Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Exercise Bahubali: IAF demonstrates its strategic airlift capability

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 19th Dec 18

Signalling the coming of age of India’s strategic airlift capability, the Indian Air Force (IAF) mounted an unprecedented airlift in which its transport aircraft fleet airlifted almost 500 tonnes of equipment to Ladakh in one coordinated operation on Tuesday morning. It was called Exercise Bahubali.

Terming this an effort to evaluate its own “rapid airlift capability”, the IAF announced: “The effort was accomplished with the aid of a fleet of 16 fixed wing transport aircraft comprising of C-17 Globemaster, the Ilyushin-76 Gajraj and the medium lift tactical aircraft, Antonov-32. All aircraft were loaded and took off from Chandigarh airbase early in the morning. The entire wave was accomplished in little less than 6 hours.”

Such an airlift would be invaluable in wartime, for reinforcing a threatened sector, such as Ladakh, with troops or equipment; as well as in peacetime for flying in assistance in the event of a natural disaster – floods, an earthquake or a tsunami.

The unstated aim of a well-publicised airlift operation of this kind is also to demonstrate India’s power projection capability, and its ability to react to strategic developments in the Indo-Pacific region by rapidly moving troops and equipment over long distances. 

“Rapid air mobility is a key component of modern warfare. This assumes greater significance in short and intense wars. This is very true in India’s context, especially when related to air mobility to airfields in the Ladakh region. With a wide spectrum of military transport aircraft in its inventory the IAF today has a credible airlift capability which has provided succour on numerous occasions when the nation was struck with natural calamities” said Air Marshall NJS Dhillon of Western Air Command, who oversaw this airlift exercise.

The IAF first began building its strategic airlift capability when it inducted the Ilyushin-76 in the 1980s. In 1988, the utility of these airlifters was demonstrated when they flew Indian army paratroopers into the Maldives to respond to an SOS from President Abdul Gayoom, who was deposed in an attempted coup. The Indian military’s swift response successfully defused that crisis.

However, with the Ilyushin-76s, along with the AN-32 medium transport fleet, fully occupied in airlifting personnel and supplies to support remote army deployments on the Himalayan frontier – Ladakh alone requires 3,000 tonnes of supplies every month – the military pushed for addition heavy airlift capability.

This was provided in 2011 with the induction of ten C-17 Globemaster III heavy lift aircraft. Adding to the IAF’s airlift capability was the procurement of 12 C-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft – six in 2008 and another six in 2013.

While the AN-32 and Ilyushin-76 were older, less capable aircraft, the C-130J and C-17 boosted India’s airlift capability into the strategic league. The C-130J can land and take off from short, unprepared runways, while the C-17 can lift more than 100 troops, or over 70 tonnes of equipment in a single sortie.

Boeing, which built the C-17, says it can “take off from a 7,600 feet (2,300 metres) airfield, carry a payload of 160,000 pounds (72.5 tonnes), fly 2,400 nautical miles (4,444 kilometres), refuel in flight and land in 3,000 feet (950 metres) or less in day or by night.”

Recently, the C-17 fleet was used to fly Indian army T-72 tanks, each weighing 42 tonnes, into new deployment areas in Ladakh.

“With today’s operation, the IAF has demonstrated its capability to help the army react to operational contingencies – redeployment of troops, reinforcement of positions – at very short notice. For a rising power like India, strategic airlift is an important capability its military must have”, said Air Vice Marshal Nirdosh Tyagi (Retired).

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

IAF goes green, flies AN-32 aircraft with biofuel

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 18th Dec 18

On Monday, the Indian Air Force (IAF) took a major step towards making good its promise to fly a biofuel-powered AN-32 transport aircraft over New Delhi in the Republic Day Parade on January 26, 2019.

“Experimental test pilots and test engineers from the IAF’s premier testing establishment ASTE, flew India’s first military flight using blended bio-jet fuel on the An-32 transport aircraft. The project is a combined effort of IAF, DRDO (Defence R&D Organisation), Directorate General of Aeronautical Quality Assurance (DGAQA) and CSIR-Indian Institute of Petroleum (IIP),” announced the air force on Monday. 

On 27 July 2018, the IAF boss, Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa, had announced his intention to promote biojet fuels. Addressing a seminar in Delhi on promoting indigenised technologies, Dhanoa said the IAF intended to fly the An-32 with aviation turbine fuel (ATF) diluted with 10 per cent biofuel on Republic Day.

Dhanoa offered IAF aircraft and all its testing facilities to realize this project, along with financial support under the IAF’s fund for indigenisation R&D.

After extensive engine tests on the ground, the project has now entered the flight trials phase. This fuel is made from Jatropha oil sourced from Chattisgarh Biodiesel Development Authority (CBDA) and then processed at CSIR-IIP, Dehradun. 

The AN-32 is not the first IAF aircraft to fly with biofuel. In 2011, the US Air Force (USAF) announced that the C-17 Globemaster III – which the IAF also operates – was certified for unlimited use of hydro-processed blended biofuels, known as hydro-treated renewable jet fuels.

Earlier, in 2010, the USAF had flown a fighter aircraft powered with biofuel. 

In essence, a biofuel is a fuel produced from living matter that includes plant waste and animal fat, rather than a fuel produced through the geological process, such as coal, diesel and petroleum. 

Last August, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that biofuels and ethanol blending could help India save $1.7 billion a year on import bills and called for more support to biofuels in the country. 

Earlier this year, the government approved a new policy that expanded the feedstocks that could be used for ethanol production.

Monday, 17 December 2018

Indigenous EW system ignored for Tejas Mark 1A fighter

Defence procurement policy requires preference for systems designed and built in India; yet, MoD and IAF permitted HAL to buy the system from Israeli firm Elta

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 17th Dec 18

In a path breaking achievement, the Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO) has indigenously developed an “electronic warfare” (EW) system for the Indian Air Force’s (IAF’s) fleet of 60 MiG-29 fighters.

Yet, when buying EW systems for the Tejas Mark 1A fighter that Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) is developing, the aerospace firm signed a contract on October 26 with Israeli firm, Elta – a subsidiary of Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). 

The indigenous EW system was developed under “Project D-29” by the Defence Avionics Research Establishment (DARE), a DRDO laboratory, in partnership with Israeli firm, Elisra and Italian firm Elettronica. 

The IAF, delighted with the outcome of Project D-29, is about to accord it final acceptance. Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL) will manufacture the indigenous EW systems for upgrading the MiG-29 fleet.

Under the Defence Procurement Procedure of 2016 (DPP-2016), the D-29 EW system falls squarely in the category of “Indian designed, developed and manufactured” (IDDM) equipment, the highest priority for procurement. DPP-2016 mandates that, if equipment is available under the IDDM category, it cannot be procured under other categories – such as “Buy Global” or “Buy and Make (India)”. This is to sponsor Indian design and development of equipment.

Yet, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the IAF, disregarding the success of Project 29 and its IDDM status, permitted HAL to buy the Israeli Elta EW system.

The Israeli government scuttled the Project D-29 EW system, say highly placed industry sources. The Israeli MoD did not allow Elisra – a key player in the D-29 system – to participate in HAL’s tender for an EW system for Tejas Mark 1A. Instead, the Israeli MoD nominated state owned firm, Elta.

The Israeli government has not responded to Business Standard queries.

Given the volume of business the IAF provides Israeli firms, it is unclear why the IAF could not persuade the Israeli MoD to allow Elisra to participate, so as to standardise the indigenous D-29 EW system across the upgraded Tejas fleet, as well as the MiG-29UPG. The indigenous system could also have been retrofitted on the 120-aircraft Jaguar fleet, which is currently being upgraded.

On January 10, 2017, Elisra wrote to the IAF boss, Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa, pointing out that the D-29 system is “an indigenous system jointly developed with DRDO… [and] shall be produced in India by BEL and qualifies for IDDM categorization.” Stating that the equipment commonality with the MiG-29 would allow “considerable savings in maintenance and operational support”, Elisra requested that the D-29 EW system be nominated for the Tejas Mark 1A. Business Standard has reviewed the letter, which the IAF did not respond to.

Contacted for comments, the MoD and IAF have not responded.

The Elta EW system is now going to be fitted in 83 Tejas Mark 1 fighters, which the MoD sanctioned for Rs 33,000 crore (Rs 330 billion) last December. The Tejas Mark 1A is being developed because the IAF is dissatisfied with the current Mark 1 version, of which 40 are being built. To overcome their operational shortcomings, the IAF, HAL and the MoD agreed in September 2015 on specifications for a new improved version (Tejas Mark 1A), which would have five specific improvements – including an upgraded EW system, AESA radar and the Meteor long-range air-to-air missile.

An EW system, which uses the electromagnetic spectrum to obtain combat advantage, will be crucial for the Tejas Mark 1A’s combat edge. In the Rafale fighter, many of the expensive “India specific enhancements” consisted of EW systems.  

An integrated EW system includes several elements: First, a “radar warning receiver” (RWR), which detects when an enemy aircraft’s radar picks up one’s own aircraft. A “radar lock” would indicate the enemy is firing an air-to-air missile, warning the pilot to start evasive measures. A second EW system component is the “missile approach and warning system” (MAWS), which picks up electromagnetic radiations from an incoming missile, cueing the pilot to initiate defensive manoeuvres, or to deploy countermeasures to confuse the incoming missile. 

A third EW measure is “radar warning and jamming” (RWJ). This involves detecting enemy radar and then confusing and blinding it with concentrated electromagnetic pulses.

Fighter aircraft can carry a jammer in an external pod under its wing. Alternatively, the function could be carried out by “escort jammers” (EJ), mounted on a single aircraft within a group of fighters on a strike mission. 

Finally, EW systems include “countermeasure dispensing systems” (CMDS), to defeat incoming missiles detected by the RWR or MAWS, or even infrared seeking missiles that home in on heat sources rather than rely on radar. The CMDS releases a cloud of metal strips, called chaff, which create a false signature of a fighter aircraft, towards which the incoming missile gets diverted. Alternatively, the CMDS fires flares in rapid succession, their heat signatures confusing IR-seeking air-to-air missiles.

DRDO sources point out that the D-29 based system integrates all these functions, while legacy systems operate the functions individually.

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

HAL tests indigenous light chopper to 20,000 feet

Success of HAL's Light Utility Helicopter (pictured here) opens door to civilian, export markets

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 11th Dec 18

Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) has displayed its proficiency in the demanding field of helicopter design by successfully testing its indigenously developed Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) to an altitude of 6 kilometres (almost 20,000 feet).

In an organisation where engineers and technicians still smart over Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s recent statement that HAL was not competent to manufacture the Rafale fighter under licence, there is quiet vindication.

HAL stated on Monday that breaking the 6-kilometre barrier was “a critical requirement towards the certification of LUH… With the completion of this milestone, LUH can now undertake high altitude, cold weather trials planned in January 2019.”

This will involve operating the LUH in winter from helipads on the Saltoro Ridge that towers above the Siachen Glacier. Currently, with the decades-old Chetak and Cheetah fleets nearly obsolete, HAL’s twin-engine Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) services the army’s Himalayan posts. Once the LUH is certified for operations, it will take on many of these tasks.

Both the Dhruv and LUH are designed to operate at altitudes up to 6.5 kilometres (21,325 feet), a capability that few helicopters have. While selecting a VVIP chopper, the government brought down the altitude requirement to 4.5 kilometres, because there was just one chopper that could fly up to even six kilometres.

Yet, this altitude requirement is essential for the Dhruv and LUH, which must supply provisions to, and evacuate casualties from Siachen Glacier posts like Sonam, which, at 20,997 feet, is the highest inhabited spot on the planet.

HAL’s Chief Test Pilot, Wing Commander (Retired) Unni Pillai, who made the first Dhruv landing on Sonam, also piloted the LUH during its six-kilometre altitude test along with Wing Commander (Retired) Anil Bhambhani. 

 Unni Pillai circles his Dhruv ALH as he comes in to  land at Sonam Post, the highest in the world

Powering this impressive performance is the Shakti engine, custom-designed by French engine-maker Turbomeca (now Safran) in partnership with HAL. The Shakti, which is now built in India by HAL-Safran, powers a successful family of HAL-built helicopters: the Dhruv ALH, the LUH, an armed Dhruv variant called Rudra, and the Light Combat Helicopter (LCH), which is close to being accepted into service.

Unlike the Dhruv, Rudra and LCH – all of them large, five-tonne helicopters powered by twin-Shakti engines – a single Shakti engine powers the three-tonne LUH. Safran markets this engine as the Ardiden 1U, while HAL calls the Shakti 1U.

With the army in dire need of 394 light helicopters, the defence ministry decided to meet that requirement through two procurements. To meet immediate requirements, 197 light helicopters would be procured from the international market. Meanwhile, HAL would develop and manufacture 187 indigenous light choppers.

In making the overseas procurement, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government decided against a global tender, instead signing an inter-governmental agreement (IGA) with Russia for building the Kamov-226T helicopter in India, in a joint venture with HAL. With that contract still to be signed, the rapid pace of the LUH development gives the government the option to dispense with international procurement and build an all-Indian fleet instead.

An ambitious HAL is looking beyond purely military orders at the civil and export markets as well. “The LUH is being indigenously developed by HAL to meet the requirements of both military and civil operators,” announced the company.

Even so, for now, the priority is the military. “HAL has an in-principle order for 187 LUH that includes 126 for Indian Army and 61 for IAF,” stated HAL today.

According to HAL, the LUH “will be capable of flying at 220 kilometres per hour, with a service ceiling of 6.5 kilometres and a range of 350 kilometres with a 400 kilogramme payload… The helicopter, with a glass cockpit, can be deployed for reconnaissance and surveillance roles and as a light transport helicopter. ”

The LUH is currently being tested with two prototypes. The first flight took place on September 6, 2016, while the second prototype flew on May 22, 2017. A third prototype is currently being built.

Monday, 10 December 2018

Strategic Forces Command fires Agni-5 ballistic missile

The Agni-5 nuclear-capable ballistic missile, with a range of 5,000 kilometres, was fired by the army's Strategic Forces Command from a road-mobile launcher at Dr Abdul Kalam Island, off the Odisha coast on Monday. The DRDO says the mission objectives were successfully achieved.

Israeli radar means Tejas won’t have Meteor missile

MBDA, which builds Meteor, has ruled out integrating the BVR missile on Israeli radar (being fitted on Jaguar in pic)

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 10th Dec 18

On October 26, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the Indian Air Force (IAF) watched from the sidelines as Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) signed two contracts with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), which will condemn the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) to a marginal presence in the IAF’s future fleet. 

The contracts signed were for two major avionics systems that will determine the combat capability of an improved Tejas fighter, called the Tejas Mark 1A.  One was for the ELM-2052 “active electronically scanned array” (AESA) radar, developed by IAI subsidiary, Elta. The other was for Elta’s “electronic warfare” (EW) system.

Equipping the Tejas Mark 1A with Elta’s ELM-2052 radar will ensure the fighter never carries the world-beating Meteor “beyond visual range” (BVR) air-to-air missile. MBDA, the European consortium that builds the Meteor, has repeatedly told the IAF that it would only fit that missile onto a fighter with a European airborne radar. Choosing an Elta AESA radar for the Tejas Mark 1A, therefore, rules out the Meteor and, with it, any hope that the IAF will buy the Mark 1A in significant numbers.

Why the Meteor?

The IAF has ordered 40 Tejas fighters of the current Mark 1 version, but it believes their Israeli radar and missiles do not provide a decisive combat edge. In September 2015, the IAF, HAL and the MoD agreed on specifications for a new improved version called the Tejas Mark 1A, with five specific improvements – including AESA radar and the Meteor missile. Last December, the MoD sanctioned the purchase of 83 new Tejas Mark 1A fighters for Rs 33,000 crore (Rs 330 billion).

MBDA’s Meteor BVR missile has the matchless ability to engage enemy fighters 200-250 kilometres away, before the adversaries can fire their own missiles. For shooting down aircraft at closer ranges, the IAF wants the Tejas Mark 1A to also carry MBDA’s eponymous Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missile (ASRAAM). 

In 2017, the IAF issued a formal tender to HAL – termed request for proposal (RFP) – stipulating that the Tejas Mark 1A must have the Meteor and ASRAAM.

Why a European radar?

All through this year, the IAF has known that MBDA would allow the Meteor missile to be integrated only with European (or, conditionally Indian) AESA radars. Yet, the IAF remained silent while HAL’s tendering processes resulted in the selection of the Israeli ELM 2052 AESA radar – and the rejection of two European AESA radars offered by French firm Thales, and Swedish firm Saab.

The Thales radar and the Meteor missile have already been integrated into Dassault’s Rafale fighter, which the IAF rates highly. Likewise, the Meteor is already integrated with the Saab radar in the Gripen E fighter.

In making it clear to the IAF that selecting an Israeli radar would mean ruling out the Meteor, MBDA has written five letters to the IAF this year, explaining why it would only integrate the Meteor with European radar. 

A BVR missile like the Meteor must be tightly integrated with the fighter’s radar. At the time the missile is fired, its on-board seeker cannot lock onto the target, which is too far away. During the initial period of the missile’s flight, the aircraft’s radar tracks the adversary fighter and transmits directions to the missile through two-way data links. Only when the Meteor reaches a few tens of kilometres from the enemy fighter does its on-board seeker get activated and homes onto the target. Given the missile’s tight relationship with the radar, there is a need for deep integration and sharing of source codes.

In its letters to the IAF, MBDA has cited technology security concerns that integrating the Meteor with Israeli radar would endanger secret source codes and technologies. MBDA, a consortium of firms from six European countries, also believes getting clearances from six capitals would be complicated. 

In a February 19, 2018 letter to the IAF chief, Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa, MBDA pointed out that the Meteor “has already been successfully integrated with 3 major European platforms and sensors … The risks inherent to such a demanding Tejas integration programme will be significantly minimised by the selection of a European radar, similar to those with which we have already qualified Meteor.”

On May 17, 2018, MBDA wrote again to the IAF chief that, with six nations involved in MBDA, clearing the Meteor’s integration with a non-European radar would be complicated. “Therefore, from a purely technical point of view, and considering the required clearances, Meteor on LCA may only be considered with a European radar”, stated MBDA.

On May 29, 2018, MBDA wrote yet again to the IAF chief, stating: “As design authority and OEM (original equipment manufacturer) of the Meteor missile, we wish to confirm to you that integration of this missile can only be possible with a European radar and our proprietary data link.”

Ruling out any possibility of the Israeli firm carrying out the integration, MBDA categorically stated: “No other mode of integration is possible and any other suggestion from third parties is misinformed.”

In yet another letter to the IAF deputy chief on June 21, 2018, MBDA wrote: “MBDA will not be able to offer Meteor for [Tejas] LCA, if a non-European radar is chosen for that platform – we will not be able to gain 6 Partner Nation clearance. Furthermore, the integration of Meteor is only possible using MBDA’s proprietary datalink technology. No other 3rd party is capable of carrying out Meteor integration.”

Then, in response to an IAF query whether the Meteor could be integrated onto the Uttam AESA radar the Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO) was developing, MBDA gave conditional acceptance on July 13, 2018. Writing to the deputy chief, MBDA wrote: “integration would be perfectly feasible [provided] this DRDO ‘UTTAM’ radar would need to be shown to be completely indigenous.”

Making its security concerns clear, MBDA wrote: “Security concerns (for all parties) over the implementation, architecture and day to day operation would need to be addressed [and] the 6 partner nations would need to obtain access to full working prototypes (of the Uttam radar) before progressing to the next stage.”

Despite these repeated cautions from MBDA, the IAF and MoD allowed HAL to choose the lowest-priced AESA radar that could be integrated onto the Tejas. Asked how it had chosen the Elta ELM 2052 AESA radar for the Tejas Mark 1A and ruled out the Thales and Saab radars, HAL chief R Madhavan stated: “The contract has been finalised as per HAL's techno-commercial (procurement) procedures and the lowest bidder was chosen.”

The IAF and MoD did not respond to a request for comments.

In most fighter aircraft programmes, the airborne radar – which is key to the fighter’s combat capability – is chosen by the air force concerned, not left to the OEM. Yet, HAL was allowed to choose – a selection that could unknowingly leave the Tejas Mark 1A without a Meteor missile.

“It is almost as if there is a death wish for the Tejas. Now the IAF will fault the Tejas Mark 1A for not being integrated with the Meteor,” says a retired air marshal who closely oversaw the Tejas programme.

From HAL’s perspective, Elta’s ELM 2052 AESA is the logical choice of radar. The Israeli firm developed this radar specifically for the IAF’s on-going upgrade of 61 Jaguars. For that upgrade – which involves fitting AESA radar to enhance the Jaguar’s capability – Elta developed the ELM 2052 AESA radar at its own cost, apparently in the expectation that it would also find place in future Tejas upgrades. With the IAF poised to clear the Jaguar upgrade, the ELM 2052 radar could quickly go into production in India in an IAI-HAL joint venture.

A Jaguar fighter being upgraded to DARIN-3 standard at HAL. This includes integration of Elta ELM 2052 AESA radar

With the ELM 2052 AESA radar being built for two fighter programmes – the Jaguar upgrade and the Tejas Mark 1A – it would work out significantly cheaper than the Thales and Saab radars, making Elta’s price bid the most attractive. However, given MBDA’s concerns, that would leave the Tejas without the Meteor missile, and therefore without the IAF’s buy-in.

The choice of radar would not impact the integration of ASRAAM. Being a short-range missile, ASRAAM is guided by its own seeker from launch onwards, and so does not require integration with the on-board radar.

Thursday, 6 December 2018

Alleged VVIP helicopter middleman Christian Michel extradited, remanded to CBI custody

Michel (seen here) allegedly paid off Indian officials to seal the deal for 12 AgustaWestland AW-101 helicopters

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 6th Dec 18

A Patiala House court on Wednesday remanded Christian Michel, a British citizen accused of bribing Indian political leaders, bureaucrats and military officers in the purchase of VVIP helicopters in 2010, to five days custody of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). 

The CBI has interrogated Michel continuously since Tuesday night, when he landed in Delhi after being extradited from the United Arab Emirates (UAE). With Michel maintaining his innocence, the agency has sought five more days in custody.

Michel pleaded for bail, but the court has kept that request pending. It has permitted Michel’s lawyers to meet him twice daily, whilst he remained in custody.

Along with Swiss national, Guido Haschke, and Italian executive Carlo Gerosa, Christian Michel, a British citizen who has spent years in Delhi, is accused of paying off Indian decision-makers to seal the deal for 12 AgustaWestland AW-101 helicopters in which the Indian Air Force (IAF) could ferry Indian leaders in security and comfort.

The Euro 556 million deal was worth Rs 3,600 crore (Rs 36 billion) at the exchange rate prevailing in 2010 and is worth Rs 4,500 crore (Rs 45 billion) at current rates.

In September 2017, the CBI charge sheeted former IAF chief, Air Chief Marshal Shashindra Pal Tyagi and three of his cousins: Julie Tyagi, Docsa Tyagi and Sandeep Tyagi. Charge sheets have also been fined against lawyer Gautam Khaitan, alleged middlemen Michel, Gerosa and Haschke, former AgustaWestland chief Bruno Spagnolini and Giuseppe Orsi, the former chief of Finmeccanica (now renamed Leonardo SpA). Orsi headed AgustaWestland (a Leonardo subsidiary) in 2010, when the VVIP helicopter sale was concluded.

The charge sheet alleges the accused caused a loss to the exchequer of Euro 398.21 million. It said bribes worth Euro 62 million were were routed through Tunisia, Mauritius and other tax havens. The CBI could file a supplementary charge sheet after interrogating Michel.

Besides the CBI, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) also filed a charge sheet in July against 34 Indian and foreign nationals, included those charge sheeted by the CBI.

The CBI, which extradited Michel from the UAE after a months-long legal battle there, claims it has established the money trail by which payment was made through two channels, totalling Euro 41 million. In one channel, Gerosa and Haschke allegedly bribed service officers and bureaucrats, routing money into India through payments for software bought from Chandigarh-based firm, Aeromatrix. In the other channel, Michel – who allegedly received Rs 295 crore in slush funds – paid off political decision makers and managed media reportage.

Seeking to establish a direct link to the Gandhi family, the CBI has produced a handwritten note – which Haschke claims Michel dictated to him – listing payoffs made to “The family” (purportedly the Gandhis) and to “AP” (purportedly Ahmed Patel, Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary).

In an interview to CNN-News18 channel earlier this year, Michel alleged the CBI was pressuring him to falsely name the Gandhi family as recipients of payments from him.

In fact, Indian police agencies came late to the AgustaWestland investigation. It first captured public attention on February 12, 2013, when Italian prosecutors in Milan capped a long investigation by arresting Orsi (then Finmeccanica chief), and raiding AgustaWestland’s Milan offices to establish whether senior Italian executives had violated anti-corruption laws by inducing India to buy VVIP helicopters.

The defence minister at that time, AK Antony, immediately ordered a CBI inquirty, slapped a show cause notice on AgustaWestland and withheld further payments. In 2014, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government cancelled the contract and encashed AgustaWestland’s bank guarantees.

On February 15, 2013 Antony issued a 2,100-word “factsheet”, publicly explaining that the decision that enabled AgustaWestland to win the contract was taken in 2003 by the NDA government.

The “factsheet” stated that, on November 19, 2003, Brajesh Mishra – then Principal Secretary to Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee – decided to lower the helicopter’s operational ceiling requirement from 6,000 metres (19,685 feet) to 4,500 metres (14,750 feet). AgustaWestland, whose AW-101 helicopter could operate from 4,500 metres but not from 6,000 metres, thus became eligible for the tender.

Antony’s “factsheet” also explained that Pranab Mukherjee, who was defence minister from 2004 till October 2006, decided to expand the purchase from eight helicopters to twelve.

The Italian case, after sputtering along for five years, has been dismissed by two courts and is now facing a final verdict from the Italian Supreme Court.

The Italian prosecutors were focused less on unearthing bribery in India, and more on the routing of slush payments to political parties in Italy. Orsi was known to be close to the right-wing party, Lega Nord (Northern League), and prosecutors suspected that, out of the payments earmarked for middlemen in India to push the AW-101 sale, Euro 10 million were instead funnelled back to the Lega Nord.