March 31, 2018

India increases deployment of troops along border with China near Tibetan region

India has deployed more troops and significantly increased patrolling in the mountainous terrains of Dibang, Dau-Delai and Lohit valleys along the borders with China in the Tibetan region in Arunachal sector following the Doklam face-off, the most tense military confrontations between the two countries in decades.

Military officials said India is also strengthening its surveillance mechanism to keep an eye on Chinese activities along the borders in the strategically sensitive Tibetan region and has even been regularly deploying choppers to carry out recce.

They said India has been focusing on dominating the treacherous terrains which include snow-clad mountains at an altitude of over 17,000 feet, and river passes, as part of a strategy to counter China's rising assertiveness along the border in Dibang, Dau-Delai and Lohit valleys.

Post Doklam, we have increased our activities manifold. We are fully prepared to deal with any challenge, said an army officer posted in Kibithu, the eastern most village on India's border with China's Tibetan region.

The official said the Army has been enhancing its Long Range Patrols (LRPs) where troops in small groups go for patrols for 15-30 days as part of an overall approach to maintain the sanctity of the Line of Actual Control, the de-facto border between India and China.

Troops of India and China were locked in a 73-day standoff in Doklam from June 16 last year after the Indian side stopped building of a road in the disputed area by the Chinese Army. The face-off ended on August 28.

We have increased our deployment of troops while focusing on all the strategically important areas including a tri-junction among India, China and Myanmar, said the official who wished not to be quoted as he is not authorised to speak to the media.

The official said China has been ramping up its infrastructure development along India's border, particularly in the Tibetan region and there was a need for India to enhance its road network for quick movements of troops.

The Army uses a foot suspension bridge to carry its military supplies to its Kibithu post, considered very important from operational point of view, as the only road connecting the East bank of Lohit river with West bank remains closed due to landslides for most part of the year.

However, a senior official of the Border Roads Organisation said a number of roads including one to connect the Dibang Valley with Lohit Valley has been finalised which will improve the inter-valley connectivity in Arunachal.

China has been laying new roads and improving its overall infrastructure along the nearly 4,000 km long border with India.

Earlier this month, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had said China has undertaken construction of helipads, sentry posts and trenches for its army personnel near Doklam.

Sources said China has been keeping its troops in north Doklam and significantly ramping up its infrastructure in the disputed area.

In January, Army Chief Gen Bipin Rawat had said the time had come for India to shift its focus from borders with Pakistan to the frontier with China, indicating the seriousness of the situation.


Russia and China Are Now Building Weapons Together

Russia and China are drawing closer together as Moscow faces further isolation from the West. Indeed, the two great powers are starting to co-develop new weapons systems. One such example is a new drone that would be launched from a multiple launch rocket system.

"Joint experimental design work with the Chinese side is underway," Tecmash Research and Production Group deputy CEO Alexander Kochkin said at the ArmHiTec-2018 exhibition on Friday according to the TASS news agency.

While cooperation between Russia and China is booming, Moscow is very much a junior partner to a fast-rising Beijing even if the two sides present it as an alliance of equals.

“Both countries present this as a partnership of equals. But yes, for now, its still Russia selling advanced weapons to China,” Sam Bendett, a researcher at the Center for Naval Analyses, told The National Interest.

China, for example, is more advanced in the development of unmanned aircraft than Russia. However, it is still Moscow that is selling its hardware to Beijing.

“What is interesting is that we have not seen any Chinese sales of their UAVs to Russia - even though China is ahead of Moscow in using combat UAVs,” Bendett said. “This particular partnership again reinforces the flow of weapons to China, not the other way around.”

Indeed, as Kochkin noted, the Russian military has no interest in the company’s drone. That is mostly because the Russian defense ministry has not developed a concept of operation (CONOPS) for these machines. The fact that the Chinese are interested suggests that Beijing is ahead of Moscow in developing a combat doctrine for UAVs.

“This also indicates that China is experimenting with various CONOPS for the use of unmanned systems in combat, and this particular delivery of UAV appeals to them,” Bendett said.

It is possible that the Kremlin might eventually adopt the system itself, but right now, concepts are often developed by Russia’s defense industry well before the military considers adopting them.

“This points to one of the biggest problems that the MOD [Ministry of Defense] and its military industrial complex have to overcome,” Bendett said. “A lot of unmanned systems development was driven by the manufacturer, not by a military requirement handed down from the MOD.”

In effect, the developmental process in Russia is being driving by industry.

“Often, a manufacturer will exhibit a system that was not necessarily required by the Russian military,” Bendett said. “So today, the MOD is trying to reverse this trend and marshal its bureaucracy to take control of unmanned weapons developments that are actually needed by the military and will be used by its forces.”

In this particular case, given Russia’s experiences in Syrian and Ukraine, Moscow might eventually adopt the system for its own use.

“Yes, perhaps down the line,” Bendett said. “The Russians have learned a great deal from Syria and Ukraine and will base their future CONOPS on these conflicts.”


KA-226T helicopters for India to be manufactured by HAL and Russian Helicopters at Tumakuru

The KA-226T helicopters which are being developed by Indo Russian Helicopter Pvt Ltd (IRHL) will be manufactured at Hindustan Aeronautics Limited’s (HAL) helicopter plant in Tumakuru in Karnataka. A statement given by the Ministry of Defence said that the facility will function as an independent division of HAL in Biderehalla Kaval, which is located at distance 107 km from Bengaluru. The Government of Karnataka has allocated 610 acres of land for the project. The Indo Russian Helicopter Pvt Ltd (IRHL) is a joint venture cum subsidiary between HAL, Russian Helicopters and Rosoboronexport.

The goal of the joint venture has been to manufacture KA-226T helicopters in India. The capital of the joint venture is estimated to be at Rs 30 crore, with HAL holding shares up to 50.5 percent. 42.5 percent of shares will be held Russian Helicopter and the rest by Rosoboronexport. An MoD release said that the new facility at Tumakuru will be self-contained for production and maintenance of LUHs. The release also said that the cost of the project to cover initial setting up of facilities is expected to be around Rs 2000 crore.

The KA-226T is a powerful, light multirole helicopter. Being developed jointly by Russia and India for India’s armed forces, the helicopter boasts of precise hovering ability and sharp manoeuvring system, making it as an easy helicopter to fly. It is also characterised by its novel environment-friendly feature, high-specs avionics and other safety solutions. The helicopter is powered by 580 h.p FADEC-equipped French engine Arrius 2G. The KA-226T is also capable of operating in temperatures ranging from-50 degree C to +50 degree C and with a relative humidity of 1000%.

The helicopter is suited for patrolling, surveillance and transportation.Reports suggest that IRL is expected to provide over 200 utility helicopters to the Indian defence forces. The terms of the agreement with Russian Helicopter also says that the KA-226T will be exported to other countries.


Ahead of Nirmala Sitharaman's Moscow visit, Russia offers to sell 21 MiG fighter planes to India

Ahead of Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman's visit to Moscow, Russia has offered 21 MiG-29s to the Indian Air Force which is in desperate need of fighter planes. The offer has just come and a delegation from Moscow is in town for discussions and the Russians are hoping that the offer can be taken up during the Defence Minister's visit. At this point, the costs and other parts of the deal, including lifetime maintenance costs are yet to be discussed.

The offer merits serious discussion, top government sources said, for three major reasons:

1. The MiG-29 is already in service with the IAF, meaning that pilots are familiar with it. The three squadrons of the fighter will be operational for a decade.

2. The IAF is looking at a serious fighter-crunch in the coming years. The IAF is projecting a demand for around 40 fighter squadrons and currently, unless new planes are bought, the numbers could drop from the current 32 to 29 in 2027 and less in the 2030s. This is despite the 36 Rafale fighters that the Modi government has bought and the 6 squadrons of the indigenous Tejas or Light Combat Aircraft that the IAF will have by 2032.

3. While the MiG-29 was first readied in the 1980s, it is still a fighter worth having. And the purchase costs are not likely to be prohibitive.

During the visit, the overhaul of the MiG-29s with the IAF could come up.

Currently, the IAF's fighter strength includes 6 squadrons of the Anglo-French Jaguar, three squadrons of the Mig-29, three squadrons of the Mirage-2000, 12 squadrons of the Sukhoi-30MKI, two squadrons of the MiG-27 and 11 squadrons of the various kinds of MiG-21s, including the revamped Bisons. By 2022, however, only one of these MiG-21 squadrons will be left.

Facing India are about 20 squadrons of Pakistani air force fighters and 80+ squadrons of the Chinese fighters, including some top-of-the-line fighters. While the IAF is pitching for 40 plus squadrons, the presence of firepower in the form of Agni, Prithvi and Brahmos missiles and also, airborne warning and control (AWACS) eye-in-the-sky planes, and air to air refueling planes (both are force multipliers), it could manage with fewer, according to experts.

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman leaves for Russia on April 2. She will go with a new framework agreement suggested by India that could change ties between the two countries. India has suggested a long term agreement between the two countries. India will give Russia a ten-year contract to make spares, upgrade weapon systems but the catch is that the spares and upgradation work should be made in India, this is what India wants.

This will allow Russia to make all weapon system spares whether it is the Sukhoi fighter, the mi helicopter, the Kamov helicopter, the T-90 tank, artillery, submarine and frigate spares in India. It deal could give Russia about 500-crore rupees in business annually. This issue will be discussed during the defence minister's visit.

Several defence deals are up for discussions. India has decided to buy 4 frigates for the Navy. The decision for two bought outright has been taken. Financial discussions for the other two be made in India are going on. There will be discussions on increasing the indigenous content in the Kamov helicopters to be made in India. The price negotiations for the S-400 anti aircraft and anti-missile system are currently going on and would reflect in the meetings.


March 28, 2018

How India’s ASTRA Air-To-Air Missile Is Quietly Killing It

Just before noon on September 14 last year, an 11-foot long missile zoomed off from the wing of an Indian Air Force Su-30 MKI fighter jet about 120 kilometers off India’s east coast. Leaving behind a pulse of purple flame, the Astra careened off into the invisible horizon. Tracked both by the two pilots in the jet, another Su-30 flying some distance away as well as an observation team stationed on a ship in the Bay of Bengal, the Astra roared through thin air over a steady cloud deck over 50 kilometers from the jet that fired it, finally smashing into a bright orange British-built BTT-3 Banshee target drone.
The missile had just been fired for the first time, not with a dummy warhead, but with the kind of warhead that would be used against an actual enemy aircraft. The 15 kilogram warhead, built by the DRDO’s Chandigarh-based Terminal Ballistics Research Laboratory (TBRL) is like to have exploded bare feet away from the Banshee, bringing its target down towards the sea in a scattered cloud of debris. Later that day, the same Su-30 jet fired another missile, this time at a range much closer to the missile’s maximum range of 75 kilometers. This time too, the weapon blew effortlessly apart its target.
To be sure, the target wasn’t a twisting, maneouvering human-driven enemy jet, but the two tests conducted in the missile’s ‘combat configuration’ were everything the Indian Air Force wanted to see.
But there was something else in the September tests that had gladdened hearts. Two of the seven Astra missiles tested had undergone a crucial modification. The very heart of their ability to hunt down aircraft in the air, their seeker, had been replaced. The existing Russian Agat 9B1103M active radar seeker used on the Astra had been replaced with an Indian Ku-band seeker developed by the DRDO’s Research Center Imarat (RCI) in Hyderabad. While the Indian Air Force has taken on the task of further testing of the Astra as part of a ‘capability discovery’ exercise with the new seeker this year (in coordination with the DRDO), the very fact that it has committed precious financial resources to pre-production units is proof of its pleasure.

Fired for the first time from a modified Su-30 MKI in May 2014, the Astra has battled steady headwinds (unsurprisingly including delays from Russia) to turn the corner and find an unusually pleased customer in the Indian Air Force. Following a rapid-fire spate of seven guided tests last September, topped off with the two ‘combat’ tests described above, the Indian Air Force was persuaded to sign on for 50 pre-production Astra missiles, its healthiest show of confidence in a program that’s still, effectively, in its proving stage.
Speaking exclusively to Livefist, Dr. S. Christopher, Director General of the Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) said, “The IAF is extremely happy with progress and has ordered 50 versions of the missile we have proven so far in the prototype phase. That’s a big boost to the program even before series production has started.”
The IAF and DRDO have endured more than their share of adversarial flashpoints in a history dotted with bad blood. With the Astra though, the sense of partnership and goodwill has been almost singular — owing mostly to a weapon system that has been speeded through its testing phase, but also because of the manner in which the Astra’s makers are hoping to save time. It has been notoriously difficult in the past for the DRDO to persuade its customers to agree to such a ‘concurrent engineering’ approach, given that the military has traditionally been suspicious of the DRDO’s promises. This time, the IAF has been confident enough to sidestep the phased development approach. For Astra project director Dr S. Venugopal and his team, that’s an enormous show of faith.
“Earlier we would have completed trials and then gone back to the IAF for acceptance of necessity (AoN) and other formalities, which would have taken months if not years,” Christopher said. “There is usually a long back and forth that follows such a process. In the meantime, the energies invested in setting up a production line would have gone to waste.”
Instead, India’s state-owned missile maker Bharat Dynamics Ltd (BDL) has already been enlisted to tool up for the Astra. The idea is that by the time the IAF is ready to place bulk orders for the missile beyond the 50 already contracted, a warm production line would have been progressively debugged and ready to churn out Astras on or ahead of schedule.
“This is to ensure the production line is created quickly so that the final series production Astra comes out without any flaws. The 50 missile order is currently being serviced,” Christopher said.
The Indian Air Force will conduct further tests of the Astra this year and the next as part of a user trial phase before it commits to orders of the final Astra missile. DRDO expects such an order to be in the hundreds, given that the Astra will arm not just the IAF’s Su-30 MKI, but also its upgraded MiG-29s, LCA Tejas and other platforms.
The Indian Air Force’s 36 Rafale fighters that begin deliveries next September will come armed with MBDA Meteor missiles, a weapon system that the Astra seeks to emulate in performance over a period of time. In fact, the DRDO informed India’s Parliament earlier this month that it had formally sanctioned a project to develop the Astra Mk.2 missile, which it hopes will more closely mirror the Meteor’s range and performance qualities.
“There is a long road before the Astra can come anywhere near mirroring the performance qualities of the Meteor, which we have seen in its testing phase in Europe as part our Rafale acquisition. But the Astra has made a very promising start. Moreover, it is almost entirely an Indian weapon system,” a senior IAF officer who deals with the DRDO told Livefist. It has taken a typically hard fight for the Astra to get where it is now. Challenges have included a year’s delay in approvals from Russia for the original seekers (now replaced with Indian ones). The DRDO listed these challenges earlier this month in Parliament:

The Astra has an officially stated range of 75 kilometers. Sanctioned as a project in March 2004 with a budget of just under $150 million (Rs 955 crore), the project missed its completion deadline of February 2013 for a variety of reasons, and now aims to officially wrap everything up by December this year. Crucially, the project team has decided it can complete the task at hand on the Astra Mk.1 without additional funds — a rarity in the pantheon of indigenous development.
The Astra project also involves over 50 public and private firms, leading to consortium of industries building the weapon the system through its final integration line at Bharat Dynamics Ltd in Telangana. Best of all, the systems being proved on the Astra will likely spawn of fully family of air defence weapons from DRDO, all sporting significantly higher indigenous content than in-service systems.


March 27, 2018

The Indian Air Force's next Super Weapon Could Be the F-35 or F/A-18

When the Times of India revealed that the Indian air force was revising its single-engine fighter competition to encompass twin-engine jet designs, a collective groan likely rang from New Delhi to Washington—and even Stockholm.

The competition was meant to acquire a new generation of short-range jets suitable for defending India’s borders. The Indian air force is gradually retiring its 1950s-era MiG-21 single-engine fighter jets over the next few decades. Currently, it has only thirty-three squadrons of combat aircraft out of a planned forty-four, with ten more squadrons set to retire their aircraft over the coming decade.

An analyst quoted by the Times of India characterized India’s Ministry of Defense as “constantly changing their rules, changing their minds” and having a “knack for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.” The exasperation stems from two factors. The first is that the single-engine competition had narrowed down to just two choices, the American F-16 and Swedish JAS 39 Gripen. If the government had simply stuck to the original guidelines, the Indian air force could have begun receiving 115 new fighters by the early 2020s and retained domestic production facilities to build even more if desired.

The second factor is that the Indian government is notorious for its incredibly slow arms procurement process—that often results in dysfunctional weapon systems and partially or completely cancelled orders. Take the preceding Medium Multi-Role Competition (MMCR) which began in the year 2001: even though the Indian air force wanted to order more Mirage 2000s, New Delhi insisted on holding a competition that took so long that the Mirage 2000 stopped being available for production. Fifteen years later, bickering over technology transfers led India to order just thirty-six more advanced and expensive Rafale fighters—out of the 126 aircraft originally stipulated.

Then there is the domestically built single-engine HAL Tejas (“Radiant”) Light Combat Aircraft, which India began developing in the 1980s. Over three decades later, the delta-wing fighter has proven so underpowered that the Indian navy refused to adopt it into service and the air force reduced the size of its order. Although HAL is working on an improved Tejas Mark IA and II which may correct some of the aircraft’s flaws, production is lagging behind schedule.

So, unless the Ministry of Defense moves more quickly than before, selection and procurement of replacement fighters could drag on for years while the fighter force continues to shrink.

Bargaining for Better?

The single-engine requirement was supposedly revised because the Indian air force never really wanted to constrain the competition to light fighters in the first place. Instead, the Indian air force wanted to procure the rest of the medium fighters the MMCR project failed to obtain. This may have coincided with recent public furor over the cost-per-plane of the Rafale, causing the Modi administration to open up the new competition to a wider range of fighter types.

Single-engine fighters are significantly cheaper and more cost-efficient to operate than their twin-engine counterparts. Twin-engine fighters tend to boast greater range and weapons capacity. As India’s chief likely adversary, Pakistan, is a short hop across the border, short-range fighters have a viable role to play in India’s defense strategy. A downside of single-engine jets is that they tend to suffer higher accident rates because they lack a backup engine.

The single-engine competition had narrowed down to either the updated F-16 Block 70 or the Saab JAS-39 Gripen-E. While the Swedish jet is more advanced, the super F-16 would have been cheaper up front and come with advantageous export conditions due to the U.S. Foreign Military Sales program. Though both aircraft would have been manufactured in India by partner companies, the F-16 deal would have involved an opportunity for India to become the sole distributor of the popular airframe.

Some critics of the single-engine competition grumbled that investing top dollars on an upgraded version of a fighter developed in the 1970s was not a sound investment for the future. However, the Gripen-E and F-16 Block 70 technically both remain on the table, even though the number of eligible competitors has increased.

Notable new twin-engine contenders now include the American Super Hornet, the Eurofighter Typhoon, the French Rafale, and the Russian Su-35 or MiG-35. The Russian fighters offer good bang-for-buck on paper, but India has been frustrated by poor after sales support and frequent breakdowns in much of its Russian hardware—including the MiG-29 and Su-30MKI jets.

Another factor is the Indian navy, which has to account for fifty-seven naval fighters operating from its current ski-jump-style aircraft carriers as well as a planned catapult-equipped flat top carriers. The aircraft under consideration are the FA-18E Super Hornet, the Rafale-M, a navalized Gripen, and the MiG-29K—all of which have land-based counterparts. If both the Indian navy and air force end up choosing similar aircraft, there could be significant cost-savings in terms of spare parts and training.

The Super Hornet is favored to win the naval contract and recent reports indicate it may be the leader in the revised fighter competition as well. Though the Super Hornet does not quite match earlier twin-engine fighters such as the F-15 in terms of raw performance, the newer aircraft are designed with modern digital avionics, and also has a comparatively stealthy radar cross section of only one meter squared. The new Block III model comes equipped with conformal fuel tanks for greater range at lower aerodynamic cost, an infrared search-and-track system and a sophisticated networkable targeting computer.

The Stealth Angle ::

Fourth-generation jets like the F-16 and Super Hornet are highly capable in most regards, but aerial war games have suggested one major limitation—they lose by lopsided margins when pitted against fifth-generation stealth fighters. Stealth fighters also have much better odds of successfully penetrating hostile air space defended by ground-based surface-to-air missiles.

New Delhi has wanted its own stealth fighters for a while—and has invested the equivalent of over five billion dollars in Russia’s PAK FA stealth fighter program, now designated as the Su-57, in the hopes of getting an India-specific variant called the FGFA. However, the program has suffered major setbacks and Moscow has downsized its production run to only twelve Su-57s. Indian officials have grown increasingly disenchanted with the Su-57, publicly complaining about underpowered engines, subpar stealth characteristics and a lack of transparency as to what lay behind these problems.

Separately, India’s Defense Research and Development Organization has invested significant resource drawing up plans for its own HAL AMCA stealth fighter, with hopes for a flying prototype in the mid-2020s. However, a viable AMCA would require India to acquire or develop key technologies including the manufacture of radar-absorbent materials, high-performance domestic jet engines and advanced AESA radars.

As it happens, a Hindustan Times article from March 11, 2018 indicates that the light-fighter competition will now be linked to the transfer of technologies necessary for producing the AMCA. This naturally leads to the question: who actually has that stealth technology to share? India is already linked to Russia’s Su-57 program but is dissatisfied with the collaboration. Both Boeing and Rafale have some experience with stealth technology, but the clear leader in the field is Lockheed-Martin, manufacturer of the F-35 Lightning II stealth fighter and the earlier F-22 Raptor.

The single-engine F-35 has long been the elephant in the room, as it is being exported to U.S. allies at a price of roughly $100 million per airframe. Though the Lightning isn’t as fast, maneuverable or heavy-lifting as top fourth-generation fighters, it’s stealth characteristics and advanced sensors and avionics allow it to lob missiles at adversaries from far beyond the range it can be tracked by opposing X-Band targeting radars. Furthermore, it’s avionics are designed to share sensor data with less stealthy friendly fighters, enhancing their effectiveness.

Washington would love for India to join in on the deal, and not just because India could pitch in more money to control the bloated per-unit cost of the F-35. The F-35s would be an expensive, long-term and ongoing commitment that would tie the Indian military closely to the United States and help counterbalance China’s modernizing air force. On the other hand, both the U.S. military and Lockheed are tight-fisted when it comes to sharing both stealth technology and the F-35’s networked operating system, which could leave both end users and service providers vulnerable to hacking.

India had historically relied on the Soviet Union and then Russia to furnish its military hardware, so spurning the Su-57 program in favor of the F-35 risks cooling that relationship. Indeed, New Delhi has steadfastly maintained it is not seeking to purchase F-35s. However, India is increasingly concerned with with China’s rapidly growing military capabilities, which include new J-20 stealth fighters and Russian-built Su-35s. This means New Delhi’s geopolitical interests are drawing it closer to Washington instead of Moscow, as evidenced by a base-sharing agreement struck in 2016.

Indeed, on March 4, 2018 the U.S. Pacific Command’s Adm. Harry Harris revealed that New Delhi was making inquiries about purchasing F-35s. Realistically, Indian buy-in to the F-35 would take years to arrange, and the stealth fighter continues to suffer from serious teething issues in U.S. service. Therefore, even if the F-35 is on the table, New Delhi will still likely pursue additional fourth-generation fighters to replenish its shrinking air force.


India, US to reopen talks on Comcasa

India has agreed to reopen talks with the US on a pact that will allow high-end secured communication equipment to be installed on platforms being sold to India, signalling a willingness to revisit previously-held security apprehensions.

Highly-placed government sources told ET that a US technical team will be visiting India next month to brief New Delhi on this pact, which is called the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (Comcasa). It was earlier referred to as the Cismoa (Communication & Information on Security Memorandum of Agreement).

The decision to resume conversations was taken after the joint visit of the defence secretary and foreign secretary to the US earlier this month to set up the 2+2 dialogue between the foreign and defence ministers of both countries. The meeting has now been put off until the confirmation of the new US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Both sides, however, agreed not to delay the technical discussions aimed at allaying Indian security apprehensions. The idea of having the same communication systems, enabling an ‘interoperable’ environment for militaries on both sides to conduct joint operations was a red flag that former defence minister AK Antony had raised. As a result, the UPA did not firm up any of the defence foundation agreements with the US, which included the Logistics Security Agreement (LSA) and the Comcasa.

While LSA gave both militaries access to each other’s bases, Comcasa would allow them to be the same communication network.

The NDA government signalled the first shift in 2015 when it resumed conversation on the LSA, which eventually got signed with some modifications and a new name — Lemoa (Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement).

India has faced problems in fully exploiting the potential of US-sourced platforms because of restrictions in using compatible communication equipment. For this purpose, India has had to depend on commercially available less secure systems on, otherwise, high-end platforms like C-130Js and the P8I maritime surveillance aircraft, among others.

The latest issue has been with obtaining the armed version of the Sea Guardian drones. Washington has made it clear that for it to part with the weapon systems on the drone, India will need to sign the Comcasa so that data and communication systems can be duly installed.

Key stakeholders in the defence establishment in India have held reservations with such an arrangement, saying it’s intrusive in nature. There is concern, as per reliable sources, that the agreement will make it difficult to integrate India’s Russian-origin weapon systems on US platforms. Besides this, the agreement, which is largely operational with traditional US allies, does require granting periodic access to US personnel to inspect the equipment and ensure they remain secure.

This too has been red-flagged and was among the reasons why talks on this agreement were stalled by South Block despite earlier US approaches.


March 26, 2018

Chinese choppers violated Indian airspace four times in a month along LAC: Report

In a massive strength build-up, the Chinese Army violated the Indian airspace four times in a month, with People's Liberation Army (PLA) choppers crossing over the LAC (Line of Actual Control) in various parts of Northern India.

According to an intelligence report, the Chinese helicopters entered the Indian airspace along the LAC near Uttarakhand's Barahoti, Trig Heights and Depsang valley in Ladakh and Burtse in northern Ladakh.

The first transgression this month took place on March 8 when two PLA helicopters were found violating the Indian airspace in Ladakh's Trig Heights region early morning around 8:55 am.

Surprisingly, the Chinese airmen managed to fly as far as 18km over the Trig Heights that has long been a disputed territory between both the countries.

The report states that this was not the PLA's maiden attempt to violate the international airspace as they flew nearly 19km over Trig Heights and Depsang valley in Ladakh on February 27 this year as well.

The two PLA aircrafts were believed to have hovered near the Indian Army post for five minutes, reportedly to take stock of Indian troops' positioning along the border.

The third airspace violation was then reported on March 10, with three Chinese choppers hovering over Barahoti in Uttarakhand's Chamoli district, penetrating as far as 4km into the Indian airspace.

Read: China builds road, constructs 3 helipads in Doklam: Another standoff in the offing?

Some reports suggested that the Chinese aircrafts flew over Barahoti for nearly five minutes before flying back.

Ladakh's Trig Heights and Depsang valley are of immense strategic importance to India, thereby eliciting aggressive patrolling by the Chinese troops along the border.

But the Chinese fancy the world's highest active airstrip, the Daulat Beg Oldi airfield, that falls in Ladakh and has long been successful in thwarting unwarranted incursions along the border.

The intelligence report further on states that the PLA has been eyeing the airstrip in order to keep a check on Indian troops' preparedness in the region.


India: tests of M777A2 155mm howitzer restarted

Last Monday, Indian army officers, US delegates, representatives of Bae Systems and other experts came to attend the re-starting of the firing tests. This time, the firing test – involving two howitzers – are aiming at targets distant of 40-45 km, instead of the 3-4 km last September. The howitzers are being tested in high temperatures of Jaisalmer, Rajahstan, which means 45 to 50 degrees Celsius.

Theoretically, four shells per minute can be fired. These shells destroy everything in a 50m radius but also caused heavy damage in a 200m radius.

For the Indian army, the 4-ton M777A2 represents a major upgrade in comparison with its old Bofors howitzer, which weighs 11 tons. In a huge country where mountains and jungles are countless, light howitzers such as the aero transportable M777A2, represents a major upgrade of the artillery firepower. The 155mm shells would be locally manufactured.

The $737 million contract foresees that, from March 2019, five guns will be delivered every month, to reach a total of 145 guns by June 2021. Actually, a total of 25 howitzers will be imported from the US and 120 remaining ones will be manufactured in India by Mahindra.

The M777A2 is an improved version of the standard M777 lightweight 155mm towed howitzer (referred as LW155 in U.S. army) designed and manufactured by the Company BAE Systems. The M777A2 is a towed 155 mm Howitzer jointly developed by the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps to replace the M198 155mm towed howitzer.

The M777A2 lightweight 155mmm towed howitzer can fire the full ranges of U.S. 155mm ammunition including unassisted projectiles to a range of 24 km and assisted projectiles to 30 km. With the upgraded fire controls system, it can also fire Excalibur Precision 155 mm Projectiles, Global Positioning System (GPS)-guided, extended-range artillery projectile M982 and M982A1 at a maximum range of 40 km.


Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman On Doklam: "India Alert And Ready"

Ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to China in June, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has said that India is "alert and ready for any unforseen situation" in Doklam, where the two countries were locked in a face-off situation for 73 days last year.

Speaking to reporters in Dehradun on Sunday, Ms Sitharaman said, "We are alert and ready for any unforeseen situation in Doklam... we are constantly working on the modernisation of our forces and will maintain our territorial integrity."

The defence minister's statement comes within a week of India's envoy to China, Gautam Bambawale, saying in an interview to Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post that any attempt by China to change the status quo along the Indian border may lead to another Doklam-like stand-off and that the best way to prevent such incidents is through candid and frank talks.

Earlier this month, Ms Sitharaman told the Rajya Sabha that China had undertaken "construction of some infrastructure, including sentry posts, trenches and helipads" close to the face-off point in Doklam. Ms Sitharaman's reply came in response to a question on whether satellite images have revealed that China has constructed seven helipads in Doklam besides deploying tanks and missiles in the area.

"Post disengagement from the face-off in 2017, troops of both sides have redeployed themselves away from their respective positions at the face-off site. The strength of both sides have been reduced," she said, replying to a question on the issue in Rajya Sabha.

On whether India has taken it up the matter with China, Ms Sitharaman had said issues relating to the border are regularly taken up with the Chinese side through diplomatic channels and at Border Personnel Meetings, flag meetings and meetings of Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs.

PM Modi is expected to take part in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit, to be held in Qingdao, on June 9 and 10. Sources say a bilateral meeting with President Xi Jinping is also on the cards.


S-400 air defence, N-sub top Min’s Russia agenda

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s plate will be full when she arrives in Moscow on her maiden visit to Russia in the first week of April. Her priorities will include speeding up the process to ink the S-400 air defence system, exploring the possibility of buying another nuclear powered submarine and ironing out problems of delay in the supply of critical spares by Russian manufacturers to the Indian Armed forces thereby hampering operational preparedness.

India and Russia in principle had agreed to ink the deal worth over four billion dollars for five S-400 systems in 2016. However, talks between the two Defence Ministries have not yielded desired results and Sitharaman is expected to urge her Russian counterparts to resolve the outstanding issues.

Incidentally, China had signed a similar deal with Russia for S-400s three years back for ten systems and has already started getting the first batch.

The S-400 system can track an incoming missile or aircraft from a distance of more than 350 km and then knock down the incoming aerial platform with a plethora of missiles and rockets. The IAF urgently needs this state-of-the-art system as its current air defence systems are outdated.

Besides this deal, the Defence Minister will also explore the possibility of procuring another nuclear powered submarine from Russia for the Indian Navy. It is already using one such submarine INS Chakra on a lease for ten years and needs another such submarine for operational purposes, sources said here on Sunday.

The current Russian submarine was acquired four years ago to enable the Indian Navy to train its personnel for operating the indigeneously built nuclear powered submarine INS Arihant.

Four more submarines of Arihant class are now in various stages of construction and induction of second Russian nuclear powered submarine will help the navy to hasten the process of training, sources added.

Apart from these two big ticket items, Sitharaman will discuss the issue of shortage of critical spare parts for Russian made weapons and equipment used by the Indian Armed forces. Shortage and delays in supply of spares hamper the operational preparedness and this issue had time and again cropped up during talks between officials of two countries besides the political leadership.

For long Russia has remained India’s most trusted and time tested strategic ally. More than 70 per cent of weapons inventory in India is of Russia and erstwhile Soviet Union origin. However, of late the USA has emerged as the biggest defence supplier to India in the last one decade.

Russia is keen to regain the top spot and will offer more state of art tanks and infantry weapons to India during Sitharaman’s visit, officials said.

The Indian Army urgently needs armoured personnel carriers for its infantry besides modern rifles and close quarter battle weapons. Russia will offer its vast inventory to India, sources said.

The two sides will also discuss to further enhance military to military co-operation between the two countries. For the first time last year, two countries held a joint exercise of three services. Earlier, this annual drill used to be held separately for all the three services namely Army, Air Force and Navy.


Integrated theatre commands: India to have a Chief of Defence Staff?

It was recently reported that the government is finally moving towards implementation of the much-debated integrated theatre commands (ITCs). Under the new mechanism, a single commander will have at his disposal the resources and personnel of all the three services, namely, the army, air force and navy. The news has garnered much attention as it is being considered as the ‘first step’ towards having a Chief of Defence Staff and facilitating operational integration.

Combatting security threats ::

India often witnesses security threats along its borders. It is believed that a more streamlined approach that combines the strengths of all three services will benefit countering such threats than one of the services operating on a stand-alone basis. Carrying out a combined operation would necessitate combined training under a single theatre commander. Such a commander should have at his disposal, all the resources unique to all the services, to carry out operations effectively.

As early as 2001, the Kargil Review Committee had recommended the implementation of greater integration and the appointment of a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) as a single point of contact for the government instead of the existing three different heads for individual services. During May 2017, a committee headed by Lieutenant General D. B. Shekatkar had once again made the same suggestions and also had suggested to the Defence Ministry that the existing seventeen service theatre commands be reorganised into three ITCs namely, the northern, western and southern. The ministry, however, had not formed an opinion at that time. It is now recently being reported that the government may actually implement ITCs.

Why Integrated theatre commands?

The common aim of the armed forces is undoubted to secure India from external aggression and protect its sovereignty at all costs. While each of our services has different approach, resources and strengths to achieve this, it is seen that the most optimum results and utilisation of resources occur when services perform joint combats than act separately. Gone are the days where the army alone could win battles. Across the globe, battles are now fought and won in air and water. This necessitates a combined and joint operation of all the services to not only address security issues of the nation but also to avoid reduplication of resources and technologies and synergising their strengths.

Over the years, there has been much stress laid on the necessity of having more integrated commands. In an article published by the Indian Defence Review, Lieutenant General Prakash Katoch has observed that “The truth is that single Service Commands are antiquated structures which violate the basic principle of operational art which stipulates single-point command of military resources to attain the desired objectives. Integrated Theatre Commands (ITCs) need to be established encompassing the entire operational spectrum with two to three Integrated Functional Commands (IFC) that may be Bi-service or Tri-service under each ITC.”

Existing commands in India ::

The existing seventeen service theatre commands are located strategically to defend potential security threats. Army and air force have seven commands each under their autonomy, while Navy has three commands. None of these commands shares the same location. Additionally, there are two joint service commands, namely, the Strategic Forces Command (SFC)] and Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC). The former is headed by their respective service heads, while the latter is headed by officers from each of the services, on a rotational basis. Clearly, the seventeen service commands, due to lack of commonality, cannot be termed as ITCs in its true sense. The same goes for SFC as it is more so seen as an integrated functional command rather than an ITC. The only true ‘integration’ of the services can be seen is in the functioning of the ANC.

The operations of service commands are presently overseen and coordinated by the Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC). The committee consists of senior-most officers of the three services and is headed by a Chairman, who is the senior most member. The committee functions in principle of consensus. The functioning of the COSC has however revealed serious weaknesses in its ability to provide single point military advice to the government and resolve substantive inter-service issues.

Resource utilisation and maximum combat ::

India is facing security threats on its western and northwestern frontiers. Out of the seventeen service commands, a total of seven commands are dedicated for operations against a one Pakistan, which includes four army commands, two air force commands and one naval command. And each of these commands operates individually to fight a common enemy, is indeed disadvantageous.

A joint approach could lead to optimum utilisation of resources, knowledge and technology to achieve the maximum combat. Once again, modern warfare is evolving towards ‘jointness’, i.e. an optimum combination of all services to defeat an enemy and not just jointly conducting an operation. As such, India cannot fall behind as she continues to face security threats.

Lack of sufficient resources and fear of army dominance
The idea of having an integrated approach suffers from lack of sufficient resources. For instance, the air force has a limited number of fighter aircraft. To divide and allocate these limited resources to different ITCs is not feasible. Also, moving these resources from one location to another location in times of emergency is hardly a sweat considering India’s geographical size. The Navy also considers that the current model of operations ideal for the strategic role played by it.

Fears of the air force and navy being sidelined and losing their identity, importance and autonomy under the joint and integrated theatres are largely prevalent. Experts argue that the ITCs are nothing but a mechanism to perpetuate army dominance over the other services. According to an article published in the Business Standard, the author, Abhijit Iyer-Mitra, a defence analyst, observes that if the purpose of ITC was to imitate the US or the China style, then the Army should have agreed to reduce their commands along the northern borders so that their assets could be moved around, but instead it wants to further allocate the already numerically challenged air assets. Such a move would take us further 80 years back to when the US Air Force was a part of the US Army-Air Force whose actions were directed and commanded entirely by the army.

The way forward ::

Implementation of ITCs has been under debate for decades now, especially after the Kargil war. However, the many issues that surround the implementation are not unfounded and need to be first resolved. While many countries have adopted the ITCs based on certain military or political reasons, India should identify its own purpose and come up with its own model for implementation. The US, for instance, has never fought a war on its soil, forcing itself to integrate its services into a cohesive one to carry out their operations on foreign land. China also is seen to have been largely politically motivated to restructure its military and maximise its combat experience.

There is a lot of pre-work that needs to done before implementation. Identification of strategic locations, suitability of a bi-service or tri-service approach for each of the location, an amendment to service rules and creating a post of CDS, amongst many others need to be first carried out. Failure to do so would only lead to more complications. As such, India has a lot of pre-work to do before fully operational ITCs become a reality.


Defence spend as percentage of GDP has fallen world over

India’s defence forces have expressed unhappiness over the allocation for them in the Union Budget which, at 1.56% of the GDP, was the lowest since 1962, when India and China fought a war. But the defence budget as a part of the GDP has actually been shrinking across the world.

Is India the only country whose defence bill as percentage of GDP has reduced?
Government allocated Rs 2.74 lakh crore for defence in the 2018 budget. This will amount to 1.56% of the country’s GDP, making this allocation the lowest ever in terms of share of GDP. The analysis of budget allocations as a percentage of GDP for other major economies shows a similar pattern. As an economy grows, the proportion of its defence expenditure as compared to its overall size is bound to fall. This pattern is followed in most of the countries.

Are these countries making their own armaments?
No. Many of these countries that top defence expenditure are dependent on import of defence equipment. In 2017, India was the world’s second-largest arms importer.

Which are the world’s largest arms suppliers?
US followed by Russia are the world’s largest arms suppliers. Together they dominate the global arms market by a huge margin as compared to other countries.

In absolute terms, which country spends the highest on defence?
US by far spends the highest on its defence. America’s total defence expenditure is roughly equal to the defence expenditure of the next nine highest-spending countries.


March 24, 2018

India eyeing Boeing’s Super Hornet in latest twist to air force procurement

Boeing Co, considered the frontrunner in the race to supply the Indian navy with new fighter jets, is now in contention for a much bigger $15 billion order after the government abruptly asked the air force to consider the twin-engine planes.

Until recently, Lockheed Martin Corp’s F-16 and Saab AB’s Gripen were in a two-horse race to supply at least 100 single-engine jets to build up the Indian Air Force’s fast-depleting combat fleet.

Both had offered to build the planes in India in collaboration with local companies as part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s drive to build a domestic industrial base and cut back on arms imports.

But last month the government asked the air force to open up the competition to twin-engine aircraft and to evaluate Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet, a defence ministry source said. That jet is a finalist for the Indian navy’s $8 billion to $9 billion contract for 57 fighters.

The defence ministry plans to within weeks issue a request for information (RFI), the first stage of a procurement process, for a fighter to be built in India. The competition will be open to both single and twin-engine jets, the official said, but both Lockheed and Saab said they had not been informed about the new requirements.

The latest change of heart is a major opportunity for Boeing, whose only foreign Super Hornet customer so far is the Royal Australian Air Force.

It also illustrates how dysfunctional the weapons procurement process and arms industry are in the world’s second-most-populous country. The need for new fighters has been known for nearly 15 years, but after many announcements, twists and turns, the country’s air force has only three-quarters of the aircraft it needs.

An indigenous light combat aircraft, the Tejas, is still not operational, 35 years after it was first proposed.

An Indian Air Force source said fighter procurement was urgent: the branch’s operational strength has fallen to just 33 squadrons, its weakest level in four decades, as it decommissions Soviet-era MiG-21s.

“The IAF wants the RFI issued within weeks and get the process started,” said the source, who declined to be identified because he was not authorised to speak to the media. “The problem is that government keeps shifting what it wants.”


Over the next decade, 13 more squadrons will be retired as their aircraft age out of service, parliament’s standing committee on defence said in a December report.

The defence ministry declined to comment on the air force’s aircraft modernisation programme, saying it was not in a position to do so.

Lockheed, which had offered to shift its F-16 production line in Fort Worth, Texas, to India, said it had not been told of any change to the Indian plan for single-engine fighters.

“Our proposed F-16 partnership with India stands firm,” the company said in an email. Last year it picked Tata Advanced Systems as its local partner and said it was in talks with dozens of firms to build up the supplier network.

“The Government of India has not yet issued formal requirements but we are continuing to support government-to-government discussions and engage with Indian companies about F-16 industrial opportunities,” Lockheed said.

Sweden’s Saab was also caught off guard.

“We have seen the reports in the Indian media, but no new formal communication has been made to us regarding the fighter programme,” said Rob Hewson, Saab Asia Pacific’s head of communications.

France’s Dassault Systemes SE’s Rafale, the Eurofighter Typhoon and Russian aircraft are also potential contenders under the new requirements, the air force source and industry analysts said.

Admiral Harry Harris, the head of U.S. Pacific Command, told the U.S. House Armed Services Committee last month that India was considering the stealthy F-35, among other options. But the Indian air force said no request had been made to Lockheed for even a briefing on the aircraft.

An order the size of India’s is rare. The only comparable opportunity for the Super Hornet is Canada’s request for 88 fighters, which could be worth as much as $14.6 billion.

The Indian air force competition has echoes of a 2007 tender for 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft, for which Dassault was selected for exclusive negotiations. But the talks quickly bogged down over local production and prices, and in the end, the government ordered just 36 Rafales in 2016 for $8.7 billion.


The air force ideally would like a combination of lighter single-engine and twin-engine jets, as well as stealthy aircraft, but cannot afford such a range of foreign systems, analysts said.

A twin-engine foreign fighter would perhaps offer the best value while the Tejas finishes development, they said.

India’s annual defence capital procurement budget of $14 billion to $15 billion has to be spread over the army, navy, air force and the indigenous defence research organisation.

“The operational costs are going up with increased manpower, higher wages and general inflation. Ministry of Defence doesn’t have the luxury to go for too many platforms despite the rapidly falling squadron strength of the air force,” said Amber Dubey, partner and India head of aerospace and defence at global consultancy KPMG.

Boeing India President Pratyush Kumar said the company was ready to respond to any request from the air force.

“We will follow the MoD’s lead on their process and will be responsive to their needs if we are asked to provide any information,” he said.

Kumar said Boeing was committed to building the planes in India and had offered to help with India’s plans to develop its own advanced medium combat aircraft.

But the experience with the Rafale contract has made experts sceptical that the latest tender will proceed as planned.

Richard A. Bitzinger, visiting senior fellow at Singapore’s S.Rajaratnam School of International Studies, said he did not expect a resolution in even the next two to three years.

“I am never surprised by what the Indians do when it comes to their procurement tenders. They are constantly changing the rules, changing their minds, and often even cancelling orders mid-way through,” he said.

“The Indians have a remarkable knack for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.”


India’s Military Budget Challenge

The country continues to face the sober reality of both rising threats and serious resource constraints.

Despite the rising security threats it faces, India’s defense budget now stands at the lowest since the 1962 Sino-Indian border war, leading India’s Vice Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Sarath Chand, to lash out in the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defense last week about the difficulty this causes the Indian Army.
The Parliamentary Standing Committee report highlights the continuing deficiencies that the three services face in terms of military modernization, including the “Make in India’ initiative. The Army vice chief, in his unusually candid comments, made a case for capability upgrades by emphasizing the changing threat perception within the country as well as in the neighborhood. In his statement, Chand pointed to increasing “external strife and internal dissidence,” including Doklam. “China has become increasingly assertive,” he stated. On the western border, he pointed to the increased cross-border firing as well as terrorist attacks, asking that defense forces should therefore “get their due.”
The Army vice chief noted that capability development is almost impossible with the current capital expenditure outlay because the budget allocation does not cater to the scale of military modernization that is urgently required for the three services. In the army’s case, the budget allocated 268.16 billion Indian rupees ($4.14 billion) for modernization against the Army’s demand of 445.73 billion rupees, which is barely 60 percent of the requested funds.

The picture is similar with the other services as well. The navy wanted 356.95 billion rupees but was allocated only 200.04 billion rupees. But the air force had it the worst with projected figure of 776.95 billion rupees slashed down to 357.7 billion rupees. General Chand added that “the marginal increase in BE (Budget Estimate) barely accounts for the inflation and does not even cater for the taxes.”
While much of the public attention in India focused on the Army’s comments about the budget, the allocation for the Air Force and Navy (and the resultant modernization) deserves equal if not more attention. The Indian Air Force is down to 31 squadrons (despite wanting 42), while the Navy also faces significant shortfalls of ships and submarines as well as modernization of naval bases and facilities.
These deficiencies become all the more problematic because of the increasing tensions with China, from the Himalayas to the Indian Ocean. In addition, application of military power on the border areas will depend on the physical border infrastructure, which has remained pitiful on the Indian side of the border. China on the other hand, has a state of the art infrastructure relatively speaking – roads, railway networks, oil and logistic depots, in addition to a number of military and civilian airports. All of these indicate the far greater Chinese capacity to not only quickly mobilize forces on the border but also sustain them on the border areas for a relatively longer period of time.
The shortfalls in Indian defense budget allocations become even more serious when compared to China’s military spending. Earlier in the month, China announced its defense spending for 2018 at around 1.1 trillion yuan ($174.5 billion). Though that is almost certainly lower than the actual defense budget, India is spending less than one third of even this, at a time when India is claiming to be confronted with two and half war fronts.
It is going to be very difficult for India to match the Chinese defense budget, and it would be foolish even to try. But India could potentially attempt to generate greater military power by using its much more limited financial capacity more wisely. For example, India today has the world’s largest standing army, whose pension and salaries alone are sinking the Indian defense budget. India has to consider reducing the size of its army so that it can build a smaller but more capable force.
Of course, this runs into some problems considering that much of this large army is devoted to the ‘half war’: counterinsurgency operations in various parts of the country. The army and the government should consider alternate means of fighting such half wars, possibly by improving the large central paramilitary forces or even the state (provincial) police forces. What General Chand’s presentation demonstrated more than anything is that it is high time the political and military leaders took a hard look and make some hard decisions about how to manage India’s military security.


World class BrahMos missile with desi seeker becomes more lethal

In a major boost to Make-in-India initiative, supersonic cruise missile BrahMos fitted with Gen-Next new homegrown seeker was successfully flight tested against a designated target on Thursday.

It was first test of the world class weapon system with the indigenous seeker which has been entirely designed and developed by Defence Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL) and BrahMos Aerospace. The missile demonstrated its supreme operational capability with the new seeker.

The missile was fired from a Mobile Autonomous Launcher (MAL) deployed in full configuration at Pokhran test range in Rajasthan at about 8.42 am and hit the designated target meeting all mission parameters. All telemetry and tracking stations including naval ships near terminal point have tracked the trajectory.

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman congratulated Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), Armed Forces and defence industry for the successful flight test of BrahMos.

"The precision strike formidable weapon with Indian-made seeker flew in its designated trajectory and hit the target with pin-point accuracy. The successful test will further bolster our national security," Sitharaman tweeted.

The test came nearly four months after its successful maiden air launch from Indian Air Force’s front line fighter aircraft Sukhoi-30 MKI.

BrahMos missile system is the most lethal and potent weapon system for precision strike. It has all three versions - land, sea and air. The fire-and-forget missile has the capability to take on land targets by flying a combined high and low trajectory escaping enemy radar.

The nine meter long missile can travel at thrice the speed of sound and carry a conventional warhead weighing upto 300 kg. First tested for a range of 290 km, its strike range has been enhanced to 450 km after India’s full membership to the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR).

The missiles can be fired on three different targets or in a variety of other combinations near simultaneously. Having the capability of distinguishing a particular target from a group of targets, it has empowered all three wings of the Indian armed forces.

The missile, which derives its name from the Brahmaputra and Moskova rivers, was developed by an Indo-Russian joint venture after the two countries signed an agreement in February 1998.

The Indian army is the first army in the World to have a regiment of supersonic cruise missile with advanced capabilities.

On April 21, last year Indian Navy had successfully undertaken the firing of BrahMos missile from a ship. The long range variant of BrahMos was fired from Indian Naval Ship Teg, a Guided Missile Frigate, against a target on land.

Indigenous seeker ::

The successful development of indigenous seeker is considered a big achievement as it boosts precision strike capability. The seeker can also help other long range missile systems guiding them to hone in on the target precisely.

It is not Transfer of Technology (ToT) as the seeker has been created in India and by Indian scientists. Complete hardware, algorithm, logic and realisation of the device have been done in the country. The weapon system became more lethal with the desi seeker.

Director General of BrahMos Dr Sudhir Mishra said the new seeker is a joint effort made by DRDO and BrahMos team. "It is a great achievement for the strategic preparedness. The government is focusing on Make-in-India. But we have gone one step ahead by making the country a creative India," Mishra told 'The New Indian Express'.

A high level team including DRDO Chairman S Christopher, Scientific Advisor to Defence Minster G Satheesh Reddy and senior Army and IAF officials witnessed the launch. Programme Director Dashrath Ram and Project Director V Prameela who had led the effort for development of the seeker were part of the mission team.


Pakistan could become like 'Iran or North Korea on steroids': New US NSA

  • Media interviews with the new US National Security AdvisorJohn Bolton suggest that he believes Pakistan does need to be dealt with firmly
  • However, Bolton has also indicated that the US needs to strike a delicate balance in its relations with Pakistan
The US's new National Security Advisor (NSA) John Bolton, known for being an extreme hawk in diplomatic circles, may not be as hard on Pakistan as his President Donald Trump wants him to be.

Media interviews with Bolton - named NSA yesterday - from the recent past suggest that while he believes Pakistan does need to be dealt with firmly, the US needs to strike a delicate balance in the matter and leave the heavy lifting to China.

That's because Bolton - a former US ambassador to the UN - believes that Pakistan, a nuclear weapons state, is perpetually teetering on the brink of embracing Islamic extremism and terror. And pushing it too hard could well lead to it becoming "a terrorist country with nuclear weapons", or as Bolton described it last August to Breitbart.com, "Iran or North Korea on steroids".

Bolton's interview with Breitbart took place right after Trump announced his administration's new policy on Afghanistan, which entailed putting pressure on Pakistan to end what Trump described as "safe havens to agents of chaos and terror".

Bolton said he believes the US goal should be preventing the Taliban from taking back control and a key ally in the fulfilment of that goal, whether anyone likes it or not, is Pakistan.

"...it's clear the President wants to pressure Pakistan more. Well, I agree with that, and I think Obama didn't pressure them enough... But there's a real problem with simply saying, 'By God, we're going to squeeze Pakistan until they finally push the Taliban, the Haqqani network, Gulbuddin Hekmati out of the privileged sanctuaries they've had in Pakistan, push them back into Afghanistan, and stop supplying them, stop giving them weapons, stop giving them money' ", said Bolton to Breitbart.

Bolton said the problem with such an approach is that it might lead to a situation where anti-US sentiment fuels popular support for Islamist radicals and the Taliban.

"If you push too hard, this government in Pakistan is fragile. It has been since the partition of British India ...The military in Pakistan itself is at risk, increasingly, of being infiltrated through the officer ranks by radical Islamists. Many people believe the intelligence services unit already is heavily dominated by Islamists," he explained.

If radicals take over the Pakistan government completely, it's "the ultimate risk" said Bolton.

"...if Pakistani Taliban or other radicals took control of that country, it wouldn't just be another base to launch terrorist operations against us or Western Europe. It would be a terrorist country with nuclear weapons, so it would be Iran or North Korea on steroids right now," he warned.

Too much pressure on Pakistan could backfire, Bolton wrote last August in The Wall Street Journal.

"Putting too much pressure on Pakistan risks further destabilizing the already volatile country, tipping it into the hands of domestic radical Islamicists, who grow stronger by the day. In this unstable environment, blunt pressure by the U.S.—and, by inference, India — could backfire," said the the now NSA in a column for the Journal.

Here's where China can step in and should be pressured to, the new NSA said.

"China's influence is, in some ways, greater than ours" in Pakistan because "there wouldn't be a Pakistani nuclear weapons program without China."

China is the key to keeping the house of cards from collapsing in Pakistan, Bolton said in his Journal column from August.

"If American pressure were enough to compel Pakistan to act decisively against the terrorists within its borders, that would have happened long ago. What President Trump needs is a China component to his nascent South Asia policy, holding Beijing accountable for the misdeeds that helped create the current strategic danger," wrote Bolton.

The new US NSA has expressed similar views before last year as well. Following the finding and killing of 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden in Rawalpindi in 2011, there was a lot of opposition in the US Congress about continuing aid to Pakistan. Many in the US believed that Pakistan has been shielding bin Laden.

"There are few recipients of foreign aid that attract more opposition in Congress than Pakistan," said Bolton on Fox News in 2013.

But cutting off aid to Pakistan isn't the answer, Bolton said. The larger issue, he explained, is preventing terrorists from wresting control of the country's 60 to 100 nuclear weapons that could deploy to the U.S.

"You also have to weigh … [that] if we didn't support this (Pakistan) government, the government could fall to Pakistani radicals," he said, adding that's the reason aid to Pakistan should continue.

"There are times you have to grit your teeth," and pay, he said.


March 23, 2018

South-East Asian nations keen to buy BrahMos

Even as the most formidable anti-ship cruise missile – the BrahMos missile – was test fired on Thursday with an indigenous seeker at a Pokhran test range in Rajasthan, several South-East Asian countries, including Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia, apart from Vietnam, have evinced interest in purchasing the missile.

‘A boost to security’ ::

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman took to Twitter and congratulated the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) for the successful test flight of the precision strike weapon, adding that it would be a further boost to the country’s security.

The missile demonstrated its supreme operational capability with the new indigenous seeker, incorporated in this trial run and developed jointly by BrahMos Aerospace and DRDO. With an aim to bolster the in-house manufacturing capability of the missile and to propel indigenisation, both companies have teamed up with the private sector.

Export potential ::

Sources indicate the next step for the BrahMos is exports, and added that an export order could significantly upgrade military capabilities of any country purchasing the missile, even as it would raise concerns in China.

“An export order is high on the agenda, especially since China has reportedly sold a high-tech missile tracking system to Pakistan which will arm the neighbour’s military development,” the sources said. Both Pakistan and China are also developing Air Launched Cruise Missiles.

Commenting on the geopolitical situation, the sources said: “It [geopolitical situation] is tense and recently peaked between Vietnam and Beijing when the People’s Liberation Army threatened to attack Vietnamese posts in the South China Sea if a joint venture between Hanoi and Madrid to explore oil fields was not called off. Though India has very friendly relations with Vietnam, it is one among many countries to have shown an interest in the BrahMos,” said an executive.

Testing of variants ::

Hailed as the fastest cruise missile in the world, the BrahMos can be launched from both land and ship. The submarine-launch variants are still in their testing phase. An official pointed out that “indigenisation and optimisation were key” and that over the next 4-5 years, the BrahMos missile could achieve Mach 5 speed from the current Mach 2.8 by optimising materials and engines of the missile.

Godrej Aerospace, which recently delivered the 100th set of airframe assemblies for use in the missile systems, is one of the private companies that the DRDO is relying on in its quest to increase localisation. Speaking about the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP), a Defence Ministry programme for the research and development of a comprehensive range of missiles, Jamshyd Godrej, Chairman and Managing Director of Godrej & Boyce, told BusinessLine that it was “a cherished dream of former President APJ Abdul Kalam, who spoke often about the export of the BrahMos missile. After seeing the US-made Tomahawk’s success, India decided to acquire a precision attack cruise missile”.

Though India expressed interest in selling the missile to Vietnam in 2011, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia werealso keen on acquiring the missile at the Singapore Airshow held this February, and several other countries are looking at its high export potential.


New frontline fighter air base for IAF at Deesa

In a major move to boost infrastructure along the India-Pakistan border, New Delhi has cleared construction of a new frontline airbase at Deesa in Banaskantha district of Gujarat for the Indian Air Force (IAF). The construction of the airbase is expected to cost the Indian exchequer over Rs 1000 crore.

The decision to construct the airbase was taken recently at a meeting of Cabinet Committee on Security - the highest decision-making body on security headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

A top source told India Today, the Deasa Airbase will complement Bhuj and Nalia Airbase in Gujrat and the Bikaneer Airbase in Rajasthan.

The Deesa Airbase will play a critical role for the South Western Air Command (SWAC) against Pakistan. Deesa is near the border and will to bridge the aerial gaps in Indian Air Defence along the western border. The SWAC is tasked to protect the states of Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra.

Although in the plans for decades, construction of the airbase was not seen as a "priority" earlier, top government sources told India Today on conditions of anonymity.

Deesa has an airstrip and is used by civilian and charter flights. Apart from upgrading the airstrip, the IAF will be building blast-proof pens to keep fighters.

The airbase that will be the base of top line fighters will be spread over 4000 acres.

"Land had been acquired earlier, but previous governments had not moved on the proposal to build the airbase," sources said.

With India-Pakistan on slide and borders unusually active with repeated ceasefire violations and infiltration bids by Pakistan-based terrorist the "IAF had moved a fresh proposal to build a new airbase a few months ago," sources said.

Apart from plugging the existing aerial gaps in India's air defence, the airbase will protect vital industrial installations in Gujarat, top sources.


India Plans Up To 74% Foreign Investment In Defence Technologies Without Approval

India plans to allow higher foreign investments in niche defence technologies under the automatic route as the world’s largest importer of arms and defence equipment looks to boost local manufacturing.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration aims to increase the foreign direct investment cap from the current 49 percent to 74 percent in such technologies, according to a draft Defence Production Policy 2018 released by the Ministry of Defence. As of now, anything over the existing limit is allowed on a case-to-case basis.

India aims to be among the top five countries in aerospace and defence, the document said, seeking comments. The policy aims at reduced dependence on imports, and self-reliance in development and manufacturing of indigenous weapon systems. The government plans to increase the domestic production nearly threefold to Rs 1.7 lakh crore by 2025. The key focus, according to the draft, will be on:

Fighter aircraft
Medium lift and utility helicopters
Land combat vehicles
Autonomous weapon systems
Missile systems
Gun systems
Small arms
Ammunition and explosives
Surveillance systems
Electronic warfare systems
Communication systems
Night fighting enablers

Focus On Cyberspace And AI ::
The government is looking to tap the Indian information technology sector to gain an edge in cyberspace and artificial intelligence. It has emerged as the fourth domain of warfare and India, with its leadership in IT can use this technology tilt to its advantage, the draft said.

Licensing Regime ::
The government will list platform and weapon systems being considered for procurement in the next 10 years to help private firms understand the opportunities. It will also simplify ‘Make-II’ process for private companies to enter defence production. To that end, it will liberalise the regime by allowing licenses in 30 days, pruning the no-go areas to a small ‘negative list’ for licensing.

The government will also do away with ex ante, or forecast-based, capacity assessment except in critical projects. It will introduce earnest money deposits and performance guarantees as safeguards for others.

Offset Regime ::
The government proposes to set up an offsets ombudsman for resolving all such claims. Offsets—investments through a local partner to set up ecosystem of suppliers—would be investment linked.

Taxation: The policy aims to rationalise taxes on import of capital goods for services and inputs for defence and aims to prevent inversion of taxes.

Defence Industry Corridors ::
The policy aims to build defence industry corridors in partnership with states and on existing production facilities to create an ecosystem of supply chains of small businesses and original equipment makers. The government will spend Rs 3,000 crore each to create a special entity for developing such corridors.

Access To Testing Facilities ::
India will provide access to its testing facilities to the private sector. It will also set up common testing facilities, contributing up to Rs 100 crore per testing facility.

Exports ::
India is looking at Rs 35,000 crore of exports by 2025. It will promote made-in-India products through government-to-government agreements and line of credit. The Indian offset partners would be encouraged to take up export of parts and accessories.

Aerosopace ::
The government proposes to set up National Aeronautical Commission for better coordination and sharing of information and technologies. It plans to set up an aeronautical university along with Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. by equally sharing the costs.

It plans to transition automotive component manufacturers to aeronautical parts design and manufacturing.
 The government also plans to develop a civilian aircraft for 80-100 seats over the next seven years by leveraging the design and manufacturing capabilities developed in the country.

Boost For HAL ::
India wants to augment capacities to produce various platforms, including light combat aircraft, advance light helicopter, light combat helicopter, light utility helicopter and Dornier 228 for armed forces and exports.


March 21, 2018

India's armed forces got Rs 1.21 lakh crore less than what they demanded in budget

The government allocated Rs 76,765 crore less to the Army, Navy and Air Force in the defence budget than what they had sought to purchase new weapons, aircraft, warships and other military hardware.

The three forces had demanded Rs 1.60 lakh crore as capital outlay but were granted Rs 83,434 crore for the year 2018-19, according to the details placed before the Lok Sabha today by Minister of State for Defence Subhash Bhamre.

In the revenue outlay, which covers payment of salary, maintenance of establishments and other related expenditure, the allocation was Rs 35,371 crore less than what was demanded.

Overall the three forces were given Rs 1.21 lakh crore less than what they had demanded.

The three forces were known to be unhappy over inadequate allocation of resources, particularly for buying new weapons and platforms when the challenges on the borders with China and Pakistan were growing.

Reflecting the Army's anguish, Vice Chief of Army Lt Gen Sarath Chand has told a Parliamentary panel that the funds given to the force for the next fiscal were insufficient to deal with various security challenges.

He said the Army was struggling to make emergency procurements when China and Pakistan were modernizing their defence forces in "full swing".

According to the details provided by Bhamre in the Lok Sabha while replying to a question, the Army was given Rs 17,756 crore less in the capital outlay and Rs 24,755 crore less under the revenue head than what was sought by it.

Similarly, the Navy's demand for capital outlay was Rs 37,932 crore, but it was given Rs 20,848 crore which was Rs 17,084 less than its demand.

Under capital outlay, the Indian Air Force was given Rs 41,924 crore less than what was demanded by the force.

The minister said that if required, the schemes will be reprioritised to ensure that urgent and critical capabilities of the three forces are acquired.

An outlay of Rs 2.95 lakh crore was set aside for the defence budget for the next fiscal.

The allocation, which was 1.58 per cent of the GDP, was the lowest since 1962 when India and China fought a war.

Chand had said the inadequate allocation of funds will hit the Army's modernisation plan when the Chinese military was competing to reach the level of the US.

He had said 68 per cent of the Army's equipment is in the "vintage category", and the fund crunch will also impact the serviceability of the existing equipment and may even affect payment of installments for past purchases.


France Wanted India To Announce Talks For 36 More Rafale Fighters


Sources in the Defence Ministry told NDTV there is no immediate decision likely till the first tranche of Rafales start arriving in 2019. 


  1. French defence minister wrote to Nirmala Sitharaman last month
  2. She wanted talks for more Rafales to be announced during Macron's visit
  3. Government sources say talks likely after first Rafales arrive next year
A letter from the French Defence Minister Florence Parly addressed to her Indian counterpart Nirmala Sitharaman on February 26 indicates that the French government was keen to announce that both countries are in talks for 36 more Rafale jets for the Indian Air Force.

This was, however, not announced in the joint statement made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the visiting French President Emmanuel Macron in New Delhi on Saturday and it's unclear at what stage the talks presently lie.In her letter to Ms Sitharaman, Florence Parly wrote, "As written by the President of the French Republic to the Prime Minister of India on 25th October 2017, we would like to initiate discussions on the proposal of providing an additional thirty-six aircraft to the Indian Air Force, with a very significant share of Make in India." Ms Parly added, "A message to this effect during the visit would be particularly appreciated."

Senior sources in the Ministry of Defence Ministry whom NDTV spoke to in the days prior to the visit of the French President have said that while New Delhi has not ruled out a further acquisition of Rafale fighters, there is no immediate decision likely till the first tranche of Rafales, which are already on order, start arriving in 2019. These jets were ordered in 2016 in a controversial Rs. 58,000-crore government-to-government deal between India and France.
As far as the existing contract is concerned, "the construction of the aircraft intended for the Indian Air Force is progressing according to schedule" wrote Ms Parly in her letter. She added that France remains committed to fulfilling its offset commitments as part of the deal whereby manufacturing and other technology will be transferred to India as part of the overall deal worked out between both countries. "With regard to offsets, French companies are determined to establish long-term partnerships with public and private Indian companies. They have advanced. Thus, the Nagpur production unit should be able to manufacture the first components in spring."
 India and France have also been trying to close out a deal to co-develop and refine India's indigenous jet fighter engine, the Kaveri, a project where the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has been unable to meet project objectives. The Kaveri was meant to power India's Light Combat Aircraft Tejas which has, instead, had to rely on US manufactured General Electric GE-404 engines. The joint statement says ''the leaders noted ongoing discussions between DRDO and SAFRAN on combat aircraft engine and encouraged necessary measures and forward looking approaches to facilitate [an] early conclusion.''
 The acquisition of Rafale fighter jets for the Indian Air Force has been one of the most controversial defence deals every signed by India. In a statement yesterday, the Congress party claimed that the Rafale tender had resulted in ''a staggering loss of Rs. 12,632 crore'' since ''India is clearly paying an extra price of Rs. 350.90 crore per aircraft'' compared to what Qatar and Egypt are paying for jets they have ordered from Dassault, the manufacturer of the Rafale. These claims have been vociferously countered in the past with Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman recently telling reporters, "Don't compare it (the Rafale deal) with Bofors. There is no scam here."