Sunday, 17 November 2019

Exercise “Tiger Triumph”: US Marines to showcase skills for the first time in India



By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 17th Nov 19

For decades, elite troops of the United States Marine Corps (USMC) have protected Washington’s embassy in New Delhi. On Sunday, for the first time ever, the USMC will showcase its professional skills in India, as the joint US-India tri-service exercise “Tiger Triumph” hits the sea at Kakinada, off Visakhapatnam.

Over the next five days, Indian and American soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen will operate together in a simulated “humanitarian aid and disaster relief” (HADR) situation – jointly providing succour to an Indian Ocean country that has been hit by a natural disaster.

But the HADR scenario is only a convenient backdrop. In fact, the two militaries are honing their capability to work together in an amphibious landing – such as a joint invasion of an enemy coast; or an operation to free one’s own territory that has been captured by an enemy country, a terrorist group, or mercenary force.

Ironically, it was a joint US-Indian HADR effort – in the wake of the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004 – that birthed the current era of US-India military cooperation. Operating with the Indian Navy to deliver relief to Indonesia and Sri Lanka, the US Navy reported to Washington that here was a regional partner worth having. The next year saw the US-India defence cooperation agreement.

HADR and a real combat beach landing require similar military resources. The Indian side will deploy its biggest amphibious assault ship, INS Jalashwa; a tank landing ship, INS Airavat; and INS Sandhayak, a survey ship that will function as a hospital ship. 

The US Task Force will include the naval landing ship USS Germantown, which is equipped with landing craft and amphibious assault vehicles needed to land large numbers of marines onto a beach. Specially trained troops from the Third Marine Expeditionary Force – a specialist unit for combat beach landings – will be accompanied by a medical team.

The exercise will involve sailing from Vishakhapatnam to Kakinada, and then staging a shore landing and setting up a joint command centre and a joint relief and medical camp. 


For the Indian Army, this will be a chance to learn from amphibious landing masters, whose tactics date back to the Pacific Campaign in World War II, where they captured one island after another from the Japanese – Midway, Wake Island, Iwo Jima and Guadalcanal.

For the exercise, India is fielding a battalion group, from 19 MADRAS, and BMP-II armoured vehicles from 7 GUARDS. The Indian Air Force (IAF) will deploy one C-130J Super Hercules aircraft, Mi-17 transport helicopters and a Rapid Action Medical Team.

While Exercise Tiger Triumph is an early step in learning, and is therefore being carried out with fewer resources, a full-scale, tri-service beach landing operation is the capability that India is seeking to build.

In such a combat operation, INS Jalashwa, or another Indian landing platform dock (LPD), would carry a battalion of soldiers (850 men), with armoured assault vehicles, to within 30-50 kilometres of the beach, from where smaller, flat-bottomed landing craft mechanised (LCM) would carry the invasion force to the beach. 

To protect the invasion force during the beach landing, the Jalashwa’s six helicopters would heli-drop marine commandos behind the enemy troops that are defending the beach. In addition, naval frigates or destroyers would provide fire support, with their 100 millimetre main guns plastering the enemy’s coastal defences. Simultaneously, IAF fighters, operating from shore bases, might also support the beach landing.

Since 2000, the navy’s Maritime Warfare Centre in Visakhapatnam has been refining these tactics. An Indo-US planning exercise, called “Habunag” has coordinated expeditionary HADR activities with the US navy. Now the USMC will have its word. 

Friday, 15 November 2019

Bhadauria backs indigenisation, is first IAF chief to fly an HAL prototype

Bhadauria straps up for a "six spin" test on the HTT-40

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 15th Nov 19

Signalling a new, positive attitude in the Indian Air Force (IAF) towards indigenous aircraft, its recently appointed chief, Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria, test-flew the prototype Hindustan Turbo Trainer – 40 (HTT-40) at Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) in Bengaluru on Thursday. 

Bhadauria became the first serving IAF chief to fly an HAL-developed aircraft at the prototype stage. Bhadauria, himself an accomplished test pilot who has test-flown the Tejas fighter, was taken through the gruelling “six-spin routine” in which the HTT-40 prototype was allowed to spin six times before the pilot recovered it into level flight.

For a prototype trainer aircraft, the “six-spin” test is considered the most conclusive landmark that signals the aircraft is ready to go into operational service.


“The air chief expressed his satisfaction with the aircraft performance and appreciated the design, project and flight test teams for having achieved commendable progress”, stated HAL after the flight.

The HTT-40, which will be used for training rookie pilots of the IAF and navy, has now completed all major test points and met the performance parameters spelt out in the IAF’s Preliminary Staff Qualitative Requirements (PSQR). During testing the HTT-40 has completed stalls, engine re-lights, inverted flying, acrobatic flying and systems testing. 

“The project now needs to be speeded up for certification and HAL must target setting of modern manufacturing facilities with high production rate from the beginning,” stated Bhadauria.

HAL is now looking forward to receiving a Request for Proposals (RFP) from the IAF for manufacturing the HTT-40. An estimated 106 basic trainers are needed to supplement the IAF’s fleet of 75 Pilatus PC-7 Mark II trainers that were imported from Switzerland.

For years, the IAF has tried to shut down the HTT-40 programme, demanding the import of more Pilatus trainers instead. But through this period successive HAL chiefs have backed the HTT-40, committing Rs 350 crore of internal HAL funds to the project. 

Over the last five years, a team of young, talented HAL designers have worked without IAF assistance or funding, backed to the hilt by former defence ministers, AK Antony and Manohar Parrikar. 

For the Pilatus PC-7 Mark II trainer, the successful flight testing of the HTT-40 most likely spells the end of further imports. The HTT-40 falls under the category of “Indian designed, developed and manufactured” (IDDM) equipment, and the MoD cannot import more Pilatus without a detailed explanation of why the HTT-40 is being ignored.

Supreme Court junks Rafale review petitions, but keeps doors open for a CBI probe

The judgment clears the decks for 36 Rafales on order, and participation in a planned tender for 114 fighters

Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 15th Nov 19

The Supreme Court (SC) on Thursday dismissed a clutch of petitions seeking a review of its December 2018 judgement, which had absolved the government of wrongdoing or procedural impropriety in concluding a Euro 7.8 billion purchase of 36 Rafale fighter aircraft from France in September 2016.

The apex court’s detailed order underlines its reluctance to involve itself in, or adjudicate on, the complex business of weapons procurement or inter-governmental defence contracts. 

“We cannot lose sight of the fact that we are dealing with a contract for aircrafts, which was pending before different Governments for quite some time and the necessity of those aircrafts have never been in dispute”, stated the judgment.

On the crucial aspect of the price paid for the Rafale, which the petitioners – lawyer Prashant Bhushan and former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie – contended was excessive, the judgment stated: “The Court satisfied itself with the material made available.” The material referred to was given by the government to the Court in a sealed cover.

Making clear the cursory nature of the Court’s scrutiny, the judgment stated: “It is not the function of this Court to determine the prices… The internal mechanism of such pricing would take care of the situation.”

Issues related to pricing and aircraft configuration “have to be left to the best judgment of the competent authorities,” said the judgment.

Yet, the judges simultaneously claimed: “We have elaborately dealt with the pleas of the learned counsel for the [petitioners]… under the heads of ‘Decision Making Process’, ‘Pricing’ and ‘Offsets’. The judgment stated the Court had satisfied itself with “the correctness of the decision making process.”

The review petition filed by Bhushan, Sinha and Shourie in January 2019 contended their original petition had not sought any investigation by the SC. Rather, they had pleaded for registration of a First Information Report (FIR) by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which was the agency best qualified and equipped to handle such an investigation.

The judgment, however, rejected this contention. 

“No doubt that there was a prayer made for registration of FIR and further investigation but then, once we had examined the three aspects on merits, we did not consider it appropriate to issue any directions as prayed for by the petitioners.”

The review petition also argued that the SC’s judgment on December 2018 was based on incorrect information submitted by the government under oath, and that additional information – published in the national media – had come to light, making it evident that the government had paid an inflated price for the Rafale, over the objections of its own price negotiation experts.

Responding to that, the Attorney General had objected in Court to the petitioners’ use of classified material relating to internal decision making, which he contended the media published in violation of the Official Secrets Act. However, in an order issued on April 10, the apex court rejected that contention, upholding freedom of the press.

Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul authored the first part of the judgment. However, the third judge on the bench, Justice KM Joseph, wrote a separate, but concurring, judgment that interpreted differently the petitioners’ prayer for a CBI inquiry.

Joseph opined that the main verdict (by Gogoi and Kaul) would not stand in the way of the CBI taking lawful action on the complaint, which was clearly a cognizable offence under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 2018. However, the CBI would be limited by Section 17A of the Act, which requires the government to accord prior permission for prosecuting an official for an offence carried out in the discharge of his duty.

Joseph’s judgment recognised that attempting to obtain government permission would be “a futile exercise” and that “the petitioners cannot succeed”. At the same time, he left the door open for a CBI inquiry with the statement: “It is my view that the judgment sought to be reviewed will not stand in the way of [the CBI] from taking action… [subject to]… obtaining previous approval under Section 17A of the Prevention of Corruption Act.”

One of the petitioners, Prashant Bhushan, confirms he will be demanding a CBI probe. “I will be writing to the CBI, asking the agency to approach the government for permission under Section 17A to investigate the Rafale scam,” said Bhushan.

Even as the SC deliberated the Rafale issue, the government has already made a major chunk of payment to French firm Dassault for 36 Rafales. The first fighter is scheduled to be delivered in mid-2020. Thursday’s judgment clears the decks for Dassault to offer the Rafale in another on-going Indian procurement for 114 medium fighters.

Thursday, 14 November 2019

The Chinese air force’s long march

In a war with India, the PLA would deploy all its capabilities for full-spectrum war -- cyber, long-range missiles and convention power. India must be ready to meet this threat

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 14th Nov 19

When Mao Zedong declared the founding of the People’s Republic of China in Beijing, on October 1, 1949, the country had just 17 military aircraft. Legend has it that this little fleet — nine fighters, two bombers, three carriers, one communication plane and two trainers — overflew Tiananmen Square twice each to give the jubilant masses the impression they had an air force. The next month, on November 11, 1949, Mao proclaimed the People’s Liberation Army (Air Force) as a separate service.

How things have changed! The PLA(AF) is now a 400,000-person force that flies some 2,000 combat aircraft – more than thrice the size of the Indian Air Force (IAF). On Sunday, a PLA(AF) video, released to celebrate its 70thanniversary, boasted a range of sophisticated warplanes, most developed in China. These include the fifth-generation J-20 stealth fighter that has begun entering service, the J-16 Shenyang fighter (an advanced version of the Sukhoi-30), the H-6N strategic bomber, which reputedly launches the “aircraft carrier killer” Dongfeng-21D ballistic missile, the Y-20 transport aircraft that takes aloft 66 tonnes of payload, and the KJ-2000 airborne early warning system.

The 1962 Sino-Indian war was fought entirely between land troops, with neither side using its air force or navy against each other. But in a military face-off today, the PLA’s ungracefully-named military doctrine of “limited war under conditions of Informationization” (gobbledygook for a digitally enabled, highly transparent battlefield) will see a major role for the PLA(AF), operating in numbers from the ten-odd air bases that experts assess have been readied in Tibet. It is, therefore, worth retracing the PLA(AF)’s journey.

The year after its humble beginnings in 1949, the PLA(AF) got a major boost from the Korean War, when Stalin and Mao reached an unholy bargain: Russia would bulk up the PLA(AF) with the mass-produced, highly-capable MiG-15, and train Chinese pilots and technicians to fly and maintain combat aircraft. In return, China would serve as a Russian proxy against the United Nations coalition in Korea, especially the United States Air Force (USAF). Between 1950 and 1953, both sides lost hundreds of fighters and pilots, including dozens of Russian pilots flying in North Korean uniforms. The experience garnered enabled Russia to incrementally develop the MiG-15 into the MiG-17, MiG-19 and the legendary MiG-21; with China eventually building all four fighters under licence. The USAF, meanwhile, improved the supersonic F-86 Sabre fighters into an advanced version that Washington later supplied Pakistan, which used them against the IAF in 1965 and 1971. 

The Korean War gave China its first fighter aces and – more importantly for Mao – a capable, experienced air force. According to accounts from that time, when Stalin complained about China’s reluctance to engage the USAF in air combat more aggressively, Mao expressed his readiness to get a million Chinese killed in combat in Korea, but he would not endanger the existence of his new air force. It is important to note that China’s shiny new air force has had very limited combat experience since the Korean War. Analysts, including those at the USAF-linked RAND Corporation, assess that despite the PLA(AF)’s instructional regime, which seeks to train pilots under “actual combat conditions”, it is ill-prepared to fight and win against well-drilled air forces such as the USAF.

After the Korean war, the PLA(AF) entered a period of steep decline caused by the Sino-Soviet split and by the internal turmoil of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. After Mao’s death, Deng Xiaoping began reforming the PLA; Communist Party insiders have said he engineered the abortive 1979 invasion of Vietnam only to illustrate the PLA’s deficiencies and need for reform. The PLA(AF) also learned lessons from Britain’s invasion of the Falklands and Israel’s destruction of Syrian air defence systems in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley in 1982. Deng realised the importance of air power and space assets. He allowed the PLA(AF), hitherto focused on supporting the land campaign, to begin developing an independent strategy. 

The dazzling success of the US “AirLand Battle” doctrine in the first Gulf War in 1991 caused the PLA to adopt the doctrine of “limited war under high-tech conditions”, which envisioned wars being prosecuted by relatively small, flexible, heavily armed, tri-service troops. The White Paper of 2004 adopted the current doctrine of “limited war under conditions of informationization”, which envisioned real time advanced communications to digitally integrate land, sea, air and space sensors, and the use of precision munitions to accurately strike the targets thus identified. 

Given this doctrinal backdrop, what role would the PLA(AF) play, and what missions would it perform, in a future war with India? These would be limited by a geographical imperative – the Tibetan Plateau, which consists of a 1,000-2,000 kilometre buffer between the Chinese and Indian mainlands. PLA(AF) aircraft, operating from Chengdu and Kunming, in South China – the mainland bases closest to India – would have a one-way journey of 1,000 kilometres to enter the Assam plains. Even with mid-air refuelling, that would leave the aircraft with little mission time, especially for targets deeper inside India. Consequently, the PLA(AF) would have to operate from Tibet, for which it has created and stocked at least several air bases, including Lhasa, Golmud, Nyingchi and Shigatse. But while these are significantly closer to Indian targets (Lhasa is less than 400 kilometres from Tezpur) PLA(AF) fighters taking off from air bases on the 10,000-feet-high Tibetan plateau would face serious limitations on the weapons and fuel payload they can get aloft with. To overcome this, they would require mid-air refuelling after take-off, a cumbersome process carried out at high altitude, during which they would be easily detected by Indian radar, providing IAF fighters, air defence guns and missile systems ample time to react.

To degrade the IAF’s response time and capability, the PLA would very likely begin the war with cruise and ballistic missile strikes on Indian air bases in Assam, such as Tezpur, Bagdogra and Hashimara, using conventional-tipped missiles from the PLA’s so-called Second Artillery – an arsenal of strategic missiles with either conventional or nuclear warheads. This might be preceded, or accompanied, by a carefully directed cyber attack to disable the IAF’s surveillance network, satellite communications and command and control systems. Given China’s demonstrated capability to target and destroy satellites in space, Indian communications and surveillance satellites would be fair game. A high-technology, broad-spectrum attack of this nature would not just be intended to clear the path for PLA(AF) fighter strikes in support of a ground offensive. Given that Beijing would stage-manage any attack on India as a global demonstration and warning of its Great Power military capabilities – the philosophy of “killing the monkey to scare the chickens” – a full-spectrum attack is a near certainty.

In the 1950s, the Red Army’s legendary Marshal Zhu De had famously said, “The kind of war we will fight depends upon what kind of arms we have.” That is now history. New China’s aggressive doctrine now is: “Build the weapons to fight the war that we have to fight.” It is this attitude and the capabilities it has spawned that India’s military must diligently prepare for. As recently as 1999, facing the prospect of a war in Kargil, Indian Army chief, General VP Malik was bravely echoing Marshal Zhu. It would be worth recalling the famous comment of French marshal Pierre Bosquet after he witnessed the suicidal Charge of the Light Brigade in 1854 in Crimea: “C'est magnifique, mais ce n'est pas la guerre." (“It is magnificent, but it is not war.”)

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

With Rajnath in Moscow, 52 Indian private defence firms seek joint manufacture

Defence secretary targets 50 Indo-Russian joint ventures in four-to-five years

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 7th Nov 19

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, who is visiting Moscow and St Petersburg for the annual dialogue between the two countries’ defence ministers held talks with his Russian counterpart, General Sergei Shoigu, on Wednesday.

On India’s agenda for the 19th India-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission on Military and Military Technical Cooperation (IRIGC-M&MTC) is a concerted thrust to attract Russian “original equipment manufacturers” (OEMs) to outsource the building of defence equipment components and assemblies to Indian firms.

Accompanying Rajnath Singh to Russia are representatives from 52 Indian defence firms, looking to tie up deals with Russian OEMs. The Indian delegation includes large companies like the Adani Group and Mahindra Aerospace, as well as a host of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) that manufacture defence and aerospace components.

To this end, the Indian defence minister’s first order of business in Russia was to address chief executives of Russian OEMs at an “India-Russia Defence Industry Cooperation Conference” on Tuesday, and urge them to build in India.

Defence Secretary Ajay Kumar told the gathering to target setting up 50 Indo-Russian joint ventures in the next four-to-five years for building spares and components in India.

The Tuesday conference was also attended by Russia’s Minister of Industry and Trade, Denis Manturov.

While the US defence and aerospace industry, and to a lesser extent European industry, have begun shifting production to small, private manufacturers in India, the Russian defence industry has preferred to co-produce with large defence public sector undertakings (DPSUs) and ordnance factories (OFs), to meet indigenisation requirements in multi-billion dollar contracts, such as the ones for building Sukhoi-30MKI fighters, and T-72M1 and T-90S tanks in India.

Unlike the US, Russia has been tardy in developing business-to-business relations with Indian industry. Meanwhile, private Indian defence firms too have preferred to do business with the west. Speaking off the record, Indian CEOs say they encounter difficulties in obtaining full and timely payment from Russian partners.

With little production beyond the assembly of large platforms like fighter aircraft and tanks, the Indian military is still reliant on Moscow for spare parts and components required to keep its vast, Russia-origin arsenal going.

Nudging Moscow to remedy this dependency was a key objective of the 20thannual summit between the Indian and Russian leaders in Vladivostok on September 4. The joint statement issued by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Vladimir Putin called for action to “improve the after-sales service” of Russian equipment and “to encourage joint manufacturing in India of spare parts, components, aggregates and other products for maintenance of Russian-origin arms… through transfer of technology and setting up of joint ventures.”

On Tuesday night, Rajnath Singh tweeted: “We will soon share with the Russian side the list of spares and items, proposed to be manufactured in India. I hope that the Russian side will identify the OEMs in the next few months who can partner in production of these spares.”

Besides spares and components, Russia has several other opportunities to step up manufacturing in India. An inter-government agreement (IGA) to manufacture about 200 Kamov-226T helicopters in India, in partnership with Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), has stringent indigenisation conditions that Russia cannot meet without intensified partnership with Indian private industry.

Moscow and New Delhi have also signed an IGA for manufacturing AK-203 assault rifles in India, with Russian firm Kalashnikov in a joint venture with the Ordnance Factory Board. After discussing this, Rajnath Singh tweeted: “I also welcome the strong Russian support for early operationalisation of Kalashnikov joint venture.”

Also discussed was co-operation in submarine manufacture, with Russia contending strongly for Project 75-I, which involves building six submarines, with “air independent propulsion” (AIP) in India. Moscow wants its Amur-class submarines to be selected without competition through an IGI. However, New Delhi insists on proceeding with an on-going competitive procurement, for which Moscow must compete with three European submarine OEMs that have offered their submarines.

From Moscow, the Indian defence minister will travel to St Petersburg on Thursday, which is a major hub of Russian warship building.

Wednesday, 6 November 2019

US technology to convert rice stubble into bio-fuel, not smog



By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 6th Nov 19

While Delhi’s residents work through a blanket of choking smog, caused largely by farmers burning fields of rice stubble in Punjab, the key to at least alleviating this problem was turned in Bangkok on Monday.

The United States Trade Development Authority (USTDA) signed up to allocate a grant of $300,000-500,00 for an Indian engineering firm, The Virgo Group, to carry out a “scoping study” for setting up a plant near Bhatinda that will convert the stubble from harvested rice fields into green “bio-fuel”.

The “scoping study” will determine how much bio-fuel can be extracted from the rice stubble. Based on this study, Virgo Group’s Bhatinda plant will customise “Rapid Thermal Processing” technology from Envergent Technologies – a subsidiary of US technology giant, Honeywell – to convert agricultural waste to biocrude, reducing air pollution and creating a new fuel source.

The project is being strongly supported by the Punjab government, which signed an agreement with Virgo Group on February 11 for facilitating the plant, including with concessional land. Chief Minister Amarinder Singh himself attended that signing.

Also backing the project is US envoy to India, Kenneth Juster, who was at the signing in Bangkok.

“We are extremely grateful to the Government of India, Government of Punjab, USTDA, the US Embassy in Delhi and our technical collaborators Honeywell US in jointly working with us to overturn one of the most serious environmental challenges that India is currently facing,” said Kanav Monga of Virgo Group after the signing.

Another key driver of this project is Punjab’s finance minister, Manpreet Badal, who belongs to Bhatinda, where the Bhatinda Refinery will blend the green bio-fuel with regular diesel. The phrase being used for this ecology-friendly refining is: “eco-fine”.

Honeywell sources say the “scoping study” will take approximately 13 weeks, after which the company can begin customising the “Rapid Processing Technology” plant for Punjab’s peculiar rice stubble.

This initiative brings together two imperatives of the Indian government.In August 2017, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for the country to save $1.7 billion a year on imported hydrocarbon fuel, by blending green biofuels with standard ethanol.

Separately, the Union Cabinet and Delhi government are grappling with the problem of Delhi’s toxic air, caused by rice stubble burning, which has not improved despite measures like taking vehicles off the road through an “odd-even” scheme that allows them to ply only on alternate days. Converting rice stubble into bio-diesel is seen as converting a problem into an opportunity.

Organisations like the Indian Air Force (IAF), whose aircraftconsume 100 crore litres of aviation turbine fuel (ATF) per year are seeing an opportunity in green bio-fuel. If it can achieve its goal to substitute 10 per cent of its ATF with bio-fuels, it would save 10 crore litres of ATF each year.

While only bio-fuel made from Jatropha has currently been certified for aircraft, there is potential to source it from 150 million tonnes of surplus bio-mass feedstock across India, including from non-edible plants like Castor Pongamia, Neem, Mahua, Sal and Kokum. Now rice stubble presents an inviting new option.

Thursday, 31 October 2019

US-India co-development flop show forces new approach to DTTI

The Pentagon's procurement chief and DTTI co-chair, Ellen Lord, outlined the new DTTI thrust in Delhi on Thursday

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 27th Oct 19

The US-India agreement on Thursday to co-develop seven cutting-edge defence systems marks the formal burial of six co-development projects announced with fanfare in 2015, but which were never concluded, or even seriously pursued.

The agreement marks the reorientation of the US-India Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) from a narrow, government-focused approach, to a new realisation that joint development projects should be piloted by defence industry on both sides, while the Pentagon and Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD) oversees progress and deals with regulatory roadblocks that arise.

US Under Secretary of Defense, Ellen Lord, who visited Delhi this week to co-chair the 9thDTTI meeting with her Indian counterpart, Secretary for Defence Production Subhash Chandra, acknowledged: “In the past, there have been frustrations with progress under DTTI, but… we are making considerable progress.” 

There are few takers for this, given the abandonment of projects taken up earlier (with the exception of aircraft carrier cooperation), and their replacement with seven new co-development projects on Thursday.

MoD and Pentagon officials have drawn lessons from the earlier DTTI failures. A key reason was that, in entering co-development projects, New Delhi and Washington had divergent motivations, with neither side focused on co-developing usable products.

An example is the co-development of “jet engine technology”, for which both sides constituted a joint working group (JWG) in 2015. On Thursday, Lord admitted that this had been suspended because “We could not come to an understanding of what exportable technology would be useful to the Indians. And we did run into a challenge in terms of the US export control.”

In fact, there was little that India could ever contribute to this “co-development”, with US entities already masters of aero engine technologies, while Indian scientists and technologists were at an early stage of the learning curve, struggling to develop the Kaveri jet engine. What the Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO) wanted was US solutions for unsolved technology challenges, such as high temperature alloys and single crystal blades for the “hot end” of the Kaveri.

Meanwhile, the American side expected that working with the DRDO would create a relationship that would lead to building US aero engines in India. US engine makers like Pratt & Whitney, or General Electric, would never part cheaply with intellectual property (IP) that had cost billions to develop over decades. Nor would Washington grant export control licences for critical engine technology. The best that could be hoped for was the transfer of manufacturing line blueprints for building engines in India. That would advantage American fighter vendors in on-going procurements of fighter aircraft for the Indian Air Force and navy.

India’s MoD understood this would provide a controversial back door into India’s aircraft procurement cycle. New Delhi has also understood that US engine-makers are guided by commercial, not strategic, considerations. Although India remains a strategic partner, US defence industry, which resides in the private sector, would not hand over “hot end” technology to score a success in DTTI. 

The new approach to DTTI, and the choice of products and technologies now being co-developed, recognises that the Indian partner must bring credible technological capability to the table. In announcing the co-development of “air-launched, small, unmanned airborne systems (UAS)”, Lord acknowledged: “There are some small, very innovative companies here in India that have [this] technology.”

Similarly, it was decided to co-develop a “Virtual Augmented Mixed Reality” platform for teaching aircraft maintenance because several Indian start ups have already developed VAR technology.

A second lesson has been the need for Pentagon-MoD control of DTTI to allow more space for industry-to-industry collaboration. The first step was taken on Monday, when seven American and 20 Indian defence firms attended the new “DTTI Industry Collaboration Forum”, chaired by mid-level defence bureaucrats from both sides.

Admitting that this was “helping us better understand challenges and opportunities”, Lord said this would be “formalized into an industry-to-industry framework” by the time the two defence and foreign ministers met in the “2+2 dialogue” in December in Washington.

A third lesson has been that the military, rather than the DTTI, is often the better platform for projects involving operational cooperation. The American and Indian navies are now largely driving “aircraft carrier technology cooperation” (ACTC), which involves US-India partnership in developing the next indigenous aircraft carrier. Lord specifically lauded the “high level of engagement” between them.

Fourth and finally, there is recognition of the need for the DTTI to diligently monitor projects and time-targets. The newly signed Statement of Intent specifies “the need for detailed planning and measurable progress on specific short, middle, and long-term DTTI projects that are identified in the document.”