Monday, 30 December 2019

Retiring army chief, General Bipin Rawat to be India’s first tri-service chief

To serve six years as four-star general, will have opportunity to push through defence reforms

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 31st Dec 19

Army chief, General Bipin Rawat, who was due to retire on Tuesday after serving three years as Chief of Army Staff (COAS), will now assume charge on Wednesday as India’s first Chief of Defence Staff (CDS).

On Monday evening, the day before Rawat’s retirement, the defence ministry announced: “Government has decided to appoint General Bipin Rawat as the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) with effect from 31.12.2019 and until further orders and extension in service of Rawat.”

With Rawat elevated to the post of CDS, Lieutenant Gen Manoj Mukund Naravane will take over as COAS on Tuesday.

Last Tuesday, the government had approved the post of CDS “in the rank of a four-star general with salary and perquisites equivalent to a service chief.”

On Saturday, the government amended the Army Rules, 1954, allowing “extension of service to the Chief of Defence Staff… subject to maximum age of 65 years.”

In the normal course, Rawat was due to retire on 31 March, on reaching the age of 62 years. Saturday’s notification will allow him to serve as CDS for three years and three months, until he turns 65 in March 2023.

Having already completed three years as army chief, Rawat’s elevation to CDS for another three years plus will make him India’s longest-serving four-star commander, with the most opportunity to transform the military into a high-tech, modern force.

Over the last two years, Rawat has already initiated reforms within the army, directed towards reducing manpower in order to save money for equipment modernisation. As CDS, his ambit will expand to include restructuring the army’s, navy’s and air force’s 17 single-service command headquarters into a smaller number of integrated, tri-service commands.

As CDS, Rawat will wear two hats: He will head the military hierarchy as “Permanent Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee” (PC-COSC). The COSC includes the chiefs of the three services – army, navy and air force. As permanent chairman, the CDS will be the first amongst this body of equals – primus inter pares.

Rawat’s second and more consequential role will be in the Ministry of Defence (MoD), where he will head the newly created “Department of Military Affairs” (DMA), with the rank of secretary. 

The MoD already has five secretaries – heading the departments of defence (DoD), defence procurement (DDP), defence research and development (Defence R&D), ex-servicemen’s welfare (DESW) and defence finance (DDF). While the heads of each of these departments carries secretary rank, the defence secretary, as head of the DoD, has traditionally been the primus inter pares.

Creating a DMA will require the MoD to restructure responsibilities within the ministry, transferring from the DoD to the DMA matters dealing with the army, navy, air force, territorial army and the integrated defence staff (IDS) headquarters. 

The DMA will also be responsible for procurement from the revenue budget, while procurement from the capital budget remains under the DoD. However, the CDS would control inter-service prioritisation of procurement from his perch as PC-COSC.

Implementing these changes will require substantial modifications to the Allocation of Business Rules, says a senior retired MoD official.

While a mix of military officers and civil bureaucrats would probably man the DMA, it remains unclear whether military officers would also be inducted into the DoD to imbue it with greater military expertise.

The government has stated the “CDS will not exercise any military command, including over the three Service Chiefs,” but a former defence secretary believes that, the DMA oversight and control of the military’s promotions, postings and foreign assignments and travel, will give the CDS – as secretary of DMA – enormous clout over the military.

The CDS will also have a significant role in higher defence planning and operational aspects of India’s nuclear arsenal.

“CDS will be member of Defence Acquisition Council chaired by RM and Defence Planning Committee, chaired by National Security Advisor. [He will also] function as the Military Adviser to the Nuclear Command Authority,” stated the notification.

Thursday, 26 December 2019

Army chief slams leaders of Citizenship Act protests, opposition decries “politicisation”

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 26th Dec 19

Army chief, General Bipin Rawat, who will retire on December 31 unless the government elevates him to the newly-created post of “chief of defence staff”, has drawn charges of political partisanship by criticising student leaders involved in protests against the new Citizenship (Amendment) Act, or (CAA).

Addressing a gathering in New Delhi, he said: “Leaders are those who lead people in the right direction. Leaders are not those who lead people in inappropriate directions, as we are witnessing in a large number of university and college students, the way they are leading in masses of crowds to carry out arson and violence in our cities and towns. This is not leadership.”

The opposition parties have stepped up the attack, accusing Rawat of violating both regulations and tradition. The army’s basic rulebook, titled Army Rules, explicitly disallows all army personnel from commenting on any “political question” without government sanction.

Army Rule 21, which is headed “Communications to the Press, Lectures, etc”, states: “No person subject to the (Army) Act shall (i) publish in any form whatever or communicate directly or indirectly to the Press any matter in relation to a political question or on a service subject or containing any service information, or publish or cause to be published any book or letter or article or other document on such question or matter or containing such information without the prior sanction of the Central Government, or any officer specified by the Central Government in this behalf.”

The same rule debars army personnel from “Deliver[ing] a lecture or wireless address, on a matter relating to a political question or on a service subject or containing any information or views on any service subject without the prior sanction of the Central Government or any officer specified by the Central Government in this behalf.”

Asked whether the Army Chief had obtained “prior sanction of the Central Government”, required under Army Rule 21 to air views on a political question, the army’s public relations chief, Major General DP Pandey confirmed that Rawat had not obtained government sanction.

“The army chief was not speaking on a political issue. He spoke on the issue of leadership. He does not require government permission for this,” stated Pandey.

The opposition has escalated the attack. 

“Since when have Army Chief’s started commenting about internal affairs .It undermines Civil-Military Relations whose cornerstone is that Armed Forces neither comment or interfere in domestic politics. This has been our singular success going back to 1947,” tweeted Congress Party leader, Manish Tewari.

"Leadership is knowing the limits of one's office. It is about understanding the idea [of] civilian supremacy and preserving the integrity of the institution that you head," tweeted Asaduddin Owaisi, chief of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM).

While Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) members are defending Rawat’s right to speak as a citizen, both the Army Act, 1950 and the Army Rules explicitly curtail the freedom of expression that the Constitution guarantees to all other Indian citizens.

Army Act Section 21 endows the central government with “Power to modify certain fundamental rights” for persons subject to the Act. Meanwhile, Note 2 to Army Rule 19 states that the freedom of speech and expression guaranteed to citizens under the Constitution’s Article 19(1)(a) and (b) are denied to army personnel “because of the nature of duties performed by the members of the regular Army and for the maintenance of discipline among them.”

Rawat’s statement on the CAA protests are not the first by a senior army general. On December 14, the chief of the army’s Kolkata-headquartered Eastern Command, Lieutenant General Anil Chauhan had pubicly stated: “The current (BJP) government is keen on taking hard decisions that have been pending for a long time… The Citizenship Amendment Bill was passed despite reservations from a couple of northeastern states. It would not be hard to guess that some hard decisions on Left-wing extremism may be on the anvil after this.”

Last MiG-27 fighters retire on Friday, IAF down to 28 squadrons

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 26th Dec 19

The Indian Air Force (IAF) will have a moment of history in Jodhpur on Friday, when the last of its MiG-27 fighters fly into the sunset. Starting in 1985, the IAF has flown 165 MiG-27 fighters, built under licence by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL).

With this, the last MiG-27 squadron -- Number 29 Squadron, which calls itself the Scorpions – will be “numberplated”, or placed in suspended animation until it can be re-operationalised with new aircraft and manpower.

This will reduce the IAF’s combat strength to 28 fighter squadrons, just two-thirds of the 42 squadrons it is authorised to fight a two-front war against Pakistan and China together.

Worse, the IAF’s 28 squadrons operate six different types of fighters. These include 11 squadrons of Sukhoi-30MKI, three squadrons of Mirage 2000, six Jaguar squadrons, three MiG-29UPG squadrons, one squadron of indigenous Tejas Mark 1 fighters and four obsolete MiG-21 squadrons.

The MiG-21s would retire by 2022-23. By then, the IAF plans to induct five new squadrons: One squadron of Tejas Mark 1, two of the Rafale and at least two more of Sukhoi-30MKIs. In addition, the IAF is negotiating to buy another MiG-29 squadron in flyaway condition from Russia.

The MiG-27, like the Jaguar, has provided the IAF with ground strike capability. Both aircraft can accurately deliver four-to-five tonnes of bombs or rockets on to enemy ground targets by day or night. 

However, even after HAL upgraded 40 of the MiG-27 fighters with new avionics, it remains an outdated and unsafe fighter that has crashed in significant numbers. After December 27, the MiG-27 will be in operational service only with the Kazakh air force.

For decades, the Indian Air Force (IAF) was the biggest operator of MiGs (named after aircraft designers, Artem Mikoyan and Mikhail Gurevich) fighters outside the Soviet Union, and then Russia. Over the preceding decade, however, the growing numbers of Sukhoi-30MKI fighters has eclipsed the steadily dwindling MiG fleet.

India’s first MiG fighters were a batch of nine MiG-21s inducted in 1963-64 into Number 28 Squadron, which calls itself the “First Supersonics”. This squadron is now equipped with MiG-29UPG fighters. The IAF eventually flew more than a thousand MiG-21s, most of them built in HAL, Nashik.

The MiG-21 was followed by 160 MiG-23 fighters, which were bought ready built in the late 1970s in two variants – air superiority and ground strike. The last MiG-23s were retired in March 2009.

Soon after buying the MiG-23, the IAF inducted the MiG-27, with HAL building 165 fighters in Nashik. These share the MiG-23’s basic design and swing wings, but are optimised for ground strike missions, flown mostly at supersonic speeds at extremely low altitudes to evade detection by radar. The MiG-27 has a sloping nose to improve pilot visibility, a stronger undercarriage to allow for operations from rough airfields, and a sophisticated navigation-attack system. 

The most interesting aircraft from the MiG stable to serve in the IAF was the MiG-25 Foxbat, eight of which entered service in the early 1980s. One of the most high performance fighters ever built, its ability to fly at altitudes over 65,000 feet allowed it to repeatedly violate Pakistani air space with impunity. Capable of flying three times the speed of sound (or at Mach 3), Number 102 squadron, which operated the MiG-25, calls itself the “Trisonics”. The MiG-25 was retired in May 2006.

After the MiG-27s and MiG-21s retire, the only aircraft from that family that will remain in service will be the MiG-29. The IAF will continue to operate three squadrons of the upgraded MiG-29UPG, while pursuing the purchase of a fourth squadron that Russia has offered. Meanwhile, the navy will operate two squadrons of the MiG-29K/KUB off its aircraft carriers.

A more advanced variant of the MiG-29, called the MiG-35, is competing in the IAF’s ongoing tender for 114 medium fighters, worth at least $20 billion. It is in contention with the Sukhoi-35, Boeing’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Lockheed Martin’s F-21, Eurofighter Typhoon, Dassault Rafale and Saab Gripen E.

Tuesday, 24 December 2019

Govt creates tri-service chief, yet to announce first appointment

CDS will be first amongst equals with service chiefs, to assist in shift to tri-service theatre commands

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 25th Dec 19

More than 18 years after a Group of Ministers (GoM) recommended in 2001 that the government must appoint a tri-service commander to streamline higher management of defence, it was announced on Tuesday: “Government has approved to create the post of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) in the rank of a four star general with salary and perquisites equivalent to a service chief.”

The government has not announced the appointment of any individual as CDS. Army chief, General Bipin Rawat, who is tipped to be the first CDS, superannuates from service on December 31, having completed three years as chief of army staff (COAS).

On August 15, in his Independence Day address, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced that “…after formation of this post (CDS), all the three forces will get effective leadership at the top level.”

However, the CDS that emerges from Tuesday’s detailed press note is not in command, or even in charge, of the three services – the army, navy and air force.

“CDS will not exercise any military command, including over the three service chiefs, so as to be able to provide impartial advice to the political leadership,” says the press statement.

Nor is the CDS the “single point advisor” to the government on military matters that the GoM envisioned in 2001. “He (CDS) will act as the Principal Military Adviser to Raksha Mantri (RM) on all tri-services matters. The three chiefs will continue to advise RM on matters exclusively concerning their respective services,” says the release.

The announcement places the CDS in a new branch in the ministry of defence (MoD). It states he will “head the Department of Military Affairs (DMA), to be created within the MoD and function as its Secretary.” 

Appointing the CDS to a “secretary” post is being seen as a creative bypass to the contentious question of the CDS’s precedence and seniority. The three service chiefs are currently senior to the defence secretary. Designating the CDS a “secretary”, on par with the defence secretary, amounts to a downgrade.

“The CDS, apart from being the head of the DMA, will also be the Permanent Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee” (PCCSC), stated the release, indicating that the government had adopted the recommendations of the Naresh Chandra Task Force that visualised the tri-service chief as only the first amongst equals (with the three service chiefs), rather than being a tri-service commander.

“CDS will be member of Defence Acquisition Council chaired by RM and Defence Planning Committee, chaired by National Security Advisor. [He will also] function as the Military Adviser to the Nuclear Command Authority,” stated the notification.

However, the most far-reaching and consequential job allocated to the CDS will be the restructuring of 17 single-service military commands, which currently operate independently, into tri-service commands that include all the army, navy and air force components needed for combat operations.

“[CDS will facilitate] restructuring of military commands for optimal utilisation of resources by bringing about jointness in operations, including through establishment of joint/theatre commands,” said the government release.

It remains unclear whether the tri-service combatant commanders, when they are functional, would report to the CDS or whether, as in the US, they would report, through the defence minister to the head of government.

For now, the CDS will only command the new cyber and space commands. “Tri-service agencies/organisations/commands related to cyber and space will be under the command of the CDS,” says the notification.

Intruigingly, there is no mention of who will oversee the existing, tri-service Andaman & Nicober Command (ANC).

Suggesting a large role for the CDS in force structuring and procurement planning, he is required to “Implement five-year defence capital acquisition plan (DCAP), and two-year roll-on Annual Acquisition Plans (AAP), as a follow up of Integrated Capability Development Plan (ICDP).”

Giving him the role of arbiter between the army, navy and air force in the annual tussle for budget allocations, the CDS is required to “Assign inter-services prioritisation to capital acquisition proposals based on the anticipated budget.”

In addition, the DMA is mandated to promote “jointness in procurement, training and staffing for the Services through joint planning and integration of their requirements [and] promoting use of indigenous equipment by the services.”

MoD invites high-tech start-ups to meet defence equipment challenges

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 24th Dec 19

At the fifth annual Army Technology Seminar (ARTECH 2019) in Delhi on Monday, the army invited ten start-up innovators to describe game-changing, high-technology products that the military could use.

One by one, they described their products: a humanoid robot that mimicked the actions of a human controller in a holographic suit; a spray-on, titanium nano-coating that renders an area bacteria-free and fungal-free; a thermal jacket made of fabric infused with graphene ink that generates heat on application of electric power, creating a warm micro-environment for the wearer to cope with extreme cold; and an encrypted Block Chain communications technology with multiple applications, such as Block Vote – an application that lets soldiers on the border exercise their ballot in secret.

Urging young innovators to develop products for the military, army chief General Bipin Rawat released a “Compendium of Problem Definition Statements”, in which the army listed out its specific technology challenges for which it sought innovative indigenous solutions from the industry and academia.

The army’s deputy chief, Lieutenant General SS Hasabnis, underscored the success of four problem compendia released in previous ARTECHs, stating that “136 of our over 150 problem statements issued over the last three years have been responded to by academia and industry.”

Alongside this, the 15 challenges the army has put out under the “Innovations for Defence Excellence” (iDEX) scheme have received “an overwhelming 164 responses”, said Hasabnis.

Forty-four winners of these challenges are presently being provided with funding for developing the innovative technologies they have proposed.

Currently, multiple channels exist for industry and academia to offer innovative solutions to meet the army’s requirements: The “Make-2” procurement category in which industry or individuals can make suo moto proposals to the army; in response to “Innovations for Defence Excellence” (iDEX) challenges; proposals under the “Technology Development” head’ or as “Army Technology Board” projects.

“I’m honoured to announce that 32 ‘Make 2’ projects, 16 ‘Technology Development’ projects and 13 ‘Army Technology Board’ projects have been initiated to take these solutions offered to fruition”, said Hasabnis.

Last month, Secretary (Defence Production) Subhash Chandra had stated in Delhi that the defence ministry aims to fund 250 startups and achieve 50 tangible innovations in the next five years. Towards this, the ministry is seeking the sanction of Rs 500 crore. 

The defence ministry’s procurement chief, Apurva Chandra, has stated he is heading a sub-committee that is trying to weave together these multiple innovation strands into an integrated high-technology development and procurement process in the new Defence Procurement Procedure of 2020 that the ministry hopes to release by March.

On Monday, the government’s Chief Scientific Advisor, K Vijay Raghavan, also urged that these technology initiatives be integrated with procurement policy quickly.

However, underscoring the continuing delay in translating an approved prototype into a commercially manufactured product, Hasabnis revealed that “Acceptance of Necessity” (AoN) – a preliminary step of the procurement process – has been granted for only seven of the “Make 2” projects. That suggests that it would still be years before these products actually enter service.

Friday, 20 December 2019

US-India relations: Natural partners, unnatural times

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 20th Dec 19

On Wednesday in Washington DC, after the second US-India 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue, in which US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defence Mark Esper co-hosted Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Foreign Minister S Jaishankar, persistent questions from the US media about the continuing crackdown in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) and the passage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, which discriminates against Muslim refugees in granting Indian citizenship, made it clear that these issues are now front and centre in the American perception of India. 

Since the warming of US-India relations two decades ago, Washington and New Delhi have both talked up the “natural partners” rationale for partnership, with almost every US and joint statement citing the “shared values” between the two “vibrant democracies”. Indeed Wednesday’s joint press conference played that same tune. Lovers of realpolitik have tended to dismiss that as empty rhetoric, pointing to America’s long and unlovely record of backing dictators – not least Nguyen Van Thieu in Vietnam and the Shah of Iran; and in more recent times the undemocratic leaders of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. The cynics argue that expediency, not principle, dictates Washington’s policy and that even the post-Soviet expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation has involved a strong element of holding one’s nose. This argument, however, overlooks the fact that, while Washington happily makes tactical compromises with strongmen and their authoritarian regimes, its strongest and deepest partnerships – such as the Five Eyes alliance with Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the UK – rest on the bedrock of shared values and worldviews. 

Others argue that President Donald Trump can hardly accuse New Delhi of discrimination against Muslims, given his own misogynistic racism and his shameful imposition in 2017 of a travel ban on citizens of specified Muslim countries. However it should be remembered that his ban was repeatedly overturned by US courts, strongly opposed by the American media, civil society and by large sections of US lawmakers. Trump is an aberration in the US polity and will cease to be president latest in January 2025, perhaps even in 2021 if he loses next year’s elections, and perhaps even earlier in the unlikely event of the Senate echoing his impeachment on Wednesday by the House of Representatives.

To be sure, the US administration has not so far meaningfully chastised New Delhi for discriminating against Muslims or its continuing detention of Kashmiri leaders. Pressed by the US media on whether Washington had brought up these issues in the 2+2 dialogue, Pompeo trod carefully, noting that “we care deeply and always will about protecting minorities, protecting religious rights everywhere… and the US will be consistent in the way that we respond to these issues, not only in India but all across the world”; but also saving Indian face by telling the questioner that “We honour Indian democracy as they have a robust debate inside of India on the issues that you raised.”

However, it would be hard to dispute that the US administration faces a new element of embarrassment due to its India relationship, something that will inevitably corrode the currently solid bipartisan consensus in the US Congress on the India relationship. It would be prudent to anticipate that New Delhi’s days of an unending free ride – when it needed to do little for the US and just being India was enough – are now coming to an end. The implications of this are significant. It might become increasingly difficult to obtain waivers from US laws on issues like the import of S-400 air defence missiles from Russia. And India might now have to contribute more visibly and to take more visibly pro-US positions on certain issues, even where Indian interests would be better served by ambiguity and a lower profile. With India’s moral power diminished in global perceptions, New Delhi might have to compensate with other, more overt, forms of influence.

The 2+2 dialogue itself yielded predictable diplomatic outcomes. Washington backed India’s security positions in the Indo-Pacific, while New Delhi catered to Chinese sensitivities by backing an Indo-Pacific security architecture “based on the recognition of ASEAN centrality.” The US side appreciated India’s contributions to Afghanistan, but there was clear divergence over Washington’s continuing peace talks with the Taliban. Pompeo said: “We understand the concerns, too, that India has, rightful concerns that they have about terrorism emanating from Pakistan and we assured them that we would take that into account.” On Iran, Washington urged New Delhi to back the “maximum pressure campaign” on Teheran, even though the US has already granted sanctions waivers for India-Iran cooperation in the Chabahar port and connectivity project. The US side voiced “common fears” on the risks associated with Chinese 5G communications networks, while the Indian ministers remained silent on this.

There was more visible progress on the defence partnership. A clear achievement was the signature of an “Industrial Security Annex” (ISA) that will facilitate the flow of critical US defence technology to India. The ISA stipulates measures that Indian firms, including private companies, would need to take in order to protect sensitive US information and intellectual property, thus facilitating closer cooperation and collaboration between defence industries on both sides. The start of negotiation of ISA was announced during the first 2+2 dialogue in New Delhi in September 2018, which means it has taken just over a year to negotiate. This is a measure of growing comfort between the two sides, since the two earlier “foundational agreements” – the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) signed in 2016; and the Communications Compatibility and Security Arrangement (COMCASA) signed last year – both took over a decade to negotiate.

That leaves just a single “foundational agreement” to complete the military-legal framework that Washington requires for close defence cooperation – which is the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA), which will streamline the sharing of geospatial intelligence between the US and Indian militaries, allowing for, amongst other things, better navigation and targeting. Vikram Singh, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence for South and Southeast Asia who now advises the US-India Strategic Partnership Forum, says there was hope that BECA could be concluded early, but clearly areas of concern still remain.

In the defence relationship, the two sides also announced the finalisation of three agreements under the Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) for co-developing and co-producing critical technologies. Also announced was the completion of a hotline between the two sides’ defence ministers, a link between the navy headquarters in Delhi and US Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM) in Hawaii and the posting of an Indian naval officer at the US Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) in Bahrain. With the two sides cooperating closely in tracking Chinese submarines in the Indian Ocean, the cross posting of officers will help in coordination. It was also agreed that, with the Indian navy’s “area of interest” including the West Asian and East African littorals, senior US officers from Central Command (USCENTCOM) and Africa Command (USAFRICOM) should also participate in joint training and patrolling.

Even as discord over US-India trade and commerce colours diplomatic relations, defence relations between the two countries remain on a firm footing. Traditionally, as in the case of Pakistan, the Pentagon has been guided by alliance and security partnership concerns rather than human rights and political and religious freedoms. But India would do well not to test this tolerance and to return to the values that have always brought it influence and admiration in the international arena.

Tuesday, 17 December 2019

Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA): Gen-5 fighter on track, plan to fly by 2025

The design challenges of the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (above) are being successfully tackled

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 17 December

With the Indian Air Force (IAF) already operating the Tejas Mark 1 fighter, the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) developing the Tejas Mark 2 and Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) building the interim Tejas Mark 1A, there have been important breakthroughs in India’s most ambitious fighter programme: the futuristic Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA).
Girish Deodhare, who heads ADA, the Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO) agency that oversees the Tejas and AMCA programmes, briefed Business Standard on the capabilities and development of the AMCA – a stealthy, fifth-generation (5-gen), medium weight fighter that is slated to be a match for any adversary in the skies.
“After eight years of design work, we have completed the stealth shaping of the AMCA. We are now building a full scale model of the fighter, in order to measure its ‘radar cross section’ (a measure of an object’s visibility to radar),” said Deodhare.
The ADA chief said the AMCA’s design is now mature and its internal systems are laid out. That clears the way for its detailed design, followed by metal cutting – the symbolic start of constructing a flying prototype.
“The AMCA’s first flight is targeted for 2024-25,” said Deodhare. “We plan to build five prototypes for a flight-testing programme that would take about four years. By 2028-29, we plan to begin series manufacture.
A 5-gen fighter is characterised by four advanced capabilities. It is stealthy, or near-invisible to enemy radar; it can ‘supercruise’, or fly faster than the speed of sound without engaging its engines’ fuel-guzzling afterburners; it has advanced avionics and sensors with network centric operations, coupled with artificial intelligence, to enhance the pilot-aircraft interface, allowing a single pilot to fly and fight the aircraft; and it can detect and engage targets from long distances, outranging its adversaries.
Stealth fighters are most crucial in the opening stages of a war, when they take advantage of their invisibility to enter enemy airspace and strike enemy radars, air bases and control centres. With air superiority thus obtained, “non-stealthy” fighters like the Sukhoi-30MKI can fly into enemy airspace, without incurring heavy casualties, to strike targets like roads, railways, airfields, depots and ground forces. 
To achieve stealth, a 5-gen fighter is shaped to scatter radar waves, rather than reflect them back. Special materials and paints further reduce radar reflectivity. In stealth mode, a 5-gen fighter conceals its fuel and weapons in an internal bay, since carrying them under its wings, as conventional fighters do, creates protrusions that reflect radar waves and compromise stealth. 
Deodhare said that while AMCA would be a 25-tonne fighter, it would have an “all-up-weight” (AUP) of just 20 tonnes in stealth mode, when it would carry just one-and-a-half tonnes of weaponry concealed in internal weapon bays. In “non-stealth mode”, another five tonnes of weaponry or fuel could be carried on external stations, under its wings. 
The AMCA would be able to carry up to 6.5 tonnes of fuel in internal tanks. While its operating radius remains secret, a back-of-the-envelope calculation indicates it can easily strike targets 1,000 kilometres away and return to base. 
In “non-stealth” mode, it can carry an additional 1,200-1,300 litres in its internal bays, with its weapons load mounted on external, under-wing stations, thus operating as a potent long-range bomber.
A key challenge in the AMCA programme is to develop a new engine, powerful enough to permit super-cruising. For now, AMCA designers are working with twin General Electric (GE) F-414 engines – which is also being used, in a single- engine configuration, to power the Tejas Mark 2. 
However, this engine is not powerful enough for super-cruising in all configurations. “Each F-414 engine generates a maximum thrust of 98 KiloNewtons (KN), and in Indian climatic conditions that effectively reduces to 90 KN. We have calculated that an AMCA, with the configuration the IAF has specified, requires a thrust of about 220 KN (in Indian conditions) for super-cruising. That means we need twin engines, each generating 110 KN thrust in Indian conditions,” says Deodhare.
A clutch of DRDO laboratories, led by the Gas Turbine Research Establishment (GTRE), Bengaluru, is working to develop the AMCA engine. With the Kaveri engine, GTRE had managed to generate a maximum thrust of 83 KN. Now the target is 50 per cent higher.
Former Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had estimated the AMCA’s development cost at about $4 billion – a major share of which would go into the engine. In 2015, India harnessed American expertise by setting up a “joint working group” (JWG) to co-develop jet engine technology. But on October 24, US Under Secretary of Defence Ellen Lord revealed the JWG had been scrapped since US export control laws safeguarded the technology that the DRDO wanted.
There is also an expectation, so far unrealised, that French engine maker, Safran, could assist with developing a suitable jet engine, as a part of its offset obligations relating to the purchase of 36 Rafale fighters.
A key decision in designing the AMCA relates to the trade-off between stealth and manoeuvrability. “As other stealth fighter designers have discovered earlier, the edge matching of surfaces and incorporation of an internal weapons bay that characterises stealth design also compromise the fighter’s aerodynamics, inhibiting its manoeuvrability.  The IAF understands that, and has been sitting at the table with ADA in order to arrive at a mutually acceptable blend of performance and stealth,” says Deodhare.
Facilitating this cooperation is the IAF’s new leadership, headed by Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria, which includes several officers who have been test pilots for the Tejas programme, and have an in-depth knowledge of the issues. 
ADA officials point out that, having already mastered a range of aerospace technologies in the Tejas programme, the AMCA team is free to focus tightly on the Gen-5 challenges.
The technologies yielded by the Tejas programme include: “unstable aerodynamic design” for extra agility; complex control laws and a quadruplex digital flight control system; light composite materials for aero-structures; a glass cockpit with digital instrumentation; an environment control system with an on-board oxygen generating system (OBOGS); and advanced avionics that help the pilot switch quickly between air-to-air and air-to-ground roles.

Also mastered is the ability to do flight testing of fighter aircraft rapidly, without compromising safety. This experience will help in bringing the AMCA from design to induction without delay.

Monday, 16 December 2019

Rs 26,000 crore order for Tejas Mark 1A imminent, will open door for Mark 2 to fly by 2023

Tejas Mark 2 to be beefed up from "light combat aircraft" to medium fighter

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 16th Dec 19

After months of negotiations, the Indian Air Force (IAF) and Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) have fixed the price of the Tejas Mark 1A light combat aircraft (LCA) at about Rs 310 crore per fighter, say ministry of defence (MoD) sources involved in the negotiations. 

Now HAL is awaiting a formal contract, worth some Rs 26,000 crore for building 83 Tejas Mark 1A fighters that the MoD has already green-lighted for purchase. According to the agreed schedule, delivery of the Mark 1A will begin 36 months after the contract date. If the order is placed at the start of 2020, Tejas Mark IA deliveries will start in 2023.

With 16 fighters to be delivered each year it would take another five years to deliver all 83 fighters – that is by 2028.

“We should be signing the contract very soon”, IAF boss, Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria, had said on October 4. That is now imminent.

Girish Deodhare, chief of the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) – the Defence R&D Organisation agency responsible for the Tejas programme – spoke exclusively to Business Standard about the Tejas Mark 1A fighter. He described it as a bridge between the current Tejas Mark 1 and the Mark 2 fighter that ADA is developing. He says the latter will be, from the standpoint of size, sophistication and capability, far superior to the Mark 1 fighter.

While the Mark 1A light fighter will have the same fuselage and General Electric (GE) F-404 engine as the Mark 1, the Mark 2 will be a significantly larger medium fighter with the more powerful GE F-414 engine.

“Initially the Tejas Mark 2 was planned to be just a re-engined Mark 1 (with a more powerful engine). However, with the advent of the Mark 1A, it was decided that Tejas Mark 2 would be configured with significantly higher capabilities. While the ‘all up weight’ (maximum take-off weight, with fuel and weapons) of Tejas Mark 1 is 13.5 tonnes, the Mark 2 will be 17.5 tonnes, taking it into the medium weight category. It will also carry an 85 per cent higher weapons load,” said Deodhare.

While ADA is developing the Mark 2 fighter, HAL is building the Mark 1A, with ADA contributing its expertise in avionics, flight controls, aerodynamics and structural analysis.

While the Tejas Mark 2 will be almost a generation ahead of the Mark 1 fighter, even the interim Tejas Mark 1A will be far more capable. The IAF has demanded five new capabilities in the Mark 1A, including “active electronic scanned array” (AESA) radar, with multi-tasking capability that would give it a clear combat edge over Pakistan’s entire fighter fleet, and most of China’s as well.

“The initial batches of the Tejas Mark 1A may field an imported AESA radar, but the DRDO is developing its indigenous Uttam AESA radar. As soon as it is proven, the Uttam will start equipping the Tejas Mark 1A,” said Deodhare.

The Uttam AESA radar is already flying on a Tejas prototype and has completed 11 successful test flights. “We need to do a couple of more years of flight testing before it is certified and ready for production. Thereafter, all Tejas Mark 1A will incorporate the indigenous radar”, he said.

This incremental approach is also evident in the “digital flight control computer” (DFCC) – a fighter aircraft’s brain – that ADA has designed and qualified for the Tejas Mark 2. The upgraded DFCC is ready and qualified, but it could not go into the Mark 1A because it was built bigger to allow easier maintenance access in the larger Mark 2 fighter.

“So we took the upgraded cards from the Tejas Mark 2’s DFCC and installed them into the smaller Mark 1 DFCC chassis, effectively upgrading it for the Mark IA.  The new Mark 1A DFCC will have significantly higher processing power, which allows us to add many more advanced capabilities in the flight control system,” said Deodhare.

In addition, the Tejas Mark IA is being upgraded with a “self-protection jammer” (SPJ), supplied by Elta, which the IAF has demanded in order to confuse incoming missiles. Each Mark 1A fighter will carry a SPJ on a pod under its wing, sharing a mounting station with an air-to-air missile.

Giving the Tejas Mark 2 the contemporary look of the Rafale and Eurofighter, it will be built with canards on the front of the fuselage.  These fin-like structures serve to make the aircraft unstable, and therefore more manoeuvrable. Deodhare says ADA decided to fit canards after discovering that increasing the Mark 2’s internal fuel capacity to 3300 kilogrammes (from 2400 kg in the Mark1) made the fighter excessively stable. Designing canards near the nose of the aircraft regained its manoeuvrability. 

“We are targeting the first flight of the Tejas Mark 2 by 2023. We are confident of this since most of the technologies that will go into it are already matured through LCA Mark 1,” said Deodhare.


(Part 2: To follow the Tejas Mark 2, ADA making headway on Gen-5 fighter)

Thursday, 12 December 2019

Strategic shift: India asks private companies to firm up defence production

With the defence budget stagnating and the public sector lagging in building weaponry, India needs the private sector to galvanize production

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 9th Dec 19

Since his appointment as defence minister in May, Rajnath Singh and his ministry’s officials have held a flurry of meetings with public and private sector defence companies. In these, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has urged private firms to “Make in India”, so as to meet the indigenous production targets set out in the Defence Production Policy of 2018 (DPrP 2018). This policy explicitly aims to make India one of the world’s top five defence producers, with an annual turnover of US $26 billion (Rs 185,000 crore; Rs 1.85 trillion), by 2025. 

The ambitious targets give India’s aerospace and defence industry just six years to more than double its current annual turnover of Rs 80,000 crore. “For this Indian defence industry needs to grow at the rate of 15 per cent per annum,” Singh told an industry gathering on September 17.

Singh, who expects growth to be driven by the private sector, pointed out that more than half of India’s current annual defence production of Rs 80,000 crore already comes from private manufacturers. Of this, direct orders to private companies account for Rs 16,000 crore. In addition, the public sector outsources about 40 per cent of its production to private firms.

Procurement from Indian vendors

(Rs crore)
Total Procurement
Procurement from Foreign Vendors
Procurement from Indian Vendors
(Source: Parliamentary answer on July 3, 2019)

Theoretically, it should be possible to raise defence production simply by installing more capacity. As the MoD revealed in Parliament on November 27, the order books of the defence ministry’s nine defence public sector undertakings (DPSUs) currently add up to Rs 231,981 crores (Rs 2.32 trillion). Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) has production orders in hand for the next three years. Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL) has orders for four-and-a-half years of production. And Mazagon Dock Ltd, Mumbai (MDL) has orders that will keep it busy for a full decade. 

Limited defence budget

However, the problem is not just low production. Given the stagnating defence budget, there is also limited capacity to absorb production. Of this year’s defence allocation of Rs 431,011 crore (Rs 4.31 trillion), half will go on salaries and pensions, leaving only about Rs 180,000 crore (Rs 1.8 trillion) for buying defence equipment. This includes the capital allocation of Rs 108,248 crore (Rs 1.08 trillion) and about Rs 70,000 crore from the revenue allocations. And with over half of this going to overseas vendors for imported weaponry, buying more indigenous equipment requires either an increase in defence allocations, or reduced import dependence – or both.

Defence allocations

(Rs crore)
Budget Head
2017-18 (Actual)
2018-19 (RE)
2019-20 (BE)

Revenue allocation

Pension allocation

Capital allocation

Total Defence Budget

Central govt spending

% of govt spending

Total GDP

Percentage of GDP

(Source: Budget documents)

But, given the government’s focus on social sector spending, there is little scope for increasing the defence budget. Inclusive of military pensions, this year’s defence allocations account for 15.5 per cent of the government’s expenditure; or 2.04 per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In fact, by these parameters, defence spending has steadily fallen over the last three years.

That leaves the defence industry critically dependent on exports for absorbing any rise in production. Recognising this, DPrP 2018 aims to triple defence exports in the next six years, from the current year’s exports of Rs 10,745 crore to $5 billion (Rs 36,000 crore) by 2025. That would sharply increase Indian industry’s share of global defence and aerospace manufacturing from less than 1 per cent currently.

Furthermore, the MoD appears to have reserved “a major share” of defence production for the DPSUs and Ordnance Factories (OFs), leaving the private sector out in the cold. In June, Sanjay Jaju, the ministry’s interface with industry, bluntly warned private firms that they had to either export, or perish. “The capital budget is currently about rupees one lakh crores (Rs 1 trillion). There are certain committed liabilities. Of what remains, a major share goes to the public sector. A small share of the pie goes to the private sector… Not all of you will get orders. We cannot support so many of you”, he said.

Jaju explained that the government was actively promoting defence exports by obtaining entry into three of the four international export control regimes: the Missile Technology Control Regime, Wassenaar Arrangement and the Australia Group. India was also lobbying actively for entry into the fourth: the Nuclear Suppliers Group. He said this global recognition of India as a responsible arms exporter would reduce barriers into foreign markets. Jaju also pointed out that exports create economy of scale, bringing down prices of defence products and making them competitive in the global market.

Indian weapons for the world?

If Indian weapons platforms have not found global acceptance, at least part of the blame rests on the military’s reluctance to induct indigenous weaponry into its arsenal. The long-delayed induction of the Tejas light fighter into the Indian Air Force (IAF) has triggered international interest in the fighter – Malaysia and at least one other country are evaluating the Tejas. However, the small numbers the IAF has ordered and the piecemeal placement of orders has ensured the Tejas’ price remains high. In contrast, the Pakistan Air Force’s ready acceptance of the Sino-Pakistani JF-17 Thunder fighter and its placement of large production orders have driving down costs, making it attractive to foreign buyers.

Similarly, the Indian military’s delay in ordering the Akash air defence missile and the small numbers ordered, limit its chances in the export market. 

The same is true for helicopters, the HTT-40 trainer aircraft and the Pinaka rocket launcher. The navy has failed to order even a single warship from L&T’s state-of-the-art Katupalli Shipyard, into which the company has sunk over Rs 5,000 crore. There are proposals for the foreign ministry to provide lines of credit for buying Indian warships to smaller maritime neighbours, such as Maldives, Seychelles, Mauritius, Myanmar and Sri Lanka. But slow decision-making and slothful execution make India’s defence industry unattractive.

Private sector trajectory

India’s private sector was formally allowed into defence production only in 2001, subject to licensing and a foreign direct investment (FDI) cap of 26 per cent. Over the years, the MoD has eased the process of granting licences and also pared and rationalised the list of products that require defence licences. Yet, defence firms continue to navigate a complex industrial licensing regime, governed by the Industries (Development & Regulation) Act, 1951, the Arms Act, 1959 and Arms Rules, 2016. Licensing applications undergo security vetting by the defence and home ministries before the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) clears them.

Given the private sector’s recent entry, DRDO has been practically alone in developing full-fledged weapons platforms – that is multi-system, multi-technology systems such as aircraft, helicopters submarines, tanks, etc. DRDO systems worth, Rs 275,000 crore (Rs 2.75 trillion)have been inducted into service, or are on order. This expertise has taken decades to accumulate, at significant government expense. Figures tabled in Parliament on November 27 indicate the DRDO was allocated Rs 13,501 crore in 2016-17, Rs 15,399 crore in 2017-18, Rs 17,122 crore in 2018-19 and Rs 19,021 crore in the current year. The private sector must develop its capabilities on its own dime.

With the DRDO developing weapons platforms, the private sector has been confined to an ancillary role, supplying systems, sub-systems and components. The DPSU and OF vendor bases count more than 8,000 Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs). 

Only now are big private sector firms entering the fray in developing complex weapons platforms. The successful development of the Pinaka multi-barrelled rocket launcher, in which the private sector played the leading role, even if under the DRDO umbrella, is being followed by the development of the Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System (ATAGS), led by the Kalyani and Tata groups. In manufacture, L&T is partnering a Korean group to manufacture the K-9 Vajra self-propelled howitzer in India. 

 For years, private sector entry into defence production was regulated by “Industrial Licensing” norms. After 2001, numerous private firms, naively anticipating lucrative opportunities in defence production, applied for multiple licenses, even in technology domains where they had no expertise. Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence Ltd claims to have 35 defence licences “for manufacture of various platforms and products, highest for any Indian company.”

By March this year, the government issued 439 defence licences, covering 264 companies, the MoD told Parliament. But those initial licences have resulted in little production. On February 5, 2018, the MoD told Parliament that only 69 licensed companies had reported commencement of production.

Now, however, licensing norms have been eased. “The Defence Products List… has been revised and most of the components, parts, sub-systems, testing equipment and production equipment have been removed from the list, so as to reduce the entry barriers for the [private] industry, particularly small and medium segment. The initial validity of the industrial licence granted under the IDR Act has been increased from three years to 15 years with a provision to further extend it by three years on a case-to-case basis,” the MoD told Parliament on July 3.

Policy incentives

The MoD faces numerous Parliamentary questions about encouraging indigenous defence manufacture and it has a boilerplate answer. It lists out policy initiatives that include: Giving top-priority in procurement to equipment categorised as “Indigenously Designed, Developed and Manufactured”; increasing to 49 per cent the foreign direct investment (FDI) cap in defence; simplifying the “Make” procedure, which lets industry propose and develop products for the military; launch of a “Technology Development Fund”, and an innovation ecosystem titled Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX) that was launched in April 2018. 

iDEX aims to engage MSMEs, start-ups, individuals and academia and provide R&D funding for futuristic technologies that could serve Indian defence needs. “Under iDEX, innovative solutions have been successfully identified for 14 problem areas pertaining to national defence requirements. More than 600 start-ups have been engaged in the process and 44 different solutions have been identified,” the MoD told Parliament on July 3, 2019.

The MoD has recognised the need to synergise this plethora of initiatives. On September 5, defence procurement chief Apurva Chandra informed an industry gathering in Delhi that anempowered committee was integrating into a unified, common procedure the disparate acquisition processes such as Make-1, Make-2, iDEX and procurements from the Technology Development Fund.

Private industry also hopes to benefit from simplification of the current Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP 2016), which governs capital procurement; and the current Defence Procurement Manual (DPM 2009), which governs revenue procurement. Chandra revealed that revised versions of both documents would be released by March 2020.

The MoD has also pushed the establishment of two defence industrial corridors, where it will set up defence manufacturing and testing infrastructure and provide incentives to defence industry that sets up production there. One corridor in Tamil Nadu covers the “nodes” of Chennai, Hosur, Coimbatore, Salem and Tiruchirappalli. Another spans Aligarh, Agra, Jhansi, Kanpur, Chitrakoot and Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh.

Finally, there are expectations from the long-delayed Strategic Partner (SP) procurement model that is intended to build manufacturing capabilities in the private sector. In this model, SP companies enter into technology partnerships with overseas vendors to build complex weapons platforms in India. Two SP model procurements – to build naval helicopters and submarines – are making progress. The private sector is watching to see how these play out.