Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Join in... The Big Fighter Aircraft Debate: F-35 versus Gen-4: What is better for India?

A short take off and vertical landing version of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Is the F-35 the fighter that India needs?

My article in the Business Standard recommending that India scraps the MMRCA procurement and, instead, buys the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter has stirred up a firestorm.

On Broadsword, there are close on a hundred passionately argued responses, the majority of them arguing against the F-35.

Eurofighter GmbH is in damage control mode, with one of their most articulate and well-informed senior executives interacting in New Delhi yesterday with a string of journalists to send out the message that the Eurofighter would suit India's needs better than the F-35.

Meanwhile, exactly the same argument as Eurofighter's --- almost point by point --- has been received by Business Standard and printed in today's newspaper. Can't be from Eurofighter... after all, the letter is signed by one PR Rajgopal!

Clearly, there is much to be said and debated on this issue.

So far, I have only used the very limited platform of a 900-word column in the Business Standard to argue why I believe the F-35 is the best option for India. Since so many of you --- in my respectful, but considered, view --- have only half the argument, I will make out my full case on Broadsword. This will cover Indian military doctrinal issues, the realities of our deployment stance on the borders, the nature of our threat, and the competing claims of the F-35 versus the other MMRCA contenders. I hope to post the case this week.

Naturally, my argument will be informed by detailed discussions yesterday with Eurofighter and Lockheed Martin... and even more detailed discussions with military experts on China.

If the Indian Army and the Indian Air Force like, they can listen in.

Let the games begin...

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Fifth generation fighters to plug into satellite network

The Sukhoi T-50 fighter, pictured here, will be developed into the Indo-Russian Gen-5 fighter. It will be fed military data live from Russian GLONASS satellite network

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 26th Oct 10

The Indo-Russian Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA), already planned to be loaded with top-end combat features like advanced stealth and super-cruise capability, could also be plugged, uniquely, into a network of satellites. With Moscow willing to grant India unprecedented access to military signals from Russia’s constellation of GLONASS (GLObal NAvigation Satellite System) satellites, the FGFA could access real-time details of its own and enemy positions, terrain information, and have the ability to communicate with Indian forces anywhere on the globe.

A senior Russian diplomat, speaking anonymously to Business Standard, reveals that after extended negotiations with India, Moscow has okayed the provision of military data from GLONASS, in the form of digitized signals. So far, Russia had only agreed to provide India with civilian-grade navigation signals, which permitted an accuracy of 25-30 metres. Now, the military grade signals will allow a far higher accuracy, crucial for military operations.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the New Delhi-based Russian diplomat explained, “India is the only country that Moscow is willing to supply GLONASS military data to. Russia has recently okayed an agreement which officials from both sides have been negotiating for some time. From our side, we are ready to sign, even during (Russian president Dmitry) Medvedev’s visit to India this December.”

Business Standard first reported (11th Sept 10: “India, Russia to Ink gen-5 fighter pact”) that India and Russia were set to sign a Preliminary Design Contract, to co-develop the FGFA, during Russian president Dmitry Medvedev’s visit to India this December. The FGFA programme, towards which each partner will contribute an initial US $6 billion, aims to develop the world’s premier fighter. The Russian and Indian air forces each plan to buy 250-300 of these aircraft.

Providing satellite navigation and communications to the FGFA would place the aircraft at a higher technological level than even the F-35 Lightning II, the futuristic fighter that America is currently developing. The F-35 uses satellite communications, but not satellite navigation.

Says the Russian diplomat, “It is next-generation features like real-time satellite navigation that will take the FGFA technologically far beyond Sukhoi’s T-50 prototype fighter, which made its first flight in January.”

Russia’s GLONASS network will provide navigational signals worldwide through a constellation of 24 satellites, 18 of which are already operational. America already has an operational satellite navigation system, called the Global Positioning System (GPS). The European Union is implementing its own Galileo system, while India is planning its own network, called Gagan.

India and Russia had earlier agreed to cooperate on the civilian aspects of GLONASS. In January 2007, during President Putin’s visit to India, Russia’s Federal Space Agency and the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) signed agreements to launch GLONASS satellites on Indian booster rockets and to jointly build new-generation satellites.

With President Medvedev’s visit a month after President Obama’s, Moscow has successfully lined up a slew of high-profile signings and events that underscore the strategic nature of the Russia-India partnership. Besides the signing of the FGFA development contract and the possible GLONASS agreement, Russia is racing against time to hand over during this period an Akula-class nuclear attack submarine to the Indian Navy. The INS Chakra, as the Indian Navy will call this submarine, has been provided by Russia on a 10-year lease for an estimated US $900 million.

“All this shows the depth of the Russia-India strategic relationship”, points out the Russian diplomat. “There are other countries that might be having better technology than Russia, though I cannot say for sure. But they are not willing to part with it.”

Thursday, 21 October 2010

IAF order worth Rs 250 crores to Indian industry: Samtel cockpit displays cleared for the Su-30MKI

The view through a head-up display (HUD), a perspex panel, onto which aiming graticules are projected, allowing a pilot to aim weapons while observing the area in front. Samtel is developing HUDs for the IAF.

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 21st Oct 10

Delhi-based private company, Samtel Display Systems, has vaulted a giant hurdle on the way to its declared goal of becoming a major defence supplier. After a year of rigorous flight trials in the IAF’s frontline Sukhoi-30MKI fighters, Samtel’s home-built cockpit displays have been certified as suitable for introduction into frontline service.

Multi-Function Displays (MFD), as these cockpit displays are termed, are ranged in front of the Su-30MKI pilots. They obtain digital signals from dozens of sensors on various aircraft systems and display them to the pilot on an easy-to-read screen. A quick glance across his MFDs tells the pilot how his aircraft is flying and fighting.

So far French company, Thales, has provided the Sukhoi-30’s high-tech MFDs. But Samtel has aggressively targeted this market, even choosing to go it alone rather than work through its JV with Thales. With Samtel’s price significantly cheaper than Thales’, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), which builds the Sukhoi-30 at its Nashik facility, has already placed orders on Samtel.

Puneet Kaura, the Executive Director of Samtel Display Systems, anticipates MFD orders for at least Rs 250 crores. So far, HAL has placed only a modest order on Samtel but Kaura says that is normal; in a programme like the Su-30, which involves building 280 fighters over a decade, the aircraft’s internal systems are ordered in small batches.

“The Su-30 MFDs are just the beginning”, says Kaura. “Samtel and HAL have set up a joint venture, Samtel HAL Display Systems (Samtel, 60%: HAL, 40%), to design and build MFDs for all HAL-built aircraft, including transport aircraft. With offsets applicable on all aircraft sales to India, Samtel will be offering them the capability to indigenously build MFDs for their aircraft.”

Samtel’s success with Su-30 MFDs seems likely to bring in another set of orders. When Samtel HAL Display Systems had offered to supply cockpit displays for the HAL-built Sitara Intermediate Jet Trainer (IJT), at a price significantly cheaper than the current foreign suppliers, HAL had responded with: yes, if your MFDs for the Su-30MKI pass the test.

Samtel is also eyeing a major role in developing advanced cockpit displays for the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA), which India and Russia are building collaboratively. Cockpit systems and avionics, which can amount to 30-35% of the cost of a modern fighter, fall within India’s work share in the FGFA’s Preliminary Design Contract, which is likely to be signed during Russian President Medvedev’s visit later this year.

Meanwhile, Samtel has partnered DRDO laboratory, Defence Avionics Research Establishment (DARE), and the IAF, in developing “Smart MFDs”, a new generation of cockpit displays for the IAF’s Jaguar fighters. In these, embedded software cards allow the display to do its own symbology, doing away with the need for a separate display processor. Puneet Kaura says that Samtel Display Systems will produce a fully indigenous engineering prototype of the Smart MFD by March 2011.

Unsurprisingly, all six aerospace giants competing in the IAF’s tender for 126 medium multi-role fighters have signed MoUs with Samtel Display Systems for manufacturing cockpit displays in case their fighter is selected. While these are pure “Build to Print” arrangements, aimed at meeting offset obligations, those foreign vendors, too, would consider designing in India and sourcing globally from here, provided offset benefits are clearly attractive.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Text of the press release from the British High Commission regarding the UK Strategic Defence and Security Review

The outcome of the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR), which sets out how the UK Government will deliver the priorities identified in the National Security Strategy, was published yesterday, 19 October 2010.

'Securing Britain in an Age of Uncertainty: The Strategic Defence and Security Review' details how our Armed Forces will be reshaped to tackle emerging and future threats.

There have been two main priorities in the review:
(a) to ensure that our mission in Afghanistan is protected; and
(b) to make sure we emerge with a coherent defence capability in 2020.

Afghanistan remains the MOD's top priority and we will do all we can to ensure success.

Defence cannot continue on an unaffordable footing. The SDSR aims to bring defence plans, commitments and resources into balance so that we have a coherent defence capability and a sustainable defence programme for the future.

Secretary of State for Defence, Dr Liam Fox, said:

"The front line has been protected because Afghanistan is the Government's top priority.

"Tough decisions are required to reconfigure our Armed Forces to confront future threats whilst we also tackle the £38bn deficit that has accumulated in the 12 years since the last Defence Review.

"The MOD must become as effective and as efficient as possible. Lord Levene will help me deliver radical reform to streamline the Department."

The Permanent Secretary, Sir Bill Jeffrey, and Chief of the Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, together with the Service Chiefs and other members of the Defence Board, have been closely involved throughout the review.

There will be some major changes to force elements of all three Services to enable them to meet future force structures.

The review will lead to reductions in manpower over the next five years across all three Services and the civilians in Defence:

the Royal Navy will reduce by around 5,000 personnel;
the Army by 7,000;
the RAF by 5,000;
civilians by 25,000.

No changes will be made to front line Army, Royal Marine or RAF Regiment units while operations in Afghanistan continue.

Other impacts on the three Services will include:

Royal Navy

The Royal Navy will have a number of capabilities, including the Trident Force, based around the four Vanguard Class submarines, one of which is always on patrol.

The Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carrier will give the UK political and military flexibility in responding to crises. It will routinely have 12 Joint Strike Fighters, plus helicopters embarked for operations. The aircraft's 700-mile (1,100km) range over land and sea will enable it to carry out a broad range of missions.

The Royal Navy will be equipped with 19 frigates and destroyers to protect a naval task group and meet our standing commitments at home and overseas. These will include six new Type 45 destroyers and new Type 26 frigates.

This force, though smaller than currently, will provide military flexibility and choice across a variety of operations from full-scale warfare, through coercion and reassurance, to presence and maritime security (in particular protecting trade and energy supplies).

Seven new Astute Class submarines will contribute to the protection of our nuclear deterrent and naval task groups.

3 Commando Brigade will provide one element of our very high readiness response force.
The Royal Marines will be able to land and sustain a commando group by helicopter, and with protective vehicles, logistics, and command and control support from a specialist landing and command ship.

In order to meet this new structure the Royal Navy will:

reduce Royal Navy Service personnel by around 5,000 to a total of about 30,000 by 2015, and with an assumption, for now, of a requirement of about 29,000 by 2020;

decommission HMS Ark Royal immediately;

decommission either the helicopter landing ship HMS Ocean or HMS Illustrious following a short study of which would provide the most effective helicopter platform capability, and place one landing and command ship at extended readiness;

decommission four frigates and a Bay Class amphibious support ship; and

rationalise the Royal Navy estate.


The Army will be structured around five multi-role brigades, each including reconnaissance, armoured, mechanised and light infantry forces with supporting units of equipment and enablers. We will keep one brigade at high readiness available for an intervention operation and four in support to ensure our ability to sustain an enduring stabilisation operation.

The Army will retain 16 Air Assault Brigade, a high readiness intervention brigade with supporting units, trained and equipped to be one of the first ground forces to intervene in a new conflict.

The Army will also retain the ability to command operations at very senior level through the UK-led Allied Rapid Reaction Corps (ARRC) headquarters (part of NATO). And we will retain our capacity to deliver one UK, fully deployable, senior level (divisional) headquarters, and the ability to regenerate a second deployable divisional headquarters.

In order to meet this new structure the Army will:

reduce by around 7,000 to about 95,000 personnel by 2015, but with no changes to combat units involved in Afghanistan, and an assumption, for now, of a requirement of about 94,000 by 2020;

reduce by one the number of deployable brigades, as we restructure to five multi-role brigades;
reduce our holdings of Challenger 2 tanks by around 40 per cent and our heavy artillery by around 35 per cent;

significantly reduce our non-deployable regional administrative structure; and

rationalise our deployable headquarters by reducing the communications and logistics support to Headquarters ARRC and convert the second of our operational divisional headquarters to a force preparation role.

Royal Air Force

The Royal Air Force's future capabilities will include a fleet of two of the most capable fast jets anywhere in the world: a modernised multi-role Typhoon fleet and the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) to provide combat intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance (ISTAR) capabilities.

It will also have strategic surveillance and intelligence platforms as part of our broader ISTAR capability, including: E-3D Sentry AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System) to provide airborne command, control and surveillance; Rivet Joint signals intelligence aircraft to provide independent strategic intelligence gathering; and a range of remotely piloted air systems.

The air transport fleet will be upgraded with the addition of A400M transport aircraft and A330 future strategic tanker and transport aircraft as well as the planned C-17 fleet. These aircraft will enable us to deploy rapidly, support and recover UK forces and their equipment anywhere in the world, and provide airborne refuelling to maximise the range and endurance of our aircraft.

The support helicopter capability (both RAF and RN) will also provide battlefield mobility from land and sea, based on Chinook heavy- and Merlin medium-lift helicopters, able to move personnel and equipment rapidly over considerable distances.

In addition, RAF Regiment force protection squadrons at high readiness will protect deployed aircraft and personnel in hostile areas and provide elements of Defence's joint CBRN (chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear) detection capabilities.

In order to meet this new structure the Royal Air Force will:

reduce by around 5,000 personnel to about 33,000 by 2015, and with an assumption, for now, of a requirement of about 31,500 by 2020;

withdraw the C-130 Hercules transport fleet ten years earlier than planned as we transition to the more capable and larger A400M;

withdraw the Sentinel surveillance aircraft once it is no longer required to support operations in Afghanistan;

rationalise the RAF estate;

retain Tornados, which will continue to operate in Afghanistan;

remove Harrier from service in the transition to a future fast jet force of Typhoon and JSF. This will mean a gap for carrier fast jet operations. JSF, like Harrier, will be operated jointly by RAF and Royal Navy pilots;

not bring into service the Nimrod MRA4; and

withdraw VC-10 and the three variants of TriStar aircraft from 2013 as we transition towards the more capable A330 future strategic transport and tanker aircraft.

A study will be undertaken by the leadership of the Regular forces and Reserves into the future role and structure of the Reserves. We expect this study to take about six months.

Changes on this scale cannot be managed by the usual manning regulators. A redundancy scheme will be run for Service personnel and a paid early release scheme for civilians in accordance with the usual arrangements for such schemes, including - in the case of civilians - consultation with the Trade Unions.

Much effort will now be required to work through the detailed implications of the various SDSR decisions and their implementation.

Part of this will be the work of the Defence Reform Unit, which is looking at the organisation of MOD and will report in July 2011. This will ensure Defence is delivered as effectively and efficiently as possible. Reforms will be implemented as the review progresses

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Scrap the MMRCA: buy US F-35s

The F-35 Lightening II fighter undergoing its flight trial programme. Israel has just bought 20 F-35s under the US Foreign Military Sales programme, with options for another 75 (25 + 25 + 25)

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 19th Oct 10

Given the global buzz around the Indian Air Force’s ongoing US $10 billion procurement of 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA), my suggestion to scrap the process and, instead, go in for a straight buy of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightening II fighters is admittedly radical. But consider this: when the F-35 enters service, a couple of years from now, it will comfortably outclass every one of the six fighters that the IAF is currently evaluating. Thereafter, through the entire 30-40 year service life of the selected MMRCA, the IAF will fly a second rung fighter when it could have gotten the best.

The six fighters that the IAF has flight tested over the last year --- Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet; Lockheed Martin’s F-16IN Super Viper; Dassault’s Rafale; the Russian MiG-35; the Swedish Saab Gripen NG; and the Eurofighter --- are categorized, even by their manufacturers, as 4th Generation fighters. In contrast, the F-35 is globally acknowledged as a 5th Generation fighter. The key to its superiority is stealth, making it effectively invisible to radar at longer ranges. This is a battle-winning advantage in aerial combat, where radars are the only way of “seeing” the enemy; the F-35 will detect enemy fighters and launch missiles at them, well before being detected. While attacking ground targets in enemy territory, the F-35 will remain undetected until it is too late to react. Unsurprisingly, each 5th Generation fighter is the battlefield equivalent of 3-4 previous generation aircraft.

Since the IAF knows all this, why is the F-35 not in the MMRCA contest? Because, while framing the specifications for the 126-fighter tender in 2003, the IAF set the bar so low that the F-35 was overqualified. The MoD, still nursing a hangover from the Tehelka sting expose, wanted to avoid potential controversy by having several vendors competing for the MMRCA order. Had the IAF been allowed to keep the long-term in mind, and to demand 5th Generation capabilities, only the F-35 would have met the tender requirement. With that single-vendor situation an MoD bugaboo, the IAF’s specifications were dumbed down to bring in a clutch of 4th Generation fighters.

When Lockheed Martin --- one of the four vendors that received inquiries from the IAF in 2003-04 --- studied the requirement, they offered the F-16 Super Viper, which they estimated met India’s requirements. Offering the overqualified, and pricier, F-35 made little business sense: India’s procurement rules give no credit for exceeding the tender requirements. The Defence Procurement Procedure mandates that the cheapest of the vendors that meet the technical requirements automatically wins a contract.

Price was just one reason for offering the F-16. With the F-35’s prototype not even having flown then (it first flew in 2006), Lockheed Martin knew that the F-35 would not be available for flight-testing in the timeframe that the IAF wanted. Senior IAF officers believe that Lockheed Martin made a strategic decision: to field the F-16 in the MMRCA competition; and later offer the F-35 as a 5th Generation fighter, a logical follow-on to the F-16. But that offer (which officials confirm was made to the IAF later) was a non-starter: India had decided to partner Russia in jointly developing the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA).

Today, much has changed. The F-35 programme has moved into its production phase and will be flying operationally soon. Senior Lockheed Martin officials confirm that the US is more than keen to sell India the F-35. Meanwhile, a more confident MoD has demonstrated --- through its single-vendor purchases of the C-130J Super Hercules and C-17 Globemaster III transport aircraft --- that it has the political courage to buy American systems when they clearly outclass the competition.

Senior IAF officers, serving and retired, make two arguments against the F-35. Accepting that the F-35 far outclasses the other MMRCA contenders, they apprehend that scrapping the MMRCA purchase risks losing several years that the MoD will surely take for fresh evaluations and financial sanctions for buying the F-35.

This logic does injustice to the MoD, which has demonstrated in the C-130J and C-17 procurements that it is capable of acting decisively. Having shed its post-Kargil, Pakistan-centric mindset, and focusing on building credible offensive-defence capabilities against China, surely the MoD will not spend $10 billion on fighters that will be outclassed with the inevitable appearance of Chinese 5th Generation fighters over the Himalayas.

The other IAF concern is that, with the F-35 still under development, there is little clarity on when it will become available or on what terms. But the announcement last week of Israel’s purchase of 20 F-35s (with another 75 likely to follow) has dispelled much of the mist. Israel, which is not even one of the nine countries that funded the F-35 development, will be buying the fighters for US $96 million each under the Foreign Military Sales programme, for not much more than the Rafale’s and Eurofighter’s estimated cost. Israel will get its F-35s between 2015-2017; several of the MMRCA contenders will need as long.

Significantly, defence analysts believe that Israel has obtained Washington’s okay to integrate a variety of Israeli sensors and weaponry onto the F-35. The US has long resisted this since it involves passing on software source codes to the Israelis. With an order of 126-200 fighters, India too could demand this important concession.

Given India’s deteriorating security environment, it must build a 5th Generation air force, one that will remain the pre-eminent power in South Asia the next two decades. The 5th Generation heavy fighter already in the works, in partnership with Russia, will only enter service towards the end of the decade. In the medium fighter segment, a 5th Generation fighter is as essential, with strategic balance maintained by importing from the US. For obvious political reasons, the initiative to scrap the MMRCA and go in for the F-35 must come from the IAF; and the MoD must assure them of minimal delay.

Monday, 18 October 2010

No defence agreements during Obama visit

The first C-130J Super Hercules built by Lockheed Martin for the IAF on its first ever flight on 4th October. The aircraft is likely to be delivered in December

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 18th Oct 10

Officials coordinating next month’s visit to India of American president, Barak Obama, have been told to rule out a big-ticket signing ceremony for two defence safeguards agreements that the US has pressed for. Senior MoD sources tell Business Standard that Defence Minister AK Antony, during his visit to Washington last month, bluntly told US Defence Secretary Robert Gates that India would not sign the agreements, which Washington calls the “foundation” for transferring high-tech communications equipment to India.

The two agreements are: a Communications Interoperability and Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA); and the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-spatial Cooperation (BECA).

In addition, Mr Antony also conveyed India’s unwillingness to sign a Logistics Support Agreement, or LSA, which would allow either country’s military units to plug into the military logistics infrastructure of the other, anywhere in the world, with accounting on a book debit basis.

Remarks a MoD official who was present during the meetings in Washington, “People who believe that Mr Antony is a mild man who does not take strong positions should have seen the clarity with which he told the US delegation that India sees no benefits in signing these agreements.”

Advising Antony not to sign the CISMOA and BECA is India’s military. The IAF believes that these seemingly innocuous agreements --- which bind India to safeguard US communication equipment and codes that the American military also uses --- would also ensure that US-sourced equipment with the IAF, such as the C-130J Super Hercules and the C-17 Globemaster III transport aircraft, remains interoperable with US forces.

“The US is keen to operate with us”, explains a senior IAF air marshal. “We see no benefits in being interoperable with them. So why should we be hustled into signing these agreements?”

The Pentagon has been arguing that, without the CISMOA and BECA, India would get less than cutting-edge electronics on the systems that it buys from the US. During a visit to New Delhi on 20th Jan 10, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates had remarked, “[These agreements] are preponderantly in India’s benefit, because they give high-tech systems additional high-tech capabilities… are enablers, if you will, to the very highest quality equipment.”

But, on Thursday, the IAF head, Air Chief Marshal PV Naik, rejected that logic, insisting that the absence of the CISMOA and BECA ““will not make any substantial difference to our operational capabilities.”

Now, leaked contract documents appear to support the air chief’s viewpoint. A draft contract for the six C-130J Super Hercules transporters that India bought from Lockheed Martin (posted on the Indian military blog, Livefist, and verified as correct by Lockheed Martin sources) reveals that just five items have been denied to India as a result of the non-signature of CISMOA and BECA.

The draft contract notes that the five items “are deleted/changed from the C-130J India Air Force (sic) configuration at this time. These items may be added when CISMOA is signed between USG (US Government) and Government of India.”

These items are all communications interfaces between the aircraft, and friendly forces on the ground. Since the C-130J is customised for Special Forces operations --- especially air-transporting commandos to a landing area that has been secured by friendly ground forces --- the aircraft needs secure communications links between the airborne and the ground forces, including an identification system to ensure that an enemy radio cannot lure the C-130J to an unsecured landing ground through a fake message.

The IAF believes that it can make do with the commercially available electronics that have been fitted in the C-130J as alternatives to the US Air Force’s safeguarded systems. The US Air Force systems that have been denied: AN/ARC-222 (SINCGARS) Key Generator; Mode 4 Crypto Applique; Secure Voice (HF); Secure Voice (UHF & VHF); and Voice SATCOM.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

After an earlier crash, DRDO's Rustom UAV makes a successful flight

The Rustom's first flight on 16th Oct 2010. While all went well in this test (making up somewhat for an earlier failed test), the Rustom still remains at an early stage of its development. The DRDO press release is attached (in blue) below:


“RUSTOM” the Medium altitude long endurance Unmanned Aircraft being developed by Aeronautical Development Establishment, a premier DRDO lab specializing in UAVs and flight control systems, was successfully flown in its maiden flight. The aircraft was flown in a manner exactly as planned, up to a height of 3000 ft. and remained airborne for 30 minutes and completed all mission requirements. It taxied, took off and landed (among the most challenging maneuvers for a UAV), using a runway at an air field owned by Taneja Aerospace and Aviation (TAAL), Hosur, like a normal aircraft.

Lt Col VS Thapa of Indian army, an experienced External Pilot for UAVs who was situated at the edge of the runway and he controlled it without any difficulty throughout its flight which included the pilot assisted takeoff, flight in air and a copy book style landing. The subsequent flights will test and demonstrate these capabilities such as GPS controlled Way Point Navigation, Get U Home, altitude and endurance parameters, the systems for which have been already incorporated in the aircraft.

Ruston with a designed endurance of 12-15 hour, 25000 ft. altitude ceiling and 75 kg pay load is forerunner to the more advanced Rustom H and UCAV. The data link for this aircraft has been developed by DEAL, another DRDO laboratory and the airframe has been built by Zephyr Aerospace, Coimbatore. Rustom UAV can be used by all the three armed forces of our country. Such Unmanned Aircrafts help to avoid the risk to the human pilots in operations that involve flying in hazardous zones.

Dr. Prahlada, Distinguished Scientist and Chief Controller R&D (Aeronautics & Services Interaction) who was present their briefed the mission details. The flight was witnessed by Dr. G. Elangovan, Distinguished Scientist & CCR&D(R&M), Shri PS Krishnan, Distinguished Scientist & Director ADE, Shri G. Natarajan, Program Director, Shri G. Sreenivasamurthy, Project Director, and, Shri Ajoy Raman, Chairman FRR.

Ravi Kumar Gupta
Scientist G & Director
Directorate of Public Interface,
DRDO Hqrs, Room 117, DRDO Bhavan
Rajaji Marg, New Delhi-110105

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Letter from global arms vendors to Indian MoD

In an article posted on Broadsword last month (9th Sept 2010: Frustrated global arms vendors write to Ministry of Defence) I had written about a letter that several defence industry bodies had jointly sent to the Indian MoD.

A visitor to Broadsword has asked for the full copy of that letter. I am posting jpeg files of the individual pages of that letter... the page numbers are in the file names.

Broadsword Quiz: Identify the vessel

As always, brownie points and gold stars for details about this warship. Goddam... there I go giving away details about the type of vessel...!!

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Quiz: and what could that be?

Hi folks!

Brought back some nice photos from Kochi... I'm sure many would be able to correctly identify the what and where of this photo.

As usual, one Gold Star and two Brownie Points up for grabs here.... Post your thoughts.

Friday, 8 October 2010

First shots fired in IAF trainer aircraft procurement contest

A Beechcraft rendition of the T-6C trainer with IAF roundels added on. This aircraft, which will be evaluated by the IAF from Monday the 11th, is one of the hot contenders to replace the accident-dogged HPT-32 Deepak that the IAF has been using as a Stage-1 trainer.

I had written about the Grob trainer, which is also vying for India's purchase of 75 trainers, while HAL develops and builds 106 of its own Hindustan Turbo Trainer - 40 (HTT-40). My article is archived in Broadsword, on 16th June 10, "Grob Aircraft targets 181 trainers for the IAF: eyes HAL’s share of 106 basic trainers"

The Beechcraft press release is replicated below:

Beechcraft T-6C Trainer to Demonstrate Proven Capabilities during Indian Air Force Field Evaluation Trials

WICHITA, Kan. (Oct. 5, 2010) – Hawker Beechcraft Corporation (HBC) today announced its Beechcraft T-6C military trainer is scheduled for evaluation by the Indian Air Force (IAF) in field evaluation trials beginning Oct. 11 at the Air Force Station Jamnagar in India. HBC is vying for a contract that specifies an initial purchase of 75 aircraft and options for follow-on orders that could eventually exceed 100 aircraft. A decision on the contract is anticipated in the coming months.

“The T-6C offers the Indian Air Force the world’s most proven and cost-effective training system available,” said Jim Maslowski, HBC president, U.S. and International Government Business. “It accommodates instruction in instrument flight procedures and basic aerial maneuvers and, including its predecessors the T-6A and T-6B, has accounted for more than 640 deliveries worldwide.”

The T-6C is being considered as a replacement for the IAF’s HPT-32 Deepak 2 trainer. The evaluations will be conducted over five days and consist of flights by IAF test and instructor pilots. HBC will also demonstrate the T-6C’s maintainability as part of the evaluation.

The T-6C aircraft features an integrated glass cockpit and advanced avionics suite that greatly expands advanced training opportunities, including a Head-Up Display, Up Front Control Panel, three Multifunction Displays and Hands-On Throttle and Stick. With its hard point wing, it can accommodate external fuel tanks and the systems and capabilities of today’s front-line strike fighter aircraft, while retaining all the inherent training and flying characteristics that have made the T-6 the most successful primary trainer in the world.

The Beechcraft T-6 delivers an outstanding training capability that is appropriate for most basic introductory flight training through more challenging and complex advanced training missions. To date, it has been used to train pilots from approximately 20 different countries.

Deliveries of the T-6 began in 2000 after the aircraft was initially selected to fill the Joint Primary Aircraft Training System role for the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Navy. Since then, additional military programs worldwide, including NATO Flying Training in Canada, the Hellenic Air Force of Greece, the Israeli Air Force, the Iraqi Air Force and the Royal Moroccan Air Force, have chosen the T-6 as their primary trainers.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Pvt sector to develop Rs 10,000 cr army communications network

The Indian industry gears up to begin developing the Tactical Communications System (TCS), a backbone communications network, like the British Army's Falcon mobile network seen here

Industry consortia to be formed for developing high-tech system

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 6th Oct 10

In a giant first step towards bringing India’s reputed IT industry into defence production, the Indian Army has approached six private sector IT majors for developing a high-tech communications backbone network for the Indian Army.

The army’s communications chief, Lt Gen P Mohapatra, revealed today that the army had sent out security-classified “Expressions of Interest”, or EoI, for developing a Tactical Communications System (TCS), which will provide a robust, snoop-proof, mobile, cellular network for the Indian Army’s voice and data communications during battle.

The EoI, which Business Standard has reviewed, has gone out to at least five private companies: Tata Power (Strategic Electronics Division); HCL Infosystems; Wipro Technologies; Rolta India; and L&T. Another potential candidate, Tech Mahindra, was ruled out as it did not qualify as an Indian company because of a foreign holding component higher than 26%.

In addition, three public sector undertakings --- Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL); Electronics Corporation of India Ltd (ECIL); and ITI Ltd --- have also received the EoI.

In the 16 months since the TCS project was sanctioned by the apex Defence Acquisition Council on 18th May 09, the MoD has tried to hand over the project without bidding to defence PSU, Bharat Electronics Ltd. As Business Standard reported (3rd Mar 10: MoD sidelines pvt sector in crucial defence project) the MoD cited “communications secrecy” as the logic for handing over the project on a plate to BEL. After protracted internal debate, the MoD decided to allow the Indian private sector to participate, with the Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO) developing the secret algorithms required for encoding communications.

Recipients of the EoI say the TCS development and production will cost up to Rs 10,000 crores. But the TCS is only a foot in the door for the private sector. CII Director General Chandrajit Banerjee estimated today that there are about Rs 30,000-40,000 crores worth of defence electronics systems in the pipeline.

Recipients of the EoI must respond within two months (it was issued on 24th September) giving out details of the consortia they create for the TCS project; their technology development plans; development milestones; and time schedules. They must also spell out their estimated capital expenditure for designing and developing a prototype system. Based upon this, the MoD will select two companies, which will each build a prototype of the TCS. The better of the two will manufacture the seven TCS systems that the Indian Army needs.

The EoI places the TCS project in the “Make” category of the Defence Procurement Procedure of 2008 (DPP-2008). Under this, the MoD will fund 80% of the development costs, while the selected company (termed the Development Agency, or DA) will fund the remaining 20%. The “Make” procedure mandates that at least 30% of the system must be indigenously developed. However, one of the companies that have received the EoI confidently claims that it will develop at least 70-80% of the system in India.

In a bold departure from its earlier practice of selecting the lowest bidder, the MoD has indicated that indigenisation and technological quality of the product would be considered in choosing a Development Agency. The EoI states, “The contribution of the Indian industry in acquiring and developing Technologies in critical areas shall be a key criterion in assessment of various proposals (sic).”

Intriguingly, the MoD has issued EoIs in the TCS project only to companies that fulfilled the criteria developed for nominating Raksha Udyog Ratnas (RuRs), a concept that the MoD went on to reject. These criteria, which are mentioned in the EoI, include: registration at least 10 years ago as a public limited company; FDI holding of under 26%; annual turnover of at least Rs 1000 crores; a minimum credit rating of CRISIL/ICRA-‘A’; and a positive net worth and profitable operations in at least 3 out of the last 5 years.

The TCS project is India’s second project under the “Make” procedure, after the Future Infantry Combat Vehicle (FICV) development project (Business Standard, 9th Aug 10, Indian industry at landmark defence tender). But MoD sources, pointing out the significance of the TCS, say, “The FICV is just a stand-alone armoured vehicle. In contrast, the TCS is a network-centric backbone that connects crucial systems in the electronic battlefield; it connects the sensors, the shooters, the decision systems and the command hierarchy. It is the backbone for everything.”

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Plan E for Afghanistan

A rough alignment (circled) of the road built by India, which connects Zaranj in Iran with the town of Delaram, on Afghanistan's main Kabul-Kandahar-Herat garland highway.

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 5th Oct 2010

Robert Blackwill, former US ambassador to India and later New Delhi’s lobbyist in Washington, has stirred up a heated debate with his now famous Plan B for Afghanistan. This involves effectively partitioning the country, with Pashtun-predominant southern Afghanistan ceded to the Taliban and, by proxy, to Pakistan. A US-Nato force of some 40,000 soldiers, down from 150,000 today, would confine itself to northern Afghanistan. Throwing one child to the wolf, Blackwill apparently believes, might save the other.

Plan B, or so the argument goes, would satisfy everyone who counts: the Taliban, which would re-establish control over their homeland; Pakistan, because its proxy control over southern Afghanistan would satisfy its quest for “strategic depth”; the US, which would remain a significant power in south and central Asia without a crippling price in blood and treasure (currently 700-1000 soldiers dead and $100 billion spent each year); Nato, because of its namby-pamby preference for stationing European soldiers in non-combat or low-combat areas; and India, because of Pakistan’s reduced capacity to extract US tolerance for India-directed terror.

While acknowledging that Plan B has its drawbacks — notably the abandonment of non-Pashtun groups, non-Taliban militias, and womenfolk in southern Afghanistan to the mercy of the Taliban — Blackwill points out that Plan A, i.e. the current surge of US troops, has changed little in Afghanistan. Therefore, by summer 2011, with US elections looming, Congressmen will be debating the even more disastrous Plan C: the withdrawal of all foreign troops within a couple of years.
Even as the US policy debate centres on a minimally damaging withdrawal, India’s moribund strategic community remains in denial, chanting the mantra that if the US does ever pull the bulk of its forces out of Afghanistan, it will be too far in the future to worry about presently. This delusion stems from New Delhi’s self-defeating apprehension that it would be left without options in a Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.

This illusion of Indian helplessness, paradoxically, enjoys greater currency in India than it does abroad. While Pakistan realises how much India’s influence is expanding, New Delhi focuses on the negatives: there is no Ahmed Shah Masood, around whom anti-Taliban forces can coalesce, 1990s-style, nor for that matter a coherent Northern Alliance. With the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) controlling swathes of northern and central Afghanistan, India has little opportunity for resuscitating Tajik, Uzbek and Hazara militias. And while Moscow and Teheran still share India’s revulsion to a resurgent Taliban, they are less willing now to work jointly in undermining the Taliban. 2010, New Delhi concludes, is very different from 1996.

This unnecessarily gloomy Indian view of Afghanistan springs from our traditional view of influence as a function of hard power, of bayonets and boots on the ground, the more the better. In Afghanistan, however, this last decade has delivered one unmistakeable lesson: hard power is not the answer. In the alternative currency of soft power, India’s nine-year-long, $1.3 billion humanitarian and development aid programme has created a powerful equity in Afghanistan.

Indian confidence in this intangible, but nevertheless real, asset must guide our strategy in Afghanistan. Our alternative to Blackwill’s Plan B is Plan E — Exit Now. Counter-intuitively, India has more to gain than lose from an immediate US withdrawal.

America’s pullout from Afghanistan will immediately deprive the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban, Al Qaeda, and a smorgasbord of other radical groups of the glue of a common enemy. Inevitably, driven by the contradictions within their unholy alliance, they will turn their hostility upon one another. A key loser in this fratricidal game will be the traditional referee, the Pakistan Army.

As the Taliban imposes its writ across Afghanistan and Pakistan’s noose tightens, resentment will start to build. In the 1990s, Taliban-imposed order seemed preferable to many Afghans than the outright anarchy and indiscriminate killing and destruction that characterised the post-Soviet “mujahideen” power struggles. The Karzai government, despite its corruption and ineffectualness, would contrast favourably with the Taliban’s religious totalitarianism. As for the “foreign domination” that Afghans cite while railing against the ISAF, none of those free-spirited citizens have any illusions about the Taliban’s dependence on Pakistan. The traditional Afghan resentment of Pakistan would bubble up to the surface.

A popular argument from India’s strategic elite is that Afghanistan would provide a training ground for India-bound terrorists. This is outdated; today, Pakistan is the terror training academy not just for India-focused jehadis, but for a wide assortment of Islamist radicals with grievances against the US, Europe, Russia, Central Asian countries like Uzbekistan, even China. A resurrected Taliban regime could hardly offer better-located training grounds than those around Sialkot and Peshawar.

An American pullout from Afghanistan would free the US military to strike at Pakistan-harboured terrorist groups, something that Pakistan’s control over logistical routes into Afghanistan prevents today. A key element of Blackwill’s Plan B is the retention of US troops in northern Afghanistan for strikes into Pakistani tribal areas; paradoxically, though, America’s continued logistic dependence on Pakistan would hold back effective action. This conundrum would only be resolved through a major American diplomatic breakthrough with countries (Iran, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan) that could offer alternative supply routes or bases. For differing reasons, that seems unlikely to happen.

“The Pope”, Joseph Stalin once sneered, “How many divisions does the Pope have?” But that was in a different era. Today, New Delhi would exercise influence in Afghanistan, even without a physical presence. The heavy lifting for that has already been done; it is time now to act with confidence.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Now, another air force base on the China border

Right: An AN-32 transport aircraft landing at the improved airstrip at Nyoma. For fighter operations, this compacted dirt airstrip will have to be upgraded to a hard surface

Left: An aerial view of the Leh airfield, currently Ladakh's only fighter base. The IAF is concerned that any disruption of Leh could affect fighter support to troops on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 2nd Oct 10

India is responding to China’s disconcerting build-up of roads and railways to the India-Tibet border by stepping up its own ability to project military power. A top Indian Air Force commander has revealed plans for a brand new airbase at Nyoma, in Ladakh, from which IAF fighters could fly missions against the nearby border, where Indian jawans were overwhelmed in 1962 without any fighter support.

This follows New Delhi’s decision in 2008 to station frontline Sukhoi-30MKI fighters at four IAF bases in northeast India --- Tezpur, Baghdogra, Chhabua and Hashimara --- close by the Sino-Indian border. A slew of ongoing equipment purchases --- e.g. the C-130J Super Hercules and C-17 Globemaster III transport aircraft; the P8I Poseidon Multi-mission Maritime Aircraft (MMA); ultralight howitzers (ULH) and light tanks for hilly terrain --- also beef up India’s abilities against China. A new corps, of some 50,000 troops, the Indian Army’s first manpower increase in decades, will be stationed on the China border. And several disused border airfields have been refurbished to allow operations by the IAF’s AN-32 transporters.

But Nyoma will be much more than that. According to Air Marshall NAK Browne, the chief of the IAF’s Western Air Command (WAC), “We shall be able to operate each and every aircraft of the IAF from Nyoma…. Our modern fighters, particularly the Sukhoi-30MKI, are designed to operate from such high altitude airfields. We have forwarded our plan to the MoD and… if we get the go-ahead today, (building Nyoma air base) would take 3-4 years.”

The air marshall confirmed that an ongoing Rs 1000 crores scheme to transform 30 IAF air bases into world-class fighter facilities --- termed the Modernisation of Airfield Infrastructure (MAFI) plan --- would also be extended to Nyoma.

Such is the importance of Nyoma, that Defence Minister AK Antony was flown there for a personal inspection on 22nd June. That was after the 2700 metre Nyoma airfield was prepared in just 90 days by an army engineer regiment, using a special compacting compound.

Defence experts are unanimous that fighter aircraft support can make the difference between victory and defeat in high altitude battlefields, but not everyone believes that fighters should be placed so close to the border, vulnerable to enemy attack. Air Commodore Jasjit Singh who heads the Centre for Air Power Studies, the IAF’s think tank, says, “While there is no denying the utility of aerial resupply and close air support, fighter aircraft should be based a safe distance away from the border. India has mid-air refuelling aircraft, which can extend the fighters’ operating ranges.”

While Nyoma was initially activated, in mid-2009, as a transport airfield to which troops and equipment could be quickly airlifted in a border crisis, the August floods in Leh, which submerged the airfield, led the IAF to conclude that an alternative to Leh was essential. Says Air Marshall Browne, “We need more options in that area if Leh is shut down because of landslides and floods… Besides, the (northern Ladakh) airfields of Leh and Thoise often get shut down because of (bad weather caused by) western disturbances. The weather pattern is far easier for us around Nyoma.

Before settling on Nyoma, the IAF has evaluated several other potential air bases in Ladakh. But Daulat Beg Oldi was too high (16,200 feet); Chushul was too close to the border; and Fukche could not have its runway extended because of water bodies at both ends.

Meanwhile, the IAF is closely watching China’s developing capabilities in Tibet, just across the Line of Actual Control from Nyoma. According to Air Marshall Browne, “We are looking at the new threats…. and all of that is factored into our planning… whether in terms of new (Chinese) bases, sensors, missiles, radars and new weapons. We evaluate how these could affect us.”

Even as Nyoma is built up as Ladakh’s second major airbase after Leh, the runway at Leh is being resurfaced after the recent floods. The IAF says that only part of the resurfacing can be completed this year, before winter stops work. The rest of the runway will be resurfaced next year.

American engine to power LCA: but Eurojet remains optimistic

A US Navy F/A-18 at an base in Virginia. The F-414 engines that power this aircraft, as well as the Swedish Gripen, has been selected by India's MoD for its Tejas Light Combat Aircraft

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 1st Oct 10

In a last-minute twist, General Electric of the US has bagged the hotly contested $800-million tender to supply 99 engines for India’s Tejas light combat aircraft (LCA). After both engines in the contest — GE’s F-414 and Eurojet’s EJ-200 — were found technically suitable, the F-414 has been declared the cheaper option.

The choice of the GE-414 engine boosts the chances of America’s F/A-18 fighter and the Swedish Gripen NG in the $11-billion tender for an Indian Air Force medium fighter. Conversely, it is a blow to the Eurofighter, which is powered by twin EJ-200 engines.

In the initial commercial bids, opened in mid-September, Eurojet ($666 million) had bid lower than GE ($822 million). But, after two weeks of intensive evaluation by a defence ministry price negotiating committee, GE has been ruled the cheaper option.
“After evaluation and acceptance of the technical offer provided by both Eurojet and GE Aviation, the commercial quotes were compared in detail and GE Aviation was declared as the lowest bidder. Further price negotiations and contract finalisation will follow,” the Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO) announced today.

DRDO insiders say the price negotiating committee held several meetings for clarifications with Eurojet and GE representatives since the commercial bids were opened. After factoring in these clarifications, the GE engine was found to be cheaper.

The decision to buy the GE engine had been taken last week, but was only announced today in Bangalore in the presence of representatives from both companies.

Eurojet executives complain that a revised bid, submitted by them last night, was not taken into account.

Top DRDO officials emphatically reject any suggestion that US pressure had resulted in turning around the decision in favour of GE. “We had to factor in several expenses that the companies had not included in their bids. This is not surprising, since this was an extremely complex bidding process. But, after we evaluated and added in all expenses, GE was the cheaper vendor,” said a senior DRDO official.

Company and DRDO sources say the additional expenses added on to the Eurojet bid included the cost of extra transfer of technology that the company had offered and the price of tooling to build the engine in India.

Although narrowly pipped at the post, Eurojet has not given up hope. Said Eurojet Business Development Executive Paul Herrmann: “We remain optimistic about this tender. Over the next year, I believe the Indian defence ministry will encounter problems in obtaining US sanctions for transfer of technology relating to the GE engine. And, if GE fails to meet these Indian requirements, the contract will come to us.”

In a statement, the company said: "We expect further details from Indian authorities and more information about the process leading to the announced selection."

Defence ministry indicate that negotiations with GE will continue at least until mid-2011. Thereafter, the US company would be given 121 days (plus an allowable extension of two months) to obtain permission from the US government to transfer technology to build the engine in India.