Monday, 22 February 2016

Official video of the Tejas performing at the Bahrain International Air Show in January 2016

The video has been shot and edited by Manu Bahuguna of Manu is himself a former Indian Air Force pilot, a dashing polo player and now an accomplished photo-artist

Air force, DRDO, pleased with Tejas performance at Bahrain

The Tejas performs aerobatics right over the Bahrain Formula One track

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 22nd Feb 16

In a milestone for India’s Tejas light combat aircraft (LCA), two Tejas fighters travelled from India to performed aerobatics at the Bahrain International Air Show (BIAS-2016) from January 21-23. Business Standard has obtained the first official account of this first international outing, where the Tejas impressed global aerospace experts, taking an important first step towards export in the future.

This official account comes from the Indian Air Force (IAF), which is overseeing the flight test programme of the Tejas; and from the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), the Defence R&D Organisation body responsible for the Tejas programme.

The proposal for this outing was initiated by the Kingdom of Bahrain, which invited the defence ministry in September 2015 to display the Tejas in BIAS-2016. Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar quickly gave the go-ahead for the Tejas, and also the Embraer-mounted Airborne Early Warning System (AEWS), to travel to Bahrain.

It required a major organisational effort to get two Tejas fighters, three pilots and a fully equipped maintenance team from Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) to Bahrain. Only then could the Tejas display its “Made-for Bahrain” aerobatics, showcasing its performance in vertical climbs, tight turns, high-speed runs and slow flying ability.

The IAF detailed one of its giant C-17 Globemaster IIIs to transport the maintenance team and equipment to Bahrain. Two Tejas fighters flew three legs, over three days --- the first from Bangalore to Jamnagar, Gujarat (1,800 kilometres); the second to Muscat (1,200 km), and the final leg to Bahrain (850 km).

The Indian Navy supported the flight over the Arabian Sea. The pilots were provided sea survival training at the new Water Survival Training Facility at Kochi. During the flights between Jamnagar and Muscat, the navy kept one P8-I maritime aircraft airborne throughout, in case a rescue was needed.

Says Commodore (Retired) CD Balaji, who heads ADA: “The Bahraini authorities made us extremely welcome. Their minister for transportation personally came to the airport to receive the Tejas fighters when they flew in. The King of Bahrain came to our stall during the exhibition. We gifted him a model of the Tejas.”

Balaji confirms that the Pakistani light fighter, the JF-17 Thunder, was to come to Bahrain but pulled out at the last minute --- it has been speculated that the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) realised it would be overshadowed by the Tejas.

“We don’t know why Pakistan pulled out the JF-17. But, yes, it was scheduled to be at Bahrain. Its parking slot, which was next to ours, was eventually occupied by the Eurofighter”, says Balaji.

The Tejas’ flight displays went off flawlessly, with pilots from the National Flight Test Centre in Bangalore having put together a special “product demonstration” performance, which showcased for potential customers the operational performance that makes it a combat-worthy fighter --- such as the ability to climb quickly and turn tightly.

The IAF, which is traditionally measured in its evaluation of the Tejas, says the fighter’s “control harmony is comparable to the best in the world… The intuitive cockpit layout and highly reliable life support systems provide for comfort as well as excellent situational awareness.”

Authoritatively detailing the Tejas’ performance parameters, the IAF says: “The LCA has a very competitive and cotemporary operational envelope. It is capable of operations up to an altitude of 50,000 feet and a maximum speed of 1.6 Mach at [high] altitudes or 730 knots… at low levels. The aircraft [can turn at] +8G to -2.5G (which allows it to U-turn in 350 metres) in operationally clean configuration… or +6G to -2.5G with other external stores.”

The IAF sums up: “The LCA Mark 1 was designed as a worthy indigenous replacement to the MiG fleet that has been the backbone of the defence of our skies for several decades. It is a safe and contemporary design with a reliable and efficient engine and many modern features.  The aircraft is cockpit friendly, agile and easy to fly.  It is this capability that was displayed in the recently concluded Bahrain International Air Show… Serial production of the aircraft by HAL has started and it is expected that fighter will be operationally inducted by IAF in 2016." 

Saturday, 20 February 2016

F-16 supply to Pakistan a “down” in US-India relations: Parrikar

Pakistan on track to have five F-16s squadrons, more likely as Pakistan looks to buy from Europe

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 20th Feb 16

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has joined the chorus of protest at Washington’s announcement that it will sell Pakistan eight F-16 fighters for $699 million, in the fighter’s most potent configuration called Block 50/52.

On Thursday, speaking to interviewer Karan Thapar on India Today TV, Parrikar termed the sale a “down” in the US-India relationship, stating: “I’m quite hurt by that and we have expressed our feelings very clearly to America.”

This came a day after Phil Shaw, the India head of Lockheed Martin, the company that builds the F-16, offered at the Singapore Air Show to “build the F-16 aircraft in India [and] to move our production line from the US to India with an Indian partner to help with the ‘Make in India’ process.”

MoD sources say the US proposal to establish an F-16 production line in India has been dead for some time now. The Pakistan sale only hammers a final nail into that proposal’s coffin.

The origin of the latest sale goes back to 2006, when Washington signed a $1.4 billion deal to supply 18 Block 50/52 F-16C/D fighters to the Pakistan Air Force (PAF), an order that was delivered in 2010-11. That contract included an option for 18 more aircraft. The eight new F-16s, about which the US Congress was notified last Friday, are being supplied under that options clause.

The US Department of Defense (Pentagon) is reportedly paying almost half the cost as military aid. The Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports that, between 2002-2014, the US sold Pakistan military kit worth $5.4 billion under the Foreign Military Sales programme. About half consisted of F-16s and related equipment.

The CRS reports that, since 2001, the US Congress has allocated $3.6 billion in Foreign Military Financing (an aid category) for Pakistan. More than two-third of this has been disbursed already.

New Delhi is not hiding its anger at this US largesse. On Saturday, the day after the Congressional notification, India’s foreign ministry summoned US envoy, Richard Verma, to protest the sale.

The Pentagon has downplayed Indian concerns, indicating the F-16s were being supplied for counter-terrorist operations in Pakistan’s federally administered tribal areas (FATA). On Tuesday, Pentagon Press Secretary Petro Cook stated: “We think these are important capabilities for Pakistan to go after terrorists… We don’t think it should be a cause for concern for India.”

Air Vice Marshal Kapil Kak of the Centre for Air Power Studies, points out that such advanced fighters are not needed for striking terrorist targets. “When I last looked, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan didn’t have an air force! The war on terror does not require air-to-air missiles, airborne radar, and digital avionics,” says Kak.

Aviation expert, Pushpindar Singh, points out that the US is supplying the Embraer A-29 Super Tucano to the Afghanistan air force. “In those narrow valleys, ground strikes against terrorist are best delivered by the propeller-driven A-29 Super Tucano, which has armour protection and can even deliver laser guided bombs. The Block 50/52 F-16C/D is primarily for use against a modern air force like India’s”, he says.

India is not alone in protesting the latest F-16 sale. Influential Republican senator, Bob Corker, who heads the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has indicated he will, in the least, oppose the US subsidy on the sale.

US assistance has raised Pakistan’s F-16 numbers from two squadrons (40 aircraft) of earlier-generation F-16A/B fighters to four state-of-the-art squadrons that are a match for anything the Indian Air Force (IAF) can throw at them.

The most potent are the 18 Block 50/52 F-16C/Ds that Pakistan obtained in 2010-11, which are based in in PAF Base Shahbaz, outside Jacobabad, forming the PAF’s No. 5 Squadron. Along with these, the US supplied the AMRAAM (advanced medium range air-to-air missile), which can target enemy fighters “beyond visual range” (BVR). This was the first time the PAF obtained BVR missiles, obliging the IAF to transform their air-to-air combat tactics.

That contract also provided the PAF with JDAMs (joint direct attack munitions), which convert regular gravity bombs into “smart munitions”. A JDAM kit bolted onto a dumb bomb, guides it with pin-point precision to a target 28 kilometres away, using “inertial guidance” and a Global Positioning System receiver. With air-to-air refuelling, these F-16s can strike Indian targets near Mumbai and further south.

The eight new F-16s would come with all this weaponry, as would the 10 additional fighters on which Pakistan could exercise “options” to make up a full new squadron. Like No.5 Squadron, the new squadron too will most likely be based at Jacobabad, since the US has imposed stringent conditions on where Pakistan can base F-16s.

Wikileaks made public a cable (No. 113106/1201 dated June 22nd, 2007) that the US Embassy in Islamabad sent to Washington, revealing US conditions for basing and operating the new F-16s. It says: “The F-16… must be housed on separate, pre-designated Pakistan Air Force bases to ensure no unauthorized access. Furthermore, Pakistan may not have non-U.S./non-Pakistan origin aircraft or personnel at any of the bases with these F-16 aircraft and related equipment.”

Further, to keep Chinese technicians and pilots away from the F-16s, “No foreign units or personnel may be permanently or temporarily assigned at the bases where F-16 aircraft are assigned, parked, maintained or stored, or while deployed.”

Besides Jacobabad, Pakistan bases three squadrons of its older F-16A/B fighters --- Nos 9, 11 and 19 Squadrons --- at Sargodha, in PAF Base Mushaf. The first two operate 34 Block 15 F-16A/B fighters, which are what remains of the first 40 F-16s that Pakistan acquired in the 1980s. As part of the 2006 contract, the US provided mid-life upgrade (MLU) kits for these fighters, greatly improving their capability, though not to the level of the Block 50/52 F-16s.

No 19 Squadron has been equipped from 26 older (but upgraded) Block 15 F-16s that the US supplied at throwaway rates, in the category of “Excess Defence Articles” that the US military no longer required.

Pakistan also bought 12-13 Block 15 F-16s from Jordan. Now upgraded, these are used for training PAF pilots in establishments like the Combat Commander’s School.

Pushpindar Singh says Pakistan is also looking for old-model F-16s from European air forces --- such as Belgium, Denmark, Netherlands, Norway, Greece and Italy --- which are being replaced by new fighters like the Eurofighter Typhoon and the F-35 Lightning II. “These can be upgraded cheaply with US-supplied kits, to replace the PAF’s obsolescent Mirage III, Mirage V and F-7 fighters that are nearing retirement”, says Singh.

Wikileaks revealed a cable sent by an exasperated US embassy official in Islamabad that noted: “The Pakistan Air Force is obsessed with F-16s… The request for used F-16s represents the GOP’s (government of Pakistan’s) desire to acquire aircraft at an extreme discount.” 

Friday, 19 February 2016

No Rafale deal unless price is right: Parrikar

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 19th Feb 16

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar bluntly stated on Thursday that negotiations for buying 36 Rafale fighters from French aerospace vendor, Dassault, were deadlocked on the issue of price, and that no deal would be signed until the price was right.

Well-informed defence ministry sources that are close to the negotiation say there is a wide gulf between the two sides. “The difference between what France is demanding and what India is willing to pay is too large to bridge easily --- about 25 per cent.”

Business Standard understands that Dassault has quoted about Euro 12 billion (Rs 91,548 crore), while Indian negotiators are refusing to go above Euro 9 billion (Rs 68,499 crore).

Parrikar told India Today TV: “Price is the problem which has to be resolved. Unless I get the right price, I cannot sign.”

Debunking recent media articles that a deal was imminent, most recently in Hindustan Times on February 11, Parrikar said ironing out the remaining issues would take “a few months”.

Pressed on the question of time-frame, Parrikar responded: “You can’t commit yourself to a time, because this is not a negotiation for a few hundred crores. This is thousands of crores. I should not… put a time line on my price negotiation.”

On January 25, during his visit to Delhi, French President Francois Hollande declared after signing an inter-governmental agreement for the supply of 36 Rafales, “There are some financial issues that will be sorted out in a couple of days…” It now appears he may have been speaking figuratively.

On January 27, French ambassador to New Delhi, Francois Richier, put a deadline of four months for the price to be negotiated.

Today, Parrikar also confirmed that India had demanded offsets worth 50 per cent of the deal value, and that Dassault had agreed to that condition.

“We have resolved all the other issues. There were terms of guarantees, there were terms of supply, there were terms of how it will be done”, said Parrikar.

The defence minister denied that the window was open for buying more Rafale fighters, beyond the 36 being currently negotiated. “As of now, the negotiation is for 36 (fighters). There are many possibilities, but this deal is for 36”, he said.

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on a visit to Paris last April, requested for 36 Rafales, New Delhi and had Paris agreed the price would be less than what Dassault had quoted in response to the Indian tender of 2007 for 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA). Of those 126 fighters, the first 18 were to be supplied in “flyaway condition”, i.e. fully built. Since 36 Rafales are now being bought in “flyaway condition”, their per-piece price must be lower than what Dassault quoted for those 18 fighters.

The Indian Air Force had chosen the Rafale on January 31, 2012, in India’s tender for 126 MMRCA aircraft. However, in protracted price negotiations that followed, the defence ministry found problems in Dassault’s financial bid. Eventually, Modi chose to abandon the MMRCA tender, and instead buy 36 Rafales over-the-counter.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

US offers M777 ultralight guns, Mahindra to build in India

BAE Systems to start delivery in six months, $750 million for 145 guns

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 18th Feb 16

On Monday, the United States Department of Defense (Pentagon) delivered to the defence ministry a Letter of Acceptance (LoA), agreeing to supply 145 M777 ultra lightweight howitzers to India. Valid for 180 days, the LoA spells out the contract price, terms of supply and options available.

Sources close to the sale tell Business Standard the asking price for 145 guns is about $750 million (Rs 5,000 crore). The vendor, BAE Systems, will supply the first batch of 155-millimetre, 39-calibre howitzers within six months of signing the contract. The remaining guns would progressively be built in India.

In August 2013, the Pentagon had notified the US Congress that it was raising the maximum price of the sale to India from US $647 million, which had been notified in Jan 2010, to $885 million. However, BAE Systems officials clarify that this represented a maximum ceiling price, and the actual sale price would be significantly lower.

On Wednesday, BAE Systems named the Mahindra Group as its Indian partner for assembling imported M777 kits into fully built guns. BAE Systems has so far assembled the M777 in Hattiesburg, USA. With that line now shuttered, Mahindra will build the guns in an “Assembly, Integration and Test (AIT) facility”, using components shipped to India from BAE Systems facilities in the UK.

“BAE Systems is pleased to partner with Mahindra on our offer to develop an Assembly, Integration and Test facility in India. The facility is a fundamental part of the M777 production line,”said BAE Systems on Wednesday.

According to BAE Systems officials, the Pentagon has drawn up the LoA in close consultation with the customer, i.e. the Indian government. That would suggest the bulk of the negotiation has been completed.

Last May, after years of negotiations, the defence ministry cleared the purchase of 145 M777s for Rs 2,900 crore. The union cabinet must now clear the sale at the new price of Rs 5,000 crore.

Over the last three years, negotiations had apparently stalled, with successive defence ministers, AK Antony and Arun Jaitley, informing parliament that the cost was too high, and BAE Systems’ offset proposal was inadequate.

That impasse was broken last year when BAE Systems offered to assemble, integrate and test the M-777 in India. This brings the offer in conformity with the “Make in India” initiative. BAE Systems has also submitted a fresh offsets proposal.

BAE Systems pointed out on Wednesday: “A domestic Assembly, Integration and Test facility will enable the Indian Army to access maintenance, spares and support for the M777 locally.”

The M777, which has seen extensive operational service with the US military in Afghanistan, is being acquired to support Indian army operations on the rugged Himalayan borders with China and Pakistan. Built of titanium components and weighing just 4 tonnes (compared to 10-tonne conventional 155-millimetre guns), it can be air-lifted to high altitude deployment areas by helicopters like the CH-47E Chinook, which India is buying separately. The gun can also be towed more easily on narrow, twisty mountain roads.

The initial order for 145 guns could rise significantly once the M777 starts being built in India. This would equip just 6-7 artillery regiments, while the army actually needs new artillery for 50-plus artillery regiments in 16 mountain divisions.

“If India can offer a consolidated order for the 1,000-odd guns needed for 50 regiments, BAE Systems could be induced to offer far higher indigenisation”, says a senior artillery officer.

India’s 220-odd artillery regiments have received no new artillery since the 1980s, when it bought 400 FH-77B, 155 mm/39 calibre Bofors guns. An indigenous effort by the Ordnance Factory Board to develop a 155 mm/45 calibre gun is proceeding slowly, with a gun barrel bursting during trial firing in 2013. Simultaneously, the Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO) is developing a 155 mm/52 calibre artillery gun in partnership with the private sector.

India has pursued the M77 procurement through the Pentagon, under the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) programme. This involves the Pentagon negotiating terms with the vendor (BAE Systems), and signing the deal as a government-to-government contract. 

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Defence budget must reflect reality

The military, like a child kept hungry for years, no longer dares to ask for the budget it really needs

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 16th Feb 16

Since October the military has been negotiating with the defence and finance ministries to finalise financial allocations for the coming financial year, 2016-17. Unfailingly unimaginative, the military’s various departments have taken the current year’s allocations, upped them by five to 10 per cent and projected that as next year’s requirements. As usual, the finance ministry has arbitrarily cut those requests. Like always, when revised estimates are prepared at the end of the year, the capital allocation (for equipment modernisation) will be slashed further since revenue expenditure, particularly salaries, must be paid on priority. Year after year the military ends up spending money quite differently from what had been allocated.

Every military financial planner admits the services are consistently under-budget in both the revenue and capital heads. Weaponry sanctioned under the 15-year Long Term Integrated Perspective Plan requires significantly higher capital allocations. Yet, like a child that has been consistently underfed for years, the military no longer dares to ask for a full meal. To stretch this analogy further, were the military to be given that full meal, it would probably be incapable of digesting it. Yet, if only as an academic exercise, it is worth reflecting on what a realistic allocation might be for the military.

Projected Budget for 2016-17

2014-15 (BE)
2014-15 (RE)
2015-16 (BE)
2016-17 (projected)

Revenue budget

Salary payroll
Other revenue expenditure
67761 **
Total Revenue allocation

Capital budget

Defence R&D Org
Other heads
Total Capital allocation

Total budget allocation

Total government spending

Gross domestic production

% of total spending

% of GDP

*    Estimating salary increase of 20 per cent across the board

**  Non-salary expenditure increase of 15 per cent

@  Estimated govt spending rise 6 per cent, against 5.5 per cent in 2015-16

#    Estimated GDP rise by 7.5 per cent, against 11.5 per cent in 2015-16

In the revenue head the payroll is growing, with the government bound to accept most recommendations of the 7th Central Pay Commission. A modest increase of 20 per cent over the current year’s salary allocation and a 15 per cent increase on non-salary spending would boost the revenue allocation to Rs 1,79,621 crore ($26.6 billion).

The capital budget would grow even more. The army, while a relatively low-tech, manpower-intensive service, badly needs new equipment --- including artillery, air defence missiles, new-generation personal weapons and battlefield communication systems. Equipment worth Rs 1,81,450 crore ($26.9 billion) is already sanctioned. Assuming these contracts divide payment into ten equal annual instalments, this year requires Rs 18,145 crore over and above the Rs 21,574 crore committed last year, which would cover liabilities committed earlier. That would take up the army’s capital allocation to Rs 39,713 crore ($5.9 billion).

Army acquisitions
Cost (Rs  crore)  

Artillery gun procurements (sanctioned)
2 regiments Pinaka rocket launchers
Short and medium range surface-to-air missiles
Short range surface-to-air missiles
Tactical Communications System (Make project)
Battlefield Management System (Make project)
Rifles, carbines, machine guns and sights
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles
Total new army acquisitions

Urgent naval procurements include submarines, stealth frigates, logistic support vessels, anti-submarine and counter-mine vessels and, most crucially, ship-borne helicopters. This adds up to Rs 2,96,800 crore ($44 billion), of which one-tenth must be provisioned for in this budget. Catering for committed liabilities, the navy’s capital allocation must rise to Rs 53,591 crore ($8 billion).

Navy acquisitions
Cost (Rs crore) 

Six conventional submarines (Project 75 I)
Lease of second nuclear sub from Russia
Seven stealth frigates (Project 17A)
Six fleet support ships
150 naval utility helicopters
139 naval multi-role helicopters
4 Boeing P8-I maritime aircraft
4-6 landing platform docks
24 mine counter measure vessels
2 midget submarines for special operations
Refit of 10 submarines
16 anti-sub shallow water craft
Total new Navy acquisitions

The air force, which traditionally receives the highest capital allocation, is looking to conclude contracts for the (vastly overpriced) Rafale fighter, extending the Jaguar fighter’s service life, and a range of helicopters. Contracts worth Rs 1,72,600 crore ($25.5 billion) require urgent conclusion, with Rs 17,260 crore payable this year. That takes the air force’s capital allocation to Rs 48,741 crore ($7.2 billion).

Air Force acquisitions
Cost (Rs crore) 

36 Rafale medium fighter
125 Jaguar re-engining and upgrade
Indo-Russian fifth generation fighter
56 Avro aircraft replacement aircraft
20 Hawk advanced jet trainers
22 Apache AH-64E attack helicopters
15 Chinook CH-47F heavy lift helicopters
384 Light Utility Helicopters (LuH)
Surface-to-air missiles
Total new Air Force acquisitions

Acquisitions (all services)

All this would take the capital allocation to Rs 1,63,561 crore ($24.2 billion), slightly less than the revenue allocation. That would boost the defence budget by almost 40 per cent from the current Rs 2,46,727 crore ($36.5 billion), to Rs 3,43,182 crore ($50.8 billion). As a share of government spending, defence would rise from 13.85 to 18.25 per cent; and from 1.75 to 2.25 per cent of the gross national product (GDP).

Can India spend 2.25 per cent of GDP on defence, given the government’s fiscal deficit targets, and the pressing need to boost spending on healthcare, education and food for the poor? That is a political call. India’s on-going border disputes with China and Pakistan, several long-running insurgencies, and the army’s frequent employment on natural disasters require high preparedness. If the government decides it cannot spend more on defence than it already does, national strategy and the military’s tasking must reflect the realities of our pocket.