February 28, 2018

Safran close to India combat jet engine deal -sources

France’s Safran is close to an agreement to supply a version of its M88 military jet engine for India’s Tejas light combat aircraft, two people close to the discussions said.

The deal, if confirmed, could be finalised during a visit to India by French President Emmanuel Macron next month, they said, adding that negotiations could still be blown off course.

Safran declined comment. French newspaper La Tribune, which first reported the possible deal, said the M88 would be offered as part of a revived version of India’s stalled Kaveri jet engine programme, which was initially linked to the Tejas.

The Tejas fighter entered service in 2016, 33 years after it was approved as the country sought to build a modern fighter from scratch for an air force that was entirely dependent on foreign - mostly Soviet-origin - aircraft.

But the single-engine plane has been dogged by production delays at state-run Hindustan Aeronautics and only a small number have so far entered the air force, currently powered by engines from General Electric.


Will IAF get more eyes in the sky? Defense ministry to decide today

Seeking to boost indigenous defence capabilities, the defence ministry is expected to consider a proposal worth over Rs 20,000 crore on Wednesday to develop six 'eyes in the sky' Airborne Early Warning and Control System (AWACS) planes to monitor activities of rival air forces deep inside their territories.

"A DRDO proposal to develop six AWACS planes on the Airbus A-330 aircraft worth over Rs 20,000 crore is expected to come up for discussion at a high level meeting of the defence ministry under defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman," a government source told MAIL TODAY.

As per the plan, the DRDO would first develop the two aircraft from Airbus and modify them to fix radar over them which would give them the capability to conduct 360 degree snooping with a range of over 400 km in the sky, sources said.

This would be followed up by another four aircraft which would add to the two Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEWC) aircraft based on the Embraer aircraft.

The DRDO-developed aircraft would be in the league of the three Phalcon AWACS planes that India had acquired from Israel and Russia in a tripartite deal around 10 years ago for USD 1.1 billion (Rs 7,154 crore).

India had plans of acquiring two more such planes but the project has been put on the backburner as both countries have increased the price of the radar and the Ilsyushin-76 transport aircraft on which the radar is mounted by almost double.

The cost of the two planes has gone above USD 1.5 billion (Rs 9,755 crore) whereas the first three planes had been acquired a few years ago for USD 1.1 billion (Rs 7,154 crore).

The next-generation AWACS, with a 360-degree scan being developed by the DRDO, may also be developed as an air-to-air refueller.

The new system being developed by DRDO would have AESA (active electronically scanned array) radars with 360 degree capability, which can detect incoming aerial threats such as hostile fighters, drones and cruise missiles from 400 km away.

India will be only the second country in the world after Israel to develop such a system.

The AWACS being developed on the Airbus aircraft is far more advanced than the surveillance platform developed on the Embraer aircraft as it will provide 360 degree angle of coverage against the 240 degree angle of an AEWC plane. The DAC had earlier given approval to the DRDO's plan to develop two AWACS.


Why India Should Not Delay Its Fighter Jet Procurement

By cancelling the single engine fighter jet procurement and expanding it to include twin engine fighters, the government is trying to find a different result by trying the same thing as it was done in the previous MMRCA tender which it scrapped in 2015. The reason apparently is due to the furore created over the Rafale deal and the government does not want allegations later as there were only two contenders for the single engine jet, Lockheed Martin F-16 and SAAB Gripen.
Confused and pushed on the defensive, the government has taken a step that will hurt the operational readiness of the Indian Air Force. It is clear that a twin engine fighter will cost a lot more than what the government is willing to spend. In October last year, Chief of Air Staff, B.S Dhanoa stated that the IAF is prioritising the single engine fighter over twin engine to make up numbers at lower cost. So the decision to include twin engine fighters makes no sense. 
IAF squadron strength is down to 32 while its sanctioned 42 and it includes old MiGs that are well past their expiry date and will be retired soon. It’s projected that India will need over 350 new fighter jets by 2032. The 200 single engine jets that the government has scrapped would have made a bulk of that.
The IAF can however use the cancellation of the deal to its advantage. With elections due next year, no progress can be expected and it will be left to the next government to take it forward. Even if the process is fast tracked, it will take another 4-5 years before a contract is signed and the first jet won't join the IAF till about 2028. Will the IAF want to induct 4.5 gen fighters between 2028-2035 when India’s principal adversary China has already inducted its 5th generation J-20 fighter? China is also working on another 5th gen fighter the J-31 for exports and Pakistan is likely to be its first export customer.
Given the timeline, the IAF should look for a 5th generation fighter. It will narrow India’s options down to Lockheed Martin’s single engine F-35 and the Russian twin engine Su-57. Since those are the only two 5th gen fighter options available in the world, it will not require much explaining.
India has already invested $300 million for initial design of the Su 57 with the intention to make them in India in the future. But that project has hit a wall as IAF is not happy with is stealth characteristics and the engine.
The IAF has shown interest in Lockheed Martin’s F-35 which has its order books full with over 3,100 jets on order with over 250 already delivered. Lockheed intends to ramp up production to over 300 per annum bringing down its flyway cost to $80 million making it cheaper than any 4.5 Gen fighter today.
India should look for a production line which will not only will it create jobs but also get India into the global supply chain of what will the most widely produced fighter jet this century. With a requirement of over 200 jets, India will become the second largest operator of the F-35 after the US. India should negotiate a waiver similar to Israel to incorporate some of its own weapons and electronics. India should also look to become a maintenance, repair and overhaul hub for the F-35.
With the Indian Navy also looking for 57 new jets, it will make sense to acquire a 5th gen fighter for it and share commonality with the IAF. As India looks to coordinate with the Quad to secure the Indo-Pacific, buying the F-35 will help in interoperability as Japan and Australia will operate the F-35s in their airforce as well as in their navy from their helicopter carriers.
India plans its own 5th generation fighter the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) but it is a long way from its first flight. India can waste the next few years looking for a 4.5 Gen fighter while leading countries induct 5th Gen fighters or take the call to initiate a 5 Gen fighter purchase of its own. It will require political and diplomatic will for what will be a strategic purchase.

February 26, 2018

Jaitapur nuclear plant: Framework agreement likely during Emmanuel Macron visit

India and France are likely to sign a framework agreement for expediting the Jaitapur nuclear power plant project during French President Emmanuel Macron's visit next month, sources from the Indian side have said.

The six-reactor project with a capacity of 1650-MW each will be the largest nuclear power park in the country.

Talks between the two countries are on to decide the terms of the agreement, the French side added.

However, it may not be a General Framework Agreement (GFA), which lays down the details like the cost and technical aspects of the Jaitapur nuclear power plant, that will be built in the Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra.

"An agreement is expected to be signed between French company EDF and the Nuclear Power Corporation of IndiaBSE 0.78 % (NPCIL- a nuclear power-generating PSU under the Department of Atomic Energy). But it may not be a final General Framework Agreement. Both sides are yet to finalise crucial aspects of the project," said an Indian government official requesting anonymity.

The agreement could be on how to expedite the project.

The Indian official added that the two countries are yet to decide on several important aspects like terms of credit, which the EDF will give to the NPCIL, and the techno-commercial aspect, that includes cost per unit.

The EDF will be building six European Power Reactors in Jaitapur but the reference plant to be shown by the company is not yet operational. It is mandatory that the EDF presents a reference plant before a deal could be signed.

Such a plant is also required before getting a nod from the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AREB), the nuclear watchdog in India, sources said.

More importantly, the EDF is facing financial problems and the Indian atomic energy establishment is not keen to sign a GFA until that part is sorted out, they said.

Sources also said the French side is seeking an assurance over the liability clauses under the Civil Liability Nuclear Damage Act 2010.


DRDO successfully carries out test flight of Rustom-2 drone

India's premier defence research institute DRDO today carried out "successful" test flight of its Rustom 2 drone, a medium-altitude long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), at Chalakere in Karnataka's Chitradurga district.

Rustom 2 is being developed on the lines of predator drones of the US to carry out surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) roles for the armed forces with an endurance of 24 hours, officials said.

"DRDO successfully flew its Rustom 2 today at its Aeronautical Test Range (ATR) at Chalakere at Chitradurga. This flight assumes significance due to the fact that this is the first flight in user configuration with higher power engine," a statement read.

The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) said the test flight was "successful" and all its parameters were "normal".

Rustom 2 is capable of carrying different combinations of payloads like synthetic aperture radar, electronic intelligence systems and situational awareness payloads, officials said.

DRDO chairman S Christopher, its Director General of Aeronautical System CP Ramanarayanan, DG Electronics and Communication Systems J Manjula and other senior scientists witnessed the test flight.

The around Rs 1,500-crore UAV project was initiated considering requirement of the the Army, Navy and Air Force.

The UAV has been designed and developed by Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE) of the DRDO, and aerospace major Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd and Bharat Electronics Ltd are its production partners.


Navy agrees to buy four Russian frigates for $3 bn

New Delhi and Moscow have finalised contractual terms for four new stealth frigates that Russia will supply the Indian Navy for slightly over Rs 200 billion ($3 billion), or about Rs 50 billion ($775 million) per vessel.

Designated the “Upgraded Krivak III class”, the first two frigates will be built in Yantar Shipyard, in Kaliningrad, Russia. The following two will be built in Goa Shipyard Ltd (GSL) with technology and designs transferred by Yantar. Delivery will begin within four years of signing the contract.

With a defence ministry “cost negotiation committee” having hammered out terms, it remains for the finance ministry and the Cabinet to clear what will be the first capital warship contract signed since Project 17A was contracted in early-2015.

The navy already operates six Krivak III frigates. The first three joined the fleet between June 2003 and April 2004, followed by another three between April 2012 and June 2013. With the current contract, the navy will operate 10 Krivak III frigates — the fleet’s largest single type.

The Krivak III costs marginally less than the Rs 57.50 billion ($888 million) that the navy will pay for each of seven indigenous frigates that Mazagon Dock Ltd, Mumbai (MDL) and Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers, Kolkata (GRSE) have been contracted to build under Project 17A.

However, tonne-for-tonne, the indigenous frigates are cheaper. Each displaces about 5,600 tonnes fully loaded, significantly more muscular than the 4,000-tonne Krivak III. Further, each Project 17A frigate has space for two multi-role helicopters, while the smaller Krivak III embarks just a single Kamov-31 chopper. An extra helicopter provides major advantages in anti-submarine operations and airborne early warning.

Even so, with MDL, GRSE and GSL already stretched to capacity, navy planners are satisfied that Yantar is meeting India’s urgent need for more capital warships. The navy is also pleased with how the Krivak III fleet has performed over time.
New Delhi wanted to build all four Krivak III frigates in GSL under ‘Make in India’.

However, Yantar had already part-built two frigates for the Russian Navy, which then backed away for lack of funds. New Delhi has obliged Moscow by buying them.

The part-built frigates at Yantar are also stalled by a defence embargo that Ukraine imposed on Russia after the latter annexed the Crimea. New Delhi, which has close defence relations with Ukraine, has undertaken to procure and provide Yantar the Zorya turbines that will power these.

The agreed terms stipulate a certain level of Indian-isation for the first two vessels that Yantar will deliver, and a significantly higher level for the next two vessels that are to be built in Goa.

For GSL, building a vessel as complex as a frigate will require upgrading its facilities and skills. However, naval planners say GSL should not take long to learn, having recently undergone the experience of building missile corvettes that are similarly dense in weapons and sensors.

These new Krivak III frigates will have the same engines and armament configuration as Yantar’s last three frigates — INS Teg, Tarkash and Trikand. These include the vaunted BrahMos anti-ship and land attack missile.

Senior naval planners underline the advantages of negotiating a “follow-on” contract, i.e. for vessels similar to those procured earlier. While it took six months to negotiate the contract for the Teg, Tarkash and Trikand, negotiations for the current contract took only 45 days to negotiate and finalise.

The navy’s medium term plans envisage increasing warship strength from the current 140-odd, to 198 warships by 2027. This will require adding 5-6 warships annually.

While some 75 vessels of various types are in the navy’s procurement pipeline, there remains a worrying shortfall of frigates, which are the navy’s workhorses. “We need to have at least 24 frigates. Currently we are 10 short,” says a senior admiral.


February 24, 2018

Indian Air Force wants fighter jet deal worth Rs 1.25L cr to be fast-tracked

Against the backdrop of dwindling fighter squadrons, the Indian Air Force (IAF) feels that its requirement for more than 100 combat aircraft expected to be worth over Rs 1.25 lakh crore should be procured through a government-to-government (G2G) deal to avoid further time delays due to the complex acquisition process involved in it.

The IAF wants the inter-governmental deal as the Defence ministry is of the view that it should not proceed with the single-engine fighter aircraft programme, and initiate a global programme where all fighter aircraft manufacturers would be invited through a competitive tender and the winner would be chosen after extensive trials.

"The IAF wants the acquisition procedure for acquiring the new aircraft to be completed in the shortest possible time and that will be possible only if they are allowed to go for a government-to-government deal with a foreign country.

Even a G2G deal would take four years for the first plane to be delivered, and this would be the only way to end the vicious circle of delays," government sources told Mail Today.

"If the government decides to buy planes through a tender route, it would take a minimum of eight to nine years as at least five years would be required to select a vendor, and then another three would be required for the delivery," they said.

The 36 Rafale planes, which will start getting inducted from next year, were also acquired through an inter-governmental deal with France in 2016.

In the past, the IAF suffered major delays in fulfiling its requirements by going through the normal acquisition process as the UPA's plan to buy 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft dragged on for 10 years due to fears of corruption, and ultimately was scrapped by the NDA government.

On the reasons for not backing the single-engine aircraft programme where 114 planes were to be manufactured indigenously in partnership with either USA or Sweden, sources said there were allegations of favouritism and wrongdoings even before the deal was initiated.

Now, the government is mulling to start a tender afresh, inviting all the major vendors. But the IAF, wants a quick solution to its aircraft strength in view of the phasing out of the MiG-21s and other planes.

"IAF will have 32 Fighter Squadrons and 39 Helicopter Units by 2020," the Defence Ministry had stated in Parliament. The force is finding it difficult to arrest the falling squadron strength due to delays in the induction of the indigenously manufactured LCA Tejas planes.

"10 squadrons of IAF equipped with MiG-21 and MiG-27 aircraft are scheduled to retire by 2024 on completion of their Total Technical Life," the government said.

Due to lack of inductions in the force, the Su-30MKI has become the mainstay as 11-12 squadrons would be deployed by 2020.


India Locally Develops FSAPDS Ammunition for T-72, T-90 Battle Tanks

The state-owned Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) has claimed that it conducted a series of trials for at least 10 days, which were very much successful.

New Delhi (Sputnik): India's state-owned Defense Research & Development Organization (DRDO) has conducted a successful penetration trial of the critically important Fin Stabilized Armour Piercing Discarding Sabot (FSAPDS) ammunition, designed and developed for the Indian Army's T-72 and T-90 main battle tanks.

"The trial results established the penetration capabilities of the indigenously designed FSAPDS ammunition, at par with NATO and Russian tank ammunition," a DRDO document reads.

The ammunition is developed by the Armament Research and Development Establishment (ARDE), Pune, and the trial was conducted between November and December last year.

India, presently, imports FSAPDS for approximately 3,500 T-90 and T-72 tanks, worth over $70 million annually. Since 2012, the Indian Army has been relying on Russia for such critical ammunition, following the blacklisting of the Israeli Military Industry by the Indian government for alleged wrongdoing in military purchases.

"With low cost, low wear and moderate chamber pressures, this ammunition is extremely safe and effective up to combat ranges. The successful trials would pave the way for overcoming the shortage of tank ammunition for T-72 and T-90 Indian Army Main Battle Tanks," DRDO said.

The Indian Army is facing a critical shortage of ammunition for its main battle tanks and plans to import a hundred thousand rounds to meet the immediate requirement, while promoting domestic manufacturing for future needs.

Last year, in June, the Indian Army had issued a detailed tender for the acquisition of one hundred thousand FSAPDS, which can be fired to destroy enemy tanks and infantry combat vehicles.

Last year, the Indian defense ministry had also asked domestic manufacturers to supply ammunition worth $3 billion for the armed forces over the next decade. At present, the government-owned ordnance factories managing 41 manufacturing units and 32 other establishments have a monopoly over the production of ammunition. The Ministry of Defense had floated a tender for domestic private manufacturers for the supply of 125mm armor-piercing types for T-90 and T-72 tanks, 40mm multiple grenade launchers/under-barrel grenade launcher) ammo, 30mm ammunition used by armored infantry carrying vehicles, 122mm Grad rockets for Pinaka series and a bi-modular charge system.

FSAPDS ammunition is the most lethal kinetic energy ammunition, capable of destroying all known tank armor up to direct shooting range. FSAPDS components are sensitive and sophisticated in nature and demand utmost care during their manufacturing and assembly. The dimension and weight accuracy in various components is maintained to very close tolerance limits to achieve the optimal overall performance of the ammunition.


February 23, 2018

IAF An-32 Avionics Upgrade Detailed

As part of the $402-million deal to upgrade 105 Aviant/Antonov An-32 of the Indian Air Force will involve a comprehensive engine and integrated avionics updation that will push the workhorse fleet for at least another two decades.
The upgrade will be undertaken by Antonov/Aviant and IAI jointly. The qualitative requirements as formally listed by the IAF for the upgrade are “extending service life, enhancing operational capabilities, easing workloads on crew and reducing maintenance costs“.
LiveFist has learnt that the avionics of the An-32 will be replaced with an IAI-LAHAV-ELTA developed package, including a full glass cockpit with standard multi-function displays (MFDs) and a control display unit (CDU).
The LAHAV-ELTA avionics package that will go into each IAF An-32 includes a digital moving map, full NVG capability, in-flight mission rehearsal options, head-up display for both pilots (the IAF is still to communicate the the consortium if it wants HUDs for both pilots, one pilot, or none at all) and a significantly new advanced electronic warfare system (EWS), which will feature radar warning receiver, the fourth generation EL/M-2160 missile approach warning system, laser warning receiver and conventional countermeasures. Flight safety features being incorporated into the upgrade will include an advanced Terrain Avoidance Warning System (TAWS) and an Enhanced Traffic Collision Avoidance System (ETCAS), with options for a specialised weather radar.


February 22, 2018

India to again scout for global players for jets

Its fleet of fighter jets dwindling, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) is set to float a fresh global tender inviting military aviation companies to make fighter jets in India.The move comes as the Air Force is now down to 31 squadrons against the need of 42, as mandated by the Cabinet Committee on Security. Each squadron has 16-18 planes. The request for information (RFI), the first step in the tendering process, is being finalised and will be sent out to global players, sources said.
Companies that participated in the now scrapped Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) project will be invited.
The MMRCA project for 126 jets did not fructify and the government, in April 2015, announced the move to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets from French major Dassault. 
The MoD and the IAF will keep its options open and not restrict itself to say a “single engine” fighter jet, sources have told The Tribune. The option will be to get a “fighter jet” and it will not specify the number of engines as that then restricts the options.These will be under ‘make in India’ and to get global manufactures to have a production line in India, the project needs adequate numbers with possibility of future expansions.
To speed up matters, the MoD will be looking at new additions made by global players since the MMRCA trials were carried out in 2011. The planes tested then were Lockheed Martin’s F-16IN, US Boeing’s F/A-18IN, Eurofighter Typhoon, French Dassault’s Rafale, Swedish Saab’s Gripen and Russian MiG-35.In past two years, the IAF and the MoD were in talks for a “single engine” fighter jet with two global manufactures.
 However, this has been superseded by the thought process to just focus on  getting additional jets without getting into “single engine” or “twin engine” variants.
The existing production of 123 Tejas fighter jets being made by public sector giant Hindustan Aeronautics Limited is just taking off and it will take more than a decade for the entire lot to be manufactured. The IAF has the mandate to have 272 Sukhoi 30 MKI in its fleet. The MiG 21s are on their last legs and have to be phased out.


UK firm completes submarine rescue system for Indian Navy

(PTI) A Scotland-based company has announced the completion of a new submarine rescue system due to be delivered to the Indian Navy next month.
JFD has a contract worth 193 million pounds with the Indian Navy for the supply of two complete "flyaway submarine rescue systems," including Deep Search and Rescue Vehicles (DSRV), Launch and Recovery Systems (LARS) equipment, Transfer Under Pressure (TUP) systems, and all logistics and support equipment required to operate the service.
The first set of equipment has been designed, manufactured, integrated and ready for testing by JFD prior to shipping next month for final commissioning and trials. The remaining set of certified systems are due to be delivered to the Indian Navy in June.
"India is an important strategic partner and we encourage further cooperation between the Indian armed forces and innovative UK companies," said Simon Everest, the Head of the UK governments Department for International Trades Defence and Security Organisation ahead of a completion ceremony at JFDs Renfrew Manufacturing Facility in Scotland on Friday.
The ceremony will mark a world-first in the final integration of a complete submarine rescue system within a single manufacturing facility, enabling engineers to test in-situ how each component part will integrate in order to deliver the optimum submarine rescue capability, the company said.
JFDs so-called third-generation rescue system incorporates an innovative new system design and tightly integrated components to ensure time-to-first-rescue (TTFR) �?? the time measured between system deployment and commencement of the rescue �?? is minimised.
In the event of an accident, this maximises the chances of a successful rescue, which is crucial in protecting the lives of submariners.
According to Giovanni Corbetta, Managing Director, JFD, speed and reliability is key in conducting safe and effective submarine rescue operations to ensure that the submariners are reached as quickly as possible to minimise the risk the situation poses to their lives.
The reliability with which any "flyaway" submarine rescue system can be deployed must be carefully balanced with its effectiveness and capability once onsite. It is essential that the system has the capability to conduct safe rescue operations in any given circumstance and under widely variable conditions, including sea states and depths.
The third generation system represents a step-change in real world submarine rescue capability, and has been specifically designed to provide a comprehensive and highly capable submarine rescue service while ensuring the system is as quick and simple to mobilise as possible to maximise the chances of a successful rescue, he added.
The JFD team has already begun conducting in-depth training with local teams of engineers in India to operate and maintain the systems.
JFD provides sub-sea rescue services, solutions products, engineering services and training to 80 countries and 33 of the worlds navies including the UKs Royal Navy


February 21, 2018

China upgrades air defence along Indian border: Report

  • According to report, China is upgrading air defence along the LAC to "confront any threat from India".
  • China has also recently commissioned its stealth fighter, the J-20, which is the first in the region.
  • India and China have been trying to reset their ties after last year's 73-day standoff in Doklam.
China is upgrading air defence of its Western Theatre Command, which looks after the security along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), to "confront any threat from India", an official media report quoted a military expert as saying.

The Chinese military has released photographs of a J-10 fighter jet - a lightweight multi-role fighter aircraft - along with J-11 - a single-seat, twin-engine fighter jet - flying over the high-altitude plateau in western China during the current Chinese New Year and Spring Festival holiday, state-run Global Times reported on Tuesday.

The jets are attached to an aviation brigade of the air force under the PLA Western Theatre Command, the website of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) said.

China has also recently commissioned its stealth fighter, the J-20, which is first in the region.

The Western Theatre Command is mainly responsible for mountain warfare at the border area with India. The LAC stretches to 3,488-km including the high altitude Tibetan plateau.

India and China have been trying to reset their ties after last year's 73-day standoff between the two sides at Doklam+ in Sikkim section of boundary.

It is significant for China to strengthen control of airspace over the mountainous region, Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times.

"Strengthening the 3.5-generation fighter jets or even stationing more advanced fighters in the Western Theatre Command has been urgent for the PLA," Song said, adding that such upgrades have been usually first conducted in south and east theatre commands.

Considering that India possesses 3rd-generation fighter jets, China's stationing of its 3.5-generation jets would be able to deal with any current threat from India, Song said.

Apparently referring to India's acquisition of Rafale fighter jets from France, Song said, "with India importing new jets, China will continue strengthening its fighter jets in the Western Theatre Command."

Since he took over power in 2013, President Xi Jinping, who is also general secretary of the Communist Party of China and chairman of the Central Military Commission, has been pressing the PLA to step up live firing drills to win local wars.


All stakeholders want to fast-track submarine plans: Rahul Kumar Shrawat, Naval Group in India, CMD

In an interview with ET, Rear Admiral Rahul Kumar Shrawat (retd), who recently took over as the chairman and managing director of Naval Group in India tells Shaurya Gurung about the firm’s plans to meet the Indian Navy’s requirements such as Project-75 India submarine programme, second indigenous aircraft carrier, IAC-2 and indigenisation of its F21 torpedo.


What are your plans for Naval Group in India?
Naval Group is fully committed to support Indian Navy’s acquisition of weapon platforms and weapons. To be specific, we are looking at Project 75-India programne, Landing Platform Docks and the third aircraft carrier IAC-2. For weapons, we are involved with the Indian Navy on the F21 torpedo. All the details have been shared and the Navy has been invited to witness certain trials of the torpedo. This torpedo has been cleared for induction in the Barracuda SSN (nuclear-powered submarine) of the French Navy and is being offered to Indian Navy.

Can you elaborate on Naval Group’s offer for IAC-2?
This programme is at the initial design stage, wherein the propulsion system is being decided. My knowledge says that the Navy is perhaps looking at full electric propulsion system. Its design can be provided by Naval Group.

What is the status of Project 75-India project?
We have responded to the Request for Information (RFI). These submarines are to be built as per the Strategic Partnership model. There is a wish of all stakeholders that the programme should move at a fast pace. Authorities have to select foreign partners and the Indian shipyards and have to marry the two. I only feel it will take time.

Will MDL and Naval Group collaboration continue for Project 75-I?
For Naval Group, MDL is a very valuable partner. The level of absorption of technology by MDL has proved to be successful. On the third Scorpene submarine (Karanj) the construction was done by MDL on their own with little support from Naval Group. This means they are becoming more selfreliant. It also demonstrates the success of Transfer-of-Technology. Naval Group will look at MDL as a capable shipyard with whom we will like to partner in future programmes. So Project-75-India is one. The ecosystem of building submarines in India has got into top gear through the Scorpene programme. Nurturing this ecosystem is the need of the hour. It is very difficult to build this capability.

What is the status of torpedoes for Scorpene submarines?
We responded to RFI. Simultaneously, Naval Group is also identifying suitable Indian partners, who could contribute towards the indigenisation of F21 torpedo in India. We are looking at MSMEs.


Defence council clears order of combat vehicles worth Rs 1,850 cr

The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) chaired by Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman today approved capital acquisiti on proposals worth Rs 1,850 crore, which primarily includes procuring Infantry Combat Vehicles (ICV) for the army, the defence ministry said.

The capital acquisitions includes the procurement of an “essential quantity” of the ICVs, which will be BMP-2/2k, for the mechanised infantry and other arms and services. It will come at an estimated cost of over Rs 1,125 crore from the Ordnance Factory Board.

“The procurement will meet the operational requirements of troops in rapid deployment of the mechanised forces,” said the ministry.

In view of the Indian Navy’s hydrographic operations in the Indian Ocean Region, the DAC also approved the procurement of one survey training vessel for meeting the navy’s growing hydrographic needs at ports, harbours and the exclusive economic zone. “The construction of the vessel under Buy Indian-IDDM by Indian shipyards at an estimated cost of Rs 626 crore,” said the ministry.


February 20, 2018

Everything you need to know about Russia’s Su-35 multirole fighter jet

Ten years ago, a prototype of Russia’s Sukhoi Su-35 multirole fighter jet performed its debut flight on February 19, 2008.

The Su-35 is Russia’s generation 4++ multirole supersonic super-maneuverable fighter jet developed as a follow-up of Su-27 one-seat planes.

Aircraft’s designing and tests ::

The work on the Su-27’s modification capable of detecting and striking ground targets (i.e. the work on the full-fledged multirole fighter jet) began at the Sukhoi Design Bureau back in the mid-1980s. The plane was named the Su-27M (the T-10M). It was furnished with new radio-electronic equipment (including a rear facing radar), armament, electronic warfare (EW) systems, multifunctional displays in the pilot’s cockpit, an aerial refueling system and other devices.

The first flight of the Su-27M (which was shortly renamed as the Su-35) took place on April 1, 1992. The Su-35 was on display at various international airshows and was offered for export but it did not find prospective buyers. The serial production of new fighter jets did not begin due to economic problems.

Some new technical solutions used in the Su-27M were later incorporated in Su-30 fighter jets of various types and the Su-37 aircraft.

The work on the one-seat multirole fighter jet as a derivative of the Su-27 plane restarted in the mid-2000s. The designers installed new avionics, the Irbis radar with a passive phased antenna array and more powerful engines with thrust vectoring on the aircraft. The fighter jet was also furnished with a new onboard information and control system.

The T-10BM performed its debut flight on February 19, 2008. The fighter jet has been serial-produced at the Gagarin Aviation Plant in Komsomolsk-on-Amur. In 2009, a contract was signed for the delivery of 48 fighter jets of this type to Russia’s Aerospace Force. The contract was fully discharged in 2015, after which Russia’s military placed an order for 50 more planes.

The fighter jet was accepted for service in Russia’s Aerospace Force in 2017. By today, about 70 such planes have been delivered to operational Aerospace Force units. From 2015, these fighter jets made part of Russia’s air task force in Syria.

Fighter jet’s characteristics ::

By its aerodynamic design, the Su-35 is a two-engine high-wing aircraft featuring retractable tricycle gear with the nose gear strut. The Su-35 is equipped with two AL-41F1S turbojet engines with an afterburner thrust of 14,500 kgf each. The plane has a length of 21.95 meters, a wingspan of 14.75 meter and a height of 5.92 meters.

The fighter jet has a maximum takeoff weight of 34,500 kg, a maximum speed of 2,500 km/h (2.35 Mach), a maximum flying range of 3,600 km without external fuel tanks and 4,500 km with external fuel tanks. The fighter jet has a service ceiling of 18,000 meters. The fighter’s radar can detect targets at a distance of up to 400 km and track 30 air targets at a time. The crew consists of one pilot.

The fighter jet’s service life assigned by its manufacturer is 6,000 hours or 30 years and the term of its engine operation is 4,000 hours.

Armament ::

The fighter jet’s 12 hardpoints can carry air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles, and also rockets and air bombs of various calibers. The aircraft has a maximum weapons payload of 8 tonnes. It is armed with a GSh-30-1 30mm gun (with an ammunition load of 150 rounds).

Export deliveries ::

On November 19, 2015, Russia’s state hi-tech corporation Rostec announced that it had signed a contract for the delivery of 24 Su-35 fighters to China. According to media reports, 14 aircraft had been delivered by early 2018.

Rostec CEO Sergei Chemezov told the media on February 20, 2017 that the United Arab Emirates had signed a letter of intent with Russia on the purchase of Su-35 planes.

Indonesian media outlets reported in February 2018 that Russia had signed a contract for the delivery of 11 Su-35 fighters to Indonesia.

Air incidents ::

According to open sources, one incident occurred with this type of aircraft without any victims. On April 26, 2009, a prototype of the Su-35 plane skidded off the runway during its speedy run and received considerable damage. The test pilot ejected to safety.


February 19, 2018

Order for T-14 MBTs, T-15 heavy IFVs for extended trials confirmed by Russian MoD

Key Points

  • An order for two battalions of T-14 MBTs and a battalion of T-15 heavy IFVs has been confirmed by Russian Deputy Defence Minister Yuri Borisov
  • A decision on series production of Armata-based platforms is due to be made after 2020 once trials of the vehicles are complete
An order placed by the Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) for two battalions of T-14 main battle tanks (MBTs) and a battalion of T-15 heavy infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs) has been confirmed by the Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD).
“It’s no secret that we already have a contract for trials and combat operations: two battalions of Armata tanks and one battalion of heavy infantry fighting vehicles,” Deputy Defence Minister Yuri Borisov was quoted as saying by the MoD during a tour of the Uralvagonzavod factory in Nizhny Tagil on 9 February.
Reporting on the current status of the Armata programme, which is part of Russia’s State Armaments Programme (SAP) 2012–2020, Borisov said state trials would begin this year and continue until the end of 2019.
By 2020 development and trials of the AFVs will be complete, according to Borisov, after which a decision on substantial series-production contracts will be made. This appears to be good news for the Armata programme, which was previously reported to be in jeopardy after Russian defence funds were diverted into the modernisation of older armoured vehicles.
During his tour of Uralvagonzavod Borisov also commented that work on a new type of ammunition for the T-14 is close to completion. No details were given, but it is possible that this was a reference to the ‘Vacuum’ round, which is a sub-calibre armour-piercing projectile.


HAL engages with local firms over Dhruv production

India’s Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has approached domestic private-sector companies to build under licence the civilian version of its Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH).
HAL said on 16 February that it has invited expressions of interest (EOI) from local firms with a view to identifying a partner to which HAL will transfer technologies and knowhow to support the licenced-manufacturing proposal.
HAL added that that offer, which it claimed is unprecedented in India, is intended to support New Delhi’s ‘Make in India’ initiative. Acting as design authority and original equipment manufacturer, HAL said the offer is positioned to support anticipated expanding requirements for utility helicopters across several sectors in Indian and export markets.
According to the EOI, the selected partner would have capability to licence-produce the Dhruv in “shorter time spans” as well as provide maintenance, repair and overhaul services for the helicopters over their 20-year life span. HAL said it would provide the selected local firm with technologies, skills, technical assistance, and licencing rights.
HAL said its selected partner must have at least five years’ experience in the aerospace/engineering sector, including in manufacturing and assembly, and have a net worth of INR20 billion (USD310 million) and a minimum annual turnover of INR25 billion.


February 17, 2018

NPOL’s torpedo defence system to equip Navy

Defence council clears purchase worth Rs.850 crore

An advanced system developed by a consortium of Indian Defence laboratories led by the Thrikkakara-based Naval Physical and Oceanographic Laboratory (NPOL) to defend naval ships against torpedo attack will now be integrated on as many as 30 ships operated by the Indian Navy.
While 11 ships will be equipped with the full system, named Maareech Advanced Torpedo Decoy System, the remaining will get just the torpedo countermeasure capability that’s part of it.

Acquisition cleared

The Defence Acquisition Council, led by Defence Minister Nirmala Seetharaman, on Tuesday cleared acquisition of the anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and non-ASW variants of the system which will be manufactured by Bharat Electronics. Initially, systems worth ₹850 crore will be acquired to arm warships.
Two systems are already functional on INS Ganga and Gomati which were used for user evaluation trials of the indigenously-developed systems.
“The survival capability of a ship is greater if the attacking torpedo can be detected early and also at a range equal to or more than the escape range of the platform under attack. A fully integrated Maareech system has both torpedo detection and countermeasure capability,’’ said R. Rajesh, NPOL scientist and spokesperson.

Tactical advantage

‘‘Also, the system offers tactical advantage by classification of the torpedo along with localisation and target motion parameters. The escape solutions are then evolved which will advise the crew of the ship on the most appropriate manoeuvre and countermeasure actions necessary to defeat the threat,” said Mr. Rajesh.
Besides the NPOL, Visakhapatnam-based Naval Science and Technological Laboratory was involved in developing the system. The torpedo defence sonar that is part of Maareech was developed by a team led by project director K. Ajith Kumar, NPOL scientist.

Major milestone

S. Kedarnath Shenoy, NPOL director, said that the induction of Maareech would be a major milestone for naval research and development as it would be the first time the indigenously designed towed array sonar system would be arming Indian warships.
With this, the NPOL has now successfully developed multiple configurations of sonars such as hull mounted sonars for ships, submarine sonar systems, towed array sonars and airborne dunking sonar systems for the Navy.


February 15, 2018

With Sri Lanka and Maldives under Chinese influence, India is fast losing its leverage

The local election results in Sri Lanka show President Sirisena’s diminishing stock. But China will continue to have its way in the indebted island nation.
India is fast losing its strategic advantage in Sri Lanka to the Chinese. With the Maithripala Sirisena regime in Colombo increasingly doing China’s bidding, burdened as it is with huge debts to China, India is apparently on a potentially weak wicket.
The Chinese were going great guns in Sri Lanka when the electoral rout of their protégé Mahinda Rajapaksa’s party stopped them in their tracks. But the setback did not deter them for long. They set about retrieving their position knowing well that Rajapaksa’s successor Maithripala Sirisena was a relative upstart who could be brought around.
Today, with Sri Lanka steeped in debt, principally due to the Chinese development of the Hambantota port, the Lankans have been forced to allow China to literally seize control of the port and surrounding land, on the pretext of loan repayment.
Instructively, Sri Lanka’s debt was almost 80 per cent of the gross domestic product in 2016. That is what propelled Sirisena to look to the Chinese for help in bailing their economy out of trouble.
Much of the mainstream media and opposition members of parliament were up in arms over the original deal worked out by Sirisena with the Chinese. The deal has since been diluted, with China having a financial stake of 70 per cent as against 80 per cent earlier, but the threat to Lankan sovereignty remains. Willy nilly, seeing the level to which Colombo is indebted, most people have reconciled to the inevitability of Chinese hegemony.
The influential Daily News said of the deal: “Ironically, most of the opposition figures themselves were responsible for creating the mess that is Hambantota port in the first place. The fact they themselves had planned to sell off the port to a Chinese company was conveniently forgotten. To the new government’s credit, it acknowledged that certain clauses in the agreement could be tweaked, and it did. The government also ensured that India’s security and geopolitical concerns would be addressed in the new deal.”
The jury is not yet out on how the decision to depend on China would prove to be. For India and Japan, which have been clamouring for freedom of navigation in the high seas, so that international trade can proceed without Chinese impediments, it is bad news indeed. At this rate, India would lose much of the leverage it currently has with Colombo even as Sri Lanka plays second fiddle to Beijing.
Hambantota International Port Group (HIPG) and Hambantota International Port Services (HIPS), two new companies set up by the China Merchants Port Holdings Company and the Sri Lanka Ports Authority, have been tasked to run the port on a 99-year lease to the Chinese.
Protagonists of the deal say Hambantota port can be expected to play a key role in China’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative, which will link ports and roads between China and Europe, and that this would benefit Colombo a great deal. However, the project’s opponents say they fear the area being turned into a Chinese colony.
Apprehensions that the Chinese navy could use the port as a base have not been convincingly answered by the Sri Lankan government. Assurances apart, there can be no cast-iron guarantee that this assurance from China would not be violated.
For now, Colombo insists that the Sri Lankan navy will be in charge of security at the Hambantota port, and no foreign navy will be allowed to use it as a base.
Past regimes in the US were more conscious of American strategic interests and of sinister Chinese designs, and were ready to work with India in thwarting Beijing. But the US has done very little to prevent China from gaining quick access to the sea through Pakistan by launching its China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.
In Maldives too, time is running out for China’s adversaries.
All this is giving a strategic advantage to China. It will, in due course, acquire the clout to influence policies not only in Pakistan but also in Sri Lanka and Maldives, and to threaten India if the current trend continues.
Sirisena is rapidly losing ground to Rajapaksa, as is borne out by the results of the local council polls showing the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), backed by Rajapaksa, registering a landslide win. Of the 340 councils, SLPP was the single largest party in 249; the United National Front (UNF) led by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was top in 42; while the Sri Lanka Freedom Party/United People’s Freedom Alliance (SLFP/UPFA) led by President Sirisena, was the single largest in just 11. This is a clear reflection of Sirisena’s diminishing stock.
Ironically, it was Rajapaksa who had initiated the Hambantota port and the Mattala airport projects with Chinese loans, but he was quick to blame the Sirisena government for selling these ‘national assets.’
The Chinese cannot but be confident that be it Rajapaksa or Sirisena, they have a way to have their way.


China’s fifth-gen fighter jet now in operation; India’s plans with Russia still stuck

China may have operationalised its new fifth generation fighter aircraft – the only nation in the world other than US with this capability. On the other hand, Indo-Russian plans for an advanced counter to this remain uncertain, with the decision to go ahead now at the doorstep of the top echelons of government.

The J-20 ‘Black Eagle’ fighter jet has been flying since 2011, with China officially announcing its entry into combat service last week, albeit with an older engine that will reduce performance. In contrast, India and Russia have not been able to move ahead on signing a joint development plan for a new fifth generation fighter aircraft (FGFA), that is being negotiated since 2010.

Sources have told ThePrint that despite some progress seen in the first two years of the BJP government when the project was brought back to the table in cross-governmental discussions, talks have hit a major roadblock that can only be resolved with the direct intervention of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).

At one end is the Indian Air Force, which has expressed certain reservations on the performance characteristics of the proposed new fighter jet, including its stealth capabilities, the jet engine technology, and weapons package.

The biggest constraint, however, appears to be a lack of resources, with the Air Force not allocated even half of its projected demand for capital budget in the current and next financial years. In fact, resources are so stretched that the Air Force will struggle to meet its committed liabilities – the money required to make tranche payments of past purchases.

At the other end is Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), the proposed joint venture partner to manufacture the FGFA in India under an intergovernmental agreement. Faced with a lack of orders – the Su-30 MKI line will come to a halt within two years as all planes will roll out – HAL is keen to go ahead with the FGFA at the earliest.

In fact, it is learnt that HAL had a proposal at hand to use its internal resources to initially fund the developmental project with Russia – a sum to the tune of $ 4.5 billion – and manufacture the planes only after technical clearances from the Air Force. This proposal to tide over the resource crunch faced by the Air Force appears to have hit a roadblock as well.

While India has already spent $300 million on a preliminary design contract for the project with Russia that was completed in June 2013, the joint FGFA is now at a delicate edge, with a decision to be taken by the senior-most leadership on its future.

Time, however, may be running out, with Russia believed to have strongly conveyed that in case India does not take a call within the coming months, Moscow will go ahead with a different partner for the next generation fighter programme to meet its deadlines.


Defence sales at an all-time high with India: PACOM Commander

America's defence sale with India is at an all time high , a top Pentagon commander today said, adding that it supports all Indian consideration of a number of US systems including F-35 joint strike fighter.

US Pacific Command Commander Admiral Harry B Harris told the House Armed Services Committee during a Congressional hearing on Indo-Pacific region that US- India strategic partnership continues to advance at a historic pace and has the potential to be the most consequential bilateral relationship of the 21st century.

"Defence sales are at an all - time high with India operating US- sourced airframes, such as P-8s, C-130Js, C-17s, AH-64s, and CH-47s, and M777 howitzers, he said.

The US Pacific Command will sustain the momentum of the strategic relationship generated by the President-Prime Minister-level and the emerging 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue through strengthening the military-to-military relationship and working toward additional enabling agreements to enhance interoperability.

" At the moment, India is considering a number of US systems for purchase, all of which USPACOM fully supports: the F-16 for India's large single-engine, multi-role fighter acquisition program; the F/A-18E for India's multi-engine, carried-based fighter purchase; a reorder of 12-15 P-8Is; a potential purchase of SeaGuardian UAS; MH-60R multi-role sea-based helicopter; and F-35 Joint Strike," Harris said.

The US and India maintain a broad-based strategic partnership that is underpinned by shared democratic values, interests and strong people-to-people ties, and I expect 2018 to be a significant and eventful year in US- India relations, he said.

The US and India are natural partners on a range of political, economic, and security issues, he said.

" With a mutual desire for global stability and support for the rules-based international order, the US and India have an increasing convergence of interests, including maritime security and domain awareness, counter-piracy, counterterrorism, humanitarian assistance, and coordinated responses to natural disasters and transnational threats," he added.

" India will be among the USa[TM]s most significant partners in the years to come due to its growing influence and expanding military," Harris said.

"As a new generation of political leaders emerge, India has shown that it is more open to strengthening security ties with the US and adjusting its historic policy of non-alignment to address common strategic interests," he said.

Noting that the US seeks an enduring, regular, routine, and institutionalised strategic partnership with India , he said Pacific Command identifies a security relationship with India as a major command line-of-effort.

Over the past year, US and Indian militaries participated together in three major exercises, executed more than 50 other military exchanges, and operationalized the 2016 Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement, he added.


India’s defence industry lacks fire power

The ministry of defence has to be lauded for its proposed move not to make any further investments in the state-owned defence production sector which has, over the years, become a drag on the economy. Today India is the largest arms importer in the world and spends annually on an average about $3.6 billion, which is more than the combined imports of both Pakistan and China. Over seven decades of nationhood, the state-owned defence industrial combine, except for missilery, communication systems and some low technology items, has not contributed notably to self-reliance in defence production.

India’s defence industry constitutes eight defence public sector undertakings (DPSUs) and 41 Ordnance Factories (OFs) besides 49 Defence Research and Development Organisations (DRDO) which were created to accomplish self-reliance in defence production. The decision to restructure state-owned defence was in view of their dismal performance; it should have been taken at least two decades ago.

No accountability ::

In the late 1980s the Government attempted to sell Vehicle Factory Jabalpur to truck major Telco, but the latter did not want to accept the existing workforce. The culture at OFs was one of “overtime”. Similarly in the mid-1990s the Government wanted to disinvest in HAL, its largest DPSU, but suddenly developed cold feet. The only two DPSUs that have been partially disinvested are Bharat Electronics (BE) and Bharat Earth Movers Ltd (BEML).

The problem with DPSUs is the absence of accountability and the presence of political interference. For instance, BEML was supposed to have indigenised production of the controversial Swedish 155 mm Bofors howitzers at its KGF plant but the entire project went into cold storage due to political compulsions in the late 1980s.

The DRDO contracted three private companies during the early 1990s to design and develop Multi Barrel Rocket Launchers, namely Marshall Engineering, Tata Power and L&T. The defence industry outsources the development order to private industry with assurances of production orders for bulk manufacture which has potential to earn profits.

However after the private company delivers the development order the DPSU then arm-twists it to share the production order with them. This deters private industry from integration with the state-owned defence industry.

In the early 1990s when the Indian Army considered importing the legendary AK-47 automatic rifle it cost ₹3,500 whereas to manufacture it indigenously would cost ₹17,000. This which highlights inefficiency and lack of commercial consciousness, characteristic of OFs. The first Army Industry Partnership held in 1995 at New Delhi to enable an interface between manufacturer and user was not a success. The fact that the Indian Navy needs to send its EKM 877 Kilo class submarines for medium/long refits and the Indian Air Force its MiG-21 and MiG-29 fighter aircraft for avionics upgrades to Russia, speaks volumes about the lack of Indian defence industrial capabilities. Russia plans to bill the Indian Navy ₹125 crore to repair the damaged nuclear submarine INS Chakra.

A question of priorities ::

Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd, Ozhar, never mastered the license production of the MiG-27 fighter ground attack which manifested itself as a common “fourth stage” compressor disc failure. HAL never figured out the metallurgy integral to the production process of the aero-engine. HAL and Israeli Aircraft Industries (IAI) are both state-owned entities formed almost around the same time.

However, IAI is much more profitable because it concentrated on high-value items like avionics, while HAL undertook even low-technology elements. Today, India is Israel’s biggest armaments customer.

Perhaps the Government needs to look at two successful global models for a winning formula. The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has a team of only 240 scientists who run all its R&D activities through funds provided to academic institutions and private industry. In Israel there are wholly state-owned ordnance factories, public-private partnership defence companies and completely private defence companies that undertake both R&D and defence production.

Britain’s Margaret Thatcher privatised the national armament industry which included reputed names like British Aerospace (BAE) and Rolls Royce, the sale of Royal Ordnance Factories to Vickers, and the operation of the Royal Dockyards to private contractors. Today BAE and Rolls Royce continue to prosper in a competitive market.

Till now the Government has lacked the political will to restructure and reform the defence industry and thereby incurs a huge defence bill which affects both armament modernisation and maintenance of its military inventory. The fact that today the Indian Army does not have even the most basic piece of military hardware, a rifle, is a sad commentary on indigenous defence production capability. It is both an economic necessity as well as a national security imperative to reduce India’s annual average defence import bill and become self-reliant in defence technologies. This will benefit the country’s economy especially its manufacturing industry.


Capability jump: IAF looks to buy fifth-generation F-35 fighter

In what would be a huge capability jump, the Indian Air Force (IAF) is increasingly interested in procuring the American F-35 Lightning II for its depleting fighter fleet. Business Standard learns the IAF top brass is formally requesting for a classified briefing by the F-35’s prime builder, Lockheed Martin, on the capabilities of the sophisticated, fifth-generation fighter developed under the US Joint Strike Fighter programme.

The US government has not formally offered the F-35 to India. A classified briefing would require formal clearance from the US Department of Defence (the Pentagon) and the State Department. The grant of such a clearance would be an important first step towards permitting the sale of F-35s to India.

It is learnt the IAF wants to procure 126 of the variant called F-35A – the air force version of the fighter that incorporates “conventional take-off and landing”, or CTOL. Another variant, the F-35B, incorporating “short take-off and vertical landing”, or (STOVL), has been developed for the US Marine Corps. A third version, developed for the US Navy, incorporates “catapult assisted take-off but arrested recovery (CATOBAR).

The Indian Navy, which has never ruled out operating the F-35 off Indian aircraft carriers, has received a briefing on the F-35 as far back as 2010, Lockheed Martin official Orville Prins told this correspondent. However, at that stage, the F-35 was still grappling with serious development challenges.

The F-35’s affordability is also attractive for New Delhi. In contrast to the bare-bones price of $115 million for each Rafale fighter (with India-specific enhancements, spares, logistics and weapons all extra), the F-35A cost customers $94.6 million last February. Lockheed Martin says it will reduce the cost to $80 million by 2020.

A fifth-generation fighter is characterised by a “stealth design”, making it far more difficult for radar to detect; “supercruise”, or the ability to fly at supersonic speeds without engaging engine afterburners; and highly networked avionics that detect and engage enemy aircraft using a range of sensors and weapons across the battle-space.

The only true fifth-generation fighters in service are the US Air Force’s F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Lightning II. China is developing two stealth fighters – the J-20 Chengdu and the J-31 Shenyang. Russia is developing its own fifth-generation fighter, the PAK-FA, and has offered India a partnership role in developing the PAK-FA into the eponymous Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) for the IAF. Negotiations on roles and costing are over, but the Indian defence ministry is yet to accept.

The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) defence minister, AK Antony, had ruled out buying the F-35, stating that India would meet its short-term requirement of fifth-generation fighters with the FGFA. For the IAF’s long-term needs, the Defence R&D Organisation is developing the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA).

Sources close to the Pentagon say India would not be sold the F-35 as long as it is partnering Russia in the FGFA co-development project. That is because Washington would guard against the leakage of F-35 technology into the FGFA.

Senior officers say the IAF is not enthused about the FGFA project. They point out the F-35 is further advanced in development and has already entered service with the USAF and six-seven air forces of American allies.

For Lockheed Martin, an Indian request for the F-35 would create a dilemma. The US company would rather have the IAF buy the F-16 Block 70, which it has offered to build in India in partnership with Tata Advanced Systems Ltd (TASL).

For Lockheed Martin, that would keep alive the F-16 assembly line, which has long functioned from Fort Worth, Texas, and has now moved temporarily to Greenville, South Carolina, where it is building a $2.8 billion order from Bahrain for 19 F-16V fighters.

The Fort Worth facility has been made over to building the F-35, of which over 3,000 are already on order.

Meanwhile, the assembly line in India would build new F-16s for the IAF, as well as for orders that Lockheed Martin expects from southeast Asian and central European countries. It would also provide overhaul and upgrade facilities for the estimated 3,000 F-16 fighters in service worldwide, in some 25 air forces.

As this newspaper reported (December 16, “Lockheed Martin says F-16 orders flowing in”) Lockheed Martin calculates that an Indian line would benefit, in the medium term, from new fighter orders worth $16 billion, and $6.5 billion in upgrading old F-16s.

Simultaneously, American jobs would get a lease of life, as F-16 suppliers in the US would continue feeding into the integration line in India. At least 50 per cent of the F-16 by value would continue to be made in America.

For all these reasons, Lockheed Martin is painting the F-16 Block 70 sale to the IAF as a stepping stone to eventually obtaining the F-35.

While the US has supplied the F-35 only to close allies, Washington insiders say India’s recent designation as a Major Defence Partner (MDP), and a groundswell of goodwill towards New Delhi, make conditions propitious for an Indian request. An indicator is the recent permission granted for the sale to India of the Sea Guardian unmanned aerial vehicle – so far sold only to close allies.

In 2011, the influential US Senate Armed Services Committee requested the Pentagon to study the feasibility of an F-35 sale to India. Senators John Cornyn (co-chair of the Senate India Caucus) and Joseph Lieberman spearheaded the proposal.

But US officials in Washington also complain about fatigue at New Delhi’s tardiness in following up discussions with formal requests. The mood in the Pentagon, say these officials, is: “Let New Delhi ask for the F-35. Then we’ll take things forward.”

The defence ministry and the IAF have not responded to an emailed request for comments.


February 14, 2018

At Lockheed Martin’s helm, Vivek Lall set to get India-US defence ties in full-fire mode

Defence ties between India and US witnessed a major development last month that might well turn out to be a defining moment in the history of India-US bilateral relationship and that was the appointment of Vivek Lall at the helm of American aerospace giant Lockheed Martin.

Lall, who has already become a name to reckon with in the corridors of South Block that houses the Defence Ministry, was instrumental in clinching a deal under which America will be selling unarmed Sea Guardian drones, manufactured by General Atomics where he was Chief Executive.

Deal maker ::

In fact, it is unknown to many that it was Lall who spearheaded the deals on Harpoon Missile Systems, P-8Is (Poseidon Eight India) Long Range Maritime Patrol aircraft, Apache attack choppers and Chinook heavy-lift helicopters from behind the curtains when he was with Boeing. These deals amounted to $12 billion out of the total $15 billion defence trade between India and the US.

At a time when the US is keenly watching each and every strategic step being taken by India in its quest to become long-term partners in the Indo-Pacific region, Lall’s appointment at Lockheed Martin spells positive news not only for the US but also for India.

An aerospace and defence expert, Lall will continue to be a frequent visitor to Delhi as he has always been a believer in offering the best to India. It appears there is great interest by both Indian Air Force and Indian Navy for the world’s only operational stealth fighter Lockheed’s F-35 and a growing inclination in Washington to offer it to Delhi.

In November last year, Fort Worth, Texas, F-16 production line stopped to give way to F-35 Lightning II, a single-engine all-weather stealth multirole fighter. The F-16s, which are not seeing much demand in the US, will now be produced from Greenville, South Carolina. It appears the surge in demand for F16s is in the international market and India could become a net exporter if it chooses to accept a production line.

Daunting task ::

Lall, 48, now faces the daunting task of selling over 200 fighter jets to India to augment the squadron strength of the Indian Air Force. Lockheed Martin is keen to sell its latest F-16 Block 70 to India even as it has committed to shift its entire production line to India from Fort Worth, Texas, where the F-16s are presently manufactured from.

India’s Defence Ministry has short-listed F-16 Block 70 of Lockheed Martin and SAAB’s Gripen E fighter jet for the Indian Air Force’s $10-billion single-engine fighter jet deal.

In such a situation, Lall’s job will not only be challenging to keep the demand for these warplanes growing but also dynamic as he explores customers around the world. However, being a person of Indian origin, it may be a tad easy for him to carry on his business development mandate in India, at a time when the Air Force faces a two-front challenge from Pakistan in the West and China in the East.

Even when he was with General Atomics, Lall enabled the US government to sell Category 1 drones to India after the country became a member of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) and not the Category 3 drones.


Defence ministry clears mega purchase of weapons for armed forces

  • The defence acquisitions council (DAC), chaired by Nirmala Sitharaman, accorded acceptance of necessity (AON) to the proposals.
  • The entire process, including field trials, can take quite a few years before the contracts are actually inked and the production begins.
The defence ministry on Tuesday gave initial approvals to several acquisition proposals, including the one for 7.4 lakh new assault rifles and 16,500 light machine guns, collectively worth an estimated Rs 15,935 crore to bolster firepower of infantry soldiers a few days after the terror attack on the Sunjuwan+ Army camp in Jammu.

The defence acquisition council (DAC), chaired by defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman, accorded acceptance of necessity (AON) to the proposals, for which formal tenders will now be floated to invite technical and commercial bids from armament companies. The entire process, including field trials, can take quite a few years before the contracts are actually inked and the production begins.

The DAC, however, approved the "fast track procedure (FTP)" for the 16,500 light machine guns (LMGs) to be acquired from the global market at a cost of Rs 1,819 crore to ensure the project is wrapped up within a year.

Though the Army, Navy and IAF together require 43,732 new LMGs, the initial acquisition of 16,500 will meet the operational requirements of the troops deployed on the borders with Pakistan and China. "A concurrent proposal is being processed for the remaining LMGs under the Buy and Make (Indian) categorisation through a tie-up between an Indian vendor and a foreign armament company," said an official.

The DAC last month had similarly approved+ the FTP for 72,400 new-generation assault rifles and 93,895 close-quarter battle (CQB) carbines for Rs 3,547 crore from the global market. On Tuesday, it also accorded approval to acquisition of an additional 7.4 lakh 7.62x51mm assault rifles under the "Make in India" production policy for the three services.

"These rifles will be made under the Buy and Make (Indian) categorisation, through both the Ordnance Factory Board and the private industry at an estimated cost of Rs 12,280 crore," said the official. Similarly, the shortfall in the overall requirement for 3.76 lakh 5.56 x 45mm CQB carbines will be met by a Make in India project at a later stage.

The DAC on Tuesday also approved the procurement of 5,719 sniper rifles for the Army and IAF at an estimated cost of Rs 982 crore from the global market. "While these high-precision weapons will be bought under the 'Buy Global' categorisation, the ammunition for these will be initially procured and subsequently manufactured in India," said the official.

In order to enhance the anti-submarine warfare capabilities of Indian warships, the DAC also accorded approval for the procurement of the indigenous "Mareech" advanced torpedo decoy systems (ATDS), which has successfully completed extensive trials after being developed by the DRDO. "The 'Mareech' systems will be produced by Bharat Electronics Limited, Bengaluru at an estimated cost of Rs 850 crore," he added.

As earlier reported by TOI, the Army had first asked for new assault rifles and CQB carbines way back in 2005 to replace the existing glitch-prone 5.56mm INSAS (Indian small arms system) rifles and the obsolete 9mm sub-machine carbines. But the projects were repeatedly scrapped due to graft allegations or unrealistic technical parameters as well as the lack of indigenous options for well over a decade.

The new 8.6mm sniper rifles, with an effective kill range of 1,200-metre, will in turn replace the Army's old 7.62mm Dragunov sniper rifles (800-metre range) acquired from Russia in 1990. The Dragunov rifles are not equipped with modern magnification and sight systems as well as bipod stands, while their ammunition is also quite expensive.


February 13, 2018

Singapore Airshow 2018: Boeing eyes Super Hornet partners in India

Boeing is assessing Indian defence and aerospace companies to select industrial partners in support of its bid to supply its F/A-18E/F Block III Super Hornet fighter aircraft to the Indian Navy (IN), Gene Cunningham, vice-president of Boeing Defense, Space & Security told Jane’s on 8 February.
The IN fighter requirement – the Multi-Role Carrier Borne Fighter (MRCBF) programme – features the acquisition of an initial 57 aircraft. The IN issued a request for information (RFI) to support the programme, which has an estimated cost of USD5.7 billion, in January 2017.
A key part of the MRCBF requirement will be local industrial participation in line with New Delhi’s ‘Make in India’ drive to spur manufacturing capability within the country. It is also possible that the programme will fall under India’s new Strategic Partner policy, through which the government will nominate specific private-sector companies to engage with the foreign contractor.
Commenting on the industrial element of the programme, Cunningham said Boeing is evaluating potential partners with a view to making selections possibly later this year.
“We know there will be specific requirements about the companies that will be asked to be considered for partnerships under the Strategic Partner requirements,” he said. “Our approach right now is to identify which companies make the best teammates within the structural requirements.”
He added, “There are many good companies in India with good capabilities. We are trying to make our way through the whole field and to figure what is the best fit.”
While extensive local participation in the MRCBF programme is expected, Cunningham said the details about the scope of this engagement have yet to be finalised by the Indian government. “We are not at the stage where the requirements are laid out,” he said.


Mohan Bhagwat is right. And the defence budget indicates why the army is not ready for war!

Mohan Bhagwat, the chief of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), was on the button when he declared on Sunday that, if war broke out, the military would not be ready for at least six to seven months. The RSS chief did not mention that those months would fly past in emergency procurement of weaponry for the army, probably at usurious prices. And he was laughably naïve in boasting that the RSS could fill the gap while the army prepared for operations. Yet, Mr Bhagwat perceived the worrying lack of defence readiness, even though it apparently escapes those whose primary responsibility is the defence of the country — Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his defence minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, and her predecessors, Arun Jaitley and Manohar Parrikar. The situation was no different under the previous government.
That the military is unprepared for war is no secret. Beyond the political bluster, threats from generals and warmongering from television warriors, this is evident from plenty of thoughtful commentary, and from a conveniently leaked letter written in 2012 by former army chief, General V K Singh, to his defence minister, A K Antony, listing equipment shortfalls. There is also a less advertised shortfall in training and alertness that has gifted adversaries with operational successes like in the terrorist strikes in Pathankot and Uri, and in Jammu over the weekend. An editorial in this newspaper noted that the government’s miserly defence allocations are not in sync with its tough posture and with a deteriorating security environment. It concluded that Mr Modi probably does not expect a war. 
What are the messages from last fortnight’s defence budget? Seen alongside the last few Budgets, it highlights an unimaginative incrementalism, with each year seeing broadly the same percentage of funds distributed between services and departments, with the absolute allocation gradually rising in tandem with the 6-10 per cent annual rise in the overall budget. In each of the last three years, the army has been allocated 68-69 per cent of the services’ budget, with the navy getting about 12.5 per cent and the air force 19.5 per cent. In the years before that, i.e. 2014-15 and 2015-16, the army got only 64-65 per cent, with the navy and air force getting an additional 2 per cent each. But the grant of One Rank One Pension (OROP) in 2015 and the implementation from 2016 of the Seventh Pay Commission’s salary recommendations disproportionally raised the manpower-heavy army’s requirement for money, at the cost of the navy and air force. The noteworthy point here is that even this unusual shift in allocations was occasioned not by strategic imperatives, but by a perceived political need to raise military pensions and salaries.

 Also evident is the government’s unwillingness to tackle the personnel problem head-on, even though manpower costs are now close to 70 per cent of the military’s total allocation. This  is evident from the exclusion of military pension costs from the declared budget, even though the pension bill is a direct outcome of personnel policies followed by the three services. Excluding pension costs from the defence budget, even though they have almost doubled under the present government from ~605 billion in 2014-15 to ~1,089 billion this year, creates little incentive for the painful shift to a predominantly short-service military where most soldiers serve for five-seven years and then move on without being entitled to a lifetime pension. This government has added simplicity and transparency to the defence budget and factoring pension costs  would be another practical and beneficial reform. My chart incorporates pension costs.
In countries that are serious about defence, each service is allocated funds based on perceived security priorities, operational roles in dealing with those threats, and the equipment, training, and manpower needed to discharge roles. However, the unchanging percentages in the service allocations bear no reflections of the security debates and environment changes of recent decades. There is no funding for the changed approach to warfighting in a nuclearised backdrop that has birthed the Cold Start doctrine — lightning strikes by forward deployed armoured formations to respond to serious provocation by Pakistan. Nor is there any budgetary recognition of the pressing need for additional Special Forces, or aerial strike capabilities as viable retaliatory options  think surgical strikes. The repeated public affirmations about India taking on the role of “net security provider” in the Indian Ocean, or building up coastal security mechanisms along a highly vulnerable 7,500 kilometre coastline, is not validated by any increased outlay in the navy budget, which has in fact shrunk by two per cent in overall terms; and from over 30 per cent of the defence capital budget in 2014-15 to just 25 per cent today. With smaller maritime adversaries like Pakistan increasingly relying on countering India’s more powerful navy through “sea denial”, which means laying mines and prioritising submarine warfare, the naval allocations remain grossly insufficient for India’s planned response  to buy 12 mine counter measure vessels and 16 anti-submarine warfare shallow water craft, torpedoes and sonars for a range of vessels, and build six new submarines in India. Instead, procurement bottlenecks have forced the navy to surrender billions in unspent money: ~25 billion in 2012-13; ~36 billion in 2013-14; ~53 billion in 2015-16; and ~44 billion in 2016-17.
Similarly, an already depleted air force, which must urgently conclude a “single engine fighter” contract to replace ten retiring MiG squadrons with fighters that are built in India, has been allocated a capital budget that would barely cover “committed liabilities”, the phrase for installments on purchases in earlier years, like the Rafale fighter.
Another major dichotomy is the pittance allocated for “Make” projects, which senior defence ministry officials talk up as locomotives for India’s defence industry. “Make” projects involve consortia of Indian defence firms coming together to build complex defence platforms with the defence ministry reimbursing 80-90 per cent of the development cost. Yet, despite its obvious industrial and technological benefits, the government spent nothing under this head in 2015-16; ~2.5 billion in 2016-17; ~ 0.2 billion last year; and has allocated ~1.4 billion this year, a mere drop from the capital budget ocean of ~940 billion.
The government must ensure that defence spending — which will account for 16.5 per cent of government spending and 2.16 per cent of the gross national product in 2018-19, inclusive of pensions — buys bang for this very considerable buck. This will require thoughtless incrementalism to give way to holistic planning and a steady hand at the tiller. With three changes of defence minister in four years, the Modi-government’s entire term will have passed in ministerial learning. The defence ministry cannot afford this game of Musical Ministers.

Budget distribution between the three services
Total service budget^^
Each service’s share of
Personnel costs^^
Running costs
Capital budget**
Rs crore
Rs crore
Rs crore
Rs crore
2014-15 (Actual)
Air Force
2015-16 (Actual)
Air Force
2016-17 (Actual)
Air Force
2017-18 (RE)
Army *
Air Force
2018-19 (BE)
Army *
Air Force
(Source: Ministry of Finance budget document)
*    Excludes budget for Border Roads Organisation, but includes Rashtriya Rifles and National Cadet Corps
^    Excludes Coast Guard, but includes Joint Staff budgets
^^  Includes pensions to all three services
**  Capital budget for three services only, excludes allocations for DRDO and Ordnance Factories