Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Bofors to compete in fresh 155 mm gun tender


BAE Systems has --- after playing hard-to-get for a decent interval --- announced that it will field its FH-77B-05 towed howitzer in the latest round of selection trials announced by the MoD last month. Shown here is the gun, with the spectacular backdrop of Ladakh in winter. Appended below is today's press release by BAE Systems.


BAE SYSTEMS WILL BID FOR NEW 155MM TOWED HOWITZER PROGRAMME

New Delhi, India ─ BAE Systems has submitted a response to the Indian Ministry of Defence's latest RFI for towed 155mm howitzers, following previous tenders which were cancelled due to the inability of other potential suppliers to meet the tender conditions. The company's offer will be based on the FH77 B05 155mm howitzer, and a significant proportion will be manufactured in India to meet the specific needs of the Indian Army.

The new RFI was issued by MoD in last month, bringing an end to the previous procurement process that had reached the summer field trial phase. BAE Systems and the FH77 B05 was present and ready to take part in those cancelled trials in Rajasthan and the FH77 B05 currently remains in India ready to recommence the process.

FH77 B05 is a more powerful, updated and computerised version of the howitzer that performed so well in the Kargil conflict. FH77B05 has significantly greater range than its predecessor, but retains many of the features that endeared the system to its users in the Indian Army.

Andrew Gallagher managing director and chief executive of BAE Systems India said, "BAE Systems is confident that the FH77 B05 is the best heavy towed howitzer in the world today and meets the requirements of the Indian Army.

Gallagher continued, “If selected to meet this urgent need for the Indian Army, our FH77 howitzer will be largely manufactured by Defence Land Systems India, our joint venture with Mahindra and we hope this will be the first step to establishing this business as an artillery centre of excellence, for BAE Systems globally. Furthermore it will create highly skilled local jobs in India."

Anand Mahindra, vice chairman and managing director of the Mahindra Group said, "We're proud to be associated with a defence system that has such a history of defending our great nation. Working on this programme will bring world-leading artillery technology to India for the first time, setting in motion the process of making Defence Land Systems India a global force in artillery."

India is BAE Systems’ newest home market and the company is committed to a programme of investment and technology transfer in support of its strategy to become a major domestic player in the Indian defence sector.

Second submarine line for Mazagon Dock


The first Scorpene hull being built at Mazagon Dock. The MoD says, two hulls are already fabricated and a third is nearing completion. The yard will complete all six hulls by 2012

(This is the second article of a four-part series on India's critical, yet significantly delayed, submarine programme)

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 31st Aug 10

With public sector shipyard Mazagon Dock Ltd (MDL), Mumbai, years behind schedule in building six conventional Scorpene submarines for the Indian Navy, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) is handing Mazagon Dock another lucrative order to build three more submarines. Although private sector shipbuilders — especially L&T and Pipavav Shipyard Ltd (PSL) — argue that Mazagon Dock already has more than it can handle, MoD insists the public sector shipyard can execute this order.

The MoD’s Secretary of Defence Production, R K Singh, talking exclusively to Business Standard, has detailed Mazagon Dock’s road map for simultaneously executing the Scorpene order (Project 75, as it is termed) and the three additional submarines that are a part of the six-submarine Project 75I order

Business Standard had reported yesterday that the MoD’s apex Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) had ruled out India’s private sector from Project 75I. The first two submarines of Project 75I will be built abroad in the foreign collaborator’s shipyard. The other four submarines will be built in MoD-owned shipyards: recently acquired Hindustan Shipyard Ltd will build one, while MDL builds three.

R K Singh explains, “First, the Scorpene delay will be trimmed down to less than 18 months. The original plan was for the first Scorpene to be delivered in December 2012; and the other five submarines at one-year intervals till December 2017. While the first Scorpene will only be ready in August 2015, Mazagon Dock will deliver the others faster, at nine-month intervals, and finish the last Scorpene by May 2019.”

MoD sources say Mazagon Dock is being pushed towards an even more ambitious delivery schedule: Of one Scorpene every seven months. On August 11, Defence Minister A K Antony told Parliament that Project 75 would complete work by the second half of 2018.

But Project 75I, argues R K Singh, does not have to wait till then; it can begin as early as 2012. By that year, with all six Scorpene hulls fully built, the specialised hull workers and welders of Mazagon Dock could begin fabricating hulls for Project 75I.

Singh explains, “Two Scorpene hulls are already built and MDL is close to completing the third. By early 2012, all six Scorpene hulls will be ready. MDL’s hull fabrication shop — which cuts steel for the hull, rolls it, fabricates hull segments and then welds them together into a complete hull — will be sitting idle from 2012, and ready to be diverted to Project 75I.”

The Department of Defence Production also points out that Project 75I cannot begin for another five years. At least 12-24 months are needed for a Cabinet sanction for building the first two Project 75I submarines abroad. Selecting a foreign shipyard as collaborator for Project 75I will take another 24-36 months and then one year for price negotiations.

The six Project 75I submarines will be built on a new production line, on which work has already begun. During a visit to MDL in 2009, Business Standard was shown a 16-acre plot, adjoining MDL’s facilities in Mazagon, Mumbai, which the shipyard had acquired in the 1980s from Gujarat state PSU, Alcock Ashdown.

R K Singh confirmed, “We are going to execute Project 75I in a new yard, the Alcock Yard, on which MDL is building a second submarine production line.”

Private sector shipbuilder Larsen & Toubro finds the MoD’s decision to patronise Mazagon Dock inexplicable. L&T sources say the company was given to understand that they would participate in Project 75I as the second submarine line. Now, L&T’s experience and infrastructure would lie idle.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Navy torpedoes Indian private shipyards' role in new Project


Scorpene submarine hull sections being readied at Mazagon Dock Ltd, Mumbai. The Scorpene programme (Project 75) is currently running 30-months late

(This is the first article of a four-part series on India's critical, yet significantly delayed, submarine programme)

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 30th Aug 10

A far-reaching decision by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) will jolt private Indian shipbuilders that are eager to participate in India’s submarine building programme. Top sources in the ministry have told Business Standard that its apex Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) has decided to exclude Indian private shipyards from the construction of six submarines for the Indian Navy under Project 75I. Instead, the first two submarines will be built at a foreign shipyard.

Project 75I initially envisaged that all six submarines would be built in India. MDL was to build three; Hindustan Shipyard Limited (HSL) --- recently acquired by the MoD from the Ministry of Shipping --- would build one; while Indian private sector shipyards --- L&T and Pipavav --- would compete to build two submarines. But the Indian Navy’s insistence on building two submarines abroad has torpedoed the private sector shipbuilders out of the picture.

The navy’s demand, explains a senior admiral on condition of anonymity, stems from the delays that have been endemic to indigenous submarine construction. India bought four HDW submarines in the 1980s. HDW’s shipyard in Germany built two of them in just 56 months each. In contrast, MDL took 98 months and 116 months respectively to build the other two. Mazagon Dock is also running 30 months late in delivering the first of six Scorpene submarines that it was contracted to build under Project 75.

“At least two submarines will come in quickly by building them abroad”, declares the admiral. “We are desperately short of submarines.” A performance audit of the Indian Navy by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has documented that just seven or eight of India’s 15 submarines are operational at any given time against a projected requirement of at least 24.

Yet, curiously, despite the dismal track record of Mazagon Dock, the defence acquisition council has decided to hand it a prime role in Project 75I as well. While the cost of Project 75I is still not known, it will substantially exceed the Rs 23,562 crores that India paid French companies Armaris and DCNS for Project 75, since building two submarines abroad will inflate the cost.

Furthermore, that decision will require fresh sanction from the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) --- typically involving a 12-24 month delay --- since the current sanction mandates that all the submarines must be built in India.

Only after that will a tender be issued to identify a foreign technology partner. Amongst the possible bidders for the contract are Amur Shipbuilding Plant, Russia; German shipyard, HDW; Spain’s Navantia; Italy’s Fincantieri; and France’s, DCNS.

In 1999, the top-level Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) approved a 30-Year Submarine Construction Plan, for 24 conventional submarines to be constructed in India. This sanctioned two simultaneous construction lines: six submarines built from western technology; and six based on Russian know-how. After that 12 indigenously designed submarines were to be built.

The navy believes that Russian submarines have greater endurance, firepower and strategic utility; while western submarines are stealthier and, therefore, harder to detect. It was reasoned that Indian designers would adopt the best of both traditions when designing the 12 indigenous submarines.

Private companies, especially L&T and Pipavav have invested thousands of crores of rupees to build world-class shipyards, and have lobbied intensely for a share of the submarine programme. Over the last decade, L&T has played the central role in building and outfitting the nuclear-powered, nuclear missile submarine, INS Arihant, and will do so for its two successor vessels as well.

Senior L&T officials have argued that Mazagon Dock would have its hands full with Scorpene production until at least 2019 and has no capacity to take on another three submarines. But the MoD has presented a detailed plan for the shipyard to set up a second submarine line.

(Tomorrow: Part 2: The MoD plan for setting up India’s second submarine line)

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Does the CAG leak defence secrets?


Air Chief Marshall PV Naik, inaugurating the Phalodi air base on 6th April 2010. From the infrastructure in the photo, this was clearly a hurried job!



The first IAF fighter landing at Phalodi after the inauguration. The runway was still not fully prepared then. Was it the coming CAG report that hastened the inauguration?


by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 24th Aug 10

Perhaps this question relates to how inept, corrupt and incompetent the defence establishment appeared in the audit reports that the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) tabled in parliament on 3rd August. Within days, the Times of India carried a news report about the military’s secrecy concerns about the CAG’s public assessment of its operational readiness.

The military was particularly incensed, or so ToI suggested, by the CAG’s exposure of its poor readiness for war. The report hints darkly that the enemy would gain strength from the secrets that the CAG had unthinkingly leaked. Rather than going public about the decrepitude of our national defence, complained an anonymous military officer to the ToI, sensitive CAG reports must go only to “a select few of decision-makers” (sic).

This insidious argument raises important questions. Are there tangible benefits from our openness about military readiness? Does the public need to know what the CAG unearths? And do our potential military adversaries, China and Pakistan, pore over the CAG’s reports to discover secrets they do not already know?

To put the military’s complaints in context, remember that it is highly sensitive to public criticism. With its holy-cow status under enthusiastic attack from an activist, and often sensationalist, media, the uniformed community reacts to criticism with a defensiveness that is baffling in India’s most respected government organisation. As part of a largely unaccountable government, the military’s growing siege mentality translates into a reflexive impulse to shut out public scrutiny by citing secrecy.

That notwithstanding, there is a reason why the military --- comprising of 16 lakh citizens drawn from an increasingly corrupt societal milieu --- remains a functional and honest organisation. The credit goes to a finely structured system of checks and motivations. The motivations are mostly internal, such as the institutional process of imbuing recruits and cadets with the ideals of izzat (self-respect); imandari (honesty); and wafadari (loyalty) from the day they join. But equally important is the system of checks and balances, which includes multiple layers of audit, culminating in that of the CAG. Diluting CAG oversight, especially the audit of functional performance, would disturb a balance that has evolved over time.

To examine the questions raised let us look at two of the audits tabled by the CAG on 3rd August. The first case details how Defence PSU, Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL), obtained an MoD order to indigenise radars in India, but then simply bought them from a foreign vendor and sold them to the MoD for a premium.

That DPSUs like BEL don the cloak of “indigenisation” to obtain preferential MoD orders is an open secret within the military, the MoD and the analyst community. Soldiers joke that the only BEL-made part of an ostensibly BEL-made radar is the “Made by BEL” plaque that covers the original “Made in France” stamp.

Proving that is difficult and the MoD and the DPSUs stonewall any questions. But this CAG audit painstakingly documents how the MoD paid BEL Rs 870 crore for 22 radars in 2007, Rs 41.39 crores more than the cost of buying from the original manufacturer, Italian company Selex. The rationale for this largesse: indigenous production. But then, within three months of that contract, BEL ordered 13 radars from Selex, in CKD (Completely Knocked Down) kits, “in gross violation of its own commitment of manufacturing these radars indigenously”.

The MoD, unusually, has admitted that BEL has effectively fronted for a foreign vendor and handsomely profited from it. What use would have been served by placing this audit before the MoD, when the ministry itself is a part of this charade? The CAG report has provided a public tool (howsoever apathetic our jaded janta and media might be towards it) to pressure the government for a level playing field in defence production.

A second CAG audit dissects a two-decade delay by the Indian Air Force (IAF) in building and commissioning a strategic airbase at Phalodi, near Jaisalmer. Sanctioned Rs 29 crores in 1985, little happened until 2000, when the IAF reinvented Phalodi’s importance. This time Rs 227 crores were sanctioned --- 8 times the original cost --- including Rs 25 crores for fast-tracking the project. Then apathy again replaced urgency. By Sept 09, only Rs 85 crores had been spent. The runway, a key asset, was only 71% complete.

What happened next illustrates the power of such an audit. With a CAG indictment imminent, the Air Chief hastily flew to Phalodi in April 2010 to “inaugurate” the incomplete base. The official press release on that occasion falsely claimed, “the base is ready to undertake all types of operations of IAF.” In fact, as recently as Sept 09 (the CAG report notes) essential facilities for an air base --- radio communications, bomb dumps, blast pens, etc --- had not been sanctioned, leave alone constructed. And few noticed that the IAF photos of Phalodi depicted a runway without lighting.

The sorry Phalodi tale is hardly news to Pakistan. Commercially available satellite imagery would have kept Pakistani intelligence fully informed about the IAF’s sluggishness on what it had advocated as an essential counter to Pakistan’s stepped up construction of airbases across the border. But this is news to the Indian taxpayer. And, importantly, the CAG audit has goaded the IAF into action; once populated, Phalodi will quickly be completed.

CAG performance audits are an essential step towards greater public scrutiny of India’s closeted and hidebound defence establishment. They supplement the MoD’s own Annual Report and the reports of parliament’s Standing Committee on Defence, in throwing light on the handling of a massive chunk of taxpayer money. Whether the public and the media can use this information to pressure the MoD into positive action is another question.

Monday, 23 August 2010

DRDO chief, arguing for developing a 155mm gun in India: ‘An Indian gun will bypass difficult trials’

An FH-77B-05 Bofors gun in action. India's MoD restarted the procurement of 155mm towed guns in July after rival maker, STK, faced blacklisting. That would have left BAE Systems as the only vendor in contention.


by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 23rd Aug 10

With the Indian Army’s procurement of 155 millimetre towed artillery guns stymied again by CBI strictures against 5 international artillery vendors, the Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO) has pointed out that developing an Indian gun would bypass the problematic selection of a gun from the global arms bazaar.

Business Standard has reported (29th July 10, “155 mm gun purchase: DRDO enters the fray”) that the DRDO is joining hands with a private sector company to develop and manufacture an Indian gun. Now, DRDO Director General, Dr VK Saraswat, has explained the rationale for this DRDO decision. He says that, amongst the foreign guns on offer, there is no clear winner. And, given the cutthroat nature of competition for this Rs 8000 crore contract for 1580 guns, a drumbeat of corruption allegations will keep derailing any decision.

Dr Saraswat told Business Standard, “The differences [between competing guns] are miniscule and people would like to exploit those miniscule differences… and [the MoD’s] life becomes more difficult. The [acquisition] process is today back to zero. This is not the first time it has come to zero; this has happened before…. So it is better to develop your own system.

The purchase of artillery guns, the Indian Army’s most crucial component of combat power, was stalled for 16 years by the Bofors scandal of 1987. Restarted in 2003, the procurement process has remained dogged by scandal. Over the years, the CBI has asked the MoD to blacklist five of the vendors whose guns India was evaluating for purchase: Singapore Technologies Kinetics (STK); German giant, Rheinmetall; Israel Military Industries (IMI); another Israeli gun-maker, Soltam; and South African major, Denel. BAE Systems, a front-runner in this race, is offering the FH-77B-05 howitzer, a modernised version of the controversial Bofors gun.

“The armed forces felt that this gun system can always be acquired abroad, so why should the DRDO spend time and effort (on developing the gun)?” says Dr Saraswat. “We too thought it better to focus our efforts on [technologies that could be denied to us]. But now, Indian industry and DRDO, along with the army, should make a concentrated effort to cut this Gordian knot.”

Business Standard has learned that the DRDO laboratory that will spearhead the development of an Indian 155 mm gun --- the Armament Research & Development Establishment (ARDE), Pune --- is finalizing its development partners for this project.

This will not be the first time that an Indian consortium will have come together to develop an artillery gun. In the 1950s the so-called Gun Development Team was constituted by the MoD. Functioning from the Ordnance Factory at Khamaria, the Gun Development team oversaw the “Indianisation” of two of the Indian Army’s most successful artillery guns: the 75/24 howitzer; and the 105 mm Indian Field Gun (IFG). Inexplicably, this successful experiment was wound up around the time that the Bofors FH-77B gun was imported.

Since those early days, says the DRDO chief, the Indian private sector has dramatically honed its manufacturing skills. Earlier, only the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) had the technological capability and the facilities to manufacture guns. Today, the DRDO is turning to private sector companies like the Tata Group, L&T and Bharat Forge, while retaining its traditional option, the OFB.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Try again: History of aviation: what aircraft is that?


Many of our expert visitors will be able to identify this iconic little aircraft... Gold Stars and Brownie Points only for history and performance details

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

India's first C-130J nears completion in the USA



(Photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin: Marietta, Georgia, USA)



Lockheed Martin says:

"One of the Indian Air Force’s six C-130J aircraft (front) takes its spot on the flightline in Marietta, Georgia (U.S.), with other C-130 aircraft destined for the U.S. and Canadian Air Forces. The first test flight of the aircraft is scheduled for September 21. This program is
on budget and on schedule to deliver the first aircraft to India early next year."

Sunday, 8 August 2010

You got it! Now deserve it

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 10th Aug 10

Three Indian private companies with ambitions in the defence sector won a major battle when they were invited to compete, on level terms with the public sector, in developing a Future Infantry Combat Vehicle (FICV) for the Indian Army. In the FICV project, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has conceded almost everything that the private sector has demanded since it was allowed into defence production in 2001. The MoD will fund 80% of the development cost of the FICV. And, with the army looking to buy in quantity, economies of scale are guaranteed during production.

For those who did not read yesterday’s Business Standard, four Indian companies --- Tata Motors; the Mahindra Group; L&T; and the MoD-owned Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) --- will submit proposals on 25th August for designing and building 2600 new-generation FICVs. Two vendors with the best proposals will be invited to develop a prototype each, contributing just 20% of the expense. Then, after the army chooses the better design, the winner will build 65-70% of the army’s requirement of FICVs; the runner up will build the rest.

In this welcome decision the MoD has followed the American defence procurement model, in which the Pentagon funds a development competition between two or more private companies for each new weapons system. So far New Delhi has usually nominated the Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO) to develop such systems and the OFB to manufacture them.

But with big changes come high expectations. Having granted the private sector its wish list, the MoD and the Indian Army will carefully observe how the private vendors handle their first-ever development contract. Any shorfalls will reinforce long-held MoD prejudices. “We told you so!” will go the chorus in South Block, “Only the public sector has the skills and the commitment needed for defence production.”

The comparison may even be directly tested, since the OFB --- potentially in partnership with the DRDO --- is in contention to develop the FICV.

There are three pitfalls that the private sector must avoid. Firstly, the selected vendor(s) must not fall short of the army’s expectations, or in providing users with a development experience that contrasts tellingly with past experience with the DRDO and OFB. In this, a draw would be a loss; only an innings victory would suffice.

Secondly, the private sector must not front for foreign partners, who seek to bring in existing products by the back door. As the debutante private vendors step into the FICV arena, the spotlight will play unkindly on those clutching the arm of a muscular foreign partner.

Global arms majors have figured that a risk-free way of cracking India’s difficult procurement procedures is to partner an Indian company in a “Make” contract, and pass off existing products under the rubric of “joint development”. A top manager in one of the private companies vying for the FICV contract recounts, “I have received more partnership proposals for the FICV than I ever received for any other weapons platform.”

Reflecting this trend, private companies worry that the OFB is about to join hands with Russian export controller, Rosonboronexport, to “jointly develop” a variant of the tested BMP-3 ICV. To circumvent such a possibility, the private vendors must accept the developmental risk of proposing an FICV that is technologically beyond anything on the market today. They have been asked to develop a Futuristic-ICV. The specifications they submit on the 25th must go well beyond avant-garde.

Thirdly, when history is written, the FICV will be less about who built it or how much profit was made. This chapter will be more about whether India’s private sector used this heaven-sent, MoD-funded opportunity to build its technological capability. Private sector managers argue that each technology decision --- whether to develop or buy --- should be treated as a business case. But this irreproachable commercial logic misses the significance of this turning point. The private sector’s success in grabbing the moment will be measured in the currency of technologies that were developed along with the FICV.

Certain technologies that will go into the FICV are presently beyond the vendors, e.g. an indigenous engine, or transmission system. If a technological breakthrough seems impossible during the FICV’s development, a foreign partnership is a better option than holding the project hostage. But there are many achievable technologies and sub-systems --- e.g. in electronics, ballistic computation, night-vision devices, fire control systems, and gun control systems --- that can realistically be achieved by putting more money into R&D. If the MoD is unwilling to go beyond what was tendered, private vendors need to loosen their purse strings. At the end of the FICV project, the private vendors must be able to point out key technologies that they developed in-country.

The MoD’s “Make” procedure mandates that 50% of the FICV must be indigenously produced. This is easily achieved by producing low-and-mid-end systems and components like the armoured hull and turret, the suspension system, the electricals and the basic electronics. A more convincing measure of success for the private sector would be an ability to claim that it met that 50% requirement in components that were developed and refined during the course of the FICV project.

DRDO to develop army's next-generation tank


A line of completed Arjun tanks at the Heavy Vehicle Factor, built for the Indian Army's 75 Armoured Regiment. So far, the army has ordered 248 Arjuns for its 4000-tank fleet

(Concluding part of a 2-article series on the Indian Army’s future armoured vehicles)

by Ajai Shukla
New Delhi

In March 2010, during trials in the Rajasthan desert, the Defence R&D Organisation’s Arjun tank conclusively outperformed the Russian T-90, the army’s showpiece tank. Buoyed by that success and by the army’s consequent order for 124 additional Arjuns, the DRDO is now readying to develop India’s next-generation tank, currently termed the Future Main Battle Tank (FMBT).

While costs are still being evaluated, the projections are mind-boggling. The development cost alone of the FMBT could be Rs 5000 crores. Then, the replacement cost of the Indian Army’s 4000 tanks --- at a conservative Rs 25 crores per FMBT --- adds up to Rs 100,000 crores. The bulk of this would flow, over years of production, to Tier-1 and Tier-2 suppliers from small and medium industries.

For the first time the DRDO has outlined the contours of the FMBT project. Talking exclusively to Business Standard, DRDO chief and Scientific Advisor to the Defence Minister, Dr VK Saraswat, revealed, “While the Future Infantry Combat Vehicle (FICV) has been handed over to the private industry, the DRDO will develop the FMBT. We need about 7-8 years from the time the project is formally sanctioned. The army and the DRDO have already identified the major features of the FMBT, which are quite different from the Arjun. While the Arjun is a 60-tonne tank, the FMBT will be lighter… about 50 tonnes. It will be a highly mobile tank.”

The FMBT project, admits the military, is crucial for India’s future battle readiness. As army chief, General Deepak Kapoor pronounced 80% of India’s tank fleet unfit to fight at night, which is when most tank battles take place. The bulk of India’s tank fleet, some 2400 obsolescent Russian T-72s, are being shoddily patched up (Business Standard, 3rd Feb 10, “Army to spend billions on outdated T-72 tanks”). More modern T-90 tanks were procured from Russia in 2001, shorn of crucial systems to reduce prices after parliamentary dissent threatened to derail the contract (Business Standard, 4th Feb 10, “Piercing the army’s armour of deception”). Only now, after nine years of stonewalling, has Russia transferred the technology needed to build the T-90 in India.

Urgently in need of capable tanks, the army has worked with the DRDO to finalise a broad range of capabilities for the FMBT. These have been formalised in a document called the Preliminary Specifications Qualitative Requirement (PSQR). The detailed specifications of the FMBT, once finalised, will be listed out in the General Staff Qualitative Requirements (GSQR).

Amongst the capabilities being finalised for the GSQR are: active armour, which will shoot down enemy anti-tank projectiles before they strike the FMBT; extreme mobility, which makes the FMBT much harder to hit; the capability to operate in a nuclear-contaminated battlefield without exposing the crew to radiation; and the networked flow of information to the FMBT, providing full situational awareness to the crew, even when “buttoned down” inside the tank.

Also being finalised is the FMBT’s armament, a key attribute that determines a tank’s battlefield influence. The Arjun already has a heavy 120 millimetre “main gun”, and two small-calibre machine guns; and the recently ordered batch of 124 Arjuns will also fire anti-tank missiles through their main gun. The army wants all of those for the FMBT, with ranges enhanced through technological improvements.

However, the DRDO chief ruled out an electromagnetic gun, the next generation in high-velocity guns towards which armament technology aspires. “The Future MBT is not so far in the future”, Dr Saraswat quipped.

With the FMBT project squarely on its agenda, the DRDO also envisages a major role in developing the FICV. Says the DRDO chief, “The FICV is not just a conventional armoured vehicle for transporting soldiers. It involves advanced technologies and multidisciplinary integration, which private industry has never done. Only the DRDO and the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) have that experience. DRDO teams are already thinking about the technologies that should go into the FICV. But this is only to support private industry in making the FICV project a success.”

While private industry weighs its options about where to manufacture the FICV, the DRDO has already chosen the Heavy Vehicle Factory (HVF) in Avadi --- the OFB facility that builds the Arjun --- as the FMBT production line.

“It will definitely be produced in HVF. I see no way that we can go away from HVF”, says Dr Saraswat. “The HVF will work with us from the preliminary design of the FMBT so that we can go from prototype to mass production without any hiccups.”

Indian industry at landmark defence tender


An Indian Army BMP-2 Sarath Infantry Combat Vehicle (ICV), which equips its mechanized infantry battalions; and its recce & support battalions. The FICV will replace the BMP-2 Sarath

Companies to compete, US-style, to develop armoured carriers for army

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 9th Aug 01

India’s defence industry is poised at a landmark. On the 25th of August, four Indian companies --- three private and one public --- will submit bids in the MoD’s first-ever “Indian industry only” competition to develop a high-tech weapon system for the defence forces.

The four companies --- Tata Motors; the Mahindra Group; L&T; and the MoD-owned Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) --- are competing to design and build 2600 new-generation Future Infantry Combat Vehicles (F-ICVs) to replace the Indian Army’s aging fleet of Russian-designed BMP-IIs. In an American-style showdown, two of these vendors will be nominated to develop a prototype each and the winning design selected for the F-ICV.

While the cost of developing and manufacturing 2600 FICVs can only be roughly estimated, senior executives from two of the competing companies say that the bill could add up to Rs 50,000 crores. This will make it India’s most expensive defence contract so far.

Infantry Combat Vehicles (ICVs) are lightly armoured, highly mobile, tracked vehicles that look like small tanks. Travelling deep into enemy territory alongside tank columns, each ICV carries 7-8 infantry soldiers. These jawans, once dismounted, physically occupy and defend captured territory until the slower-moving infantry divisions can catch up with the strike formations.

The MoD will fund 80% of the cost of developing the FICV; the selected contractor will pay just 20%. It has been mandated that the FICV must have an indigenous content of at least 50%. With a development time of 7-8 years, the FICV should be ready by 2018.

This indigenous development of an FICV has been enabled by the Defence Procurement Procedure of 2008 (DPP-2008), which lays down a “Make” procedure for developing “high-tech, complex systems” through Indian industry. Following this procedure, the MoD surveyed private and public industry to zero in on potential contractors. The four companies identified were then issued with an Expression of Interest (EoI), which listed out the capabilities that the army expected from the FICV. Sources familiar with the EoI say that the FICV will be operated by 3 crewmembers, and carry 7 additional soldiers with combat loads; it must provide protection from bullets fired by 14.5 millimetre calibre weapons; it must be amphibious, i.e. capable of floating in water; it must be air-transportable, which would imply a maximum weight of 18-20 tonnes; and it must have a cannon and be capable of firing anti-tank missiles.

In their responses to the EoI on 25th August, each of the four competitors will detail their proposal for developing the FICV; the key project milestones; the estimated capital expenditure; the technology they will include and how that will be developed or purchased; and the minimum order that they would need to set up a financially viable production line.

Those responses will be evaluated by the MoD’s Integrated Project Management Team (IPMT), which will select two contractors. Over a fixed number of years the two contractors will develop their respective FICV prototypes. The Indian Army will select the better of the two by carrying out field trials.

But this is not a winner-take-all competition. Since the MoD wants to retain two production lines, the winner will be given 65-70% of the order; the runner-up will build 30-35% of the army’s requirement of FICVs, provided that company agrees to build the winning design at the same cost as the winner.

With two assembly lines operating, India’s private defence players expect that the FICV contract will create an eco-system of suppliers extending far beyond the winner of the contract. Brig Khutab Hai, who heads the Mahindra Group’s defence business, says, “The FICV project will be a huge boost to the Indian defence industry in R&D, manufacture, and in developing Tier-1 and Tier-2 suppliers from the small and medium sector industries.”

This MoD attempt to harness private contractors is backstopped by the public sector: the Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO) believes that it will be approached for key technologies; and the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB), which manufactures the BMP-II at Medak, in Andhra Pradesh, for production assistance.

At least two of the private contractors believe that it would be wasteful to set up a Greenfield production line. Says a senior executive in one of the contending companies, “Ordnance Factory, Medak is a national asset and it would be lying idle at that time. We could build the FICV at Medak --- on a Government-Owned-Company-Operated (GOCO) basis --- instead of setting up a brand new facility.”

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Weekend Quiz: What is this?


After the difficult last quiz, here's something comparatively easy! But, to win the Gold Star plus Brownie Point... you've got to provide some detail about what's in the photo

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Readers' Quiz No 3: what might this be?

It is easy to figure out what this is in generic terms. So readers are invited to guess the identity of this piece of equipment in more specific terms. A Gold Star for the most detailed (and correct) identification.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Readers' quiz: What on earth is that?


Broadsword's educated visitors had little difficulty in identifying the DRDO's 5.56 mm machine carbine that I posted. Many people shared the kudos. I suspect, though, that far fewer visitors will succeed in guessing what the #*^@$& this item is. The floor is yours!