Saturday, 30 January 2010

Friday, 29 January 2010

Video of PAK-FA: first test flight

Here is a YouTube video that purports to be the first test flight of the PAK-FA.

My thanks to alert readers of Broadsword for this link.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Fighting for US objectives

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, January 26, 2010

Does anyone recall a top American official publicly declaring that India would be justified in attacking Pakistan if terrorists struck Indian targets again?

I don’t. Which is why I believe more attention must be paid to what US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said last week in India, when asked whether he had counselled restraint to New Delhi in the event of another terror strike.

Gates’ reply: “I told all of the Indian leaders that I met with that I thought that India had responded with great restraint and statesmanship after the first Mumbai attack. The ability of any state to continue that, were it to be attacked again, I think is in question...”

That was more of a threat against Pakistan than Washington has made before. Underlining that, Gates emphasised, “’s not unreasonable to assume that Indian patience would be limited, were there to be further (terrorist) attacks.”

At that point (in New Delhi, on January 20), it could legitimately be argued that Gates was double-dealing, as America frequently does, sweet-talking India in India before heading off to Pakistan to repudiate his statement. But, this time, in Islamabad the next day, Gates repeated to Pakistan TV almost exactly what he had said in New Delhi. His words: “I believe that after the tragic attack on Mumbai that India was restrained in its response. But no country, including the United States, is going to stand idly by if it’s being attacked by somebody.”

Interesting, especially the similar phraseology, pointing to a pre-formulated response! Was Washington merely waving the India stick to nudge Islamabad towards greater cooperation in the Af-Pak war? Or, is the US starting to believe that Islamabad is a lost cause, and that India can be used — not just politically and diplomatically, but its hard power as well — to deal with Pakistan.

Unthinkable? Remember that a government’s public positions usually lag, in both time and emphasis, what policymakers agree to behind closed doors. It would be reasonable to assume that Robert Gates, while meeting Dr Manmohan Singh, was even more forthright in signalling America’s tolerance for the use of Indian force.

America’s dwindling patience is evident from more than just Gates’ warning. At the same time that Gates visited Delhi, two former US officials — General Richard Myers, former chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, and William Schneider, until recently the Pentagon’s head of technology — were in India, sounding out key opinion-makers and policy-makers about the possibility of a growing military role for India in Afghanistan. The question at the heart of their discussions was: how best can Indian police organisations, e.g. the BSF, CRPF and CISF, take on a major role in training the Afghan National Police to look after security? Neither Myers nor Schneider seemed even slightly constrained by Pakistan’s entreaties to Washington to curb India’s role in Afghanistan.

Myers and Schneider, some might argue, are not from the US government; they merely represent an academic viewpoint! That distinction, however, is far less relevant in America. Washington works closely with its think-tanks, even outsourcing research that underpins key decisions: e.g. how best can the India card be played to ratchet up pressure on Pakistan? New Delhi’s mandarins must surely wonder if America — losing patience with Pakistan and calculating that US military action against Pakistan would be expensive, bloody, and the end of all influence in Islamabad — was signalling that if India wanted to do the dirty work, Washington would look away.

For Islamabad, though, Gates’ words will be nothing other than a stark threat. Superimposing the India stick on the traditional carrots of aid, weaponry and undying friendship, is a measure of Washington’s desperation in dealing with Pakistan’s reluctance to crack down on jihadi terrorism. Gates’ new stance will also highlight America’s shrinking interest in cultivating a benign image in Pakistan. Draining the abscess of radicalism is now a greater imperative.

Despite India’s satisfaction, Gates’ understanding is not an unalloyed blessing. Whenever the next major terrorist strike takes place — and Pakistan’s prime minister has declared that he cannot stop one — New Delhi will find its options dangerously narrowed. An inflamed public and a rampant media will challenge Indian policy-makers with the question: what now holds back India from retaliating against Pakistan? With international restraints loosened, Indian strikes on Pakistan’s territory would be a real option, and war not just an academic question.

But how ready for that challenge is the military? After the terrorist strikes on Parliament on December 13, 2001, and in Mumbai on November 26, 2008, the subcontinent stood poised on the brink of war. Despite General Padmanabhan’s brave statement, after the Parliament attack, that India would wage war with whatever equipment it possessed, the army asked the government for more time to prepare. With military modernisation remaining stalled for a quarter of a century, Mr Antony and his predecessors have set the scene for potential embarrassment.

India has done the diplomatic heavy-lifting for coercing Pakistan on terrorism. The military preparation, however, remains sadly lacking.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Army, MoD lock horns over ban on Singapore Technologies

A 155mm howitzer being transported, slung under a Chinook helicopter in Afghanistan.

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 22nd Jan 09

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) faces accusations of serious contradictions in the apparently ill-considered ban that it imposed last June on arms vendor, Singapore Technologies Kinetic (STK). The ban was slapped on 7 companies after the 19th May 09 arrest of former Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) Chairman, Sudipta Ghosh, for corruption.

The ban on STK is all but collapsing. Next month STK’s 155 mm towed gun will take part in firing trials --- cleared by the MoD --- for selecting a new-generation artillery piece for the Indian Army. STK’s Lightweight Assault Rifle will also begin army trials in February. Inexplicably, though, the ban remains on STK’s 155 mm Pegasus ultralight howitzer, which the army wants urgently for India’s mountain divisions.

The Pegasus trials remain blocked despite the efforts of army chief, General Deepak Kapoor --- himself an artilleryman --- who requested the MoD for trials to continue alongside the CBI’s investigations, in order to save time. Rejecting that request (reported in Business Standard on 18th July 09. Full details of the army’s request and the MoD’s rejection is posted on Broadsword… click back to July 09), the MoD approached Washington to allow India to buy the American BAE Systems M777 ultralight howitzer.

The army, however, wants both options open, not a single-vendor situation in which the US-based company can dictate its price. Despite the MoD ban, the army chief has publicly declared that the STK howitzer remains an option.

On 14th Jan 09, General Deepak Kapoor told the press, “We have one gun (the Pegasus) waiting for trials and, at the same time, we have approached a foreign country (the US) for purchasing an ultralight howitzer directly. We will follow both routes. The moment one of them is successful, we will go ahead with that purchase.”

But MoD sources say they are not rethinking the ban on the Pegasus; they say the CBI has solid proof that STK paid money into Ghosh’s bank account in Singapore. Asked why the CBI has failed to file charges against Ghosh, who was freed on bail last July, they have no answers.

Now STK has also --- for the first time --- publicly protested the ban. Last week, STK CEO, Brigadier-General Patrick Choy, revealed to the press in New Delhi that he had travelled to India last year to assist the CBI in its investigations into Ghosh’s alleged corruption. Choy said that he had invited the CBI team to Singapore for a full audit of STK, promising that he would fully open the company’s books to investigators. The CBI has not, so far, responded.

STK first encountered the unpredictability of the Indian defence market when it flew a Pegasus howitzer into India for trials last year, in response to an MoD request. On 5th June 09, just as the Pegasus reached the Pokhran Field Firing Ranges in Rajasthan, a media statement from the MoD spokesperson announced that STK had been banned. To this day, the MoD has not officially intimated STK about any ban.

After remaining stranded by the roadside in Pokhran for several days, the Pegasus was moved to Gwalior, where it remains housed in an army unit.

The Indian Army’s artillery modernisation plan has remained stalled, for various reasons, for over two decades; the ultralight howitzer is only the latest procurement fiasco. The army’s 180 artillery gun regiments --- each having 18 guns --- have not received any new weaponry since the Bofors gun was bought in the late 1980s.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

FLASH NEWS: For the first time, the Tejas LCA will be displayed during India's Republic Day march-past on 26th January!

America conveys impatience over pending defence agreements

Before leaving Delhi on Wednesday for the Taj Mahal, Robert Gates declared that India needed to sign the CISMOA, and an agreement on Geo-spatial Cooperation, before the C-130Js being delivered to India could be fitted with cutting-edge equipment

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 21st Jan 2010

The United States, according to credible recent press reports, is training Special Forces to “grab” Pakistan’s nuclear weapons if they seem about to fall into terrorist hands. And if the Indian Army is to play a role in the operations, here is how it might play out.

While US Special Forces are heli-dropped onto known Pakistani nuclear missile sites, and the US Air Force suppresses Pakistan’s air defences, the IAF’s newly acquired C-130J Hercules aircraft take off from Udhampur, flying Indian commandos to an unused airstrip near Kahuta which American Green Berets have temporarily secured. The Hercules’ electronic jammers blind Pakistani radars before entering Pakistani airspace; the Green Berets give the all-clear to the airborne Indian commander on secret frequencies that cannot be intercepted or jammed.

The Hercules lands in pitch darkness, satellite navigation directing the aircraft precisely to the landing site. Indian assault teams spill out to secure and deactivate the endangered nukes.

But there’s a hitch! India will only be eligible to receive key equipment on the Hercules --- electronic jammers; secure communications; and satellite navigation aids --- if New Delhi sheds its reluctance to sign a long-pending agreement that Washington insists upon for safeguarding its technologies: the Communications Interoperability and Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA).

The US is also insisting upon another agreement for protecting its space technology: the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-spatial Cooperation (AGC).

Visiting US Defence Secretary Robert Gates, has strongly urged India’s government to sign these agreements. MoD sources say that, in his meeting with Defence Minister AK Antony, Gates conveyed Washington’s impatience at New Delhi’s delay. Without a CISMOA, Gates suggested, the C-130J would be just a top-notch transport aircraft; the CISMOA was necessary for fitting the electronics that would transform it into the world’s most formidable Special Forces aircraft.

Addressing the press, Gates explained, “[These agreements] will lead to greater interoperability and a greater capability of our forces to work together whether they are working together to provide Indian Ocean security… or in a disaster relief activity, or any number of other military operations.”

Gates also urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to sign a long-pending Logistics Support Agreement (LSA), which would allow Indian and American forces, ships and aircraft to obtain logistics from each others’ bases. While less immediate than the CISMOA, the LSA is an important step towards deeper military cooperation.

Growing US impatience at India’s inaction was also evident from Gates’ elaboration that, “These agreements have been laying around for quite a while… this is not some new requirement that has just emerged. [These agreements] are preponderantly in India’s benefit, because they give high-tech systems additional high-tech capabilities… are enablers, if you will, to the very highest quality equipment in the Indian armed forces.”

Gates played the diplomat in suggesting, “I think we have not done an adequate job on the American side in spelling out for our Indian partners the benefits to India of signing these agreements…. I promised the PM last night that we (the US) would do a better job of putting on paper, and using concrete examples (to illustrate) the benefits to India of all of these agreements.”

In July 09, India and the US had implemented the crucial End User Monitoring (EUM) Agreement, which safeguards US technology by disallowing India to pass on US military equipment to any third party, without permission from Washington. The EUM Agreement allows Washington to physically verify that equipment sold to India remains in Indian hands.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

American intelligence goof-up: China navy assessment posted on web

A map from the US Office of Naval Intelligence report on the People's Liberation Army (Navy), indicating the PLA(N)'s current deployment

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 19th Jan 09

A mistake by a US Navy intelligence official has given the world an unexpected peek into the secret world of China’s navy. The US Office for Naval Intelligence (ONI) committed the blunder of posting, on an open website, the agency’s assessment of the state of the Chinese navy. Before the ONI could rectify this indiscretion by pulling off the report, it had been downloaded and posted on a publicly accessible website.

The 47-page report, entitled, “A modern navy with Chinese characteristics”, is still posted on the website of the Federation of American Scientists, a policy advocacy body (

The ONI report analyses the capabilities and the future direction of the People’s Liberation Army (Navy), or PLA(N). Interestingly, the ONI assessment differs substantially with the conventional view --- widely prevalent in India and the Indian Navy --- of a China racing unstoppably towards naval superpower.

The assessment notes China’s recent deployment of Task Groups --- each consisting of two warships and a replenishment vessel --- for anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden. This marks the first time in over 600 years that a Chinese flotilla has operated in waters beyond China’s immediate vicinity. But the report concludes, “none of these operations indicates a desire on the part of the PRC (People’s Republic of China) to develop a constant global presence. Beijing’s ambition appears to remain focused on the East Asian region, with an ability to protect the PRC’s maritime interests in distant seas when required.

The Chinese navy last went global during the Ming rule in the early 15th century, when the great Chinese admiral Zhang He --- incidentally a eunuch --- stamped the authority of the Chinese navy across the Indian Ocean, reaching to the shores of Africa. But, in 1435, China decided to focus inwards. Around 1477, by the emperor ordered the burning of records of Zhang’s seven great voyages, from 1405-1435. Thereafter, no further naval activity was permitted in the southern seas.

This inward focus continued through Mao’s revolutionary war, which brought the communists to power. Thereafter, a coastal navy was sufficient to enforce China’s claims over most of the East and South China Seas, and the need to deter Taiwan from declaring independence. But the US Navy’s dominating presence in the Asia-Pacific and need to protect China’s supply lines convince Beijing of the need for greater naval power. China’s Defence White Paper of 2008 calls for expanding the navy’s operating range, and a greater role in international security.

The PLA(N)’s most key acquisition, says the ONI report, is a sophisticated anti-air capability, which would allow its ships to operate in “distant seas”, far from land-based air-defence systems. The Luyang I class of destroyers, already formidable, have been followed by the Luyang II class and the Jiangkai II frigates, which are linked with an air-surveillance network as good as America’s world-standard Aegis system.

Submarines, both conventional and nuclear, will be a key deterrent in the PLA(N). The ONI report says that Beijing will replace its large number of low-tech submarines with “smaller numbers of modern, high-capability boats (submarines)”. But while the number of surface ships remains constant, today’s fleet of 62 submarines will increase over the next 10-15 years to 75.

[In that time-frame, India’s submarine fleet will be about one-third that of China’s.]

Most worrisome for the US Navy’s pre-eminence in the region, is the programme to develop the world’s first Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile (ASBM), a variant of China’s Dong Feng – 21 missile. The ONI report reveals that the ASBM’s peculiar flight path, involving a mid-course trajectory correction, will make it very difficult to intercept.

Despite the addition of high-tech platforms, US intelligence estimates that much of the PLA(N) will still remain outdated 10-15 years from now. Its surface ships will remain vulnerable to air attack, while command and control systems will still be relatively undeveloped. Therefore, while the PLA(N) will be gradually expanding beyond the South China Sea, it will focus on what Beijing calls, “military operations other than war.” These include protecting its international lines of supply, humanitarian relief, and naval diplomacy.


Diesel attack submarines 53

Nuclear attack submarines 6

Nuclear ballistic missile submarines 3

Destroyers 26

Frigates 48

Amphibious ships 58

Coastal patrol missile boats 80+


Move only gradually into international waters

Underway replenishment to increase 67%

Focus on better air defence capability, including aircraft carrier

Bigger, higher-technology submarine fleet

Need for better command and control systems

Current focus on “operations other than war”

Thursday, 14 January 2010

DPP-2010: New arms purchase policy on the anvil

(CII-KPMG report plugs the private sector)

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 14th Jan 09

Facing mounting criticism by global arms majors and India’s private sector for his ministry’s poor policymaking and slow procurement procedures, Defence Minister AK Antony sprung a surprise today by revealing that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) would implement a new procurement policy this year.

Addressing an industry gathering in New Delhi today after releasing a CII-sponsored report that slammed MoD procedures, Mr Antony revealed that the new Defence Procurement Policy of 2010 (DPP-2010) would be more effective and faster than the current DPP-2008.

Defending his ministry’s procedures the defence minister explained, “Our procurement policy is… an evolving policy. We are learning from our experiences. I’m sure that DPP-2010 will address your complaints. How to avoid delay in the procurement process; how to speed up the process? When we come out with DPP-2010 you will appreciate that government is going step-by-step.”

Denying that the MoD policies were biased against private sector participation in defence production, Mr Antony observed that there was enough business for both public and private sectors to co-exist. The defence minister said, “Over many years, we have built up strong defence PSUs. I urge the private and public sectors to work together.”

The CII-KPMG report --- entitled “Opportunities in the Indian defence sector” --- report predicts that, by 2022, India will purchase Rs 4,50,000 crores (US $100 billion) worth of military equipment. Another Rs 44,000 crores (US $9.7 billion) will be spent by 2016 on India’s homeland security.

The report highlights that India’s resurgent private sector gets just 14% of this business. Foreign arms corporations service 70% of the annual shopping list of India’s Ministry of Defence; the rest goes, usually without competition, to the MoD’s business empire of 8 defence public sector undertakings (DPSUs) and 40 ordnance factories (OFs).

The CII-KPMG report also points to serious drawbacks in the FDI policy for defence industry. In the decade leading up to Feb 2009, the total foreign investment into the Indian defence industry adds up to a paltry Rs 70 lakhs. In May 2001 (vide the DIPP’s Press Note No.4 of 2001) the private sector was permitted into the defence sector, subject to an FDI cap of 26%. Licenses are required both for entry and for FDI.

Such disinterest amongst foreign arms companies, the report says, stems from the conviction that a 26% holding does not give the foreign company control over the secret and expensive technologies that they would like to bring in. Furthermore, 26% of the profit is hardly an attractive return.

The government, in its Economic Survey in 2009, had indicated that the FDI cap could be stepped up to 49%. But that has not been implemented, and the CII-KPMG report brings out that foreign companies would not be satisfied with anything less than a controlling interest of 51%.

Foreign arms companies, the report says, reject the argument that “national control concerns”, citing examples of many countries (including the US) which allow 100% FDI in defence, maintaining control and secrecy by allowing only security-cleared nationals to work in defence companies; restricting the number of foreigners on the board; stipulating that the company facilities be located in-country; and effectively ensuring that “except for foreign ownership and investment, the company is essentially a domestic entity.”

The CII-KPMG report calls for urgent reforms in defence procurement, pointing out that the MoD does not provide even established private vendors with its long-term equipment procurement plan, thereby denying private industry the lead-time needed to develop the equipment needed in the future.

The MoD’s Long Term Integrated Perspective Plan (LTIPP) --- which was to forecast equipment requirements for a 15-year period from 2007-2022 --- is still not finalised, two years into its tenure. The CII-KPMG report urges that the LTIPP, once finalised, be shared with private industry.

There is also a clear perception within private industry that the government is biased towards the public sector. A KPMG survey brings out that 85% of the member-companies of CII’s Defence and Aerospace division believe that “the playing field is loaded in favour of the DPSUs.”

Finally, the report recommends that private industry be extended the same tax benefits that DPSUs enjoy.


• Rs 5,00,000 crores on security by 2022

• Foreign vendors get 70% share

• Indian pvt sector gets just 14%

• MoD companies get 16%

• 2000-2009: Rs 70 lakhs FDI into defence

• 85% of pvt vendors say MoD favours DPSUs

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Muzzling the military; sealed lips tell no tales

(From left to right) General Deepak Kapoor, Admiral Sureesh Mehta and Air Chief Marshall Fali Major, paying their respects at the Amar Jawan memorial in New Delhi.

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 12th Jan 2010

Newsprint and public energy have been expended this fortnight, both in India and Pakistan, in debating whether India’s army chief, General Deepak Kapoor, was belligerent and impolitic in telling his officers that China and Pakistan might band together for the next war against India.

The controversy still simmers as low-intensity media sniping. But it is important to note that this was about neither warmongering nor diplomacy. At a fundamental level, the dustup stems from longstanding tensions within the Indian state over muzzling the military.

For those not in the picture, the controversy began with a Times of India news report, which had General Kapoor warning his officers in an “internal seminar” of the danger of a “two-front war”. The report failed to mention that a two-front threat had been the basis of India’s defence planning for decades. Security establishments in India, China and Pakistan know this well; but not the Pakistani press, which went wall-to-wall the next day with reports about Indian bellicosity.

Pakistan’s Foreign Office shot off a nasty comment about General Kapoor’s “hegemonic and jingoistic mindset”; and his opposite number, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani --- clearly susceptible to Pakistani media pressure --- began the New Year by threatening India with nuclear retaliation.

Next, the Indian Express entered the fray, reporting in a front-page story that the army chief’s verbal indiscretions were repeatedly embarrassing the government. Then, in the same newspaper, came an opinion editorial by K Subrahmanyam, the doyen of India’s strategists, castigating General Kapoor for lack of sensitivity; suggesting that all senior military officers be put through diplomacy school; and recommending that pronouncements by military chiefs on strategic matters be accompanied by the caveat that those were only personal views. The cherry on this cake was the insulting reminder that this was not Pakistan, where the army chief formulated strategy.

Such articles could be dismissed as nonsensical were they not accurate portrayals of the government’s approach towards the military. The genesis of this vitiated relationship lies in the political and bureaucratic insecurity of the post-independence period, when democracies across Asia, Africa and South America were falling like skittles before interventionist militaries. Today, even with India’s military acknowledged worldwide as laudably apolitical, that destructive relationship continues.

In contrast to India, other mature democracies impose far looser censorship over their militaries, without unleashing a monster. Samuel Huntington’s widely acclaimed theory of “objective control” of the military --- a model of civil-military relations that is implemented almost universally --- grants the services autonomy in their professional realm. A military that has ownership of its professional bailiwick, the “objective control” thesis postulates, has little incentive for involvement in the political sphere. Civilian control is not abandoned, but asserted mainly on broader political issues.

In contrast, “subjective control” rests on neutralising the military through restrictive civilian controls, extending civilian oversight into spheres within the military domain. Subjective control is predicated on “civilianising the military”, while objective control aims at “militarising the military”, encouraging professionalism and responsibility within its realm. That includes negotiating within the public domain.

When the British army chief, General Sir Richard Dannatt, felt that his forces were strained from sustained deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan, he said so publicly, forcing his government into remedial measures. US generals talk publicly about their need for certain kinds of equipment or resources; America views that as democratic bargaining for budgetary resources.

But the Indian generals of today, intimidated and silenced by MoD diktats, would never dream of publicly standing up for their organisation. A succession of generals has silently acquiesced in sending lakhs of soldiers to face bullets in J&K without quality bulletproof jackets and helmets. No general has spoken out against the MoD’s repeated failure to buy modern defence equipment, while returning thousands of crores of unspent rupees from the defence budget. Clearly, silencing the military by invoking propriety keeps many skeletons confined to the cupboard.

But, even within such a dispirited community, a rubicon is crossed when the MoD looks away while an army chief is humiliated, including within Pakistan. No government statement has clarified that General Kapoor was discussing a possible two-front war to an army audience, in a closed-door planning session, in a high-security building next to his headquarters in Delhi. Nor was there support from Defence Minister Antony, who assured reporters that India was not a war-mongering nation. By not mentioning the chief, Antony effectively indicted him.

Close to the end of his tenure, General Kapoor is under a cloud after failing to act decisively in a succession of scandals: from dubious procurements during his command in Udhampur, to the recent land scam allegedly involving his close affiliate. While investigating those unsparingly, the MoD owes support to a respected institution --- the Chief of Army Staff --- when it is under gratuitous media attack.

Tailpiece: A legitimate accusation against the army chief could be that his threat assessment is outdated. Today’s threat, for which the military must plan, is of a three-front war. Besides the two unnamed countries, an internal front could be required against Pakistan-sponsored militants in Kashmir and a coordinated Naxal offensive.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

India to develop 25% of fifth generation fighter

Left: A speculative drawing --- one of the many on the internet --- of the FGFA, or the PAK FA

Right: An aerial photo, from the internet, of what purports to be an aircraft facility at KnAAPO. The authenticity is unclear.

(Concluding article of a two--part series on the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft)

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard 6th Jan 2010

Scrutinising the Sukhoi Corporation’s work on the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) — a project that India will soon sign up to co-develop — gives one an idea of Russia’s size, and its aerospace expertise. During daytime, in Moscow, the Sukhoi Design Bureau conceptualises FGFA components; by 10 pm the drawings are electronically transmitted over 5,000 kilometres to a manufacturing unit in Siberia. Here, at KnAAPO (Komsomolsk-on-Amur Aircraft Production Organisation) — seven time zones away — it is already 5 am next morning. Within a couple of hours, the drawings start being translated into aircraft production.

Having designed over 100 aircraft (including India’s Su-30MKI), built over 10,000 fighters, and with 50 world aviation records to its credit, Sukhoi understandably regards Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) — its partner-to-be in designing the FGFA — as very much the greenhorn.

But the newcomer wants its due. Bangalore-based HAL has negotiated firmly to get a 25 per cent share of design and development work in the FGFA programme. HAL’s work share will include critical software, including the mission computer (the Su-30MKI mission computer is entirely Indian); navigation systems; most of the cockpit displays; the counter measure dispensing (CMD) systems; and modifying Sukhoi’s single-seat prototype into the twin-seat fighter that the Indian Air Force (IAF) wants.

India will also contribute its expertise in aircraft composites, developed while designing the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA). Russia has traditionally built metallic aircraft; just 10 per cent of the Su-30MKI fuselage is titanium and composites. The FGFA’s fuselage, in contrast, will be 25 per cent titanium and 20 per cent composites. Russia’s expertise in titanium structures will be complemented by India’s experience in composites.

With India’s work share almost finalised, the 2007 Russia-India Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) to build the FGFA will soon evolve into a commercial contract between Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) and HAL. Ashok Baweja, until recently the chairman of HAL, told Business Standard: “When HAL and UAC agree on terms, they will sign a General Contract. This will include setting up a JV to design the FGFA, and precise details about who will fund what.”

This contract will mark a significant shift in the aeronautical relationship between India and Russia. For decades, HAL has played a technologically subordinate role, assembling and building fighters that Russia had designed. Now, forced to accept HAL as a design partner, the Russians have negotiated hard to limit its role.

The reason: Russia is sceptical about India’s design ability in such a cutting edge project. In June 2008, Business Standard interviewed Vyacheslav Trubnikov, then Russia’s ambassador to India, and an expert on Russia’s defence industry. Contrasting the Su-30MKI with the Tejas LCA, Trubnikov pointed out snidely, “I know perfectly well the Russian ability. But I don’t know what contribution the Indian side might make. So, one must ask the question to the Indian designers, to HAL…what is their claim for building a fighter of the fifth generation type? Either avionics, or engine? What might be India’s contribution? To be absolutely frank, I don’t know.”

For long, the UAC argued that HAL could not expect a major role in the FGFA because Sukhoi had finished much of the work while New Delhi dithered about joining the project. UAC asserts that 5,000 Sukhoi engineers have worked for five years to design the FGFA. Such claims are hard to verify, but it is known that the Sukhoi Design Bureau has about 8,000 engineers, distributed between many different programmes.

With Sukhoi ploughing on alone, Minister of State for Defence Pallam Raju admitted to Business Standard: “The longer India waits to join the project, the lesser will be our contribution. But, we are not sitting idle. Through the defence ministry’s existing programmes [such as the Tejas LCA] we are building up our capabilities.”

Most Indian officials agree that India has not lost much. Even if the FGFA makes its much-anticipated first flight this year, it is still at a preliminary stage of development. Ashok Baweja assessed in early 2009, “The FGFA’s first flight is just the beginning of the programme. My understanding is that the Russians are going ahead (with the test) to validate the FGFA’s “proof of concept” (conceptual design). Whatever composite materials they have now, they’ll use. But, because the composites will change… the FGFA will keep evolving for a fairly long time.”

A top ministry official estimates, “It will take another 4-5 years to develop many of the FGFA’s systems. Then, the aircraft will undergo at least 2000 hours of certification flying and, possibly, some reconfiguration. The FGFA should not be expected in service before 2017. And the twin-seat version may take a couple of years longer.”

With just a 25 per cent share of design, South Block policymakers still believe that the FGFA project is a vital step towards India’s emergence as a military aeronautical power. “Developing 25 per cent of this fighter is far better than just transferring technology to build it in India, as we did with the Su-30MKI,” points out a defence ministry official.

Ashok Baweja puts the project in context. “India can only (develop the FGFA) by partnering with Russia. They have so much experience. It’s not just the design… you must also have materials… maraging steel, titanium, composite alloys, and the industrial base to convert these into high-tech components like gyros, sensors and optics. The FGFA will give us important experience for building fighters hereafter.”

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

India, Russia close to agreement on next generation fighter

A US Air Force F-22 Raptor, the only 5th generation fighter in service today. A Russian-Indian JV will soon be formed to build a Gen5 fighter for both air forces.

(A two-part series on the 5th generation fighter)

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 5th Jan 2010

Late last year, a defence ministry delegation to Sukhoi’s flagship aircraft facility in Siberia became the first Indians to set eyes upon the next-generation fighter that is slated to form the backbone of the future Indian Air Force (IAF). In that first meeting, carefully choreographed by Sukhoi, the new fighter, standing on the tarmac waved a welcome to the Indians, moving all its control fins simultaneously.

The effect, recounts one member of that delegation, was electric. The senior IAF officer there walked silently up to the aircraft and touched it almost incredulously. This was the Sukhoi T-50, the first technology demonstrator of what India terms the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA). Senior MoD sources tell Business Standard that --- after five years of haggling over the FGFA’s form, capabilities and work-share --- a detailed contract on joint development is just around the corner.

The contract, which Bangalore-based Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) will sign with Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation (UAC), will commit to building 250 fighters for the IAF and an equal number for Russia. The option for further orders will be kept open. HAL and UAC will be equal partners in a joint venture company, much like the Brahmos JV, that will develop and manufacture the FGFA.

The cost of developing the FGFA, which would be shared between both countries, will be US $8-10 billion (Rs 37,000-45,000 crores). Over and above that, say IAF and MoD sources, each FGFA will cost Rs 400-500 crores.

Sukhoi’s FGFA prototype, which is expected to make its first flight within weeks, is a true stealth aircraft, almost invisible to enemy radar. According to an MoD official, “It is an amazing looking aircraft. It has a Radar Cross Section (RCS) of just 0.5 square metres as compared to the Su-30MKI’s RCS of about 20 square metres.”

[That means that while a Su-30MKI would be as visible to enemy radar as a metal object 5 metres X 4 metres in dimension, the FGFA’s radar signature would be just 1/40th of that.]

A key strength of the 30-35 tonne FGFA would be data fusion; the myriad inputs from the fighter’s infrared, radar, and visual sensors would be electronically combined and fed to the pilots in easy-to-read form.

The FGFA partnership was conceived a decade ago, in 2000, when Sukhoi’s celebrated chief, Mikhail Pogosyan, invited a visiting Indian Air Force officer out to dinner in Moscow. Boris Yeltsin’s disastrous presidency had just ended, and Russia’s near bankruptcy was reflected in the run-down condition of a once-famous restaurant. But, as the IAF officer recounts, the vodka was flowing and Pogosyan was in his element, a string of jokes translated by a female interpreter.

Late that evening Pogosyan turned serious, switching the conversation to a secret project that, officially, did not even exist. Sukhoi, he confided to the IAF officer, had completed the design of a 5th generation fighter, as advanced as America’s F-22 Raptor, which is still the world’s foremost fighter. Russia’s economy was in tatters, but Sukhoi would develop its new, high-tech fighter if India partnered Russia, sharing the costs of developing the fighter at Sukhoi’s plant, Komsomolsk-on-Amur Aircraft Production Organisation (KnAAPO).

Reaching out to India was logical for Russia. During the 1990s --- when thousands of Russian military design bureaus starved for funds, and a bankrupt Moscow cancelled 1,149 R&D projects --- India’s defence purchases had kept Russia’s defence industry alive, bankrolling the development of the Sukhoi-30 fighter; the Talwar-class stealth frigates; the Uran and Klub ship-borne missiles; and the MiG-21 upgrade.

But co-developing a 5th generation fighter is a different ball game, financially and technologically, and India’s MoD hesitated to sign up. Meanwhile enriched by hydrocarbon revenues, Moscow gave Sukhoi the green light to develop the FGFA, which Russia terms the PAK-FA, the acronym for Perspektivnyi Aviatsionnyi Kompleks Frontovoi Aviatsy (literally Prospective Aircraft Complex of Frontline Aviation).

Today, Russia is five years into the development of the FGFA. In Nov 07, India and Russia signed an Inter-Governmental Agreement on co-developing the fighter, but it has taken two more years to agree upon common specifications, work shares in development, and in resolving issues like Intellectual Property Rights (IPR).

The prototype that Sukhoi has built is tailored to Russian Air Force requirements. But the IAF has different specifications and the JV will cater for both air forces, producing two different, but closely related, aircraft. For example, Russia wants a single-seat fighter; the IAF, happy with the Su-30MKI, insists upon a twin-seat fighter with one pilot flying and the other handling the sensors, networks and weaponry.

Negotiations have resolved even this fundamental conflict. India has agreed to buy a mix of about 50 single-seat and 200 twin-seat aircraft. Russia, in turn, will consider buying more twin-seat aircraft to use as trainers. But even as both countries narrow their differences, fresh challenges lie ahead: preparing India’s nascent aerospace industry for the high-tech job of developing and manufacturing a 5th-generation fighter.

(Coming up tomorrow: FGFA negotiating hardball; Russia says India brings little to the table)

Friday, 1 January 2010

Private companies to arm police with modern weapons

(Adding muscle to Indian policing)

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 1st Jan 10

With the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) having failed to procure modern rifles and carbines for its state and central policemen from the international market, it is now looking to India’s private sector for providing police forces the weaponry needed to respond to Mumbai-style terror attacks.

On 21st December, the MHA promulgated a draft Arms and Ammunition Manufacturing Policy, which will allow the DIPP to issue licences to large private companies, which are capable of producing advanced weapons, and of investing over Rs 50 crores, for manufacturing arms and ammunition to be “primarily supplied to Central Para Military Forces, Defence and State Governments on tendering basis…” The draft policy stipulates an FDI cap of 26% on companies applying for licences.

The MHA had initially looked towards foreign suppliers for replacing the outdated weaponry of 15 lakh state policemen and 7.5 lakh jawans of the Central Police Organisations (BSF, CRPF, CISF, etc). It was envisaged that global suppliers like Singapore Technologies Kinetic (STK) and Israel Military Industries (IMI) would partner the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) to produce modern rifles and carbines in India for the military and the police. That plan was stymied when STK and IMI were blacklisted by the MoD after the arrest last May of Sudipta Ghosh, the former OFB chief, on charges of corruption.

Nor was it possible for the MHA to procure weapons from the Defence Ministry’s suppliers, the two ordnance factories at Ishapore and Kanpur. With an annual production capacity of just 100,000 rifles, these factories barely met the annual replacement requirement of India’s 17 lakh soldiers, sailors and airmen.

With the foreign and PSU options foreclosed, now the private sector is being invited to pick up the slack. There are already 95 private companies with decades-old licences to manufacture arms, but those small companies are licensed to manufacture only shotguns of the kind used by bank guards and for hunting. The MHA, however, needs rifles and carbines, which can be aimed to longer ranges and are capable of automatic fire, i.e. emitting a continuous stream of bullets when the trigger is pressed.

For the private sector, this is déjà vu. In 2001, after a cabinet decision to allow the private sector into defence manufacture, the DIPP (vide Press Note No 4 of 2001) had permitted private companies to manufacture defence equipment, including arms and ammunition, subject to an FDI cap of 26%. Large industrial houses interested in defence manufacture, including Larsen & Toubro and Mahindra Defence Systems, had applied and obtained Letters of Intent (LoIs) for manufacturing several categories of defence equipment, including small arms (pistols, rifles, machine guns and carbines) and ammunition.

But in 2006-07, when Larsen & Toubro sought a formal manufacturing licence from the government, the MHA insisted that no licences be granted for small arms and ammunition. The reason, as the draft policy obliquely admits, was the MHA’s wish “to ensure total non-proliferation”; North Block apprehended that extremists might siphon off weaponry from private production units.

Now, clearly, that apprehension has been trumped by the urgent need for modern weaponry. The MHA, however, still intends to strictly control the grant of licences for manufacturing arms and ammunition; the draft policy stipulates that applications “may be considered by DIPP as per procedure in consultation with MHA.”

Manufacturing world-class arms and ammunition will be a challenge for Indian private companies, involving as it does expensive and closely guarded technologies. Admitting that a foreign partner would be essential, an industry source said, “Small arms manufacture is as much an art as an industrial process. We will have to tie up with a foreign partner like, perhaps, Heckler & Koch. An FDI cap of 26% means that they will be reluctant to transfer crucial technologies; we may be limited to licensed manufacture.”

[The draft policy has been put up for public comments on the MHA website ( Comments are to be submitted by 6th January 2010.]