Electronic Weapons: January 17, 2004


On 16th December, the Thales Group, a large European  defense electronics manufacturer, signed a 150 million Euro (approximately $193 million) deal to provide avionics for the 18 Su-30MKM that Malaysia recently ordered.

The deal involves the installation of avionics, navigation, identification and optronics systems on the aircraft in Russia, and which will be carried out in partnership with Sukhoi, with integration under the oversight of the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF).

Malaysia's Su-30MKM are based on the Indian Su-30MKI variants, except that Malaysia has refused, for political reasons, to use the same Israeli developed avionics and electronics systems that the Indians use. Choosing Thales to provide these systems is interesting, because depending on what Thales products the RMAF actually purchased, the Su-30MKM could very well have an avionics system comparable to the most advanced French warplane, the Rafael. For example, Thales manufactures two air-to-air IRST sensors, one of which is used on the Rafael, and the other the Eurofighter. The Su-30MKM thus has the potential to be the most advanced and potent Su-30 variant ever, eclipsing the Su-30MKI.

On the down-side, the integration of these systems with Russian avionics and weapon systems may take some time. India, for example, spent six years integrating Indian and Israeli systems into the Su-30MKI. --Shawn Chung


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