June 30, 2017

JVs in defence sector, need of the hour

Last few weeks have witnessed significant developments in the field of Indian defence manufacturing. The Indian Navy’s first indigenously built floating dock was launched at Larsen & Toubro (L&T) shipyard in Kattupalli. The Tata Advanced Systems Ltd and the US plane-maker Lockheed Martin Corp signed an agreement at the Paris Air Show to produce F-16 fighter jets in India. Reliance Defence entered into a strategic partnership with Serbia’s Yugoimport for ammunition manufacturing in India and joined hands with France’s Thales to set up a joint venture that will develop Indian capabilities in radars and high-tech airborne electronics.
These are welcome baby steps towards translating the Modi government’s Make in India policy on the ground. Opening up the state-run defence sector to private players and foreign firms was overdue. That the army has rejected an indigenously-built assault after field tests for the second successive year shows that the country’s public sector defence industry is unable to meet its requirements.

In the past, India has been making up for this failure at home with imports from abroad. The Modi government has put defence at the core of its domestic manufacturing programme. It has set up an ambitious target of securing about 70% of India’s military needs from domestic sources by 2020 by opening up the largely state-run sector to private players and foreign firms. Unfortunately, the operationalisation of this plan has been delayed due to the absence of a full-time defence minister and the decision on strategic partnership in indigenous defence production could be taken only last month. The contracts inked this month are just small steps. We have miles to go before we can develop indigenous capability through technology transfers and joint production projects with international partners.

A major imperative for the plan to succeed is to build up a defence industrial ecosystem that not only meets military requirements but also generate exports, create jobs and spur innovation. Our armed forces are still heavily dependent on imports and indigenous defence production is dominated by the public sector. The private firms that are coming up are still struggling to find their feet. Foreign industry giants are not eager to transfer their technology. Mandarins in the defence ministry remain tilted in favour of public sector defence industry. They are unable to evolve a workable system for engaging with private players as prime contractors. It is too early to say if the government’s efforts to meet 70% of our military requirements through indigenous production will bring better results. Much depends on how its “strategic partnership” model, released late this May, plays out on the ground.


Indian soldier needs a new gun

Field Marshal Wavell, a distinguished infantryman before he became a somewhat less distinguished Viceroy of India, wrote: “Let us be clear about three facts: First, all battles and all wars are won, in the end, by the infantryman. Second, the infantryman always bears the brunt; his casualties are heavier, he suffers greater extremes of discomfort and fatigue than the other combat arms. Third, the art of the infantryman is less stereotyped, and far harder to acquire in modern war, than that of any other arm.”
US Marine’s Rifleman Creed teaches: “My rifle is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life. Without me, my rifle is useless. Without my rifle, I am useless. I must fire my rifle true. I must shoot straighter than my enemy who is trying to kill me. I must shoot him before he shoots me.” Down to the basics, soldiering is about killing. An Army that does it best wins.

In his 1953 bestselling novel, Battle Cry, Leon Uris had a marine recruit being punished for the transgression of calling a rifle a gun by being asked to do rounds, naked, of the drilling ground chanting: “This is my rifle, this is my gun. This is for fighting, this is for fun!” In military parlance, a gun can be anything that fires a projectile. A howitzer is a gun, as is a cannon. The rifle is a specific weapon used by an individual soldier. It is a gun fired from shoulder level having a long spirally grooved barrel intended to make a bullet spin and thereby have greater accuracy over a long distance. It is what a soldier mostly uses to do his work.
Stalin famously said: “The only real power comes out of a long rifle.” Gen. Douglas MacArthur typically put it into context when he said: “Whoever said the pen is mightier than the sword obviously never encountered automatic weapons.” Their development owes to a well-known post-WWII study of the pattern of usage of infantry weapons by US infantrymen in combat by Brig. SLA Marshall, the prominent military analyst. Marshall’s study revealed that most infantrymen used their weapons very little, preferring to take cover and firing occasionally. The study also revealed that infantrymen most likely to fire their weapons were those closest to a soldier firing a Browning automatic rifle. This was because when the BAR man fired, he was able to literally hose down a wide arc in front of him. When he did this, the opposing infantry lay low and infantrymen by his side were able to rise from behind cover and fire their weapons. This clearly suggested a need for greater deployment of automatic weapons.
The reader may be wondering why a smaller calibre weapon when it seems that for most things in life, bigger is better? This change in thinking, as far as rifles were concerned, was as a result of three observations. First was due to the fact that the large calibre round, 7.65 mm or .30 calibre (bullet diameter), needed a large explosive charge to propel it at the desired 700-800 metres per second. The recoil, as a result of this explosive charge in the automatic fire mode, often made the weapon virtually uncontrollable. Not only was the soldier unable to aim properly, but often the recoil caused injuries.
The other observation was that what was needed was not a marksman’s weapon firing accurately up to 800 metres. Statistical analysis by the US Army of rifle engagements in WW II, Korea and Vietnam revealed that 90 per cent of them were at ranges less than 300 metres and 70 per cent at 200 metres and less. Therefore, the emphasis on long-range accuracy of 300-800 metres was found somewhat redundant.
What followed from increasing dependence on automatic weapons was that greater quantities of ammunition were now needed. The propensity to consume ammunition reached the astounding rate of 50,000 rounds per kill in the Korean War. This obviously means that the soldier now needs to carry greater quantities of ammunition. The smaller the calibre, the greater the number of bullets the soldier can carry into the battlefield.
The debate is coming around full circle now. After 50 years, militaries the world over, specially the ones who have fought long wars during this period, are actively considering going back to the old 7.62 round. This is mostly because of the development of soldier’s armour, which easily stops the 5.56 round. Riflemen want stopping power. The reduced weight of the 5.56 also means reduced lethality. Battlefield experience also tells that while the 5.56 round does more damage, it kills less. It often leaves behind wounded soldiers still capable of combat. US soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan have discovered to their cost that a wounded but determined soldier can exact as much damage as an able-bodied one.
The INSAS, a rifle that drew heavily from other designs but never really performed like any of them. During the Kargil conflict, damaged and jammed weapons were returned to the factory and fresh lots had to be sent out. There were complaints of jamming, the magazine cracking due to the cold and the rifle going into automatic mode when it was set for three-round bursts. There was also a problem of oil being sprayed into the eyes of the operator. Some injuries during firing practice were also reported. Similar complaints were also received from the Nepalese Army.
In August 2005, after 43 soldiers were killed in a clash with Prachanda’s Maoists, a Nepalese Army spokesman called the rifle substandard and said their counter-insurgency operation would have been more efficient with better weapons. Even now, we hear of Indian infantrymen in combat zones who prefer to fight with the AK-47, like US infantrymen preferred it to the M-14 in the Vietnam War.
Recognising this, the Indian Army decided to phase out the INSAS and in 2011 issued tenders for a new quartet of infantry weapons. Whatever be its choice, the Army must get on quickly with its final evaluations and take a decision soon. Considering the time taken — six years — clearly a sense of urgency needs to prevail.
Recently, the Indian Army rejected an indigenously-built assault rifle, citing poor quality and ineffective firepower, and is soon likely to take a fresh call on procuring similar weapons to replace the INSAS rifles. The Army decided to reject the 7.62x51 mm guns built by the Rifle Factory Ishapore after they miserably failed the firing tests. It has been reported that the rifles had excessive number of faults and stoppages to the extent of more than 20 times the maximum permissible standards.
The Army had earlier rejected another indigenously-built assault rifle called the 5.56 mm Excalibur guns, as it did not meet the required standards.
Given the pattern of recent defence spends, it seems our strategists once again have reverted to the old habit of spending all on the big and extravagant that are least likely to be used, than on arms for the foot soldier who in the ultimate analysis, even today, still wins or loses battles for his country. Thus while debates have raged and money obviously made on purchases of SU-30 and Rafale jets, 155mm self-propelled guns and main battle tanks, nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers, little thought has been given to the foot soldier and his weapon. This is the weapon that is used for fighting and is not for fun on Republic Day at Rajpath.


June 29, 2017

Eagle and Elephant: Trump Okays $2 Billion Sale of Drones to India

A arms sale worth more than $2 billion from the United States to India, consisting of 22 naval surveillance drones, has been approved by the Trump White House. The deal still needs to be approved by Congress.

The sale includes at least 22 MQ-9B Guardian UAVs. The SkyGuardian is a variant of the MQ-9 Reaper drone (also called the Predator B), but it replaces the Reaper's missiles with several radar platforms. The SkyGuardian is meant for maritime search operations.
"We are pleased that the US government has cleared the way for the sale of the MQ-9B Guardian to the Indian government," said Linden Blue, CEO of manufacturer General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, in a statement.
The Guardians may be followed by an even bigger sale, according to Vice President Mike Pence. During the 42nd annual leadership summit of the US-India Business Council, Pence said that the US intends to sell both AH-64 Apache attack helicopters and C-17 transport helicopters to India.
This "would increase bilateral defense trade [between India and the United States] to nearly $19 billion, supporting thousands of United States jobs," according to a White House statement.
The US and India also intend to ink the sale of F-16 Fighting Falcon and F/A-18 Hornet fighter aircraft in the future, as part of Modi's push to bolster Indian defense capabilities.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to the White House on Sunday and Monday was expected to include the negotiation of the sale. Trump indirectly referred to the deal during a Monday news conference, mentioning that it "always makes us feel very good" when other countries purchase military equipment from American manufacturers.
"There's nobody makes military equipment like we make military equipment. Nobody even close," Trump said.
His counterpart Modi said that "the strengthening of India's defense capabilities, with the help of USA, is something that we truly appreciate."
"We have also decided to enhance maritime security cooperation between the two nations. President Trump and I have also spoken about strengthening bilateral defense technology and our trade and manufacturing partnership, which we believe will be mutually beneficial to us," the prime minister added.
The low-key visit from Modi has followed what seems to be the template for foreign leaders visiting the United States under Trump: smiles and compliments in public, shadowed by the war of words that preceded it. Trump has repeatedly complained of the trade deficit between the US and India, which totaled $24.3 billion in 2016. He also slammed India in his speech regarding the US' exit from the Paris Climate Accords.
But on Monday, Trump said that he and Modi "agree on most things, and I would say by the end of the day we'll agree on everything. I have a feeling."


Indian Navy in talks to get underwater rescue ship from Russian shipyard that built most of its submarines

The Admiralty Shipyards in Russia has produced most of the submarines that are in the Indian Navy – from the Foxtrot class that has been retired, to the Kilos that still form the bulk of the fleet. The Russian shipyard is now in advanced talks with the Indian Navy for an underwater rescue vessel that can be the difference between life and death for the crew of a crippled submarine.

The top executive of the Admiralty shipyard told The Print that price negotiations are currently on with the Indian Navy for a new rescue vessel with the two sides having overcome all other technical issues. The Igor Belousov class rescue vessel will be designed for rescue operations on conventional and nuclear-powered submarines – a fleet that is set to grow exponentially over the next decade in the Indian Navy.

“There were some technical issues that we have discussed and overcome. Now we are discussing the pricing. We are hopeful that we will soon win the contract,” Alexander Buzakov, Director General of the Admiralty shipyard, said.

The Russian ship is designed to carry out rescue operations – providing air and supplies to a crippled submarine as well as operating vessels close to it – up to a depth of 1000 meters. Designed to operate in rough seas up to sea state 7, the Russian Navy has one such rescue ship operational and is likely to order four more for its fleet.

India has a dire need for a submarine rescue vessel and for years has operated without adequate rescue gear in case of an accident at sea. After two major accidents on-board submarines in the preceding years raised eyebrows, the Navy last year finally ordered two British-made submersibles that can be used for rescue operations. The James Fisher Defence submersibles can rescue 16 sailors at a time from a depth of 16 meters, but need a vessel to be operated from.

The Russian shipyard said that the concerns India had about housing the British submersible with the Igor Belousov class rescue ship have been resolved.

“The Indian side wanted to know if additional rescue equipment could be added to the ship. We have now confirmed that the British submersible vessel can be integrated,” Buzakov said.

The vessel is important for India given its plans to operate a fleet of at least 6 nuclear-powered attack submarines and an equal number of nuclear-armed submarines in the coming years. The lack of a rescue vessel has been sorely felt. During the extensive sea trials last year of the INS Arihant – India’s first nuclear missile-armed submarine – a Russian naval vessel had to be engaged as backup in case of any emergency.


It’s time India used its most powerful weapon against China: Trade

In Beijing’s view, India is a critical ‘swing State’ that increasingly is moving to the US camp, undercutting Xi’s ambition to establish a Sino-centric Asia through an expanded tianxia system of the 15th century. Given India’s vantage geographical location, China needs its participation to plug key gaps in Xi’s One Belt, One Road (OBOR) project. But India not only boycotted Xi’s OBOR summit but has also portrayed OBOR as an opaque, neo-colonial enterprise seeking to ensnare smaller, cash-strapped states in a debt trap.

China may have orchestrated the Sikkim standoff not so much to cast a shadow over the Modi-Trump discussions as to warn Modi that his increasing tilt toward the US will carry long-term costs. China is already stepping up its direct and surrogate threats against India. One example is the proliferation of incursions and other border incidents since the 2005 India-US nuclear deal, which laid out a strategic framework for the US to co-opt India. China is also waging a psy-war through media.

With Chinese forces aggressively seeking to nibble away at Indian territory, India’s Himalayan challenge has been compounded by a lack of an integrated approach that blends military, economic and diplomatic elements into a coherent strategy. Modi, for example, has allowed China’s trade surplus with India to double on his watch to almost $60 billion. By comparison, India’s trade surplus with the US is about half of that, yet Trump wants urgent Indian action to balance the two-way trade.

By importing $5 worth of goods from China for every $1 worth of exports to it, India not only rewards Chinese belligerence but also foots the bill for Beijing’s encirclement strategy. Beijing’s annual trade surplus with India is large enough for it to finance one China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) every calendar year and still have a few billion dollars to spare. India’s most powerful weapon against China is trade. Given China’s proclivity to deploy trade as a political weapon, as against South Korea in the latest case, why doesn’t India take a page out of the Chinese playbook?

India also needs to eschew accommodating rhetoric that plays into China’s hands. Modi’s recent statement that — despite the boundary dispute — “not a single bullet has been fired” was music to Chinese ears, with Beijing going out of its way to welcome it. In truth, China’s bullet-less Himalayan aggression, as the Sikkim episode demonstrates, is similar to the way it has expanded its control in the South China Sea. Indian statements should not give comfort to an adversary that employs furtive, creeping actions to alter the frontier bit by bit.

Meanwhile, China, by arbitrarily suspending Indians’ pilgrimage to the sacred duo of Mount Kailash and Lake Manasarover, is reminding New Delhi to review its Tibet policy. To blunt China’s Tibet-linked claims to Indian territories and to defend against the growing Chinese pressure, India must subtly reopen Tibet as an outstanding issue. Theoretically, India has a better historical claim to Kailash-Manasarover than China has to Arunachal Pradesh, where no Han Chinese set foot until the 1962 invasion.

Make no mistake: Despite the cosy ties with Washington, India, essentially, is on its own against China. It needs to bolster its border defences and boost its nuclear and missile deterrent capabilities. The US, with a price tag of up to $3 billion, is offering 22 unarmed MQ-9B unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for surveillance, not the “hunter-killer” UAVs India needs to counter the emerging Indian Ocean threat from China. By investing that kind of money, India could develop potent new deterrent instruments against China — intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and long-range cruise missiles, the symbols of power in today’s world.


June 27, 2017

Possible sale of Boeing C-17 aircraft to India approved: Pentagon

The Defense Security Cooperation Agency said in a statement it notified Congress on Monday of the sale, which includes four turbofan engines and a missile warning system. 
 The U.S. State Department has approved the possible sale to India of one Boeing C-17 transport aircraft, with an estimated cost of $366 million, a Pentagon agency said on Monday. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency said in a statement it notified Congress on Monday of the sale, which includes four turbofan engines, a missile warning system, a countermeasures dispensing system and an identification friend or foe transponder. 


June 26, 2017

$2 bn Guardian drone deal with India set to be officially announced

The White House will formally announce the recently-approved $2 bn ‘Guardian’ drone deal for the Indian Navy, the first for a non-NATO country, at the end of a meeting between Modi and Trump.
The White House will formally announce the recently-approved $2 bn ‘Guardian’ drone deal for the Indian Navy, the first for a non-NATO country, at the end of a meeting between Modi and Trump. The deal’s clearance, apart from bolstering defence ties with India, gives a boost to India plans of General Atomics Aeronautical Systems that makes the predator drones.
Sources told FE that General Atomics is in talks with local companies here to build next-generation weapons and support systems based on advanced electromagnetic technologies here to take advantage of Modi’s Make in India programme. The company has already established a base in India and has roped in Vivek Lall as CEO for this purpose.
In fact, the Guardian drone deal was spearheaded by Lall, who has worked under various US administrations. Lall had previously worked for US-based Raytheon, NASA and headed Boeing’s India operations. In recent years, the US has become one of India’s largest defence suppliers, with deals totaling nearly $14 bn billion now, up from less than $300 million eight years ago.


Russia and India may ink deal on frigate supplies by end of July

A contract on supplies of Russia’s Project 11356 frigates to India may be inked in three or four weeks, President of the United Shipbuilding Corporation Alexei Rakhmanov said on Monday.

"We are in the final stage of discussion with our customer on the fate of the fourth and fifth warships. I think we will tell you about this in the coming three or four weeks," Rakhmanov said.

Director for International Cooperation and Regional Policy at Russia’s State Corporation Rostec Viktor Kladov said earlier that the planned contract for the delivery of Project 11356 frigates for the Indian Navy would be implemented under the "two plus two" formula: two frigates are to be built in Russia and delivered ready-for-use to India and the other two would be constructed by the Indian shipbuilding industry at one of the national shipyards.


June 24, 2017

Bill tabled in US House of Representatives to revoke Pakistan's non-NATO ally status

  • The bill was tabled by Republican Congressman Ted Poe and Democratic lawmaker Rick Nolan.
  • The bill calls for revoking Pakistan's status as major non-NATO ally (MNNA).
  • Under MNNA, Pakistan is eligible for priority delivery of defence materials.
A bipartisan bill seeking to revoke Pakistan's status as major non-NATO ally (MNNA) to the US has been introduced in the House of Representatives by two top lawmakers, saying the country failed to effectively fight terrorism.

Introduced by Republican Congressman Ted Poe and Democratic lawmaker Rick Nolan, the legislation calls for revoking MNNA status of Pakistan, which was granted to it in 2004 by the then president, George Bush, in an effort to get the country to help the US fight al-Qaida and the Taliban.

"Pakistan must be held accountable for the American blood on its hands," said Poe, who is a member of the foreign affairs committee and serves as chairman of the subcommittee on terrorism, non-proliferation and trade.

"For years, Pakistan has acted as a Benedict Arnold ally of the United States. From harbouring Osama bin laden to backing the Taliban, Pakistan has stubbornly refused to go after, in any meaningful way, terrorists that actively seek to harm opposing ideologies," he said.

'Benedict Arnold' is a byword in the US for treason or betrayal. Benedict Arnold was a general during the American Revolutionary War who originally fought for the American Continental Army but defected to the British Army.

"We must make a clean break with Pakistan, but at the very least, we should stop providing them the eligibility to obtain our own sophisticated weaponry in an expedited process granting them a privileged status reserved for our closest allies," Poe said.

Under MNNA, a country is eligible for priority delivery of defence materials+ , an expedited arms sale process and a US loan guarantee programme, which backs up loans issued by private banks to finance arms exports.

It can also stockpile US military hardware, participate in defence research and development programmes and be sold more sophisticated weaponry.

Last August, the then secretary of defence, Ash Carter, withheld $300 million in military reimbursements because he could not certify that Pakistan was taking adequate action against the Haqqani network, as required by the National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA).

"Time and time again, Pakistan has taken advantage of America's goodwill and demonstrated that they are no friend and ally of the United States," Nolan said.

"The fact is, the billions of dollars we have sent to Pakistan over the last 15 years has done nothing to effectively fight terrorism and make us safer. It is time to wake up to the fact that Pakistan has ties to the same terrorist organisations which they claim to be fighting," he said.

The legislation will protect American taxpayer dollars and make the US and the world safer, Nolan said.


Guardian drones to act as force multipliers for Indian Navy

Ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit, the US has cleared the sale of 22 predator Guardian drones, a force multiplier that will boost the Indian Navy's intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities.

The deal, estimated to be worth $2 to $3 billion, has been approved by the state department, sources said.

The decision has been communicated to the Indian government and the manufacturer by the state department yesterday, according to the informed governmental sources.

"This is the first very significant sign of the Trump administration being more result oriented in its relationship with India compared to Obama administration," a source said.

While the deal has not been formally announced, the sale of 22 predator drones being manufactured by General Atomics is "a game changer" for the US-India relations as it operationalises the status of "major defence partner".

The designation of India being a "major defence partner" was decided by the previous Obama Administration, and formally approved by the Congress.

The State Department and the White House did not immediately respond to the questions in this regard. An official announcement is expected soon.

Modi's first meeting with Trump has been scheduled to take place at the White House on June 26.

According to General Atomics, the Predator Guardian UAV, a variant of the Predator B, can be used for wide-area, long- endurance maritime intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions.

It can stay in the air for up to 27 hours and can fly at maximum altitude of 50,000 feet.

The Indian Navy made the request for this intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) platform last year.

This maritime capability will be a force multiplier for the Indian Navy who has procured other advance technologies including Boeing P-8 aircraft.

The Guardian has cutting edge technologies that do not do not exist in the current Indian Navy arsenal.


India, Russia finalise deal on frigates, S-400 missile system & Kamov helicopters

India and Russia adopted a roadmap for defence cooperation on Friday, building on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Russia earlier this month. The two sides have taken forward their defence partnership to concretise deals on frigates, S-400 air defence missile system and Kamov helicopters, people familiar with the matter said.

Defence Minister Arun Jaitley, who is in Russia this week on his second visit since April, co-chaired the 17th meeting of the India-Russia Intergovernmental Commission on Military-Technical Cooperation (IRIGC-MTC) on Friday with his Russian counterpart, General Sergei Shoigu.

“We are determined to go ahead with building cooperation in order to enhance the combat readiness of both countries’ armed forces and to exchange experience in various defence-related matters,” Shoigu said at a meeting, according to Russian news agency Tass.

The Russian minister, according to Tass, said that in accordance with the agreements experts from both sides drafted a roadmap for the development of military cooperation, which will become the basic document for planning bilateral defence engagements. Jaitley and Shoigu discussed the final shape of defence deals that include S-400 Triumf air defence missile systems, four Krivak class stealth frigates and Kamov 226T helicopters.

Ahead of Modi’s visit to St Petersburg for the annual summit, a special arrangement was made to make Indo-Russia defence projects work around the sanctions. Under the arrangement, India is understood to have waived banking guarantee clause mandatory for securing defence contracts in India. Instead India accepted a sovereign guarantee from Russia.

Earlier this week Jaitley spoke at the newly established India-Russia High-Level Committee on Science and Technology in Novosibirsk to discuss cooperation in high technologies and emphasised on bilateral cooperation with India moving closer to Wassennar membership. In March, Jaitley had invited Russian companies to share some critical technologies with India and produce defence equipment in India.

The next month he said that both the countries had started serious discussions with Russia for setting up another defence manufacturing unit under the ‘Make in India’ programme. India and Russia have identified 485 lines for transfer of technology (ToT) to support the Su-30 MKI fleet. A total of 20 Indian vendors have been introduced to Russia to find out the feasibility of ToT by Indian vendors.


Indian Black Shark torpedo deal for Navy might be revived

Italy's Whitehead Sistemi Subacquei S.p.A., a subsidiary of Leonardo, might be reconsidered to supply Black Shark torpedoes for French Scorpene submarines currently being built in India, according to sources in the Indian Ministry of Defence.

This follows observations made by India's attorney general on the legality of issuing tenders and its subsidiary defence companies, which are facing probes on charges of alleged corruption.

In June of last year, MoD announced the cancellation of a $200 million deal for Black Shark torpedoes, but MoD sources said the tender was not formally cancelled and that no intimation of the cancellation was conveyed to the Italian company.

Whitehead Sistemi Subacquei S.p.A., or WASS, was declared the winner over Atlas Elektronik of Germany in 2014 in a global tender to supply Black Shark torpedoes to be mounted on the six French Scorpene submarines licensed produced by state-owned Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Ltd.

Although WASS emerged as the lowest bidder against Atlas Elektronik, the contract could not be signed because in August 2014, the government put a ban on signing the contracts in the wake of the probe into the VVIP helicopters scam relating to AgustaWestland, another subsidiary of Leonardo.

After coming to power, the ruling Modi government in August 2014 issued a “partial” ban against Leonardo and its subsidiaries according to which ongoing contracts could continue on their path, while all fresh deals remained banned. However, WASS had not signed the torpedo deal.

The latest recommendations of the attorney general to go ahead with the tender from WASS, if accepted by the MoD, could result in a tender for the torpedoes.

An MoD source said that the attorney general has advised the MoD that the contract with WASS should not be cancelled because the Indian Navy cannot find suitable replacements very easily at the same cost, and absence of torpedoes will hit Scorpene submarines' operational capabilities.

Besides, the Indian Navy would need to carry out suitable modifications in the torpedo tubes of the French Scorpene submarines for another type of torpedo, resulting in further delays.

The Black Shark torpedoes, if contracted by the Indian government, will be licensed produced in India with transfer of technology in certain critical areas at state-owned Bharat Dynamics Limited, or BDL, in Hyderabad.

A total of 98 heavy-weight torpedoes are to be procured out of which the seller would quote for 20 torpedoes in fully formed condition, and the remaining 78 torpedoes will be license produced at BDL.


June 23, 2017

Officials race against time to seal F-16 BLOCK-70 deal in US

Officials are working overtime to complete negotiations on moving the assembly line for the F-16 fighter jet to India to enable Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Donald Trump to jointly make an announcement on the deal.

While there are still too many gaps to be filled, officials are trying to finalise at least the framework before Modi travels to Washington on Saturday. Well-informed sources told ET that the two sides were hammering out details to ensure India was in compliance with US law on proprietary technology.

The information could not be officially confirmed as both sides are keeping a tight lid on the substance of Modi’s visit. US laws governing sale of sophisticated military technology are extremely intricate with overlapping jurisdictions by the Defence, State and Commerce departments.

India too has hesitations about dependence on the US, especially at a time of flux in the international system. The announcement, if it comes when Modi meets Trump on June 26 at the White House, would be a good example of India’s designation by the Obama Administration as a “major defence partner,” especially if the deal is studded with significant transfers of technology.

It would show that “Make in India” and “America First” can meet somewhere in the middle. In 2015, Modi made a surprise announcement while on a visit to France in 2015 to buy 36 “ready to fly” Rafale aircraft after negotiations with Dassault for 126 multi-role, medium-range combat aircraft or MMRCA unraveled.

On Monday, Lockheed Martin announced it had signed a “landmark agreement” with Tata Advanced Systems Limited “affirming the companies intent to join hands to produce the F-16 Block 70 in India,” causing waves of excitement on Twitter.”

The two companies are still working out details but Lockheed is clearly making a big push to win the deal. An Indian official told ET the government is yet to make a decision and Lockheed was taking “a leap ahead” with its announcement.

The signing is in anticipation of the government of India’s decision in Lockheed’s favour and against Sweden’s Saab whose Gripen fighter is in competition to supply the IAF. But the IAF is yet to place an order for the 100 or more single-engine aircraft it needs to replace the MiG-21s.

Although there are many unknowns on the Indian side, Lockheed executives have apparently been working on the Trump Administration with some success. Orlando Carvalho, executive vice president of Lockheed’s aeronautics division, told Defence News at the Paris Air Show that his company had “briefed various members of the administration on the programme” and there is confidence that the Trump Administration would be supportive.

“We haven’t seen any resistance to the programme by the administration” Carvalho was quoted as saying.Trump has emphasised keeping jobs in the US under the “Buy American, Hire American” slogan.

So far, his administration has not said anything about the F-16 line moving to India. The Obama Administration gave both Lockheed Martin and Boeing the green signal last December to build production facilities in India.

It’s unclear at this stage if the US government is willing to part with crucial technology – a key Indian demand. Since the Pakistan also flies the F-16, it’s unclear whether India would exercise control on future orders.


Ahead Of PM Modi's Visit, US Approves Sale Of 22 Guardian Unmanned Drones To India: Report

  • The 22 unarmed drones reportedly worth more than $2 billion
  • Indian navy is getting drones to keep watch over the Indian Ocean
  • India, US will also discuss sale of US fighter jets during PM Modi's trip
Just days before Prime Minister Narendra Modi meets President Donald Trump for the first time in Washington, the US has cleared the sale of 22 unmanned Guardian drones to India, news agency Press Trust of India reported on Thursday.

The report added that the deal has been approved by the US State Department and has been communicated to the Indian government and the manufacturer of the drone, California-based General Atomics.

Securing agreement on the purchase of the 22 unarmed drones - reportedly worth more than $2 billion - was seen in Delhi as a key test of defence ties that flourished under former President Barack Obama but drifted under Mr Trump, who has courted India's rival China as he seeks Beijing's help to contain North Korea's nuclear programme.

PM Modi's two-day visit to Washington begins on Sunday. Mr Trump met Chinese President Xi Jinping in April and has also had face-time with the leaders of nations including Japan, Britain and Vietnam since taking office in January, prompting anxiety in Delhi that India is no longer a priority in Washington.

The Indian navy getting the unarmed surveillance drones it wants to keep watch over the Indian Ocean will be the first such purchase by a country that is not a member of the NATO alliance.

"We are trying to move it to the top of the agenda as a deliverable, this is something that can happen before all the other items," said one official tracking the progress of the drone discussions in the run-up to the visit.

India, a big buyer of US arms recently named by Washington as a major defence ally, wants to protect its 7,500 km (4,700 mile) coastline as Beijing expands its maritime trade routes and Chinese submarines increasingly lurk in regional waters.

But sources tracking the discussions say the US State Department has been concerned about the potential destabilising impact of introducing high-tech drones at a time when tensions are simmering between India and Pakistan.

"There is a palpable fear in New Delhi that the new US president's lack of focus on India, and limited appointment of South Asia focused advisors, has resulted in India falling off the radar in Washington," Eurasia Group's Shailesh Kumar and Sasha Riser-Kositsky said in a note quoted by news agency Reuters.

Defence deals, however, are one area where the two countries could make progress.

The two sides had stepped up efforts in recent weeks to get inter-agency clearance for the sale of the Guardian drone.

India has raised the issue of the drones with the Pentagon three times since June 2016, officials said, according to Reuters. The agency also said that an industry official involved in promoting India-US business ties said the drone sale enjoyed support from the White House and Congress.

While the Guardian drones that India is pushing for are unarmed, the Indian military had originally asked for missile-firing Predator Avenger aircraft, a request turned down by the Obama administration.

US export laws typically prohibit the transfer of such arms to a country unless it is fighting alongside US forces.

India and the United States will also discuss the sale of US fighter jets during PM Modi's trip, in what could be the biggest deal since they began deepening defence ties more than a decade ago.

On Monday, Lockheed Martin announced an agreement with India's Tata Advanced Systems to produce F-16 planes in India, provided it won a contract to equip the Indian Air Force with hundreds of new aircraft.

Lockheed has offered to shift its ageing F-16 production line from Fort Worth, Texas as part of PM Modi's "Make-in-India" drive while it ramps up production of the high-end F-35 aircraft at home.

Since Mr Trump's election on an "America First" platform, US and Indian officials have sought to play down any contradiction between his stated desire to protect American jobs and PM Modi's "Make in India" policy, arguing, for example, that deals in which components made in the United States are shipped to India for assembly benefit workers in both countries.

US officials expect a relatively low-key visit by PM Modi, without the fanfare of some of his previous trips to the United States, and one geared to giving the Indian leader the chance to get to know Mr Trump personally.

PM Modi is expected to discuss the H 1-B visa programme that the Trump administration is reviewing to reduce the flow of skilled foreign workers and save jobs for Americans.

Indian Trade Secretary Rita Teaotia told reporters this week that the H-1B visas, under which Indian IT firms send large numbers of professionals to the United States, would be one of the issues on the table during PM Modi's visit.


June 22, 2017

India, Russia to ‘Soon’ Set Delivery Date for S-400 Missile Air Defense Systems

Russia and India will soon conclude the final contract for the delivery of five regiments of Russian-made S-400 Triumf advanced Air Defense Systems (NATO reporting name: SA-21 Growler), according to a senior Russian defense industry official.

The head of Russian arms exporter Rosoboronexport, Alexander Mikheyev, told TASS news agency on the sidelines of the Le Bourget international aerospace show on June 21 that the signing of a final contract is imminent. “Rosoboronexport is carrying out pre-contractual work with Indian partners. We are discussing the technical issues of the deliveries. I can assure you that both our company and the Indian side are set to sign the contract soon,” the chief executive officer said.

As I reported previously (See: “India and Russia Ink S-400 Missile Air Defense System Deal”), Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin signed an intergovernmental agreement for the procurement of five regiments of S-400s in October 2016 during the eighth BRICS summit. India will be the second country after China, which ordered six S-400 battalions in 2014, to receive one of Russia’s most advanced air defense systems. China is expected to receive the first S-400 units in 2018.

“The S-400 Triumf long-range air defense missile systems will be delivered to China in strict compliance with the contract concluded between Rosoboronexport and the Chinese side. There are no causes to doubt the timely and qualitative fulfillment of the accords,” Mikheyev said this Wednesday.

The S-400 is capable of engaging missiles of all types and ranges, stand-off jammer aircraft, as well Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft. It can also engage targets in an electronic countermeasures environment. The new weapons systems will significantly boost India’s and China’s anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) capabilities. As I explained elsewhere:

In comparison to its predecessor, the S-300, the S-400 air defense system features an improved radar system and updated software; it can purportedly can fire four new types of surface-to-air (SAM) missiles in addition to the S-300’s 48N6E, a vertical tube launched, solid fuel, single stage SAM with an estimated range of 150 kilometers (93 miles), and the improved 48N6E2 missile with a reported range of 195 kilometers (121 miles).

One of the S-400’s new missiles is the so-called 40N6 SAM with an estimated operational range of 400 kilometers (248.5 miles) and an altitude of up to 185 kilometers (607,000 feet). The missile is reportedly capable of exo-atmospheric interception of intermediate-range ballistic missile warheads in their terminal phase. However, it is unclear whether the weapon is operational in Russia yet and no images of the 40N6 SAM have surfaced so far.

The S-400 is also armed with an improved variant of the 48N6E2 with an alleged range of 250 kilometers (160 miles). The air defense system can also fire two additional missiles, the 9M96E and 9M96E2 with respective ranges of 40 km (25 miles) and 120 km (75 miles). Improved S-300 air defense systems such as the S-300PMU-2 Favorite (sold to Iran), can purportedly also fire the 9M96E and 9M96E2. The S-400 can purportedly fire missiles at a rate 2.5 times faster than its predecessor, the S-300.

The India military is expected to deploy three S-400 regiments in the country’s west, facing Pakistan, and two regiments in the east near the Sino-Indian border. One S-400 is divided up into two battalions. Each battalion consists of eight launchers armed with up to 32 missiles.


Indian Air Force plans to add muscle to Sukhois

Seeking to enhance the capabilities of its Sukhoi-30 combat aircraft, the Indian Air Force is now planning to upgrade the capabilities of its frontline planes by equipping them with longer range air-to-air missiles and advanced target detection capabilities.

The upgrades in capabilities are being discussed with the original aircraft manufacturer Russia, which supplied the planes to India in the late 1990s.

"We are looking for enhancing the capabilities of the aircraft by equipping it with more potent weapons including air-to-air missiles with kill ranges up to 120 kilo metres like the Meteor missiles which are being fitted on the Rafales," sources told MAIL TODAY.

Under the plans to enhance the capabilities, the air frame of the planes would also be strengthened to allow it to carry heavier missiles with longer ranges for carrying out special operations, the sources said.

The aircraft is already being upgraded for carrying the Brah-Mos supersonic cruise missile which would be hitting targets in ranges up to 300 km.


The Air Force is also planning to enhance the enemy detection capabilities with advanced radar like the Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar which can help the IAF pilots to track enemy planes and target more effectively and at longer ranges, the sources said.

The IAF has placed the orders for 272 Su-30MKIs from Russia in different batches and they have been deployed across the country at different locations in 12 squadrons.

After the phasing out of the MiG-series planes including the MiG 21s and the MiG 27s, the Su-30MKIs would be mainstay of the Air Force with responsibility of looking after both the Eastern front with China and Western front with Pakistan.

Under the upgraded plans, the IAF is looking to involve the first few batches of the aircraft that it received from the Russians known as Mark I. The rest of the aircraft would be upgraded as the batches keep getting enhanced capabilities.

About three years back, the IAF had also issued a Request to Information to the European vendors for acquiring stand-off missiles with ranges beyond 300 kilometres for being fired from the Sukhois.

For the upgrade project, Russia is also trying to involve European companies for providing weapon systems and avionics and has already started talking to some of the vendors there.

The plan for upgrading the Sukhois has been hanging fire for close to a decade now as the discussions on the issue had started between the two countries around 2009-10 itself.

However, the project cost has escalated hugely in these years as the Russians are now asking somewhere between US$ 7-8 billion (Rs 45,000-52,000 crore) for the upgrades.


Why FDN2 is a giant leap for the Indian Navy

The launch of FDN2, india's first indigenously developed floating dock, has more to it than meets the eye.

Launched on Tuesday from Larsen & Toubro's greenfield shipyard at Kattupalli, Chennai, the dock is the second of its kind to be commissioned by the Indian Navy. Commissioned after a gap of 30 years, the new dock will join its predecessor at the naval base at Port Blair.

Commissioned by the Defence Ministry in 2015, the 8,000 tonnes FDN2 will be used for the repair of all naval assets other than aircraft carriers. Apart from oil tankers and aircraft carriers, floating dockyards are the biggest ships on the planet.

The significance of the commissioning of the vessel is the strategic role Port Blair will play in the new geo-political situation. With China beefing up its naval power in the Indian Ocean, there is a growing requirement for higher attention towards the eastern coastline which is the door to India's far east trade.

This calls for improved facilities at the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. But given that the area is prone to earthquakes ,it is quite impractical to build a dry dock there. It is in this context that the navy's setting up of an additional dockyard in Port Blair gains significance.

Thus, the commissioning is not just an example for India's rising naval power, but seems to be a clear message of the country's commitment to take up any challenge in the eastern waterways.


F-16: What it takes to build this fighter plane in India

Following up on news of India’s Tata Advanced Systems Limited (TASL) signing an agreement with US aircraft maker Lockheed Martin confirming the companies’ intent to set up a joint production facility for F-16 Block 70 fighter planes in India, we spoke to F-16 experts at Lockheed Martin in the US to understand the nuts and bolts of what it would take to build this fighter aircraft in India.

John Losinger from Lockheed’s Integrated Fighter Group ( F-16, F-22, T-50, F-2) in Texas and Abhay Paranjape, Executive Director of International Business Development at the company spoke with Firstpost, New York on everything from the production line to the typical employment generation and gestation period in the making of these fighter jets which could potentially lead to “thousands of jobs”.

The Tata - Lockheed announcement comes days ahead of Indian PM Narendra Modi’s visit to the US for a summit meeting with Donald Trump where defence and security will likely play a star role. Reuters reports that Lockheed's leader of F-16 business development Phil Howard clarified that the Tata- Lockheed deal will not cross wires in Washington where Donald Trump's America First campaign insists on creating jobs at home.

India's latest tweaks to its defence procurement policy gives top billing to partnerships that help the 'Make in India' push rather than outright buys. This is the context of the Tata-Lockheed agreement which means this combine will be competing with other Indian-foreign JVs for defence tenders. The Tata-Lockheed agreement signals intent to move in a certain direction but India's Ministry of Defense (MoD) has not yet issued global competitive bids for single-engine fighter aircraft.

India has been in the market for around 200 new fighter planes because the existing MiG 21s fleet is old and accident prone.

India’s Ministry of Defense (MOD) recently issued a Request for Information (RFI) to global aircraft manufacturers and has announced that there will be competitive bidding to build a new single-engine fighter aircraft under Modi’s “Make in India” push.

Back in late 2016 itself, India has already received “unsolicited offers” from Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and Saab to build the Lockheed Martin F-16 Block 70, Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet, and Saab Gripen E fighter jet in India, according to a report in Business Standard.

As of date, approximately 3,200 F-16s are in operation, flown on combat missions by 25 countries worldwide.The F-16 remains the backbone of the U.S. Air Force’s current frontline air fleet which recently announced plans to extend the structural service life of up to 841 of its F-16s, signaling the U.S. Air Force intends to operate F-16s to 2048 and beyond.

With Lockheed Martin sealing a deal with the Tatas, it’s clear that the Americans are now saying alright, we’re in the game, who will you pick? The Swedes, the French or us?

The Q and A below with Lockheed’s Losinger and Paranjape has been edited for brevity. Certain portions have been highlighted for emphasis and relevance.

Firstpost: Break it down for us, what does it take to build an F-16 in India along with a local partner?

Lockheed: The F16, as with other aircraft, has a huge supply chain. We have pieces and components coming in from multiple companies - think of it as similar to a car’s supply chain. Add to this a workforce that’s already trained and they’re able to execute in total sync with the supply chain. We need to get all of the “long lead” items in, do the final assembly and check and delivery - so each plane takes 3 to 4 years. Having said that, a company that’s starting from scratch will have to come up on a learning curve. In the beginning, they might take longer and that is natural. We’ve done this kind of work in the past in multiple countries. So we would like to start in India with a company that can come here, learn from us and go back and start assembly, then go into component production and then into detailed assemblies. We take a crawl-walk-run approach. The number of jobs will be in the thousands.

FP: Where do you start, what’s the first thing you would have to do?

Lockheed: In the end, this will be a government to government agreement. The first several aircraft will be delivered from the US production line. It starts off with getting the user (say, Indian Air Force) to become familiar with the aircraft, figure out if there are any special systems that need to be going on to that aircraft…and simultaneously training the right set of people, do the tech transfer, tooling set-up, they will need the right sort of buildings, runway facilities so there is a seamless transition from aircraft being delivered from the US to aircraft being delivered from India. So we would have people from the US in India and vice versa.
You may have heard the term transfer of technology (in the context of the recent tweaks in India’s defense procurement) - there is a lot of production technology that has to be learnt. Building fighter aircraft is a highly specialised skill set - very different from manufacturing cars or even helicopters which a company like TASL may have some experience with.

FP: Is it true that no new F16 orders are scheduled beyond this year from the US?

Lockheed: That’s right.

FP: What about from outside the US?

Lockheed: We have international sales and that’s pretty much what we’ve been doing ever since the early 2000s. The F16 is operated in more than 26-27 countries.

FP: We hear that America is moving on from the F-16 to the F-35, is that right?

Lockheed: We see a large market for F16s still. The US airforce will continue to operate their existing F16s for the next 30 years or so. India’s advertised needs have been more than a 100 aircraft. We are engaged in multiple conversations right now. For any partner who produces this aircraft, the market for export, parts, spares, support, after-sales, modifications and upgrades - sustainment as we call it…is huge. A 100 or so aircraft in not the business case, its the ecosystem of maintenance and upgrades that makes sense. You mentioned the Block 70, in future there will be other blocks. We expect the F16 to continue to operate for the next 30 to 40 years.

FP: Is it true that your Texas assembly line may shut down if there are no further orders?

Lockheed: That’s right. We will be delivering the last of the orders later this year and transition the production facility to Greenville, South Carolina. The existing production facility is being ever more used by F35s and our facility in Greenville has the production capacity and the people to fulfill near term production orders.

FP:What happens to the people working on Texas assembly line? Do they lose their jobs?

Lockheed: Some of those folks have chosen to retire and some have moved to F35 production. Workforce anywhere is commensurate with production rate, so it’s a relatively small workforce.

FP:How many people?

Lockheed: It’s less than 200 folks and that number has slowly but surely been decreasing as we move towards more F35 production.

FP: So, if you have less than 200 people here, how does a JV translate to 1000s of jobs in India?

Lockheed: What John’s talking about is just the final assembly. We are not going into India with just the final assembly. We are looking at producing majority of the aircraft in India. If you take our phased approach, we will start with final assembly first and that will take a few hundred people. But we are looking at production, components and assembly all moving to India, the jobs will be a lot more. The workforce requirement is commensurate with the production rate, so it depends on the order size.

FP: What’s the org structure like for building an F16 - starting from the most junior staff?

Lockheed: Majority of them would be skilled technicians. They would have to be trained to work on aircraft systems.

FP: Do they have to be engineers?

Lockheed: No, I mean people who have been trained through an ITI or equivalent technical training institution with a diploma. That’s a large amount of the workforce and it’s pretty similar in the US also. Then you need entry level engineers, designers, supply chain managers, software engineers, hardware engineers, supply chain integrators, business people - the whole spectrum. You also need skilled technicians and engineers for testing the systems, the worthiness of the aircraft itself. You start with technician level and then you have people at all of these levels. You would need systems engineers and industrial engineers who understand process flow and production line - so various kinds of engineers at every level and business managers who can understand both the flow of equipment and flow of money. This is like bringing up a whole new industry. Working with a company like Tata and TASL means they already have a lot of the processes understood which is a big benefit.

FP: Saab Gripen is also in contention…

Lockheed: We don’t want to get into that - it’s like comparing cars. All we’ll say is that the number of countries in which we operate, the number of planes we have sold, air-to-air and air-to-ground success - your compare it to any other aircraft, not just the Gripen, and we win hands down. This is a constantly evolving aircraft system, it has been widely successful and that’s why interest is continuing. There are 3200 operational F16s today in the world flying with 25 customers. Few customers have stopped operating them but the deep and wide supply chain ecosystem ensures that upgrades are continuously happening. The US Air force has not bought F16s since the late 1990s but they are keen to extend the life of the existing fleet. The US Air Force, although it is recapitalisting its fleet with the F35, the F-16s will continue for a few decades at least.

FP: Is the F35 operational?

Lockheed: Yes, the F-35 is operational and they are actually deploying it to bases around the world. We have some international orders - it’s an initial aircraft but not an operational fleet - just one or two.


June 21, 2017

TATA Power SED receives order from Govt

Tata Power’s strategic Engineering Division (Tata Power SED) has received an order for a pilot project from Ministry of Home Affairs, Govt of India for the supply of Comprehensive Integrated Border Management System (CIBMS) to Border Security Force (BSF).

This order is an initial phase of a larger Border management project of Ministry of Home Affairs to enable round the clock surveillance of Indian borders.

CIBMS being fielded by Tata Power SED is an indigenously designed & developed system. It aims to establish a seamless multi-tier security ring at the border using a variety of sensors to identify infiltration attempts.

Tata Power Company Ltd Strategic Engineering Division is a private sector player, the division has partnered with Ministry of Defence, the Armed Forces, DPSU’s and DRDO in the development & supply of state of the art systems.


Reliance Defence Ltd and French firm Thales seal deal for JV

French defence firm Thales and Reliance Defence Limited today sealed a deal for setting up a joint venture (JV) with a shareholding of 49 per cent and 51 per cent respectively.

The JV is being set up to develop Indian capabilities to integrate and maintain radars and manufacture high performance airborne electronics, leveraging Thales' offset commitment as part of the deal for the supply of 36 Rafale fighter aircraft to Indian Air Force.

Thales is a leading supplier of radars, electronic warfare solutions and software to Dassault Aviation that manufactures Rafale jets.

"We are delighted to seal this strategic collaboration with Reliance Defence Limited. This JV resonates with our strategy to strengthen our industrial footprint in the country by building collaborations with the Indian industry," said Patrice Caine, chairman and CEO of Thales, after finalising the deal in Paris.

Anil Ambani, chairman of the Reliance Group, called the "strategic partnership" with Thales yet another milestone for his company.

"The strategic partnership with global leader Thales is another major milestone in our march towards best in the class manufacturing at support facilities for military hardware in India," he said.

Reliance, he added, was committed to the government's 'Make in India' and 'Skill India' initiatives and would continue to remain in the forefront, partnering with leading companies in the world.

The JV would develop skills and activity in the Special Economic Zone of Mihan-Nagpur together with an Indian supply chain for the manufacturing of microwave technologies and high performance airborne electronics, the two companies said in a joint statement.

Thales is a leading company in the aerospace domain. It currently has over 300 employees working with its wholly-owned Indian subsidiary, Thales India Pvt Ltd.

India in September last year had inked a Euro 7.87 billion (approx Rs 59,000 crore) deal with France for the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets capable of carrying nuclear weapons and equipped with latest missiles.

The Rafale combat aircraft to be manufactured by French aviation company Dassault will come with various India- specific modifications.


Jaitley to visit Russia for talks on fifth-generation aircraft

India and Russia are expected to resolve their differences over the cost and work-share issues related to one of their most important defence projects, the co-development and production of the Sukhoi/HAL fifth generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) during Defence Minister Arun Jaitley’s  three-day visit to Russia from Wednesday.
An official source in Moscow said Jaitley will co-chair the 17th meeting of the India-Russia Intergovernmental Commission on Military-Technical Cooperation with his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu on Friday.
‘’The meeting will review the entire range of military and military-technical cooperation issues between India and Russia within the framework of the special and privileged partnership between the two countries,’’ the source added.
Jaitley would also co-chair the first meeting of the high level committee on science and technology between the two countries with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin during the visit. This is a newly established committee to discuss cooperation in high technologies.
The meeting will be held on the sidelines of the ‘Technoprom’ exhibition in the city of Novosibirsk. He will also address the main plenary session of ‘Technoprom’, which is a major annual science, technology and innovation exhibition in Russia.
The Defence Minister’s visit comes close on the heels of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s trip to Russia early this month to participate in St Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) and hold his annual summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Jaitley’s visit is being considered crucial as negotiations between the two countries over the FGFA have been stuck over a host of issues. Russia is said to be demanding an ‘unaffordable price’ as part of its share in the development of the fighter jet, given that the work-sharing agreement currently under discussions includes the transfer of sensitive Russian defence technology.In 2007, India and Russia had inked an inter-governmental pact for the FGFA project. In December 2010, India had agreed to pay $295 million towards the preliminary design of the fighter, which is called in India as the ‘Perspective Multi-role Fighter’ (PMF).


June 20, 2017

The MRH Saga – A Blue Water Navy Without Multi-Role Helicopters

  • The Indian Navy has been looking to replace its ageing Sea King helicopters for many years
  • We are no closer to inducting the Multi-Role Helicopters (MRH), so vital to our Navy, and that’s not going to change for a long time
  • MRH helicopters are the crucial eyes, ears and long arms of the fleet
  • The most striking feature of our process, which leaves us with no MRH, is that nobody is answerable and accountable for the mess
  • All stakeholders – the Defence Ministry, Defence PSUs, and the private sector – need to implement vital changes

The Sea King Mk 42B has served the Indian Navy with distinction since the 80s. But the long years in service without any upgrades have rendered its avionics and sensors obsolescent.

A case was moved in the new millennium for a suitable replacement for the Sea King Mk 42/42A helicopters, and came to be known as the case for 16 Multi-Role Helicopters (16 MRH).

Meanwhile, the Indian Navy has taken vast strides in modernisation and indigenisation. Warships from Projects 15, 15A, 17, 17A, 28, Fleet Tanker, etc, have been rolled out consistently year on year.

The Indian Navy has been looking for a replacement for its ageing Sea King helicopters for many years now. The Sea King Mk 42B has for long been the mainstay of our airborne anti-submarine warfare (ASW) operations. The older Sea King Mk 42 and 42A were retired from active service almost two decades ago.

Integral Helicopters for Indigenous Warships

Then there are bigger decks like aircraft carrier Vikramaditya, Indigenous Aircraft Carriers (IAC) and Landing Platform Docks (LPD) which would also have their own helicopter squadrons. In 2008, the total helicopter requirement of all these ships was aggregated by the navy in a massive case for over 120 MRH. The other services had their numbers, too.

For economies of scale, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) directed that long-term helicopter requirements of all three services be examined as a tri-service project named ‘Indian Multi Role Helicopter’ (IMRH).

Quite predictably, the MoD quietly let slip the IMRH project into the hands of public sector aerospace giant Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), and they started their parleys with potential partners to pursue the project through a co-development, co-production route.

With diverse requirements of all three services threatening to stall their plans and the lessons learnt from the advanced light helicopter (ALH) project still fresh, the Navy steered a separate project titled Naval MRH (NMRH).

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

Fleet replacement programmes come with their own pitfalls and have large lead times. Each service therefore soft-pedalled the IMRH case and evolved alternate strategies to ensure survival of the ongoing, smaller helicopter programmes.

To an extent, the IAF and army were successful in their efforts and inked contracts for medium-lift helicopters, attack helicopters, ALH etc, while partaking in IMRH discussions noncommittally.

As of date, Indian warships bristle with the latest radars, sensors and weapons. MiG 29K fighters thunder off the carrier Vikramaditya’s decks, naval fighter pilots train on Hawk AJTs, a naval satellite is up in space, while our indigenous nuclear submarine is out at sea.

But we are no closer to inducting the MRH so vital to our navy. And it’s not going to change for a long time as I see it.
Taking into account recent developments, my estimate is that it may take another 15-20 years before the NMRH flies off our decks. It could even take longer if we do not redraw our priorities and evolve new strategies.

Recent news reports indicate that the navy’s much-vaunted tender for 16 MRH has been scrapped. After almost a decade of confabulation, bids, technical evaluations and field evaluation trials that eventually saw the Sikorsky S70B Seahawk emerge as the sole contender, we are back to square one.

‘Operation Successful, But Patient Dead’

A “partial ban” was imposed by the Defence Acquisition Council in 2014 on Finmeccanica – the parent company of AgustaWestland – which was embroiled in a high-profile helicopter kickback controversy with the Indian MoD.

That eliminated the other contender NH-90 NFH (developed by a European consortium NH Industries and fielded by AgustaWestland for the 16 MRH programme). In August 2015, the then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar tabled a written reply in Parliament that the price escalation was not found acceptable by the 16 MRH contract negotiation committee.

As per news reports, contract negotiations have now been terminated with the only remaining contender, as the commercial bid was way above our benchmarked price and neither side was willing to relent.

This is yet another case of ‘operation successful, but patient dead’. It takes two to tango and even the companies who were in the fray would not escape culpability for the deal falling through.

A Critical Void ::

In any operation at sea today, modern multi-role helicopters are the crucial eyes, ears and long arms of the fleet. The only platform that can strike fear in a submarine captain’s mind is the fleet’s integral air element of anti-submarine helicopters.

For India, with neighbours who are consolidating their fleets with potent submarines, lack of capable MRH in adequate numbers is a critical capability gap that is ever-widening even as we continue to roll out indigenous warships. When the balloon goes up, without helicopters, these ships will be playing a blind man’s buff in waters where a submarine holds the advantage.

To put things in perspective, we inducted the Sea Kings in 1987 – roughly 20 years after the Royal Navy did (1969). The contract for Merlin – RN’s Sea King replacement – was awarded in October 1991 and entered service in 1999. Twenty years later, our Sea King replacement programme is still on paper.

In 2006, the Merlin Capability Sustainment Programme (MSCP) began to create 30 upgraded Merlin Mk 2s to keep the RN helicopter fleet up to date. Having inherited our bureaucracy from the British, one would think we should have fared better than them.

Naval Helicopter Cases in Disarray ::

Diligent staff at naval headquarters have been drafting plans that have repeatedly come a cropper in the byzantine corridors of MoD (Navy) where there is full authority and zero accountability. The state of our key helicopter programmes are languishing at various levels:

The advanced light helicopter (Dhruv) failed to meet navy’s expectations due to ship integration issues and challenging tri-service specifications riding on a 5.5-ton class helicopter.

The much-awaited case for replacing ageing Chetaks (Alouette IIIB, 1960s vintage) with naval utility helicopters (NUH) that started in 2008 has returned to pre-Request For Proposal (RFP) stage.

A mid-life upgrade (MLU) case for the Sea King Mk 42B ASW helicopters which progressed till field evaluation trials (FET) was shelved after the navy and OEM AgustaWestland fell out on proprietary issues.

The I/NMRH programme runs the risk of getting stuck in a bureaucratic quagmire if a clear strategy is not evolved to navigate through all kinds of vested interests that will be at play in this big-ticket project. Most of these helicopters are required by the navy as of yesterday, but the project remains on paper as on date.

A contract for mid-life upgrade of 10 ASW Kamov-28 helicopters was finally signed in 2016 after meandering for over a decade. This is probably the only Indian helicopter upgrade programme that is ‘on track’ as we speak.

It is quite likely that some of the ships that originally carried these helicopters may either be decommissioned or have little residual service life left by the time the helicopters return from upgrade – the cost of dithering over minor issues.

Bureaucratic Logjam ::

There are thousands of reasons why cases can run aground in the MoD. Bureaucrats sitting on either side of the divide have mastered the art of sending back files with notations rather than building consensus or working out a coherent strategy to get the services they need.

Even a single query raised on file can set a case back by a few months. And here we have had more than a fair share of setbacks.

What Is The Way Forward?

Collectively, all stakeholders must shoulder the blame for this state of affairs. Here are a few quick suggestions to ensure history doesn’t repeat itself:

For the Indian Navy ::

All cases start with laying down specifications in broad terms. While writing down the naval staff qualitative requirements (NSQR), please reflect on the consequences they may have on the project in the long term.

What use are perfect NSQRs which get us nowhere? Many RFPs had to be withdrawn and some resulted in single vendor situations because of untenable SQRs.

Second, ensure that the right people are selected for the job. Directorates that handle such projects require staff with expertise in multiple fields that include rich operational experience, technical knowledge and exposure to military grade testing and certification, among others.

They should grasp the underlying principles of aerospace and be able to interpret and apply them to acquisition work – a sort of expert-generalist – the new-age term. Not everybody fits this bill.

Third, avoid frequent change of key members involved in the project (typical of any navy where we have to ‘move places to go places’) so that continuity is not lost at critical junctures.

Fourth, link key ship projects to multi-role helicopter acquisitions wherever you can. Today we have the KM-31 AEW helicopters because they came with the Krivak Class stealth frigates. The UH3H helicopters, however old, came with the Jalashwa (ex-USNS Trenton). The MiG 29K fighters came with INS Vikramaditya. But no MRH came with any major ship programmes because we delinked ships and helicopters and continued working in silos.

Lastly, the prices of defence weaponry have always been nebulous – hence, the need for great care and rationalisation in benchmarking – a task where we are still evolving. Where required, employ specialists and rationalise costing models relevant to our context. Who can deny the hidden costs of doing business in India?

To Ministry of Defence ::

We have renamed organisations without bringing about real change. The ‘integrated headquarters of the MoD’ is a misnomer as even lessons learnt by other services remain closely guarded secrets.

There is no knowledge transfer across acquisition directorates of the three services and the MoD has done little to facilitate this. That is the biggest weakness. Then there are others.

Please wake up and smell the coffee. Even if you don’t listen to the navy, there are enough think-tanks that will tell you the sheer stupidity of acquiring bigger and bigger ships without ASW helicopters while our adversaries keep arming themselves to the teeth with better submarines.

Second, put better policies in place because the present one is not delivering the results on time. Our L1 policy needs to be rethought. It has ensured nothing but ruin for armed forces procurements.

Third, acknowledge the fact that fleet replacement projects require ‘subject matter experts’ and cross-functional leadership over teams that must work to a common purpose. Some of the bureaucrats need to get off their high horses and work alongside our uniformed officers and men towards that common purpose.

Fourth, do not watch on smugly when the services procrastinate. Maybe they need your help. Do not disassociate yourself from individual services’ projects. Most projects keep lurching from one crisis to another due to lack of policy direction from higher levels.

Fifth, allow greater autonomy to each service. Encourage them to work through smaller numbers. Do not blow up every case into a balloon destined to burst. Don’t needlessly bunch together tri-service requirements in the name of economies of scale. We are the only armed force in the world that operates helicopters from sea level to super high altitude. There are peculiar challenges only we face.

Sixth, mandate the use of project management models. Treat each case as a project with defined timelines and fix accountability. Have frequent reviews. If timelines are not met, heads must roll, even if they belong in the ministry.

Seventh, review policies frequently. If it doesn’t work, crack the whip. If you cannot make it work, re-strategise. Think of the navy as something you own.

Eighth, stop being so risk-averse and don’t cull a case because somebody made a mistake or received kickbacks. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. We have worked very hard to reach where we are.

Future generations may find this effort futile and not worth their time if every case is seen to be floundering.
Lastly, beware the tendency to govern by dropping jargon and catchphrases like the DPP, IMRH, SPP, etc. It’s not working if it doesn’t deliver the goods in time.

To Defence PSUs And Private Sector in Defence ::

First, learn to say no. Do not make open-ended promises with no understanding of what it may entail.
Second, under the garb of indigenisation, do not throw a spanner into every acquisition case by fielding imaginary products and capabilities that are yet to be developed.

Till the strategic partnership model was enunciated by Parikkar, no proposal could be finalised without defence PSUs having their say (and their way). This does immense damage while filling critical capability gaps.

Third, look beyond the immediate numbers. We are at the base of the curve as far as helicopters in India are concerned. Be willing and able to absorb some shocks in the larger scheme of things.

Fourth, foreign companies who hire veterans to embellish their chances of winning with the Indian MoD must contend with the disadvantage of borrowing wisdom from a source which is itself depleting. Don’t believe tall claims blindly. Run your numbers and do frequent audits to see if your proposals are viable in the long-term.

Fifth, if you lose, don’t cry foul. Refine your strategy. Do not resort to subterfuge to scuttle cases. Indians can have a notoriously elephantine memory.

And lastly, do not keep asking for concessions and waivers to staff requirements. They have been frequently revised and fine-tuned. If the NSQRs still challenge you, improve your product.

Is Nobody Culpable?

Ultimately, the most striking feature of our process, which leaves us with no MRH, is that nobody is answerable and accountable for the mess that we are in.

A navy which boasts of blue water capability and sails on modern warships alongside the best navies in the world is left launching the 1960s Alouette IIIB and 80s’ Sea Kings, which have far outlived their useful lives during multilateral ‘Flyex’ serials. Most ships do not have helicopters. Our adversary will analyse this very carefully.

The strategic partnership model recently announced by the NDA government is undoubtedly a positive step towards self-reliance in defence manufacturing, should it work. But is this a solution for capability gaps that existed as of years ago


Jaitley to hold Indo-Russian military technical cooperation meeting during 4-day Moscow visit

In order to expedite military supply platforms by Russia to India, Defence minister Arun Jaitley is leaving for four day visit to Moscow.

Starting from June 20, will be Arun Jaitley’s second visit to Russia, as he made his last visit in April. During his visit, Jaitley will hold Indo-Russian military technical cooperation meeting and multiple issues of defence will be discussed his meeting with Russian counterpart General Sergey Shoygu.

According to defence ministry, Jaitley will be received by the Russian deputy prime minister and will hold discussion in the high level committee on cooperation in field of high technologies of military, dual and civil purpose.

Besides, Jaitley will have a close door meeting with his counterpart to work out pending issues including sale of S400 air defence systems. It is also believed that during the meeting, future course of action on the jinxed Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) will also be held.

Earlier this year, Russian President Vladimir Putin had given the go ahead for setting up an Indo-Russian joint venture for production of 200 Kamov military helicopters for India under a $1-billion deal. Both Jaitley and Shoygu is expected to further expedite the process of setting up manufacturing unit for the much needed light utility helicopters for the armed forces.


Boeing signs $100 mn contract to keep navy's P-8I aircraft flying

The Indian Navy’s Boeing P-8I long-range maritime patrol aircraft, reputedly the world’s most fearsome submarine hunters, have proved themselves in joint patrols with the US Navy in the Indian Ocean, tracking Chinese submarines.

Last July, a pleased Indian Navy signed a billion-dollar contract with Boeing for four more P-8Is to augment the eight aircraft it already flies. Delivery will begin in 2020.

But, with Chinese submarine activity growing in the Indian Ocean, the navy wants more P-8Is on station today. Last Monday, the navy signed a $100 million contract; requiring Boeing to maintain spare parts and personnel in India, ready to respond to any defects or failures in the P-8I fleet over the next three years.

The so-called “performance based logistics” contract requires Boeing to continue the warranty services it has so far provided under an initial production contract, which will expire in October.

“This contract will substantially bolster Boeing’s performance-based support to the Indian Navy and should maintain or increase the operational capability of the eight-aircraft fleet,” said Boeing today.

Since the P-8I is based on a commercial Boeing 737-800/900 airliner, material support will also be sourced from the Boeing Commercial Aviation Services’ Fleet Services division.

This is yet another lucrative triumph for Boeing, which has won more than $10 billion worth of Indian defence contracts since 2009. Besides $3 billion worth of P-8Is, Boeing won a $4.5 billion contract for ten C-17 Globemaster III transport aircraft, and will soon start delivery of $3 billion contracts to supply 22 AH-64E Apache attack helicopters and 15 CH-47F Chinook heavy lift helicopters.

Pratyush Kumar, president of Boeing India and vice president of Boeing International. “With this contract, the Indian Navy can be assured of achieving exceptional operational capability and readiness of the P-8I fleet.”

Despite the navy’s growing reliance on the P-8I fleet, which has replaced ageing Soviet-era maritime patrol aircraft like the Tupolev-142 and Ilyushin-38, the navy’s P-8Is remain handicapped by New Delhi’s reluctance to sign a cooperation pact called the “Communications and Information Security Memorandum of Agreement” (CISMOA). India’s refusal prevents Washington from providing “CISMOA-controlled” equipment, which would allow Indian and US submarines and P-8 aircraft to operate together smoothly.

To keep track of hostile submarines in the Bay of Bengal, Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean, naval pilots fly their P-8Is on eight-to-ten hour surveillance missions over these waters. To strike enemy warships and submarines, the P-8I carries seven tonnes of weaponry on board, including advanced Harpoon missiles and heavyweight torpedoes.