Saturday, 31 December 2011

Monday, 26 December 2011

Imran’s second innings

Imran's Sunday rally at Bagh-e-Qaid, Karachi which was attended by some 1,00,000 people, a bigger crowd than any political rally in the last two decades.

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 27th Dec 11

Even sceptics of Imran Khan Niazi admit that the former playboy cricketer is now a serious contender for becoming Pakistan’s next prime minister in the 2013 elections, if not sooner. The massive turnout at his Christmas Day rally at Karachi highlights not just deep-rooted, Anna-style, public outrage at corruption, but also seething anger at Islamabad’s spinelessness in the face of repeated violations of Pakistan’s sovereignty by America. Sensing political change, malcontents like former foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP); and Javed Hashmi of the Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N), have already joined Imran’s Tehreek-e-Insaaf (Movement for Justice). Others, including Musharraf’s former information minister Sheikh Rashid --- always a reliable political bellwether --- are looking to follow suit.

Given the backing that Imran already enjoys from the all-important military, and from sections of the conservative clergy, he is more than confident. “I have all the opposition by their balls,” he told The Daily Telegraph. “Whatever they do now will backfire.”

The results of a YouGov-Cambridge poll released last Friday had 81% of respondents naming him as the person best suited to lead Pakistan. Two-thirds of those polled said they would vote for the PTI.

It is true that the PTI does not have the organisational structure or the grassroots cadres of mainstream parties like the PPP and the PML-N. Nor have veteran political opponents like Nawaz Sharif seriously contested Imran’s policy prescriptions. But India, of all places, knows the power of a “leher”, a political wave, and Imran is unquestionably riding one.

But these shenanigans of democracy are hardly relevant for General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, the kingmaker at General Headquarters (GHQ), Rawalpindi. Tired of Pakistan’s elected leadership, Kayani needs a complaisant civilian facade to mask Rawalpindi’s control over Islamabad. For GHQ, Imran is an apparent godsend, decidedly preferable to the turncoat Nawaz Sharif who seemed a good proxy until he developed an inconvenient taste for mass politics. Imran is closer to the army’s inner aspirations: a macho Pakistani who beat India regularly (something GHQ never manages); someone who understands Pakistani strategy and geopolitics (his foreign policy advisor was the delusional, hawkish Shireen Mazari who says the Kargil conflict was “Indian aggression”); and a suave, articulate man who interacts with westerners as equals.

Imran, in Kayani’s game plan, will provide the window-dressing of democracy. He will deploy a democratic argument to halt US operations in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa; while maintaining relations with Pakistan’s financial patrons in Washington. Imran is to be the interface between the military, the mullahs, and the moolah.

So what plans does Imran have for leading Pakistan? He has already declared that Pakistan must spurn foreign aid, since that only goes into the pockets of corrupt leaders and props up corrupt government. “If we don't have aid we will be forced to make reforms and stand on our own feet,” he says.

Interestingly, this is exactly what the military wants. Hostages to repeated aid cut-offs, like Washington’s recent suspension of $800 million, the Pakistani establishment now argues in multilateral forums like the WTO that aid flows be replaced by enhanced preferential quotas for Pakistani exports like cotton textiles. The idea is to enhance Pakistani trade flows, taxing them to make up for the aid money lost.

Next, Imran vehemently argues for halting Pakistani army operations in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) along the Afghanistan border and ending that “unwinnable war” through a political settlement with the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Here too, Imran’s viewpoint parallels GHQ’s, which is struggling with the double whammy of mounting casualties and ideological dissent in the ranks.

Imran also condemns US drone strikes in FATA, echoing the military-ISI line that radicalization amongst tribesmen stems from America’s presence in Afghanistan. The Pakistan military calculates that an “end to operations; end to drone strikes” deal with the TTP could halt jehadi strikes across Pakistan, while simultaneously transforming the TTP from a foe into a “strategic asset” usable against India. Ending operations in FATA would also allow the Pakistan army to revert to its traditional India focus.

This convergence of views notwithstanding, an Imran in power is unlikely to toe the army’s line unquestioningly. In much of what he has lived, written and publicly stated, and in his current espousal of Jinnah’s values, Imran clearly believes that India and Pakistan are natural rivals, but not natural enemies. He has categorically pledged that no militant groups will operate from Pakistan if he comes to power, and has advocated deweaponisation across Pakistan to move away from the culture of the gun. He is, therefore, on an inevitable collision course with the army. How that plays out will depend on Imran’s political ability to bring together and marshal multiple constituencies, and his ability to bypass the mistakes of the corrupt and discredited Benazir/Nawaz/Zardari cliques in emerging as a power centre that can challenge Pakistan’s traditional India-hating establishment.

Can Imran moderate the military? Or will Kayani militarize the moderate? Rawalpindi is good at cutting down threats before they fully develop.

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Rupee fall jacks up India's arms purchase bill

Defence factories had budgeted Rs 20,000 crore in forex payout for foreign components in "made-in-India" systems like this corvette, INS Kadmatt, pictured at its launch in Kolkata in October. The rupee's fall has raised that by 20%

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 25th Dec 11

The falling rupee and the defence ministry’s (MoD’s) tardiness could cost India an extra Rs 15,000 crore for its planned purchase of 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA). On 31st Oct 2010, three months after the Indian Air Force submitted its flight trial report to the MoD (i.e. roughly the time needed for evaluating the price bids; negotiating a final cost; and awarding the contract) the rupee reached its high-water mark of Rs 43.71 to the dollar. Had the MoD signed the MMRCA contract then, the anticipated bid price of $15 billion would have amounted to Rs 65,565 crore. An extra Rs 1,311 crore for the 2% cost of hedging the forex risk would have taken the tab to Rs 66,876 crore.

Today, at about Rs 53 to the dollar, that $15 billion bid translates into Rs 79,500 crore. The 2% cost of forex hedging is Rs 1,590 crore, taking the bill to Rs 81,090 crore, Rs 15,525 crore more than last October. The MoD is set to pay almost twice the Rs 42,000 crore that was budgeted for the MMRCA.

If the MoD does not hedge the forex risk, and the dollar hits Rs 58, the MMRCA cost would rise further to a mind-boggling Rs 87,000 crore.

This disastrous exposure to the rupee’s diminishing fortunes is the MoD’s own failure. In 2003 a committee, headed by Shashanka Bhide of the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER), examined a proposal to hedge forex risk in defence contracts. The committee’s unequivocal recommendation --- that the forex component of defence contracts be invariably hedged against fluctuation --- remains ignored to this day.

The Bhide Committee found that the cost of hedging forex risk would increase the cost of a contract by 2%, but not doing so risked an Exchange Rate Variation (ERV) that averaged 4-5% over the duration of a defence contract. This ERV is naturally larger during strongly negative periods for the rupee, like the present.

An illustrative example is provided by the MoD’s forex outgo this year of about Rs 50,000 crore. Hedging forex risk could cost 3% today (a high premium due to the rupee’s volatility); while ERV losses seem very likely to exceed 5%. The extra 2% lost on a Rs 50,000 crore forex payout amounts to a whopping Rs 1,000 crores.

MoD’s forex outgo

The MoD’s capital budget (Rs 69,199 crore in 2011-12), which buys new arms and equipment, is not all disbursed in foreign exchange. Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis (IDSA) expert, G Balachandran, says that barely Rs 25,000 crore of that amount would be disbursed in foreign exchange; the rest would be paid in rupees to Indian vendors. The bulk of this goes to the 8 defence public sector undertakings (DPSUs) like Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd and Bharat Electricals Ltd; and the 41 factories of the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB).

But DPSUs and the OFB --- which incorporate many foreign components in the equipment that they build --- will disburse another Rs 20,000 crore to foreign vendors this year, says Balachandran. That would raise the forex outgo to Rs 45,000 crore.

Additionally, a portion of the revenue budget (which is Rs 95,216 crore this fiscal) would be paid out in foreign exchange. The revenue budget is earmarked for running expenses like pay and allowances; maintenance and spare parts; housing and storage; food and fuel; all the day-to-day running of the military. Of this, about Rs 5,000 crore worth of ammunition, and aircraft spares and engines, are purchased from abroad.

That takes the MoD’s budgeted forex spend to approximately Rs 50,000 crore this year. Going by the exchange rate of Rs 44.43 at the start of this fiscal, the budget catered for about $11.25 billion in overseas payments.

Lopsided spending boosts loss

Only a small percentage of this was paid out in the first six months of this fiscal year, when the rupee was relatively stable. MoD sources say that, by October-end (the latest figures available), just 37% of the capital budget had been expended, i.e. the equivalent of $4.15 billion, with procurement worth $7.1 billion still pending.

Skewing spending towards the end of the financial year, is standard MoD malpractice; in the last fiscal year, the MoD did 33% of its capital procurement in the last month, i.e. March 2011.

Since the dollar was relatively stable then the damage was limited. Over the last three months, the dollar’s sprint to Rs 53 levels means that the remaining outgo of $7.1 billion will cost Rs 37,630 crore, Rs 6,000 crore more than the budgeted amount.

In contrast to the under spent capital budget, the revenue budget is overspent: 62% of the revenue budget was spent by end-October, say sources. At this stage last fiscal, just 56% of the revenue budget had been spent.

With the Ministry of Finance (MoF) grappling with the national fiscal deficit, MoD officials do not realistically expect assistance from that quarter. By end-October the fiscal deficit was already 74.4% of the budgeted figure (compared to 42.6% last year). The MoF has issued a note requesting all ministries to prune expenditure.

“The writing is on the wall. It seems we will have to cross-subsidise our revenue budget from our capital budget this year”, says a senior MoD official.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

A media plan for the US: the Indian media's coverage of the US-India defence relationship

by Ajai Shukla
[This paper was written for a seminar organised in New Delhi by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), in partnership with the Observer Research Foundation (ORF)]


• The Indian media admires and favourably covers socio-cultural aspects of the US; but is negative in its coverage of US strategy and defence policy.

• The Indian media’s coverage of defence and strategy is strongly influenced by inputs from the Indian government.

• The Indian media tends to portray the US as fickle and unreliable.

• A narrative of continuing technology denial to India by the US generates negative media coverage of the US-India defence partnership.

• Washington’s defence relationship with Pakistan is another key driver of unfavourable media coverage in India

• The US has not evolved a suitable strategy for dealing with India. It tends to treat New Delhi the same way as it deals with traditional allies.

• The media sees CISMOA, BECA and an LSA as instruments for railroading India into a US-led alliance through the back door.

• There is a need for the US embassy in New Delhi to be more pro-active in regularly engaging with defence correspondents in India

• The US embassy needs to make a concerted effort to educate Indian defence correspondents on the regulatory frameworks that govern US defence.

* * * *

It was still dawn in early July 2001, when the new US ambassador to India, Robert Blackwill, greeted the diplomatic correspondent of the Indian Express . For the next hour, over strong black coffee, the newly arrived ambassador carefully set out for the journalist his expansive new vision of US-India relations. Blackwill, like his boss, Condoleezza Rice, believed deeply in the US-India alliance and carried an explicit mandate to raise the profile of US-India relations. Jaswant Singh’s recent dialogue with Strobe Talbott had already hauled the US-India relationship by its bootstraps out of its post-nuclear test low in 1998. Now Blackwill had the ambitious task of building the patchy relationship into an overt alliance.

Such a transformation would hinge, Blackwill realised, on fundamentally altering the way the Indian media perceived America and reported about it. And so he talked to a string of journalists about decoupling India from Pakistan; common values of freedom, democracy, and the rule of law; America’s vibrant Indian-origin community; and the business opportunities between India and America.

Blackwill’s interview featured prominently in the Indian Express next morning. The media also carried many subsequent interactions with journalists across the English mainstream media. Then US ambassador, along with his media advisor, Gordon Duguid, realised that they also had to address the vernacular press. As Operation Enduring Freedom unfolded, the Blackwill-Duguid team reached out to Indian Muslims, through interactions with the Urdu press. Their successful management of the Indian media holds lessons for today.

Yankee, go home! But take me with you…

As American media managers know, the Indian media, like the United States itself, is a complex, multi-faceted entity. Even in the early 2000s, the Indian media had print, television, radio and fast-expanding web-based components, each with their pressures and peculiarities. These groupings are further divided between the comparatively restrained English language media and the rather more raucous vernacular press. The Urdu press, which both reflects and shapes the views of a sizeable Muslim populace, provides an additional layer of complication; its coverage of American geopolitics has long been coloured by the presumption of an American “crusade” against Islam.

The US is an even more complex subject, consisting as it does of multiple wings of government; a uniquely independent legislature with enormous powers; a massive economy with multiple interest groups; a heterogenous people; a vibrant culture; and a range of lifestyles.

How does the multi-faceted Indian media treat these multiple US subjects? Most media observers agree that the Indian media is largely approving, even admiring, in its coverage of US popular culture and lifestyle, the economy and the increasingly successful Indian diaspora. In covering these subjects even the conservative Urdu media reflects the aspirations of a new Indian generation that eyes the US with longing. But in its coverage of strategy; defence; diplomacy; and geo-politics; the Indian media remains skeptical, even disapproving. This has its roots in the Cold War period, and in Washington’s long-playing engagement of Pakistan. Even post 9/11, Indian audiences --- and the Indian media accurately reflects their view --- remain uncomfortable with the assertiveness and interventionism of American policy and with Washington’s continued reluctance to openly confront Pakistan.

It was here that Blackwill scored heavily. His blunt condemnation of Pakistan-sponsored terrorism; public criticism of the Pakistan Army’s stranglehold over policy; and his skepticism about the “the peaceful rise of China” were guaranteed to resonate with the Indian media. In all his public statements and private interactions Blackwill packaged the Bush-Rice outreach in exactly the phrases that India wanted to hear. Washington was clearly balancing Blackwill’s overtly anti-Pakistan rhetoric with a different, more Pakistan-friendly, tone from the embassy in Islamabad, but the Indian media heard only what it wanted; Blackwill was assured a positive press.

Also driving the favourable coverage of the US during that period was a coincidental congruence of American and Indian strategic interests. In late 2001, Operation Enduring Freedom threw the Taliban out of Kabul, allowing India to re-enter that country. Early in 2002, during the Operation Parakram crisis, American diplomats tried to force Pakistan into acting more decisively and visibly against anti-India terrorism. But this inexorably changed when the US invaded Iraq in 2003 and Pakistan began assuming a larger role in Afghanistan. With American policy changing and the uncommunicative David Mulford replacing Blackwill, the Indian media reverted to portraying the US as a fickle, unreliable player.

The media pattern could hardly be clearer: favourable coverage of the US strategic and defence partnership would require a degree of geo-strategic congruence, and Washington to be publicly in sync with New Delhi’s core concerns in South Asia. Even though Washington privately concurs with India about the need to rein in Pakistan’s security establishment, this is not the message that the Indian media, or the public, read. Therefore, when it comes to reporting on the US-India defence relationship, the baggage of history that the Indian media carries is rendered even more burdensome by a new era of American support to Rawalpindi and Islamabad.

Defence relationship: structural flaws

If the Indian media generally approves of America’s soft power; and is selective in covering US hard power; its approach to the US-India defence relationship has been uniformly negative. There are two key reasons for this: firstly, a publicly accepted media narrative (which feeds off an entrenched government viewpoint) of decades of US denial of weapons and technology to India, which was first imposed during the 1965 conflict with Pakistan . While Pakistan was slapped with an equivalent ban, Washington had already militarily equipped its military in the years leading up to 1965. As the Indian media noted, Pakistan fought with US weaponry: its air force flew US-built Sabres and Starfighters; and its army fought in American Patton and Sherman tanks.

After India’s “peaceful nuclear experiment” in 1974, Washington spearheaded an international technology denial regime that severely hamstrung India’s indigenous weapons development programmes. That technology garrotte was tightened after the 1998 nuclear tests, when Indian research & development (R&D) organisations --- including establishments from the Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO) and the Indian Space Research Organisation --- were placed on the US Entity List. All this is part of the government; the popular; and the media narrative in India.

Though these organisations have now been removed from the US Entity List , the tight American export-licensing regime --- specifically the US State Department’s International Trafficking in Arms Regulations (ITAR) legislation --- continues to make the transfer of US high technology contingent on hard-to-obtain licences. US assurances about easing the flow of high technology are undermined by widely reported incidents like Washington’s refusal to permit US aerospace companies to provide the DRDO with consultancy in developing the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft .

The public negativity that such denials generate is exacerbated by agencies like the DRDO; and the public sector production units under the MoD’s Department of Defence Production (DDP); which blame development delays on technology denial regimes. The impression that defence journalists obtain, therefore, from technology-hungry entities like the DRDO, is that of a US government whose delivery falls short of its promises.

The second major reason for negative reporting on US-India defence cooperation is Washington’s simultaneous defence relationship with Islamabad. This has been highlighted starkly during the ongoing contest to sell the Indian Air Force 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA). Media reportage on the two fighters offered by US aerospace companies --- Lockheed Martin’s F-16IN Super Viper; and Boeing’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornet --- was predominantly negative, mainly because the F-16 is even today the frontline fighter of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF); and was regarded for many years as the most likely delivery platform for a Pakistani nuclear strike on India. Although Lockheed Martin regularly pointed out that the PAF’s F-16s are inferior variants of the Super Viper that Lockheed Martin was offering the IAF, this technical argument was unsustainable, given the damning optics of such a proposal. Unsurprisingly, the Indian media viewed the offer as an “unethical attempt to make money off both sides of the India-Pakistan conflict.”

The media’s anti-US stance on defence cooperation, it must be reiterated, accurately reflects Indian public opinion; the government perspective; and a large majority of India’s strategic community. Even the most cursory empirical analysis would indicate that America has failed to convince India’s media and defence watchers about its bona fides in seeking defence cooperation with India.

The unfortunate superpower habit

In their domestic functioning American leaders and officials are accustomed to treading with extraordinary sensitivity. In foreign relations, however, even in interacting with its closest allies, the US tends to behave like a brash superpower. Washington mostly gets away with this. Its traditional allies --- the UK; Japan; Australia; and South Korea to name a few --- have long been used to a relationship of apparent subservience. Most of them were compelled by their diminished post-World War II circumstances to follow the US lead; and they have experienced the benefits of US leadership, which allows them to punch above their weight in the international arena. Washington’s more recent allies, particularly eastern European countries like Poland and the Czech Republic that aspire to shake off Russia’s overbearing influence, also have no choice but to accept inequality.

In engaging India, however, the US encounters an unprecedented paradigm: a multi-aligned country with growing international stature; in which neither government, nor intelligentsia, nor media, are convinced of the benefits of partnering Washington. There is near consensus within the Indian media that the US needs India more than India needs the US; and that the US is an opportunistic and fickle ally.

Washington, however, apparently oblivious of its dubious currency, demands that New Delhi structures the defence relationship according to American rulebooks. Sustained pressure from the US State Department and the Pentagon for New Delhi to sign three defence cooperation agreements --- the Communications Interoperability and Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA); the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-spatial Cooperation (BECA); and a Logistics Support Agreement (LSA) --- has evoked uniformly negative coverage from the Indian media, which sees these as instruments for railroading India into an alliance through the back door.

Only now is Washington internalizing that Indian domestic politics; and New Delhi’s strategic antipathy to anything resembling an alliance, preclude the signing of these “foundation agreements” . The removal of this demand from the public agenda during US-India interactions has paid immediate dividends in terms of more positive Indian media reportage. With these obstacles having been bypassed in the recent sales of American aircraft to the IAF (viz. the C-130J Super Hercules and the C-17 Globemaster III) the Indian media has reported on these acquisitions in far more friendly terms than the earlier reportage about the MMRCAs.

Media management: feeding the beast

Even given the US embassy’s sophisticated, highly structured approach to “media management”; and its effective mechanisms for information dissemination, there are simple measures that might make some headway in positively influencing media reportage of the US-India defence relationship.

Currently, America is losing the battle of perceptions by default. While multiple wings of the MoD put out information from the Indian side; the US embassy in New Delhi --- and particularly the defence section --- remains highly constrained in interacting with the media. Given the technological superiority of American military equipment; given the enormous traffic in military-to-military exchanges; and given the number of training exercises that the US and Indian militaries cooperate in, there is a great deal to talk about. But off-the-record media briefings, or discussions on background --- the meat and drink of reportage anywhere --- are simply not conducted by the US embassy. Increasing the interaction between embassy and the relatively small community of Indian defence reporters should be an urgent priority for the US.

Media interaction in the US embassy is more biased towards engaging senior editors, not the defence beat journalists who actually write the stories. Talking to the editors might well generate favourable opinion columns; but it is sustained interaction with the beat journalists that is more likely to generate favourable news reports. Even a relatively junior defence beat reporter must be able to call the defence section and obtain a response to any story that is going out.

Another proposal that might reduce the negative friction from complex US government processes would be to acquaint Indian defence journalists (and indeed diplomatic correspondents) with the legislative and decision-making structures of the US Congress; the State Department and the Pentagon. Even with the best of intentions, it is near impossible for Indian journalists to comprehend the complexities of the US regulatory framework whilst operating from India. The US embassy could consider sponsoring specialist courses in American institutions that deal with licensing; procurement; budgeting; and defence planning processes.


Unfavourable media coverage of the US-India defence relationship stems from a popular perception, shared by the media, that America is a fickle and opportunistic ally that continues to prop up Pakistan, while simultaneously pulling India into a potentially embarrassing alliance. Given this fundamental distrust, clever media policy or the effective dissemination of information will achieve only limited success in generating more positive media reportage.

Instead, Washington will have to review the fundamentals of its engagement with New Delhi. It will have to learn to deal with a more equal partner than its traditional allies, and to be more watchful of Indian core interests in South Asia. This would require structural changes to US foreign policy in South Asia. Events other than the relationship with India are already driving such a change; and a significant hardening of America’s approach to Pakistan might well catalyse a major improvement in the US’s media profile in India.

Meanwhile, the US could benefit from acquainting the Indian media with the complexities of the American political, legislative and budgeting processes so that reportage in India can be more understanding of the imperatives and constraints that make Washington sometimes appear a more difficult partner than it actually is.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Decision on combat aircraft within fortnight

INS Kadmatt, an anti-submarine corvette, being launched in Kolkata. The MoD Year-end Review is happy with the progress of warship building in India

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 22nd Dec 11

The defence ministry (MoD) indicates that a decision is imminent about whether the air force will buy the Typhoon or the Rafale; that army chief, General VK Singh, will not get another year in office; and that indigenous ballistic missiles are the success story of this year. These are the highlights of the MoD’s “Year-end Review”, an annual summary that was released today.

The review terms 2011 as “The Decisive Year for the MMRCA”, suggesting that the winner of the contest to sell India 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft could be announced this fortnight. In April, the MoD eliminated Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Mikoyan and Saab, leaving only Dassault’s Rafale and Eurofighter’s Typhoon in the fray. On 4th November, the two commercial bids were opened. The IAF has submitted a comparative evaluation and the ball is now in the MoD’s court.

Once the winning bid is announced, the MoD will convene a “Contract Negotiation Committee” to negotiate a final price. MoD sources indicate that the price quoted by both vendors is significantly higher than the Rs 42,000 crore that the union cabinet has cleared for this purchase.

The MoD’s annual review also indicates that ballistic missile development has topped the Defence R&D Organisation’s (DRDO’s) indigenous programmes. Nine successful missile tests were conducted and the launch of the all-new 3,500 km range Agni-4 Ballistic Missile on 15th Nov is termed “the highlight of the year”.

Other missiles tested include the Prithvi-2; the Dhanush (both with a range of 350 km); the new Prahaar tactical battlefield missile (200 km); the Pakistan-specific Agni-1 (700 km); and Agni-2 (2000 km); and the innovative, hybrid Shourya missile (700 km) that can be fired from land or submarine.

The review is silent on the Agni-5 intermediate range ballistic missile (IRBM), which was to have been fired this month. However, the DRDO postponed this high-profile test till Feb-Mar 2012, reducing developmental risk by testing and validating several of the Agni-5’s new technologies on the Agni-4.

Another success story is the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA). The air force granted the Tejas its first stage of operational clearance in Jan 11; final operational clearance is expected next year. The review also mentions the naval Tejas, which will fly off the navy’s aircraft carriers. Having completed its engine ground run in Sep 11, it will shortly take to the skies.

The MoD review falsely eulogizes the long-delayed Kaveri engine, which DRDO is developing for the Tejas. While the Kaveri did indeed complete “Flying Test Bed” trials in Russia this year, powering a modified IL-76 transport aircraft, it remains well short of the power needed for the Tejas fighter. The DRDO is now partnering French engine-maker, Snecma, in an attempt to resurrect the Kaveri.

Another success story in the “Year-end Review” is the warship building programme. Two major warships were commissioned this year: the 6,200-tonne frigate, INS Satpura in August; and the 27,500 tonne, “made-in-Italy” fleet tanker, INS Deepak, in Jan. Another major warship, the 3000-tonne indigenous anti-submarine corvette, INS Kadmatt, was launched in October. Four smaller Coast Guard and navy vessels were also launched. To nurture design capability, Defence Minister Antony laid the foundation stone for the National Institute for Research and Development (NIRDESH) in Defence Shipbuilding in January.

2012 could see a further boost. Likely to be commissioned are two Kolkata-class destroyers, each 6,800 tonnes; the Satpura’s successor frigate, INS Sahyadri; and the anti-submarine corvette, INS Kamorta, along with several other smaller craft.

Tantalizingly, the review suggests that the MoD could ignore army chief General VK Singh’s petition, asking for his date of birth to be corrected, which would give him an additional year in office till May 2013. The review states, “MoD’s decision setting at rest the controversy of the age of Chief of Army Staff General VK Singh was prominently carried by the media in July.”

The “Year-end Review” illustrates the growing role of military diplomacy, listing 27 international exchanges at the service chief or MoD level. The military also carried out 7 exercises with friendly foreign countries, including the US, France, Turkey, Oman and Singapore. However, diplomatic niceties find no place in the review. It categorizes Pakistan’s prompt return of an Indian helicopter --- which strayed across the Line of Control near Kargil and landed at a Pakistani helipad in October --- as "The Non-Event of the Year".

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

IAF chief flies in the Sukhoi-30MKI: but what strikes you most in this photograph?

Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne, Chief of the Air Staff with Wing Commander Anurag Sharma, Commanding Officer, SU-30 MKI Squadron, before a one-hour sortie in a SU-30 MKI at Pune today

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Japan chooses the F-35; India still evaluating second-best and third-best options!

As security concerns mount amongst Western Pacific nations, Japan's MoD opts for the F-35A Lightening II for its F-X future fighter programme

Japan's Ministry of Defence (MoD) confirmed today the purchase of 42 F-35A Lightning II fighters for its F-X future fighter aircraft programme. The cost of the contract is $4.7 billion, which adds up to a per-unit cost of US $113 million per fighter.

Japan is the latest F-35 customer, after Tel Aviv's purchase of
the fighter in October 2011 as the Israeli Air Force’s (IAF) next generation fighter aircraft. The programme was earlier joined by nine partner nations, comprising the US, the UK, Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, Canada, Australia, Denmark and Norway.

In a statement the Japanese cabinet today said: “The government shall acquire 42 units of the F-35A after fiscal 2012 in order to replenish and to modernise the current fleet of fighters held by the Air Self-Defense Force.”

According to Lockheed Martin, the initial contract will be for four jets in Japan Fiscal Year 2012, which begins 1 April 2012. Japan’s Defence Minister Yasuo Ichikawa stated today that he is confident that his country will receive the first fighters within the agreed time-frame.

Tokyo has chosen the F-35 over the F/A-18 Super Hornet and the Eurofighter Typhoon, as a part of its F-X tender. The JSF will replace Japan's fleet of 117 F-4 Phantom II, which have been in service with the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) since 1968.

According to AFP, the F-35 bid was the most expensive of the three, with its price tag of $US113 million per aircraft.

But it was selected, says Japan's defence minister, Yasuo Ichikawa, for the qualitatively superior capabilities that it provides. Ichikawa says, “It is a fighter with capacity to respond to the changing security environment."

Due to its technical complexity, it has become the most expensive weapons programme in the history of the U.S. Department of Defence (DoD) and has been troubled by increasing costs and delays.

Japan’s decision cannot but be seen in the context of an increasingly unstable security environment in the Far East. China’s military build-up goes hand-in-hand with growing tensions between the US and China over the western Pacific area. The F-35 selection has been announced a day after news broke of the death of North Korean leader, Kim Jong Il.

IAF practices a long range Special Forces deployment to Andamans

The IAF's C-130J Hercules aircraft. The IAF will have 12 such aircraft, kitted for Special Forces operations.

Pasted below is the official PRO Defence account of the practice mission. It must be noted that this mission did not actually carry any Special Forces soldiers... it was more a test of mobilisation, preparation, navigation and tactical flight procedures. It is noteworthy that the 12-hour flight required no en-route refuelling!


New Delhi – December 20th , 2011

On Monday, 12 December 2011, IAF simulated a piracy contingency at Campbell Bay in Nicobar Islands (the furthermost Island territory of India) based on an intelligence input that an Indian merchant ship had been hijacked with hostages. The mission simulated launching of a Para Special Forces team into the objective area using C-130J as airborne platform.

Planning revealed that the objective was about 3500 Nautical Miles away. The route was via Kolkata and Port Blair to the simulated Drop Zone over Campbell Bay in Great Nicobar Islands. The round trip would require a staggering 12 hours of flying time.

The ground crew prepared the aircraft in the early hours of the Monday morning while the air crew finished pre flight briefing procedures. After the walk around at 0430 hours, the four mighty engines roared to life. The aircraft took off at 0500 hrs and the crew commenced the 3500 Nautical Miles trip. Despite encountering inclement weather over the Bay of Bengal, the crew flew C-130J to Campbell Bay in Great Nicobar Islands and achieved the planned objective. The aircraft returned to Air Force Station Hindon after a non-stop mission of 12 hours 03 minutes without refueling enroute. The simulated launch of long range special operation mission was successfully accomplished.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Central police forces to be boosted with ex-servicemen

An exhausted paramilitary trooper during last year's street violence across J&K

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 16th Dec 11

Bowing to years of pressure from the armed forces, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MoHA) has agreed that retired military personnel will make up 10% of the combat strength of all central armed police forces.

According to a defence ministry (MoD) press release today, Defence Minister Shri AK Antony informed the Parliamentary Consultative Committee for Defence that “The MoHA has agreed to fill 10% of the Group ‘B’ posts in Central Paramilitary Forces from among Ex-Servicemen.” Group ‘B’ consists mainly of combatants.

Antony also stated “efforts are now being made to persuade public sector undertakings and the private sector to tap this invaluable reservoir of talented and disciplined Ex-Servicemen.”

The “Central Paramilitary Forces” that Antony mentions include the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF); the Border Security Force (BSF); the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF); the Indo-Tibet Border Police (ITBP); the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB); and other smaller forces.

Going by the government’s own definition that was formalised in March 2011, Antony erred in terming these “Central Paramilitary Forces”; the correct term is “Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs).” A “paramilitary force” is an armed force that is officered by serving military officers. India’s only “Central Paramilitary Forces” are the Assam Rifles; the Special Frontier Force; and the Coast Guard.

The MoHA’s acceptance of ex-servicemen comes as a double relief for the MoD. The defence services have a growing pension bill (Rs 34,000 crore this fiscal) for soldiers, sailors and airmen who retire as young as 35, after 15 years in uniform, and draw pensions for the rest of their lives. Post-retirement employment with a CAPF would postpone their entitlement of pension. It would also free the MoD of responsibility for rehabilitating them.

The military has pushed this case since 1997-98, when army chief, General VP Malik, suggested that CAPFs re-enlist half of the 50,000 soldiers who retire from the army each year. The army’s suggestion was to reduce colour service --- the period for which an individual is recruited into the army --- to just 7 years. After that the fully trained soldier would join a CAPF. This would make the army younger; and also stiffen the CAPFs’ combat capabilities with trained soldiers.

“This win-win proposal was strongly backed by the 5th and the 6th Pay Commissions; but the MoHA resisted it. The army will welcome the 10% opening given to ex-servicemen. It is a good beginning,” says Brigadier (Retd) Gurmeet Kanwal, who framed the original proposal in 1997-98 and now heads the army’s think tank, Centre for Land Warfare Studies.

The MoHA’s objections are detailed in the 29th report of Parliament’s Standing Committee on Defence. North Block objected that absorbing soldiers who had served 7 years in the military would make the CAPFs older and greyer. The parliamentary committee rebutted that, pointing out that the average soldier is recruited at 19 years and would be just 26 years old after 7 years of military service. Since the age limit for recruitment into CAPFs is 26 years, ex-servicemen would qualify even as fully trained soldiers.

The MoHA then protested that soldiers have a proclivity for excessive force, whereas the CAPFs must function with a softer touch. The Standing Committee responded that soldiers, who are extensively employed in counter-insurgency operations in J&K and the northeast, have conclusively demonstrated the restraint that such situations demand. In a sarcastic aside, the Standing Committee noted that CAPF restraint emerges mainly when face-to-face with Naxals and militants.

The biggest sticking point, however, was the 7 years of seniority that soldiers would carry, giving them a promotion advantage over direct recruits into the CAPFs. The MoD has agreed that direct inductees’ promotion vacancies and salaries would be suitably protected.

There are more than 7,50,000 persons in the CAPFs, which have a combined budget of more than Rs 25,000 crore in the current fiscal.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Reassure the army on AFSPA

A trooper of the Central Reserve Police Force confronts stone-pelting during the valley-wide street protests in Kashmir in the summer of 2010

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 13th Dec 11

India is witnessing a bitterly polarised debate over J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s proposal to revoke the Armed Forces (J&K) Special Power Act (AFSPA) from Srinagar and Badgam districts in Kashmir; and from Jammu and Samba in the Jammu region. Abdullah, backed by broad swathes of the media, wants a peace dividend for Kashmir after a year of relative normalcy. This could be provided, he says, by loosening AFSPA, an emergency law that has since 1990 given army soldiers in J&K the legal backing to search, apprehend and shoot to kill. The army, backed opportunistically by the BJP, insists that the fragility of the current peace makes it too early to loosen AFSPA.

In its opposition to loosening AFSPA, the army has been painted as an unreasoning bully with an aversion to Kashmiris and a pernicious addiction to violence. This is not true. The army has, in fact, offered a persuasive counter-argument in meetings of the Unified Command Headquarters with Omar Abdullah, listening in. But since the military seldom leaks or tweets, its viewpoint remains unreported.

AFSPA, which was first imposed in 1958 across the northeast in response to the Naga uprising, was legislated by parliament for J&K on 5th July 1990, when Azaadi-chanting mobs took over swathes of the valley. AFSPA’s special powers apply in “disturbed areas” that must be notified by New Delhi or the J&K Governor in the Official Gazette. [This is commonly confused with the “Disturbed Areas Act”, a separate J&K legislation that gave additional powers to the J&K Police in 1992. This lapsed in 1997, when it was not renewed] Today Abdullah wants the denotification of Srinagar, Badgam, Jammu and Samba as “disturbed areas” under Section 3 of AFSPA.

The army says not yet, because Kashmir presents not just a law and order problem but an existential threat to India. It rebuts the J&K CM’s assurance that AFSPA can easily be re-imposed if the situation deteriorates; arguing that this might be politically impossible. It worries about the logistical lifelines to army outposts on the Line of Control, which run through Srinagar and Badgam. The generals reject Abdullah’s contention that the army does not operate in Srinagar and Badgam and, therefore, does not need AFSPA there; they say that while the CRPF mans city check posts, army columns dominate the rest of these districts to keep militants at bay. The approaches to Srinagar airfield, used by civilian airliners and military aircraft, are secured by the military. Within Srinagar itself lies the massive cantonment of Badami Bagh, headquarters of 15 Corps, which is responsible for the defence of the valley.

Top military commanders tell Abdullah that the peace of 2011 was a tactical pause after three straight years of “intifada-type” street agitation. This would let a fatigued populace recover; intensify participation from intellectuals and students; and neutralise the J&K Police. After this mid-course correction, 2012 could well see a resumption of the agitation.

The army rejects Abdullah’s implicit assumption that J&K has transitioned from conflict to “post conflict stablisation”. Pakistan’s foreign minister, Hina Rabbani Khar apparently urged Kashmiri hard liner, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, during their meeting in Delhi in July to prepare for a long struggle still ahead. Equally worrying for the army is Srinagar’s slothfulness in reintegrating over 20,000 surrendered militants, who could rejoin a reinvigorated struggle.

Running alongside the army’s security case is a competing narrative of political transformation. After 3 years of street protests in Kashmir, Chidambaram’s Rajya Sabha speech on 5th Aug 2010, admitting that J&K was “a unique problem requiring a unique solution”, was followed by sustained internal peace building. That autumn, a massive rally at Langate, in north Kashmir, saw participants renouncing violent protest if human rights violations were prevented. Then Kashmir’s moderate separatists spoke out against killings by militants after Jamiat Ahl-e-Hadith leader, Maulana Showkat Shah, was assassinated in Srinagar in April. Forced by popular Kashmiri pressure, the Lashkar-e-Toiba issued an apology. The peace of 2011 and record tourist arrivals in Srinagar are a reality; the army’s prediction of the coming storm may remain just an apprehension.

What neither side will contest is that AFSPA has become a lightning rod for Kashmiri discontent. It has developed into an evocative symbol of repression, resulting in the army being besmirched in controversies in which it played no part, such as the police firing on Kashmiri demonstrators in 2010. It has also allowed ISI propagandists like Ghulam Nabi Fai to propagate the notion of “India’s military repression of Kashmiris.”

AFSPA presents an urgent political decision. New Delhi must decide whether J&K is still a conflict zone or whether it is time to reinforce Kashmiri peace. Omar Abdullah is sagacious in declaring that this cannot be a public debate.

If AFSPA is to be loosened, the army’s concerns must be assuaged. Key parties in J&K, and the main national parties, must reassure the army that the re-imposition of AFSPA will not be politicised. Kashmiri separatist and citizen groups must pledge not to allow protests to interfere with army movements to and from the border. A refusal to provide such a commitment would place on them the onus for AFSPA’s continuation. The state administration would need to permanently position J&K policemen and magistrates with army formations so that operations can be launched in a non-AFSPA environment without delay or leakage of information. Most importantly, a focused internal political dialogue must be launched in Kashmir to reassure the army that yet another hard-won peace will not be squandered by political lethargy.

Friday, 9 December 2011

MoD press release: Sino-Indian defence dialogue prepares roadmap for exchanges next year


New Delhi: Agrahayana 19, 1933
Friday, Dec 09, 2011

The 4th India-China Annual Defence Dialogue (ADD) was conducted on Nov 09, 2011 in the Ministry of Defence in New Delhi. The Indian side was led by the Defence Secretary, Mr. Shashi Kant Sharma. Gen. Ma Xiaotian, Deputy Chief of General Staff, PLA led the Chinese side.

The Annual Defence Dialogue (ADD) was established under the provisions of the MOU for 'Exchanges and Cooperation in the field of Defence', signed between both the countries in May 2006. The 1st Annual Defence Dialogue was held in Beijing in November 2007, followed by the 2nd ADD held in India in December 2008. The 3rd Annual Defence Dialogue was held in Beijing in January 2010.

The 4th ADD was conducted in an atmosphere of cordiality and both sides were frank and constructive in their approach during the deliberations. The Indian and Chinese sides shared regional and global security perceptions. Both sides agreed that enhancement of defence exchanges between the Armed Forces of India and China would contribute to better understanding and mutual trust and confidence building. Both sides also discussed the programme of defence exchanges during 2012 and agreed that the range and scope of exchanges at various levels would be gradually enhanced.

It was noted that existing confidence building measures on the LAC between both countries were successful in maintaining peace and tranquility on the borders. It was decided that such measures would continue to be implemented. Both sides agreed that the process of dialogue and communication should be strengthened at various levels to ensure stability in the border areas. Both sides agreed that the provisions of the 2005 Protocol for implementation of CBMs on the LAC should be strictly adhered to by both sides so that peace and tranquility is maintained in the border areas. It was also noted that the strengthening of the institutional mechanism for border discussions, which is expected to be operationalised soon through the establishment of a working level mechanism, would improve communications on important border related issues.

The Chinese delegation also called on the Defence Minister Shri AK Antony. Shri Antony expressed his satisfaction at the positive and constructive discussions during the ADD and stated that both sides should work towards increasing mutual trust and confidence, as this was for the benefit of both countries. He expressed the hope that high level exchanges between the defence establishments of both sides would further nurture the process of dialogue. He conveyed an invitation to the Chinese Defence Minister to visit India at a mutually convenient time.

The Chinese delegation also called on Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee and Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Nirmal Verma at South Block .

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Russian envoy: media unfair to Russian arms

Russian ambassador to India, Alexander Kadakin, showed his frustration over media reporting on Russian arms sales

by Ajai Shukla
8th Dec 11
(A shorter version of this post was published in Business Standard today)

Moscow’s frustration over its declining share of India’s defence market boiled over today, with the Russian ambassador, Alexander Kadakin, alleging unfair treatment by the Indian media at a press conference in New Delhi.

Reacting to a Business Standard/Broadsword report (Technology transfer, supply of assemblies hit Russian stonewall, dated 28th Nov 11), which highlighted contractual lapses by Russia in the indigenous production of the T-90S tank, Kadakin lashed out at this correspondent and simultaneously blamed the Heavy Vehicle Factory (HVF), Avadi, which builds the T-90S tank.

“One journalist… maybe he was having a very difficult hangover in the morning… wrote something that Russia is not supplying drawings for T-90. Russia is not giving the steels or the other necessary (components). Everything he wrote from beginning to end was completely false. Completely false. Russia has completely carried out all its obligations as regards T-90. The problem was with the producers here; the manufacturers here. We were not commenting on this because we were not wanting to blackmouth (sic) the Indian partners. They had problems, not Russia,” declared Kadakin

I accosted Kadakin after the press conference and asked him why the Russian Embassy had not responded to my questionnaire, which I had emailed them a week before actually carrying the story. I asked him whether he had any specific responses now, or was merely trying to dodge the issue by blaming a correspondent’s hangover.

Kadakin made some feeble joke, suggested that I have a vodka (at the hospitality bar that the Russian Embassy had set up for the press conference), and scuttled off.

In the press conference, Kadakin also castigated the Indian media for “rejoicing” when Russia’s Mi-28 attack helicopter lost out to the US-built Apache AH-64D in the trials held earlier this year by the Indian Air Force (IAF), Kadakin said, “Yes, we lost the contract of attack helicopters to Apache. But no correspondent wrote that Russia participated in that tender just to be in that tender. But what a huge noise was raised here. Russia is losing its position… as if one were rejoicing over it.”

While India remains a major buyer of Russian military equipment, Russian sales have been eroded by new competition, primarily from Israel and the US. America’s presence has been boosted by recent sales of the C-130J Super Hercules; and the C-17 Globemaster III transport aircraft; and the P8I Poseidon multi-role maritime aircraft (MMR).

Lashing out at Washington’s recent indication that it would sell India its cutting edge F-35 Lightening II joint strike fighter, Kadakin declared, “Some other countries, sometimes it seems as if they are throwing carrots into India’s garden. They throw a carrot about some 35 plane (i.e. the F-35). Are you sure they will give the technologies,” said Kadakin, taking a swipe at the strict controls that the US exercises over defence technologies.

Moscow’s breezy attitude towards technology controls was evident in the Kadakin’s explanation of how Pakistan’s JF-17 fighter was flying with a Russian RD-93 engine, despite Moscow’s assertions that it would not sell arms to Pakistan: “Sorry, we are not in the picture. If China is selling (the engine to Pakistan)… they should not do it. If they violate (our contract), we are nowhere in the picture.

Kadakin lamented that the media only highlighted delays to Russian platforms, like the Gorshkov aircraft carrier; and three frigates that Russia is building. In a barely disguised swipe at the French Scorpene submarine programme, he said, “Of course there were delays about the (Russian) frigates… But why are you not writing about a three-year delay in some other marine thing… and you know what I mean.”

Pointing obliquely to the Akula class nuclear submarine that Moscow is leasing to India, Kadakin emphasising Russia’s unique role in provided strategic technologies.

“Why don’t you write about other things we are giving you… some underwater things? What other country has given you that?” demanded Kadakin.

Russian media reports have suggested that the nuclear submarine is undergoing final trials before being handed over to the Indian Navy, which will name it INS Chakra. Kadakin confirmed that the submarine was “in the pipeline” and “it will come soon”.

To highlight the success of the India-Russia defence relationship, Kadakin also pointed to the Brahmos programme, in which the two countries jointly built a supersonic cruise missile, Kadakin claimed that Russia had “given India the best of technologies for Brahmos… as a result of which you have the best supersonic missile in the world.”

It was another typically Kadakin example of chicanery. Russia has not “given India” any technologies for the Brahmos! The two sides have developed their respective portions of the missile separately, and both sides’ components and sub-systems are assembled into Brahmos missile systems without any technology being transferred.

Kadakin demonstrated during the press conference that he is neither a military technologist, nor a diplomat. Rather, he is a politician and a showman who can beguile Indian audiences, which tend to have little or no knowledge of military-technical issues.

Kadakin also brought up the GLONAS issue: “Who has have offered you the high-precision signal for GLONAS. Yes, they [i.e. the Americans] can offer you GPS… and you will get in the same trouble as they got in Iraq. India is, was and will be the first and only country which has been offered GLONAS. And the decision was taken by the government to give it only to India as a special exception, taking into account our especially friendly relations.”

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Successful first flight on the indigenous Airborne Warning and Control System, built by the DRDO's Centre for Airborne Systems

The Ministry of Defence press release on this landmark occasion is posted below:


New Delhi: Agrahayana 16, 1933
Thursday, Dec 07, 2011

The first fully modified Aircraft for indigenously developed Indian Airborne Warning and Control System (AEW&C) took to skies yesterday, as part of its first maiden flight in Embraer facilities at Sao Jose dos Campos in Brazil with about 1000 Mission System Components provided by CABS, DRDO. These include the critical item – AESA (Active Electronic Scanning Antenna) Radar Antenna developed by DRDO and certified from ANAC, International FAR Certification Agency.

“The flight is a major milestone towards realizing the dream of indigenous Airborne Early Warning and Control System, which will put India into a select club of countries” said Dr. VK Saraswat, Scientific Advisor to Raksha Mantri congratulating DRDO Scientists and M/s Embraer Engineers on this achievement.

While this Aircraft will now undergo full certification process over next two years, India will receive two aircrafts by middle of next year. Here, the Mission Systems developed by various DRDO labs will be integrated with these aircrafts. Currently, these systems are undergoing ground integration and evaluation at the Centre for Airborne Systems (CABS), Bangalore.

Two of these systems will be delivered to IAF after detailed Test and Evaluation by 2013.

With the advent of this, India is looking forward to join the league of countries capable of developing and delivering such complex Airborne System of Systems to its user.

Monday, 5 December 2011

A visit to Gripen: Saab executives say "combat aircraft contest not over"

A nice view of the weapons stations on the Gripen demonstrator

by Ajai Shukla
Linkoping, Sweden
A truncated version of this article was in Business Standard, 5th Dec 11

There are celebrations at Linkoping, the home of the Gripen NG fighter, which is barely two hours from Stockholm on one of Sweden’s ultra-friendly inter-city trains. On Tuesday, the Swiss government announced its selection of the Gripen-D fighter for the Swiss Air Force, rejecting the Eurofighter Typhoon and the Dassault Rafale.

“If confirmed, a win in Switzerland [according to the Swiss constitution, this might even require a national referendum] will provide a much-needed boost to Saab's status as a fighter manufacturer, after its Gripen was eliminated in another high-profile contest in India,” observed aviation magazine, Flight Global.

India has decided differently, short-listing the Typhoon and Rafale over the Gripen NG in New Delhi’s ongoing selection of 126 medium, multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA). But, visiting Linkoping, Broadsword saw little despondency. With India’s defence ministry (MoD) uncomfortable with the idea of doubling its $10.5 billion allocation for those heavy fighters, Gripen is not yet ruling itself out of the MMRCA competition.

“It’s not over till it’s over,” says Eddy de la Motte, Head of Gripen Export. “We have been and are still confident that Gripen is the perfect match for the IAF as well as for the Indian defence and aviation industry.”

Eddy de la Motte also points out that Gripen has provided details of its Sea Gripen fighter (which is still being developed) in response to an Indian Navy’s enquiry.

Executives in Linkoping all insist that the Gripen NG --- the New Generation version of the current Gripen-D fighter --- would provide India with the fighter it needs for a far cheaper procurement and operating cost. They say it would be one-third the cost of the Typhoon and the Rafale, calculated on a “through-life” basis.

“Our experience of operating the Gripen is that it costs US $4000 per flight hour. This calculation is based on the experience of 150,000 hours flown,” says Peter Ringh, a senior executive with the Gripen programme.

I tour the Linkoping facility, which Sweden set up in 1930 after it was prevented from buying fighters because of the embargoes that preceded World War II. Over the next eight decades, a fierce focus on aerospace R&D --- 20% of Saab's aerospace revenues go back into research --- has driven the development of several world-beating aircraft at Linkoping. These include the Saab-21A in 1945 (the world’s first aircraft with an ejection seat); the Saab 29 Tunnan (the first aircraft with swept wings); and the Viggen, which the Indian Air Force had selected in the 1970s as a ground strike aircraft. But an angry Washington, seething after India’s nuclear experiment in Pokhran, vetoed the supply of the Viggen’s American-origin engines to India. The IAF bought the Jaguar instead.

“In 70 years in the aeronautics business, Saab has built more than 4000 aircraft. This includes 500 airliners, of which 450 are still operating,” says de la Motte.

Today, Linkoping is dedicated to the Gripen. Over 200 Gripens currently fly with five air forces --- Sweden, South Africa, Thailand, Czech Republic and Hungary --- and Switzerland will be the sixth. Gripen is also a leading contender (along with the Rafale) in the Brazilian Air Force’s purchase of medium fighters.

But India demanded a more capable MMRCA than the current Gripen-D; and Saab offered its futuristic Gripen NG fighter, of which only a single prototype exists. This is numbered 39-7; the first Gripen test aircraft was numbered 39-1… and this is the 7th test fighter).

Housed in a secluded hangar, the Gripen Demonstrator (as the first prototype of the Gripen NG is called) is discernibly bigger than the Gripen-D. The earlier Gripens are light, agile fighters, which can land and take off from 800-metre stretches of regular highway. A carefully inbuilt ability to be refuelled and rearmed within just 10 minutes of landing allow a small number of Gripen-Ds to fly as many sorties as a significantly larger number of heavier-maintenance fighters. But, along with low maintenance, India wanted a heavier fighter, with more weaponry and a longer range and endurance. Enter the Gripen NG.

“The NG is essentially a Mark III Gripen fighter. The Gripen A/B, a 12-tonne light fighter, was the Mark I. This went up to 14-tonnes in the Gripen C/D, which can be considered the Mark II. Our latest development, the Gripen NG, will be a 16.5 tonne medium fighter,” explains de la Motte.

That extra weight includes an additional tonne of fuel. Along with two 450-gallon fuel pods on the wings, this allows the Gripen NG to fly a staggering 4,100 kilometres. On internal fuel alone, it flies 2,500 kilometres. That exceeds the range of much bigger aircraft like the Typhoon.

Moving the undercarriage to the wings for enlarging the fuel tanks also created space for two additional hard points on which weapons are mounted. The Gripen NG now has ten stations, extraordinary for a 16-tonne fighter. Flying into combat, it would typically carry two IRIS-T air-to-air missiles on its wing tips, which can shoot down enemy aircraft 25 kilometres away; two Meteor beyond-visual-range (BVR) missiles, deadly accurate at ranges in excess of 100 kilometres; two fuel pods with 900 gallons of fuel; three GBU-12 precision-guided bombs for ground targets; and a reconnaissance pod.

To power all this weight, the Gripen-D’s General Electric F-404 engine is being replaced with the advanced F-414 engine, an upgrade that is common to India’s Tejas fighter. With thrust increased from 18,000 pounds to 22,000 pounds, the Gripen NG already super-cruises, or flies supersonic in economy mode.

The Gripen Demonstrator has demonstrated the capability to supercruise at Mach 1.2, and exceed Mach 1.6 on afterburner. Gripen engineers say that they have still to optimise the air intakes, which they expect will boost engine power by another 25%.

But the NG’s real strength is the cockpit, which is a fighter pilot's delight. Using Saab’s acknowledged data link capability, information is drawn from multiple sensors inside and outside the aircraft, including satellites. A terabyte-capacity computer screens out superfluous information, providing the pilot only the best input of each category. This allows him to concentrate on battle, rather than handling information.

“We do that by sensor fusion… using data fusion technology. This covers information coming in from radars, IRST, EW sensors, targeting pods, 3rd party sensors (including air-land-sea) and also information from the weapons,” says the Gripen test pilot who is conducting me around the fighter.

The pilot also reveals that the Gripen demonstrator is ready for being fitted with the Selex ES 05 Raven AESA radar. “This will be capable of electronically steering radar elements in specific directions. The current AESA radars have 70% coverage on each side. We will put that on a swashplate, which would give us 100% coverage, a big advantage in BVR. We can fire a missile and turn away without entering the enemy fighter’s weapons engagement zone, and yet be able to guide our missile to the hand-over point. This is called the F-Pole manoeuvre, which means that you fire and then turn away so that you are outside his radar pickup… but can still control the missile,” he explains.

The Gripen demonstrator will also have the ability to hand over the missile in mid-flight to another aircraft.

And finally, the pilot has satellite communications, permitting him to communicate across the globe. In a sensitive situation --- such as an attack that could start, or escalate a war, or even on a nuclear strike mission --- the pilot might need to take permission before launching weapons. This could be done over the satellite radio.

“During the Indian trials, when the Gripen successfully took off from Leh, the pilot called Linkoping on the satellite radio to say all is well,” said one of the Gripen NG pilots.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Monday, 28 November 2011

Part II: Army’s delayed orders halts T-90 tank

Views of the T-90S production line at the Heavy Vehicle Factory (HVF), Avadi. The HVF is looking for an army order for 700 more T-90S tanks.

By Ajai Shukla
Avadi, Chennai
Business Standard, 29th Nov 11

If India has a capital for battle tanks, it is the Heavy Vehicle Factory (HVF) at Avadi, outside Chennai. This flagship factory of the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) produces all of India’s main battle tanks: the Arjun; the T-90S; and before that the T-72 and the Vijayanta. Of the OFB’s total turnover last year of Rs 11,300 crore, HVF alone generated Rs 2,500 crore.

But when Business Standard visited HVF last week, the buzz of production work on the shop floors that build the Indian Army’s T-90S tank was drawing to a close. Of the one thousand T-90S tanks that the army plans to build in HVF --- and has already paid Russia licence fees for --- HVF has received an indent for just 300 tanks. With that order likely to be completed by mid-2013, and with no follow-on order in sight, the T-90 line will grind to a halt.

As this newspaper reported yesterday (“Technology transfer, supply of assemblies hit Russian stonewall”) Russia’s non-compliance with the contract for technology transfer ensured that indigenous production of the T-90S was delayed for 6 years after the contract was signed in January 2001. Now, 11 years after the contract was signed, production is hitting its stride. HVF says 24 tanks were delivered in 2009-10; 51 in 2010-11; it will be 50 this year; and annual production will hit 100 next year (i.e. 2012-13). But there are no army orders beyond that.

Despite that, the MoD has sanctioned expanding the capacity of the T-90S line to 140 tanks per year, says the OFB.

“We are in touch with Army HQ and MoD for the follow-on order of T-90S tanks. The lead-time for positioning of materials and components is about 30 months… that’s how long it takes for ordering, getting the material, manufacturing and assembly and delivery. We are progressing the case with the Vice Chief of Army Staff… and have requested the MoD to pursue the matter,” says RK Jain, Addition DG of the OFB, who oversees HVF.

The army has apparently held back its indent until it is sure that the T-90S tanks already built by HVF are free of production glitches.

“The army wants indigenous T-90s to be observed and user confidence built up [before placing a fresh indent]. So far, the users have run only the first batch of 24 tanks, delivered in 2009-10, to the extent where they can properly evaluate their performance. The 51 tanks that we delivered in 2010-11 have yet to be adequately exploited,” explains Jain.

It is evident that piecemeal ordering is blocking potential economies of scale. MoS for Defence, Rao Inderjit Singh, told the Lok Sabha on 30th Nov 06 that the T-90S tanks that came ready-built from Russia cost Rs 11 crore each; and the knocked down tanks from Russia that were assembled in Avadi cost Rs 12 crore each. But the tanks built in Avadi now cost Rs 18.1 crore, says the OFB.

Asked how much this price could be whittled down through timely bulk orders from the army, HVF officials estimate a potential cost saving of 25-30%. Spurning this opportunity would result in the army paying Rs 3,800 crore more than is necessary for the remaining 700 T-90Ss that HVF will build.

The MoD has not responded to an emailed query from Business Standard, asking why a supplementary indent for more T-90S tanks had not yet been placed on HVF.

A range of facilities feed into HVF’s T-90S production line. Two OFB factories in Kanpur build the gun and breach block. Another in Jabalpur builds the recoil system, while another one in Tiruchiralapplli fabricates the 12.7 millimetre air defence gun. The sophisticated thermal imaging sights and gunner’s sights come from OFB’s Opto-Electronics Factory in Dehradun. The gun stabilizer, which allows the tank to fire accurately while moving, comes from Bharat Electronics Ltd.

Within Avadi, HVF builds major components of the T-90S: the hull, turret, transmission, gearbox and the running gear. Another OFB facility next door, Engine Factory, Avadi, builds the tank’s 1000 HP engine. Thousands of minor parts are outsourced to local industry: electrical items, cables, starter generator, instrument panel, hardware and rubber components. According to OFB’s Jain, the T-90S has been 70% indigenised; this will increase to 80% next year.

Bringing together all this parts takes 30 months. Then HVF assembles them into a tank.

Piecemeal indenting by the military routinely causes production breaks in India’s defence industrial complex, including its defence shipyards and public sector behemoths like Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) and Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL). Senior officials in these defence companies that that jerky indenting hinders the smooth planning of production cycles, economic utilization of skilled manpower, and the provision of lead times needed for out-sourcing materials and assemblies from external vendors.