July 31, 2018

U.S. Eases Export Controls For High-Technology Product Sales To India

In a major boost to India, the U.S. today eased export controls for high-technology product sales to it by designating it as a Strategic Trade Authorization-1 (STA-1) country, the only South Asian nation to be on the list.
Responding to a question at the first Indo-Pacific Business Forum organised by the U.S. Chambers of Commerce Wilbur Ross said the STA-1 designation “acknowledges” the India-U.S. security and economic relationship. The granting of STA-1 status to India comes after the U.S. recognised India as a “Major Defence Partner” in 2016, a designation that allows India to buy more advanced and sensitive technologies from America at par with that of the U.S.' closest allies.
The designation authorises the export, re-export and transfer (in-country) of specified items on the Commerce Control List (CCL) to destinations posing a low risk of unauthorised or impermissible uses.
Currently there are 36 countries on STA-1 list. India is the only South Asian country to be on the list. Other Asian countries designated as STA-1 are Japan and South Korea. Till recently India was designated as STA-2 countries along with seven others.
Ross said that India has partnered with the U.S. to improve its own export control regimes and has met most of the export control rules which the U.S. thinks are useful.
STA-1 status, Ross said, provides India with greater supply chain conditions for defence and other high-tech products. It increases the integrity with the U.S. systems and reduces time and resources needed to get licenses approved, the Commerce Secretary said.
According to the Department of Commerce, items that are eligible for export to STA1 destinations or nationals include items that are subject to control for: national security (NS), chemical or biological weapons (CB), nuclear nonproliferation (NP), regional stability (RS), crime control (CC) and significant items (SI).
The status can free $2.1 billion in trade, make U.S. exporters more competitive in the global marketplace, help provide India more advanced U.S. technology.
“This is a significant step. This is an important thing that I’m glad has happened,” Ben Schwartz of the U.S. India Business Council told PTI.
This is a recognition that the U.S. government put real trust in the Indian government in a way that hasn’t been the case before
Ben Schwartz, U.S. India Business Council
Over the past few years, Schwartz said India has basically build robust export control procedures that the U.S. government is competent in terms of their security and the fact that when things are exported there they'll remain controlled and not be diverted to alternative users.
One of the reasons to grant STA-1 status was to cut the amount of licenses that are required under the current number of exports that are coming from U.S. to India by half, he said.
This also comes following India's admittance into pretty much all the major non-proliferation regimes, the only one being Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). “I think everyone recognises that India has made a good faith effort to join the NSG and that it is not the Indian government that controls the outcome,” he said.


LCA Tejas production line ramped up, 16 fighters being manufactured every year

Besides, the 40 aircraft (20 IOC & 20 FOC), Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) has already cleared the acquisition of 83 LCA MK1A for IAF at a cost of over Rs 50,000 crore. 

 Indian Air Force (IAF) is grappling with a shortage of fighter aircraft and to tide over the situation the government had sanctioned Rs 1381.04 crore in March 2017 to ramp up the production of the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft Tejas from the existing eight jets per year to 16.
According to the Minister of State (Defence) Subhash Bhamre the IAF signed a contract with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for procurement of 20 Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) standard Tejas on March 31, 2006, which were to be completed by December 2011. The second contract between the IAF and HAL was signed on December 23, 2010 under which the delivery of 20 Final Operational Clearance (FOC) Tejas were to be completed by 2016.
Till date (July 30, 2018), the HAL had delivered nine Tejas fighters out of total 20 IOC aircraft (16 fighters and 4 trainers) to IAF.  The remaining 11 IOC Tejas (7 fighters and 4 trainers) are still under production at HAL. According to the minister, the IOC Tejas can undertake Air Defence Operations and conventional ground attack with heavy bombs.

The production of 20 FOC Tejas aircraft will be taken up after FOC clearance by Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) for which current target is December 2018, Bhamre said in a written reply to Telangana Rashtra Samithi MP Dr. Banda Prakash in the Rajya Sabha on July 30.
The minister also added that to ensure that the production rate of LCA Tejas is increased, major private partners are being involved who will undertake the construction of major modules while HAL will take on the role of lead integrator. The second line for structural and equipping activities at Aircraft Division, HAL will be established and the number of jigs for Front fuselage, Centre fuselage, Rear fuselage and Wings will also be increased.
The process to roll out a Tejas will be streamlined and the manufacturing cycle time reduced through improved supply chain management, learning and augmentation of manpower along with modularization of electrical looms for reduction of cycle time of aircraft looming.
Besides, the 40 aircraft (20 IOC & 20 FOC), Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) has already cleared the acquisition of 83 LCA MK1A for IAF at a cost of over Rs 50,000 crore.
Further, in order to bolster the IAF fighter squadron strength, the government has also planned to manufacture fighter aircraft through strategic partnership model.


Fully weaponised LCA delivery to IAF by Dec 2018

Further delaying complete weaponisation of the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft, the Aeronautical Development Agency has now scheduled the indigenous jet's Final Operational Clearance for December 2018.

“The current target date for FOC is December 2018. The production of 20 FOC aircraft will be taken up after the FOC clearance by Aeronautical Development Agency,” Subhash Bhamre, Minister of State for Defence said in a written response in the Rajya Sabha.

On March 31, 2006, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited signed a contract to deliver 20 LCA to the Indian Air Force in IOC (Initial Operational Clearance) configuration by December 2011. Out of these, only nine fighters have been delivered to the 45 Squadron of the IAF till date.

The production of the remaining 11 Tejas in the IOC configuration is now being taken up at the HAL. Out of the 11 jets, seven would be single seater combat aircraft and four would be twin-seat trainers.

In its present format, the LCA Tejas was capable of only undertaking air defence operations and conventional ground attack with heavy bombs, Bhamre said.

Even before the production of the aircraft began, HAL signed a second contract in December 2010 to deliver another 20 aircraft to the IAF in FOC configuration by 2016.

Bhamre said the government sanctioned Rs 1,381 crore to HAL in March 2017 to augment its production capacity from 8 aircraft in a year to 16 aircraft. The aircraft manufacturer has also taken a number of steps to fast pace the production cycle.

These include increasing the number of jigs for front, centre and rear fuselage and wings, modularisation of the electrical looms and outsourcing of major modules to private manufacturers with HAL playing the role of an integrator.

One key step towards FOC was achieved in April 2018, when Tejas successfully fired Derby Air-to-Air Beyond Visual Range Missile to expand the aircraft's firing envelope and demonstrated safe operation of the aircraft during missile plume ingestion into the aircraft engine under worst case scenarios.

Cost review ::

In November 2016, the Defence Acquisition Council of the Defence Ministry cleared acquisition of 83 Tejas LCA Mk1A for IAF at a cost of Rs 50,025 crore for which a quotation has been submitted by HAL. But the ministry has now decided for cost review of the project.

After 30 years of design, development and production work, the LCA achieved the IOC in December 2013 after a delay of eight years from the original schedule. At that time, the target deadline for the FOC was December, 2015, which was deferred thrice in the last three years.


Russia may export Project 22800 corvettes to Vietnam, India, China

Russia may supply Project 22800 corvettes codenamed Karakurt, armed with the Kaliber missiles, to Vietnam, China, India and other countries of the Asia-Pacific Region, Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov told reporters on Monday.

"These ships are very successful: they have a big tonnage, good armament, and Kaliber is the most important thing. The corvette has an acceptable price, it is small, compact and fast. I believe that it has a good export potential for a number of countries, especially from the Asia-Pacific Region - Vietnam, China, India and others," Borisov said.

Currently, the units of Russia’s Navy, namely the Baltic, the Northern, the Black Sea Fleet and the Caspian flotilla are equipped with the Karakurt-class corvettes, he said. "Now the construction of the first three vessels of this class has been launched at the Eastern shipyard. I think the new models’ production will heighten interest in them."

The Project 22800 corvettes (Karakurt) are a series of Russian multirole artillery missile vessels of the near maritime zone developed by the Almaz Central Maritime Design Bureau. The Russian Navy is due to receive a total of 18 small-sized Project 22800 ships, including the first two in 2018. The vessels are armed with high-precision missiles, modern artillery systems and Russian-made power plants.


Deck cleared for purchase of 111 naval utility helicopters

The defence ministry on Monday cleared “platform-specific” guidelines for the purchase of 111 naval utility helicopters under the ‘strategic partnership’ model to replace the Navy’s outdated fleet of French-designed Chetak choppers.

The government’s defence acquisition council (DAC), which defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman heads, discussed and approved implementation guidelines for key projects under the model to boost the indigenous defence sector and ensure timely delivery of military equipment, a ministry press release said.

The US, European and Russian rivals are expected to compete for the Rs 21,738-crore NUH programme by stitching up alliances with Indian firms under the government’s ‘strategic partnership’ model.

It would work as a template for cooperation between Indian and foreign firms to build high-tech weapons in the country.

The model is expected to give a push to several big-ticket projects, including those for building next-generation submarines, fighter planes and helicopters in the country. “All procurements under the strategic partnership would be executed by specially constituted Empowered Project Committees to provide focused attention and ensure timely execution,” the press release said.

It added that the model sought to revitalise the defence industrial ecosystem and build indigenous capabilities in the private sector to design, develop and manufacture complex systems to meet the military’s future needs.

As part of the NUH project, 16 choppers would be bought in a flyaway condition from a foreign military contractor, and the remaining 95 will be built in the country in partnership with an Indian firm. Even under the Make in India plan, the country’s arms procurement rules allow for the direct purchase of weapons and systems from the foreign vendor in keeping with the ‘strategic partnership’ policy.It stipulates that “a minimum number of platforms, not exceeding 10-15% of the units being procured, may be manufactured on the premises of the original equipment manufacturer”.

The navy uses such choppers for several purposes, including search and rescue operations, medical evacuation, communication duties, anti-piracy and anti-terrorism operations, humanitarian assistance, surveillance and targeting.

The twin-engine helicopter will have wheeled landing gear and blade-fold capability. India wants the choppers built in the country to have 40% indigenous content.


July 30, 2018

Indian firm to supply heavy vehicles to Army

For the first time, an Indian vehicle manufacturer will deliver heavy duty, high mobility vehicles for the Army’s Russian-built Smerch Multi-Barrel Rocket launchers (MBRL) as well to carry strategic missiles developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).

In April, Ashok Leyland was awarded a ₹100-crore contract for 81 high mobility 10x10 vehicles by the Army to replace the Russian vehicles which currently carry the Smerch launchers.

“The delivery will start in this financial year and will be completed in the next financial year,” said Amandeep Singh, head of Defence, Ashok Leyland.

To reduce imports ::

The tender for the vehicles was floated by the Army in 2015 and trials were completed in 2017-end, with three contenders in the race. The 10x10 vehicle is powered by the Ashok Leyland 360HP Neptune engine and can carry a maximum load of 27 tonnes at a maximum speed of 60 kmph. Some of the vehicles will be fitted with rocket handling cranes.

“This will reduce dependency on imports. It [the vehicle] has undergone extensive trials by the Army. The feedback is that our vehicle is superior to the Russian vehicles in use. These are fully designed, developed and built in India,” Mr. Singh said.

Ashok Leyland also won a tender from the DRDO to develop an even heavier 12x12 vehicle to mount the country’s long range strategic missiles. These vehicles can carry a maximum load of 34 tonnes.

An Army source observed that indigenising vehicles is a key step in improving the maintenance and efficiency of the Army’s logistics chain. In recent years, Indian vehicle manufacturers have managed to develop a variety of heavy and specialist vehicles required by the Armed Forces, thereby reducing import dependency.

India initially procured two regiments of the 12-tube, 300 mm Smerch systems from Russia under a ₹2,600 crore signed in end 2015, and later procured additional systems under a second deal in 2007. Each regiment has two batteries of six launchers each. The Smerch has a maximum range of 90 km.


Government to unveil key policy next month to make India defence manufacturing hub

The government is likely to unveil a major policy next month outlining a roadmap to build a robust defence production industry and make India one of the top five manufacturers of military equipment and platforms in the next 10 years.

Official sources said the final touches are being given to the policy before it is being placed before the Union Cabinet for approval.

They said a significant focus of the defence production policy (DPP-2018) will be to invest adequate resources to develop critical technology for manufacturing state-of-the-art military platforms including fighter jets, attack helicopters and weaponry indigenously.

The DPP-2018 is likely to be released next month, the sources said.

According to the draft policy, the government is looking at achieving a turnover of Rs 1,70,000 crore in military goods and services by 2025.

A Swedish think tank, in a report in March, said India remained the largest importer of military hardware in the world in the last five years, adding Indian imports of major weapons rose by 111 per cent in the last five years compared to 2004-08.

Officials said the aim of the DPP would be to indigenously develop all major platforms which are being imported since in the last six decades.

According to official figure, India inked 187 contracts worth Rs 2.40 lakh crore with foreign and domestic firms for various military equipment and weapons in the last four years. However, majority of the projects are yet to take off due to procedural delays.

Officials said the DPP is also likely to simplify the procurement process by cutting several layers of approval which often cause delays.

They said the policy aims to make India one of the top five manufacturers of defence platforms with active participation of public and private sectors.

The draft policy released in March listed as major objective export of Rs 35,000 crore in military equipment and services by 2025.

The government identified 12 military platforms and weapons systems for production in India to achieve the aim of “self-reliance”.

They are fighter aircraft, medium lift and utility helicopters, warships, land combat vehicles, missile systems, gun systems, small arms, ammunition and explosives, surveillance systems, electronic warfare (EW) systems and night fighting enablers, among others.

According to the policy, the government aims to make one of the top five manufacturers of military equipment and platforms in the next 10 years as well as to fulfil demand of other friendly countries.

The draft policy says the licensing process for defence industries will be liberalised and the list of items requiring licences will be reviewed and pruned.


US likely to slash Pakistan’s defence aid from $700 million to $150 million

The US is likely to drastically reduce Pakistan’s security-related aid, from $700 million this year to $150 million next year, an indication, experts say, that the country may finally be giving up on its difficult ally’s ability to walk the talk on counter-terrorism.

The defence spending bill for 2019, headed for President Donald Trump’s desk for his signature, perhaps as early as next week, does not link future payments of security-related aid to Pakistan to the country’s counter-terrorism efforts as had become the practice in recent years, going back to at least 2015. Missing from the current document are words and phrases that had come to be associated with financial assistance to Islamabad such as the “Haqqani Network”, “safe havens” and “counter-terrorism”.

But Pakistan will have to pay for this reprieve, should it think of it as such, with drastically reduced security-related funding. That could be as low as $150 million, according to experts who have followed US funding for Pakistan, a non-NATO ally that is now called by most American officials and lawmakers a “duplicitous” ally or “frenemy”.

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) 2019, as the defence spending bill is known, cuts the flow of defence-related security aid for Pakistan, abulk of which earlier went under the Coalition Support Fund (CSF) as reimbursement for expenses incurred in support of the US-led international coalition in Afghanistan.

Under CSF, which has also been called “legal bribery to Pakistan’s generals”, Islamabad. has received $14.5 billion since 2002, the year after the US entered Afghanistan.

Pakistan will now get this drastically reduced aid, against new conditions, which experts have said are far easier to fulfil, under a different head ( border security operations) along with others countries such as Jordan, Tunisia, Lebanon, Egypt and Oman.

“… To the Government of Pakistan for purposes of supporting and enhancing efforts of the armed forces of Pakistan to increase security and sustain increased security along the border of Pakistan with Afghanistan,” the bill says.

The bill was passed by the US House of Representatives on Thursday.

Anish Goel, a former White House official and a former senior member of the US senate armed services committee staff who used to write the South Asia and relevant parts of the defence spending bills until 2017 (he has moved on since), said: “The legislation reduces the total amount of funds provided for reimbursement to Pakistan to $150 million. This is a significant reduction from the $700 million that was available through CSF last year.”

Another expert, who has studied US funding for Pakistan for years, agreed with that assessment, and said on condition of anonymity that the NDAA 2019 had cut “total global CSF authorization to $350 million and, within that, Pakistan will be limited to $150 million”, but as reimbursement for border-security operations, not CSF. The remaining $200 million will be “available” to reimburse Pakistan or other nations as CSF, “but is unlikely to be used for that purpose”.

While cutting the fund, Goel said, the “legislation gets rid of the certification requirements for Pakistani action against the Haqqani Network and it also gets rid of the authority to reimburse Pakistan for counterterrorism. Hence, the Pentagon no longer has any tools to apply pressure to the Pakistanis to undertake counterterrorism activities or action against the Haqqani Network.”

Here is what the defence bill for 2018 said about conditions tied to half of the $700 million set aside for Pakistan this year. The secretary of defence had to certify that “Pakistan continues to conduct military operations that are contributing to significantly disrupting the safe havens, fundraising and recruiting efforts, and freedom of movement of the Haqqani Network in Pakistan; Pakistan has taken steps to demonstrate its commitment to prevent the Haqqani Network from using any Pakistan territory as a safe haven and for fundraising and recruiting efforts; the Government of Pakistan is making an attempt to actively coordinate with the Government of Afghanistan to restrict the movement of militants, such as the Haqqani Network, along the AfghanistanPakistan border; and Pakistan has shown progress in arresting and prosecuting senior leaders and mid-level operatives of the Haqqani Network.”

The language, text and words had been similar, though not the same, in all the previous defence spending legislations going back at least to the 2015 NDAA passed the year before in 2014.

And here are the new conditions that will need to be certified by the secretary of defense for clearing reimbursements for border-security operations: “The military and security operations of Pakistan pertaining to border security and ancillary activities for which reimbursement is sought have been coordinated with United States military representatives in advance of the execution of such operations and activities. The goals and desired outcomes of each such operation or activity have been established and agreed upon in advance by the United States and Pakistan. A process exists to verify the achievement of the goals and desired outcomes established in accordance with the “above” paragraph. The Government of Pakistan is making an effort to actively coordinate with the Government of Afghanistan on issues relating to border security on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.”

A former defence department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity said these “certs (certifications) are more generic and easier to pass”.


July 28, 2018

Wooing by weapons: What Washington signals by approving sale of armed Sea Guardian drones to India

Amidst the panic over the future of the Atlantic alliance and the furore over the Trump-Putin Helsinki bromance, a small but significant news item has gone virtually unnoticed. The quietly announced US approval for the sale of unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAV) to India has acknowledged India’s strategic autonomy while underscoring its value as an ally against rising China. With the Sea Guardian drone sale under its belt, India may now be allowed to purchase the Russian anti-missile defence system when senior US officials arrive in Delhi for the 2+2 meeting on September 6.

Of course, in the Trump era, a month is an eternity and things could change with a single tweet. Indeed, both of the previously scheduled 2+2 meetings were cancelled last minute, first when then secretary of state Rex Tillerson was fired (by tweet) and later when his replacement was unexpectedly dispatched to Pyongyang. But the fact that the US appears inclined to accommodate India – evident in the sale of the previously denied armed Sea Guardian drone (a weapon previously sold only to Nato allies) – hopefully marks a lasting shift, matching America’s growing anxiety about China.

In a way, debate over the acquisition of the UCAV has become intertwined with India’s quest for “strategic autonomy”. India has increasingly looked at drones to protect its borders and vast coast line. The 26/11 Mumbai attack by the sea-borne Pakistani terrorists remains a vivid reminder of India’s vulnerabilities. The threat from the sea has grown since with the increased Chinese naval presence in the Indian Ocean. The acquisition of the Sea Guardian (the naval variant of the MQ-9B Reaper) drone would afford India the means to address this vulnerability.

But the sale is contingent on India signing the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) – namely, the encrypted data and communication system needed to operate the US-supplied weapons and allow interoperability. Earlier India balked at signing this for fear of opening up its secure communication systems to Washington and compromising its strategic autonomy. According to reports, this concern has been addressed with the US agreeing to have the communications link apply only to US-supplied weapons.

Resolution of the communications hurdle also raises the possibility that Washington would agree to a waiver on mandated sanctions against India for its planned purchase of Russia’s S-400 system. Under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, sanctions are automatically imposed on countries acquiring weapons from some Russian state-controlled defence firms. However, given the fact that both defence secretary Jim Mattis and secretary of state Mike Pompeo have urged Congress to issue national security waivers, and that both Democrats and Republicans are concerned about winning over countries against China, there is a good chance that India, Indonesia and Vietnam will be granted waivers. Although feelings are running high against Russia for its past and present interference in US elections, worries about China could outweigh concerns about Russian military sales to friendly countries.

While President Donald Trump has upended the decades-old Western alliance through his transactional approach, and angered Nato by currying favour with Putin, India has managed to stay above the fray. With the exception of a minor spat over US tariffs on Indian steel and aluminium exports, India has managed to avoid featuring in Trump’s Twitter rants. Seen by the entire Washington establishment as a friendly power and an increasingly solid customer for US military hardware (the purchase of 22 Sea Guardian drones at $2-3 billion could create 2,000 American jobs), India finds itself in a calmer spot in the Trump-induced turbulence. The fact that Washington is wooing India by opening its hitherto prohibited military store does increase the prospect of angering China but by the same token increases India’s leverage.

Through lucky convergence, India finds itself in a sweet spot but it will need to sharpen its balancing skills as unexpected gusts of wind – or surprise tweets – could easily push its strategic autonomy efforts off-course.


China To Conduct First Test Of Russia-made S-400 Air Defence Systems In August: TASS

China will reportedly test the newly acquired Russia-made S-400 Air Defence Systems for the first time next month, TASS reports Friday.

"It is planned that in late July-early August the unit of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, which underwent training in Russia, will carry out the firing against a simulated ballistic target at a Chinese firing ground," a military and diplomatic source was quoted as saying by the Russian media outlet.

TASS had reported Wednesday that China received the first batch of S-400s last week, after the document was signed, the systems passed into China’s ownership.

News that Russia signed a contract for sales of S-400 systems to China broke in November 2014. In November 2015, Russian president’s adviser on military technical cooperation Vladimir Kozhin confirmed these reports. China became the first foreign buyer of these systems and will receive two batches.

The S-400 Triumf is a long-and medium-range air defense missile system designed to hit air attack weapons (including stealth aircraft), and also any other air targets. As of today, the S-400 can hit targets at a distance of up to 250 km.


'5 Sheds, 90 Army Tents, 30 Heavy Vehicles': How China is Ramping Up 'Activity' in Doklam

Hours after reports of a top US official, claiming resumption of construction activities in the disputed Doklam area came out, News18 spoke to a few highly placed sources to find out the nature of this construction work.

It turns out that the Chinese are resuming the same project — to connect Doklam (or Doka la as India officially refers to it) to the rest of its network of roads — whose development led to protests from India and the 73 day stand-off between troops from both countries in June last year, before a "disengagement" was announced on August 28. Sources say that a "major construction" work is right now going on in the area.

Sources said that on March 23, the Chinese started work on 12 km stretch of road connecting Doka La with a Chinese forward military base called Yatung. This construction is happening in an area called Merug La.

Sources say that between eight to ten construction vehicles have been seen in the area, five temporary sheds have been constructed possibly to conceal the construction activity from Indian satellites, nearly 90 tents have been pitched to house Chinese military and workers. Also 30 heavy vehicles have been seen in the area.

The motive behind building this road is to connect Doka la plateau with the network of Chinese highways, one of which – the S-204, ends in the forward military base of Yatung located in the northeast of the Nathu La pass. The road from Yatung goes towards Asam and from there some pathways connect it to Doka la.

However, Minister of State for External Affairs Ministry V K Singh rubbished the claims, saying that there have been no new developments at the site of the face-off with China in Doklam and its vicinity, and status quo prevails in the area.

"Since the disengagement of Indian and Chinese border personnel in the Doklam area on August 28, 2017, there have been no new developments at the faceoff site and its vicinity. The status quo prevails in this area," Singh said in a written reply to a question in Rajya Sabha on whether China has constructed new roads in the southern part of the Doklam Plateau.

But reports say that Chinese have been carrying out not just civil infrastructure work in the Doka la area. Earlier this year in January, several media reports had highlighted a massive construction work by Chinese of a full-fledged military complex near the disputed plateau area. These reports went on to state that the Chinese were preparing themselves for another Doka La style face-off.

Reacting to these reports, Chinese officials had defiantly remarked, “We will keep building infrastructure in Doklam and India has no business to comment on construction activity on Chinese territory.”

The Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Lu Kang was quoted as saying, “China is exercising its sovereignty in its own territory. It’s legitimate and justified. Just as China will not make comments about Indian construction of infrastructure on India’s territory, we hope other countries will not make comment on China’s construction of infrastructure on its territory.”

He had also added, “China's position on the Donglong (Doklam) area is quite clear. Donglong always belonged to China and always under China's effective jurisdiction. There is no dispute in this regard.”

The “major construction” work that the Chinese are carrying out in the Doka la area was perhaps one of the things that G Wells, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, had in mind when she responded to a query in a Congressional hearing, when she said that the Chinese had quietly resumed their activities in Doka la.

The question was posed by Congresswomen Ann Wagner, “Although both countries back down, China has quietly resumed its activities in Doklam and neither Bhutan nor India has sought to dissuade it. China's activities in the Himalayas remind me of its south China Sea policies. How should our failure to respond to the militarisation of the South China Sea inform the international response to these Himalayan border disputes?”

To this, Wells responded, “I would assess that India is vigorously defending its northern borders and this is a subject of concern to India… we're trying to gather like-minded countries who can bring resources to the table, who can coordinate assistance and an effort so as to provide countries with meaningful alternatives.”


Flying in the face of facts: Rahul Gandhi’s allegations on Rafale are based on rumours

Apart from a hug and a wink that hijacked the debate on the ‘no-confidence’ motion in Parliament for a while last Friday, one of the other contentious issues raised in the Parliament was the acquisition of Rafale fighter jets by India in 2016. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi essentially made two claims on the Rafale issue: First, the NDA government paid an inflated price as compared to the UPA’s price for the fighter jets and two, the government favoured a private company over the Defence Public Sector Unit, the Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd or HAL. On both counts, the man who aspires to become the Prime Minister of India one day was economical with the truth.

For one, the UPA government had been unable to arrive at a price for Rafale jets despite a tortuous seven-year-long process. The events need a bit of a recap to put the matter in the right perspective. The competition to acquire 126 Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) for the Indian Air Force began in 2007.

In 2010, the evaluation committee of the IAF shortlisted two aircraft — the Eurofighter Typhoon and the Rafale aircraft fielded by the Dassault Aviation (DA) — after vigorous field trials and forwarded the recommendation to Defence Minister AK Antony. Antony took almost a year to accept the recommendation. It was already 2011.

For the next two years, certain aspects related to License Manufacture of 108 aircraft in India with HAL as the lead production agency could not be finalised. Major differences occurred on the aspect of ‘Man Hours’ that would be required to produce the aircraft from kits in India and who would take the responsibility for entire lot of 126 aircraft. While the DA maintained that the 31 Million Man Hours it has proposed should be sufficient to produce 108 Rafale aircraft in India, HAL was asking for mark up of this Man Hours by 2.7 times. This became the bone of contention between the government and the French manufacturer.

The UPA government, with an overly cautious AK Antony as the defence minister, instead of imposing a deadline for the French manufacturer to comply with the terms of the RFP, dragged its feet and allowed Dassault Aviation to get away with obfuscation. Moreover, in an unusual move, Antony instructed the Cost Negotiating Committee (CNC) to bring the file back to him after concluding the CNC to re-examine the integrity of the process before proceeding to finalise the contract, creating confusion and doubt in the minds of the officials who were negotiating with the manufacturer. Even as talks got deadlocked, the government changed in Delhi.

As the new political leadership was briefed about the impasse, MoD officials were told to try and break the deadlock as soon as possible since the IAF’s fleet of fighter aircraft was depleting alarmingly. On November 10, 2014, meanwhile Manohar Parrikar took over as Defence Minister.

As the CNC members took the matter to Parrikar, he realised the process had been convoluted to such an extent that it would have been impossible to take it forward. He, however, knew from the briefings given by the IAF, there was no time to lose in acquiring fighter jets. The number of effective squadrons was going down rapidly. Parrikar realised that another round of MMRCA kind of competition would have taken enormous time and effort. So he took the matter to the Prime Minister and briefed him about the necessity of procuring the fighter. At the same time, Parrikar told Modi it would be legally untenable to go through with the MMRCA contract since the process had got vitiated completely, thanks to Antony’s indecisiveness and a crucial oversight in the original terms of the contract.

Under the circumstances, there was no alternative but to withdraw the original tender. Parrikar told Modi since the CVC (Central Vigilance Commission) guidelines provide that negotiations cannot be held with the competitor who has come second in the contract (L2 vendor in officialese), the only way was to scrap the tender and buy a minimum number of Rafale jets off the shelf to fill a critical gap in the IAF’s inventory. The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) gave its approval to the new proposal before Modi left for Paris on April 9, 2015.

Once the in-principle decision was taken, it was left to Parrikar and his team in the MoD to negotiate the eventual price for buying the 36 jets. Their confidence bolstered by the PMO, the Parrikar-led MoD drove a hard bargain with the French. But it wasn’t until another 15 months later — in September 2016 — that India finally signed the contract.The final negotiated price for 36 Rafale package, along with initial consignment of weapons, Performance-based Logistics (PBL), simulators along with annual maintenance and associated equipment and services was fixed at 7890 million Euros. The average unit cost of Rafale aircraft thus turned out to be 91.7 million Euros (going by the Euro-to-rupee conversion rate at the time of signing the contract it meant each aircraft would cost Rs 688.30 crore and not Rs 1500 or Rs 1700 crore as quoted by some analysts). Under the scrapped MMRCA, the French were asking for anything between 100 and 110 million Euros per aircraft and without India-specific enhancements.

The lower price apart, the Rafales for IAF will have 13 India-Specific Enhancement (ISE) capabilities which are not present in the Rafale aircraft being operated by other countries. These enhancements will provide a significant capability edge to the IAF over India’s adversaries.

Clearly, Rahul Gandhi is unaware of these facts or is deliberately choosing to ignore the reality. Also, to say a private company, allegedly close to the Prime Minister will stand to benefit because of nepotism, is also contrary to facts. Dassault Aviation like any other original equipment manufacturer is free to choose its offset partners. Several private companies and not just one besides the Govt of India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) will execute the offset obligations (supply defence industrial goods, or absorb some of the technology) and NOT co-produce Rafale as described by the uninitiated. Clearly, the Congress is hoping that noise will prevail over facts.


July 27, 2018

Indian Air Force launches new effort to revamp Jaguar fleet

The Indian Air Force has launched a new drive to revamp its 118 Jaguar ground attack fighters with new engines, airframes and spares from overseas grounded fighters.

The effort would also speed up the upgrade with new avionics, communication, active electronically scanned array radars and airborne weapon systems.

“The drive is a part of new plan that calls for optimal utilization of funds to ramp up the existing Jaguar fighters fleet to give new operational life for another 20 years,” a senior Ministry of defence official said. The effort calls for spending as much as $3 billion in the next five years, he noted.

A senior service official said the IAF is speeding up sourcing old Jaguar fighters from overseas that would be dismantled later to use airframes, engines and other spares parts.

“By end of this year, state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, the nodal agency to carry out the Jaguar fighters modernization, will receive old Jaguar aircraft from France and Oman for free as a ‘gift’ and at a throwaway price from United Kingdom,” the official said.

Additional Jaguars from other countries are being procured to ensure that common spare parts are available for the next 15 years or so, said another IAF official. The services currently face resource challenges in terms of spares, because both HAL and the original equipment manufacturer BAE Systems have stopped Jaguar production and have closed the assembly lines.

In addition, the MoD is finalizing a direct purchase of F-125IN engines from Honeywell in the U.S. to be installed in the Jaguar fleet. HAL will buy 200 F-125IN engines off the shelf from Honeywell at a cost of $5 million per piece for 80 Jaguar fighters. Of these, 160 engines will be integrated with 80 Jaguar fighters, and the remaining 40 engines will be kept for reserve.

Currently, the IAF Jaguar fleet is powered by Adour Mk811 engines, made by the British firm Rolls-Royce.

A limited global tender was floated by HAL in 2011 to acquire high-thrust engines for the Jaguar fighter fleet, and only two companies — Honeywell and Rolls-Royce — responded. The tender was withdrawn last year when Rolls-Royce withdrew from the bidding.

Daljit Singh, a defense analyst retired IAF air marshal, noted that "installation of a new engine requires major installation work, which has made the upgrade plan quite complicated. It appears that the upgrade plan has been made too ambitious, contributing to the delay in implementation.“

Singh said improved strike capability could actually be more beneficial, but the modification of 60 twin-seat Jaguar fighters, termed as the upgraded Jaguar DARIN-III program, is going at a very slow pace by HAL. Launched in 2011, HAL has only delivered six upgraded prototypes after obtaining initial operation clearance in November 2016 at a cost of $6 million per unit.

Under the new upgrade plan, HAL is also mounting active electronically scanned array EL/M-2052 radar from Elta of Israel, which will provide capability to simultaneously track enemy fighters, guide missiles, and jam enemy communications and radar. In addition, upgraded DARIN-III Jaguar fighters will be capable to launch AGM-88 HARM missiles and CBU-105 sensor-fuzed weapons. HAL has built 120 Jaguar deep penetration strike aircraft under technology transfer from BAE Systems.


Army blocks Sikkim 'incursion' by China

Indian soldiers formed a human chain to block Chinese troops who had transgressed 2km into Sikkim early this month in the latest eyeball-to-eyeball faceoff between the two armies since their Doklam standoff last year, according to reports security agencies sent recently to the Centre.

The alleged incursion by People's Liberation Army troopers took place in Naku in Sikkim's West District.

"Around 50 PLA troops had transgressed into Indian territory near Naku leading to a faceoff. The Chinese troops were adamant and remained there for four hours and refused to budge. There was no firing and the Indian side held up banners advising them to vacate the space," an Intelligence Bureau official told The Telegraph, quoting from the report.

The faceoff could have snowballed into a major flare-up but the Indian side outnumbered their rivals, the official said.

"After the four-hour-long persuasion failed, nearly 100 Indian soldiers formed a human chain to block the movement of the Chinese troops. A heated argument took place and the situation was later brought under control after a banner drill and the PLA troops finally marched back to their territory," the official said.

Transgressions and frequent skirmishes are not new on the 3,488km India-China disputed border along Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir. What has baffled security agencies is that the theatre of the recent faceoff was in the same sector where troops of both countries were locked in a tense 10-week standoff last year at Doklam, a plateau that sits at the tri-junction of their border with Bhutan.

The exact date of the latest intrusion is not clear. But sources said it took place days after a high-level Chinese military delegation, led by the deputy chief of its Western Theatre Command, Lt Gen. Liu Xiaowu, visited the 33 Corps headquarters at Sukna in north Bengal and the eastern army headquarters in Calcutta early this month.

The visit, to carry forward confidence-building measures between the two armies, was the first such by a PLA delegation since the Doklam confrontation.

The latest faceoff has assumed significance amid media reports on Thursday that quoted a US official as saying that "China has quietly resumed its activities in the Doklam area and neither Bhutan nor India has sought to dissuade it".

Later in the evening, the ministry of external affairs (MEA) issued a statement saying the reports were "incorrect".

"I would reiterate that since the disengagement of Indian and Chinese border personnel in the Doklam area on August 28, 2017, there have been no new developments at the faceoff site and its vicinity. Status quo prevails in this area," an MEA spokesperson said.

Government sources said the Indian Army was stepping up its strategic infrastructure development programme along the China border and pushing for better roads near the disputed areas, in what is being seen as an attempt to pre-empt another Doklam-like standoff and future intrusions apart from ensuring better deployment of forces and "enhancing capability".

Earlier, in January, India's foreign ministry and army chief Bipin Rawat had contradicted each other on the prevailing situation at Doklam.

While the ministry had maintained that there had been no change in the status quo at the faceoff site in Doklam, Gen. Rawat said the Chinese military had carried out some infrastructure development in the area.

Later, in March, defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman had informed Parliament that China was building infrastructure, including helipads, sentry posts and trenches, in Doklam.

Minister trip ::

Chinese defence minister Wei Fenghe has accepted an invitation to visit India and plans to do so by this year-end, Reuters quoted China as saying on Thursday.


July 26, 2018

Boeing Aims for Indian Navy’s 57 New Carrier-based Multirole Fighters Contract

U.S. aircraft maker Boeing has finished detailed capability studies that conclude that the company's F/A-18E Block III Super Hornet, a supersonic twin-engine carrier-capable multirole fighter jet based on the McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet, will be able to operate heavily Boeing armed from the flight deck of India's first domestically built aircraft carrier, the future INS Vikrant, designated Indigenous Aircraft Carrier 1 (IAC-1), according to local media reports.

“We have answered queries from the Indian Navy and the simulation analysis is done,” Dan Gillian, Program Manager F/A-18 at Boeing was quoted as saying by The Economic Times earlier this week. “At some point we will also take off from a U.S. Navy ski jump. We feel very comfortable that we will pass the requirements with a meaningful and significant payload."

The future INS Vikrant is fitted with a ski-jump assisted Short Take-Off But Arrested Recovery (STOBAR) launch system for launching aircraft. The F/A-18, however, has been designed to operate from U.S. flattops using a catapult assisted take-off but arrested recovery (CATOBAR) aircraft launch system, which allows for the deployment of far heavier and better armed fighter jets than the STOBAR launch system.

"The F/A-18E aircraft would be ideally suited for carriers using CATOBAR aircraft launch system," I explained in 2017. "The heavier weight of the F/A-18 in comparison to the current mainstay of Indian naval aviation, the Russian-made MiG-29K Fulcrum fighter jet, would make launches of the U.S. aircraft from STOBAR launch systems technically more challenging and would require a reduction of the fighter jet's armament.”

Consequently, the recently concluded Boeing study is meant to assuage fears of the Indian Navy that the F/A-18E Block III would have to operate in reduced capacity from the deck of the Vikrant. The Indian Navy intends to procure 57 new carrier-based multirole fighters for its new Vikrantclass aircraft carriers, which is slated to include the future 65,000-ton flattop INS Vishal, the second ship of the Vikrant-class.

According to the Indian Navy, the future INS Vishal will carry up to 55 aircraft (35 fixed-wing combat aircraft and 20 rotary wing aircraft). The aircraft will be launched using CATOBAR aircraft launch system, which may include U.S. defense contractor's General Atomics' new electromagnetic aircraft launch system (EMALS) technology also found on the U.S. Navy's new Gerald R. Ford-class carriers.

However, the Indian Ministry of Defense (MOD) has so far still not given the greenlight for moving forward with the acquisition of the second Vikrant-class carrier. The first-of-lass Vikrant is expected to enter sea trials in early 2020.

The other two aircraft candidates for forming the Vikrant-class' future air group are the naval variant of the Dassault Rafale and the Russian-made MiG-29K Fulcrum fighter jet, although the latter is not seen as a serious contender. Earlier this year, Boeing has also partnered up with India's state-run Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) and Mahindra Defence Systems for a separate bid to sell 110 fighter aircraft to the Indian Air Force.


What is so special about Rafale fighter jet? Here's the lowdown

India in September 2016 inked a direct deal with the French government to purchase 36 new Rafale fighter jets in a 7.87 billion euro deal that is likely to bring major work to the Indian private sector in terms of offsets under the make in India policy.
The Rafale deal for 36 jets includes over 3 billion euros of work for the Indian industry over the next 7-8 years according to top defence ministry officials. "This has a huge potential to develop direct and indirect employment opportunities in India," the official said. Besides high end technology like engine know-how, major structural assembly is also likely in India, besides a chunk of avionics work. 
India will also get latest weapons like the Meteor and Scalp missiles as part of the contract, besides a 5 year support package that assures high availability of the fighter. India will pay a 15 % advance and deliveries are to start in three years. 
The deal was inked after negotiations that last close to 18 months, with Indian negotiators finally bringing down the price by 328 million euros. 
In November 2017, Congress alleged a 'huge scam’ in Rafale fighter jets deal. Saying that the contract violated the procurement procedure, the Congress party blamed the government for promoting of 'crony capitalist friends’ at the cost of a defence public sector unit, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited 
Congress alleged that the deal signed with France does not cater for technology transfer and has caused an 'insurmountable' loss to the exchequer. The Rafale deal has a 50 percent offset clause, a large part of which is to be executed by a joint venture company of the Anil Ambani owned Reliance Defence. 
India Specific Enhancements
The Rafale deal caters to specific Indian air force needs. The fighter jet will be modified by France to meet the following: 
Helmet mounted sights and targeting system to give the pilots lightening quick ability to shoot off weapons
Ability to taken off from high altitude airbases like Leh on a 'cold start' - for quick reaction deployment
A radar warning receiver to identify hostile tracking systems
A towed decoy system to thwart incoming missile attacks
French industrial support for fighter for 50 years
VITAL Stats 
7.87 billion Euro: Deal cost. This includes weapon systems, five year support, training, infrastructure and warranties. 15% to be paid in advance 
91.7 million euros: as per contract, if other costs like weapons, training etc not counted, per unit price of single seat Rafale is 91.7 million euros
75 % availability: French side will ensure that at any given point, at least 75 percent of the fleet is combat worthy. Failing which, heavy penalties to be invoked
67 months delivery: All aircraft ordered to be delivered within 67 months with first one coming in by 36 months
50% offsets: Indian industry to get major boost as French side will invest half of deal value in Make in India products or technology transfer. Indian Partners to be firmed up within a year
328 million Euros: Saved by negotiation efforts by the Indian side on the Rafale deal, according to defence ministry sources
28/8: according to deal, India to get 28 single seater jets and 8 twin seaters for training
The Rafale will be India's most capable fighter aircraft. These, according to defence ministry officials, are the major capability differences it will make compared to the current best - the Su-30MKI.
Loitering Capability 
1.5 times of Su 30 
Range 780-1055 km vs 400-550 of Su-30 
5 sorties per 24 hours against 3 by Su-30 
75% availability against 55% of Su-30 
WEAPONS: India has managed to negotiate the acquisition of the latest weapons package for the Rafale. These are the new weapons, beyond the standard package. 
SCALP: a precision long range ground attack missile that can take out targets with extreme accuracy. Has a range of 300 km, capped by the missile technology control regime. 
METEOR: a beyond visual range air to air missile that is possibly the best in its class. Can take out enemy aircraft at range of over 100 km.

South Africa Offers To Waive Arbitration Penalties To Remove Denel Off Blacklist

South African defence manufacturer Denel has offered to waive off close to $100 million it won from arbitration against India if New Delhi were to remove it from the defence ministry’s blacklist

State-run Denel’s offer has come after the Central Bureau of Investigation filed a closure report on corruption cases against the company. The company has also received favourable court orders in other related matters. A Denel team was in India recently for discussions after South African President Cyril Ramaphosa raised the matter with the government in the run-up to PM Modi’s visit to South Africa for the BRICS Summit.
ET has gathered that the conversations have progressed well and details are being worked for a mutually acceptable solution. When contacted, Denel said it was not in a position to comment until bilateral discussions were completed.
The South African firm was stopped from doing business with India in 2005 on alleged corruption practices and has been unable to restart work in the lucrative arms market here, despite being cleared of all charges.
Contrary to reports that the firm has been taken off the blacklist after it was cleared of all charges by CBI, the defence ministry still lists it under the ‘put on hold/suspended firms’ category.
In fact, Denel is listed first among 14 companies in this official list that was last updated in February this year.
Sources said the company, which manufactures diverse products from artillery guns to ammunition and unmanned aerial vehicles, continues to be suspended due to legal cases that date back from the time it was put on the blacklist. After the suspension of operations, all ongoing contracts with Indian defence ministry entities had been cancelled, leading to litigation and arbitration that has gone on.
The company’s flailing fortunes became a political controversy in the South African elections against former president Thabo Mbeki.
President Ramaphosa is keen to recast and revive the company.
The South African entity, which also has joint ventures with debarred firm Rheinmetall, has been keen for a return to the Indian market after the government opened doors for partnerships with private sector companies for major manufacturing projects. Several rounds of meetings have been held with the private sector over the past two years and Denel even participated in the 2016 Defence Expo in Goa. Of particular interest to the company have been major upcoming orders for ammunition supplies to the armed forces for a 10-year fixed-term contract in which Indian companies have responded.
The company’s troubles in India started in 2005, after the defence ministry put all contracts with it on hold.
The official notification said that the order was passed ‘in view of news reports in some sections of electronic and print media regarding alleged payment of commission by the vendor’.
It named two contracts that the firm had signed in India, a Rs 78-crore deal for procurement of 400 anti-material rifles and a Rs 66-crore transfer of technology contract for the same with the Ordnance Factory Board.

Panel of MPs warns of too low spending on defence

Ruing over the low budgetary allocations for defence, the Estimates Committee of parliament, headed by senior BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi has lambasted the fact that the current defence budget as a percentage of GDP is at the lowest level since 1962 when India-China war was fought.

Quoting an expert, the parliamentary panel report wrote, “Today at 1.6% of the GDP, India’s defense budget to GDP ratio has reached the levels we had before 1962. The implications could be ominous.” The report said, “In the current geo-political scenario, a country of the size of India cannot afford complacency when it is a question of defence preparedness even for a two-front war while retaining its dominance in the Indian Ocean”.

Comprising 30 Lok Sabha MPs, the Estimates Committee compiles a report on the overall economy and the efficiency that can be achieved in expenditures by scrutinizing the estimates. Queried on the budget requirement and allocation of funds for defence acquisitions, Secretary (Defence Production) told the committee: “Requirement of the forces is very high and the fund allocation to that extent is not there”.

On the critical issue of shortage of fighter aircraft availability, the report said the availability was 60% in India whereas as per the standard norm, at any time, there should be 70% serviceability of aircraft.

Citing comparative figures, the report pointed out that the Chinese Air Force already has 930 Fourth Generation fighter jets whereas India has less than 400 Fourth generation fighters.


India, US set to sign pact for secure military communications

India and the US are likely to sign the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA), a bilateral pact between the two countries for secure military communications, during the inaugural ‘2+2’ meeting in New Delhi in the first week of September. Official sources told The Indian Express that the government had made up its mind to sign the agreement which had been pending for nearly 15 years now. The government, sources said, has told the Americans to send the final text of the agreement, so that the process of signing can be expedited in time for the ‘2+2’ meeting.

After being postponed twice this year, the inaugural ‘2+2’ meeting is scheduled to be held in New Delhi on September 6. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman will be attending the meeting, along with their American counterparts, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defence James Mattis.

Express Explained | What is the COMCASA?

The government considered concerns about intrusive American access to encrypted Indian military communication systems and sharing of that data with other countries. There is also a fear among defence services that a lot of Russian-origin and indigenous Indian military platforms may not be compatible with COMCASA.

“It is eventually a matter of trust. When we are importing so much military equipment from the US, do we really believe that they can’t monitor things that they want to? We have to build adequate checks and balances in the India-specific agreement about this access to our communication systems. The Americans are equally concerned about the Russian S-400 system because they feel it could access their systems in use with us. It is something we have to deal with as long as we are heavily importing military equipment,” official sources said.

On concerns about violation of Indian sovereignty due to visits by US inspectors to Indian bases to inspect the COMCASA-safeguarded equipment, sources said that it was no longer an issue.

COMCASA is meant to provide a legal framework for transfer of communication security equipment from the US to India that would facilitate “interoperability” between their forces — and potentially with other militaries that use US-origin systems for secured data links. American officials contend that COMCASA will facilitate the use of high-end secured communication equipment to be installed on military platforms being sold to India, and fully exploit their potential.

India’s armed forces, they argue, are currently dependent on less secure, commercially available communication systems on high-end American platforms like C-130Js and the P-8I maritime surveillance aircraft. These platforms are, therefore, unable to share data in real time with other friendly militaries using American platforms, besides creating problems of interoperability during training exercises and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations.

The general agreement signed by the US with other countries is called the Communication and Information on Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA) but the name was changed to COMCASA to reflect its India-specific nature. A US military negotiating team was in New Delhi last month to respond to Indian objections and formulate a mutually acceptable text for the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement.

COMCASA is part of a set of three military agreements that the US considers “foundational” for a functional military relationship. In August 2016, India had signed the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA), which allows the military of each country to replenish from the other’s bases. Negotiations on the third agreement, Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-spatial Cooperation (BECA), have not yet begun.


July 25, 2018

The F/A 18 can safely operate from Indian aircraft carriers with significant payload: Boeing

After conducting detailed capability studies and simulation analysis, US aerospace manufacturer Boeing has said that it is confident that the F/A 18 Super Hornet Block III can safely operate from Indian aircraft carriers, with a `significant’ weapons payload.

The Super Hornet is in contention for an Indian Navy requirement of 57 new fighter jets to operate from its carriers, with the French Rafale M expected to be its main competitor. The new jets are required to operate from the under construction INS Vikrant that is expected to start its sea trials at the earliest by 2020.

A senior Boeing executive told ET that talks are on with both the navy and the airforce (which has a requirement for 116 new fighter jets under Make in India) and that the Super Hornet would in the near future demonstrate its capability to take off from a ski jump.

The Indian Navy is facing a unique problem in replacing its Russian origin MiG 29K fighter jets that have been saddled with technical issues. The INS Vikramaditya as well as the under construction Vikrant are designed as ski jump carriers – in which an aircraft takes off with the assistance of an elevated ramp.

However, the twin engine aircraft available for this task globally are designed for flat top carriers with the help of a catapult that gives them a boost for the take-off phase. Boeing however says that according to its internal studies the Super Hornet will be able to operate from the ski jump without any modifications to either the carrier or the jet itself.

“We have answered queries from the Indian Navy and the simulation analysis is done. At some point we will also take off from a US Navy ski jump. We feel very comfortable that we will pass the requirements with a meaningful and significant payload,” Dan Gillian, Program Manager F/A-18 at Boeing says.

The US company says that with 116 of the F/A 18 Block III jets on order from the US Navy, the program will have a production run for the next 15 years. It has also promised to build a world class production line for the fighter jets in India if selected for the twin contracts.

Boeing is looking to leverage its partnership with Indian manufacturers Mahindra and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited to present a proposal under the Make in India initiative. “HAL has built airplanes for years and Mahindra too has manufacturing knowhow. A public private partnership will bring it together and we will build a brand new first class facility in India. It will help India build its next plan for the advanced multirole combat aircraft as well,” Gillian says.

While a timeline is tough to assign, the Indian Navy would require to induct the jets for its second aircraft carrier under construction by 2020-22 while the air force is desperately looking for replacements to the MiG jets by 2025. At present, the air force and navy procurement plans are being processed independently, even though at least two jets – Rafale and F/A 18 – are common to both competitions.


Mega deals at stake, US shows green light to India waiver from sanctions

India’s multi-billion dollar military equipment market coupled with its dexterous handling of simultaneous relations with the US and Russia has helped it secure a waiver against sanctions that Washington had threatened to impose.

A committee of the US Congress last night (early this morning in India) okayed a country-specific waiver for India to escape punitive sanctions over its military deals with Russia. A US legislation, Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), says sanctions must be imposed against those dealing with Russia.

A waiver has been granted to India, Indonesia and Vietnam — the trio using Russian military equipment and all vital for the US’ Indo-Pacific outreach. The imposition of sanctions on India would have impacted military ties and pushed New Delhi back to its Cold War-era friend — Russia.

Matters were clear that India was not going to back down under US threat as Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on July 13: “We told the US Congress delegation (that visited India) this is a US law, and not one of the UN.” Aware the US could ill-afford to lose the multi-billion deals, Sitharaman said the S-400 missile deal with Russia would go on as per plan.

The US Congress keeps the waiver powers to itself even as the administration has been seeking that these be with the government. “Providing the Secretary of State with a CAATSA waiver authority is imperative,” US Secretary of State Jim Mattis had said four days ago.

Defence deals with cold war-era rivals ::

United States

- American firms vying for deals to supply 110 jets for Indian Air Force and 57 jets and 120 helicopters for the Navy Rs 2,75,320 or $40 billion approximate collective cost of the above deals
- India has already ordered 22 Apache attack helicopters, 15 heavy-lift Boeing Chinook copters (deliveries about to commence), 145 pieces of M777 ultra-light howitzers (deliveries have started arriving)
- In the past 10 years, India bought from the US C-17 planes, the C-130 transporter and the P8I maritime surveillance system

- Sukhoi-30 MKI jets for IAF, Army’s T-90 tanks, BrahMos missiles; ammo mostly imported or licence-produced 62% of New Delhi’s military requirements are fulfilled by Moscow
- Supplies of spares for Mi-17 helicopters and MiG-29 fighter jets used by IAF and Navy; IAF’s transport fleet, armoured vehicles
- Kamov copters (being jointly produced in India); nuclear-sub INS Chakra (leased from Russia) — another sub being negotiated; INS Arihant (indigenous nuclear-sub built with Moscow help); S-400 missiles


Govt document reveals India saved Rs 59 crore per Rafale aircraft under NDA

Rafale planes bought by the Modi government are Rs 59 crore cheaper than what the UPA government paid for them.

A document prepared by the ministry of defence and the Indian Air Force this year shows that the per unit price of Modi regime's Rafales, after taking into account the cost of weapons, maintenance, simulators, repair support and technical assistance is Rs 1,646 crore while the ones negotiated for by the UPA would have come to Rs 1,705 crore.

The NDA government paid Rs 59,000 crore for 36 planes while the UPA had paid Rs 1.69 lakh crore. The NDA government thus saved Rs 59 crore per aircraft.

The aircrafts bought by NDA also has missiles such as the METEOR and the SCALP which were not included in the aircrafts bought by the UPA.

The total cost of 36 Rafales is Rs 59,262 crore whereas the 126 planes during the UPA time would have cost Rs 1,72,185 crores as per the document.

Despite spending Rs 9,855 crore more on the India Specific Enhancements in the planes in the deal done by the Modi government, the cost of the planes is coming to Rs 59 crore less than the UPA price for each aircraft.

The development came on a day the Congress gave notices for bringing a privilege motion against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman in the Lok Sabha for misleading the House on the Rafale deal.

In the notices, the party said Modi and Sitharaman's contention in Lok Sabha on Friday that a 2008 agreement between India and France prevented the government from revealing the price details of the deal was not correct.

The notices were given to Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan by leader of the Congress in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, Veerappa Moily, K V Thomas, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Rajeev Satav over the statements made by Modi and Sitharaman during the debate on the no-confidence motion.


July 24, 2018

Russia offers Belousov-Class Rescue Ship with 6 Submarines to India

United Shipbuilding Corporation (USC) considers the export market of non-nuclear submarine as promising and offers foreign buyers of diesel subs a package approach: along with the subs, Russian shipbuilders are ready to build a Project 21301 salvage ship.

Submarine salvage ships are quite specific, and not every country can afford procurement of rescue ships, especially ‘green’ submarine fleet operators.

"Example, Vietnam bought six Russian subs (latest two Project 636.1 Kilo-class submarines joined Vietnamese Navy in February 2017 - editor’s remark), so it is logical to buy a rescuer, too, but their budget may not bear it. Rather, the longstanding submarine-operating countries already have the crew rescue aids", Frolov said.

Despite uniqueness of the offer, the expert stumbled at the possibility for importers to buy the subs and the rescuer as a package. He added that Russia was not the global leader in submarine salvage. "We have strong competitors in this area", he concluded.

Another potential buyer is India. The lead and still alone Project 21300 rescuer, Igor Belousov, visited India in August 2016. The media then reported about the Indian Navy’s interest in the ship.

In November 2016, the USC officials told Mil.Press Today about the prospects for export of the deep-sea rescue submersible 18270 Bester. The spokesmen noted that the system could be supplied either separately or within the Project 21300 ship. By the way, the submersible needs no adaptation for coaming platforms of foreign submarines, because sizes of its suction chamber meet international requirements and NATO standards, allowing for full range of operations for crew salvage of both Russian and foreign-made subs.


Delivery of 36 Rafale aircrafts to begin next year: Defence Minister

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman today said, the delivery of 36 Rafale aircrafts in a fly-way condition along with associated equipment and weapons will commence from September next year.

In a written reply in the Rajya Sabha, Ms Sitharaman said, as per the inter-governmental agreement signed between India and France, the delivery will be completed by April 2022.

The Dassault CEO made a strong case for the Rafale for an upcoming Indian Navy requirement for carrier borne jets, saying the Rafale is the only jet with dedicated air force and naval versions. "We want to continue beyond the 36 jets on order. The requirement is around 200 jets for India and a naval order as well," he said.

Dassault, however, believes that the current order of 36 jets would not be sufficient to transfer high-end manufacturing or technology to India. Trappier said extra orders would need to be placed by 2017-18 to come up with a larger Make in India plan that would involve shifting heavy work.

On choosing Reliance Defence to be a major offset partner, Dassault said its main Indian partner in the past - HAL - was busy with several projects like the light combat aircraft and the choice was to go with a new entrant into the defence field.

"We were told that HAL was fully booked. We talked to Reliance and they were very keen to create such capabilities in India. They have a track record and the financial capability as well," Trappier said. Dassualt said there would be other Indian partners as part of the offset programme also as the company does not have an exclusive agreement with Reliance.

The Indian Air Force has made it clear that it needs much more of the medium combat jets in the Rafale category over the coming years. The air force has said India requires 200-250 more aircraft in the middle weight category of fighters that the Rafale falls into. Global aviation giants like Dassault, Airbus, Boeing and Saab are closely watching Indian moves to select a combat aircraft for a new fighter production line.


IAF ‘harvesting organs’ of globally retired jets

  • The IAF is scrambling around the globe to acquire old jets retired by other countries to bolster its existing combat fleet
  • IAF has 118 Jaguars but their operational availability has gone down because of obsolescence & shortage of spares, a defence ministry source said
Confronted with a fast-depleting number of fighter squadrons, and long delays in new inductions, the IAF is scrambling around the globe to acquire old jets retired and mothballed by other countries to bolster its existing combat fleet.

The hunt for airframes and spares has been particularly successful for the British-origin Jaguar strike fighters, with transfer of “assets” from Oman, France and the UK, which IAF will cannibalise for operational flexibility of its jets.

“IAF currently has 118 Jaguars (26 of them twin-seaters) but their operational availability has drastically gone down because of obsolescence, shortage of spares and closing down of assembly lines by Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL). So, the search for airframes and spares from different countries is under way,” a defence ministry source said.

Simultaneously, IAF and HAL are also finalising the long-delayed $1.5 billion project to “re-engine” and upgrade five Jaguar squadrons (80 fighters), which also have a maritime strike and nuclear delivery role. IAF had inducted 40 Jaguars from the UK beginning 1979, which was followed up by licensed production of around 150 fighters by HAL.

But with progressive upgrades of avionics and weapon systems, the overweight fighters have been dogged by their “under-powered” Adour-811 engines manufactured by Rolls-Royce, with several accidents and loss of lives.

“France and the UK retired their Jaguars in 2005-2007. But after the Jaguars in IAF get new F-125IN Honeywell engines and upgrades, they can easily be flown beyond 2035,” the source said.

But that is in the future. For now, IAF is all excited about getting hold of 31 Jaguar airframes from France, two airframes, eight engines and 3,500 lines of spares from Oman, and two twin-seat jets and 619 lines of rotables from the UK. “While France and Oman have given them free, with India only bearing the shipping cost, the UK has charged Rs 2.8 crore,” the source said.

France was more than eager to “gift” its Jaguars, which will be shipped to India by December after dismantling by HAL, once India inked the Rs 59,000 crore (¤7.87 billion) contract for 36 new Rafales.

France, which has to deliver the 36 Rafales between November 2019 and April 2022, is also among the six contenders to bag India’s recently relaunched $20 billion competition for acquiring 114 fighters.

But this project will take time to be finalised, and just 36 Rafales will not do much to stem IAF’s depleting fighter strength.

IAF, after all, is down to just 31 fighter squadrons (16-18 jets in each) when at least 42 are required to address the twin threats from Pakistan and China. The number will continue to decline, with 10 squadrons of virtually obsolete MiG-21s and MiG-27s slated for retirement by 2024 as well as the continuing delay in production of the indigenous Tejas light combat aircraft, which last month missed yet another deadline to become fully combat-ready, as was first reported by TOI.