According to New Delhi Television Limited Indian Air Force is planning to equip its frontline Sukhoi-30 fighters jet with Israeli Derby air-to-air missiles after the Russian-made R-77 missiles were found wanting in air combat operations over the Line of Control on February 27 this year.
Retaliating to the IAF strike in Balakot on February 26, the Pakistan Air Force aggressively positioned a large formation of 24 fighters near the Line of Control (LoC). A handful of these jets managed to cross the LoC to fire precision-guided glide bombs towards Indian military positions in the Rajouri sector.
Eight Indian Air Force fighters, including two Sukhoi-30 MKI jets, were vectored to intercept the Pakistani formation when they detected the launch of several US-made AIM-120 C5 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM) in their direction.
”The PAF surprised the IAF by launching air-to-air missiles from inside Pakistan-occupied Kashmir,” says Sameer Joshi, a Kargil veteran. ”The AMRAAM effectively outranged the IAF air-to-air missiles which did not get a command to launch,” he said.
Among the Indian Air Force’s fighters which were targeted were two Sukhoi-30s which managed to evade the AMRAAMs which were fired at close to their maximum range of 100 kilometres.
Fully defensive and desperate to escape the incoming AMRAAMs, the IAF Sukhoi-30s escaped being shot down but were unable to retaliate the F-16s because they were out of position and their own missiles, the Russian R-77s, did not have the range to realistically engage the Pakistani fighters.
IAF sources told NDTV that the Russian missiles do not match its advertised range and cannot engage targets which are more than 80 kilometres away.
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To meet its requirements, the IAF is looking at the I-Derby variant of the Israeli missile which was unveiled at the Paris Air Show in 2015.
Integrating the missile into the Russian fighter will be a challenge and, according to sources, will require Israeli expertise, particularly in developing a data-link between the Sukhoi-30 and the missile, once it is fired.
A fighter jet communicates with the missile through the data link and passes on updated vectors (location) of the fighter which has been targeted.
The Derby is also a component of the IAF’s SPYDER surface-to-air missile batteries, and are considered several generations ahead of the legacy Russian systems which it has replaced.
Sources in the Indian Air Force told NDTV, “We already have the missile as part of the SPYDER (Surface-to-Air Missile) system. Integration (with the IAF’s Su-30s) is the next step.”
The I-Derby isn’t the only missile the air force is looking at to modernise its Sukhoi-30 fleet. The European MBDA manufactured Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missile (ASRAAM), the first of which were acquired for the air force’s Jaguar fleet in 2014 as part of a 250 million pound deal, has been tested in wind tunnels on models of the Su-30 by the National Aerospace Laboratories in Bengaluru.
on 26 February 2019 India Airforce conducted a Balakot airstrike. Indian warplanes crossed the de facto border in the disputed region of Kashmir and dropped bombs in the vicinity of the town of Balakot in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in Pakistan.
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The following day, on February 27 Pakistan Airforce retaliated and conducted Operation Swift Retort causing an Indian warplane to be shot down and it’s pilot to be taken prisoner by the Pakistan military before being returned on March 1.
Pakistan claims that on February 27 PAF shot down two Indian Airforce fighter jets (1 MiG-21 and Su-30MKI). Squadron Leader Hassan Siddiqui Shot down Indian Air Force MiG-21 bison piloted by wing-commander Abhinandan Varthaman and Wing Commander Nauman Ali Khan shot down Indian Air Force SU-30MKI