupees, while giving leases of life to its Su-30MKIs. Not even Russia overhauls this fighter, a process that involves stripping it to its bare bones, checking every system and sub-system, replacing numerous components, and then reassembling the fighter anew.

A Su-30MKI is overhauled after flying 1,500 hours or 14 years, whichever is first. Over its total service life of 6,000 flying hours or 30-40 years, each fighter undergoes three overhauls. Eventually the IAF’s fleet of 272 Su-30MKIs will undergo 816 overhauls --- three per fighter.

HAL officials say overhauling in India costs far less than what “original equipment manufacturers”, or OEMs, charge --- typically 35-40 per cent of the cost of a brand new fighter.

“OEMs usually price new fighters reasonably, but make their money by charging heavily for repair and overhaul. Establishing overhaul capability in India defeats this pricing strategy,” says Wing Commander Neelu Khatri, a former IAF logistics specialist.

HAL Nashik also stands to benefit from business from other air forces that operate the Su-30. Says a MoD official; “Nashik is the world’s only overhaul facility for the Su-30MKI. Potentially, it could get overhaul orders from countries like Vietnam, Malaysia, Algeria, etc, which fly variants of the Su-30”.

Through years of building the Su-30MKI, HAL Nashik has gradually mastered the expertise that makes it one of the world’s most feared fighters. Says the chief of HAL’s Nashik facility, S Subrahmanyan: “More 51 per cent of the Su-30MKI by value is currently made in India, a little more than the 49 per cent agreed with Russia in the contract signed in 2000 to build 140 fighters in India.

Of the 43,000 components that go into a Su-30MKI, 31,500 components --- or 73 per cent --- are now being built in India.

Further indigenisation is blocked since the Indo-Russian contract mandates that all raw materials that goes into the Su-30MKI --- including 5,800 titanium blocks and forgings, aluminium and steel plates, etc --- must be sourced from Russia. The contract also stipulates that another 7,146 items like nuts, bolts, screws and rivets must be sourced from Russia.

HAL has also partially indigenised the Su-30MKI’s giant AL-31FP engines, which are built in Koraput, Odisha. 53 per cent of the engine by cost has been indigenised, with the remaining 47 per cent consisting of high-tech composites and special alloys --- proprietary secrets that Russia will not part with. Even so, HAL builds 87.7 per cent of the engine’s components in India.

Given HAL, Nashik’s growing expertise, it is surprising that the overhaul facility at Nashik has taken 14 years to overhaul its first fighter. This is because the initial contract, signed in 2000 for building 140 fighters in India, did not include provisions for overhaul --- a mistake, say contract lawyers.

The delay was compounded because Russia itself has no Su-30 overhaul facility (the Russian Air Force did not buy the fighter until well after India). Only in 2008 did New Delhi and Moscow sign an overhaul contract. Until last year, aircraft parts and systems were going to Russia for overhaul.

In 2010, the first IAF Su-30MKI fighters, which had joined the fleet in 2000, were due for overhaul, in accordance with the original schedule, which was 1,500 flying hours or 10 years. Since the fighters had flown far less than 1,500 hours, Sukhoi was approached to extend the time period between overhaul. After numerous inspections and “accelerated aging tests”, Sukhoi revised the overhaul schedule to 1,500 flying hours or 14 years, whichever comes first.

“The MoD has sanctioned an overhaul capacity of 15 fighters per year; next year we will overhaul 10-12 fighters and then stabilize at 15 fighters annually. We have already approached the MoD to step up capacity to 30 fighters per year, which will cater for our requirements into the 2030s” says Subrahmanyan.

Of the thirty Su-30MKIs that will be overhauled each year, HAL will do 20, while an IAF base repair depot will overhaul the other 10. 


  1. Dear Shukla ji,

    Third time mistake of the Air Chief's name does not do your credibility as a serious defence journalist any good. He also happens to be chairman, COSC as well. The correct name is ARUP and not SUBIR. Expecting better standards of Minor and Major SD from an ex Fauji. Regards.

  2. This is a good beginning and as important as having own arms.
    All the imported stuff we buy should have this in the contract, else a huge amont of forex goes out in the 40 year life cycle of such equipment.

  3. May want to check your spelling in the title.


  4. @ Cujo

    Thanks for pointing out. Corrected.

    @ Anonymous 12:53

    Thanks for pointing out. Corrected.

    By the way, it says a lot about you if you believe that the credibility of a "serious defence journalist" comes mainly from getting names right. If that's what you come to this blog for, best that you stop visiting. There will always be some mistakes of this kind when one writes a lot of stuff under pressure.

  5. Ajay

    Is that you who put that guy on mat for "Redcliff" ?? And then it was not spelling but the matter od SD ?? Ha Ha ha ..

    You never ever replied to his SD .. !!

    Amazing standards you have..

    Carry on pal..

  6. i am very happy to learn in detail about the su30 overhaul status. this is one input that should be highlighted about when deciding to NOT buying the costliest fighter, rafale for iaf. just think what would be the overhaul cost of a rafale in france! and if we are so far in indianising a su 30. get them more and use all of this experience for making tejas mark one, two, three...four ! iaf should fly 'made in india' planes, only then it becomes indian air force. jet engine tech, the holy grail, we will master one day.

  7. 20 Su30 will be overhauled by HAL while IAF will overhaul 10 per year at Base Repair Depot of IAF. Is IAF approached by HAL because it cannot handle the load on itself? You, backed by inputs from HAL, were critical about these very base repair depots of IAF ('maintenance empires') which would be doing 1/3 overhaul task of Su 30. By the way serviceability of russian fleets directly supported by base repair depots are better than HAL Ex MiG 29. Pls dont say the side of HAL only. Visit to any Base Repair Depot would be a good eye opener

  8. @ Anonymous 22:09

    Btw, talking of spellings, it's not Ajay, it's Ajai.

    I would suggest that when your writing is limited to posting the occasional comment on someone's blog, get the spelling right.

    Writers who write a lot are inevitably going to get a few things wrong. Stars like you, who twinkle only in their own eyes, will never make a mistake.

    Get out there and achieve something, pal. Then you'll have earned the right to criticise.

    1. Journalist got more precedence over an ex-servicemen so one has every right to make mistakes. Standard of Indian journalism. Chalta hai attitude.

  9. Sir,A well writen article but rightly brought out by one critics that it gives one sided perspective ,that is from HAL side .You could have considered the perspective from the Air force depot angle too before making a final comment.A present that looks to be lacking.

  10. A very well written post Sir. Could you please give any update regarding the Rafale deal.

  11. We need Tejas MK2 and ASAP. Period.

  12. HAL originally proposed to overhaul the annual arisings of 30 aircraft, however,as the project of MiG-29 is coming to an end in 11 BRD at Nasik, IAF wanted to set up parallel line at 11 BRD and decided to take 10 aircraft form the annual task. However, this will be for Airframe (the structure) only. All the aggregates or units will be overhauled by HAL only, including for 10 aircraft of 11 BRD.
    As wrongly commented by one of the friends, MiG-29 was never with HAL. It was directly bought out and overhauled by 11 BRD.
    Also one more correction on information given by Mr Shukla. The Life extension was not done by Sukhoi. I am proud to say that it has been done by HAL indigenously, jointly with RCMA,Nasik and DGAQA, Nasik.

  13. we are proud of HINDUSTAN AERONAUTICS LTD and IAF.Russia has a strong contract management system.Now HAL and MOD has taken series of measures to make contracts strong in our favour. It is expected that future contracts would be better having long term perspective.

  14. broadsword

    is it going to have aesa radar??

  15. Overhaul of first Su 30 is a matter of pride for every Indian . that too, 51% of Indian content in first aircraft itself against a target of 49% . And with time , it is bound to increase thereby making us more self reliant. Sharing of work by HAL with IAF is always a positive factor , in case of breakdown of a critical facility , instead of looking towards OEM , they can very well generate synergy. Also , extension of calendar life is quite a normal phenomenon where we explore the unshared life availability by OEM instead of wasting critical resources by overhauling the aircraft because of calendar life expiry with still flying hours.

  16. Dear Sir,

    Its not correct to say that the initial Contract with the Russian side did not have provision regarding Overhaul of Su-30 aircraft. There is a clause for extension of the overhaul facilities after manufacture in the Contract.
    It also incorrect to say that it took 14 years to create the overhaul facility at Nasik. The overhaul facility should be ready by the time when aircraft completes its flying hours as stipulated. In your blog, the said time period was mentioned as 10 years. Hence where is the question of 14 years ?

    The Contract for overhaul was signed with the Russian side in 2008 keeping in view of this requirement.

    Thank You


  17. Knowledge of technology, manufacturing, and maintenance is very important....

    It really baffles me that the LCA / Tejas I did not experience any crashes, hard landings, etc ...Most probably due to the knowledge...

    We have large number of SU-30MKI, Mig-29UPG, and Mig-29K planes and most of them were developed using our money...

    We do not steal Russian technology like Chinese does...Chinese buy few and then copy/reverse engineer them...

    We are foolish and Russians unwilling to share technology even when we pay for the technology T-90, Smerch, T-90 ammunition, SU-30MKI, Mig-29K, etc

    Russian economy is in a bad position so bargain hard for the technology with a mix of outright payment and joint design and development to improve the Mig-29 and SU-30MKI to get full TOT and MOTs (manufacturing and maintenance)...

    For next project like PAK-FA, go by this rule and if they do not accept just go ahead look elsewhere and develop Tejas I & II and possible AMCA on a war footing...

    It is not worth buying a PAK-FA which may cost $200 million plus without full technology transfer as they too will start falling down...

    Even for Tejas and AMCA we need an engine and that is a difficult one unless we persuade GE to part with full TOTs and MOTs for a price and joint design and development for future...

    Without TOT and MOTs, there will be no knowledge and so they will keep falling...

    Even Rafale which many people, especially IAF wants, will fall just like Mirage-2000, Mig-21/23/27/29, SU-30MKI, etc...GUARANTEED...

    Also, I think IAF Base Depots should only work on minimal maintenance like, tyres, oil changes, broken components, Line replaceable units(LRUs), etc

    HAL with manufacturing technology owns the aircraft knowledge so they should not only do the major overhauls and also thorough testing to get it to the optimum level...

    I think HAL must hire private companies and oversee the overhauls for many of the aircrafts as it will distract it from true mission of Teja I, II and AMCA, FGFA, etc

    Sooner India reforms better it will be for everyone...

    Two part articles does a great service to inform thanks...

  18. R.P.Chakraborty said
    mr Shukla ji,
    The capability of hal as a whole cannot be told in this short spane of blog.It is huge and splendid and proved time and again.The capability of hal nashik in particular is the state of art to manufacture and overhaul of su-30mki and other mig series fighter aircraft.The capability of hal-nashik has made our country much more selfrelient.Both hal personal and iaf personal share their experiences and expertise to create synergy to maintain higher serviceability instead finding faults in eachother.Shuklaji, being a senior journalist,it is unfortunate that your comments are not in line and they do create confusion between the two esteemed organisations.

  19. This will go a long way in making us self reliant and encourage us to move forward in making our own aircraft(s). While doing so, HAL might involve other interested Indian Companies in accomplishing the mission of 'make Indian and buy Indian'; HAL playing the major role in the mission.

  20. HAL is supporting IAF in all air defense activities since long.The new version of engines require skills in manufacturing as well as operating the aircraft.The serviceability can be increased to more than 80% if PBL support can be taken from HAL. Maintenance of fleets in bases is equally important by proper management of spares.HAL can be considered as end to end service provider for IAF.

  21. NSR says ---

    I wrote this article...26 October 2014 07:23

    I think Colnel Shukla should write an in depth article about how to resolve the conflict between IAF and HAL...

    IAF seems to want everything like BAT, IJT, AJT, Mirage, Mig, SU-30, and now Rafale from foreign lands..

    IAF does not understand that they will fall down unless these foreign companies maintains them without any technology, manufacturing,, and maintenance transfer...

    IAF must work with HAL and private companies to maintain their aircrafts and not in Base Depots...BDs are only for minor and immediate servicing...

    I think these type of situations creates huge conflicts of interests and do not forget that HAL has more aircraft and testing knowledge than BDs...

    Navy is doing fine because it is working with companies to do building and maintaining so IAF should do so too...

  22. Many people commenting on article do not appreciate the role of BRDs. IAF is competent in undertaking ovarhaul of airframe, engine and componets of aircraft like the way HAL does. Tasks of many aircraft like MIG 29 , AN 32, Mi8/17 are undertaken soley by IAF in BRDs. IAF prefer BRD because they are more responsive compared to HAL as they are directly under IAF. Further, trade union, over time, local manpower etc are not issues with IAF compared to HAL. Further, if HAL is so competent why could'nt they get order from anyone other than tri-services, esp. IAF. Once again, BRDs in IAF are not for minor repairs, there are separate units to undertake minor repairs and battle damages.

  23. NSR says ---

    @Anonymous ---27 October 2014 20:32

    Thanks for summary on BRDs...

    If that is the case, then IAF owns the responsibility for any crashes that occur...not HAL...

    So my understanding from your narrative is that HAL manufactures and IAF services...

    What happens to all the HAL manufacturing facility and testing equipment?

    Does IAF take all that away from HAL to do the service in BRDs?

    If the service is very responsive, then why do we have such a low fighter availability at any time?

    I think there are some redundancies and disconnections somewhere here which are beyond my imagination...

    Important thing is to test thoroughly so that the fighter won't eject without pilots command...

    It is too sad to see so many lives of pilots lost due to flying coffins and other engine malfunctions...

    Thanks for the response and may be you can educate us on state of fighter repairs and how to improve and save valuable pilot lives...Remember no parents send their kids to die in plane crashes...they send them to defend India...

  24. @ NSR

    Aircraft accidents are not always due to wrong maintenance practices. In fact if we go by statistics in IAF this figure is very less compared to other factors including pilot errors, component failures, bird hits, etc. HAL/maintenance in IAF is not responsible for every crash.

    IAF need IJT, AJT Hawk etc in desperation to hone the training of pilots for smooth conversion to more demanding fighter cockpits. A cause for many accidents is due to the lack of these trainer aircraft due to which pilots are forced to fly complex aircraft without adequate experience

    All aircraft are not manufactured by HAL. like MiG29 were not made by HAL but are overhauled and even mid life upgrade is done directly by IAF in BRD.

    Recent 'Auto-ejection' in Su 30, or other crashes like this is need to be investigated and appropriate conclusion be drawn and remedial actions be taken. there are many instances in past were these are attributed to design flaws which were subsequently rectified. it is too premature to blame anyone ( improper testing) for this accident

    Responsiveness from BRD means the ease of getting spares serviced and overhauled by BRD. Say an aircraft is down for single component units can easily liase with BRD to recover the situation compared to HAL.

  25. No way algeria and vietnam will do overhaul with india especially when its not even Indian avionics packages


  26. @ Anonymous - 28 October 2014 23:09

    NSR says ---
    Thank you for your detailed explanation...I am finally getting some facts from you...I read too many articles damning the HAL and IAF-BRD for their poor service of Mig-21/23/27/29 and now SU-30MKI...They praise Mirag-2000 availability so I wondered...

    Is there anything IAF /HAL /MoD/Russians can do to make the servicing easy by establishing some standard operating procedures and cooperation standards...

    These fighters are so important to the national security so something must be done for the good of country...


Recent Posts

Page 1 of 10412345...104Next >>Last