October 21, 2017

How delayed acquisition of 2 indigenous weapons systems has sent Indian defence into a tailspin

The Akash Surface to Air Missile (SAM) and Pinaka Multi Barrel Rocket Launcher (MLRS) are shining stars on the bleak Indian defence landscape where nearly 70 per cent of defence equipment is imported. This is because these two completely indigenous weapon platforms go even beyond the NDA government's Make in India programme, where equipment can be assembled within the country by a foreign company that owns the designs. Yet, for over a year now, orders worth over Rs 19,000 crore for these indigenously designed developed and manufactured (IDDM) weapon systems have been caught up in South Block's red tape. The armed forces' intent to buy additional Akash and Pinaka systems are yet to translate into contracts.

The armed forces need both vitally. The Indian Air Force needs the Akash - a supersonic, all-weather surface-to-air missile which can shoot down enemy aircraft, helicopters, drones and cruise missiles 30 kilometres away - to protect airfields and vital installations. Its Pechora missiles acquired from Russia over 30 years ago are nearing the end of their lives; the army needs six more Pinaka regiments to augment its firepower. A single salvo from a Pinaka regiment of 18 launchers can saturate an area of one square kilometre, 35 km away.

But it is within Indian industry that these indigenous platforms have delivered their true force multiplier effect. The Akash system is over 96 per cent indigenous and sources its components from 330 Indian industries. The Pinaka, 92 per cent local, supports 43 Indian industries.

These orders are so substantial and the downstream effect on the defence ecosystem so huge that one private sector CEO calls them the equivalent of a stimulus package for Indian industry, a massive booster shot that would create jobs in the high-tech sector, spur innovation and garner huge tax revenues for the government. And it is here that the delays are making their absence felt.

This, particularly since the outlook for three other massive 'Make India' projects for the army-exclusively meant for Indian industry, both public and private sector-is so bleak and the progress on them so slow that industry has stopped bothering about them. The orders for the Futuristic Infantry Combat Vehicle (FICV), a Rs 26,100 crore project to replace all of the Indian army's 2,600 BMP Infantry Combat Vehicles, Tactical Communication System (TCS) and the Battlefield Management System (BMS), were meant to seamlessly integrate soldiers with their fighting formations and transform the way the Indian army fought wars when they were mooted a decade ago. They called for consortiums of public and private sector industry working to develop indigenous prototypes that would then be turned into series production.

These projects, collectively worth over Rs 1 lakh crore or one percentage point of India's GDP, would have delivered a substantial long-lasting boost to indigenous industry, particularly the development of indigenous electronics and spurred job creation. One private sector CEO estimates that every Rs 1 crore invested into the Indian industry has the effect of creating 25 jobs-six in the high-tech sector and 20 in the unskilled sector. "In the past 11 years, not one of these projects, FICV, BMS or TCS, has moved to the development stage, forget production," the CEO says.

The DRDO's indigenously developed Advanced Towed Array Gun Systems (ATAGS), a 155x52 mm towed howitzer developed with the private sector, saw one of its prototypes shoot a shell out to 48 km at the Pokharan test ranges on September 15, a world record for a gun of its class. But this gun, too, is still years away from mass production.

The only substantial Make in India programme in the three-and-a-half year term of the NDA government has been a Rs 4,500 crore order for 100 K-9 Vajra-T 155/52 self-propelled artillery guns placed on a consortium of private sector L&T and South Korea's Hanwa Tecwin. L&T undertook to manufacture all 100 guns within the country, effectively converting a 'Buy and Make' project into a Make in India project.

The sole low-hanging fruit for Indian industry in the near term are repeat orders of the Akash and Pinaka. But thanks to bureaucratic delays, it now seems that even these aren't coming in a hurry.

The Union ministry for defence sent out requests for proposals (RFPs) for six regiments of Pinaka MBRLs worth approximately Rs 4,500 crore in March this year. The two firms, Tata Power SED and L&T, submitted their bids in April 2017.

As per the terms of the RFP, the lowest bidder will get four systems and the other bidder, two systems. The rockets, which cost approximately Rs 3,000 crore, are to be ordered separately from the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB). Seven months later, the bids are yet to be opened and a Pinaka order seems unlikely before March 2018.

A similar fate seems to have befallen the Akash. The order for seven squadrons of Akash short range missiles for the IAF worth Rs 6,000 crore is still in the pipeline nearly 15 months after it was mooted by the government.

The IAF is presently conducting a cost audit of the Akash, first of prime contractor Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) and later of Bharat Dynamics Ltd (BDL), which manufactures the missiles. Project officials say the meetings have been dragging on endlessly for over a year now and the IAF is believed to have questioned the high price of the Akash. In September, IAF officials at a meeting within Air Headquarters even questioned the utility of the Akash when the IAF was getting five S-400 'Triumf' SAM missiles from Russia which had a range of over 400 km. The comparisons, project officials point out, are unfounded. The Akash is a point-defence missile while the S-400 is an area defence weapon.

Akash, part of the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP) in 1983, cleared its user trials in 2007, nearly 24 years later. The Pinaka had a much shorter development cycle, initiated in 1986, completing its successful trials 12 years later. Bureaucratic delays have also played a part. The IAF placed its first orders for the Akash missile in 2011, nearly four years after the user trials while the army order for the first Pinaka regiment came in 2006, over a decade after field trials had been completed and the army had raised its first regiment.

The two projects are cited as perfect examples of public-private sector partnerships. BEL in Bengaluru is the prime contractor for the Akash while Tata Power SED and L&T are the prime contractors for the Pinaka. Each of them, in turn, engages several other private sector firms down the value chain. Project officials estimate that at least half the cost of the orders will be ploughed back into the country in the form of taxes and salaries. "You're talking of value-addition at the highest level because R&D creates its own multiplier effect in the economy," says a private sector CEO. The huge time lag between repeat orders is illustrative of the dangers of a monopsony (where the government is both the largest maker and the only consumer) which disincentivises the private sector. The stop-start malaise has endured despite the NDA government's commitment to indigenous systems and the fact that all its three defence ministers, Manohar Parrikar, Arun Jaitley and Nirmala Sitharaman, have enthusiastically backed Indian systems.

Defence minister Parrikar firmly backed the Akash and the Pinaka. He cancelled the army's import of two regiments of Quick Reaction surface-to-air missiles and insisted that the army buy the Akash instead, initiating the case for buying 10 regiments of Pinakas in 2016. But with Parrikar's departure from South Block in March this year, both indigenous systems lost a champion, and bureaucratic delays pushed the acquisition cases further down the horizon.

"We need a secretary-level official to monitor indigenous defence products. The job of the MoD's department of defence production has to change from running the department to pushing indigenous industry," says Rahul Chaudhry, chairman of the Defence Innovators and Industry Association (DIIA) and CEO, Tata Power SED.

The Akash has not been without its share of controversy. A CAG report tabled before Parliament in July this year found that the missiles had a 30 per cent failure rate. A senior Indian industry official associated with the project called it part of the 'stabilisation process of an indigenous product'.

Swift orders are essential to continue the pace of production. Red tape has delayed Indian defence orders to a point when original equipment manufacturers have closed down their production lines.

Defence website Stratpost.com reported in 2013 that India's nearly Rs 5,000 crore order for 145 M-777 howitzers saw a 37 per cent cost escalation of roughly Rs 1,200 crore because the manufacturer, BAE Systems, had to restart a production line it had shut down.

This is also the case with the Akash and Pinaka. "The order for the seven squadrons of Akash were to have come in March 2015, over two years ago. But we are now sitting idle on the Akash. Our supply chain is also sitting idle," says the head of a private sector firm who supplies components to the Akash programme. Another contractor for the Pinaka rocket launcher system says he had last sourced components from his supply chain in 2009 soon after completing the last orders. "If I get the Pinaka order today, it would have been nearly a decade and I will have to locate all those old vendors."

Support for indigenous projects ensures advanced versions can come off the line quickly. In January this year, the Armament Research and Development Establishment of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) successfully tested a modified Pinaka Mark-2 rocket. With the addition of navigation, guidance and control kit, the earlier rocket was converted into a mini missile with fins and a guidance kit capable of hitting targets 55 km away. An Akash-2 missile with an advanced seeker and enhanced 40 km range is in the works. Given the delays in the acquisition process, however, their swift induction is by no means guaranteed.


France wants India to buy more Rafales

India has a hectic diplomatic calendar next week with a series of high-profile visits scheduled. French Defence Minister Florance Parley will be in New Delhi on an official visit during which she is likely to make a strong pitch to sell additional Rafale fighter jets.

Ms. Parley is scheduled to visit India from October 26.

“The two sides will discuss the progress of the implementation of the deal for 36 Rafale fighter jets,” one official said. The issue of additional Rafale jets and the Navy’s mega tender for a new line of submarines are likely to come up for discussion, the official added.

“Ms. Parley will travel to Nagpur on October 27 to lay the foundation stone for a manufacturing facility being set up by Dassault and Reliance Defence as part of the offsets under the Rafale deal,” another official said.

In September last year, India and France concluded a €7.87-billion government-to-government deal for 36 Rafale jets in flyaway condition scheduled to be delivered between 2019 and 2022. The deal has a 50% offset clause to be executed by Dassault and its partners in India amounting up to ₹30,000 crore.

Following this, Dassault Aviation and Reliance Defence announced a joint venture called “Dassault Reliance Aerospace”, which is likely to execute a major part of the offsets.

Single-engine jet ::

The Indian Air Force has stated its requirement for additional twin-engine fighter jets and has expressed its desire for more Rafale jets. However, with a depleting fighter strength and several squadrons of MiG-21s and MiG-27s to be phased out, the focus is now on procuring a single-engine fighter jet under the newly promulgated Strategic Partnership model. “Single engine is a priority ... Right now, we are trying to make up numbers with single-engine aircraft …,” Air Chief Marshal B.S. Dhanoa said earlier this month in response to questions on the IAF’s procurement plans.

The IAF is operating 32 fighter squadrons against the sanctioned strength of 42, which is set to drop further in the coming years.

One officer said the IAF would like to have additional Rafale jets. “The resources are limited and we need to prioritise,” he added.


India Might Finally Terminate Their Stealth Fighter Program With Russia

A new report by Defense News states that India is extremely unhappy with Russia's supposed 5th generation fighter—better known as the T-50, or by its new production name the Su-57—that will act as the base for the sputtering FGFA cooperative fighter program between the two countries. The news comes after years of squabbling over the program, usually characterized by credible reports of the Indian Air Force's dismay with the qualities of the Russian aircraft. Now it seems as if the Indians want out of the program—which aimed for at least a 108 airframe production run—once and for all. Such a move could also be a result of New Delhi's changing geopolitical and military affiliations, in particular its deepening strategic relationship with the United States.

The Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) project between Sukhoi and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is a decade old. It originally aimed to create a variant of Russia's new stealth fighter with a number of alterations specified by India. These include potential enhancements to reach certain low observable (stealth) requirements, as well as particular avionics, communications systems, and weapons integration. A two seat version was also envisioned. The whole idea behind the concept being that the FGFA would leverage a fairly mature Russian next generation fighter design, and build upon it. The problem is that the design in question, the Su-57, doesn't appear to have the "bones" needed to modify it to meet India's expectations.

The T-50/Su-57's degree of low observability has always been in question. It is one of the most hotly debated topics on military aviation forums and I have described how the design balances some stealthy attributes against other features and weaponry, as well as cost and production capabilities. But time and time again India seems to have been doubtful that the base aircraft design could meet their FGFA requirements.

There have been promises by Russia that the T-50 prototype will evolve into a more stealthy design, but now it seems with it entering production as the Su-57, those enhancements haven't emerged. The Defense News report states:

"Senior IAF leadership recently expressed apprehension to the Ministry of Defense, claiming the proposed FGFA program with Russia does not meet desired requirements like U.S. F-35 fighter type capabilities, disclosed a senior IAF official. That official added, that “IAF is not keen to continue with the program.”

The proposed FGFA program does not meet desired stealth and cross section features compared to a F-35 fighter, the official explained, thus major structural changes are needed that cannot be met in the existing Russian prototypes."

The level of stealthiness that can be applied to the Su-57 design likely matters substantially more now than it did nearly a decade ago. Pakistan had been India's primary national security focus, but in recent years the rise of China's military might and their extra-territorial aims have shifted New Delhi's defensive priorities.

China's air force in particular has become massively more potent since the FGFA initiative began, with their own impressive stealth fighter—the J-20—now officially operational, not to mention a Chinese medium stealth fighter is also likely on the way. This is on top of upgraded models of existing designs, such as the AESA radar carrying J-10B, and procurement of multiple Flanker derivatives including Russia's own somersaulting Su-35.

Simply put, India sees that it needs a stealthily fighter to maintain some sort of parity with its potential foe, and for use as a force multiplier to enable its less capable fighter jets via creative tactics. If the FGFA can only deliver limited low observability, with it only being considered "stealthy" in very narrow frequency bands and only from certain aspects, the goals of the expensive initiative won't be met.

Another major issue mentioned in the report is the aircraft's lack of a "modular engine concept." According to Indian officials this makes maintenance and serviceability highly troublesome and will make surge operations hard to accomplish as much of the work can't be done by the Indians themselves. Russian powerplants are known to have comparatively low time between overhaul (TBO) intervals. Once it reaches this interval, usually the engine has to be shipped to a depot for total refurbishment, which often times is in Russia.

For instance, the AL-31 thrust vectoring engines that power the Indian's SU-30MKIs had a TBO of just 1,000 hours. A modular design could allow for different engine components to be swapped quickly, making sidelining entire powerplants due to issues or overhauls less of a factor.

In recent years, Russia claims its engines have made great strides in durability, with large increases in TBO time and reliability, and one of Defense News's sources seems to make the case that the production engine for the FGFA will be better in multiple ways than the AL-41F engines currently flying on the Su-57:

"Vaijinder K Thakur, retired IAF squadron leader and defense analyst disagreement with the Air Force assessment of capability, saying that the current Russian FGFA prototype, known as Su-57, features the AL-41F1 engine. But the production variant of FGFA would be fitted with the Product 30 engine which is 30 percent lighter, features improved thrust, and has better fuel efficiency and fewer moving parts. That results in improved reliability and 30 percent lower life-cycle cost."

Betting on future Su-57 engine developments aside, India has decades of experience of dealing with the Russia's jet engine industry as a whole, as the Indian Air Force is still flying everything from the MiG-21 to the MiG-29K till this very day. The MiG-29K in particular, which is the country's only carrier-capable fixed wing fighter, has had major readiness and quality control issues, as we detailed in a past article:

"India's MiG-29K force (read all about the type's decades long development here) remains controversial as the aircraft is reported to be ill suited for persistent use under harsh carrier conditions, with ongoing major engine, flight controls, and airframe issues. The type has a miserable availability rate, with India Today reporting:

"Serviceability of the warplanes was low, ranging from 15.93 per cent to 37.63 per cent and that of MiG-29KUB ranging from 21.30 per cent to 47.14 per cent. Serviceability refers to the total number aircraft available for operation at a time from the overall capacity... the service life of the aircraft is 6000 hours or 25 years (whichever is earlier) and with issues facing the MiG-29K/KUB, the operational life of the aircraft already delivered would be reduced."

Even arguably its most modern and capable Russian fighter, the Su-30MKI, has been plagued with engine problems and other issues with failing components that have caused major deficits in aircraft availability. Even after a corrective spare parts deal was initiated the Su-30's woes have continued.

If India remains concerned not just with the powerplants themselves, but with their concept of construction and servicing, the attributes Thakur touts above for a future AL-41 derivative won't solve the problem.

The War Zone has discussed the T-50/Su-57's woes before, along with Russia's inability to fund major purchases of the jet now that it is entering production, stating:

"Despite initial plans to have built 150 of Sukhoi’s T-50 stealth fighter by 2020, the Kremlin has now scaled that back to a buy of just a dozen aircraft. This year, after more than seven years of flight testing, the Russian military hopes to finally take delivery of the 10th and 11th pre-production prototypes. The program has been beset by delays, accidents, and rumors of massive design changes, along with very public criticism from India, which has become an increasingly frustrated partner in the endeavor."

Moscow has cut other high profile programs entirely, and is in the process of truncating others. But with Russia not ponying up for substantial block buys of Su-57s, India could face much more expensive unit costs for its modified version of the fighter. Small fleets of any airplane type are prohibitively expensive to sustain, but when it comes to high-end fighters, the costs can be crushing. Additionally, since India already faces supportability issues with its other late-model Russian-built fighters, an even more advanced and complex one that Russia isn't even buying in quantity could result in a similar but even more acute set off issues with the FGFA.

HAL is supposed to receive large industrial offsets as part of the FGFA program, but full technology exchange is unlikely. As such, the Indian Air Force will still have to rely on Russia for production and servicing various components of the aircraft.

A final turn away from the FGFA program and from treating Russia as a preeminent tactical aircraft supplier may have been accelerated by the cozying up in relations between the U.S. and India.

On October 18th, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson praised the US-Indian relationship, stating:

“President Trump and [Indian] Prime Minister Modi are committed, more than any of our leaders before them, to building an ambitious partnership that benefits not only our two great democracies, but other sovereign nations working toward greater peace and stability.”

Tillerson went on to describe how both India and China have risen in power on the world stage, but China has done so less responsibly:

"...China has done so less responsibly, at times undermining the international, rules-based order, even as countries like India operate within a framework that protects other nations' sovereignty... China’s provocative actions in the South China Sea directly challenge the international law and norms that the United States and India both stand for. The United States seeks constructive relations with China... But we will not shrink from China’s challenges to the rules-based order, and where China subverts the sovereignty of neighboring countries, and disadvantages the U.S. and our friends.”
With an emboldened China seemingly pushing India and the U.S. closer together than ever before, with both being dependent on tightening military cooperation to deter China's expansionist actions in the region, the prospects for new advanced arms deals between Washington and New Delhi are improving.

Currently the Block 70 F-16 is in the final running for a major Indian Air Force single engine fighter contract. Meanwhile, Super Hornet is becoming a front runner in an emerging competition for the Indian Navy's next fighter—one that will fly from catapult equipped supercarriers as well as the ski jump equipped carrier it has now, with another currently under construction. The U.S. Navy is also actively helping the Indian Navy design its next generation aircraft carriers. But the faltering FGFA program could give the U.S. and India an opportunity to make what would be the ultimate game-changing fighter deal—equipping the Indian Air Force with the F-35A.

The Trump Administration could look to consummate its new, closer strategic relationship with India by offering up the Joint Strike Fighter for purchase. Having India join the JSF community could also offer certain synergies for other F-35 operators located in the eastern hemisphere, both on a strategic and a sustainment level.

Indian F-35s would also work to counter-balance China's military might arrayed along the increasingly tense Indian-Chinese border. It could also mean that the F-35 could also become a competitor for the Indian Navy's next fighter initiative, with the B model likely being offered for the ski jump carriers and the C model being an option for the future catapult equipped ships.

India probably wouldn't receive a large degree of technology transfer under such a deal as export controls on the F-35 are notoriously tight even for NATO operators. But it is likely that some industrial offsets could be offered, including the possibility of depot work and some component construction being done in-country.

It is unlikely that such a deal would be offered until after the single engine jet fighter competition is decided, but India could see the writing on the wall, and cancel the FGFA in hopes of joining the Joint Strike Fighter family in the near future.

Above all else, the export of the F-35 to the India—a jet that requires unique, costly, and extensive infrastructure to sustain—would be very bad news for Russia's tactical jet industry. But given the flourishing relationship between the US and India, and the growing threat posed by China in the region, it may just be a matter of time till F-35s fly with Indian Air Force roundels of their wings.


October 20, 2017

Indian Navy is commissioning warships by the dozen but are they battle ready?

Indian Navy may be on a warship commissioning spree, but they are actually ‘toothless’. Earlier this week, INS Kiltan-Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) stealth corvettes joined the eastern naval command but without any offensive capability like the Active Towed Array Sonar (ACTAS) system, which is essential to detect enemy submarines.
Also, the Navy is yet to get six low-frequency ACTAS systems from German firm Atlas Elektronik - a contract which was signed in 2014. However, due to a new blacklisting policy, things are moving in the right direction, a naval official confirmed.
“ACTAS is still a distance away. We are hoping for Nagin, a similar system which is under development by the DRDO (Defence Research and Development Organization),” said an official. The launch of stealth corvettes is with the aim of giving a fillip to India's anti-submarine warfare capabilities, keeping in view China’s dominance in the Indian Ocean Region.
According to naval sources, Indian ships currently use bow mounted sonar or hull mounted sonar, which is less effective.
The towed array sonar, on the other hand, provides observation of the sea space at ranges considerably above 60 kilometres, depending on the propagation conditions of the water. This gives the sonar an operational range that by far exceeds that of radars and the weapons range of submarines, making it not only ideal for hunting submarines but also for the wide-area reconnaissance of surface combatants.
Incidentally, INS Kamorta, another anti-submarine warfare corvette, which was inducted into the Navy in August 2014, is still floating without its striking capability.
The story is similar to the Navy’s submarine fleet as well. Kalveri class (popularly known as Scorpene submarines) was commissioned without the essential weapon of a submarine vis torpedo. But, the Navy desperately requires these torpedoes to be mounted on its already delayed six Scorpene submarines, which are under construction by state-owned Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Ltd in collaboration with French firm DCNS.
A naval official claim that without the heavyweight torpedoes, submarines are almost "toothless." The Navy is waiting for the next Kalveri class submarine—INS Khanderi to be inducted by next month.
It happened because Black Shark torpedoes, multi-purpose weapons designed to be launched from submarines (produced by a subsidiary of Finmeccanica called WASS (Whitehead Alenia Sistemi Subacquei)), was declared winner in 2014 after competitive bidding. But the contract could not be signed, as the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government put a ban on signing the contracts in the wake of the probe into the AgustaWestland VVIP helicopter scam.
Earlier this year, India had cancelled its contract to buy 98 Black Shark heavyweight torpedoes at an estimated cost of 200 million USD.
According to a navy official, the strength of the Indian Navy's submarines has dwindled from a total of 21 submarines in the 1980s to 13 conventional submarines plus one homemade Arihant-class nuclear submarine and one Russian Akula-class submarine operating on lease. While China, in comparison, has a strength of 65 subs, which "is a matter of concern,"
“What is the point of commissioning warships which are not ‘battle ready,’ questions a senior defence official.


October 19, 2017

French Defense Minister Set to Garner New Contract for Rafale Jets in India

Dassault Aviation has already expressed its eagerness to set up a manufacturing unit in India. The proposal will be taken up for further discussion during Parley’s meeting with India’s top officials who are likely to insist on the ‘Make in India’ model.

Aiming to bag an additional order of Rafale fighter jets from the Indian Armed forces, French Defense Minister Florence Parley is visiting India next week. He will be meeting top political figures and officials of the Indian Air Force (IAF). Parley will be accompanied by a delegation of defense officials and French defense industry representatives.

The French delegation is scheduled to meet with Indian defense ministry officials on October 26, when potential defense projects under Narendra Modi’s ‘Make in India’ initiative will be primarily discussed.

The discussion is expected to include a proposal by French firm Dassault Aviation, the manufacturer of Rafale double engine fighter jet and Falcon 2000 business jets, about setting up a manufacturing unit in India.

Sources told Sputnik that the discussions will focus on clearing the hurdles in defense cooperation including technology transfer; primarily from Safran, to several long-delayed Indian projects.

"We are waiting for the final words on the jet engine program from the Indian side for a long time. It has not been moved as per our expectation," a French firm official told to Sputnik in New Delhi.

Safran, Thales, and several other French firms are expecting major collaboration with Indian counterparts on the approximately $4 billion Rafale offset contract. Safran hopes to bag a contract for its high-power Aneto engine from India’s state-owned HAL for its 12-ton multi-role helicopter program. Thales is also hoping to make a major push for its proposal to supply the $1.8 billion AESA radar systems for India’s Tejas light combat aircraft.

The Indian Air Force is also negotiating with France to procure 36 of its grounded Jaguar fighter aircraft to improve the serviceability of the six squadrons of the Jaguar deep penetration bombers which are in dire need of spare parts.

Parley’s visit will also mark a major precursor visit before French President Emmanuel Macron’s arrival in India on December 8 for a three-day visit.

During her stay in India, Parley will also launch Dassault-Reliance production facility in Nagpur which is part of India’s largest greenfield aerospace project. Apart from the Dassault-Reliance offset facility, the park is also home to the proposed facilities of Thales, DAHER, and Strata amongst others.


Uncertainty over last white-tail C-17 sale to India

The Indian Ministry of Defence has one month to decide if it wants to acquire the last C-17.
The impending sale of the last Boeing C-17 Globemaster III heavy lift aircraft to India has been under a cloud because of the reluctance of the U.S. government to extend the validity of the Letter of Offer and Acceptance beyond October 17.
In September, the defence ministry had submitted a request for an extension of the validity of the LOA by 120 days after the date of expiry, but the U.S. government is unwilling to consider a grace period longer than a month at this point, and has sent a letter issuing an extension of 30 days.
This is partly because U.S. government has been under pressure from other customers eager to buy the last white-tail C-17, some of whom are willing to move quickly and have a far more compelling business case, with a sale to them being tied to potential orders for other equipment. There are at least three countries keen on taking the last aircraft.
Meanwhile, the file for the acquisition case in India’s defense ministry has not seen any movement for the last two weeks.
The C-17 production line closed in 2015 and the Indian Air Force (IAF) has, so far, missed opportunities to acquire any of the remaining ten white-tail aircraft, to the extent that only one aircraft is now available. The IAF had an option for six C-17s as part of its original order for ten aircraft.
No one familiar with Indian defence ministry practices and timelines has any illusions that the acquisition case can be completed in these 30 days, but observers are optimistic that if robust progress on the case can be shown at the end of this period, the U.S. government could be persuaded to allow a further grace period on the basis of a foreseeable, imminent conclusion of the order.
But failing this, the U.S. government is in no mood to agree to any open-ended extension, with customers waiting in line for the aircraft. The value of the order is estimated to be around USD 350 million.
Of the last ten C-17 aircraft, two were purchased by Australia and Kuwait, each, one by Canada, and four were snapped up by Qatar.


Indian submarine contest down to four

The contest to supply the Indian Navy with its next batch of submarines has already lost two contenders, even before the competition has begun.
The navy’s Request For Information (RFI) had been issued to six manufacturers: Spain’s Navantia, the French Naval Group (formerly DCNS), Germany’s ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS), Sweden’s Saab Kockums, Russia’s Rubin and the Japanese consortium of Mitsubishi/Kawasaki.
As reported by StratPost, the deadline for responses to the RFI was extended to Monday, October 16.
It has emerged that two of the recipients of the RFI have not submitted responses. Mitsubishi/Kawasaki of Japan and Navantia of Spain have failed to submit the requested information for their Soryu and S-80 submarines to the Indian Navy.
The absence of a Japanese response is perhaps not entirely surprising, considering their institutional reluctance to commit to a process in a system with which they are unfamiliar, their wait for the culmination of a long-pending Indian order for ShinMaywa US-2i amphibious aircraft and their recent experience competing for an Australian order for submarines.
Navantia’s lack of participation is more unexpected, considering the S-80 is modeled on the French Scorpene, which are coming into service in the Indian Navy. The Spanish company has also been involved in a contest to supply LHD vessels to the Indian Navy.
At any rate, the absence of Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) who are not fully committed to the process will probably assist the navy in running a serious contest to build the Project 75(India) line of submarines, especially considering this project has to meet the exacting requirements of strategic partnerships under Chapter 07 of the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP).
The Naval Group is offering the Scorpene; TKMS is offering the Type 214; Saab Kockums is offering the A26 and Rubin is offering the Amur submarine. The order is estimated to be worth around USD 10 billion.


Prior approval for sale of F-16 and F-18 in place: Keith Webster

Keith Webster , a 32-year veteran of the US Defense Department, has joined the newly launched US-India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISPF) as senior vice-president for Defense and Aerospace. A big 'catch' for USISPF, Webster has dealt with all aspects of the India relationship, from technology transfer to export controls, from laying out new roadmaps to executing old ones. Few have his overview of the sprawling US bureaucracy and its intricacies. He talked to Seema Sirohi in Washington. Excerpts:

Where are we in the defence relationship?
For the past four years plus, the Pentagon has led the Defence Technology and Trade Initiative [DTTI]. It accomplished a couple of things – it was able to transform views on India and to treat India as a very close partner… as if we were allies in terms of capabilities, research and co-development. It was a historic period in the Pentagon, serving as a cornerstone for the contemporary relationship. Then on June 7, 2016, India was declared a major defence partner.

What’s on the horizon now?
We have very transformational offers for two advanced fighter jets – F-16 and F-18 in partnership with industry. The proposals have pre-positioned US government approvals for co-production and tech transfer, which is unprecedented for us. Previously, denials were automatic because India is not an ally but now we treat India as if it were. Normally approvals come after the request is made. But India said that was not helpful and challenged us to pre-position [pre-approve] and we worked for two years with both Lockheed Martin and Boeing to develop proposals for Make in India. I led the first briefing in April 2016. The Ministry of Defence asked very significant questions and we drilled down another level. This past February, I did another set of briefings. Now we are waiting for formal RFPs [Request for Proposals]. It can come any day now.

India was less than impressed with the US offer for the MMRCA [Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft] in terms of performance and tech transfer issues. What’s changed?
Those were fair concerns a decade ago. The DTTI was launched in 2012 – after the MMRCA. Today the proposals are completely different. They are far more forward-leaning than MMRCA. There is a fair mix of technologies on offer at various levels.

What about advanced technology?
Decisions on the most advanced capabilities will be incorporated over time… not immediately transferred to India. The US is conservative about sharing radar technology for national security reasons. I don’t believe there are any significant surprises in what will or not be transferred. It is a significant beginning as we continue to build trust.India hasn’t signed what were once called 'foundational agreements' but are now rebranded as 'enabling agreements'.The Government of India wanted a different term. They were part of the discussion in recent meetings. Secretary of Defence Mattis in a very subtle way showed he was aware of them and put some emphasis. We need to find a way to move forward on them at the right time… find innovative ways to work through them… when the time is right politically.

How does their absence impact the defence relationship?
The absence of these agreements is not ideal. Our industries can’t share classified industrial information with the government of India and its industries. That complicates timelines and our ability to move swiftly forward. We have to find workarounds, which are not easily available. Then there is the thoroughness issue. These issues are well understood by India. We have been successful in working around these obstacles but this will not be sustainable as we ramp up. It will become apparent if and when the F-16/F-18 programmes move together.

What if India doesn’t choose the F-16?
It would be a significant disappointment. Just to develop these Make in India proposals took two years of intense work, to demonstrate DTTI and move beyond MMRCA, to demonstrate this is a new relationship... It would begin fatigue in our prime industries, not only in Boeing and Lockheed. But that is speculation. We have had successes – Apache helicopters and M777 howitzers – but the programmes were extended 12 or 13 times. I don’t fully understand the decision-making process but I know there is incredible anxiety within the bureaucracy on making a deal.


IAI loses out to Raytheon on Indian ISTAR deal

Israel Aerospace's ELTA unit had been one of the favorites to win the $1 billion intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance aircraft contract.

India has handed a major blow to Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd. (IAI) (TASE: ARSP.B1) unit ELTA, which had been hoping to win a $1 billion deal to sell two ISTAR (intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance) aircraft.

IAI had been strong in the running to win the deal after receiving a restricted global request for information from the US government for the acquisition of ISTAR-capable aircraft in 2013. Thales of France, Raytheon and Boeing of the US, and the UK's BAE Systems also received the request. The Indian government has now awarded the procurement to Raytheon.

Defense industry sources had seen IAI as having a major chance of winning the deal due to IAI's strong presence in India. In recent years, IAI has won three major deals from the Indian government: Barak 8 naval defense missiles in two deals worth $2 billion last April and three Phalcon AWACS aircraft worth $1.1 billion in a deal completed in 2010.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's groundbreaking visit to Israel in July, several months after the Barak 8 deal was signed, was seen as a further sign that the two Asian powers were forming much closer defense ties. Modi had then declared the opening of a path of partnership with Israel and that India places great importance on Israel's advanced technology.

ELTA had been offering India an ISTAR aircraft similar to the Israel Air Force's Nachshon, which is based on a Gulfstream 550 platform – the executive jet produced in the US but adapted for ISTAR missions by ELTA. In addition to the Israel Air Force, ELTA has also sold such aircraft to Singapore, according to foreign media reports.

According to "US Defense News," India officially asked the Pentagon to go ahead with the Raytheon procurement in early October following the visit of US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to New Delhi. The visit was designed to strengthen military cooperation between India and the US. In 2016, Barack Obama's final year in office, the US granted India the status of "major defense partner" in an effort to iron out bureaucratic obstacles to future US-India defense deals.


US defence proposals are potential game changers: Rex Tillerson

The US has offered a number of proposals to India in the defence sector that can be "potential game changers" for the bilateral commercial and military cooperation, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Wednesday.

The proposals forward by the US include sale of Guardian UAVs, aircraft carrier technologies, the future vertical-lift programme, and F-18 and F-16 fighter aircraft.

"In keeping with India's status as a 'Major Defence Partner' – a status overwhelmingly endorsed last year by the US Congress – and our mutual interest in expanding maritime cooperation, the Trump administration has offered a menu of defence options for India's consideration, including the Guardian UAV," Tillerson told a Washington audience.

"We value the role India can play in global security and stability, and are prepared to ensure they have even greater capabilities," Tillerson in his address to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a top American think- tank, ahead of his visit to India next week.

He said the military proposals put forward by the US to India can be "potential game changers" for the commercial and defence cooperation.

Tillerson said even as the US and India grow their economic and defence cooperation, they must have an eye to include other nations which share their goals.

"India and the US should be in the business of equipping other countries to defend their sovereignty, build greater connectivity, and have a louder voice in a regional architecture that promotes their interests and develops their economies," he said.

"This is a natural complement to India's 'Act East' policy. We ought to welcome those who want to strengthen the rule of law and further prosperity and security in the region," he said.

Tillerson said that the increasing convergence of US and Indian interests and values offer the Indo-Pacific the best opportunity to defend the rule-based global system.

"But it also comes with a responsibility – for both of our countries to 'do the needful' in support of our united vision of a free, open, and thriving Indo-Pacific," he said.

The US welcomes the growing power and influence of Indian people in this region and throughout the world, he added.

"We are eager to grow our relationship even as India grows as a world leader and power. The strength of the Indo- Pacific has always been the interaction among many peoples, governments, economies, and cultures," he said.

Tillerson said the US is committed to working with any nation in South Asia or the broader region that shares its vision of an Indo-Pacific where sovereignty is upheld and a rule-based system respected.

"The fact that the Indian Navy was the first overseas user of the P-8 maritime surveillance aircraft, which it effectively fields with US Navy counterparts, speaks volumes of our shared maritime interests and need to enhance interoperability," Tillerson said.

"The US military's record for speed, technology, and transparency speaks for itself – as does our commitment to India's sovereignty and security," he said, adding that security issues that concern India, concern the US.

Defence Secretary Jim Mattis has said that the world's two greatest democracies should have the two greatest militaries.

"I couldn’t agree more. When we work together to address shared security concerns, we don't just protect ourselves, but others," he said.

"Earlier this year, instructors from the US and Indian Armies came together to build UN peacekeeping capacity among African partners, a program that we hope to continue expanding. This is a great example of the US and India building security capacity and promoting peace in third countries – and serving together as anchors of peace in a tumultuous world," Tillerson said.


October 18, 2017

Fifth Generation Fighter deal. Can India cancel it?

The Narendra Modi government now has a problem on its hands. The Indo-Russian Fifth Generation Fighter Programme (FGFA) was planned about a decade ago and several billion dollars have been spent by both the countries for its design and development.

As far as the Indian Air Force is concerned, the FGFA was part of its future. But with the IAF giving the government its doubts about the project in writing, the Modi government will have problems on its hands. Will it accept the IAF's point and close the programme it has heavily invested in for years? This becomes tricky as the Russians are still India's closest military ally and a decision to not go ahead with it could strain ties. There will also, most certainly, be pressure from the Russians. Going ahead with it would also make the Air Force unhappy.

Along with a report by Air Marshal S Varthaman (retired), the Air Force has sent a note to the Defence Ministry. The note is written by Assistant Chief of Air Staff (Plans) Air Vice Marshal BV Krishna. But while the Varthaman report appears to support the project, the Krishna papers raise doubts. Naturally, the government will have to go by what the Air Force wants and at this point, the IAF does not seem very keen.

Arun Jaitley, the then defence minister, has already sat through a presentation on the subject. At a recent press conference, IAF chief Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa refused to speak about the subject, saying it was classified. But several points about the Air Force's dissatisfaction with the plane have emerged.

1. The radar cross-section surface area, according to the Russians, will be less than 0.5-metre square. The IAF isn't quite sure that will be the case. In any case, there is a belief it should be 0.2-metre square, comparable with the F-35, the American fighter plane. The higher the cross-section, the more visible the plane to radars, making it easier to track it down and fire missiles at it. A higher cross section makes it more vulnerable.

2. The IAF seems to have doubts about the performance of the engine. An engine is easier to maintain if it follows the "modular concept". There appears to be no certainty if that will be so.

3. There is also the issue of maintenance. The Russian aircraft are usually cheaper but they cost more when it comes to maintenance. The FGFA, however, has been an expensive plane to develop and it is still far from ready. Initially, it was felt the plane would be ready by 2017 and then, 2019. That seems unlikely now.

The note has come in the wake of the Varthaman report which has given the fifth generation fighter the go-ahead. The Air Force apart, the DRDO, the ADA and the HAL were part of the study.

Now, high-level sources said a political decision has to be taken.

India and Russia were close military-strategic allies and this programme was part of the future as far as the two countries were concerned. Russia has supplied India with a nuclear-powered submarine, a point its officials often make. But with the Air Force not very happy with the FGFA, it will be up to the government to do decide whether the deal goes through or not. The decision will also have to be taken at the highest level. There are some concerns about what happens if the deal falls through. Would the Russians play hardball on the S-400 air defence system deal? That is something India wants.


After 36 jets, Rafale to push for Make In India

After selling 36 Rafale fighter jets to India, French government is now pushing for a project to manufacture warplanes here in Indian soil to give a boost to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's push to encourage local manufacturing under ‘Make In India’. And to put Paris’s case strongly, its newly appointed defence minister Florance Parley is visiting New Delhi and will be meeting her Indian counterpart.

According to south block officials, Parly will be landing India with high level delegation on October 26 and on next day she is scheduled to hold series of meetings with Indian officials on issues related to defence cooperation between the two nation.

“Though the visit is aimed towards further strengthening defence cooperation between the two nations, but offering production line in India for Rafale jets is surely will be on cards,” said an official.

Incidentally, Florence Parly of France and Nirmala Sithraman are the only two women to head the Defence Ministry of nuclear-armed nations. Parly will not hold delegation level talks with defence ministry officials, responsible for acquisitions, she will also hold talks with Indian Air Force for better understanding of the force’s requirement. On October 28, she will travel to Nagpur to launch a production facility of Dassault aviation in Nagpur, which has tied with Reliance Defence for offset of over Rs. 20,000 crore.

Dassault Avaition, manufactures of Rafale jets had signed contract worth $11 billion to supply 126 Rafale aircraft and eventually won an order for only 36 planes last year. India had initially agreed to buy all the 126 jets under a long-delayed deal, even mandating Dassault to build some of them locally. But the 126 Medium multi role combat aircraft (MMRCA) tender, issued by the Congress led UPA government was cancelled by the Modi government. But now, IAF is desperate to increase its combat strength- -the key concern, which have been raised by the force on many occasions.

IAF at present operating with 32 squadrons and on the verge of losing out more squadrons as MiG 21 and MiG 27 fleeting is ageing and the Air Force would achieve its sanctioned strength of 42 fighter squadrons by 2032. IAF will have 83 indigenous Light Combat Aircaft Tejas, 36 Rafale and 36 additional Sukhoi fighter jets by end of 2019.

Though, IAF was keen on a follow-on order of 36 additional Rafales to bridge the gap of it depleting combat fleet, but, they are now settling for lighter single engine warplanes. For this, the IAF is will start the process this month to acquire a fleet of single engine fighter jets which are expected to significantly enhance its overall strike capability. But, IAF has already maintained that requirement of twin engine is very much there.

IAF chief Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa, on the occasion of IAF Raising day has made it clear that there is absolutely a need for twin-engine fighter jets. And Rafaje is a twin engine jet.

Besides other features that make the Rafale a strategic weapon in the hands of the IAF is the Beyond Visual Range Meteor air-to-air missile with a range in excess of 150 KM. Its integration on the Rafale jets will mean the IAF can hit targets inside both Pakistan and across the northern and eastern borders while still staying within India's own territorial boundary.

Pakistan currently has only a BVR with 80 km range. During the Kargil war, India used a BVR of 50 km while Pakistan had none. With Meteor, the balance of power in the air space has again tilted in India's favour. Scalp, a long-range air-to-ground cruise missile with a range in excess of 300 km also gives the IAF an edge over its adversaries.