Sunday, 16 September 2018

Reorganising the army: winds of change


By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 16th Sept 18

On Tuesday, army chief, General Bipin Rawat, brainstormed with his top generals in Delhi, seeking the consensus needed for a deep-cutting reforms to make the army a less manpower-intensive force. It is learnt that most commanders are on board what one described as: “The army’s most ambitious reform attempt since independence.”

India’s military has not changed radically since 1947, despite two waves of reform. The first followed the 1962 defeat at the hands of China and involved raising mountain divisions for the Himalayan frontier. Then, in the 1980s, two thinking army chiefs – Generals KV Krishna Rao and K Sundarji – initiated the mechanisation of the army that led on to the creation of three armour-heavy strike corps. Even so, the army’s combat force – infantry battalions, armoured regiments and artillery regiments – remain almost identical today to what it was in the Second World War.

The current drive for change stems from a recognition of the need to slash the army’s numbers. These have defied the global trend of force downsizing to rise from under a million two decades ago to 1.22 million today, according to figures tabled in December in Parliament. Consequently, the army’s budget for new equipment is just Rs 267 billion ($3.73 billion), while over four-fifths of its Rs 1.55 trillion ($21.6 billion) allocation goes on running expenses, primarily salaries and pensions.

This alarming situation has arisen from decades of “empire building”, where successive army chiefs have sought to expand their fiefdoms, making the army ever larger and creating ever more general rank vacancies. A decade ago, the army only allowed new roads along the Sino-Indian border in Arunachal Pradesh, if two new mountain divisions were sanctioned to defend these new approaches into India. That added 50,000 soldiers to the already bloated army. Then the generals successfully pushed for a new mountain strike corps, which is currently being raised and will add 60-70,000 soldiers. Only now has the army realised it can either pay and feed this multitude, or equip them with modern weaponry.

The army is also drawing lessons from the navy, which has kept its numbers at just 71,600, and consequently has 46 per cent of its budget available for equipment. The air force, with 142,500 airmen, spends a healthy 49 per cent on equipment.

Another example of manpower reform is presented by China, where the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has cut back on well over a million soldiers in order to pay for a western style military, equipped with the weaponry for a modern, high-tech war. In the latest wave of manpower cuts that President Xi Jinping ordered in September 2015, the PLA reduced its size by 300,000 persons.

The Indian Army, however, has traditionally chosen the easy, incremental path, rather than radical surgery. An internal organisation called the Army Standing Establishment Committee (ASEC) periodically reviews the manpower of units and formations, evaluating authorisations and quizzing units about why their five authorised barbers cannot be reduced to four, or the authorization of 1.5 drivers per vehicle cannot be reduced to 1.3 drivers. The ASEC has made significant cuts in logistic units, but they tread softer with combat units, which enjoy the status of the army’s cutting edge.

That is where Rawat’s initiative departs from tradition: it intends taking the knife to combat units as much as to the support and services elements. The first of three committees that have already been constituted will scrutinise the field force – the combat units, brigades, divisions and corps that form the tip of the military spear. A second initiative will examine ways of paring down army headquarters (AHQ), which is considered bloated and overstaffed. Separately, a third committee will examine the army’s 49,500-strong officer cadre and consider how best to give the army the best possible commanders.

“The Shekatkar Committee [in December 2016] recommended cutting down 57,000 army employees, of which 27,000 are uniformed personnel and 30,000 civilians. Now we are looking at cutting down another 50,000 personnel. The aim is to stabilise the strength of the army at 10-11 lakh personnel,” said Rawat to Business Standard.

Reorganisation of combat units

Practically guaranteeing resistance from within, Rawat has directed that flab cutting must include that holiest of holy cows, the infantry battalion. Since the army has 450 infantry battalions (each with 22 officers and 850 soldiers) paring down 25 men from each battalion would result in the reduction of 11,250 men.

Wisely, the army chief has formulated an operational rationale for this reorganisation, which will be overseen by the army’s “perspective planning” chief, Lieutenant General Rajeshwar. An infantry battalion currently has four rifle companies, each with about 125 men. This is partly based on the logic that when the battalion is given a task, such as attacking an enemy position, it can attack with two companies, with the other two in reserve, in case added punch is needed. Now it will be considered whether, instead of pessimistically catering for reinforcing both forward companies, it would be wiser to keep just one company in reserve, while adding to the probability of initial success by strengthening each company to 170 men. In the new proposals, a company would also be authorised a ghatak(commando) section of 14 soldiers for special tasks. For example, a company attacking a hill feature could send its ghatak section to lay an ambush to cut off the enemy’s withdrawal. With three strengthened companies, the infantry battalion’s bayonet strength would remain the same, but eliminating one company headquarters would save 25 men.

Infantry reorganisation would extend to the grass roots, with a ten-man infantry section being strengthened to 14 soldiers, thus empowering the section commander, normally a havaldar (sergeant). A platoon, with three strengthened sections, would go up from the current 36 soldiers to 50 men.

Another measure that Rajeshwar will consider is flattening the hierarchy of higher headquarters. Currently, the division, with about 18,000-20,000 soldiers, is the lowest formation that comprises all the elements needed for combat – infantry, armour, artillery, engineers, signals and logistics. In wartime, those elements are often decentralised to constitute a self-sufficient “brigade group” for independent missions. Extending that model of decentralisation to peacetime as well would eliminate numerous manpower-heavy division headquarters, placing the brigades directly under corps headquarters.

Naturally, a divisional headquarters would be useful for coordinating an operation that involves two or three brigades, such as a strike corps offensive, which requires several armoured brigades to operate in unison. Strike formations, therefore, might well retain the divisional structure.

Reorganisation of AHQ

The army’s chief of “financial planning”, Lieutenant General Ajai Singh, will propose ways of paring down AHQ. One widely discussed measure is to merge AHQ’s Military Training Directorate with the Simla-based Army Training Command, which performs overlapping functions. Another is to move the Rashtriya Rifles HQ from New Delhi to Udhampur or Srinagar, where all Rashtriya Rifle battalions operate. This would follow the model of the Assam Rifles, whose directorate is based in Shillong, close to its area of responsibility.

Similarly, there is a directorate of information technology and another of information systems, both performing overlapping functions. Merging these is a possibility. There is similar duplication of cells that deal with information warfare: one such cell works for the Military Operations directorate and another for Military Intelligence.

Officer cadre restructuring

The general who manages the army’s officer cadre – Military Secretary, Lt Gen JS Sandhu – is heading the third committee. He will examine whether the army’s current officer shortfall of about 8,000 officers must be made up, or whether the overall authorisation can be reduced by about 5,000. 

“Making up the full strength would make the competition for promotion even more intense than it already is. The percentage of officers approved for promotion in each board – already worryingly low – will fall even lower,” points out a senior general who briefed Business Standard on the rationale for reorganisation.

Instead, the army will examine whether a larger number of meritorious soldiers and junior commissioned officers (JCOs) can be promoted from the ranks to fill up officer vacancies. There is also a proposal to recruit JCOs directly – currently a soldier serves about 15-18 years in the ranks before being promoted to JCO. 

“A direct entry JCO can do one year of training at the Officers’ Training Academy at Gaya or Chennai. Both these are running at half capacity and one of them can easily be made over to training JCOs and soldiers who are selected for becoming officers,” says the senior general. 

Another major issue is the age of commanding officers (COs). After the Kargil conflict, when the army had found its 41-42 year-old COs struggling to operate at altitudes above 15,000 feet, it launched a successful drive to reduce the age of COs to about 37 years. But now some COs, who assume command with just 15-16 years of service, have been found to be lacking in experience and maturity. Further, since the CO has to be the senior-most officer in the battalion, there is no space for superseded officers, who have often served 17-18 years. The committee will explore whether promotion to Colonel can still be done at 15-16 years of service but then, before assuming command, these officers can serve a two-year tenure as a staff officer. That would develop their skills and experience, allow them to mature in service, and also create the space within units for superseded officers.

While increasing the age of COs, the committee will examine options for reducing the age profile of higher commanders. Currently, because of late promotions to higher ranks, officers serve just three years each as brigadiers, major generals and lieutenant generals, commanding their brigades, divisions and corps for just 12-15 months. Now, like the navy and air force, the army will try and give senior officers five years in each of those ranks.

That, however, would require more officers to be superseded at the ranks of colonel, brigadier and major general. As an example, the army has 14 corps commanders, each of them a lieutenant general. If 14 major generals are approved every year for promotion to lieutenant general, the serving corps commanders would have only a year in the saddle before the next batch is breathing down their necks. To increase command tenures, fewer officers would have to be approved for promotion, a deeply unpopular step.

Rawat shrugs off suggestions that he may have aimed too high. “I am definitely not the first chief to have attempted this. Such studies have been done since the days of General K Sundarji and General Bipin Joshi. However, we failed to implement those,” he said. It remains to be seen if reorganisation is an idea whose time has come.

Friday, 14 September 2018

Transparency on Rafale: the government owes the public the facts


By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard (editorial), 14th Sept 18

As the Opposition’s campaign against the purchase of 36 Rafale fighters from France grows in pitch, the government’s response has not been open enough. That has encouraged the impression that it has something to hide. The Opposition has made a three-point case: First, that Prime Minister Narendra Modi enfeebled the Indian Air Force (IAF) by scuppering a 126-aircraft contract, which was close to finalisation, and instead purchased just 36 Rafales without following due procedure. Second, that the government allegedly paid a higher price in the new deal, without obtaining a qualitatively superior fighter. Finally, the Opposition has charged the government with killing the “Make in India” component of the 126-Rafale tender, instead accepting French-built fighters in “flyaway” condition that left little for Indian industry to contribute. The Opposition alleges that only France would benefit, along with some Indian corporates. 

Presumeably the government has all the facts, figures and rationale needed to address these allegations, yet it has failed to make them public. Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, who pledged last November to reveal what Dassault had bid in the cancelled tender and what India eventually paid, has said now in an interview to the Indian Express that the basic price of the French aircraft has been disclosed to Parliament and that the Air Force cannot absorb more than two squadrons in the given time because of infrastructure and other technical constraints. This raises fresh questions, as induction of the 36 aircraft is over five to six years from the contract signing. Meanwhile, the seniormost air force officers have taken up cudgels to defend the quality of the aircraft, which has never been the issue.

It can be nobody’s case that the government should divulge the confidential details of the Rafale’s operational capabilities. Nor can the government legitimately argue that every detail relating to the Rafale is confidential and putting anything out would endanger IAF pilots. The government has to explain the process and time line by which seven squadrons were reduced to two, since key government personnel seemed to have been unaware of the impending change when the prime minister went to France. It has to list the India-specific changes to the aircraft and itemised cost, especially since Dassault is on record that the plane is the same as the one negotiated earlier. It also has to give a break-up of the weapons suite which presumably was not in the original bid. Finally, it has to detail how the new maintenance commitments are different from the earlier ones. Like in all democracies, the government is duty-bound to account for the expenditure of public funds, and it would set a dangerous precedent to shirk that duty by citing national security. The French president, to whom the government turned to endorse its claim of confidentiality, obliged only half-heartedly, placing the onus on New Delhi to decide what was actually confidential.

If both the Opposition and the government reduce the Rafale procurement to a political blame-game, that would apply unwanted brakes on the procurement of urgently needed weaponry. To pre-empt being boxed into complete inctivity on defence, the government must defend the Rafale procurement boldly. It must put out whatever is needed to convince the public that this is a kosher deal for which a reasonable sum has been paid.

Thursday, 13 September 2018

IAF chief defends Rafale, but looks for the long-term towards Tejas

IAF will buy 250 Tejas Mark II, to operate 18 Tejas squadrons

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 13th Sept 18

With controversy swirling around the purchase of 36 Rafale fighters from France, the Indian Air Force (IAF) boss, Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa underlined on Wednesday the “two front threat” from China and Pakistan to argue that the Rafale is urgently needed.

“Pakistan has over 20 fighter squadrons, with upgraded F-16s and [it is] inducting JF-17s from China in large numbers. China has 1,700 fighters, including 800 fourth generation fighters. But we do not have the numbers, with fighter squadrons down to 31 from sanctioned 42,” said Dhanoa, addressing a seminar in New Delhi.

In this, Dhanoa was ironically on the same side as the opposition. Its main criticism of the government is that it purchased just 36 Rafale fighters (two squadrons), while cancelling an on-going tender for 126 fighters (six squadrons) that would have made up IAF squadron deficiencies to a greater degree.

Besides charging Prime Minister Narendra Modi with unilaterally downsizing the Rafale deal, the opposition is accusing the government of undermining “Make in India” by cancelling a plan to build 108 Rafales in Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL); and of “crony-capitalism” in allowing Anil Ambani’s Reliance Group to benefit from offset deals arising from the Rafale buy.

Dhanoa sought to explain the cancellation of the 126 Rafale deal by stating that the plan to build 108 of them in India had “reached an impasse due to irresolvable differences between Dassault Aviation and HAL.”

The basis for Dhanoa’s contention remains unclear, given that on March 25, 2015, just 17 days before Modi announced the new deal in Paris, Dassault chief executive officer, Eric Trappier, told the press in Delhi that there was agreement with HAL on sharing responsibilities. Trappier said: “I strongly believe that contract finalisation and signature would come very soon.”

The IAF presentation on Wednesday defended the price paid for the Rafale, stating that it included: “Most modern sensors, best in class weapons, state of art EW (electronic warfare) and enhanced survivability, India specific enhancements, better price terms, better overall delivery terms and timeline, better maintenance terms, longer industrial support commitment, additional warranty and longer PBL (performance based logistics) commitment.”

Stating that the government had on several earlier occasions undertaken “emergency purchase” of fighters, he cited the purchase of two MiG-23MF squadrons in 1983 to counter Pakistan’s new F-16s, two squadrons of Mirage 2000s in 1985 and then two squadrons of MiG-29s.

On Tuesday, the opposition had sharply condemned what it sees as the government’s use of servicing officers to defend the Rafale deal. “Totally exposed, the Government is now shooting from the shoulders of the brave men and women in uniform,” stated a joint press statement by Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie and Prashant Bhushan.

Buying 12 more Tejas squadrons

For the first time, the IAF indicated that retiring MiG-21 and MiG-27 squadrons would be replaced by the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), not by medium multi-role combat fighters (MMRCAs) like the Rafale.

Dhanoa said he was looking at inducting 12 squadrons of the Tejas Mark II fighter, in addition to two Tejas Mark I squadrons and four squadrons of an improved version, the Tejas Mark I-A, which are already being processed.

That would add up to 18 squadrons of Tejas fighters of all types, making it the IAF’s most numerous aircraft, even more than the 13 squadrons of Sukhoi-30MKI fighters. 

The first Tejas squadron, called the “Flying Daggers”, is already being populated with Mark I fighters as they roll off HAL’s production line – albeit far more slowly than planned.

The Tejas Mark I-A is currently under development with five specified improvements over the Mark I. These include an“active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, an air-to-air missile with “beyond visual range” (BVR) capability, a “self-protection jammer”, air-to-air refuelling capability, and a sophisticated “software defined radio” (SDR). The defence ministry has initiated an order for 83 Mark 1-A fighters.

The Tejas Mark II is planned as a far more capable fighter, with its current General Electric (GE) F-404 engine being replaced by a more powerful GE F-414 engine, and a new generation of avionics developed in India. It will also feature a new-generation data-link – which could be the NATO standard Link 16, which India is now eligible to buy after signing the COMCASA communications security agreement with the US.

Dhanoa made it clear that implementing these capability improvements were a pre-condition for more IAF orders for the Tejas.

The IAF has also initiated the procurement of another 114 medium fighters from the global market, a tender in which the F-16, F/A-18, MiG-35, Rafale, Gripen E and Eurofighter Typhoon are competing. The bulk of those fighters are to be built in India under the Strategic Partner model.

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

An L&T-Russian partnership

The St Petersburg, lead boat of Russia's Project 677, and being offered to be built in India under Project 75-I

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 11th Sept 18

Embattled by the controversy over the procurement of 36 Rafale fighters from France, the defence ministry is initiating a slew of defence acquisitions, worth almost Rs 400,000 crore (Rs 4 trillion). These would take years to fructify, but would allow the Bharatiya Janata Party to claim while campaigning for elections that it was safeguarding India’s defence. These include the procurement of 110 fighter aircraft worth about 125,000 crore (Rs 1.25 trillion), 57 naval fighters worth 75,000 crore (Rs 750 billion), S-400 air defence systems worth Rs 40,000 crore (Rs 400 billion), artillery guns worth Rs 15,000 crore (Rs 150 billion), rifles worth Rs 10,000 crore (Rs 100 billion), warships worth Rs 35,000 crore (Rs 350 billion) and two naval helicopter purchases for an estimated 25,000 crore (Rs 250 billion). All these are, while urgently needed, potentially controversial. But there is low-hanging fruit: Project 75-I -- a Rs 40,000 crore (Rs 400 billion) purchase that is operationally vital, relatively non-controversial and which includes a sizeable component of “Make in India”. This involves building six submarines in the country, with an Indian vendor taking essential technology from a foreign original equipment manufacturer (OEM).

The tendering process has already begun. Global submarine OEMs were issued a “request for information” (RFI) in June 2017 and responses received in October. The navy chief has revealed that four global vendors had responded: Rosoboronexport from Russia, ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS) from Germany, Kockums from Sweden, and Naval Group from France – which is already partnering Mazagon Dock Ltd, Mumbai (MDL) in building six Scorpene submarines in India. Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries was asked whether it would offer its vaunted Soryu-class submarine but, surprisingly, given Tokyo was willing to supply submarines to the Australian navy, declined to participate.To partner the four OEMs in the fray, the Navy has launched the process to select an Indian “strategic partner” (SP), which would, under the new SP model of procurement, receive technology from the OEMs to build the submarine in India. The procurement process involves selecting the right combination of OEM and SP, evaluating technical capability, technology on offer and the price quoted.

While Admiral Lanba breezily stated he was hopeful “we’ll be able to make progress on this case by the end of 2018”, he did not define “progress” and the complexity of this procurement seems likely to delay it interminably. Given India’s need to counter China’s growing presence in the Indian Ocean, many more submarines are urgently needed. China will soon operate 60 submarines and, with the Indian Navy down to barely 15 submarines, even the neglected Pakistan Navy poses a daunting submarine threat. India’s 30-year plan, made out in 1999, to build 24 submarines has so far yielded just one boat (submariners quaintly refer to their lethal vessels as “boats”) with five more in the pipeline. It is essential, therefore, to kick-start Project 75-I.

Instead of wasting another five years toing-and-froing on the procurement (a conservative time-frame, given the defence ministry’s contracting record), Indian interests demand that Project 75-I must be awarded immediately on “nomination” basis. The winners select themselves: Larsen & Toubro with Russia’s Rosoboronexport as the technology partner. The two must work together to build six Amur-class boats, driven by air independent propulsion (AIP) developed recently by the Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO). The defence ministry must mandate indigenous content of 50 per cent for the first boat and 60 per cent for subsequent vessels. Tight timelines must be laid down, with financial penalties for infringements.

It is essential to spell out the logic for this bold recommendation. First, the selection of a Russian partner would conform to India’s 30-year submarine plan, in which the Union cabinet has mandated that if the first six boats are of western origin, the second six be of eastern origin, with the last 12 of Indian design, incorporating the best of east and west. The Navy has had a positive experience with its Foxtrot-class and Kilo-class Russian submarines, and with the two nuclear-powered boats taken on lease. The Amur class, a vast improvement on the Kilo-class vessels the Navy currently uses, promises to continue the Russian tradition of sturdy, economical, relatively silent boats. Continuing with the Kilo-based logistics infrastructure would save money. Fitting the BrahMos cruise missile, which the Navy wants on Project 75-I submarines, would be far easier on a Russian boat. The Russian Navy is buying four Amur-class vessels under the Russian Armament State Programme for 2018-2025, with the builder, Admiralty Shipyard, having already built two prototypes as the Lada-class. 

L&T selects itself even more forcefully. Amongst Indian private sector shipyards, it is the only one with both infrastructure and credentials to build a line of submarines. Its new Kathupalli Shipyard, near Chennai, compliments its Hazira facility in Gujarat. While building hulls and machinery for the Arihant-class nuclear submarines, L&T has accumulated extensive experience of working to Russian designs and with Russian metallurgy, both of which find a prominent place in our indigenous warship design and construction traditions. The DRDO-developed AIP system that is required to be integrated into Project 75-I submarines, has L&T as its principle integrator. A senior L&T engineer says the company already has 85 per cent of the technology needed for fabricating a Russian-designed boat for Project 75-I. Besides L&T, only the Pipavav Shipyard, belonging to Anil Ambani’s Reliance Naval and Engineering Ltd, has the infrastructure to build submarines, but its abysmal record of delivery – it is years late in delivering five naval offshore patrol vessels, a far more simple warship than a submarine – makes it a dubious choice. Further, the continuing political uproar over offset-related orders placed on Reliance Defence by Dassault after the Rafale deal would give the government pause.

The other contender is MDL, which is pitching strongly for Project 75-I, arguing that its experience gained while building six Scorpene submarines under Project 75 should not be wasted and a follow-up submarine construction order be urgently placed. Even if the public sector MDL were to be allowed to bid as an SP (the model is actually intended to bring the private sector into defence manufacture), it would be hard pressed to match L&T on price. MDL has the infrastructure, but would need to pay more for technology transfer. MDL has absorbed French manufacturing practices in the Scorpene programme, but building Russian is another game. 

Further, MDL has submarine work aplenty even after delivering all six Scorpenes. The Navy’s four German-origin Shishumar-class submarines – which were commissioned between 1986-1994 and have completed 24-32 years of service – are overdue for their life cycle extension overhauls, which would take until 2030 to complete. At the same time, the Scorpene submarines are already becoming due for mid-life upgrades and for retrofitting the AIP system during the upgrade. The first boat, INS Kalvari, commissioned last year, will fall due for an upgrade in 2023, followed by the other five. With MDL having built both the Shishumar-class and the Kalvari-class, it would be logical to entrust it with their upgrades.

That leaves only the question: What would Washington, already riled over India’s purchase of the S-400 from Russia, have to say about an equally strategic submarine purchase from Moscow. Here the US has a weak case, given that it has steadfastly refused to share submarine technology with India. If threatened with sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, New Delhi has only to reply: Let us co-manufacture the Virginia class nuclear attack submarine instead, and we will drop the Amur immediately. After all, that is what defence partners do!

Army chief to talk to top generals today, on restructuring the force

Army chief, Gen Bipin Rawat, with southern army commander, Lt Gen DRN Soni, who will be in today's discussion

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 11th Sept 18

Army chief, General Bipin Rawat, will talk to his top generals – the seven army commanders, and his principal staff officers – on Tuesday here, seeking to bring them on board as he embarks on the most far-reaching personnel and organisational reforms the army has attempted since independence.

The defence ministry has already initiated a reduction of 57,000 personnel, including 30,000 civilian employees, in line with recommendations of the Shekatkar Committee. Now Rawat is courageously targeting the reduction of another 50,000 uniformed soldiers.

These include not just logistics and services personnel, but even manpower from infantry battalions – the basic fighting unit of the army and widely considered untouchable.

Confirming the process to Business Standard, Rawat stated: “The army has become 1.25 million strong and is continuing to expand. We spend 83 per cent of our budget on revenue expenditure, mainly salaries and pensions, which leaves just 17 per cent for modernisation. We have to cut down on manpower to make more for equipment.” 

While Rawat is firmly in the saddle – he has been chief for over a year and a half and has as long to go, a tenure longer than any recent army chief – his proposed reforms cut so deeply into existing hierarchies and interest groups that buy-in from senior generals is essential. Without that, the proposals could be mired in endless discussions and counter proposals.

No formal proposals have yet been laid on the table. But the army is abuzz with speculation, because the “convening orders” of the three committees that will recommend reduction and reform measures, have been made public. Each committee is headed by a senior lieutenant general and deals with a separate area.

One committee, headed by the army’s “financial planning” chief, Lieutenant General Ajai Singh, will present proposals to cut down the size of army headquarters (AHQ). Rawat is known to believe that, over the years, AHQ has become bloated with non-essential appointments and departments. 

Sources close to the chief say he has suggested to Singh to examine the feasibility of merging AHQ’s Military Training Directorate with the Simla-based Army Training Command (ARTRAC). Both organisations perform overlapping functions and there is believed to be scope for significant manpower reductions.

Similarly, just as the Directorate General of Assam Rifles is based in Shillong, in the northeast where its battalions operate, Singh will consider whether the Directorate General of Rashtriya Rifles should be moved from its present location in New Delhi to Udhampur or Srinagar, where all Rashtriya Rifle battalions operate.

A second committee, headed by the army’s “perspective planning” chief, Lieutenant General Rajeshwar, will examine measures to eliminate unnecessary officer appointments, especially those that arose from the Ajai Vikram Singh Committee. In addition, Rawat has asked Rajeshwar to consider whether the large number of brigade, division and corps HQ can be pruned, saving on manpower needed to staff each HQ.

Instead of the current organisation, where three infantry battalions come under a brigade HQ, three brigades come under a division HQ and two divisions come under a corps HQ, the committee would examine if it is possible to eliminate the division HQ? Instead, four-five battalions could be grouped under each brigade HQ, and the resulting four-five brigades come directly under a corps HQ.

The third committee, headed by the Military Secretary, Lieutenant General JS Sandhu, will work on proposals to slash the authorization of officers, which currently amounts to almost 50,000. There is invariably a shortfall of 7,000-8,000 officers, and the belief in several quarters is that this is an artificial scarcity. This committee will examine whether the shortfall can be eliminated partly by reducing the officer authorization and partly by promoting more deserving soldiers to officer rank.

In Parliament in December 2017, the defence ministry stated that the strength of the army was 12.15 lakhs and that 49,932 officers were authorized. In addition, tens of thousands of civilian employees are paid from the army budget.

Sunday, 9 September 2018

Godrej & Boyce's journey from locks and safes to rockets and missiles

Godrej builds 70 per cent of the BrahMos missile -- some 7,000 components

By Ajai Shukla
Vikhroli, Mumbai
Business Standard, 9th Sept 18

Driving along Mumbai’s Eastern Express Highway towards Nashik, through the grime and bustle of a teeming megapolis, we turn off the road at Vikhroli into a startling haven of greenery. This is Godrej & Boyce’s 3,000 acre facility, which is touted as “Mumbai’s second lung”, the first being the Sanjay Gandhi National Park. The campus includes 1,400 acres of mangroves – India’s largest privately owned mangrove forest, we learn – which is conserved, with typical Godrej meticulousness, according to ISO 14001 standards.

A view of the Godrej facility at Vikhroli, Mumbai

This is an industrial house bred in the old-school manufacturing values of the Mumbai club, but which has displayed unusual agility in creating high-technology skills as a builder of advanced weaponry. Since 1897, when it set up as a manufacturer of locks and safes, the Godrej Group has ridden the technology crest – building 1.7 million ballot boxes for India’s first general elections (1951), India’s first typewriter (1955), refrigerator (1958), forklift truck (1963) and a totally green refrigerator (2002). 

Branching out in 2014, the wholly owned Godrej Aerospace has designed and built the powerful Vikas engines that drive India’s workhorse rockets – the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) and Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) – and sophisticated cryogenic engines for propelling those rockets outside the atmosphere. Last year, Godrej Aerospace delivered the 100th airframe it had manufactured for the Indo-Russian BrahMos cruise missile, reputedly the world’s most advanced.

How did this maker of locks and safes become India’s most trusted manufacturer of rockets and missiles? It has been the single source for several products for the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO) for decades.

A key reason has been its obsession with technology and engineering and a willingness to submit products to the most rigorous testing, essential for space and defence products. Godrej Aerospace business head, SM Vaidya, is only half joking when he recounts the apocryphal tale of how the firm’s safes were tested. In 1944, a freighter carrying 1,400 tonnes of explosives exploded in the Bombay Docks, killing about 1,300 people. The only item salvaged from that vessel was a Godrej safe, its contents intact. “We continue to outsource rigorous product testing,” says Vaidya, tongue firmly in cheek.

In 1985, Godrej & Boyce – by then a reputed manufacturer of consumer products and petrochemical machinery with acknowledged capabilities in precision machining – was approached by ISRO for help in making satellite and rocket parts. Over the next four years, the firm manufactured assemblies for ISRO’s satellite launch vehicle (SLV) and augmented satellite launch vehicle (ASLV), and liquid-propellant motors with a three-tonne thrust for the DRDO’s Prithvi missile. In 1989, Godrej & Boyce got their breakthrough by winning an ISRO tender for manufacturing the second stage of the experimental PSLV – a quantum jump to building a motor with 75 tonnes of thrust, called the Vikas engine.

Since delivering the first Vikas engine for the PSLV in 1994, Godrej & Boyce and its consortium partner, Hyderabad-based Machine Tools Aids & Reconditioning, have built more than 120 Vikas engines. In 1993, with Russia denying India cryogenic engine technology, the Godrej consortium was chosen to develop an Indian cryogenic engine. This was the most challenging of engine projects, with only five countries – US, Russia, China, Japan and France – having successfully developed cryogenic engines. It took eleven gruelling years of development, with numerous setbacks, before a GSLV with a cryogenic stage was successfully launched in January 2014.

With that success, there was no looking back. ISRO launched a programme to develop a new cryogenic engine, with 20 tonnes of thrust. The same year, Godrej also signed up to build a 200-tonne, semi-cryogenic engine that will be the world’s second largest booster. While the fully cryogenic engine uses liquid hydrogen as fuel and liquid oxygen as oxidiser (both at minus 260-270 degrees Celsius), the semi-cryogenic engine uses aviation-grade gasoline as fuel, making it cheaper and safer. And, with its credentials firmly established, Godrej & Boyce named the business unit that was building rockets and missiles Godrej Aerospace.

Godrej Aerospace’s new-generation cryogenic and semi-cryogenic engines will play important roles in the Chandrayaan and Mangalyaan missions. A Godrej cryogenic engine was part of PSLV C37, which successfully launched a world-record 104 satellites in February 2017. And GSLV Mark III, also powered by a Godrej CE-20 cryogenic engine, has placed a four-tonne satellite in geosynchronous transfer orbit. 

Foray into defence

Given Godrej & Boyce’s important role in the SLV and ASLV, it was inevitable that when the dynamic director of those projects, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, moved to the DRDO, Godrej would become involved in Kalam’s new brainchild: the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP). This laid out in 1983 a blueprint for developing five military missiles – Prithvi, Agni, Akash, Trishul and Nag.

Godrej & Boyce was immediately involved in building the Prithvi, India’s first nuclear delivery vehicle that had a range of just 250 kilometres. But with the army less than happy with the Prithvi’s primitive avionics, that project was closed and the longer-range Agni missiles became the military’s ballistic missile of choice. However Godrej & Boyce were not involved in the Agni project, choosing instead to focus on the Indo-Russian BrahMos missile.

Since 1999, Godrej Aerospace has come to dominate BrahMos production. It currently builds all the metallic assemblies, including 7,000 components amounting to 70 per cent of the missile. These include five of the missile’s 17 assemblies, including the airframe, nose cap, wings and fins, and is currently developing an indigenous booster – a solid-propellant engine that gives the BrahMos its initial thrust, accelerating it to Mach 2 to allow the propulsion ramjet to ignite. 


After delivering over 100 land-based and sea-based BrahMos missiles, Godrej Aerospace was selected to build the air-launched cruise missile (ALCM) as well. This has been a complex undertaking, with the weight of the air-launched BrahMos having been reduced by about 400 kg from the original two tonnes so that it can be carried on a Sukhoi-30MKI fighter. With the first such missile having been delivered last month, Godrej Aerospace has another 100 ALCMs on order.

Besides the BrahMos, Godrej Aerospace is heavily involved in several surface-to-air missile (SAM) projects, including the long range, medium range, short range, quick reaction and extended range SAMs, which the DRDO is developing with Israeli firms Rafael and Israeli Aerospace Industries. There is also Godrej involvement in building indigenous Pinaka rockets, the Pralaya missile programme and developing a new, longer-range Pinaka II rocket.

Kaustubh Shukla, chief operating officer for Godrej & Boyce's Industrial Products Group, says the firm is not aiming to become a “Strategic Partner” (SP) under the defence ministry’s new policy to develop private sector SPs as prime integrators of complex weapons platforms. He says the company is content with Tier-1 status, building the systems and assemblies that another SP firm would integrate into a full weapons system.

Jamshyd Godrej, the family scion who is chairman and managing director of Godrej & Boyce elaborates: “Our short and medium-term goals are to achieve preferred / sole supplier status in most, if not all, of the programs that we are involved in. Our long-term vision is to grow our stature to Tier-1 suppliers to global majors and for domestic programmes by being the chosen partner for sophisticated and critical systems.”

Despite the intensity of Godrej Aerospace’s involvement in defence, its annual income is a mere Rs 300 crore, just 3 per cent of Godrej & Boyce’s annual turnover of about Rs 10,000 crore. But this hardly discourages Jamshyd Godrej.

“We have pursued a role in defence to support the national endeavour and to successfully meet the challenge of realizing complex technologies and building systems that the country needs. In a way there is a higher order purpose than merely business turnover,” he says, echoing a family philosophy that goes back to Ardeshir Godrej’s role in the freedom struggle.

With defence orders irregular, Godrej Aerospace has sought stability by expanding into the more stable building of assemblies for global civilian aerospace supply chains. There are long-term production contracts with Rolls-Royce, Boeing, General Electric, Pratt & Whitney, Honeywell, Eaton, Snecma (Safran) and GKN. 

As we leave, Vaidya informs us that Godrej Aerospace has successfully developed actuators for the Tejas fighter, a high-tech component that has been sourced so far from US company, Moog. No more than 73 Tejas aircraft will use Godrej actuators, but that seems to worry nobody. The achievement is apparently what matters – the hallmark of a high-technology company.

Friday, 7 September 2018

India-US sign Comcasa, set up hotlines, agree to hold tri-service exercise in "2+2 talks”

Signing of Comcasa the highlight of the day, enhances US-India defence interoperability

By Ajai Shukla
(Edited version in Business Standard, 7th Sept 18)

After more than a decade of discussions and negotiations, India and the US on Thursday signed a “communications compatibility and security arrangement” (Comcasa) as part of the first “2+2” dialogue featuring foreign and defence ministers of both nations.

In the absence of a Comcasa, which now binds India to ensure the security and secrecy of cutting-edge US communications equipment, US platforms like the C-130J Super Hercules Special Forces plane and the Boeing P-8I maritime aircraft were bought with their closely guarded communications and navigation kits replaced by less potent, commercially-available equipment.

The two nations also decided to set up hotlines between their defence and foreign ministers and deliberated on thorny issues such as India’s purchase of S-400 missiles from Russia and import of crude oil from Iran. According to a Reuters report, Washington will consider waivers for Iranian oil buyers such as India but they must eventually halt imports as sanctions are imposed on Tehran, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.

Pompeo and US Defence Secretary James Mattis met Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. The two sides also discussed cross-border terrorism, India’s bid for membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the contentious H1B visa issue, and ways to deepen cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region.


Comcasa – a breakthrough

Both the United Progressive Alliance and the National Democratic Alliance governments were reluctant to sign Comcasa, fearing it would be seen as bowing down to US pressure. However, the government has now concluded that the operational benefits outweigh the potential political downside.


Take for example the C-130J Super Hercules Special Forces plane, in which the Indian Air Force (IAF) will transport commandos to small landing strips in enemy territory, which would have been pre-secured by a ground team. Such operations need secure communications between the aircraft and the team on the runway, so that the C-130J is not enticed into a trap. America tightly controls the single-channel radios used for this, denying it to countries that have not signed Comcasa or its generic version, called CISMOA (communication and interoperability security memorandum of agreement). So far India has opted for less secure, costlier, commercially available radios, rather than signing Comcasa.

Similarly, the Indian Navy’s Boeing P-8I maritime aircraft is amongst the world’s most effective submarine hunters. But detecting and pinpointing an enemy submarine is only the first step; attacking it requires the P-8I to communicate with naval forces nearby, and with shore-based naval facilities. Since these voice and data channels --- called Data Link-11 and Link-16 --- are guarded under CISMOA/Comcasa, the P-8I has been equipped with older communication links that could be intercepted. The absence of these links also prevents the P-8I from generating a Common Tactical Picture with friendly regional navies, who operate over CISMOA-protected links.

There are other such cases. In a conflict with China, the absence of Link-16 would prevent IAF fighters from generating a Common Air Picture, even if friendly air forces were eager to inform on the activities of the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF). Non-signature of CISMOA/Comcasa would have also denied India military precision Global Positioning System (GPS) gear, and state-of-the-art guidance for the Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) that will soon equip IAF fighters.

During Broadsword’s visit in June 2016 to the Chinook CH-47F helicopter line in Philadelphia, we learnt that India’s 15 Chinooks would not have navigation and radio equipment of the same sophistication as the US Army choppers being built alongside. The reason – India had not signed CISMOA/Comcasa.

US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, on a visit to New Delhi in April 2016, argued that American weapon systems were capable even without CISMOA/Comcasa-controlled equipment. But he conceded that India was missing out, saying: “I want to emphasize there’s a lot we can do without the foundational agreements; but there’s much more we can do with them.” 

Political sensitivity of Comcasa
 

The potential political pitfalls in Comcasa/CISMOA can be assessed by examining the text of the CISMOA agreement that the Republic of Korea (South Korea, or ROK) signed with the US DoD on October 27, 2008. Clauses in that text requires Korea to provide US personnel access to Korean military bases; reserve for US personnel the right to install, maintain and inspect CISMOA-controlled equipment; bans the transfer of CISMOA-controlled equipment to any third party; bans its indigenous production; and stipulates stringent safeguards for securing, storing and accounting for COMSEC (communications security) equipment obtained from the US. 

Paragraph V of the agreement requires ROK to pay the full cost of reconfiguring its communication systems to be interoperable with US military systems, and for testing the Korean systems, whenever required. 

Paragraph IX of the agreement stipulates: “DoD-provided COMSEC equipment and materials, including keying materials, will be installed and maintained only by authorized US personnel… When authorized by the US, qualified ROK personnel may remove and/or replace US COMSEC equipment previously installed by US personnel.”

Paragraph X mandates that “DoD-provided COMSEC equipment and materials, including keying materials, will not be subject to any cooperative development, co-production, co-assembly or production licensing agreements.”

How much is India insulated against these clauses?

After the signing of Comcasa on Thursday, a top Indian defence ministry official briefed journalists and claimed that Indian interests had not been compromised. He said the text of the deal, while classified, was specially negotiated for India, with New Delhi refusing to sign the standard CISMOA text that many other countries (like ROK) had. 


He stated that Comcasa did not bind India to buying US weaponry. The agreement, valid for 10 years, is “platform-specific” and will “enable us to derive optimal use of US weapons platforms,” said the official.
 
To assuage Indian concerns that Washington might deactivate Comcasa-safeguarded equipment in the event of India undertaking an operation the US did not subscribe to. The agreement specifies that the US will ensure the equipment would remain operational at all times, he said.
 
Comcasa is the second so-called “foundational agreements” that India has signed, after inking the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement in 2016. In the joint statement issued on Thursday, the two sides “announced their readiness to begin negotiations on an Industrial Security Annex that would support closer defence industry cooperation and collaboration”.
 
With the US military already doing more exercises with the Indian army, navy and air force than with any other country, the two sides “committed to the creation of a new, tri-services exercise and to further increase personnel exchanges between the two militaries and defence organisations.”
 
So far, India’s military has conducted tri-service exercises only with the Russian military. However, partly due to language constraints, the Indo-Russian exercises have been largely symbolic and — like the annual Malabar naval exercises that began as a US-India exercise and then evolved into a trilateral exercise that includes Japan — the tri-service Indo-US exercises can be expected to quickly overhaul the India-Russia exercise in sophistication and operational value.
 
To enhance their joint surveillance over the Indian Ocean, it was agreed that liaison officers would be cross-posted between the Indian Navy and the US Naval Forces Central Command, based in Bahrain.
 
With co-production and co-development projects already being pursued through the Defence Trade and Technology Initiative, the two sides “welcomed the conclusion of a Memorandum of Intent between the US Defense Innovation Unit and the Indian Defence Innovation Organisation – Innovation for Defence Excellence.
 
In the joint statement, both sides noted five major steps recently taken to expand defence ties: India’s designation as a major defence partner of the US, the “rapid growth in bilateral defence trade” (a euphemism for India’s purchase of over $15 billion worth of US defence platforms), American clearance of the export to India of progressively higher levels of technology, India’s inclusion in the top tier of countries entitled to licence free exports under Licence Exemption Strategic Trade Authorization (STA-1) and the signing of Comcasa.