June 19, 2018

India, Russia weigh rupee-rouble trade for defence deals

Efforts to break the logjam over Russian defence deals because of US sanctions have zeroed in on a rupee-rouble transfer as the only way out but both sides are finding it difficult to find banking institutions through which such payments can be routed.

Financial sanctions by the US have hit India’s arms trade with Russia hard, with payments for weapons and equipment worth over $2 billion getting stuck, including those for critical projects such as the repair of leased nuclear attack submarine INS Chakra.

Senior officials told ET that after several rounds of consultations, it has become evident that a rupee-rouble transfer-–pegged on the exchange rate of an international currency—is the solution. As of now, India signs defence contracts with Russia for which payments are made in US dollars.

With US sanctions making this impossible, contract payments have been frozen since April. A top official said that a foreign currency-—say the Singapore dollar-—could be used as the benchmark and contract payments would be conducted directly.

Breaking logjam ::

However, the two nations are still struggling to find banks that would run the risk of facing US sanctions for transferring the money. Sources said that on the Indian side, the banks being talked to include Vijaya Bank and Indian Bank.

On the Russian side, its largest banking entity in India, Sberbank, was involved in talks. However, the Russian bank has not given any commitment on making the payments. A decision is still to be taken but the idea is to involve banks with the least exposure to American sanctions.

Other options that were looked at included payments to non-sanctioned entities in Russia after its flagship arms trading company Rosoboronexport came under sanctions by the US Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).

“This option was decided against as it would have opened up a lot of legal and audit issues, especially as defence deals are looked at very closely. No one wanted to take a chance,” a top official involved in talks to resolve the issue told ET.

US sanctions ban business ties with entities designated as Specially Designated Nationals (SDN). After fresh notifications in April named Rosoboronexport, Indian banks were pressured into freezing all lines of credit (LoCs) to Russian arms companies, resulting in all deals coming to a halt.

Payments worth over $100 million were blocked in less than a month with payments of over $2 billion facing uncertainty. This includes a payment of over $15 million to Russia that would have been used to repair the damaged INS Chakra nuclear submarine that met with an accident in late 2016.

Also impacted are ongoing submarine repairs besides purchases of missiles and ammunition. The signing of a $5-billion deal to purchase the S400 air defence system from Russia is also under a cloud.

The US has imposed sanctions against Russia for interfering in the 2016 presidential election and its actions in Crimea, Ukraine and Syria.


Battle ready: Dhanush artillery gun clears final trials

The indigenously upgraded artillery gun Dhanush has successfully completed final user trials and is ready for induction into the Army. Dhanush is an upgraded version of the Swedish Bofors gun procured by India in the mid-1980s.

“This was the third and final phase of user exploitation firings in which six Dhanush guns were fired in battery formation from May 31 to June 7, 2018 at the Pokhran field firing range. A total of 301 rounds were fired from the six guns, including burst fire,” said Dr. Uddipan Mukherjee, public relations officer of the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB), in response to a questionnaire from this newspaper.

The first phase of trials were conducted between July and September 2016 at the Pokhran and Babina ranges and the second phase was conducted between October and December 2016 at the Siachen base camp with three guns. A total of 1,520 rounds have been fired in all the three phases.

Tested in all terrains ::

During the trials, the guns travelled extensively in towed/ self-propelled mode in desert and high-altitude terrains with each gun clocking over 1,000 km demonstrating their mobility.

Dr. Mukherjee said the next step was completion of general staff (GS) evaluation after which Bulk Production Clearance (BPC) will be accorded. The OFB already has an indent from the Army for 114 guns and will start supplying the guns on receipt of the BPC. “The OFB has already supplied six guns for battery firing during the user trials. Another 12 guns will be issued within a year on receipt of the BPC,” he stated.

The entire order of 114 guns is to be delivered within four years. To meet the requirement, the Board has undertaken capacity augmentation to manufacture over 400 barrels and 250 ordnances for large-calibre weapon systems, Dr. Mukherjee said, adding that the OFB was confident of producing eight to 10 guns per month within two to three years. As of now, the gun has over 80% indigenous content. The imported systems include the power pack, parts of the electronic suite, and some seals and bearings.


June 18, 2018

The UN’s Kashmir report is weirdly silent on Pakistan’s dreaded terrorist groups

Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nepal are members of the UN Human Rights Council. India, with a brilliant record of upholding human rights, has no representation.

In a first, in its 49-page report, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has focused on Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).
But, ironically, the report refers to Jammu and Kashmir as “consisting of the Kashmir Valley, the Jammu and Ladakh regions and ‘Pakistan-Administered Kashmir’ (Azad Jammu and Kashmir, and Gilgit-Baltistan)”.
Taking objection to the UN using terms such as “Azad Jammu and Kashmir” and “Gilgit-Baltistan” for PoK, the ministry of external affairs (MEA) has rubbished the report saying “the incorrect description of Indian territory in the report is mischievous, misleading and unacceptable. There are no entities such as ‘Azad Jammu and Kashmir’ and ‘Gilgit-Baltistan’”.
The report appears to have gone far beyond its mandate by referring to India’s internal security concerns and anti-terrorism initiatives as being part of human rights violations. Not only are such references factually incorrect but they are highly inappropriate to be used by an official body of the UN, which is duty-bound to respect the sovereign rights and obligations of the largest democracy of the world.
There is a democratically elected government in Jammu and Kashmir, and New Delhi is committed to uphold the rule of law. The state and central government have taken serious view of the collateral damage and intrusions to civilians’ rights and freedom arising out of army action against terrorist outfits and acts of terrorism and violence sponsored from across the border.
The report is weirdly silent on dreaded terrorist outfits operating from Pakistani soil, fully supported, aided and abated by the ISI and Pakistan army. It is also silent on the inhuman excesses committed on the people of Gilgit, Baltistan and Balochistan, the genocide of freedom fighters in Balochistan and Sind, the mass graves of women and children in these areas, the forcible abduction of leaders who question the army excesses and the illegal occupation of areas by Islamabad.

Far from reporting the truth, the report ironically mentions the “killing of Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist Burhan Wani by the Indian army” and the resultant violent protests. The worst and unacceptable suggestion is the demand for an international enquiry into the army action and use of pellet guns in quelling violent protests.
Except for a brief reference to the “misuse of anti-terror legislation to persecute peaceful activists and quash dissent” by Islamabad, the UN report finds nothing amiss in a country that has scant respect for democracy and whose army was actually hiding Osama bin Laden at its headquarters.
In a rare use of strong words of condemnation of a UN report, the MEA has not only rejected the findings and suggestions of the report but has also raised a very pertinent point regarding an important constituent of the UN. The statement from the MEA says: “We are deeply concerned that individual prejudices are being allowed to undermine the credibility of a UN institution.”

The UN Human Rights Commissioner is expected to be a person of eminence, highly knowledgeable on international affairs, and free from prejudice. It is nobody’s argument that the present incumbent Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein of Jordan is unsuited for the post. But the OHCHR reports are supposed to be taken seriously by the world community because they are records with far-reaching consequences in resolving international disputes.
The least that the OHCHR could have done is to take stock of the ground reality and be judicious in its approach towards a problem that should jolt the international community that loves peace and progress.
Ironically, the earlier commissioner, a person of Tamil origin hailing from South Africa, came under severe criticism for her alleged biased and insensitive references to the dispensation in Colombo while being silent on the human rights violations of a terrorist outfit like LTTE, which had no compunction in using women and children as human shield. Of the 103 resolutions by this council, 56 are reportedly condemning Israel for human rights violation but not one mentions Hamas.
Adopted 10 December 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is probably one of those resolutions followed more in violation than compliance. Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nepal are currently members (till 2020) of the UN Human Rights Council. India, with a brilliant record of upholding human rights and following the principle of looking at the world as ‘one family’ (vasudhaiva kutumbakam), has no representation in the council. New Delhi needs to be more pro-active in meeting with and sensitising the council on its viewpoint and ground realities.
Sadly, the OHCHR report has given a contemptible opportunity to India-bashers, a handful of despicable BJP-haters and candle-light brigade in India, who are dancing with glee over this biased lopsided report.
The last fortnight was witness to India’s increasing clout in the international arena – Prime Minister Modi rubbed shoulders with world leaders, he delivered an outstanding keynote address at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, India participated in the SCO summit. However, amid these headline-grabbing achievements, New Delhi should not overlook some of the warnings in fine print emanating from our immediate neighbourhood, be it Male, Colombo, Islamabad or Kathmandu.


US team of experts in Delhi to discuss key military agreement

AS PART of preparations for the 2+2 dialogue between the foreign and defence ministers of India and the US in Washington next month, a team of specialists from the Pentagon will be meeting their counterparts on the Indian side in Delhi from Monday to negotiate the text of a “foundational” military communications agreement.

Official sources told The Indian Express that the US team, which will include lawyers, and policy and technical experts, is scheduled to meet the Indian experts from Monday to Wednesday. They said that the US officials will try and address Indian observations on the draft Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) submitted earlier.

The resumption of talks on COMCASA signals a breakthrough in the Indian stance. After signing a military logistics agreement with the US in 2016, the Indian government was not keen on signing the two other “foundational” agreements — COMCASA and Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-spatial Cooperation (BECA).

COMCASA essentially provides a legal framework for the transfer of communication security equipment from the US to India that would facilitate “interoperability” between Indian and US forces — and potentially with other militaries that use US-origin systems for secure data links. It was called the Communication and Information on Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA) before the name was changed to reflect its India-specific nature.

Official sources said they did not expect the finalisation of the COMCASA text or its signing during the inaugural 2+2 dialogue. But an intention to sign the COMCASA in the near future could figure in the joint statement to be issued by both sides in Washington.

American officials contend that COMCASA is meant to facilitate the use of high-end secured communication equipment to be installed on military platforms being sold to India and fully exploit their potential. India’s military, they argue, is currently dependent on commercially available and less secure communication systems on high-end American platforms like C-130Js and the P8I maritime surveillance aircraft.But the need for signing COMCASA becomes mandatory if India is to get the armed version of the Sea Guardian drones from Washington. New Delhi has been intimated by the US officials that there is no possibility of India using the high-end drones, which is dependent on a secure data and communication system link, without signing the COMCASA.

Defence ministry officials have held reservations about signing the COMCASA as they fear American intrusive access to Indian military communication systems. They also fear that a large quantity of Russian-origin and indigenous Indian military platforms may not be compatible with COMCASA.

The US had granted India the status of a ‘Major Defence Partner’ in 2016 but no tangible benefits on military technology front have come to New Delhi so far. Issues of defence cooperation between the two countries will figure during the visit of Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to Washington next month for the 2+2 dialogue.


Indian cancellation of defense equipment orders hurts investor sentiment: Experts

The Indian government’s penchant for canceling or withdrawing tenders for defense equipment at the last minute is likely to hurt investor confidence in the country, experts said on Sunday.

New Delhi called off a $9 billion deal to co-develop with Russia a next-generation fighter aircraft, after the state-owned Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) said it would do the job in-house, Indian media reported this week.

Under the deal, a significant amount of the research would have been carried out in India. Russia had agreed to tailor the aircraft to Indian needs, and was to hand over all the technology, the Economic Times reported.

India is the world’s largest importer of defense equipment, and imports at least 90 percent of its equipment, including parts for assembly.

The government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants the country to decrease its reliance on foreign firms, reduce its import bill and manufacture equipment in-house.

But India lacks much of the high-end technology needed for such equipment, which is why deals where foreign partners agree to share technology are useful for its long-term plans, experts say.

When such deals are canceled, “it greatly reduces confidence in India,” said Saurabh Joshi, editor of StratPost Media Pvt Ltd., a defense news website.

“We can’t willy-nilly… accept arguments that a particular equipment can be developed and produced indigenously before such tenders are withdrawn,” he added.

“There should be an adequate test to develop and produce indigenously. Otherwise, we’re simply postponing an acquisition process by 10 to 15 years, and it’s the armed forces that have to go without critical equipment until then.”

Experts say one reason for the government canceling orders could be a lack of funds. The Russian deal is not the only one to be jettisoned recently.

New Delhi scrapped a $500 million deal for Israel’s Spike Anti-Tank Guided Missile. Israel had agreed to transfer the technology to India, and had set up a factory in a venture with an Indian company. The reason given for the cancellation was the same: To develop the missiles indigenously.

A tender was also withdrawn for short-range surface-to-air missiles, with Israel’s SPYDER system having been the front-runner, experts said.

On average, it takes a tender at least six years to go through the various steps before the final purchase order can be placed.

Any company that loses a bid has to account for that time and investment to its head office and its board, Joshi said.


US Arm Twists India to Buy Patriot-3 Systems And Not Russians S-400

 Late last year, the Iran-supported Houthi rebels in Yemen fired a Burqan-2 missile (a Scud variant) aimed at the international airport in Riyadh some 600 miles to the northeast. The missile got to its target alright but due to the strains in the metal canister induced by the flight, blew apart with the debris littering parts of the runway and the road outside the airport.

The Saudis, however, claimed that they had fired five Patriot advanced capability (PAC-3) interceptor at the intruder and had destroyed the Houthi Burqan.

US President Donald Trump visiting Saudi Arabia not long after that event crowed, “Our system knocked the missile out of the air. That’s how good we are. Nobody makes what we make, and now we’re selling it all over the world.”

Trump is a loud, less than, credible snake oil salesman at the best of times. As promoter of the PAC-3 he is eminently ignorable, as is any US official urging friendly countries to buy this air defence system whose worldwide publicity is far better than its performance.

Except, and this is a kicker, an analysis by air defence experts of the debris distribution and of the parts of the Burqan system that the Saudis proudly displayed days after the attack, came to the conclusion, as reported in the American press, that the incoming missile had come apart by itself at the end of its trajectory and, more shocking still to Trump Admin officials, the Pentagon, and Raytheon — the maker of the Patriot, that all the five PAC-3 interceptors the Saudis fired had missed the target!

Last month Tina Kaidanow, principal deputy assistant secretary of the US State Department’s Political-Military Affairs Bureau, came to Delhi on a triple-pronged mission — to press Delhi to sign the remaining two “foundational” agreements — COMCASA and BECA as follow up to the LSA; and to prevent India signing up to buy the Russian counterpart of the PAC-3, the S-400, for $5 billion; and to persuade the Modi government to buy instead the American product, PAC-3, that doesn’t work.

While Kaidanow’s visit wasn’t reported by the Indian media, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s statement that India would go in for the Russian item even if it attracted US sanctions under the 2018 Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, was.

Apparently, the US State Dept official’s muffled threat of CAATSA did not work, nor did it “engender a willingness” on the part of the Indian government to think about the US PAC-3 system as replacement. And as regards COMCASA and BECA she was told nothing she could be reassured by.

“As a function of trying to move the defense relationship forward — and certainly the defense trade relationship — it is important that those foundational agreements are considered by the Indian government, they are acted on hopefully as expeditiously as possible,” Kaidanow told the Washington defence media. “Of course it is their sovereign right to decide on these things, but our hope is that we have presented to them some good options and some ways forward. Hopefully we can make some progress in that relatively soon.”
 And pertaining to the F-16 and perhaps also the PAC-3, she said “American defense product is great product — it is the best in the world. It’s central that countries really think about when they acquire these things — and particularly when we’re talking about important systems … — that they think about the quality and the interoperability piece and all of the things that we know come with the acquisition of American products.”

Kaidanow is right. Buying military goods from the US comes with lot of attached baggage and just too many do’s and don’t’s, inclusive of the uncertainty attending on the spares supply, which can be stopped at any time on Congressional whim and an Administration’s fancy. And worst of all, the PAC-3 does not work as advertised.

Whether Prime Minister Narendra Modi is convinced about the cons outweighing the pros or not, the political scene at home tilting against him suggests his government is unlikely during the remainder of its first term at least to sign any accords, or buy anything big from America, let alone nix the S-400 deal, go in for the PAC-3, and permanently turn Russia into an enemy.


June 16, 2018

An Update on the Indian Navy: Submarine Modernization

On March 29 a chapter of Indian Navy’s flying prowess as part of its aviation arm, took a farewell bow as eight Tu-142MR (Tuploev) planes of the Indian Naval Air Squadron (INAS) 312 were decommissioned after proudly serving the Indian Navy for 29 long years. A poignant ceremonial fly past was held at INS Rajali, India’s premiere Naval Air Station in Arakkonam, as Tu-142s made their last flights.

At the expense of repetition, it needs reiteration that submarines form a vital part in the inventory of any large Navy’s three-dimensional ‘Order of Battle’ (ORBAT).

A conventional diesel powered submarine has less visibility in peace, because it is essentially a vehicle for war constantly working up when not in refit or self maintenance period (SMP), and executing arduous ‘war patrols’ fully armed with lethal torpedoes and missiles loaded in congested spaces with long periods under water.

In peace time submarines contribute to intelligence operations, and train the surface fleet and anti submarine planes and helicopters in Anti Submarine Warfare (ASW) in exercises called CASEXES.

Nuclear powered submarines with potent missiles and torpedoes have endurance under water and are called SSNs as they are not easy to detect. The nuclear powered and armed with nuclear tipped under water launched long range missiles are vehicles for nuclear deterrence called SSBNs. Submarines with special under water kill torpedoes are also dubbed as Submerged Submarine Killers (SSKs).

India needs all these types in numbers as India has two partnering nuclear nations, Pakistan and China as its neighbors with increasing submarine ORBATs. Submarines pose threats in being. China also has ambitions to base ships and submarines in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) in the long term with captive bases.

A submariner’s motto, is to ‘run deep and run silent’, and the underwater service is dubbed as the ‘silent service’. Submarines are referred to as manmade stealthy ‘sea-monsters’, requiring quality and well trained manpower, and the Indian Navy’s submarines are based on both coasts with a submarine training school INS Satavahna at Vishakapatnam and a new submarine base Varsha is coming up South of it on the East coast near Rombili.

This will decongest Vishakapatnam where nuclear submarines are based and constructed at the Ship Building Centre(SBC) in the Eastern Naval Command.

The Indian Navy’s submarine strength had risen to a healthy twenty modern boats in early 1990s with seven Foxtrots, nine new Kilos, two new Shishumars and nuclear powered INS Chakra which was completing its four year lease (1987-91) from the Soviet Union with highly trained crews.

But steadily the ORBAT has been falling with no orders till 2006, and is now down to fourteen conventional and two nuclear submarines which include the nuclear Akula INS Chakra on lease since 2012 from Russia and the nuclear powered home- made INS Arihant with 750-km K-15/B -05 nuclear tipped missiles.

The second of three home-made larger nuclear submarine Arighat with an additional plug to accommodate longer ranged 2000km K-4 underwater launched nuclear missiles is in advanced stage of construction, and Russian media reports another Akula is likely to be transferred on lease.

The current Navy’s detailed ORBAT stands at the aging nine imported Russian 2,400 ton Kilos with Klub missiles and CET-65 torpedoes. Unfortunately, INS Sindhurakshak was lost on 14th August 2013 with eighteen lives in an internal explosion in the Naval Dockyard Mumbai while she was preparing for a War Patrol.

The Indian Navy does not have long refit facilities for its 877 EKM Kilos and has to send them to Russia for the two year long refits where a submarine is stripped and upgraded at high cost.

INS Sindhukesari arrived at the Zvezdochka Shipyard in Severodvinsk near where INS Vikramaditya was refitted in mid June this year aboard the dock ship Rolldock Star, and it is reported INS Sindhuraj is slated for refit later. INS Sindhukriti was refitted and upgraded with Klub missiles at the Hindustan Shipyard Ltd (HSL) but the refit took a decade as support in India and expertise was lacking. The exercise to refit 877EKM Kilos in India was given up.

The Navy’s ORBAT also includes four 1,800-tonne SUT-B torpedo firing HDW-1500 Shishumars, of which two were imported from Germany and two INS Shalki (S-46) and Shankul(S-47) were built in India at Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Ltd (MDSL) Mumbai in 1992 and 1994, respectively, and are being fitted out with Harpoon missiles.

The first of six 2,000-tonne Scorpene submarine INS Kalvari built by MDSL and DCNS was commissioned on December 14, 2017 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and is fitted with the SUBTICs command and control and SM-39 Exocet missiles but it’s torpedo has not been selected. The Shishumar’s SUT-B torpedo was used in the trials.

However, it is of concern that eleven of the current fourteen conventional boats are over twenty-five years old. Their quality for war patrols has perforce begun to deteriorate, and nearly a third remain in refit or SMP.

In recent times Navies are fitting out plugs of autonomous Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) systems or Sterling Engines, to remain under water with internal breathing for longer durations to avoid coming up to charge batteries and evade detection.

Indian Navy plans to enter the AIP regime with its next set of submarines called Project 75 (India) for which and an RFI for six submarines has been issued and replies are expected by October 16. DRDO’s Naval Metallurgical Research Laboratory (NMRL) at Ambarnath near Mumbai and Larsen and Toubro (L&T) are currently holding trials for an AIP system named Marin with foreign help as AIP is inescapable for modern submarines.

The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) has approved eight SSNs to be built in India under a strategic partnership but progress for even the RFI has been slow, though it is reported design work is in progress by Navy-DRDO and L&T in a facility near Gurgaon.

This then is a current submarine status report and there is a genuine lament that the Indian Navy’s submarine strength is at its lowest numbers and the reasons for the decline is because India’s inherent security postures since Independence have been reactive to threats, and not properly planned, and funds remain constrained, as there is no combined tri service appreciation of needs.

Government has set up a Defence Planning Committee (DPC) with the three Chiefs under National Security Adviser (NSA) Mr AK Doval to follow up.

Some essential acquisitions in the past have also been cancelled due to corruption charges, and India’s submarine plans have been the victims of these policies. The Government approved a 30-year two line twenty-four submarines plan as early as 1999 but it could only order one line of the six Scorpene submarines in 2006 called Project 75, with option for six more.

Fortunately, Indian Navy realised the need for nuclear powered submarines in the 1980s as inescapable vessels as they can remain underwater as long as supplies allow.

DRDO set up the Project Advanced Technological Vessel (ATV) now called Aakanshka under naval command, which has delivered INS Arihant as a Made in India submarine for nuclear deterrence in a Public Private Partnership (PPP) with Larsen & Toubro Ltd (L&T) which was provided a full shed on lease at SBC.

Navy also set up a Very Low Frequency (VLF) communication facility in South India INS Kattaboman for communications with SSNs and SSBNs which carry the French Neriedes under water antennae, whose role is deterrence and indicates the importance of nuclear submarines in a nation’s ORBAT especially for a nation like India which has two nuclear neighbours Pakistan and China.

The PLA (Navy) has over ten nuclear submarines with long range missiles and is set to supply Pakistan with conventional and nuclear propelled submarines to be based at Ormara in the future.

The Pakistan Navy has operated three French Agosta-90B/Khalid and two Agosta-70 submarines built and modernized at Karachi, and refitted in Turkey. Pakistan Navy’s (PN) is set to acquire 6/8 double-hulled 6,000- ton Type Diesel S-041 and S-039 Yuan Hybrid AIP submarines. Construction of the boats has begun near Shanghai and the first is expected by 2020 at Ormara at PNS Jinnah where joint work has started with China as it has a naturally protected bay and inlet.

Ormara is 120 nm from commercial Gwadar, the other port China operates.

Co-operating with the United States and QUAD partners in ASW in the Indian Ocean will help enhance India’s ASW capacity as the Indian Ocean is witnessing China’s increasing activity and ambition in the region.

Submarines can shape the region’s security environment for deterrence and the Indian Navy faces a significant under water threat in the years to come but it is hoped with the speeding up of deliveries of the five Project 75 Scorpene submarines at one a year, and SSBN Arighat and another Akula joining, the Indian Navy’s silent service will look up.


June 15, 2018

Army may launch summer trials for towed guns

The Army, which has been looking for an Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System (ATAGS), is likely to take a decision soon on whether to conduct summer trials on the ATAGS offered by the Kalyani group, sources close to the development said Thursday.

The Pune-based Kalyani group, whose flagship is Bharat Forge, had developed the ATAGS in association with the Armament Research & Development Establishment (ARDE), which is a part of the Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO).

According to the sources, the Army had completed the “winter trials” on the ATAGS earlier this year.

“The army prefers to conduct both winter and summer trials on new weapons systems, to ensure that they function as per the army’s specifications. The summer trials are likely to be held in Rajasthan,” the source said.

Apart from Bharat Forge, the DRDO also has a partnership with Tata Power (Strategic Engineering Division).

“The tests have to be sought by the client, the Indian Army, or by the DRDO. The Indian Army will place orders only after the ATAGS pass the trials. The biggest challenge for the ATAGS is the stability and consistency of the gun barrels and breeches, which require precision engineering and the ability to fire consistently without melting or the barrel bending out of shape because of the heat generated in the barrel,” the sources said. More importantly, the sources, another area that was intensively scrutinized by the army, through tests, was the recoil of the ATAGS.

Besides the ATAGS, the Indian Army was also looking to buy another gun called the Bharat 52, a 155mm, 52-calibre gun similar to the ATAGS. The army had tested the Bharat 52 in Itarsi, Madhya Pradesh.

The Indian Army has been scouting for an ATAGS because the last major supplier of towed guns had been Bofors, back in 1986, when India purchased 410 guns from the Swedish arms supplier. The purchase later turned controversial with claims that Bofors had paid bribes to senior government figures to win the contract. The Bofors contract cost former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi a second term in 1989.

If the trials are successful, the government is likely tin instruct the Indian Army to procure up to 40 ATAGS to begin with. The procurement of the ATAGS is expected to cost the government well over Rs. 900 crore.

“ATAGS are a critical component of the Indian Army, which has not procured any new towed guns in over 32 years. I think the two Indian companies, Bharat Forge and the Tata group company, will probably be the first recipients of the contract for the purchase of ATAGS,” the sources said.


Corporate war stalls Indian Navy’s Rs 20,000 crore project

The Anil Ambani-led Reliance Naval & Engineering Ltd (RNEL) has filed a complaint with the defence ministry against a senior naval officer, alleging that he has been favouring its competitor, Larsen & Toubro, in a contract because his son is employed there. The complaint, on which an internal inquiry is now on, has stalled a Rs 20,000-crore ‘Make in India’ naval warship deal. The allegations include ‘favouritism and supplying of insider information’.

The contract to make four amphibious warships in India has been hanging fire since last year when L&T and RNEL were shortlisted by the defence ministry.

ET has learnt the RNEL complaint specifically states that the son of the top Navy officer works with L&T’s defence division.

The officer concerned, a vice-admiral, has also sent across his views on the matter after the defence ministry began a probe, officials told ET. In response to queries by ET, a spokesman for RNEL said: “Yes, we have filed an official complaint in the matter.” He declined to go into details.

When contacted, L&T officials denied the allegations. “Our company does not engage in such acts and the organisation’s ethos does not permit engaging in anything against our value system,” said a top L&T official. The Navy did not offer any comment.

The two companies have been fighting a bitter battle for the mega contract that can turn around the fortunes of the victorious shipyard.

The landing platform docks (LPDs), used to transport troops and equipment such as tanks and attack helicopters across sea, would be the largest warship to be built in an Indian private sector shipyard.

While RNEL had tied up with the French Naval Group for the contract, L&T’s technology partner is Spain’s Navantia Group. All four ships are to be built at an Indian yard with the help of a foreign partner who will chip in with design and technology.

The companies were shortlisted in 2017, but the next step in the procurement process — opening of commercial bids and determining the winner — has now been stalled.

Earlier, the selection process rejected a bid by ABG Shipyard, which is facing bankruptcy proceedings.

Concerns have been expressed recently after the report of an internal auditor raised doubts on RNEL’s ability to “continue as a going concern” due to current liabilities and loans being called back by lenders.

Meanwhile, a May 31 news report by PTI said independent auditors had raised doubts on L&T’s shipbuilding arm continuing as a ‘going concern’ due to liabilities after multiple years of losses.

“The company’s current liabilities exceeds its current assets as at the balance sheet date. These conditions indicate the existence of material uncertainty that may cast significant doubt about the company’s ability to continue as a going concern,” Sharp & Tannan, the auditors, said in the FY17 balance sheet.

The Indian warship-building sector has suffered considerable strain over the past five years with few orders trickling to the private sector.

Almost all major contracts have gone to public sector shipyards that are currently saddled with orders beyond their building capacity.


June 14, 2018

US approves sale of Stinger missiles to India: Lightweight fire-and-forget weapon system a combat-proven technology

The US state department has approved the direct sale of powerful stinger missiles to India, along with six AH-64E Apache attack helicopters and Hellfire missiles. Pentagon's defence security cooperation agency notified US Congress about the state department's decision. The sale is expected to pass through if no lawmaker opposes the notification, PTI reported on Wednesday.

However, the sale of Stinger Block I-92H missiles, if it takes place, will bolster Indian Army's short-range air defense network massively. The weapon prototype is widely popular among most US allies and NATO nations due to its compact size, mobility and multi-purpose usability as a air-to-air and surface-to-air strike weapon.

What is a Stinger missile?

Stinger missile is a Man-Portable Air-Defense System (MANPADS), a shoulder-mounted weapon that can be used to shoot down helicopters UAVs, cruise missiles, and fixed-wing aircraft, both from land and sea. Besides this, it can be easily adapted to include air-to-air strike capacity that can be integrated into most rotary and fixed-wing aircraft, a report in the Economic Times said.

What increases its popularity is its portability; the light to carry and easy to operate Stinger missiles can be shoulder-fired by a single operator. In addition to this, the missile is quite accurate as it uses an infrared seeker to detect the heat being emitted from an aircraft engine's exhaust, and can hit nearly anything flying below 11,000 feet. According to The Diplomat, one variant of the missile also features an ultraviolet seeker that can distinguish between flares and jet engines.

According to Raytheon Missile Systems Company, which is the principal manufacturer of the missiles in the US, the weapon is deployed in more than 18 nations and with all four US military services. "Stinger is an immediate-response weapon of choice against a wide range of air threats, protecting both fixed sites and manoeuvre forces,” said Jack Elliot, Raytheon's Stinger programme director.

The combination of supersonic speed, agility and a highly accurate guidance and control system gives Stinger the operational edge against cruise missiles and all classes of aircraft. It's a lightweight, self-contained air defense system that can be rapidly deployed by ground troops and on military platforms. The missile is also used on Apache helicopters for air-to-air engagements, a company press release said.

In fact, Raytheon has entered an agreement with home-grown Tata Advanced Systems Ltd (TASL) to manufacture the missile's components in India, the Economic Times report quoted earlier said.

Stinger, a combat-proven technology ::

The Stinger missile weapon system has been used in combat in a number of major conflicts including the Afghan-Soviet War, the Angolan Civil War, the Yugoslav Wars, the Chechen War and the Falkland War, according to The Diplomat. Raytheon claims that it has shot down more than 270 fixed and rotary wing aircraft. It is also used by the US forces deployed in Afghanistan. Other nations purchasing and using the missile system include, South Korea, Taiwan, Latvia etc.

According to the US-based National Defence Magazine, the stringers had given a particularly tough time to Soviet aircraft in Afghanistan in the 1980s, where it had downed at least 250 aircraft and choppers. It is widely believed to be the major reason that forced the Soviets to withdraw its combat troops from Afghan soil in 1989. According to an article in The Diplomat, Congressman Charlie Wilson told The Washington Post in 1989, "Once the Stinger made their helicopters useless, that put the Russians on foot against the Mujahedin and there’s no one on Earth who can fight the Mujahedin on Foot." Even though, the claim could be termed debatable by several other experts, the Stringer's accuracy and speed remains widely undisputed. Because, notwithstanding the poor training of the Afghan Mujahideen fighters, most of the launches were reportedly successful. Besides this, Raytheon claims it maintains an over 90 percent success rate in reliability and training tests against advanced threat targets.


India Looks to Sikorsky MH-60R for Counter-Submarine Capability

Even as India launches stealth frigates and guided missile destroyers from its shipyards to patrol the Indian Ocean, the country has precious few modern helicopters equipped with sensors and weapons capable of detecting Chinese submarines patrolling its waters.
In this year's annual cooperative naval exercise called Malabar, the Indian navy will operate alongside and be exposed to modern U.S. and Japanese rotorcraft equipped for anti-submarine warfare (ASW). The exercise began June 7 and will run until June 16 in the Philippine Sea.
Chinese forces will be watching the exercise closely. One of the key elements of this year’s Malabar is the joint anti-submarine warfare (ASW) work-up, a growing concern for India as it faces potent submarines of the Chinese navy that regularly deploy in the Indian Ocean region.
Indian and U.S. Navy officials recently met at the highest levels, with Adm. Sunil Lanba, chairman of the Indian Chiefs of Staff Committee and Chief of the Naval Staff visiting the U.S. mid-March. A visit or two to the U.S. is part of every Indian naval chief’s tour of duty. However, coming in the run-up to Malabar, the visit timing was noteworthy for both countries.
Indian shipyards continue to roll out stealth frigates and guided missile destroyers with no helicopters to fill their hangars. Having commanded ships like the SNF-class destroyers, he is in a position to recognize his navy’s blunted anti-submarine warfare (ASW) capability.
In June 2017, after almost a decade of discussions, the direct commercial sale of 16 multi-role helicopters was withdrawn because the Indian Navy and Sikorsky — now owned by Lockheed Martin — couldn’t reach an agreement on price. Winds of "Make in India" and strategic partnership have swept ambitious plans for a naval multi-role helicopter and naval utility helicopter back into dusty files at the ministry of defense.
Even as the Indian navy’s integral ASW helicopter fleet shrinks, China continues to flex its undersea muscles in and around the Indian Ocean. News reports indicate Chinese forces shadowed the naval flotilla headed to Guam as it sailed through the South China Sea — a regular practice in waters to which China stakes a claim.
U.S. and Japanese helicopters will be on display again at Malabar, but while Indian naval pilots will get to see them in action, there is no active program that could introduce such advanced technologies to the Indian navy.
Officers who did not want to be named admitted that India’s naval integral ASW capability is at an all-time low. From past experience, the slight chance of present processes to deliver helicopters through the direct commercial sales (DCS) route within an acceptable timeframe is not lost on anybody at the ministry of defense (MOD).
During his visit to the U.S., Adm. Lanba was shown the Sikorsky MH-60R “Romeo” model Seahawk, which was on offer by Lockheed Martin as the Indian navy’s new multi-role helicopter. Sikorsky, before being bought by Lockheed, offered the S-70B Seahawk for the same program.
Because the Romeo offer was through a foreign military sale (FMS), the Indian MOD found it incompatible with the DCS case, and the Romeo was benched. Seven years down the road, Sikorsky and Lockheed Martin have merged. Though Sikorsky lost the S-70B deal, it looks like the MH-60R is back in play.
Few Indian helicopters have been successfully introduced through the DCS route. Most operational Indian navy rotorcraft were bought through the government-to-government route.
The Kamov-31 airborne early warning helicopters came with the Russian "Krivak" class stealth frigates. Six Sikorsky UH-3H utility helicopters came with INS Jalashwa, the former USS Trenton. The weapons for Indian Navy’s P-8Is that fly over Guam today came through a FMS contract. The sale of aircraft was through a DCS contract sealed with Boeing on Jan. 1, 2009.
During Malabar 2018, U.S. MH-60Rs will strut their stuff while the Indian navy stands-by with Chetaks, based on the 1960s-era French AĆ©rospatiale Alouette III for search and rescue.
The Indian military services and MOD have scored several self-goals by writing detailed procurement manuals and procedures that hang around their necks like millstones.
The navy would do well to have a close look at the Romeo’s performance this Malabar. Extrapolation of sensor performance in the Pacific to the tropical waters of Indian Ocean will not be flawless. But this is a fact the navy knows well from the 2011 field evaluation trials of the MRH, which included a demonstration on a U.S. Navy MH-60R at Patuxent River, Maryland.
Past and present Indian navy helicopter pilots who have stared at the bottom of the barrel for far too long hope the replacements come soon, whatever the make or route.
The incumbent government headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has a mandate to make tough decisions even though an election is looming. Recent reports indicate a sizeable number of Chetak/Cheetah likely will be replaced by Ka-226 helicopters from Russia. The Indian navy has not been a beneficiary of this program either, though the platform is meant for utility role.


June 13, 2018

Why India Keeps Spiking, and Reviving, a Massive Israeli Arms Deal

The on-off Spike missile deal between India and Israel is an ongoing saga – a weaponized, geopolitical soap opera.

Back in 2014, India's state-run Defence Acquisition Council, chaired by the then defence minister, Arun Jaitley, cleared the purchase of 8000 Spike missiles, over 300 launchers, and technology transfer from Israel to Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL), one of India’s state-owned ammunition and missiles manufacturers.

This $600 million deal to purchase the man portable "fire and forget" Spike missiles, which have a four kilometer range, was hailed as a major milestone in defense cooperation, a "flagship deal that cemented the budding Israeli-Indian security relationship” - a win-win situation for the buyer (India, the world’s largest importer of arms) and the seller (Israel – for whom India would become one of its largest clients).

In bagging this deal, Israel’s Spike missiles trumped the American Javelin missile. The U.S. lost out, thanks to its reluctance to allow Indian experts to evaluate the missiles and for its initial unwillingness to transfer technology to India. Later, the U.S. offered to co-produce and develop the missiles in India along with India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).

In contrast, Israel, though initially disinclined, then agreed to transfer the technology and produce the missiles as part of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s "Make in India" initiative.

In an unprecedented move, a major private player, Kalyani Strategic Systems Limited (part of the Kalyani Group, was allowed to make military-grade missiles in collaboration with Israel’s state-owned Rafael Advanced Defense Systems.

The Spike missile deal is the first missile facility to be set up by a private player - thus marking the genesis of India’s private military industrial complex. A joint venture, 51:49, was set up between the two - Kalyani Rafael Advanced Defence systems. A 24,000 square foot missile development facility sprang up in a nondescript industrial complex in a record ten months on the outskirts of Hyderabad, a city in southern India.

That facility was also expected to make a wide range of advanced weapons system, such "Command Control and Guidance, Electro-Optics, Remote Weapon Systems, Precision Guided Munitions and System Engineering for System Integration."

However, within a few months of setting up the facility, India canceled the Spike missile deal without offering any reasons.

The Indian media reported that the deal was canceled because "importing Spike Anti-Tank Guided Missiles would adversely affect the indigenous weapons manufacturing system by India’s public sector ammunitions maker, the Defence Research and Development Organization."

Indeed, India's DRDO was developing its own Spike alternative: the NAG 190 (Cobra) "fire and forget" Anti-Tank Guided Missile, also with a range of four kilometres. The missiles’ capabilities have few competitors worldwide. It was successfully test-fired at the Pokhran test firing range in Rajasthan's Thar desert.

However, the Indian army has so far not commented on how successful the testing of the NAG 190 actually was. Since then, the Indian army has delayed its induction, citing high expenses and numerous technical shortcomings, including inadequate thermal sensors.

DRDO promises to deliver them by the end of the year, seeking more time to operationalize them. India desperately needs to upgrade and modernize its weapons in general. But in this specific case, one of the challenges of this large-scale process has been exposed. The Indian army and the state manufacturer are at loggerheads with each other over defining operational criteria: Serially, at the last minute, the Indian army changes its requirements, and the DRDO keeps missing its deadlines.

That extra time was, and is, a problem.

India’s defense is primarily geared to challenge aggression from its neighbors, Pakistan and China. India fought a war with China in 1962 and three wars with Pakistan since independence in 1947. All three states are nuclear powers. India considers both as strategic threats, whether singly or – in the worst case scenario – together.

But the Indian army faces a severe shortage of anti-tank guided missiles. It is is 60 per cent short of what it’s authorized to hold, meaning it needs 68000 rounds and 850 launchers to be at what defense analysts have determined is an adequate state of readiness.

Though Mr. Modi and his party, the BJP, speak of making India self-reliant in defense, his policies point to a different direction – that of starving public sector defense manufacturers and selling them off to private parties, thuscreating a private military industrial complex.

In an unprecedented move, the Modi government has reportedly decided not to make any further investments in India’s public sector defense companies – the Ordnance Factory Board and Defence Public Sector Undertakings. Instead, it wants private players to create military products.

Speaking to the Hindu Business Line, a defence ministry official said: "Modernisation, upgrades, repowering, product launches and improvement in operational efficiencies are to be carried out with the help of private players with proven track record."At the same time Mr Modi’s government has also decided to sell its stakes in India’s public sector defense undertakings – Bharat Dynamics Limited and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited.

Ironically, the "Make in India" initiative has become a vehicle to facilitate big international defense deals as joint ventures with foreign players in India - Adani’s tie-up with the Swedish SAAB; Reliance’s joint venture with Dassault; Larsen and Toubro’s with France’s MBDA; Tata with Lockheed Martin; Mahindra with Airbus are just a few examples. India becomes the manufacturing site – to manufacture replica products developed abroad, rather than becoming integrated into a higher-value R&D process.

A few decades ago, India's defense secrets were traded for whisky. A dreadful concoction of wars cooked up in the Cold War era – the Indo-China war and the Indo-Pak war – saw the Russians, the Americans and the French amply profit from India’s conflicts. From that time and into the present day, India’s defense procurement has long been the subject of financial and political corruption scandals.

Now the playing field is different. The globalization of weapons has brought in new players, with Israel being one of them. Israel has steadily risen up the ranks as an arms supplier to India.

India’s corporate conglomerates see an opportunity to grab a piece of the pie. They have put a lot of time, money and effort into lobbying, running PR campaigns and creative corporate restructuring to grab a piece of India’s huge defense budget, which stands at around $53.5 billion. Warheads and missiles are the new profit-making machines for India’s conglomerates.

As regards the Spike missile deal, Netanyahu raised it with Modi on his trip to India earlier this year. After their meeting, on his flight back from Ahmedabad, a jubilant Netanyahu announced to reporters: "They are reauthorizing the Spike deal," even as his advisers cautioned it could well end up being worth only half the intial $500 million agreed.
 But the Indian government didn’t confirm Netanyahu’s claim. Mr. Modi knows it’s a politically sensitive issue – especially with elections only a few months away in 2019. Any attempt to acquire weapons from a foreign player will be seen as jeopardizing India’s indigenous weapons manufacturing program.

Meanwhile, the Israeli-Indian Hyderabad facility is being retasked to manufacture other weapons systems while the decision is being considered and reconsidered, for the fourth year running.

In election-season India, there’s a lot of political rhetoric about making the country self-reliant vis-a-vis its defense capabilities. It’s a theme that is historically and politically resonant.

However, there’s far less noise being made about the real beneficiaries of these carefully designed "Made in India" policies – or what it means for India to push the privatization of the means for war.