Negotiations with India to supply Su-27 type fighters started in 1994. The Design Bureau commenced work to develop a Su-30-based plane for India's Air Force in 1995. A.F. Barkovsky was appointed chief designer of the project. On 30th November 1996 an intergovernmental agreement was made for phased development and delivery to India of 8 Su-30K two-seat fighters and 32 Su-30MKI multi-role two-seat fighters. The planes were scheduled for delivery in several consignments, with gradual enhancement of avionics, powerplant and weapons. The general contractors, according to a government resolution, were:
- for aeroplane development: Sukhoi Design Bureau OJSC (now JSC),
- for aeroplane production: Irkutsk Aircraft Production Association (IAPA, now Irkut Corporation).
Two prototypes were built by the Design Bureau in 1995-1998. The first prototype, Su-30I-1, was based on the Su-30 production version, the prototype completed in the spring of 1997. The first flight was performed by test pilot V.Yu. Averyanov on 1st July 1997. In July 1997, the Design Bureau launched a programme to test the plane jointly with SPFC of the Air Forces.
The aircraft has been in production in Irkutsk since 2000. The first pre-production plane was flight tested at the plant by V.Yu. Averyanov on 26th November 2000. The first three pre-production Su-30MKIs were handed over to the Design Bureau and have been used along with prototypes in the joint-testing programme with SPFC of Air Forces.
In accordance with the terms of the contract, the Su-30MKI planes were to be tested and delivered in 3 stages. The first delivery of 10 Su-30MKIs to the Customer took place in 2002; the second batch of 12 aeroplanes, in 2003. By 2004, the Su-30K and Su-30MKI planes had been put into service with two squadrons of India's Air Force.
The Su-30MKI’s distinctive features:
- for the first time in the world, a production aircraft has an engine with thrust vector control (AL-31FP, developed by the RDC named after A. Lyulka), and a remote control system integrated into a single control loop. Taken together, this renders the Su-30MKI extremely manoeuvrable;
- for the first time in the Design Bureau's history, a plane features a large-scale integration of avionics systems of foreign and domestic origin. The Su-30MKI has an "international" avionics portfolio, including as it does systems and units made by 14 foreign firms from 6 countries of the world.
- For the first time in the world, a production plane has a radar with PAA ("Bars" developed by the Scientific Research Institute of Instrumentation Technology). Moreover, the plane has a new ejection seat, the K-36D-3.5, and a number of other innovative systems of domestic origin.
- The ADO line-up has been significantly upgraded with the addition of the RVV-AYe air-to-air guided missile, Kh-29L/T/TYe, Kh-31A/P, Kh-59M air-to-ground missiles, and KAB-500 and KAB-1500 guided bombs.
The Su-30MKI programme has for the first time in Russian history showcased a new model for military-technical cooperation incorporating all types of long-term cooperation currently practised in the world such as:
- delivery of the first consignment of products in the baseline version (Su-30K),
- joint R&D to produce an upgraded version (Su-30MKI),
- granting the customer a licence to manufacture with subsequent replacement of Russian-made components with those of foreign origin (in December 2000, a contract was signed to sell to India a licence to manufacture 140 Su-30MKI planes of the final delivery group),
- upgrading of the planes from the first deliveries to the technical status of the final delivery group,
- setting up of a joint technical service centre for aftersales maintenance of the equipment supplied,
- using the «export beachhead» to expand into the regional market (in 2003, a contract was made to supply Su-30MKM planes to Malaysia).
The Design Bureau started work to produce a Su-30-based two-seat attack aircraft designated Su-30MKK for China's Air Forces in 1997, A.I. Knyshev having been appointed chief designer of the project. Under the contract, the Komsomolsk-on-Amur production plant (KnAAPO) was named as the general contractor. The Design Bureau produced a detailed design in 1997-98; the prototype planes were made in Komsomolsk-on-Amur in 1998-99. The new version of the two-seater was based to a great extent on the design solutions adopted for the Su-27SK and the single-seat fighter Su-27M. As a result, the Su-30MKK incorporated, for all intents and purposes without any redesign, the Su-27M's centre wing section, wing panels, air intakes, tail beams, fins and landing gear and the Su-27SK's tail-end fuselage assemblies. This way, the design scope was reduced dramatically, without any new components required for building the aircraft except for the nose. Besides, the production plant had already gained experience in setting up production of a two-seat trainer at the beginning of the '80s.
The first prototype was built in the spring of 1999, the Su-30MKK-1 having been taken off the ground for its maiden flight on 20th May 1999 by test pilots I.Ye. Solovyov (Design Bureau) and A.V. Pulenko (KnAAPO). The first four pre-production planes were handed over to the Design Bureau for testing. The testing was conducted jointly with SPFC of the Air Forces in 1999-2001, with the first 10 production Su-30MKK planes delivered to the customer in December 2000.
Su-30MKK design highlights:
- The plane features upgraded equipment of Russian manufacture, which includes a new version of radar with target designation and mapping capabilities; OSTS with target illumination using a laser beam; a GPS system, and a coloured multi-function LCDs in the cockpit, etc.;
- The ADO line-up has been upgraded with the addition of RVV-AYe air-to-air guided missile; Kh-29L/T/TYe, Kh-31P, Kh-59M air-to-ground missiles; and KAB-500 and KAB-1500 guided bombs. The Su-30MKK has been used as a platform to produce an upgraded version, the Su-30MK2, which differs from the parent version in its weapons and equipment systems configuration; planes of this type were been supplied to China in 2003. In addition, Su-30MK type aeroplanes were supplied to Indonesia in 2003.