NEW DELHI: India, which is looking to upgrade its mainstay Su-30MKI fighter fleet to modern standards, hopes to get a toehold into the export market as well by offering the package to friendly foreign nations that operate the Russian origin aircraft.

The `Super Sukhoi’ upgrade for India’s fleet of the frontline fighters — a total of 272 combat aircraft have been ordered by the air force — is in advanced levels of discussions, with modernisation plans for avionics, engines and weaponry on offer.

Officials told ET that the upgrade has the potential to unlock exports given the large fleet of Su-30s in service around the world that would also require upgrades in the future. “There is a market outside. We are already the only ones doing overhauls for the aircraft and once we conduct the upgrade, we can offer a better solution to the outside world as well,” HAL chairman R Madhavan told ET.

Over 600 aircraft of the Su 27/30 type have been manufactured and large operators include Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and Algeria. China also operates the type but has already reverse engineered it as the Shenyang J 11.

Among the nations that India could approach with the upgrade solution is Malaysia that is already interested in collaboration for maintenance and upkeep of its fleet of 18 Su-30 fighters. India plans to help Malaysia set up a Maintenance Repair and Overhaul unit there and train its technicians as part of bilateral cooperation pacts. Other potential partners for the program could be Vietnam which operates 46 fighters of the type.

On the Indian front, the `Super Sukhoi’ upgrade has been talked about for a while but there seems to be a sense of urgency with the IAF, Hindustan Aeronautics LimitedNSE 1.01 % and the Russian government have been working on the upgrade program. Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa confirmed last month that technical proposals are being shared given that the aircraft have been in service for almost 20 years.