Saturday, 7 July 2007

Response to Air Marshall Bhojwani... on MRCA

(INCLUDING AS A FRESH POST... FOR EASE OF ACCESS)

Air Marshall Bhojwani's point is accepted without any contention.

The comparison of a multi-role aircraft with a hand-held device was a (admittedly simplistic) literary device used by me to convey to an audience of businessmen (Business Standard readership) the concept of a multi-role aircraft. Please do bear with me as I try and convey fairly complex military arguments in 850 words! Trust me folks, it's not easy...

But with due respect, I don't entirely agree with the argument about logistics being the prime reason behind multi-role capability. The cost of putting all those capabilities into one aircraft is far, far more than of building up separate logistical capabilities for different "types".

Most theoreticians who argue for multi-role capability cite operational flexibility (even though, as you say, it takes a few hours to switch an aircraft from one role to another) rather than logistical uniformity in favour of MRCA.

But the argument that I find most compelling against buying MRCA is one that I could barely accomodate in my article. And that is the one about directing spending towards the real threats. With peace processes galloping along with Pakistan and China on the one hand... and internal security going from bad to worse to uncontrollable on the other (I'm certain its only a matter of time before the army is called into counter-naxalite operations) we have to develop the high-tech, all-weather, day-night infantryman in preference to full-blown warfighting equipment.

This is a very unpopular argument, especially with my own ex-colleagues in the armoured corps, but as a man who has done counter-insurgency operations in J&K with the most primitive equipment (I didn't have a bullet-proof jacket for most of my tenures there, leave alone night vision devices). But it makes plain military sense.

Alas, there are very few kickbacks to be had in infantry contracts. You could perhaps fight a general election on the kickback from the MRCA contract. The kickback from an NVD contract would fund no more than a municipal election!!

11 comments:

Abhiman said...

Mr. Shukla, external threats of Pakistan and China may not be reduced by peace-talks in the backdrop of Mumbai blasts, Malegaon blasts, Hyderabad blasts, Delhi blasts, Varanasi blasts and Mr. Sun Yuxi's dragon-like snorting to Indian media. Peace-talks may only be a way of saying that, "we are resolving a dispute non-militarily". For the military resolution, the MRCA may be necessary.

The seemingly peaceful and non-conflict nations like Malaysia (purchased F-18 and Su-30), Indonesia, Thailand and Australia also maintain sophisticated militaries. The Cold-war era also witnessed peace-talks, summits and events almost every year. But yet there was no reduction in threat assesment.

The reality is that Pakistan is China's "sentry" in S-Asia so that China can focus on Taiwan, disputed Japanese islands and the US towards the east. It has nuclearized Pakistan also while providing it with ballistic missiles that may strike as far upto Bangalore and Chennai. Its latest Babar cruise missile can strike deep into Central India.
Peace-talks are mostly formalities which may "backfire" unexpectedly as in Kargil war just after the "peaceful" Lahore bus-trip by former PM A B Vajpayee. "Behind-the-scenes" activities like targeting satellite, F-16s armed with AMRAAMs or Ereiye
etc. must also be responded to.

Hence, modernization of the armed forces is absolutely necessary regardless of peace-talks. Along with that indigenisation is also very necessary because this age of excessive globalization results in the US refusing to provide technology to its closest allies, the UK and Australia.

Thank you.

ravi said...

I guess you are saying that both are mutually exclusive. If I remember it right, the armed forces were giving back huge amounts of funds allocated to them in the past few years? Why was it? It is due to the inefficiency in the babudom of defence ministry and higher echelons of armed forces.

This years budget for defence is a partly 2.07%, when according to even normal people(not militarily inclined), it should go up to atleast around 2.75%.

When you observe these both at the same time, it is not due to paucity of funds that the infantry is not getting its due. Its due to something else- lethargy and unaccountability.

You are still using the bread vs arms contest, except replace it with small arms vs large. How much does a night vision device cost? say 2-3 lakh(exact figure, I dont know). They are needed for around 25-50k(again a wild ass guess). SO you need around 500-1500 crores. In 2005, the armed returned around 5000 crores. So reduce the intake of t-90s by 50-150 should be enough even if it is a small vs large scenario.

Srirangan said...

>> With peace processes galloping
>> along with Pakistan and China
>> on the one hand...

Is it? I'd beg to differ.

>> and internal security going from
>> bad to worse to uncontrollable
>> on the other

Internal security (euphemism for Maoist terror) was always this bad. It is just better reported and more visible now.

--

No offense intended but the entire reasoning put forward is getting a bit flawed. When the Air Force acquires the 126 MRCA, it is to serve for the next 20-30 years. Think long term, don't say it's a bad move just because you find more articles about Maoism on Times of India today.

That being said, there is no reason to avoid the up gradation of police forces co-ordinating against Mao uncle's minions.

Ajai said...

I disagree entirely with the premise that you have to be equally prepared for war, regardless of the state of your external relationships and the situation in your own country. That's an insecure mindset that India, fortunately, has long left behind.

Your military state of readiness, and your weapons profile, is dictated entirely by the externalities. If you are liable to be attacked by conventional forces at three days notice, you would require a certain readiness profile; if you are threatened by a two front war, that has its own imperatives; if your primary threat is from missile attacks, that will lead you to an entirely different weapons profile. And if your external situation is that there are peace process running, that you have a Treaty of Peace and Tranquillity with China that has never been violated EVEN ONCE in eleven years, that you have a rough parity of forces on your border with them and that nuclear deterrence is providing you additional back-up security, it becomes really really difficult to provide a rationale for maintaining defence preparedness at the same levels as when you had none of these assurances.

Of course, in India, where the well-off really don't care a damn about the desperate state in which tens of millions live in large pockets around the country, the government can just turn its back on them and pretend the problems are really with Pakistan and China and not within the country. It makes for easy rhetoric, especially for the uneducated. But when I hear people say "don't say it's a bad move just because you find more articles about Maoism on Times of India today", it comes home with a jolt how far removed from reality people in India's metros are.

For Srirangan's information, there are those who don't get their information from the Times of India. (If you read that rag, switch to something that has less of PTPs and more of news!) I, like many others, have spent time in the Maoist-affected areas of Chhatisgarh and invite you to go there and talk to the Maoists and the locals there and get a sense of what alienation really means. That realisation is not to be distilled from the pages of the Times of India, which sells news space to the highest bidder.

National security is less about hardware and weapons platforms and sensors than about co-opting the populace into a shared sense of nationhood. That's the big force multiplier that money cannot buy, except in the long-term upliftment of disadvantaged sections. And that requires the BIG BUCKS that are going into sexy, but barely usable, platforms like the MRCA. The small change that is being surrendered is of concern, but is not enough to deal with the challenges.

The next great fallacy is that upgrading the infantry in order to tackle internal security threats requires buying 25000 NVDs and saying "Okay, bahadur jawan, India expects every man to do his duty". Bringing the infantry up to speed requires major manpower reorientation in order to bring in better-educated, fitter, higher-IQ soldiers, which in turn cost much more. Then it requires training them adequately, including on computer-assisted simulators, which costs much more. Then you need to equip them from ground up, including clothing, communications, sensor-integration and finally, yes, your NVDs.

We are not talking about some fancy devices that sit about in hangars and emerge once in a while no closer than a hundred kilometers from any enemy. We are talking about the boys in contact, who are in live operations even as I write this and as you read it.

Let's get real here!

Abhiman said...

Mr. Shukla even if the "Peace and Tranquility" treaty with China did not exist the situation would have remained as it is currently. The Chinese ambassador to India Mr. Sun Yuxi has affirmed China's clear intent to ownership of Arunachal Pradesh. An Indian civil service officer's Visa was refused as he was from AP.

These incidents are not similar to Peace moves but are indications of what may be termed as a "dormant volcano".
You may recall the Panchsheel agreements and the numerous Peace talks that preceded the 1962 war.
Though it is true that India is much better equipped than it was in 1962, and that China is unlikely to wage war in the same manner again, we must realize that "our guard must not be down".

China's defence budget for the current year was increased by 17 percent to $45 billion. It has been growing at 10% annually since the last 15 years. Thus, it is commensurate with their growth rate, and is now 7.5% of the Chinese GDP. In comparison, the Indian defence budget has been maintained at only 2.5% of the GDP since "time immemorial" against out growth rate of 9%.

Thank you.

References :-

http://www.tribuneindia.com/2007/20070306/world.htm#1

Col Rahul K Bhonsle, "China's defence budget : A Critique".
http://www.boloji.com/analysis2/0195.htm

Abhiman said...

To my previous post I may add that Tejas as MRCA will be the cheapest, and most cost-effective option. The Tejas may cost only $25 million per unit as compared to an estimated $80 million for some western options.

Technical assistance, spare-parts, on-demand attention, on-demand upgrades etc. shall be readily available instead of 'protracted' contracts and re-negotiations with foreign nations. Unnannounced hikes in prices (like that of Su-30 or Gorshkov), erratic availability of spares and most importantly, sanctions can literally be vaccinated against.

The Tejas meets MRCA requirements.
It's choice shall meet the requirement of the IAF, and the valuable foreign-exchange saved can be used in the service of the nation, be it eliminating poverty or Naxals.

Thank you.

ravi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ravi said...

"I disagree entirely with the premise that you have to be equally prepared for war, regardless of the state of your external relationships and the situation in your own country. That's an insecure mindset that India, fortunately, has long left behind."

We are not advocating that we have to prepared for war against USA. Yaa, peace process with Pakistan, How many years ago was the operation Parakram? In these five years, if the change has occured from x to y, why shouldnt there be change back from y to x in the same time frame? Armed forces are an "insurance" against these things. The moment we let the guard down, are you sure that Pakistan will not try another Kargil or try to take Siachen? Intentions change, it is capabilities which matter for the armed forces. The armed forces are the "insurance" such that the change of intentions do not harm you much.


"Your military state of readiness, and your weapons profile, is dictated entirely by the externalities. If you are liable to be attacked by conventional forces at three days notice, you would require a certain readiness profile; if you are threatened by a two front war, that has its own imperatives; if your primary threat is from missile attacks, that will lead you to an entirely different weapons profile. And if your external situation is that there are peace process running, that you have a Treaty of Peace and Tranquillity with China that has never been violated EVEN ONCE in eleven years, that you have a rough parity of forces on your border with them and that nuclear deterrence is providing you additional back-up security, it becomes really really difficult to provide a rationale for maintaining defence preparedness at the same levels as when you had none of these assurances."


You yourselves stated that only if we have "rough parity" these things work out. Right. When china and pakistan are modernising their forces, if india stagnates, where will be the parity?Pakistan is rumouredly getting around 250 J-17s, 50-J-11s. and this is only Pakistan. What about China.
How are you going to have a rough parity in the future unless you develop your capabilities now.
I wont go near the panchsheel and what happened just 6 years after that. Developing a profile for an army is different from being in an "x" state or readiness. Being an army person, I didnt expect you blunder on this.

Of course, in India, where the well-off really don't care a damn about the desperate state in which tens of millions live in large pockets around the country, the government can just turn its back on them and pretend the problems are really with Pakistan and China and not within the country. It makes for easy rhetoric, especially for the uneducated. But when I hear people say "don't say it's a bad move just because you find more articles about Maoism on Times of India today", it comes home with a jolt how far removed from reality people in India's metros are.


I wouldnt take notice of the jab against the "urabanely rich". Are you implying that we shouldnt take care of our external threats? Only the internal threats should be catered to? Remember why the british could so easily occupy us? Why could they conquer an economy which was around 25% of the worlds? Dont forget the lessons learned from history and at the same time live in the present and plan for the future. I hope you have visited many villages. Do you find any change from the 70's to now? Really understand, all this statements- when only 15ps out of every 1Re is actually utilized, what should be the priority aim? The priority should be increasing the proportion not the overall amount, which just goes down the drain filling up babus pockets. Are we doing that? Instead what we are doing is simply pouring amounts into black hole from other issues which also need some attention. Because this is not an economic blog, I will not go deep into it. What do you think should be the ideal percentage spent on Indian armed forces? This year its the lowest ever in more than 30 years -2.07. Now give your arguments more specificity instead of talking in the air like bread vs butter stuff. Be specific.


Times of India, which sells news space to the highest bidder.


Atleast in some thing, our ideas coincide.


National security is less about hardware and weapons platforms and sensors than about co-opting the populace into a shared sense of nationhood. That's the big force multiplier that money cannot buy, except in the long-term upliftment of disadvantaged sections. And that requires the BIG BUCKS that are going into sexy, but barely usable, platforms like the MRCA. The small change that is being surrendered is of concern, but is not enough to deal with the challenges.


National security is about many things sir. I am not disputing that. As a developing country which wants to take its rightful place in the world in the future, understand that we cannot afford to think small. There have to be many things simultaneously. Rural development, industrial progress, infrastructure, defence have to go simulataneously. They cannot be at the expense of other. That we have still not been able to develop a policy which inculcates the above instead of mere rhethoric is our fault.
The small change which the armed forces surrenders routinely is more than what the yearly installment for mrca is. If that is small change to you, well :). Oh, btw, I didnt include inflation into the calculations.


The next great fallacy is that upgrading the infantry in order to tackle internal security threats requires buying 25000 NVDs and saying "Okay, bahadur jawan, India expects every man to do his duty". Bringing the infantry up to speed requires major manpower reorientation in order to bring in better-educated, fitter, higher-IQ soldiers, which in turn cost much more. Then it requires training them adequately, including on computer-assisted simulators, which costs much more. Then you need to equip them from ground up, including clothing, communications, sensor-integration and finally, yes, your NVDs.


Who is denying that? As I said, they were all my rough a$$ guesses. I wouldnt call them even intelligent guesses. Wouldnt the 50-150 tanks I talked about have these operational costs? Wouldnt it need some extra simulators, more number of engineers, fuel? Who is denying it? Sir, wouldnt there be even more phases for a tanker? Who can answer it better than yourselves?

"
We are not talking about some fancy devices that sit about in hangars and emerge once in a while no closer than a hundred kilometers from any enemy. We are talking about the boys in contact, who are in live operations even as I write this and as you read it.

Let's get real here!"


Again the small vs large scene. When we are literally throwing away all the unspent defence budgets into the babus pockets, it becomes a non-issue with respect to funds available is my point.

All these points, you can emcompass in a single statistic. What do you believe should be the percentage of gdp spent on armed forces?. Please give this figure and then we will talk about these issues. If you want to say, get real and see what is being given, I will have to include what is being thrown out.

ravi said...

Mr. Shukla,

I understand that you are a bit busy these days. I was wondering if you could squeeze in the arjun article, ofcourse wouldnt want a hap-hazardly quick half-researched one. Could you provide a time frame for the same?

Ajai said...

Won't tie myself down to a time-frame, Ravi, but will do it as soon as I can. That's a promise.

Gaurav said...

Comment on today's Article (July 17) on Pakistan:

While it is true, that India has mostly kept quiet about the Lal Mazjid ongoings in Pakistan, in view that such utterances can prove to be 'the kiss of death' to borrow words from our ex-defence minister Jaswant Singh, please do take note that recently, when the PM was at Jammu for an official visit, he did mention turning the line of control into line of peace, using the occasion to send a message to Pakistan, that India is watching.