The IAF is promoting the upgrade of its fleet of Su-30 MKI fighter aircraft with an advanced radar system called “Virupaksha,” strengthening its defensive capabilities.
The Indian Air Force (IAF) is in the process of upgrading its Su-30 MKI fighter jets, mostly of Russian origin, by implementing an innovative indigenously manufactured radar system known as “Virupaksha”. This improvement is part of a broader initiative aimed at modernizing and enhancing the efficiency of its air fleet.
The Su-30MKI upgrade project involves an investment exceeding 65,000 million rupees [7.8 million dollars], destined to indigenize 84 combat aircraft. This process includes installing cutting-edge radar systems and locally produced weapons technologies.
Defense experts highlight the “Virupaksha” radar as a cutting-edge technological development conceived and carried out in the national territory. This system is celebrated as an important milestone in indigenizing the country’s military apparatus. It is interesting to note that the name “Virupaksha” refers to an aspect of the Hindu god “Mahadeva” [or Maha Dev], a figure of great devotion in the global Hindu community.
Previously, the IAF had replaced the Israeli LCA Tejas Mark 1A radar with the national “Uttam Actors Electronically Scanned Array” system and the “Angad” electronic warfare suite.
The Su-30 is considered the central axis of the FAI, with around 260 units in service. These jets, accounting for almost half of the IAF’s fighters, have been integrated in different phases.
The Su-30MKI renewal initiative is also seen as a window for future exports. Various countries in Southeast Asia and Africa that operate with the Su-30 model could find in these upgrades an opportunity to expand the capabilities of their respective air forces.
India, one of the primary operators of the Su-30MKI, has continuously strived to enrich these aircraft with renewed capabilities.
The “Virupaksha” is a cutting-edge radar conceived by India’s Defense Research and Development Organization [DRDO]. Its main function is wide-spectrum surveillance and identification of aerial targets.
This radar system owes its name to “Virupaksha,” the Hindu deity known as the omniscient observer, reflecting its ability to provide a complete understanding of the tactical landscape.
The “Virupaksha” works at the S-band frequency, facilitating the detection and tracking of multiple targets, from airplanes and helicopters to drones and ballistic missiles.
Its phased array technology allows it to probe large areas quickly, providing accurate and up-to-date data on identified targets.
Noted for its accuracy, the Virupaksha radar plays a crucial role in stealth aircraft identification and air defense, offering vital strategic capabilities.
The Virupaksha radar is distinguished by its exceptional resolution and accuracy. This advanced system has the ability to identify and track targets with an extremely low radar cross-section, making it highly effective against fighter aircraft with stealth technologies. Additionally, its high refresh rate ensures accurate, real-time data on the position, speed and altitude of any aerial target.
Although the exact operational range of the Virupaksha is kept secret, it is known to reach several hundred kilometers. Its versatility allows it to be deployed in a variety of environments, from coastal areas to mountainous terrain, providing flexibility in various operational contexts.
Beyond military defense, the Virupaksha integrates efficiently into broader air defense networks, providing crucial information for surveillance and missile defense systems. Its usefulness extends to civil air traffic control, which contributes to air operations’ safety and efficiency.
Shiva, revered as Mahadeva [Virupaksha], is prominent in Hinduism, especially within Shaivism. He represents both benign and fearsome qualities. He is portrayed as a wise ascetic on Mount Kailash and as a familiar being with his wife Parvati, and his sons, Ganesha and Kartikeya. Contrarily, his fierce side shows the power of his defeating demons. As Adiyogi, Shiva is the central divinity in spiritual and artistic practices.
In terms of military aviation, the Indian Su-30MKI and the Russian Su-30 have fundamental similarities, but there are significant differences. The Su-30MKI has been customized to meet the specific requirements of the Indian Air Force, including advanced avionics and proprietary electronic warfare systems.
A key distinction between the variants is the radar system. The Su-30MKI is equipped with the N011M Bars radar, capable of tracking multiple targets concurrently, placing it ahead of its Russian counterpart equipped with the N001VEP radar. This feature provides substantial tactical advantages in air-to-air and air-to-ground missions.
In terms of propulsion, the Su-30MKI has a unique engine configuration. Unlike the Russian Su-30 with AL-31FP engines, the Indian version uses both imported AL-31FP engines and those manufactured locally by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). This strategy strengthens logistics and ensures an uninterrupted supply of engines for the Indian Air Force.