Tuesday, 31 July 2012

INS Baaz, the Indian Navy's air station in the Andaman Islands

General NC Marwah, Commander-in-Chief, Andaman & Nicobar Command, Senior Officers from the three Services, distinguished guests, the Commanding Officer and men of Naval Air Station Campbell Bay, ladies and gentlemen.

It is indeed a pleasure for me to be present here today to commission the Naval Air Station at Campbell Bay – INS Baaz. Each time I visit these beautiful islands, I reflect upon the sacred duty that we, the men and women in uniform, have towards ensuring the nation’s territorial integrity, and towards providing security, support and safety to the people of our great nation. Your presence here in this eastern most outpost of India is a testament of the resolve of the Indian Armed Forces.

The islands of the Andaman and Nicobar group have always occupied the consciousness of the security and defence community of our nation. The geographic disposition of the archipelago, separated as it is by more than 650 nautical miles from our mainland, offers a vital geo-strategic advantage to India. Not only do they provide the nation with a commanding presence in the Bay of Bengal, the islands also serve as our window into East and South East Asia. India’s Look East policy has certainly benefited due to the proximity of this archipelago to many ASEAN states.

Apart from geography, the economic potential of the islands is also remarkable, being endowed with a vast Exclusive Economic Zone, accounting for almost 30% of India’s entire EEZ. They also sit astride some of the busiest shipping lanes of the Indian Ocean, most carrying strategic cargo for the East Asian economies.

The Indian Armed Forces fully recognise these strategic imperatives, as is evident by the presence of the unique Tri Services Andaman and Nicobar Command. Each of the Services are committed towards contributing to the synergy of our efforts and today the commissioning of INS Baaz exemplifies the success of one such initiative.

In consonance with these Tri Service initiatives in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, the Indian Navy has been forging a two pronged policy approach.

The first policy push has been towards enhancing maritime engagement with South East Asian and East Asian countries. Many successful examples abound. Cooperative patrols with nations adjacent to the islands, like Thailand and Indonesia, and                 Navy-to-Navy linkages with comparatively distant ASEAN nations, like Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore, come instantly to mind. The inescapability of maritime cooperation amongst the littorals is underscored by the success of MILAN, an initiative nurtured by the Indian Navy over the past seventeen years, and supported by successive CINCANs as one of many symbols of the strength of jointmanship.

The second policy focus area has been to enhance the maritime capacity expansion both afloat and ashore.

The Navy has been progressively increasing the number of warships based at Port Blair, under the operational control of the ANC. More are in the pipeline. Port Blair will be home for amphibious platforms, Naval Offshore Patrol Vessels and Fast Attack Craft, as the Navy’s robust acquisition plans progress.

Infrastructure cases ashore include additional naval air stations, such as here at Campbell Bay, and operational turnaround bases for ships, these will be dispersed along the entire length of the island chain so as to maximise the reach and time-on-task for ships and aircraft on patrol.

 The intent is also to ensure dispersed presence that would be able to render immediate local support and reduce response time, in the event of a humanitarian disaster such as the Tsunami of 2004, if God forbid, the need arises again.

One of the primary functions of INS Baaz will be to provide information, based on ‘airborne’ maritime surveillance. Maritime Domain Awareness is the key to effective and informed decision making in the maritime arena. Despite numerous advancements in the field of information gathering over sea, airborne surveillance, using aircraft and UAVs, remains invaluable.

In this context therefore Baaz is a very appropriate name as this airbase will provide an eagle’s eye view over these waters, the Andaman and Nicobar islands and the strategic sea lines of communication that abound these areas. The crest of the air station depicts an Andaman Serpent Eagle, endemic to these islands, flying against the blue background of the oceans. The flying eagle signifies the vigil being maintained by our aircraft over the vast expanse of the seas, contributing to maritime security during peacetime, while being prepared to aggressively pursue an adversary in war.       

INS Baaz is blessed with a brilliant strategic location. Situated on this southernmost island of the Nicobar group, Campbell Bay overlooks the Strait of Malacca, while also dominating the 6 degree channel. These crucial waterways continue to engage the interest of most global and regional powers.

Without a few words for the determined men who will man INS Baaz, my address would be incomplete. I am aware of the hardships that you all face, while manning this remote outpost, separated from your families for long periods of time. None of us forget, that the work undertaken by each one of you, allows optimum exploitation of this strategic air station, thereby contributing significantly towards safeguarding India’s interests in the region. Yours is the tremendous responsibility of ensuring risk free air operations, round the clock, 365 days a year and the nation is grateful for your dedication and perseverance. I am sure that the pristine environs of Campbell Bay help you to pursue a healthy lifestyle.

In conclusion, ladies and gentlemen, we live today in a complex and dynamic security environment. As our nation seeks out her destiny, our national interests and aspirations also grow. There are no immediate signs of a diminishing threat. The Andaman and Nicobar Islands will form a vital node in our national security matrix.

The commissioning of the Naval Air Station at Campbell Bay is therefore a small but significant step towards supplementing our maritime capability in these islands. I have no doubt that the Naval Air Station, Campbell Bay will play a vital role in all our peacetime and wartime operations.

I take this opportunity to congratulate all those who were involved in the process, which has finally culminated in the Commissioning of this Naval Air Station. I also warmly compliment the Andaman and Nicobar Command for the steadfast support provided in realising this goal. It is indeed a job well done.

I wish the Commanding Officer, INS Baaz and all Ranks serving, present and in the future, the very best of luck. May you enjoy “happy hunting” and “happy landings”. God Bless.

 Thank you. Jai Hind. 

Monday, 30 July 2012

Boeing eyes India as US cuts defence spending

by Ajai Shukla
Seattle, USA
Business Standard, 29th July 12

Inside a spotless hangar here in Seattle, technicians work on three gleaming new Boeing 737s, painted in the drab grey favoured by the world’s navies. While two of them are marked with the US Navy logo, the third bears markings unusual for this hangar: the Indian Navy’s Devanagari logo: “Nau Sena” (Navy).

These are no ordinary 737s but new P-8 multi-mission aircraft (MMA) that watch over enormous tracts of sea, detecting hostile ships and submarines with electronic sensors, and quickly destroying them with the weaponry on board.

Unprecedentedly, these state-of-the-art platforms will join service almost simultaneously with the US and Indian navies, giving the Indian Navy world-class capabilities for dominating the waters and vital shipping lanes off its 7,500 kilometre coastline, deep into the Indian Ocean.

Since independence, India has remained content with older weaponry that richer and more technologically advanced countries had already deployed for years. The Indian Air Force (IAF) bought the Jaguar and Mirage 2000 fighters long after they entered frontline service with the French and British air forces, while the Sukhoi-30 MKI and the T-90 tank were systems that the Russians did not induct.

But the navy’s purchase in 2009 of eight P-8 aircraft for a whopping US $2.1 billion, and Washington’s decision to supply them to India alongside the first deliveries to the US Navy, highlight two major changes. Firstly, Washington’s readiness to sell New Delhi cutting edge weaponry without tiresome quibbling over “changing the regional arms balance.” Secondly, the P-8 buy demonstrated New Delhi’s willingness to spend top dollar to back its regional ambitions with top-flight military capabilities.

New Delhi again demonstrated that buying power last year by shucking up $4.1 billion for ten C-17 Globemaster III aircraft. These giant airlifters, which can land and take off from short, high-altitude, mud airstrips along the Himalayan Sino-Indian border, will let the Indian Army quickly reinforce threatened sectors.

For Boeing Defense, Space and Security (BDS), the company’s military division which stares at US defence cuts of a trillion dollars over the coming decade, New Delhi is an increasingly important customer. Boeing’s international defence sales, which currently account for about 22-24% of BDS’s turnover, must reach 25-30%, says Mark Kronenberg, Boeing’s International Business Development head. The Asia-Pacific region, with India as the largest buyer, is expected to account for 45-50% of foreign sales, with West Asia buying another 25-30%.

These plans were jolted last year, when New Delhi rejected Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter in a $17 billion purchase of 126 medium fighters, choosing instead the French Rafale. But Boeing remains optimistic about four potential revenue streams. Besides the P-8 and the C-17 Globemaster III contracts already won, the IAF is also evaluating the purchase of Boeing’s Apache AH-64 attack helicopter; and Chinook CH-47F heavy lift helicopter.

The P-8 being completed here in Seattle has been designated the P8-I (I for India), which distinguishes it from the US version, the P8-A. Two Indian aircraft have already flown, the last one on July 17th. Boeing executives say that, by end-2013, three P-8Is will be in operational service in India.

The P8-Is will operate from INS Rajali, a naval base at Arakonam, near Chennai, flying 8-hour missions over the Arabian Sea, the Bay of Bengal and the northern Indian Ocean. These could involve seeking out pirates, suspicious cargo vessels, or hostile warships and submarines. During such missions, the P-8I’s enhanced internal fuel tanks will allow it to fly 1,100 kilometers to a patrol area, remain on station for up to six hours, and then fly back 1,100 kilometres to Arakonam. Using aerial refuelling, this endurance can be doubled.

On patrol, naval operators scour the area from banks of consoles inside the aircraft. A multi-mode radar in the P-8I’s nose cone looks forward and sideways, picking up aircraft, surface ships and submarines. Meanwhile, a belly-mounted radar looks backwards, like an electronic rear-view-mirror. Suspicious objects can be investigated further: a suspected enemy submarine is pinpointed by dropping sonobuoys, floating sonar detectors that radio back telltale audio signals. A magnetic anomaly detector (MAD) on the P-8I’s tail distinguishes between an enemy submarine and, say, a blue whale.

These sensors are backed up with armament. The P-8I, basically a Boeing 737-800, has the enhanced wings of a 737-900 onto which weaponry can be mounted. This includes potent anti-ship Harpoon missiles, and the Mark 82 depth charge that the US Navy uses.

Another compartment in the aircraft’s belly will house five Mark 54 torpedoes, the primary submarine-killing armament. These must be warm when they are launched, and so cannot be exposed to the icy temperatures of wing mounting.

The US Navy intends to buy at least 117 P-8A aircraft, as the US version is called, while Boeing expects another 75 aircraft to be snapped up by international customers, especially those who want to upgrade from the P-3C Orion, built by rival company, Lockheed Martin. Pakistan operates four P-3C Orions, but US government insiders say that a sale of the P-8 to Pakistan would not be cleared.

India remains a potentially big customer. Robert Schoeffling, the P-8 programme’s Business Development head, anticipates Indian orders for 25-35 P8-Is. “With 7500 kilometres of coastline, 60% of the world’s shipping traffic (passing close by), tremendous need for MDA (maritime domain awareness), including anti-submarine, and with three aircraft carriers in the 2020s, (the Indian Navy is) going to have a tremendous need for such aircraft,” he says.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Antony's visit to an army outpost in the Kupwara sector

Antony arrives, speaks and departs (in a Dhruv helicopter!) Also in photo: Chief of Army Staff, General Bikram Singh; Lt Gen KT Parnaik, GOC-in-C Northern Command (with moustache); and Maj Gen Sarath Chand, the GOC of the sector (walking left and rear of Parnaik)

Seattle Quiz No. 2: What is this aircraft and what was special about it?

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Broadsword quiz: Identify

How much in this photo can you identify? Gold Star for the "most comprehensive answer" and two Brownie Points for "best answer"

Monday, 23 July 2012

“We want to be India’s most trusted long-term supplier of technology”

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 24th July 12

In New Delhi today, visiting US Deputy Secretary of Defence Ashton Carter declared that the Pentagon had, in the last two months, decided to move beyond merely selling India weaponry, towards a technology partnership in which American and Indian scientists would develop defence products together.

In June, US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta had appointed Carter his point man, specifically for deepening “defence trade” with India. But in Carter’s first visit to India since then, he avoided that phrase, talking up “defence cooperation” instead.

Responding to a question from Business Standard about the switch from “defence trade” to “defence cooperation”, Carter admitted that this reflected a better American understanding of New Delhi’s requirements.

“Trade suggests a buy or sell relationship or transactions. One of the things… Secretary Panetta and I learned as we… talked to our Indian colleagues…, we learnt that what India wants, and what we would want in the long term, is more than just buy and sell. We want to do things together and we want to develop products together and we want to produce technology together. So there is a little bit of a difference between trade and cooperation. And between the two we are really looking at cooperation.”

Although Defence Minister AK Antony, has not reciprocated Panetta’s signal, Carter was received today by top Indian officials: Antony himself, National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon, and the foreign and defence secretaries.

Carter said he remained upbeat about his mission even though he had no interlocutor. “I’m really focused on results not the mechanism. And I think we’ll get the results with whatever is decided on the Indian side,” he said.

Addressing a business and media gathering organized by CII, Carter outlined what he said were practical steps that could improve US-India defence cooperation.

First amongst them was to limit the powerful Washington and New Delhi bureaucracies that cited outdated rules and regulations to limit cooperation. “The only limit to our cooperation should be our independent strategic decisions – as any two states may differ – not bureaucratic red tape…. Our shared challenge in the next era is to find concrete areas to step up our defense cooperation, so that only our imagination and strategic logic, and not administrative barriers, set the pace,” said Carter, urging both sides to “set big goals.”

Carter talked up trust on both sides. “Practically, we want to be India’s highest-quality and most trusted long-term supplier of technology, in such fields as maritime domain awareness, counter-terrorism, and many others. We are committed to India’s military modernization. India is a top priority in our export considerations. We trust India and know India is not a re-exporter or exploiter of our technologies,” he said.

The ongoing reform of the US overall export control system under the “Export Control Reform initiative” would ease many of India’s concerns, said Carter. “India has been very frank in expressing its concerns with U.S. export controls and technology security policies.  We are taking real steps to address India’s concerns,” he said.

Carter also urged New Delhi to consider two measures that would deepen US-India cooperation: reworking the defence offset policy, and enhancing foreign investment limit of 26% in the field of defence.

Who’s afraid of US export controls?

The lion in his lair! Antony meets Ashton Carter

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 24th July 12

US Deputy Secretary of Defence Ashton Carter’s ongoing Asia-Pacific tour to Japan, Thailand, India and South Korea illustrates Washington’s ongoing “rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific region” that President Barack Obama first enunciated on 3rd January. In that momentous policy speech, India alone was mentioned as a strategic partner that had to be courted.

Since then, New Delhi has presented an increasingly ragged spectacle, deterring prospective suitors with strategic foot-dragging, non-governance and the inevitable outcome: a decelerating economy. And so Japan, not India, was Carter’s first destination. In Tokyo, Carter hailed Japan as America’s “central and anchoring” ally in Asia. “Naturally I come here first, to Tokyo,” he proclaimed. Was this just diplomatic hyperbole?

But New Delhi hardly cares! Even as the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and large chunks of the foreign ministry (MEA) deepen ties with Washington, AK Antony’s defence ministry (MoD) systematically cold-shoulders the Pentagon. Antony has ignored Ashton Carter’s appointment as Defence Secretary Leon Panetta’s point man on India, charged with cutting through red tape in Washington and New Delhi and facilitating joint development and production. Like Panetta, Antony has a competent deputy, MM Pallam Raju, who could join hands with Carter to channel defence high technology to India.

But Antony, as many know, opposes the US on a dual count: ideology and inertia. His left-of-centre political roots in Kerala predispose him to maintain distance from capitalist America. At the personal level, his aversion to decision-making kicks in with double strength when the proposed decision is contested. In this case it involves a strategic relationship with a country that has confronted India during the Cold War, socked us with technology sanctions, and played ball with Pakistan and, hell, China.

But there is also a counter argument since a defence relationship with the US offers incontestable advantages. These include weaning our military off its crippling reliance on Russia and a dubious dependency on Israel. Can there be a more equal relationship with Washington? That would involve mastering the US technology control regime, a legislative maze seemingly custom-designed to provide employment to an army of lawyers and bureaucrats in the US capital. For most of India’s strategic elites, navigating their way around these regulations is too cumbersome. And so they prefer to air grievances, castigating America for denying us technology.

A common complaint in India is: “The Americans want to sell us weaponry, but not to part with technology.” This is now being challenged by US officials as senior as Leon Panetta and Ashton Carter, who insist that the US is willing to partner India in the joint development of high-tech weaponry. What, then, does it take for Washington and India to become security partners? It is important to understand the mechanics.

All US-India policy discussion on defence technology is conducted through the Joint Technology Group (JTG), which functions under the apex Defence Policy Group (DPG). The Indian side of the JTG consists of the Defence R&D Organisation, or the DRDO. On the US side is the OUD (A,T & L), the cumbersome acronym for the Office of Undersecretary of Defence for Acquisitions, Technology & Logistics. Unlike the DRDO, whose discussion team consists mainly of scientists, the OUD (A,T & L) brings to the table a formidable combination of managers, lawyers and scientists.

While the JTG handles policy, the DRDO processes any joint R&D proposals with its three counterpart laboratories in the US Department of Defence (DoD): the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL); Naval Research Laboratory (NRL); and Army Research Laboratory (ARL). But the crucial factor on the US side is funding. An American laboratory can only pursue an R&D proposal if one of the US armed forces --- the US Air Force, US Navy, US Army or Marine Corps --- is willing to fund the project. In India, the DRDO is pre-allocated funding through the defence budget.

This could also be done on a government-to-government (G2G) basis. If a DRDO laboratory wants to adopt the G2G route for a joint project with a US laboratory to develop state-of-the-art underwater sonar, the proposal would be mooted through the JTG. The JTG would allocate the project to a suitable US agency, which would then have to persuade the US Navy to fund their share of the development cost.

This means that the US military must see some practical utility in financially sponsoring joint R&D. With Antony bent on keeping the US military at arm’s length, and unwilling to sign even a Logistical Support Agreement for fear of being sucked into America’s wars, the American military has little reason to perceive their Indian counterparts as friends who deserve technological support.

If there is likelihood of early change, it is in the maritime domain where America’s “rebalance to the Asia-Pacific” seems likely to boost interaction between the two navies. Meanwhile Washington has undertaken a major review --- called the Export Control Reform Initiative --- of its export control system. There is consensus that the current system is “confusing, rigid, and controls too many items for the wrong reasons”, to quote Ashton Carter. Washington’s export control horizon is set to change and India must prepare to benefit from these changes.

Burdened defence shipyards embrace private sector

A view of Mazagon Dock's modular yard in which it will build four frigates under Project 17-A 

By Ajai Shukla
Mazagon Dock, Mumbai
Business Standard, 23rd July 12

On Sunday, a day after handing over a brand new stealth frigate, INS Sahyadri, to the Indian Navy, Mumbai-based warship builder Mazagon Dock Ltd (MDL) has announced the formation of two joint venture companies, which would help it liquidate an order book that is too large for it to handle on its own.

A press release from the company today says that MDL “has signed Share Holder Agreements (SHA) for setting up Joint Venture (JV) with private shipyards - M/s Pipavav Defence & Offshore Engineering Co. Ltd. (PDOECL), Mumbai, and M/s Larsen & Toubro, for construction of surface warships and conventional submarines respectively.”

The release says that the JVs “will leverage the strengths of the respective JV partners in the public and private sectors to work out a collaborative strategy for taking the nation towards self sufficiency in warship construction.”

The release also specifies that MDL may explore additional JVs “with other leading shipbuilders” for “diversifying its product profile.”

MDL’s order book would be the envy of any warship builder. Under construction in MDL’s berths are three destroyers of Project 15A --- INS Kolkata, Kochi and Chennai --- which would begin joining the navy’s fleet early next year. Also on order are four more destroyers of Project 15B, which will be followed soon by four stealth frigates of the so-called Project 17A.

Meanwhile, in its highly secured East Yard, MDL is fabricating six Scorpene submarines, all of which are scheduled (after three years of delay) to join the navy between 2015 and 2018. Also looming on the horizon is Project 75I, which involves building six more conventional submarines in parallel with Project 75.

But India’s premier defence shipyard has neither the space nor the manpower to handle this workload. And so MDL wants to farm out work to the private sector, capitalising on newly created warship building capacities in shipyards built by Pipavav and L&T.

“We will synergise our capabilities with the infrastructure and expertise in the private sector. MDL began identifying a suitable JV partner last year. Some major players were dissatisfied with the process (protests from shipyards last year led the MoD to cancel MDL’s announced JV with Pipavav, and to issue guidelines for forming JVs in February). We restarted the process, following the MoD’s guidelines… and our team has now identified L&T as a partner for submarine building, and Pipavav for surface ships,” says MDL’s chairman, Rear Admiral (Retired) Rahul Kumar Shrawat. 

MoD sources tell Business Standard that another defence shipyard, Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers, Kolkata (GRSE), is also exploring JVs with the private sector. GRSE is full to capacity with building four anti-submarine corvettes in Project 28. It will also built three stealth frigates (in cooperation with MDL) in Project 17A.

Observers of India’s shipbuilding programmes regard this shift of production to the private sector as inevitable. The Indian Navy, the fastest growing of the three services, has a growing requirement of warships as South Block pays increased attention to India’s maritime interests, a focus that is intensified by Washington’s “pivot to Asia” and China’s growing assertiveness in the Western Pacific. In line with this trend, several private shipyards --- including L&T, Pipavav and ABG --- have built capabilities.
But L&T, with its proud engineering pedigree and its accomplishment in the Arihant programme, hardly regards itself as a junior partner to MDL. L&T has long coveted the long-delayed Project 75I, which involves building six more conventional submarines for the navy in parallel with the Scorpenes. Says MV Kotwal, who oversees L&T’s defence business: “The JV can assist MDL with its current orders, but L&T is not foreclosing its options to pursue submarine orders independently. The MoD knows that India has two independent entities that are capable of building submarines: MDL and L&T.”

L&T also challenges the navy’s insistence on building the first two submarines of Project 75I abroad, with the next four being built in India. “L&T has invested heavily in skills and capital and the government must realize that the navy’s requirements can be met in this country. So the MoD should drastically cut down on importing naval platforms.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

INS Sahyadri adds teeth to “blue water” navy

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 22nd July 12

In the salty sea breeze of an overcast Mumbai monsoon day, the country’s latest warship, the INS Sahyadri, joined the Indian Navy today. The tricolour and the naval ensign were hoisted, the national anthem played, and Defence Minister AK Antony formally commissioned the bristling 5,600-tonne warship, urging the crew to “promote peace and stability in the Indian Ocean Region.”

In fact the INS Sahyadri, like frontline battleships through the ages, is less about “peace and stability” than about projecting Indian combat power. A muscular addition to India’s ongoing naval build up, the Sahyadri is the Indian Navy’s 134th ship. Another 46 vessels are under construction, 43 of these in India including three 6,800 tonne destroyers under Project 15A; four similar warships under Project 15B; four 2,500 tonne corvettes under Project 28; and six Scorpene submarines under Project 75. Meanwhile three warships are being built in Russia: the aircraft carrier, INS Vikramaditya (formerly the Admiral Gorshkov); and two more stealth frigates slightly smaller than the Sahyadri.

Multirole frigates like the Sahyadri are essential for protecting the three aircraft carrier battle groups that India plans to deploy by the end of this decade. The aircraft carrier is a mobile air base that is floated to coastal flashpoints, from where fighter aircraft can be launched against even inland targets. But an aircraft carrier must be protected from enemy aircraft, submarines, and missiles and that is a key wartime task for frigates like the Sahyadri.

Naval sources say that each aircraft carrier is protected by at least 7 warships. Given that India plans to deploy three aircraft carriers by the end of this decade --- the INS Vikramaditya and two indigenous carriers built by Cochin Shipyard --- frigates like the Sahyadri are badly needed.

The Sahyadri is the third and final frigate of Project 17, Mazagon Dock Limited’s (MDL’s) now completed line of three stealth frigates. Preceding the Sahyadri were INS Shivalik in 2010, and INS Satpura in 2011.

Project 17 will be followed by Project 17A, in which MDL and Kolkata-based Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers will construct 7 stealth frigates even more advanced than their predecessors.

The Sahyadri, a 142 metre-long arsenal of radar-controlled missiles and guns, moves swiftly for such a massive vessel. Two French Pielstick diesel engines power the warship during normal running. When a burst of speed is required, for example during battle, two General Electric (GE) gas turbines kick in, propelling the frigate at over 30 knots (over 55 kmph).

Controversy has surrounded the GE gas turbines --- the formidable LM 2500 --- that the navy is installing in several warships, including the indigenous aircraft carrier (IAC) being built at Cochin Shipyard. In 2009, the INS Shivalik was delayed for months while Washington bickered over allowing a warship to use the LM 2500 turbine. Now the MoD’s proposal to build the LM 2500 in India is embroiled in protracted negotiations with Washington.

Fortunately the Sahyadri’s sensors and electronics are indigenous, important in an era where naval battle is a long-range, high-stakes video game. Warships no longer need to “close alongside” the enemy, raking him with cannon fire. Instead, an enemy is a blip on a radar, which is destroyed with the click of a cursor.

The Sahyadri’s fully integrated electronics, built by Bharat Electronics Ltd, make it easy to do that. Digital information from the systems and sensors --- e.g. engines, navigation devices, radars, weaponry, radio sets and control systems --- goes to multi-function displays over a backbone network called AISDN (ATM-based Integrated Services Digital Network).

Another network, the Computer-aided Action Information Organisation (CAIO), provides the Combat Centre with a complete electronic picture of the battlefield, including target information from the Sahyadri’s sensors and radars. This goes to the ship’s Executive Officer (XO), the weapons chief, who electronically assigns a weapon to destroy each target.

The Sahyadri draws her name from the 1600-km long range of mountains along the Western Ghats, which dominate the Arabian Sea through 250 forts built over the centuries by dynasties that ruled on the Deccan Plateau. The INS Sahyadri will exert its influence on a larger playfield extending from the Strait of Hormuz, India’s energy lifeline, through the Malacca Strait, to the South China Sea and the Western Pacific.


Anti-air defence            :            Radar-guided (Russian) Shtil missile system.

Point Defence                :            Two Barak-1 Vertical Launch Systems (VLS)
System Missile                            and Two AK-630 Rapid Fire Guns

Anti-surface                  :            Eight Russian Klub cruise missiles with a 
missiles                                           range of almost 300 km

Anti-submarine            :            RBU 6000 rocket launchers, total 24 barrels. Also,
                                                    two onboard helicopters, with sonars and torpedoes
Main gun                      :            OtoMelara 76 mm Super Rapid Gun Mount (SRGM)
                                                    manufactured at BHEL, Haridwar. This can engage
                                                    ground and aerial targets 15-20 km away

Friday, 20 July 2012

MoD snubs US proposal to increase defence trade

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 20th July 12

India’s defence ministry (MoD) has snubbed Washington’s gesture of appointing a top Pentagon official, Deputy Secretary of Defence Ashton Carter, to focus on boosting defence trade between the two countries. With the MoD unwilling to appoint an interlocutor for Carter, the ministry of external affairs (MEA) will discuss trade and licensing issues with Carter during his visit to New Delhi next week.

In June, while visiting India, US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta had announced that Carter would be the Pentagon’s point man on deepening defence trade with India. Carter’s brief, said Panetta, was to “cut through the bureaucratic red tape on both sides” in order to “make our defence trade more simple, responsive and effective.”

But the MoD remains unmoved. “Can you suggest someone who could be Ashton Carter’s interlocutor?” asks a senior bureaucrat impishly.

The MoD’s reluctance to engage Washington bilaterally is not new. In April, when Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs, Andrew Shapiro renewed the so-called “pol-mil dialogue” that has an overt military component, the MoD suggested that the MEA be the lead ministry for this dialogue.

And Defence Minister AK Antony’s reported wariness of the US is believed to have scuttled a Pentagon proposal to position an Indian Army officer with the US Central Command Headquarters (CENTCOM) in Hawaii, with a corresponding US officer cross-posted to New Delhi.

Contacted for comments, the MoD has not responded.

In Washington, as in the US Embassy in New Delhi, Antony is seen as overtly anti-American. Diplomatic dispatches from New Delhi, revealed by Wikileaks, convey a forcefully impression of Antony’s anti-US orientation.

This contrasts noticeably with the MEA’s relative enthusiasm for the US. There is supposed to be an interface between the two ministries: the MoD is authorized an MEA joint secretary, who works with the defence minister on diplomatic issues. But this post of Joint Secretary (Planning and International Cooperation), or JS (PIC), is currently occupied by an Indian Administrative Services (IAS) officer, Smita Nagaraj, a reputedly competent officer but with no diplomatic experience or training.

A top New Delhi official, holding the rank of cabinet minister, recently revealed while speaking to a closed-door New Delhi audience, that no MEA officer is willing to serve as JS (PIC) in the MoD because it is a three-year tenure, while MEA officers need to serve in India for only two years in between foreign postings.

But pressure is building from Washington. The influential US think tank, Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), in a report that mirrors the Pentagon’s viewpoint that arms sales to India are a key measure of the partnership, has recommended that the “United States and India should designate one official on each side whose portfolio prioritizes the promotion of bilateral defense trade.”

The CSIS report recommends 41 specific steps to kickstart the defence relationship. Besides the designation of official interlocutors on defence trade, some of the key recommendations include:

  • The US should seriously examine the prospect of greater co-production and co-development projects with India. While such projects run the risk of essential technologies being denied by Washington, the answer could lie in co-developing non-sensitive defence equipment that “need not initially delve into sensitive technologies that are difficult (for Washington) to release.” The Pentagon is already considering this. Defence Secretary Panetta had declared in New Delhi, “Over the long term, I am certain that we will transition our defence trade beyond the “buyer-seller” relationship to substantial co-production and, eventually, high-technology joint research and development.” 

  • Currently, discussions on defence trade and licensing are spread across a number of US and Indian agencies and ministries. These should be consolidated into a single forum that focuses exclusively on defence trade.

  • India should re-evaluate its insistence on offsets since the Indian private sector is still nascent and the Defence PSUs do not have the capacity to absorb the large offsets that are arising.

  • Raise the FDI cap on foreign investment into the defence sector to above 50% from the current 26%.

  • And finally, New Delhi needs to respond to the Indian media’s frequent “inaccuracies about U.S. policies and intentions.” It is important to put out an “accurate, coordinated and balanced message to India’s strategic community about the value of U.S.-India defense (sic) ties (to) help dispel misinformation and myths.”

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

The Indian Navy's second P8I Poseidon's inaugural flight

According to a Boeing press release, the second P8I Poseidon multi-mission maritime aircraft (MMA) has completed its first flight on 12th July. The aircraft (pictured here) took off from Renton Field, outside Seattle, Washington, at 3.29 p.m. and landed two hours and fourteen minutes later at Boeing Field in Seattle.

As visitors to this blog would know, the Poseidon is the latest long range maritime reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare aircraft that is being inducted simultaneously into the US and Indian Navies. Built on the Boeing Next-Generation 737-800 commercial platform, and equipped with the latest suite of maritime sensors and weapons, eight of these aircraft have been ordered by the Indian Navy. It is very likely that a follow-on order will be placed once the first eight are satisfactorily delivered and tried.

According to Boeing, the test flight was conducted by a Boeing team, which took the aircraft to an altitude of 41,000 feet and conducted airborne checks. Mission systems installation and checkout work on the aircraft will be conducted in the coming weeks.

Monday, 16 July 2012

China acknowledges Dalai Lama’s hold in Tibet

A historic photo taken during the young Dalai Lama's journey from Lhasa to the Indian border post of Khinzemane in Mar 1959

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 16th July 12

As resentment against the Communist Party’s iron yoke boils over in the Tibetan-inhabited areas of China, Beijing has begun admitting that the Dalai Lama’s hold runs deep in these areas.

This is a major policy shift. Since 1959, when the Dalai Lama escaped to political asylum in India, the Communist Party has insisted that the Tibetans are a happy lot. The communist apparatchiks have passed off growing public protests, like the 40 self-immolations by Tibetans in the last four years, as the work of a few malcontents, instigated from “foreign countries” by the “Dalai Clique”.

But, with the Communist Party’s 18th Party Congress looming, denial is no longer an option. Acknowledging the Dalai Lama’s widespread popularity, Party bosses in Tibet have slapped harsh restrictions on news, media and communications, ordering that the views of the exiled leaders views must be blocked from reaching Tibetans, particularly those living in rural Tibet.

A fortnight ago, the Communist Party Secretary of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), Chen Quanguo, urged officials to “make sure that the Central Party’s voices and images can be heard across 120 thousand square kilometres (of Tibet),” and that “no voices and images of enemy forces and Dalai clique can be heard and seen.” This call was published in an interview in the Communist Party’s official newspaper, Renming Wang on 27th June.

Tibetans face tightened controls on internet use, text messages, phone ownership, music publishing, and photocopying. Instead of independent news, Tibetans now get intensified political propaganda in villages, schools, and monasteries, and sharp restrictions on travel into the TAR.

Since Mar 12, controls have been tightened on travel from other provinces into the TAR. Additional restrictions on travel by foreigners to the TAR were introduced in May 2012 and again in early June.

An authoritative new report from Human Rights Watch traces the Communist Party’s shifting stance that acknowledges the Dalai Lama’s growing influence, especially in rural Tibet, where 85% of the population lives.

Until 2008, Chinese officials in Lhasa declared that Tibetans hardly supported the Dalai Lama. In 2001 an official survey purportedly found that 86% of Lhasa’s residents regarded the “Dalai as a separatist or a politician.” Wu Jilie, TAR’s deputy governor told foreign journalists, “the Dalai Lama has aroused the distrust and resolute opposition of the vast majority of people here (Reuters, 20th Aug 04).

According to Human Rights Watch, TAR’s Chairman said in 2007 that “the majority of Tibetan people do not want the Dalai Lama to return to the region” and that “his influence is very limited” (Xinhua, 20th Jun 07).

The first signs of change date back to 2010, when TAR’s governor, Padma Thrinley (Baima Chiling in Chinese) declared, “to say that the Dalai has no influence at all in Tibet is impossible… The Dalai Lama has some influence for sure” (reported in Ifeng News, 6th Nov 10). On Mar 12, Thrinley said, “Let’s face reality: the Dalai Lama and his followers do try to attract young Tibetans, but what we need to do is not to compete with them … Instead, the key is to improve people’s livelihood … the popularity of the government will depend on its work” (Xinhua, March 7, 2012). He admitted to a Chinese reporter that, “right now, the Dalai is indeed competing with us for the younger generations.”

Tibetan anger is simmering not just in TAR, but in the adjoining Tibetan-inhabited areas as well. TAR is merely the western half of the Tibetan plateau, home to half of China’s Tibetan population, i.e. 2.9 million out of 5.7 million officially recognised ethnic Tibetans. The other 2.8 million Tibetans live on the eastern part of the Tibetan plateau, in designated Tibetan Autonomous Prefectures (TAP), and Tibetan Autonomous Counties (TAC) within the four provinces of Qinghai, Sichuan, Gansu and Yunnan.

Chinese government statements that are directed towards non-Tibetan audiences still pretend that there is widespread Tibetan support for China’s policies. However, local articles in Tibetan areas increasingly describe the Dalai Lama as having widespread influence. Since late 2011, official speeches throughout Tibetan areas have referred repeatedly to campaigns directed at “the masses” or “the foundations,” rather than primarily at monks and nuns, indicating an attempt to change the thinking of rural Tibetans on a scale not seen since the beginning of the reform era in the 1980s.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Indian Army and DRDO co-operate to boost tank-killer Nag missile

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 15th July 12

The defence ministry’s (MoD’s) ambitious project to develop a world-class tank-killer missile has run into unanticipated trouble. But, encouragingly, instead of the customary blame game between the army and the development agency --- the Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO) --- there is cooperation and a joint effort to overcome the problem.

The problem with the DRDO’s anti-tank guided missile (ATGM), christened the Nag (Hindi for cobra), is its range. For most of the day and night, the Nag unerringly strikes its targets out to 4 kilometres, the range that the army demands. But in extreme heat, especially in summer afternoons in the desert, the missile cannot pick up targets beyond 2.5 kilometres. Once the temperature cools, the Nag’s seeker differentiates again between the target and surrounding objects (or ground clutter).

Dr Avinash Chander, the DRDO’s missile chief, told Business Standard, “Even in the worst conditions, the Nag is 100% accurate out to 2.5 kilometres. Except when the temperature is really high, it is also accurate at 4 kilometres. By the year-end, we will develop a seeker with higher resolution, which will be accurate at 4 kilometres in any conditions.”

The DRDO’s unusual frankness in admitting a problem has been matched by the army’s unusual helpfulness in working through it. The army has decided to buy 13 Nag carriers (NAMICA, being developed by BEL and L&T), and 443 Nag missiles in the current state. These will be deployed in areas like Punjab, where close-set villages, groves and electricity transmission cables seldom permit visibility beyond 2.5 kilometres. When the DRDO demonstrates improved performance with a better seeker, a larger order will follow.

“This is a top-class missile in every respect except for this problem. While we must have a range of 4 kilometres for the open desert, the reduced 2.5 kilometre range is acceptable for developed terrain like the Punjab. We will buy 13 Nag carriers and use these to familiarise ourselves with the system. And, in Phase II, we will order the 4 kilometre missile in bulk quantities,” says a top general who decides such contracts.

For the army, the delay is a disappointment. Indian infantry formations badly need a potent ATGM to handle Pakistani tank forces that now bristle with capable Ukrainian T-80 and Chinese T-85 tanks. As far back as 2010-11, the army had budgeted Rs 335 crore for the first batch of Nag missiles.

The DRDO, for whom this is a prestigious project, says that the Hyderabad-based laboratory, Research Centre Imarat (RCI), will soon develop a seeker that can work through the hottest desert temperatures. This will feature an improved Focal Plane Array (FPA), a detector on the missile tip that picks up the target’s infrared signal. Since the DRDO’s own FPA programme is still at an early stage, the Nag’s improved FPA will be supplied by French company, Sofradir. RCI will integrate Sofradir’s FPA into an improved Nag seeker.

A 3rd generation ATGM like the Nag is amongst the most complex land systems. Here’s how it works. The Nag missile pilots scan the battlefield for enemy tanks with thermal imaging telescopes, which pick up targets by day or night with equal facility. Having picking up an enemy tank, the Nag pilot locks the seeker onto it. Immediately, a digital snapshot of the target is taken, which serves as a reference image. As the Nag streaks towards the target, at 230 metres per second, the seeker takes repeated snapshots of the target; each one is compared with the previous image. The deviations are translated into corrections to the Nag’s control fins, which autonomously steer the missile onto the target. This is termed a “fire-and-forget” missile, relieving the pilot of the need to expose himself to enemy fire after launching the missile.

The world has just a handful of “fire-and-forget” missiles, such as the FGM-148 Javelin, built by American companies, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon; and the Spike, built by Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems. The Javelin and the Spike are lighter, “man-portable” missiles that can be carried by an infantry soldier; the Nag is a heavier and more powerful missile that operates from vehicles and helicopters.

But the Nag’s weight is turning out to be a problem. The army is unhappy that the missile has weighed in at 40 kilos, instead of the 30-35 kilos that the army had specified. This, senior officers say, makes reloading difficult. The DRDO has been asked to make the Nag lighter.

The DRDO, however, argues that weight should not be an issue since the Nag is carried on, and fired from, a vehicle, the NAMICA. Says Avinash Chander, “I don’t see why an extra 5 kg should be an issue. If the Nag were a man-portable, shoulder-fired missile, weight would be crucial. But we will bring the weight down gradually. The Mark II Nag will be about 35 kilos, and we will continue to reduce weight.

Acceptance of the Nag missile into service will conclude the DRDO’s long-delayed, but eventually successful, Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP). Initiated in 1983 by then DRDO boss, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, the IGMDP set out to develop five missiles: the Agni and Prithvi ballistic missiles; the Akash and Trishul anti-aircraft missiles; and the Nag ATGM. Only the Trishul will have failed to enter frontline military service.