The Russian defense industry will upgrade a number of the Su-30SM’s onboard systems to be standardized with those of the Su-35.
Speaking to journalists on February 26, 2019, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov said the upgrade includes “changing the layout of the onboard radio-electronic equipment to make the Su-35 and the Su-30SM more standardized and thus cut the cost price, and standardizing the airborne weapon systems.”
The improvements to the Su-30SM “may breathe a new life into the plane,” he added.
The upgrade program for the Su-30SM has been discussed before, though some of the specifics have not been provided. In September 2018, TASS reported that the aircraft’s AL-31FP engines would be replaced with the more upgraded AL-41F-1S engines, which are standard on the Su-35. The added power from the new engines will allow the Su-30SM to be equipped with more advanced onboard equipment and armament. The Su-30SM is to receive longer-range missiles under the upgrade effort.
Russia aims to have testing of the upgraded Su-30SMs completed by the end of 2019.
Besides updating its own Su-30SMs, Russia will also market the modernization package to foreign customers. India, in particular, is seen as a key potential customer, given the fact that the country operates around 200 Su-30MKIs, the base model of the Su-30SM. Deputy Prime Minister Borisov noted that “an opportunity will probably open for modernizing this fleet to prolong its service life,” though he did not indicate whether Russian officials are actively engaged in dialogue with their Indian counterparts over the matter.
The volume of orders under Russia’s defense armaments program is expected to decline moving forward, as Russia has introduced a range of modernized systems into service. As a result, the deputy prime minister emphasized that the defense industry should shift its focus toward providing life-cycle maintenance and upgrades, along with boosting the share of civil products produced by the defense firms.