December 30, 2013

HAL to build 8, then 12, Tejas fighters each year

On December 20, the Tejas light combat aircraft (LCA) was cleared to enter operational service with the Indian Air Force (IAF). Now Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) faces the daunting transition from handcrafting Tejas prototypes into factory-assembling the 200-fighter Tejas fleet that Defence Minister A K Antony has envisioned.

The ministry of defence (MoD) has sanctioned Rs 1,556 crore for HAL's high-tech production line that aims to build 12 Tejas fighters each year. The funds will come from the IAF (25 per cent); the navy (25 per cent), while HAL will put up half the money.

Business Standard visited the new Tejas production line, an expansive 28,000-square metre facility in four massive hangars in HAL, Bangalore. Work is already underway on the first IAF order of 20 Tejas Mark I fighters, with an order for 20 more in the pipeline once the aircraft gets "final operational clearance" next year. The first two fighters being "series produced" - they are numbered SP-1 and SP-2 - are visibly taking shape.

"By end-March 2014, SP-1 will fly, and SP-2 will fly a few months later. By the end of next year four Tejas will be in production. In 2015-16, we will build six fighters, and in 2016-17, we will build nine. We are targeting an annual capacity of 12 Tejas fighters," says V Sridharan, the project manager hand-chosen to build the LCA. Earlier, he set up HAL's production line for the Hawk trainer.

Over the years, excellent designs like the Arjun tank have failed the transition from design into product. This is because India's archaic defence production policies make the Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO) responsible for designing equipment, with production responsibility then passing onto a network of eight defence public sector undertakings (DPSUs) and 39 ordnance factories (OFs) with long reputations for sloppy production. Having played little role in design, the manufacturing agencies struggle to produce the system.

The Tejas could be a game-changer. Firstly, HAL has played a major role both in designing the Tejas and in building prototypes for the flight-test programme. Secondly, HAL has brought a radically new approach to Tejas production, adopting global aerospace manufacturing standards and an unprecedented approach to quality control.

Walking around the Tejas assembly line, Sridharan explains that the sixteen Tejas prototypes HAL has built are each different from the other. As the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) incrementally refined and improved the fighter, each new prototype incorporated improvements and additions. The most recent prototype has a pressure refuelling system that lets the Tejas be topped up Formula One style, in just 8 minutes and then flown back into combat.

"As a result of all these changes, a panel from one Tejas would not fit another. Now we will implement absolute standardisation, with identical components, assemblies and panels," explains Sridharan.

This is being done with laser scanners that ensure that a number of key points (called "locators") on each aircraft being built is exactly where it should be. By measuring with the laser, it is ensured that the locator is within 80 microns, i.e. about one-tenth of a millimetre, of where it should be. These are international standards, used by companies like Boeing.

It is evident from the focus of the laser trackers teams that it is painstaking work. This standardisation, and coordinating the flow of Tejas systems and sub-systems to the assembly line constitutes what Sridharan describes as the process of "stabilising" the Tejas line.

"Once the process is stabilised, we can transition to higher rates of production. My initial focus will be on production quality; then we will scale up production. HAL will meet the target of building 20 fighters by 2016-17," he says.

That was the pattern while building the Hawk. After building just two aircraft in the first year, seven were built in the second year. In the third year, HAL built 18 Hawks, and the remaining 14 Hawks were produced within months.

Within ADA and in HAL, there is expectation that better production could improve aircraft performance. "Better build quality could well improve the Tejas' aerodynamic performance, reducing drag, and improving its speed, rate of climb and turn rate," says a designer.

HAL's chairman, RK Tyagi, explains that the international best practices being introduced in the Tejas assembly line will be replicated across all the aerospace giant's production lines, including the Sukhoi-30MKI line in Nashik and the Hawk trainer line in Bangalore.

"We have earmarked Rs 3,500 crore of HAL funds for making our production lines world class. Our focus is to gain the IAF's confidence. We will do what is necessary for that," says Tyagi.

Business standard

Government clears proposal for buying 15 Israeli-made Heron UAVs

Boosting surveillance capabilities of the Indian Army along the borders with China and Pakistan, the government has cleared the procurement of around 15 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) from Israel at a cost of around Rs.1,200 crore.

A proposal to procure these Heron UAVs was approved by the Cabinet Committee on Security headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at its recent meeting, sources told PTI here.

The around Rs.1200-proposal for procuring the UAVs will bolster the Israeli-origin Heron and Searcher fleet of the force which deploys them on both the eastern and western sectors, they said.

The force has a fleet of more than 40 such vehicles, which are expected to undergo upgrades in the near future.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) flies the Israeli-made Searcher II and Heron UAVs for reconnaissance and surveillance purposes and about 100 Searchers are in operation on Indian borders in western, northern and eastern regions.

After the upgrades, the air force would be capable of operating these aircraft from far-off distances and control them through satellite communication system.

The army also operates a sizable number of UAVs and has deployed them in borders along the western and eastern fronts.

The army was the first to induct UAVs in the 90s starting with Searcher Mark I and Searcher Mark II which could operate at an altitude of 15,000 feet and finally the Heron, which can operate at 30,000 feet.

Army's Northern Command had recently issued a global tender for procuring latest miniature unmanned aerial vehicles for gathering intelligence and carrying out reconnaissance of areas along the Line of Control (LoC) with Pakistan and Sino-India border.

The Navy has also three operational squadrons of the Israeli UAVs deployed along both the eastern and the western sea boards.


December 28, 2013

Navy ignores Cochin Shipyard Limited in building platform docks

Cochin Shipyard Limited (CSL), which had recently completed the first phase construction of India's first indigenous aircraft carrier (IAC) is in a state of shock with the reported decision of the Indian Navy to exclude it from the list of firms that will be building landing platform docks (LPDs).

Sources at CSL said the Navy had decided to build four LPDs and the bids were sent to private shipyards, Larsen & Toubro (L&T), Pipavav Defence and Offshore Engineering and ABG Shipyard. They said as per the inputs received by them, Hindustan Shipyard Ltd. (HSL) would build two of the proposed LPDs and the winning company among the three private shipyards will build the remaining two. CSL authorities had already taken up the issue with the defence ministry through the higher ups in the ministry of shipping. "We understand that some rethinking is going on with the Centre exploring the possibilities of including CSL in this deal," a top official of the shipyard said.

The unions within CSL and several public personalities are already planning to approach defence minister A K Antony against this 'discrimination'. They plan to give representations to Antony who is expected to visit CSL on Tuesday to commission the fast petrol vessel (FPV) built by the shipyard for the coast guard.

"We understand the Navy is citing the ongoing IAC work as a reason for not involving CSL. They fear that LPD work would affect IAC's delivery schedule. But their apprehensions are misplaced. The hull-work of IAC is already over and many of the workers engaged in the section would be free now. What is left of IAC is mainly the outfit work. Also, by the time the designs for the proposed LPDs are ready, it will take another two or three years and IAC would be ready by then," said MP P Rajeeve.

CSL staff unions point out that shipyard would be left with practically no fresh orders once the 21 FPVs for ICG are delivered. "The ship building industry as a whole is passing through a rough period across the globe and the only sure orders for the shipyards come from the security forces. We hoped that we would get the first preference when the Navy places fresh vessel-building orders considering our achievements. The Navy's decision has shocked us," a union leader said. 
- Times of india

India, US ink $1billion deal for six Super Hercules aircraft

The ongoing diplomatic kerfuffle over the Devyani Khobragade episode is no hurdle as far defence deals with the US are concerned. India and the US have inked another mega contract, the $1.01 billion one for six additional C-130J "Super Hercules" aircraft, while some others are being finalized.

Defence ministry sources said the "letter of offer and acceptance" for the six new four-engine C-130Js, which will be delivered within three years, was signed on Friday under the US government's "foreign military sales" (FMS) programme.

IAF already has six C-130Js tactical airlift aircraft, ordered for $962 million in 2007, which are based at the Hindon airbase on the outskirts of Delhi. The six new C-130Js, also configured for "special operations" as the first six, will be based at Panagarh in West Bengal.

Panagarh will also house the headquarters of the new mountain strike corps, christened XVII Corps with a total of over 80,000 soldiers, being raised by the Army in a project worth around Rs 90,000 crore. This new corps will plug operational gaps along the 4,057-km Line of Actual Control (LAC) as well as give "some serious ground offensive capabilities" against China for the first time.

The rugged C-130J, as also the bigger C-17 Globemaster-III strategic airlift aircraft acquired from the US, can even land at a small forward airbase on a semi-prepared runway. Crucial to counter China's massive build-up of border infrastructure, this capability was amply demonstrated when IAF landed a C-130J on the Daulat Beg Oldi airstrip in eastern Ladakh, at an altitude of 16,614-feet just seven-km from the LAC, in August this year.

The US has already bagged deals close to $10 billion over the last decade in the lucrative Indian defence market. The other deals on the anvil are the ones for 22 Apache attack helicopters, 15 Chinook heavy-lift choppers, four P-8I maritime patrol aircraft and 145 M-777 ultra-light howitzers, together worth another $4 billion or so.

"The CNC (contract negotiation committee) for the Chinooks has completed its work, while the one for the Apaches is on the verge of finalization. The M-777 howitzers' contract was stuck on the offsets proposal but is now being sorted out," said a MoD source.

That's not all. The US is also in the contention for the over Rs 15,000 crore project to equip the 355 infantry battalions of the Indian Army with third-generation, shoulder-fired anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs).

After the US initially created roadblocks in the transfer of technology (ToT) for its "Javelin" ATGMs, India had turned to the Israeli "Spike" ATGMs for the project, which will involve an initial import of the tank-killing missiles followed by ToT to defence PSU Bharat Dynamics for indigenous manufacture.

But the A K Antony-led Defence Acquisitions Council (DAC) last month put on hold a decision on clearing the Israeli case after the US offered a joint project to manufacture the next-generation of ATGMs. "The MoD will consider both the American and Israeli projects now and choose the one which suits India better," said the source. 
- Times of india

Tejas, a game changer for Indian Air Force

The induction of the Light Combat Aircraft, Tejas into the Indian Air Force will be a ‘game changer’ for the country’s air defence preparedness, says Avinash Chander, Scientific Adviser to the Defence Minister.
“Though delayed, the India developed fighter aircraft has emerged as a ‘contemporary aircraft’, as good or in a way better than the competitors in its class,” Avinash Chander told Business Line.
The LCA signals the country’s indigenous capability to develop a major air-based weapon platform and a step towards achieving self-reliance in aircraft design, fabrication and manufacture. It has laid a sound base for a smooth take off in the efforts to develop more advanced fighter aircraft in the future, Avinash Chander, Chief of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), said.
The fighter aircraft, which obtained the Initial Operation Clearance on December 20, is a step away from induction into the IAF to replace the ageing MiG-21 aircraft. The immediate plan was to induct six squadrons of the IAF with the Tejas. This means about 120 aircraft. Already, the IAF has placed orders for two squadrons. Similarly, the Indian Navy will have atleast 40 of the naval version of the fighter aircraft.
In the next 10 years, atleast 200 LCA numbers are expected to bolster the country’s air strike power. The HAL, which will manufacture these aircraft, will provide 16 a year. It has built capacity and will further ramp up production facilities.
The DRDO Chief saw a Rs 1 lakh - crore opportunity in the next decade in the defence aircraft industry for the country.
The gradual induction of the LCA will ensure a forex saving to the tune of Rs 50,000 crore. In addition, the savings on life cycle and maintenance costs will be close to that figure in the long run, he explained.
There is tremendous scope for small and medium enterprises to make components and sub-systems and supply to HAL. It will also lead to creation of expertise and industrial infrastructure in the country

The hindu

December 27, 2013

India may be offered a share in GLONASS

Russia is seriously considering building a broad international consortium for the development and implementation of the Russian GLONASS satellite navigation system on a global scale. The government is also seriously considering the possibility of selling a stake in the development of the system to foreign countries, among which India would be given a priority.
“We have prioritized the countries -firstly the states where GLONASS may be required for geopolitical reasons,” says Navigation Information Systems (NIS, formerly NIS GLONASS) Chief Executive Alexander Gurko says. “We could invite India, Kazakhstan, Brazil, South Korea and several other countries into the consortium.”
These countries have traditionally been considered as the priority markets for the GLONASS technology, except perhaps South Korea. The idea of bringing India as a strategic partner for the development of GLONASS was discussed several times at the highest level. In 2007, then-Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov said that India was ready to participate in the development of GLONASS, providing rockets for launching satellites and helping to develop new spacecraft for the navigation system.
“In the early 2000’s both the framework agreement on the use of GLONASS and specific contracts that were unattainable were signed with India,” says an informed source at the Russian Space Agency.  “It was an agreement where they would help us to develop the ‘GLONASS-K;’ the group would have been half-Indian, half-Russian. Under those conditions, such agreements were offered out of desperation; I had to save the system. Then came the idea of FTP GLONASS and the ideas of co-creation of the navigation system were left behind.”
According Gurko in the early 2000s, India itself actively offered investments in GLONASS to the Russian government. “I met with the director of the Indian Space Agency at that time. He expressed bewilderment why Russia refused the idea of investment then, because it was obvious that this investment would offer many opportunities of opening a new and huge GLONASS market, and to build an appropriate technical regulation in the Indian market.”
NIS, which has not met as much success as it would have liked in the Indian market, warned that hopes to capture the markets of other countries with the same methods as they conquered the Russian market cannot be justified. The company’s representatives said that if in Russia, there are orders to use whatever equipment the government gives, this is not practiced in India, and the introduction of navigation systems are in the hands of private companies.
“Availability of different consortia, joint ventures in itself does not guarantee the promotion of Russian interests in foreign markets,” says Tatiana Kuleshova, Director of the press department at NIS. “The ability to promote Russian companies in India will depend on how the consortium is organized.”
Equipment manufacturers perceive the idea of forming an international consortium with cautious optimism. “If the authorities agree on the introduction of GLONASS technologies in India and Brazil, we will be staked out by these markets, we, of course, will go there,” says Anatoly Korkush, Chief Executive of Geostar navigation, which produces navigation receivers.  “Americans were coming towards the domination of GPS for many years, popularizing their system. We now have a temporary advantage over Beidou and Galileo, which have not been launched yet. So today any GLONASS popularization is positive – because the wider the Russian system is used, the greater is the potential market for us, its commercial producers. All major Western vendors have already released the GLONASS chips, so we can assume that our technology is recognized worldwide. We need to expand its influence outside of the Customs Union.”
Member of advisory board of the Open Government Sergey Nedoroslev believes that successful implementation of the idea of the consortium will reduce the dependence of the GLONASS system budget by possible contributions from the parties. “Engaging countries other than Kazakhstan in the consortium alone would be a great success, and concluding such a technological alliance with India and Brazil is just a triumph. Then GLONASS will be able to consolidate itself as a global technology platform for a long time. Of course, much will depend on the position of the Ministry of Defence, which was supposed to possess GLONASS. However we already know of examples where in the framework of military and technical cooperation with other countries, as well as India, partners were guaranteed a military GLONASS signal level that is accurate and reliable in any situation.”
India should be Russia’s most important partner in relation to GLONASS, says Leonid Ivashov, the former head of the Main Department of International Cooperation Ministry of Defence.
Roscosmos must submit their proposals for the formation of a consortium to the government by the end of February 2014.


December 24, 2013

Four major acquisitions for the Navy and the Army approved

The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) of the Ministry of Defence on Monday gave the go ahead for four major acquisitions worth nearly Rs. 16,000 crore for the Indian Navy and the Army.
The shopping list approved for the forces includes two deep sea rescue vessels, an indigenous anti-submarine craft programme, procurement of more Israeli Barak missiles and 41 advanced light helicopters.
In order to improve the country’s response to any disaster at sea, the DAC — headed by Defence Minister A.K. Antony — approved the procurement of two deep-sea rescue vessels by the Indian Navy. The approval comes in the wake of the August 14 mishap involving INS Sindhurakshak submarine in which 18 personnel were killed.
The incident appears to have acted as a catalyst in providing a speedy approval to the Indian Navy to procure two Deep Submergence Rescue Vehicles (DSRVs). A sum of Rs. 1,500 crore has been sanctioned for the project by the DAC.
Defence sources said the DSRVs would help improve the Navy’s response in time of any disaster. Capable of performing even in the deep seas, these vehicles would ensure that the force is able to respond effectively in a time of crisis. INS Sindhurakshak, incidentally, is still sitting on the sea bed off the coast of Mumbai ever since it sank following multiple explosions in August.
Anti-submarine warfare
The DAC has also approved of a Rs. 13,000 crore project that would enhance the anti-submarine warfare capability of the Indian Navy. The committee has approved indigenous development of 700 ton Anti-Submarine Warfare Shallow Water Craft that would take on submarines operating in coastal waters, within 200 nautical miles of the base port.
These vessels would watch over foreign submarines operating close to the Indian coastline and would also be capable of laying anti-ship and anti-submarine mines.
The crafts would be built by a public sector undertaking, the Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers Limited (GRSE), that would work in close coordination with the Navy on the design.
Barak comes out of deep freeze
After remaining in deep freeze for five years due to an ongoing probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation, the Israeli Barak missiles have found favour with the Defence Ministry that cleared procurement proposals worth over Rs. 16,000 crore on Monday.
The proposal to procure 262 Barak I missiles for Rs. 880 crore was cleared by the DAC.
This has paved the way for the deployment of the 9 km range air defence missiles on India’s two aircraft carrier — the INS Virat, and the INS Vikramaditya — which at the moment is on its way to India from Russia. The Navy had been using these missiles but due to the suspension in the procurement process had been left with just 150.
Before arriving at the decision to give the go ahead for the advanced missile system, the Ministry of Defence had also weighed the opinion given by the Attorney General in the matter and that of the independent group it had constituted at the last DAC meet to take a final call on the deal.
Earlier, the procurement of the missiles had been put on hold after allegations of bribery in the deal had surfaced and the CBI had initiated a probe in 2006. With the case now in the final stages and the premier investigating agency due to file its closure report soon, the Ministry decided to go ahead with the deal.
Army to get 40 ALH, Navy oneThe DAC has also given its nod to the Army to go ahead with the acquisition of 41 Dhruv advanced Light Helicopters. The choppers would be acquired at a total cost of Rs. 300 crore and one of them would serve the Navy

The Hindu

December 23, 2013

India test-fires nuclear-capable Agni-III missile

India on Monday test-fired its nuclear-capable Agni-III ballistic missile from a base in Odisha, defence officials said.

The surface-to-surface missile, with a range of over 3,000km, was fired from a launching complex at the Inner Wheeler Island off the coast of Dhamra in Bhadrak district, about 200km from here.

"The test was carried out by the strategic forces command. It was a user trial," a senior defence official told IANS.

Agni-III is capable of carrying warheads weighing up to 1.5 tonnes. It is 16 metres in length and weighs 48 tonnes. The missile has a two-stage solid propellant system. It can re-enter the atmosphere with a very high velocity.

Agni-III is a rail mobile system capable missile and can be launched from anywhere in India. 

Israel rejects bribery charge, Barak missile probe may end

Israel has said that no Israeli firm paid kickbacks to any Indian individual or firm to clinch the Rs. 1,150 crore Barak anti-missile defence system. The revelation comes as a blow to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) with agency director Ranjit Sinha admitting that the probe into alleged bribes paid 'may close down due to lack of evidence' since the details from Israel were crucial to proving the suspected irregularities in the case.
The 2000 Barak anti-missile defence deal was suspected to have been transacted in spite of the objections of the Defence Research and Development Organisation, which recommended the indigenously developed Trishul. It was also alleged that the deal was over-priced and processed essentially on a single-tender basis.
"Israel flatly said its verifications have found no evidence of any bribe or illegal commission to an Indian or an Indian firm by the accused Israeli missile system manufacturing firm, the state-run Israel Aircraft Industries Limited," a CBI source said. The denial is part of Israel's much-delayed response to CBI's judicial request and reminders, seeking details about the transaction which were sent after the agency lodged a First Information Report (FIR) in the case in October 2006.
The 2006 FIR mentioned former defence minister George Fernandes and then Navy chief Sushil Kumar, apart from unidentified officials of the Israel Aircraft Industries Limited. Fernandes and Kumar had rejected any alleged wrongdoing.
Israel insists that certain foreign remittances from a few Israeli firm accounts to some suspected Indian firms were genuine business transactions, the source said.
"It is suspected that bribes were paid to individuals in India via middlemen but we don't have adequate evidence to confirm that now," the source added.
The Barak (lightning in Hebrew) missile system employs vertically launched missiles to counter anti-ship sea-skimming missiles and attack by aircraft.

Hindustan times

December 21, 2013

Tejas aircraft gets initial official clearance

Tejas, India's indigeneously-designed Light Combat Aircraft, on Friday got initial operation clearance (IOC-II).

Defence minister AK Antony handed over release to service document (RTS) to Indian Air Force chief NAK Browne.

The certification paves the way for the induction of Tejas into the Indian Air Force.

Speaking at the event, Anthony said: "It is a great day for the whole nation." 
- Timesofindia

December 20, 2013

An army in search of artillery

Despite the efficacy of artillery firepower unleashed by the Bofors howitzers during Kargil, the Army’s longstanding Field Artillery Rationalisation Plan stands stymied 

God, Napoleon said, fights on the side with the best artillery. The legendary French general’s foot and horse artillery repeatedly demonstrated its lethal capacity against his European adversaries by degrading their formidable formations before his cavalry and infantry moved in to victoriously conclude the fighting.

But applying Napoleon’s adage to the Indian Army’s prevailing dismal artillery profile is absurd.
It would preclude God’s cooperation to the Artillery Directorate, whose 180-odd field regiments employ six different gun calibres, a majority of them obsolete.
And if that were not enough cause for worry in an increasingly turbulent region, the Army’s catastrophic artillery woes just got progressively worse.
Lack of communication
Unsurprisingly, these have been triggered yet again by the Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) extended stoic silence on acquiring 145 desperately-needed M777 155mm/39-calibre BAE Systems light-weight howitzers (LWH) and Laser Inertial Artillery Pointing Systems via the U.S.’s government-to-government Foreign Military Sales (FMS) route.
Due to the inexplicable lack of communication by the MoD regarding the LWHs and the absence of any other orders in the pipeline, BAE Systems was forced in October to shut down its M777 facility at Barrow-in-Furness, northern England, where around 30 per cent of the 4,200-kg gun is fabricated.
The remaining 70 per cent — including its notable titanium barrel and other aluminium alloys which make it lighter are made at the BAE Systems plant in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, which also undertakes the final assembly of howitzers. The Hattiesburg plant too is expected to close by March 2014 following the lack of communication from the MoD.
But more crucially, nearly half of around 200 technical experts — including engineers — laid off at the BAE’s Barrow facility have been absorbed into the company’s submarine-building operations in the same town. Industry officials said they were unlikely to return to the M777 line, which is almost certain to be revived at some point to execute the Indian order.
Consequently, recruiting and training new technicians to build the M777s will not only add to the already-inflated cost of re-opening and re-certifying the terminated LWH line for India, but further delay the much-postponed procurement.
Cost escalation

Acquiring the LWH howitzers is a priority for the Army, according to the Artillery Directorate, which is highly displeased by the MoD’s delay in furnishing the M777 contract. The acquisition will equip the Army’s proposed Mountain Strike Corps and fourth artillery division for deployment along the unresolved northeastern Chinese frontier. However, acquiring the M777s will now cost India $885 million, 37 per cent more than the earlier offer of $647 million valid for nearly three years till August 2013.
The extra charge is tacked on to cover the expenses BAE Systems undertook in having kept production lines open for over 12 months in anticipation of the Indian order, having resurrected extended component supply chains since terminated and, now, having trained over 100 and possibly more technicians for the LWHs Barrow plant.
The MoD’s recent conduct is odd considering that it had, in January this year, dispatched a team (comprising officials from the Ministry and the Army’s Corps of Electronic and Mechanical Engineers and the Directorate General of Qualitative Assurance) to the U.S. to conduct Maintainability Evaluation trials on the M777s. These efforts constitute the final round of the trials, conducted by the services for all materiel procurement, to confirm that the equipment parameters conform to the stipulated Qualitative Requirements (QR). A final round of price negotiations and spares and maintenance support will be held before the deal is inked.
The M777 contract, beset from the outset, had earlier faced a lawsuit from a rival vendor. The issue was eventually resolved two years later and negotiations with the U.S. to acquire the howitzers resumed.
Further, the M777s ‘confirmatory’ firing trials conducted, in mid-2010 in the Rajasthan desert and Sikkim were compromised after their classified outcome was posted anonymously to Army Headquarters in February 2012. An inquiry into the leaked report revealed nothing.
At the behest of the MoD, BAE Systems has, since 2010, extended its commercial bid for guns five times in addition to conducting eight rounds of negotiations on investing its mandatory 30-per-cent offset obligation of $209 million in the country’s private and public sector.
However, the MoD has now retreated, observing, since February this year, strict radio silence. “Slippages in the Army’s artillery procurement programme, delayed by over a decade, are liable to slip, further raising serious operational implications,” a senior artillery officer has said. He warned that if acquisitions like the M777 were not decided upon imminently, the Army could face a situation where it simply had no long-range firepower in a neighbourhood where its enemies were better equipped.
Despite the widely-accepted efficacy of decisive artillery firepower unleashed by the FH-77B Bofors howitzers during the 1999 Kargil conflict, the Army’s longstanding Field Artillery Rationalisation Plan stands stymied.
Under this Plan, the Army proposes to acquire, by 2025-27, a mix of around 3,000-3,600 155mm/39-cal light-weight howitzers and 155mm/52-cal towed, mounted, self-propelled (tracked and wheeled) howitzers through imports and local, licensed manufacture for an estimated $5-7 billion.
But all these acquisitions continue to be deferred due to bureaucratic delays and a bewildering string of issuing, withdrawing and re-issuing of tenders by the MoD, inconclusive trials and QR overreach by the Artillery Directorate thwarting howitzer upgrades.
The programme to locally build FH-77B howitzers to make up artillery shortages, suffered a setback in August after the barrel of one of the prototype guns burst during firing trials in Rajasthan. An inquiry is underway into the accident, which involved howitzers built by the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) based on technology transferred to it in 1987 alongside the purchase of the 410 Bofors guns that have never been operationalised.
Shortfalls and obsolescence

All this has been further complicated by the MoD having blacklisted at least four overseas howitzer vendors without providing any clarity on their respective statuses. This has further impeded artillery acquisitions where shortfalls are alarmingly high and proliferating.
The Army employs Soviet D-30 122mm guns, the locally-designed and OFB-built 105mm Indian Field Guns (IFG) and its Light Field Gun (LFG) derivative, the FH-77B 155mm/39-cal Bofors howitzers (presently reduced to half their original number of 410 due to non-availability of spares and cannibalisation), Soviet 130mm M46 towed field guns and 180 M46s unsatisfactorily retrofitted by Israel’s Soltam to 155mm/45-cal.
However, the limited 17-km strike range of the IFG, which has been the mainstay of the Army’s artillery regiments for over three decades, is, in today’s battlefield environment, largely irrelevant as the envelope of battle contact at the tactical level has almost doubled to over 30 km.
Besides, many armies had inducted mortars with enhanced ranges of 12-14 km, virtually neutralising at minimal cost the IFG’s marginally-longer-reach, urgently necessitating the induction of more capable artillery. 

The Hindu

December 19, 2013

Tejas: A Rs 50,000 crore bird for India

When the Tejas light combat aircraft tears into the sky over Bangalore on Friday, its sonic boom will finally herald a major milestone in the long, tortuous developmental saga of the homegrown supersonic fighter.

Having clocked almost 2,420 flight tests since its prototype first flew in January 2011, the lightweight multirole Tejas fighter will finally zoom past the initial operational clearance (IOC) mark on Friday. For long wary of the fighter being prematurely thrust down its throat, even the IAF will clap this time.

"This Tejas Mark-I is much better than a MiG-21 'Bison' on several counts, including weapon-carrying capability and range. But the fighter's full capabilities will emerge only in the Tejas Mark-II version, with a more powerful engine, radar and weapons, which is slated to be ready by December 2018," said a top IAF officer.

But that is in the future. Friday will mark the actual IOC - which basically signifies the fighter is fully airworthy in different conditions, from extremely low temperatures of high-altitude areas to the searing heat of deserts - of the Tejas Mark-I. It will not be the specious one that the combine of Defence Research and Development Organization ( DRDO), Aeronautical Development Agency ( ADA) and Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd ( HAL) passed off as IOC-I in January 2011.
The Tejas Mark-I fighter, however, will be ready to go to battle only in 2015 once it gets the final operational clearance (FOC), after integration of all weapons and other systems to ensure it can fi re 23mm guns, rockets and BVR (beyond visual range) missiles as well as undergo air-to-air refuelling. As of now, the Tejas can let loose only close-range R-73 air-to-air missiles and air-to-ground laser and unguided bombs.

It's a no-brainer that India needs to have its own indigenous fighter in an era where the supremacy of airpower in shaping modern-day battles is unquestioned, and foreign imports can be choked in times of emergencies.

But the way the LCA project has meandered over the years, since it was fi rst approved in August 1983 at a paltry cost of Rs 560 crore to replace the ageing MiG-21s, has tested everyone's patience. So much so that TOI in April 2003, just before then PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee named it "Tejas", had suggested it be christened "Jet-Ayu" - 'Ayu' being the Hindi word for age, and 'Jatayu', the bird king who fought Ravana in vain to prevent him from abducting Sita.

Down to just 34 fighter squadrons, IAF is of course still fl ying the obsolete MiG-21s. Due to the huge delay in the LCA project, it still has around 250 MiG-21s in its combat fleet, having further staggered their already long-delayed retirement by at least another five years. Not only has the LCA been in the making for 30 years, with deadlines being missed time and again, its overall developmental cost has also zoomed up to Rs 17,269 crore. This includes the Kaveri aero engine, sanctioned in 1989 at a cost of Rs 2,839 crore, which flopped miserably.

Consequently, while the first lot of Tejas will be powered by the American GE-404 engines, the Mark-II ones will have the more powerful GE F-414 engines. Over and above the developmental cost, each Tejas will cost around Rs 210-250 crore. So, the induction of 160 Tejas - 120 for IAF, 40 for Navy - will cost another Rs 35,000 crore.

However, defence scientists pooh-pooh all this talk of high costs.

"A fourth-generation-plus fighter, Tejas will still be among the cheapest fighters in its class in the world. It's not easy to develop a digital fl y-by-wire supersonic fighter from scratch, especially when India faced international sanctions for several years after the Pokhran-II nuclear tests," said a scientist.

Though late in coming, the Tejas is certainly critical for the IAF to meet its lightweight fighter requirements. While the heavyweight fighter category is taken care of by the Sukhoi-30MKIs, the medium range is to be met by the proposed almost $20 billion MMRCA (medium multirole combat aircraft) project to acquire 126 Rafale fighters.

"The MMRCA and Tejas squadrons are very critical for us to maintain our deterrence capability. Otherwise, our force levels will go down rapidly," says IAF chief Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne
-  Times of india

Agni-III launch postponed

The flight-trial of Agni-III ballistic missile, which was to be done by the Strategic Forces Command (SFC) of the Indian Army on Wednesday , has been postponed to next week.
Informed officials said Agni-III’s lift-off could not take place because two ships, with radars for tracking the missile near its impact point in the sea, did not sail out. The launch was to take place from the Wheeler Island, near Damra village, off the Odisha coast.
‘No technical issues’
“There were definitely no technical issues behind the postponement,” officials said.
They pointed out that the surface-to-surface Agni-III was a proven missile, which had already been inducted into the Army. 

The Hindu

December 17, 2013

DRDO parachute to drop heavy combat vehicles from IL-76

Enhancing the Army Special Forces' capabilities to airdrop combat vehicles and heavy equipment, DRDO has developed a a heavy system which can drop loads up to 16 tonnes from the IL-76 transport aircraft using parachutes.
"A 16-ton capacity heavy drop system (HDS) consisting of a platform and a highly advanced system of parachutes to drop loads consisting of military stores such as vehicles (including BMP class), supplies and ammunition from IL-76 heavy lift aircraft has been designed and developed and demonstrated," DRDO spokesperson Ravi Gupta said in a release.
Three prototypes of the system developed by an Agra-based DRDO lab have been realised and two successful drops meeting the performance parameters have been demonstrated, they said.
On the development, DRDO chief Avinash Chander said, "The system offered 'drop and drive' capability and once inducted, the system, a force multiplier, will considerably enhance the capabilities of armed forces."
P-7 heavy drop system (P-7 HDS), paradropped as composite unit termed as 'Load', has been developed for paradropping military stores/equipment such as military vehicles and ammunition trolleys from IL-76 aircraft and comprises two main sub-systems namely Platform sub-system and Parachute Sub-system.
The platform has a set of removable wheels which provides transportability for load to be taken to the airfield by means of towing it behind a suitable vehicle once the load is prepared at the distantly located unit.
These parachutes reduce the descent rate to desired speed at touchdown.
On impact with ground, parachutes are released by automatic disengage unit (ADU) to avoid dragging and toppling of load due to high speed winds.
The design features built in the system ensure aircraft safety during the separation of such a large body in a foolproof manner as well as smooth deployment of parachutes and landing of load at pre-designated target point.
Times of india

US anti-tank missile Javelin in face-off with Israel's Spike

The is rising steadily up the list of India's top military suppliers. The ministry of defence (MoD) is finalising a decision to allow the FGM-148 missile, built by US companies Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, into a contest to supply the Indian Army with anti-tank guided missiles (ATGM).

This is bad news for Israeli company, Rafael Advanced Defence Systems, whose ATGM was poised to be awarded the contract for 8400 missiles for India's 350-odd infantry battalions, estimated to be worth Rs 9,300 crore ($1.5 billion). When India floated a tender, only Rafael had offered a missile that met the army's requirements. Now the Javelin is on offer and an interested MoD wants it to compete with Spike.

On November 11, the MoD's apex Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) debated whether to buy the Spike. Eventually, it shied away from a single-vendor purchase, though a "global technology scan" that the military carried out earlier this year found no comparable option. Now, with the Javelin on offer, albeit as a latecomer, the game has changed.

The US Department of Defense (the Pentagon) has offered the Javelin in two separate letters to the MoD this year. As Business Standard first reported (September 17, "US offers to co-develop new Javelin missile with India") the Pentagon has sweetened its offer with a proposal to co-manufacture the Javelin in India, and to partner the Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO) in co-developing an advanced version of the missile for the future.

The Pentagon has offered the Javelin under the US Foreign Military Sales (FMS) programme. This implies it would be contracted directly between the Pentagon and the MoD, with the Pentagon negotiating terms with Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, and charging India 3.8 per cent of the contract amount as a fee. The MoD, wary of procurement scams, believes FMS contracts are relatively clean and increasingly favours this route. The C-17 Globemaster III transport aircraft, bought for Rs 25,000 crore ($4.12 billion) was an FMS contract; the on-going purchase of M777 artillery guns is also through the FMS route.

The Javelin offer also benefited from the personal advocacy of the recently retired US defence secretary, Ashton Carter, who lobbied forcefully during his visit to New Delhi on September 17.

"(The Javelin) is being offered to no other country but India", Carter told the media in New Delhi.

MoD has declined to comment on this proposal, but officials privately term the offer "unprecedented". US equipment has always been bought over-the-counter. Now the offer to co-manufacture the third-generation (i.e. "fire-and-forget") Javelin ATGM could bring in US best practices in high-tech manufacture. Meanwhile, the DRDO is evaluating the proposal to co-develop the fourth-generation missile, an offer that the US has not made even to its closest allies.

The Javelin, which has seen extensive combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, is regarded as the world's premier man-portable, . It allows infantrymen, who are often vulnerable to enemy tanks, a weapon to destroy tanks from four kilometres away.

If the Javelin were superior to the Spike, as US officials claim, it would also be more expensive. The Pentagon's co-manufacture and co-development offer seeks to compensate for that higher cost.

Yet, the army is frustrated at the stalling of the Spike purchase, which was being finalised after extensive trials. The army has now asked the DRDO to co-develop an ATGM with an international partner. Since defence procurement rules require the DRDO to select a development partner through competitive bidding, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon might have to compete with Rafael, and possibly other global vendors as well.

MoD sources welcome the prospect of US companies competing with other vendors to partner India in missile co-development. "The more vendors that compete, the better the deal for India", says an official.

Missile co-development with Israel has been plagued with glitches in the past. The Indo-Israeli Long Range Surface-to-Air Missile (LR-SAM) and Medium Range Surface to Air Missile (MR-SAM) projects are running years behind schedule.

Meanwhile, Washington-based sources tell Business Standard that the Pentagon plans to make the Javelin offer even more attractive. Declining to provide details, they say the MoD will soon hear the specifics.

Washington had not offered India the Javelin when the MoD first floated a global tender for ATGMs. The Pentagon was eager but the State Department argued that equipping India so lavishly would "alter the regional military balance". With the US-India engagement maturing, the State Department is now fully on board. Indian Army missile pilots had fired the Javelin several times during US-India joint exercises and were impressed by its performance. Nevertheless, the Javelin would be comprehensively trial-evaluated, as the Spike has been. That will only begin when an FMS request is processed between Washington and New Delhi.

With over Rs 50,000 crore ($8 billion) worth of orders already on its books, America is closing in on another Rs 30,000 crore ($5 billion) worth of arms sales to India. These include six C-130J Super Hercules tactical transport aircraft; 22 AH-64D Apache attack helicopters; 15 CH-47F Chinook heavy-lift helicopters; and 145 M-777 ultra-light howitzers. The Javelin could now swell that tally.


December 15, 2013

Indian Air Force seeking to obtain initial operational clearance for Light Combat Aircraft Tejas: Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne

With the phasing out of MiG-21 Type 77 aircraft from its fleet, the Indian Air Force is now seeking to obtain initial operational clearance (IOC) for Light Combat Aircraft 'Tejas', which is developed by HAL, Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne said here today.
Simultaneously, the IAF is also getting ready to start the project for LCA Mark-2 aircraft, in collaboration with HAL and DRDO. "Tejas will achieve the IOC soon. They will take one more year thereafter for induction. The 48 LCAs being produced by HAL will be coming to the IAF. There will be two squadrons for this," Browne said.
Talking to reporters on the sidelines of the Combined Graduation Parade at the Air Force Academy, Dundigal, near here, the IAF chief pointed out that the LCA Mark-2 would be the real LCA. "The Mark-2 will have a more powerful engine, radar system, air-to-air refuelling capability and advanced weapons. By the time induction of LCA Mark-1 is over, test flights of Mark-2 will also begin. The IAF is very much involved with this project along with HAL and DRDO," Browne said.
After reviewing the combined graduation parade of 202 commissioned officers, the IAF chief noted that all cadets completed the basic course for Pilatus PC-7, the basic trainer aircraft inducted into IAF in May this year. "For the first time we have finished the basic course for Pilatus PC-7 and 55 hours of flying training was given to all cadets. During the course, the first lady cadet got the first in flying on Pilatus, which is very creditable. The boys and girls are happy with the aircraft and the training," he said.
The IAF chief informed that from the next training course beginning in January, a simulator would also be available for PC-7. "The training will be combined on the aircraft as well as the simulator. First PC-7 commissioned officers will be passing out from the AFA in June next year," Browne added.
He said the IAF so far received 26 Pilatus PC-7 aircraft. "Every month, we are getting two-three aircraft. By middle of next year, we will be getting 38 to 40 aircraft and hopefully by end of next year all 75 Pilatus aircraft will be available to the IAF," the chief said.


December 11, 2013

DRDO's HeliNa Missile Tested Again

A developmental trial of helicopter launched Nag (HeliNa), DRDO’s anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) was conducted from a defence base off the Odisha coast on Tuesday.
Defence sources said the short range weapon was test-fired by the missile handling unit of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) from the launching complex-II of the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Chandipur-on-sea at about 10.05 am.
This was third trial of an upgraded and air version of surface-to-surface missile Nag. Earlier two trials of this third generation ‘fire and forget’ missile was conducted from the Pokhran firing range and claimed as successful. It is one of the five missile systems developed by DRDO under the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP).  
“The trial was conducted for a strike range of four km. Data collected during the test are being analysed. One more trial of the missile is scheduled to be conducted on Wednesday,” informed an official.
On July 8, seeker evaluation trials for anti-tank missile were carried out in hot desert conditions in Rajasthan. The trials were against both moving and static targets for different ranges of 2.8 km and 3.2 km to evaluate the performance of an improved version of Imaging Infrared (IIR) seeker.
While Nag missile has a maximum range of 4 km, the seeker proved to be accurate only up to 2.5 km in extremely hot conditions in the trials conducted last year. However, the HeliNa has an extended strike range of about eight km.  Sources said the problem with the Nag was its range.
The missile can strike its targets up to 4 km but in extreme heat conditions, the missile cannot reach the targets beyond three km. The user of the missile Indian Army also has raised its reservations against its weight. The weapon weighs around 40 kgs thus making the reloading difficult.
Following demands from the Army, DRDO has assured them to reduce the weight of the missile in its latest versions - Mark-II Nag and also to equip it with a seeker with high resolution which can distinguish the target from the other ground objects at a distance of up to four km.

The New Indian express

December 10, 2013

Agreement Between French Dassault And Indian Reliance Industries Limited

Barely a week after bagging the USD 15 billion 126 fighter aircraft deal, French Dassault and Indian Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) have signed an agreement under which they will start working together in defence and homeland security sector from next week.

"Dassault Aviation, a major player in the global aerospace industry, has entered into a MoU with Reliance Industries, for pursuing strategic opportunities of collaboration in the area of complex manufacturing and support in India," the two companies said in a joint statement.

The MoU has been signed after the Defence Ministry on January 31 offered Dassault the multi-billion dollar deal to supply 126 combat aircraft to the IAF.

Sources said Dassault would involve RIL for working together in the Medium-Multirole Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) deal here under the offsets clause.

After finalising the deal, Dassault will have to reinvest 50% of the worth of the deal back into Indian defence sector.

The aerospace and security division of the Reliance Industries is headed by Vivek Lall, who has been closely associated with the MMRCA deal while spearheading the campaign for Boeing in the deal.

Lall has earlier worked with American NASA and Raytheon.

In the recent past, there have been efforts by the Mukesh Ambani-headed RIL to position itself in the defence, internal security and aerospace solutions sector.

France's Dassault Aviation and Reliance Industries are planning to set up a facility to produce wings of Rafale combat aircraft selected by IAF for meeting its requirement of 126 fighter planes. The two firms are planning to set up a Rs 1,000-crore facility for producing the wings of the Rafale combat aircraft and it is most likely to come up in Bangalore, industry sources told PTI in New Delhi.

Read more at: http://www.firstpost.com/business/reliance-dassault-may-join-hands-to-make-wings-for-rafale-fighter-jets-1279705.html?utm_source=ref_article

December 9, 2013

India’s first nuclear sub built with Russian assistance ready for sea trials

The INS Arihant, India’s first nuclear powered ballistic submarine, which was under the Indian Navy’s Advanced Technology Vessel (ATV) project, with Russian help is ready for extensive sea trials. The submarine’s reactor attained criticality last August. 
The sea trials, which would include the firing of the submarine’s nuclear-tipped K-15 ballistic missiles early next year, would be a milestone in enhancing India’s strategic deterrence capability. Indian Navy Chief Admiral D.K. Joshi said the INS Arihant’s  nuclear reactor, which went critical on August 10 is currently undergoing  a series of  activities towards attaining  100 percent power at Vishakapatanam. This will be completed within the next few weeks and the nuclear submarine will go for sea trials. It has already completed harbour acceptance trials, Admiral Joshi said.
The ATV programme was conceived in early 1970s in the aftermath of Indo-Pak war in 1971, when the US aircraft carrier USS Enterprise was deployed in the Bay of Bengal to intimidate India, following which the Soviet Union dispatched ships armed with nuclear missiles along with nuclear submarines to the Bay to ward off the American threat. The presence of a formidable Soviet nuclear fleet in the Bay of Bengal in support of India played an important role to neutralize American designs and bring an end to the war.
Apparently, the then Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi believed to be quite impressed by the Soviet nuclear powered flotilla, ordered the ATV programme. Though the programme was conceived by Mrs Gandhi, all the subsequent prime ministers of India including Rajiv Gandhi, V.P. Singh, I.K. Gujral, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and the current Prime Minister Manmohan Singh have shown considerable interest in the success of the project.
The Arihant can carry twelve K-15 class nuclear missiles. Keeping in line with India’s ‘no first use policy,’ the submarine would help in developing the country’s ‘credible second strike capability.’
The nuclear submarine not only adds to India’s strategic deterrence capability, but also reflects the saga of the country’s strategic cooperation with Russia.
Indeed, the Arihant’s design is based on the Russian Akula-1 class submarines and its 83mw pressurised water reactor has been built with significant Russian assistance. While its 100-member crew has been trained by Russian specialists, Indian scientists at Bhabha Atomic Research Centre have received significant expertise in reducing the size of the reactor to help it fit into the 10 m diameter hull of the nuclear submarine.     
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, speaking in the launching ceremony of the Arihant, had said that this represents a “great stride in the progress of our indigenous technology, capability.”
In fact  nuclear cooperation constitutes one of the  strong pillars of Indo-Russian strategic partnership, sealed during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s  first ever state visit to India in the year 2000. However, the strategic cooperation in this vital sector began much before the inking of the Delhi Declaration on Strategic Partnership. Russia is the only country that has been leasing nuclear submarines to India, reflecting the strategic nature the time-tested friendship.
The first Russian Akula-1 class nuclear submarine, christened as the INS Chakra was leased to India by the former Soviet Union for three years in 1988. The second Russian nuclear submarine was delivered on lease to India in 2012 for a period of 10 years. Currently both countries are believed to be holding talks for renting another Russian nuclear submarine to India. The Arihant’s Indian crew has been receiving training on the second INS Chakra.
Though India has land-based  Agni missiles and fighters like Mirage-2000 to deliver nuclear war heads, its nuclear weapons triad would be completed only when the INS Arihant successfully completes  its sea trials stretched over next 12 months.
India has plans to build a few more indigenous nuclear submarines at Vadodara and Vishakapatanam However the Arihant is the technology demonstrator, as described by India’s former navy chief Admiral Nirmal Verma. Russia’s contribution to developing India’s nuclear capability is commendable. The presence of  the then Russian ambassador to India Vyacheslav Trubnikov and other high ranking diplomats  at the launching ceremony of Arihant in July 2009 confirmed the enormous  Russian contribution to the success of India’s nuclear triad project.   


December 7, 2013

‘Astra’ carriage trials with Su-30 begins

Corridors in the Missile Complex here are abuzz with the extensive carriage trials of 'Astra' with Sukhoi-30 aircraft in Pune. 'Astra,' the Beyond- Visual-Range (BVR), Air-to-Air Missile, has been indigenously developed by the Defence Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL) here under the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme of India. A team of scientists and other officials from DRDL are already in Pune and the carriage trials which began on November 29 are expected to continue until mid or last week of December spread over at least two scores of sorties.

Development trials of Astra in December 2012 from Integrated Test Range at Chandipur, Odisha, were successful in targeting, Lakshya, the Pilotless Target Aircraft (PTA). However, the litmus test after integrating the Beyond-Visual-Range Air-to-Air Missile (BVRAAM) with Su-30 is still pending. It is to be mentioned that after much wait and delay involving almost 10 years of development trials by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) since 2003, the missile has finally been integrated with Su-30 for the user trials by the Indian Air Force (IAF).

The missile is being developed to lace up or arm various IAF aircrafts including Tejas, Mirage 2000, Su-30 MKI and even the Sea Harrier. Official sources disclosed that every system and sub-system along with various parameters is being tested one by one to avoid any repetition of these tests. These carriage trials shall be assessed on a modified Su-30 aircraft involving various parameters with respect to missile's compatibility with the aircraft in terms of avionics etc.

Astra can carry a 15kg High Explosive warhead at a Mach 4 speed. It can engage maneuvering targets moving at high supersonic speeds and varying distances and heights and has a proximity fuse. A laser fuse has been developed by DRDO while Software Development Institute (SDI) of the IAF in Bangalore using the Sukhoi test rig has been carrying out the electronic integration of aircraft avionics with Astra on-board equipment. The missile itself can be launched from various altitudes with varying ranges

The 3.8 metre long, single stage, solid fuelled missile is finally expected to have two different versions for different altitudes and ranges including Astra Mark-I which shall have a range of 44km and Astra Mark-II with a range of over 100km. Astra can cruise at various altitudes while evading radar and intercepting and engaging the 'supersonic targets' by manoeuvring its speed accordingly. Armed with superior Electronic Warfare capabilities, its Electronic Counter-Counter Measures lends it immunity from being followed and targeted.
In the absence of a low-cost indigenous BVRAAM, IAF has been importing missiles from Israel, Russia and France to equip its fighter fleet. DRDO is aiming at clearing 'Astra' for induction into the IAF by 2015. So far, the successfully tested systems of the missile include the aerodynamics, propulsion system, control and guidance systems, dual mode guidance, night trials, various angles of attack and performance under various weather conditions etc. during its development trials. 
- Times of india

December 6, 2013

Navy submarine SOS to Centre

The navy has sounded an SOS to the government on its fast depleting submarine fleet and is taking emergency measures to fill the void.
The Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral D.K. Joshi, said this week the navy had briefed the political leadership on the consequences of the depletion. He said the INS Sindhurakshak, which sank in Mumbai on August 14 after a suspected blast in its weapons compartment, was a major loss but the disaster was not unique to the navy.
“These (incidents) are isolated and separate cases. The reasons do not derive their linkage from previous cases. Operational risks are fraught in this business of armed forces,” he said.
Among the measures being taken are equipping or re-equipping surface ships of the navy with anti-submarine warfare devices and extending the life of torpedoes in six HDW-class German-origin submarines. The rest of the submarines in the fleet are Russian-origin Kilo-class submarines (of which the INS Sindhurakshak was one).
The navy has about 14 submarines. But only about half are available at all times because the others would either be going through refits or being serviced. The delivery of six Scorpene submarines, contracted for nearly Rs 24,000 crore, is delayed and the navy expects the first boat only in 2015.
The navy has moved a proposal for a second line of submarines — called Project 75i — whose necessity has been accepted by the Defence Acquisitions Council but the government is concerned about the resources that can be made available.
In the interim, the navy has contracted Atlas Elektronik, a German firm, to extend the life and range of its heavyweight torpedoes that arm four Type 209 Shishumar-class (HDW) submarines.
The navy is in negotiations with Atlas to contract Active Towed Array Sonars (ACTAS) for six surface ships (three destroyers and three frigates).
Atlas Elektronik executives said the ACTAS contract was nearly complete but navy sources said it was still being examined and the ministry was yet to take a call. They confirmed that the upgrade of torpedoes has been contracted.
Khalil Rehman, chief executive officer of Atlas in India, said the company has also offered to the navy a new torpedo called the SeaHake mod4 ER. The torpedo has a speed of more than 50 knots and is capable of hitting targets up to 140km.
The towed-array sonars that are being negotiated are meant for large anti-submarine warfare.
The Indian Navy is particularly keen on anti-submarine warfare measures after Pakistan commissioned six French-origin Agosta submarines.

 Telegraph India

December 5, 2013

Navy plans nuke-powered carrier

The Indian Navy is designing a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier that it wants in its fleet, costs permitting.
An indigenous nuclear-powered submarine, the Arihant, is now in trials in the Bay of Bengal.
The Indian Navy “desires” to have three operational carriers in its fleet but the only one in use currently, the INS Viraat, is rusting away faster than it would like.
“The INS Viraat is ‘long in the tooth’ (outdated and too expensive to maintain),” the chief of naval staff, Admiral D.K. Joshi, said here today.
Naval headquarters is gradually beginning to take the view that the ship will have to be decommissioned before the planned end of its extended tenure in service.
The 55-year-old carrier has had several refits that have cost the defence budget heavily.
The navy commissioned the INS Vikramaditya (formerly the Gorshkov) in Russia last month. The carrier, now on its way to India, will take about six months after berthing in Karwar on the west coast to be made fully operational. It is expected in Indian waters in January.
Only the US Navy operates two or more aircraft carriers — always nuclear-powered — in Asia. The importance of aircraft carriers in the Indian Ocean region is right now a matter of focus for strategists after China commissioned its own, the Liaoning, earlier this year.
China also announced last week that it was imposing an air defence identification zone in the East China Sea, over waters disputed by Japan and South Korea. Aircraft carriers are the naval platform-of-choice for “sea control”.
The Indian Navy will take a final call on its proposed 65,000-tonne nuclear-powered carrier after studying the experiences of the UK and France.
Naval headquarters has set itself a deadline of two months in which to freeze the design. Nuclear propulsion would give the vessel a longer life but the reactor is expensive to build.
But India has fitted an 80MW reactor, with Russian help, into the Arihant submarine. Nuclear propulsion also provides longer endurance and therefore capability to deploy the vessel farther for extended periods.
The UK abandoned the idea of nuclear propulsion for its Queen Elizabeth II carrier, now being built for its Royal Navy, because of the costs involved. France is the only country barring the US that has built a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier on its own, the Charles de Gaulle.
The other decision, apart from the propulsion, that the naval design department is yet to freeze is whether the second indigenous aircraft carrier (IAC-2) should have Catobar (catapult assisted take-off barrier arrested recovery) like the US carriers or a flight deck for short take-off and arrested recovery (Stobar).
The 65,000-tonne IAC-2, tentatively named the Vishal, follows the Vikrant, or IAC-1, a conventional diesel-gas powered 44,700-tonne vessel being built in Kochi.
The Viraat, the only operational carrier with the navy currently, is planned to be in service till 2017 when the Vikrant is scheduled for commissioning. The Vikrant was floated out of the dry dock in Kochi in August this year.

The Telegraph

Agni V’s next trial will be canister-based

In a crucial technological accomplishment, a simulated canister-based launch of a dummy missile weighing 50 tonnes was successfully carried out by scientists of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) recently.
With the success of the “Missile Ejection Test” (MET), DRDO missile technologists are gearing up to conduct the first canister-based test-firing of 5,000-plus km range nuclear weapons-capable Inter Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) Agni-V in March-April, 2014.
“We were able to launch canister launch system for the first time”, a top DRDO scientist told The Hindu. All parameters were achieved and the hardware and software applications for the simulated launch were tested. They included the launcher, canister interfacing with other elements. An important aspect was to keep the sealing intact between the missile and gas generator when the latter provided the thrust and ejected the system at high temperatures.
Missile exit velocity, inter-locking of instruments, sensors functioning and the subsequent sequencing of events were some of the crucial objectives that were met successfully. As the missile got ejected from the canister, sensors gave the signal to the computer to commence commands for subsequent events such as igniting the missile’s first stage.
Another top missile technologist, who is closely involved with Agni-V mission, described the MET success as a “very important milestone and a prelude to the main launch.” It laid the foundation and provided core competence to the DRDO for the canister launch system.
India joined an elite club of nations that possess the ICBM launch capability when the maiden test-firing of Agni-V was successfully conducted on April 19, 2012. Soon after the resounding success of the second Agni V mission on September 15 this year, Avinash Chander, DRDO Director General and Scientific Advisor to the Defence Minister, and Director General (Missiles and Strategic Systems) V.G. Sekaran had announced that the next trial would be canister based.
Mr. Avinash had also stated that Agni-V would become a quick reaction stop-and-launch system once provided with the canister-thrust capability. It will also impart high operational flexibility to the user.

The Hindu

DRDO fancies its firepower

The DRDO scientists are hopeful that they would be able to add considerably to the army's firepower in the coming years, be it development of Future Main Battle Tank Arjun, a "desi" Bofors or bi-modular charge systems.

The DRDO is satisfied with the progress on the project to mount 130mm guns of old Vijayanta tanks on the new Arjun tanks. Sources said the 40 Arjun catapults ordered by the army as part of this project should be ready in a few months. The army's confidence in the Arjun chassis led to the project fructifying.

The next indigenous push is in the induction of 155mm artillery. Along with army's request of proposal for the 155mm 52 calibre guns, the DRDO has launched a parallel development programme for the same. It is hopeful of developing the gun well before time. The progress on building 155mm 39 calibre Bofors guns at home is on track, though scientists admit that it should have been taken up earlier as the designs were available for several years.

Another major bottleneck has been the production of bi-modular charges for the artillery guns. The programme to produce this ammunition in India has been doomed. The first tie-up to produce bi-modular charge systems was made with Denel of South Africa but the company got blacklisted on charges of corruption. Sources said the production is going to start soon.

India Today

December 4, 2013

Vietnam looking to purchase BrahMos cruise missiles

Vietnam formally requested India to supply the Indo-Russian BrahMos cruise missiles at a meeting in New Delhi, informed sources told RIR.  The request was made when Vietnam Communist party general secretary Nguyen Phu Trong visited the Indian capital, the sources said, adding that the Southeast Asian country was looking at enhancing security cooperation with India.
Informal negotiations had been going between the countries for the joint Indo-Russian missiles that are being manufactured in India. Vietnam’s interest was renewed as a plan between Russia and the country to jointly produce a modified anti-ship missile is moving a slow pace, the sources told RIR. While Moscow and Hanoi to develop a joint missile analogous to Russia's Kh-35 Uran, using BrahMos as a model, Vietnam is looking at India to supply the missiles to meet its immediate requirement. It remains unclear whether India will be able to supply the missiles in the near future.
BrahMos officials declined to comment on the negotiations between India and Vietnam.
During Phu Trong’s visits, requests were also made to India for submarine training and for conversion training for Vietnamese pilots to fly Sukhoi-30 aircrafts. Sources told RIR that India would be ready to supply the missiles, as it was looking for international buyers and countries like Malaysia and Indonesia had already expressed interests. They added that New Delhi was also ready to provide training for Vietnamese pilots but were cautious about further military cooperation keeping the China factor in mind.  Beijing has been viewing India’s growing presence in Vietnam with a degree of suspicion, the sources added. India and Vietnam have traditionally maintained friendly and cordial relations and leading analysts suggest that the countries could be at the forefront of a new kind of non-aligned movement
 BrahMos cruise missiles have been adopted by India's Army and the Navy’s surface ships. The Indian Air Force has also ordered a batch of land-based missiles. Work is also underway to adapt the missile to Su-30MKI planes used by the Indian Air Force. BrahMos is an acronym of the two rivers: Brahmaputra in India and Moskva in Russia.


India's first N-sub to head for sea trials in Feb-March

India's first indigenous nuclear submarine INS Arihant will finally head for the open seas for extensive trials, which will include firing of its nuclear-tipped K-15 ballistic missiles, around February-March next year.

Though long in the making, considering that India's first thought of building a nuclear submarine started way back in 1970, the sea trials of INS Arihant will mark a critical milestone towards giving some much-needed credible teeth to the country's strategic deterrence posture.

Navy chief Admiral D K Joshi on Tuesday said INS Arihant's nuclear reactor, which went "critical" on August 10, was currently undergoing a series of graduated "activities" towards attaining 100% power at Visakhapatnam. "This will be completed over the next few weeks...thereafter the submarine will go for sea trials. It has already completed harbour-acceptance trials," he said.

The Navy as well as other agencies like the Department of Atomic Energy (DEA), Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) and DRDO have not been in any tearing hurry to "fully load" the 83 MW pressurized light-water reactor on board the 6,000-tonne submarine.

"This is the first time the country has built a nuclear-powered vessel. With the reactor power being raised by 5-10% at a time, the tests are being conducted in a deliberate, meticulous manner," said another top officer.

Though India has the land-based Agni missiles and fighters like Mirage-2000s to deliver nuclear weapons, its nuclear weapons triad will be completed only when INS Arihant successfully completes its sea trials spread over at least 12 months.

The K-15 missiles, with a strike range of 750-km, have only been fired from submerged pontoons till now. They will have to pass muster during INS Arihant's trials, even as DRDO develops the 3,500-km K-4 missiles.

But the Navy seems quite confident. "Let me assure you that when INS Arihant is commissioned, it will not be toothless. She will have whatever she is supposed to have," said Admiral Joshi, speaking ahead of the Navy Day on Wednesday.

As reported earlier, India is also negotiating the lease of a second nuclear-powered submarine from Russia, at a cost of about $1.5 billion, to bolster its ageing underwater combat arm. The Navy has been running INS Chakra, the Akula-II class nuclear submarine called "K-152 Nerpa", since April 2012 after paying Russia almost $1 billion for a 10-year lease. Though these submarines are nuclear-propelled, they cannot be armed with nuclear missiles due to international treaties.

Nuclear-powered submarines, armed with long-range nuclear missiles, are considered to be the most effective and difficult-to-detect leg of the nuclear triad. The US leads the pack, with around 70 such submarines. While Russia has around 30, China, the UK and France have 8-12 each. 
- Times of india 

December 3, 2013

Navy plans integrated coast battery at Sagar Islands

In a strategic move in its defence and strengthen surveillance capabilities, the Navy is in planning for a full-fledged coast battery at the Sagar Islands on West Bengal’s coast. “There used to be a coast battery at Diamond Harbour, but was shut down after Haldia port expanded. Since then, the strategic coast line all along the Sunderbans and adjoining areas is lying vacant,” said Naval Officer-in-Charge, West Bengal, Commodore Ravi Ahluwalia said. “We urgently need a coast battery in the area, specially at Sagar Island, given the rapid rise of naval acquisitions of Bangladesh and movement of foreign ships including fishing trawlers from neighbouring countries,” Ahluwalia said.
Land-based Naval Coast Batteries primarily perform a defensive role against attacking warships and hostile incoming aircraft. The Navy is looking toward acquiring anti-ship cruise missiles, requiring the missile to minimally, perform a pop-up terminal phase manoeuvre. “Land has already been identified at the Sagar Islands and the process of acquisition is underway. Once that is done, we will be building all infrastructure to host P-series missiles or missiles mounted on Mobile Autonomous Launchers (trucks). We are eager to have land-to-ship missiles and surface-to-air missiles from this coast battery,” said Ahluwalia. “Post 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, communication has been a major challenge for both the Navy as well as the Coast Guard. The Sagar Island coast battery would also have its own radar system as well as examination anchorage for physical verification of ships and mid-size boats to ensure maritime security and be prepared for hostile situations,” he added.

The Navy is also eager to partly fund the Sagar Island deep water port along with the KoPT for securing confirmed berthing facilities to meet any eventuality and feed the requirements for its planned Sagar Island coast battery. Expressing hope that the proposed Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project which would connect Kolkata port with Sittwe port in Myanmar by sea and then link Sittwe to Mizoram via river and road transport for faster and cheaper cargo movement to the northeastern states to be complete by 2016, the NOIC said. The coast battery system would be crucial component for surveillance mechanism for the project, he said. “Our coast battery system would also be a major base for the proposed Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), which is in the pipeline to take off from its planned primary base from Behala in Kolkata. With increased shipping and fishing activities and with the extremely difficult terrain of the Sunderbans Delta region, we need to have a very firm aerial surveillance mechanism in place with UAVs, which would also have its operational area over the seas

The naval headquarters and the AAI are presently finalising on the land availability aspect and once that is in place, we would be setting up our infrastructure very soon,” Ahluwalia said. Stating that BSF’s border outposts along the riverine Indo-Bangla border stretch was not adequate and the marine police stations in between Budge Budge to Sagar Islands needs to be immediately augmented, the NOIC said the Navy needs to play an increased role in maritime security specially in the Sunderban Delta region. Ahluwalia added that the Navy would soon hold a recruitment drive specially at Sagar Islands as part of its move to set up a naval services selection board at Diamond Harbour, which is slated to come up by next year aiming to increase recruitment from the east and northeastern states. 

PTI / Firstpost

In a strategic move in its defence and strengthen surveillance capabilities, the Navy is in planning for a full-fledged coast battery at the Sagar Islands on West Bengal’s coast. “There used to be a coast battery at Diamond Harbour, but was shut down after Haldia port expanded. Since then, the strategic coast line all along the Sunderbans and adjoining areas is lying vacant,” said Naval Officer-in-Charge, West Bengal, Commodore Ravi Ahluwalia said. “We urgently need a coast battery in the area, specially at Sagar Island, given the rapid rise of naval acquisitions of Bangladesh and movement of foreign ships including fishing trawlers from neighbouring countries,” Ahluwalia said.

Read more at: http://www.firstpost.com/india/navy-plans-integrated-coast-battery-at-sagar-islands-1262473.html?utm_source=ref_article
In a strategic move in its defence and strengthen surveillance capabilities, the Navy is in planning for a full-fledged coast battery at the Sagar Islands on West Bengal’s coast. “There used to be a coast battery at Diamond Harbour, but was shut down after Haldia port expanded. Since then, the strategic coast line all along the Sunderbans and adjoining areas is lying vacant,” said Naval Officer-in-Charge, West Bengal, Commodore Ravi Ahluwalia said. “We urgently need a coast battery in the area, specially at Sagar Island, given the rapid rise of naval acquisitions of Bangladesh and movement of foreign ships including fishing trawlers from neighbouring countries,” Ahluwalia said.

Read more at: http://www.firstpost.com/india/navy-plans-integrated-coast-battery-at-sagar-islands-1262473.html?utm_source=ref_article