Tuesday, 29 June 2010

McChrystal gazing

Sacked US commander in Afghanistan, Lt Gen Stanley McChrystal. A soldiers' soldier, McChrystal was legendary for many things: his intellect, his integrity and --- not least --- for sleeping just 4 hours a day; eating just one meal; and starting his day with an 11 km run.

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 29th June 10

The unceremonious dismissal last week by US President Barak Obama of his military commander in Afghanistan, Lt Gen Stanley McChrystal, should be carefully studied in this country. In contrast to India, where civil-military relations remain mired in wary mutual watchfulness, America has demonstrated a robust civil-military structure with a healthy tolerance for risk. This was evident from the joint political-military decision to prosecute an “Afghan friendly” strategy despite the politically nettlesome issue of higher US casualties; and from Obama’s swift decision that the general had unacceptably violated propriety in making public the fissures between top US policymakers.

For those who missed last week’s drama, General McChrystal and his personal staff --- styling themselves in the macho moulds of the Dirty Dozen and the Inglourious Basterds --- committed the breathtaking mistake of embedding a writer for Rolling Stone magazine into their inner circle for a month, letting him listen in on formal and informal conversations with apparently everything on the record.

Although McChrystal’s sacking will be a studied chapter in US civil-military relations, Obama’s was an easy decision compared to the dismissal of General Douglas MacArthur by President Harry Truman in 1951. MacArthur, the hero of two world wars, a winner of the Medal of Honour (America’s Param Vir Chakra), and the de facto ruler --- the American Shogun --- of Japan from 1945-50, had been recalled from Tokyo in 1950 to command the UN forces in Korea. Angered by China’s intervention in the war, MacArthur publicly challenged Truman’s restraint by planning nuclear attacks on Chinese air bases. An outraged Truman rejected warnings that MacArthur might beat him in the 1952 presidential elections. Overruling support for MacArthur from Secretary of Defence, General George Marshall; and Chairman of the Joint Chief’s of Staff, General Omar Bradley, Truman ended MacArthur’s career.

All of this is unthinkable in India, where the system produces generals (and that includes flag officers of the navy and the air force) who would never dream of functioning like Stanley McChrystal. That might indicate a healthier civil-military relationship in India, but only if one were to look superficially at just the Rolling Stone fiasco. Looking deeper --- especially at McChrystal’s, and now Petraeus’ selection as commanders in Afghanistan based on clear strategies that they brought to the table --- India could learn much from the US civil-military structure, based as it is on meritocracy, responsibility and accountability.

Consider how India would have selected a commander for a hypothetical Afghanistan mission: the MoD would have asked the Indian Army to “post” a suitable general. In the US the president nominates key commanders, based on their achievements and abilities, and the Congress ratifies those appointments. General Petraeus, for example, was nominated as US Central Command chief, superseding several compatriots, after framing a widely acclaimed counter-insurgency doctrine for the US military. American generals routinely leapfrog less talented officers while being appointed to higher rank.

But, in the poisoned relationship between India’s military and the bureaucratic-political elite, the armed forces reject US-style “deep selection”. India’s military suspects that political interests would run rampant, promoting well-connected officers rather than competent ones. The army remembers Lieutenant General BM Kaul, whose connections with Nehru allowed him to drive India to defeat at the hands of China in 1962.

This would be valid reasoning, were it not for a growing phenomenon: increasingly mid-ranking and senior officers are seeking political and bureaucratic patronage. The media has already reported instances where the Akali Dal and certain UP parties have lobbied on behalf of senior military officers. Bureaucrats too often approach the MoD to push the cases of nephews, nieces and country cousins. So, allowing an institutional gulf between the military and the political-bureaucratic class, even as patronage thrives below the radar, amounts to getting the worst of both worlds: condoning patronage while preventing partnership.

The Indian military’s insularity --- with officers carefully shielded from outside influences, and shaped instead by a numbing professional uniformity --- prevents the development of commanders who can operate confidently at the political-strategic levels. While US generals like Petraeus and McChrystal gain credit for doing Ph.Ds and M.Phils and for being cerebral academics, India’s armed forces give no credit to an officer for non-military qualifications. And the question of seconding officers to other government and non-government organisations to obtain a wider perspective is dismissed with: the MoD will never allow it.

There, the military may have a point. The political and bureaucratic elites fear, deep down, that allowing officers out of the cantonments could open the door to a rampantly political military. And so the two arms of government --- civil and military --- occupy separate worlds in India, glowering at each other across an abyss of distrust. Interaction is minimal, even in formulating national security policy; the bureaucrats and diplomats do that for the elected leaders who remain, for the most part, strategically unschooled. Bred in the tradition of the freedom struggle, they see political agitation as a more potent and familiar instrument than military power --- a confusing and technical subject that is the preserve of an English speaking elite that they don’t identify with.

Monday, 28 June 2010

Air Force says DRDO stalling Tejas fighter engine

The EJ200 engine, which powers the twin-engine Eurofighter, is the front-runner in the contest to power the single-engine LCA Mk 2. Also in contention is the GE F-414. In these photos, a demonstration team at the ILA 2010 in Berlin replaces a Eurofighter engine in 35 minutes.

IAF feels DRDO fronting for French engine, citing “joint development”

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 28th Jun 10

India’s Tejas light fighter is failing to meet performance targets, largely because of an underpowered engine. And the Indian Air Force believes that the Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO) is actively stalling the process of choosing a new engine.

A furious IAF, which urgently needs the Tejas to replace its retiring MiG-21 squadrons, has complained in writing to the Ministry of Defence. The IAF report says that even as the Aeronautical Development Agency or ADA --- which oversees the Tejas programme --- is choosing between two powerful, modern engines from the global market, the DRDO has confused the issue by throwing up a third option: an offer to resurrect its failed Kaveri engine programme, this time in partnership with French engine-maker, Snecma.

The IAF report, currently with the highest levels of the MoD, makes two points. Firstly, since the DRDO has been unable, over two decades, to deliver a Kaveri engine that can power the Tejas, the ongoing procurement --- of either the General Electric F-414, or the Eurojet EJ200 engine --- should go ahead.

The IAF’s second objection is even more damning for the DRDO: Snecma, the IAF charges, has already developed the heart of the engine it is offering, an uprated derivative of the M88-2 engine that powers the French Rafale fighter. The DRDO, therefore, will not co-develop the engine, but merely provide Snecma with an indigenous stamp. In reality the Gas Turbine Research Establishment (GTRE), the DRDO laboratory that has laboured for decades on the Kaveri, will hardly participate in any “joint development”.

Furthermore, says a top IAF source, a Kaveri engine based on Snecma’s new core will leave the Tejas short of performance, providing barely 83-85 Kilonewtons (KN) of maximum thrust. In contrast, the GE and Eurojet engines already short-listed for selection provide 90-96 KN, a significant advantage. The source says sneaking in the underpowered Kaveri-Snecma engine through the GTRE back door will damage the LCA project.

For the IAF, the performance of the new engine is crucial. It has agreed to accept the Tejas into service as soon as the fighter obtains its Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) in December, even though the Tejas does not yet fly, climb, turn or accelerate fast enough. The IAF’s accommodation is based on a promise from the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) --- the body that oversees the Tejas’ development --- that a new, more powerful engine will overcome all the Tejas’ current performance shortfalls.

Senior IAF officers explain that the DRDO needs the Tejas project to endorse the Kaveri-Snecma engine because Snecma insists on a minimum assured order of 300 engines as a pre-condition for partnering GTRE in “joint development”. Since India’s futuristic Medium Combat Aircraft (MCA) --- the other potential user of a Kaveri-Snecma engine --- has not yet been sanctioned, only the Tejas programme, with some 120-140 fighters planned, provides the numbers needed for satisfying Snecma.

The IAF will buy two squadrons (42 fighters) of Tejas Mark 1, which use older GE F-404 engines. In addition, five squadrons (110 fighters) of Tejas Mark 2 are planned, which will be powered by a new engine. Given that each Tejas could go through 2-3 engines during its lifetime, the LCA Mk 2 will actually need 200-300 of the new engines.

Contacted by Business Standard, the DRDO has declined to comment on the subject.

Business Standard has already reported (12 Dec 09, “Kaveri engine comes alive; will power Indian fighters”) that the MoD is backing Kaveri-Snecma as a new engine for the LCA. That report was corroborated on 13th May 10 by Defence Minister AK Antony, who told parliament that the Kaveri “requires to be optimised for lower weight and higher performance so that it can be used for Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas and possibly for Indian next generation combat Aircraft.”

But there are mixed signals from the establishment. In the same statement, Antony also talked about the possibility of engine import. And the ADA chief, PS Subramaniam, has told Business Standard, “There are many Tejas already flying that will soon need new engines and we will use the Kaveri-Snecma engines for those. The Tejas Mark 2 will be powered by either GE F-414 or the EJ200.”

According to ADA sources, both the GE and Eurojet engines have fully met the technical requirements for the Tejas Mk 2. The Eurojet EJ200 is the more modern, lighter, flexible engine and has impressed the IAF. The GE F-414 is significantly heavier, but provides more power. The Indian tender for 99 engines (plus options) demands that all engines after the first 10 be built in India.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

DRDO policy gaffes attract international flak

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 22nd June 10

New Delhi’s moral and ethical protestations that India’s space programme is entirely peaceful are facing embarrassing questioning after the Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO) --- apparently oblivious of the policy implications of its statements ---- publicly announced a roadmap for its ambitious military space programme.

Last month, the DRDO published its “Technology Perspective and Capability Roadmap” or TPCR, which declared that the “development of ASAT (anti-satellite weaponry) for electronic or physical destruction of satellites in both LEO (low earth orbit) and Geo-synchronous orbit” can be expected to be completed by 2015.

Now, in a web article demanding that the US should rein in India’s “defiant military space programme”, Matthew Hoey of the Military Space Transparency Project (MSTP) --- a US-based NGO that tracks the weaponization of space --- has pointed out that the DRDO’s statement “blatantly contradicts statements by Indian political leaders that deny any intent by their nation to pursue space weapons”.

The MSTP report asks why India is being allowed to adopt double standards. In January 2007, after China had launched a kinetic kill vehicle (KKV) to smash into its own aging Fengyun (FY-1C) satellite, then-foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee had protested, “the security and safety of assets in outer space is of crucial importance for global economic and social development. We call upon all States to redouble efforts to strengthen the international legal regime for the peaceful use of outer space.”

India’s prime minister had criticised China’s test as forthrightly. The MSTP report points out that, at a joint press conference with Russian president Vladimir Putin on 27th Jan 2007, Dr Manmohan Singh had declared, “Our position is similar in that we are not in favour of the weaponization of outer space.”

Matthew Hoey scathingly describes this contradiction: “While top Indian military officials (i.e. DRDO) set ambitious milestones for destructive military space systems, Indian political leaders make contradictory claims about the nation’s peaceful intentions for outer space”.

This is not the first time that the DRDO has openly repudiated New Delhi’s official line. Hoey points to a report entitled “Military Dimensions in the Future of the Indian Presence in Space”, published in 2000 by Dr V Siddhartha, an officer on the personal staff of the DRDO chief, which indicated that India could deploy a directed energy weapon in space by 2010, and also a system called the KALI (kinetic attack loitering interceptor).

Like so many DRDO programmes, the KALI’s development time frame has turned out to be wildly optimistic. But the MSTP report alleges that the Siddhartha’s report “is testament to, at the very least, a clear intention within the Indian military of deploying not only a space-based laser but also an ASAT system.”

Equating the DRDO’s defiance of international norms with that of North Korea and Iran, Hoey’s article declares that the setting of “target dates for the development of anti-satellite systems by any nation should be considered shocking particularly given the scrutiny that was paid to nations such as China and the US when they each demonstrated a direct-ascent ability to strike satellites in space.”

The Outer Space Treaty, which entered into force on October 10, 1967 and has been ratified by about a hundred countries, including India, bans the placement of weapons of mass destruction in space. The Space Preservation Treaty, which seeks to extend this ban to all weapons, has found no support from any major country. Only the city of Berkeley, California, has signed this treaty, and a tiny portion of the University of California has been declared a “space-based weapons-free zone”.

An ASAT treaty --- which would ban the development of ground-based weapons that could shoot down satellites in space --- is even more improbable. Technologically capable countries, including India, pay lip service to the peaceful use of outer space, while going ahead with developing ASAT weapons. But such activities are masked, not flaunted, as the DRDO has done. In 2002, the provocatively named US Space Command was quietly merged with the US Strategic Command.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Arms spending: India grows as west shrinks: Deloitte-CII report

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 17th Jun 10

With global arms majors focused on the commercial opportunities presented by India’s military modernisation programme, consulting firm Deloitte India and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) have produced a detailed report on the country’s defence market and the possibilities it presents. Entitled, “Prospects for Global Defence Export Industry in Indian Defence market”, the report was released today at the Eurosatory 2010 defence exhibition in Paris.

The report follows a KPMG-CII report in January on “Opportunities in the Indian Defence Sector”, a PricewaterhouseCoopers report in April on “Aerospace and Defence Insights” and a CII report last month on foreign direct investment (FDI) in the defence sector.

The Deloitte-CII report points out that as defence expenditure drops in the traditionally big-spending western economies, including the USA, Indian defence spending will grow steadily over the next 20-25 years, as New Delhi implements a major defence modernisation.

Linking defence spending to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) prediction that India’s economy will grow in real terms by 7.5 per cent from 2010 to 2014, the Deloitte-CII report says that India’s current defence expenditure of $32.03 billion will rise to an estimated $42 billion by 2015. The capital expenditure on new weapons platforms will rise from the current $13.04 billion to $19.2 billion in 2015.

Inflation, warns the report, somewhat tempers these figures: the real growth in defence expenditure is expected to be marginal over the next two years and about 5.3 per cent from 2012 to 2015.

Nevertheless, the figures remain impressive. During the current Five Year Plan (2007-12), India will spend $100 billion on weaponry, which will rise to $120 billion during the next Five Year Plan (2012-17).

Deloitte-CII point out that 70 per cent of this procurement, in value terms, is from foreign sources; Indian companies supply only 30 per cent, the bulk of that as components and sub-assemblies to state-owned companies. The report is sceptical about the Indian MoD’s (Ministry of Defence’s) oft-repeated target of 70 per cent indigenous production. If that target is to be achieved by 2015, local industry would need to more than double in size, an unlikely event.

India’s domestic defence sector benefits from increasing MoD requirements to “buy local” as well as taxation arrangements that advantage local firms; in the case of defence public sector undertakings (DPSUs), tax advantages can be as high as 50 per cent. Deloitte-CII, however, see clear opportunities for foreign firms in providing specialist inputs to Indian defence manufacturers, which they require for developing advanced platforms and systems.

Land systems

The report notes that India’s acquisition of land systems suffered a serious slowdown in 2009. Many of the postponed acquisitions relate to the Army’s $8-billion artillery modernisation programme (called the Field Artillery Rationalisation Plan, or FARP). This aims to induct between 2,700-3,600 guns over the next two decades at a cost of $4.77-6.48 billion.

Procurement has long been initiated for four kinds of guns: air-mobile ultralight howitzers for mountain divisions on theChina border, towed and wheeled 155mm guns for plains infantry and mountain divisions, self-propelled tracked and wheeled guns for mechanised strike formations, and mounted gun systems. These projects, however, have moved very slowly.

Besides upgraded artillery, the report also highlights the proposed acquisition and upgrades of tanks, UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) and 300 helicopters for Army Aviation. India’s obsolescent air defence systems also provide major opportunities to foreign vendors.

Navy and Coast Guard 

Deloitte-CII note that naval acquisitions are earmarked for a greater degree of indigenisation than the other services. Foreign shipbuilders are pointed to opportunities for modernising Indian shipyards to enable them to produce large, advanced battleships. By 2022, the Indian Navy plans to have a 160-plus ship Navy, including three aircraft carriers, 60 major combatants (including submarines) and about 400 aircraft of different types.

The report highlights the Indian Navy’s “Indigenisation Plan (2008)”, which forecasts a requirement for marine engineeringequipment, including gas turbines, diesel generators, pressure cylinders, hydraulic manipulators and motors.

Furthermore, India’s Coast Guard, which is 70 per cent short of its requirements, plans to double its assets in the next few years and triple them over a decade. Its current fleet of 76 ships and 45 aircraft is likely to be ramped up in five years to 217 ships and 74 aircraft. Some 70 of these new ships would be large vessels.


The report notes that India is struggling to indigenise aerospace production. Historically d0ependent upon Russia, the Indian Air Force (IAF) is looking to diversify its vendor base for combat and transport aircraft, providing major opportunities for aerospace firms


* 280 Sukhoi-30MKI fighters, worth $9.9 billion.
* 126 medium fighters (to replace the MiG-21) for $9.09 billion.
* 120 indigenous Tejas light combat aircraft (LCA), for which an additional $1.71 billion has been allotted.
* Advanced and intermediate jet trainer aircraft.
* The Indo-Russian Fifth Generation Fighter, with an estimated development cost of $9.9 billion.
* Upgrades to more than 60 MiG, Jaguar and Mirage aircraft.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Grob Aircraft targets 181 trainers for the IAF: eyes HAL's share of 106 basic trainers

The Grob-120TP at Berlin, sheltered from the sun in between flying displays

The instrument panel, by Elta. The analog dials help rookie fliers, especially during aerobatics. The digital MFDs allow advanced, mission-specific training.

The Martin-Baker 15B ejection seats that were fitted onto the Grob-120TP without major re-engineering

The Rolls-Royce engine that powers the Grob-120TP

The Grob-120TP posing on a runway for a PR photograph

by Ajai Shukla
Berlin, Germany
Business Standard, 16th June 10

As pilot Klaus Plasa lifts his 70-year-old, grey-green Messerschmitt Me-109 fighter off the runway, clapping breaks out amongst the aficionados of historic aircraft that crowd Berlin’s ILA 2010, the world’s oldest air show. The Me-109, which delights the crowd with its aerobatics, is the legendary Luftwaffe (German Air Force) fighter that memorably clashed with Royal Air Force Spitfires in the skies of England during the Battle of Britain in 1940.

Close on Plasa’s heels flies a restored Messerschmitt Me-262, the world’s first jet-engine fighter and unmatched in aerial combat when it entered Luftwaffe service in 1944. Historians believe that, had Hitler not waited two years for the fighter’s design to be absolutely perfect, the Me-262 might have won the air war for the Germans.

While these World War II fighters held crowds spellbound at the ILA 2010, which wound up on Sunday, Indian visitors focused on another small aircraft that could soon fly the skies of India: the Grob-120TP, which has been offered as a basic trainer aircraft for the Indian Air Force (IAF). Its German manufacturer, Grob Aircraft, submitted a tender in April along with Embraer of Brazil; Pilatus of Switzerland; Raytheon of the US; Finmeccanica of Italy; and Korea Aerospace Industries for the Indian purchase of 75 trainer aircraft.

While these 75 trainers are being procured, Bangalore-based Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) will design and manufacture an additional 106 basic trainers, dubbed the Hindustan Turbo Trainer – 40 (HTT-40). In building the HTT-40, HAL plans to leverage its experience in designing a more advanced trainer, the Sitara Intermediate Jet Trainer (IJT), which is currently being test flown.

All this stems from a major crisis in the basic training of IAF pilots, caused by the grounding of its entire fleet of notoriously unreliable HPT-32 Deepak trainers. In recent years19 IAF pilots have died in 17 Deepak crashes, mostly caused by the engine shutting down due to fuel supply interruptions. The Deepak, like most other basic trainers worldwide, comes without ejection seats but, so desperate is the need to keep training going, that the IAF has even proposed fitting each Deepak with a Ballistic Recovery System: a giant parachute that can safely bring down a stalled aircraft slowly with the crew still in their seats.

But the search for a new trainer has begun in earnest and Grob’s aggressive two-pronged strategy targets not just the 75 trainers in the tender, but the 106 trainers that HAL proposes to build as well. Grob’s strategy: surprise HAL with the technological excellence of the Grob-120TP; and then --- when HAL realises that it cannot match the Grob trainer --- offer HAL a substantial partnership in Grob’s global supply chain in exchange for letting Grob supply an additional 106 Grob-120TP aircraft.

Given HAL’s technological excellence in manufacturing composites cheaply, Grob is happy to source from HAL. The IAF will be happy with a single basic trainer that is already training Israeli, French, German and Canadian air force pilots, rather than waiting for an untried HAL trainer. And HAL would have eliminated developmental risks, while obtaining an assured customer.

“For HAL to supply 106 aircraft to the Indian Air Force is one thing, but producing fifty, sixty, seventy components for us, for the global market, over a long period of time, is another thing”, says AndrĂ© Hiebeler, Chief Sales Officer and co-CEO of Grob Aircraft. “Depending upon the outcome of the tender for the first 75 aircraft, all the participants will have to go and look at the cards one more time and see what they sense”.

Technologically, Grob is on solid ground; the Grob-120TP is two generations ahead of the Deepak and is the world’s lightest trainer with ejection seats for both pilots. The Grob-120TP’s digital glass cockpit, built by Israeli company, Elta, allows rookie pilots to fly mission-specific sorties that were only possible earlier in advanced trainers. Finally, Grob claims this trainer, built entirely of maintenance-free, lightweight composites, is half the price of its rivals and three times cheaper to fly and maintain. Sources indicate that the Grob-120TP has been offered to India for US $3-4 million apiece.

“We are going to completely surprise everyone when they open the tender bids and see how affordable this aircraft is”, promises Andrew Martin of Martin-Baker, the company that fitted the Grob-120TP with ejection seats. “Every hour in another trainer is probably the cost of 10-15 hours in a Grob… I am sure this will strike a chord with the IAF HQ.

While these claims will be tested by the IAF during user trials in September and October, the second prong of Grob’s strategy will become evident when it submits offsets proposals on 16th July. Besides sourcing composite airframe components from HAL, a JV already created between HAL and Elbit --- called HALBIT Avionics Ltd --- is likely to produce a large part of the Grob-120TP’s avionics.

IAF fighter pilots undergo three stages of training. Basic, or Stage-1 training was done on the Deepak; to replace these trainers, the IAF is buying a new aircraft. Stage-2 training is done on the Kiran Mark 1, which will be replaced by the Sitara Intermediate Jet Trainer (IJT), built by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) in Bangalore. Stage-3 training, just before pilots join their frontline fighter squadrons, is done on the Kiran Mark 2, which is being currently superseded by the Hawk Advanced Jet Trainer (AJT).

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Naxalism: arranging the facts

The Salwa Judum, a movement to organise local tribals against the Naxals, in order to compensate for police inefficiency, has resulted in mass displacement of civilians and plenty of criticism

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 15th Jun 2010

French diplomat and wordsmith nonpareil, Charles Maurice de Talleyrand, remarked of the Bourbon dynasty --- restored to power after the Napoleonic Wars and back to their old excesses --- that “they had learned nothing and forgotten nothing”. That withering observation accurately describes New Delhi today. After six decades of floundering through dozens of uprisings, including multiple insurgencies in the northeast and proxy wars in Punjab and J&K, India’s government is facing the Naxal challenge as incoherently as ever.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was wrong last month in calling the Naxal insurgency “India’s greatest internal security challenge”. He first used that description three years ago and, if it remains so even today, India’s greatest internal security challenge is the strategic bankruptcy of its ruling elite.

The appalling absence of leadership is evident. Two months after the Dantewada debacle, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MoHA) is only now absorbing the reality that its traditional response to insurrection --- passing the buck to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) --- is not yet an option. Prompted by an overstretched military, Defence Minister AK Antony has blocked the Home Ministry’s request for using the army’s Rashtriya Rifles and elite special forces to “force the pace of offensive operations”.

The accommodation then reached by the Cabinet --- using the army only for training and “demining” --- reeks of the compromise culture that shapes our answers to crucial questions of national security. Enough military steel has been sprinkled over the pot to deflect potential criticism that the cabinet did not take firm steps, but not enough to generate criticism that the military was being sidetracked from the borders.

This step is hardly likely to rein in the Naxals, given the systemic ineffectiveness of police forces, both those of the state and the centre. But the appearance of action was necessary; and criticism has been deferred to the next crisis.

That this will come before long is evident from the approach of Home Minister P Chidambaram. No Churchill in inspirational leadership, but rivalling that British wartime PM in verbal and ethical gymnastics, Chidambaram claims to have demanded a “wider mandate” for tackling Naxalism even as he sought army units for discharging the primary function of his own central police organisations (CPOs): i.e. reinforcing the state police in maintaining law and order.

His ministry, meanwhile, continues to pass the buck. This week the MoHA is inviting the chief ministers of Naxal-affected states (a term that is entering official lexicon!) to a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) “so that their suggestions on strengthening police and paramilitary forces can be sought”.

Only Chidambaram can answer why those CMs --- who are squarely blamed for the Naxal problem via Home Ministry leaks --- are now being asked for suggestions. Clearly the MoHA wishes to spread thin the blame for policing failure, riding on the fact that law and order is constitutionally a state subject. But what about the CPOs, which function directly under the MoHA and have long operated in Naxal-affected states?

Such is the MoHA’s indifference to its CPOs --- some 7.5 lakh armed policemen in the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), the Border Security Force (BSF), the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), the Indo-Tibet Border Police (ITBP) and others --- that even top MoHA officials refer to them as “paramilitary forces”. A paramilitary force is, by definition, led by military officers on deputation. Only the Assam Rifles, which operates in India’s north-eastern states, is a paramilitary force.

This difference is not merely academic, given that the Dantewada debacle, and others before it, stem from professional blunders by CPO units, which could hardly have happened under military officers. The MoHA has cynically stymied multiple proposals to stiffen CPO capability by inducting soldiers who have prematurely retired after just 7 years in the military. The key reason proffered by the MoHA: this would damage the promotion prospects of directly recruited policemen.

Another reason that the Home Ministry cites in rejecting the proposal to laterally induct army jawans into the CPOs is the military’s institutional orientation towards overwhelming force, which would be unacceptable in dealing with Indian citizens. This logic, while cruelly ironic for the CRPF jawans who faced a hail of Naxal bullets in Dantewada, has been fully disproved in J&K where regular army units have been no less restrained than their CPO counterparts.

Given the MoHA’s stance on guarding CPO turf, and the MoD’s minimalist stance on direct involvement in anti-Naxal operations, the compact on army training for CPOs is doomed to failure. Over the last five years, one of the army’s most experienced trainers --- Brigadier (Retired) BK Ponwar of the Counter Insurgency and Jungle Warfare School in Mizoram --- has trained more than 10,000 Chhattisgarh policemen at the state’s Jungle Warfare College in Bastar. The vast majority of them have gone on not to fight Naxals, but to soft jobs on the personal security details of state police officers. A policeman can be trained easily; but changing police culture is far more difficult. The same is true of the CPOs.

Do not write off the possibility that our leaders in North and South Block might have read Talleyrand. The Frenchman also said, “Since the masses are always eager to believe something, for their benefit nothing is so easy to arrange as facts.” That is all that New Delhi has done so far in confronting Naxalism.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

European fighters become 25% cheaper

A Luftwaffe Eurofighter climbs steeply, even as its price falls relative to its American rivals. European fighters in the MMRCA contest have become 25% cheaper than they were in 2008

By Ajai Shukla
Berlin, Germany
Business Standard, 10th June 10

Plummeting European currencies, battered by the Eurozone financial crisis, are providing European aerospace corporations an opportunity to undercut their American rivals, Boeing and Lockheed Martin, in the contest to sell India 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) for a price that has been estimated at US $11 billion, or about Rs 44,000 crores.

The six contenders for the MMRCA contract --- US companies, Boeing and Lockheed Martin; Russian company, MiG; and European companies, Dassault, Eurofighter and Gripen --- will submit fresh price bids this month to India’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) since their earlier bids, submitted in March 08, were valid for just two years.

At that time the Euro was worth more than 1.55 dollars; today, it has dropped below 1.2 to the dollar, almost 25% cheaper in relative terms. The Swedish Krona has fallen as precipitously: worth 0.165 dollars in March 2008, the Krona is at 0.126 dollars now.

That means that a bid, calculated in Euros as the equivalent of US $11 billion in 2008, would be just US $8-8.5 billion today, cheaper by as much as US $3 billion, or Rs 13,200 crores.

Taking note of this Enzio Casolini, the CEO of Eurofighter GmbH --- the four-nation consortium that manufactures the Eurofighter --- told Business Standard, “This (the drop in the Euro) is important, especially in relation to the American competitors. In comparison with the dollar, we went down from more or less 1.5 (dollars to the Euro) to 1.2. So this is good…”

Says Bernhard Gerwert, Board Chairman of Eurofighter GmbH, “When we launched Eurofighter’s campaign in India in 2007, I thought we had only a 10% chance of winning the contract. Today, I believe we have a better than 50% chance of winning.”

But it remains unclear whether the Euro’s fall has made European fighters cheap enough to win. Aerospace analysts believe that the American fighters in the fray --- Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet and Lockheed Martin’s F-16IN Super Viper --- remain significantly cheaper than their European rivals. Having churned out thousands of F-16 and F-18 variants over the years, their development costs and production facilities have long been amortised.

The F/A-18 Super Hornet, going by published US government figures, costs the US Navy between US $40-45 million per aircraft. The F-16, being a lighter, single-engine fighter, costs significantly less than that. In contrast, the Eurofighter and the Rafale, more modern fighters that are still under development, are believed to cost upwards of US $80 million apiece.

It is not just the cost of the aircraft that makes up the total value of the Indian contract. Also included in the bid price will be the cost of technology transfer; stocks of running spares; training packages; maintenance costs; and technical documentation.

Complicating matters even further is the issue of “life-cycle costing”. While the lowest bidder, whose aircraft passes the flight trials, will indeed win the contract, the Indian MoD has publicly declared that the lowest bid will be calculated on more than just the up-front figures on the commercial bids. Instead, the IAF would calculate the cost of each fighter over its entire service life of three decades.

Consequently, European manufacturers, with high ticket prices on their fighters, have argued that low maintenance and high availability of their aircraft mean that they work out far cheaper over their lifetime than, say, Russian fighters that have high operating costs, low reliability, and require expensive maintenance and frequent changes of parts and engines.

Now, however, IAF sources have indicated to Business Standard that calculating costs over three decades is proving more difficult than they had bargained for; and that the up-front value of the bid might end up as a determining factor. For the vendors, this possibility poses a dilemma in their bidding strategy. Bidding high would mean pricing themselves out of the competition, since life cycle costing would no longer be a valid argument. Bidding too low, on the other hand, could result in winning a contract that becomes a financial liability rather than a triumph.

All six competing fighters have completed their testing and evaluation by the IAF. The IAF is aiming at submitting its recommendations to the MoD by September. According to procurement rules,the MoD will then open the commercial bids of the fighters that have been found suitable by the IAF and award the contract to the lowest bidder.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

New MoD policy to boost Indian arms industry

Production of Airbus airliner doors at Hindustan Aeronautics. HAL has not been able to move up the technology chain, even after years of supplying items like doors.

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 8th June 10

Facing sustained criticism for its continuing dependence on foreign weaponry, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) is finalising an ambitious new policy for building up India’s defence industry, both public and private.

The MoD’s Secretary for Defence Production, RK Singh, has told Business Standard that the country’s first-ever Defence Production Policy mandates that weaponry and military systems will be identified several years into the future, to allow Indian companies the time needed to develop and manufacture them. The identified systems will be allocated to specific Indian defence companies as development projects. The MoD will lay down clear time targets and provide 80% of the cost that will be incurred.

“We have consulted the army, navy, air force, the Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO), academia, FICCI, CII and ASSOCHAM… and noted their comments”, says RK Singh. “The new policy will come up before the Defence Procurement Board (DPB) for consideration on 11th June. Then the Defence Acquisition Council (the MoD’s apex body on equipment acquisition) will clear it. Within two to three months, the new policy will be implemented.”

The current rulebook for defence procurement --- the Defence Procurement Policy of 2008 (DPP-2008) --- already lays down a “Make” procedure, which allows the MoD to allocate and fund projects through Indian industry. However, this has not yet led to any domestic orders for defence equipment, partly because equipment requirements have never been identified in advance, to give Indian industry the lead-time to develop them.

Pointed to this fact, the Secretary for Defence Production asserted, “But now it is going to happen. We have to make it happen…. because now our industry has the strength. It is interested. We will ensure that the ‘Make’ procedure becomes very friendly. More and more equipment will now come into the ‘Make’ procedure.”

Explaining the working of the new policy, Secretary RK Singh says that Indian defence companies will be encouraged to register their technological capabilities in a MoD databank. When a need is anticipated for the army, e.g. a futuristic Main Battle Tank, the MoD will survey the industry and identify at least two major companies, to which it will award development contracts. These two prime contractors, working with a tailor-made consortium of companies, will develop a separate tank prototype and the MoD will select one, or even both, for mass production.

A similar system of competitive development contracts is followed by the US defence establishment.

The new Defence Production Policy is rooted in the MoD’s realisation that its longstanding acquisition model of building weaponry in India, through Transfer of Technology (ToT), has failed to generate indigenisation. Real indigenisation, the MoD now believes, comes from designing weaponry, not just manufacturing foreign designs.

“Look at what has happened historically”, says RK Singh. “The (Indian defence) industries which came up, with some exceptions, are manufacturing products that were designed abroad, not here. Our industry has been in the habit of taking transfer of technology and building on license until the product dies a technological death. There is no expenditure on R&D and no technology absorption. And since the most important components come from abroad, the vendor can turn off the switch any time. If India wants to emerge as a world power, we have to start developing our own products. That is what our industry will have to learn in partnership with the MoD.”

It remains unclear how large a foreign component will be allowed in defence systems developed under the new Defence Production Policy. While the current “Make” procedure allows 70% foreign component, Business Standard learns from MoD sources that the current thinking is to bring this down to “less than 50%”, along with the proviso that the Intellectual Property Rights of the foreign component must reside in India.

Indian private companies are treating the new policy with some scepticism. “The MoD has always manipulated policy to favour the defence PSUs, which are the main beneficiaries of the old ToT practice”, points out the CEO of a private Indian company that is active in defence. “Throwing out ToT and demanding real R&D will leave the DPSUs in the cold. Then we’ll see whether the policy stays or goes.”

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Tejas LSP-4 tests the skies, boosts test programme

The Tejas LSP-4 taxying in after its first test flight on Thursday. It was accompanied on the flight by a "chase aircraft", which was LSP-2

A closer look at LSP-4. Besides all the systems flown on LSP-3, the LSP-4 also had a CMDS, i.e. chaff and flare dispensers

The ground team takes charge of LSP-4 at the end of its 40-minute inaugural flight

Wing Commander Suneet Krishna, the newest test pilot of the National Flight Test Centre (NFTC) is welcomed by Tejas engineers

The traditional bucket of water is dumped over his head to celebrate the first flight of a new aircraft. Champagne, clearly, is not catered for by the Tejas budget

Suneet flashes a thumbs-up at the end of his first test flight of a new Tejas. He was not alone. Every parameter of the LSP-4 was monitored, every second of the flight, from the NFTC

A happy group. To the left of Suneet (i.e. to the viewer's right) is PS Subramaniam, the Director of the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), which is developing the Tejas

By Ajai Shukla

HAL, Bangalore

Business Standard, 5th June 10

The small group of engineers stood tensely beside the runway on Thursday at Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, Bangalore, peering at the sky. As two approaching dots rapidly enlarged into the menacing delta-wing shapes of the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft, an animated murmur arose. Test pilot, Wing Commander Suneet Krishna, was bringing in a brand new Tejas fighter from its inaugural test flight.

Krishna descended steeply, a parachute flowering as his aircraft touched down; a split second behind him, the chase aircraft, another Tejas flown by Group Captain RR Tyagi, “peeled off” into the sky with a roar. That was the “chase aircraft”, which had watched and photographed every moment of Krishna’s flight. In those forty minutes, both fighters had climbed to 36,000 feet; broken the sound barrier; turned and twisted sharply; and checked several parameters as part of the Tejas flight test programme.

The fighters taxied in to where the ground crew was assembled and clapping broke out as Krishna climbed out flashing a thumbs-up. A bucket of water was ceremonially dumped over his head (the Tejas budget does not run to champagne), several bouquets handed over, and kaju barfi stuffed into his mouth. The fourth Limited Series Production Tejas (LSP-4) was ready to join the flight test programme.

Each LSP Tejas contains more systems, and is more complex, than its predecessors. LSP-3, which first flew on 23rd April, was the first Tejas with a multi-mode radar (MMR); and with electronic systems to differentiate friendly from hostile aircraft. LSP-4 has all that and also flare and chaff dispensers to confuse enemy radars and missiles: a Counter Measure Dispensing System.

With the Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) of the Tejas due this year, the flight test programme desperately needs every aircraft it can build. The testing, which requires thousands of individual flight checks, proceeds only as fast as the number of aircraft available for the testing. The Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), which oversees the Tejas programme, has faced sharp criticism from the Indian Air Force for producing successive LSP aircraft too slowly, thereby protracting the testing and delaying the IOC. LSP-4 will be only the 8th Tejas in the flight test programme, which has done 1300 sorties amounting to more than 700 hours of flying.

HAL admits that LSP-3 was overdue by a year, but points out that LSP-4 has followed in just over a month. “I am pushing for LSP-5 to fly by June-end”, says D Balasunder, the Managing Director of HAL’s Bangalore Complex. “It will have all the systems fitted in LSP-4, and will additionally have night lighting within the cockpit, and an auto-pilot.”

From the runway, technicians move off to the hangars with the newly inaugurated LSP-4 to ready it for a gruelling regime of hot weather trials. This weekend, LSP-3 and LSP-4 will leave for Nagpur where, day after day, they will bake in the sun for hours before hurling themselves into the sky to test whether their sophisticated electronics can withstand the Indian summer.

The ADA plans to build LSP-6 and LSP-7 quickly and then hand those two Tejas fighters to the IAF. At its base in Sulur, near Coimbatore, the IAF will operate the aircraft to provide feedback about improvements that are needed to make the Tejas easier to maintain in combat. ADA sources plan to make easy maintainability a key feature of the Tejas Mark II, the next, improved, version of the Indian fighter.

“The Tejas Mark I is already as good or better as the light fighters in the IAF”, declares ADA chief, PS Subramaniam, referring to the MiG-21 BISON. “The air force should order at least 60 of them.”

But the IAF is less exuberant. Senior air marshals point out to Business Standard that, if they grant the Tejas IOC at the end of 2010, it will be in the long-term interest of the fighter programme, not because the Tejas has met all its targets. The Tejas does not fly as fast as originally planned; its acceleration is significantly less; and the Tejas has not been tested yet in carrying much of the weaponry that it is designed to.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Fundamentally different: legal issues spin off from fighter bases tussle

A forward airfield that also serves as an Indian fighter base. Italian company, Selex, had stalled the modernisation of 30 airfields by going to court against the contract

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 1st June 10

For the last seven months, an Italian company, Selex Sistemi Integrati, had blocked a crucial aspect of India’s defence readiness in Indian courts, until an irate Supreme Court threw out a Selex petition on 24th May. Since November 09, the upgrading of 30 operationally vital military airfields had been effectively suspended by India’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) after Selex filed a writ petition in the Delhi High Court challenged the MoD’s award of that contract to a consortium led by Tata Power’s Strategic Electronics Division (SED).

Selex pleaded that, in awarding the Modernisation of Airfield Infrastructure (MAFI) contract to the Tatas, the MoD had erred since the Tata consortium had neither the experience, nor the technical capability, to execute such a contract. Selex also alleged that the Tatas had squeaked ahead in close bidding (the Tata bid: Rs 1094 crores, or US $234 million; the Selex bid: Rs 1141 crores, or US $244 million) by leaving out expenses like transfer of technology within country.

In rejecting Selex’s petition, a two-judge Supreme Court bench acidly wondered whether an Italian court would have heard an Indian company on a matter so vital. The bench noted, “This court is not a Robin Hood… do you want us to stop the modernisation of the airfields?”

Selex has effectively lost its case, and perhaps a great deal more in future business since the MoD will not easily forgive the slur of being labelled incompetent. But Selex’s ill-advised foray into the Indian judicial system has spun off what will be a landmark judicial exercise: a careful legal examination of the rights of foreign companies in Indian tenders. At stake here is an issue that will reverberate beyond national security: can a foreign companies allege a violation of its fundamental rights in contesting the award of an Indian contract?

This issue, which will now be examined by a bench of the Delhi High Court, rests on three articles of the Constitution of India. The first, Article 226, under which Selex went to court, empowers the High Court to consider writ petitions from those who believe their rights, including fundamental rights, have been violated. The second, Article 14, provides equality before the law to all people within the territory of India. And the third, Article 19, provides citizens of India (Note: not foreign nationals) a number of freedoms, such as those of movement; speech, assembly, formation of unions, etc. Article 19(1)(g), which has been critical in this case, allows citizens of India “to practise any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business.”

Selex pleaded to the Delhi High Court for the award of the contract, initially invoked all three articles before backing off from Article 19(1)(g). It approached the Delhi High Court under Article 226, claiming its right to equality under Article 14, read in conjunction with Article 19(1)(g). Now, what will be examined afresh by a Delhi High Court bench, is whether a foreign company, without Indian shareholders, can claim constitutional protection under Article 14 without it being read through the window of Article 19(1)(g).

Recognising the importance of clarity on this issue, the two-judge Delhi High Court bench that referred this question to a higher bench noted, “Almost all large tenders today are being challenged in writ proceedings before the Court and are coming up for judicial scrutiny. It is thus necessary to settle the legal issue in question. The question which thus arises for consideration is whether in the matter of scrutiny and award of tender, the fairness of procedure under Article 14 of the Constitution of India can be examined de hors the rights under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution of India to carry on the business and trade at the behest of a foreign company invoking the jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, especially keeping in view the fact that the issue of fairness in treatment and absence of arbitrariness when involved on the basis of Article 14 in tender matters is relatable to the doctrine that the State has to be fair in distribution of State largesse to its citizens.”

If the High Court bench rules that protection under Article 14 necessarily flows through the guarantees of Article 19, this will effectively deny foreign companies a remedy under the Constitution of India, i.e. the writ petition route, to challenge the award of contracts. Left with only the time consuming recourse of a civil legal challenge, foreign disruptions to the contracting process will be minimised.

Besides the fine legal issues that have emerged from this confrontation, the national security dimensions of defence contracting merit a comment. It says as much about globalisation as about Indian defence procurement rules that a foreign company, which has built most of China’s airfield network, and which has continuing interests in China and Pakistan, can challenge in court the MoD’s right to award a crucial airfield turnkey project to an Indian company.

Indian corporates entering defence production are sinking tens of crores of their own money, largely unsupported by government, into creating indigenous capabilities. If the MoD is serious about indigenisation, it must create the legal and regulatory framework required for supporting Indian companies with security sensitive projects, even when their bids are marginally more expensive than those of foreign bidders.

Contender for Indian Light Utility Helicopter (LuH) contract performs world's highest rescue at 22,600 feet

A Eurocopter AS350 Ecureuil helicopter performing a slung rescue operation on a distressed climber. This helicopter has just broken the world record in high-altitude rescues, at 22,600 feet on Mount Annapurna in Nepal.

The Eurocopter press release is pasted below:

Marignane, France, May 27, 2010

A record-breaking aerial rescue on Nepal’s Mount Annapurna has underscored the performance capabilities of Eurocopter’s AS350 Ecureuil helicopter in extreme conditions – including the most challenging high-altitude operations.

Three Spanish mountain climbers were successfully airlifted by the Fishtail Air AS350 B3 from a 6,900 meter-high location using the “longline” technique, in which a rescuer is suspended at the end of a long rope for insertions/extractions from difficult terrain.

The April 29 operation was part of special rescue flights being performed in a cooperative effort involving Fishtail Air, a charter helicopter company based at Kathmandu, Nepal, and Switzerland’s Air Zermatt.

This mission utilized Fishtail Air’s second AS350 B3, which arrived in Nepal on March 1 to join a helicopter fleet that includes an AS350 B and one AS350 B2, along with the company’s first AS350 B3.

Air Zermatt’s Capt. Daniel Aufdenblatten performed the rescue, while Swiss Mountain Guide Richard Lenner was deployed as a human sling to lift the stranded climbers on the longline – evacuating them one-by-one to a base camp at an altitude of 4,000 meters. The climbers had been stranded 36 hours on Mount Annapurna.

In addition to this difficult operation, Fishtail Air’s newest AS350 B3 also rescued four Korean climbers and three Nepalese Sherpas on April 26 from Nepal’s Mount Manaslu, extracting them at an altitude of approximately 6,500 meters. Piloting the helicopter was Fishtail Capt. Sabin Basnyat, who was joined by Air Zermatt’s Daniel Aufdenblatten and Richi Lehner. Mount Manaslu is the world’s eighth highest mountain, while Mount Annapurna is the tenth highest.

“These rescues are tributes to the crews’ professionalism, as well as the capability of our AS350 Ecureuil and the AS550 Fennec military version to deliver performance and reliability in the most extreme conditions,” said Eurocopter Group President and CEO Lutz Bertling.