Saturday, 30 November 2019

LCA Navy gets airborne with weapons, ready to operate from aircraft carrier by March

Four missiles are visible on the Naval LCA as it takes off from the land-based test facility in Goa on Friday

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 30th Nov 19

In Goa on Friday, the naval version of the Tejas light combat aircraft (LCA) set a landmark by taking off with the added weight of weapons on board – two long range and two close combat air-to-air missiles.

The LCA Navy prototype took off from the navy’s Shore Based Test Facility (SBTF), but exactly as it would have from an aircraft carrier. Restraining gear locked the fighter’s wheels as the engine revved up to maximum power. Then, as the restraining gear disengaged, the unleashed fighter rocketed forward. Exactly 204 metres later – the length of an aircraft carrier deck – the fighter sped over a ski-jump and was airborne.

Girish Deodhare, chief of the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), the Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO) agency in charge of the LCA programme, told Business Standard the LCA Navy has now completed over 50 take-offs from the SBTF, with increasing weight and decreasing take-off distance. In addition, the naval fighter has carried out 28 arrested landings.

“We are now confident the LCA Navy is ready for an actual carrier deck landing. In the first quarter of 2020, we will land the prototype on INS Vikramaditya and take off from the aircraft carrier as well,” Deodhare told Business Standard.

This requires the navy’s only aircraft carrier, INS Vikramaditya, to be freed from operational duties and made available for testing. Before the first landing, the LCA Navy will first make a few approaches for the test pilots to see how the fighter reacts to the warships “wake” – the wind turbulence created by structures on the warship, which buffets the approaching fighter. Once the pilots are comfortable with that, they will actually land the fighter on the carrier’s deck.

A carrier deck landing is best described as a “controlled crash”. The fighter’s tail hook must engage with wires laid across the landing deck, which unspool, dragging the fighter to a halt quickly. To achieve the extreme precision this requires, the fighter must descend much more sharply than in a regular landing, with the impact absorbed by the heavy landing gear that characterises naval fighters.

If the first landing and take-off goes off uneventfully, it will be followed by more, as the test pilots generate inputs to fine-tune the software that controls carrier landings and take-offs, which are largely controlled by flight computers.

At the same time, ADA and the navy would fine-tune the drills for operating a fighter from a carrier. This includes maintaining an aircraft on board, preparing it for flight, taking it on a lift from the hangers below decks to the flight deck and the drills for getting airborne and landing.

ADA sources say about 200 technicians have already lived on aircraft carriers, to fine tune maintenance and operating drills on board.

The navy, however, does not intend to induct the single-engine Naval Tejas Mark I into service – it is merely a test-bed for the aviation systems that will equip the twin-engine LCA Navy Mark 2. The navy wants the safety back up of a second engine, the power to get airborne with more fuel and weapons, and a longer operating range.

“Using navy-specified technologies matured with the current Mark I, we are developing a twin-engine Mark 2 version, which we are calling the Twin Engine Deck Based Fighter (TED-BF),” said Deodhare.

With the current Tejas’ single General Electric (GE) F-404 engine replaced by two, more powerful, GE F-414 engines, the TED-BF will be a far bigger and heavily armed fighter.

The current Tejas Mark 1 gets airborne with a total “all-up weight” (AUW) of 14 tonnes. The air force version of the Tejas Mark 2, which will have a single GE F-414 engine, will have an AUW of 17 tonnes. And the LCA Navy Mark 2 (or the TED-BF), powered by two GE F-414 engines, will have a beefy AUW of 24 tonnes, says Deodhare.

ADA is targeting 2025-26 for the first flight of the TED-BF. The navy wants the fighter to be inducted into service by 2031, to replace the MiG-29K/KUB that currently flies off INS Vikramaditya and will also serve on board the first indigenous aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant, when it is commissioned in 2021.

Friday, 29 November 2019

Far better than DRDO missile: Israel’s Rafael makes strong pitch for Spike ATGM

Spurned by MoD last year, Israeli firm makes unusually aggressive public case for Spike

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 29th Nov 19

On Wednesday, the Indian Army successfully test fired the Israeli Spike LR anti-tank guided missile (ATGM), which can home in on, and destroy, enemy tanks at ranges up to 4 kilometres.

On Thursday, Rafael Advanced Defence Systems, which builds the Spike, boldly stated: “With confidence in the Spike missile established, the Indian Army may need to revisit their plans” to develop an Indian anti-tank missile.

This is an unusually bold statement, since foreign vendors hoping to do business with the defence ministry usually tread softly around New Delhi’s sensibilities and avoid giving procurement advice.

In January 2018, India had cancelled a $500 million purchase of Spike LR missiles just two weeks before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was to ink the deal on a visit to New Delhi.Army chief General Bipin Rawat said at that time that the purchase was cancelled because the Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO) was going to develop and supply an indigenous ATGM.

Since the DRDO missile would be ready only by 2022, “the Indian Army procured a limited quantity of Spike LR missiles, so as to meet the urgent operational requirement”, said Rafael in a press release on Thursday.

Two of these ATGMs were fired at Mhow on Wednesday. Witnessed by top infantry generals, including Rawat, both struck their targets.

Encouraged by that success, Rafael now claims the DRDO’s missile will be only a “third generation” (3rdGen) ATGM, while the Spike LR is a “fourth generation” (4thGen) missile.

“Both the DRDO’s ATGM programme, as well as the invitation to Indian industry to develop a 3rd Gen missile will need a rethink, as having a 4th Gen missile will put the plan for development of a 3rd Gen missile questionable,” stated Rafael’s unusually forthright statement.

The Israeli firm explained why its ATGM was better than what the DRDO is developing. “Spike LR is a 4th Gen missile, which [has] fire and forget capability (that does not require the firer to keep the enemy tank in his cross hairs until impact). The missile also has the ability to… switch to a different target mid-flight, should he want to do so.”

Rafael argued that the Spike LR’s inbuilt seeker allows the the firer to engage tanks by both day and night. “The dual seeker adds to the missile’s reliability, already established at more than 90 per cent during the field evaluation by the Indian Army in 2011. As of date, more than 5,000 Spike missiles have been fired so far worldwide, with the overall hit percentage being more than 95 per cent”, claimed Rafael.

India is the 33rd country to have the Spike missile as part of its inventory.

For decades now, the army’s infantry (foot-soldiers) units have been equipped with 2ndGen missiles like the French MILAN, which had a range of under 2.5 kilometres and required the firer to expose himself while firing. 

In 2011, the defence ministry floated a tender for 321 ATGM launchers and 8,356 missiles worth an estimated $500 million (Rs 3,600 crore). 

Rafael was required to dicharge offsets worth 30 per cent of that value and to transfer technology to Bharat Dynamics Ltd (BDL) for building 30,000 more Spike missiles in India.

Over the preceding two years, Rafael has strengthened its case by putting in place the tools to manufacture the Spike LR in India, in a joint venture (JV) with the Kalyani Group in Hyderabad. “The JV is capable of manufacturing Spike missiles in India, and will also look at export opportunities from India”, stated Rafael today.

By 2016, Spike LR had cleared user trials and the defence ministry had completed price negotiations. At the last minute, however, the government decided in favour of indigenous manufacture.

Now, with the DRDO programme under way and reportedly making good progress, Rafael has moved boldly to make its case for the Spike.

Thursday, 28 November 2019

DPSU order books at Rs 231,981 crore, Mazagon Dock has ten years orders in hand

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 28th November 2019

The government informed Parliament today that the order books of the defence ministry’s nine defence public sector undertakings (DPSUs) currently amount to a whopping Rs 231,981 crores.

The biggest amongst them is Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), with an order book of Rs 59,832 crore. Given its turnover last year of just over Rs 20,000 crore, that amounts to assured production orders for the next three years. This includes on-going orders for some 15 Sukhoi-30MKI fighters, 24 more Tejas light combat aircraft and a range of indigenously designed and built helicopters.

Close on HAL’s heels is Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL), with orders in hand worth Rs 56,300 crore. With BEL’s turnover last year standing at Rs 12,237 crore, that is four-and-a-half years of orders in hand, for radars and missiles like the Akash system.

At third place is Mazagon Dock Ltd, Mumbai (MDL) with an order book worth Rs 52,113 crore. Based on its current annual turnover of Rs 5,092 crore, that will keep MDL busy for the next decade. The shipyard is required to deliver four more Scorpene submarines, four Project 15B destroyers and four Project 17A frigates. In addition, it is competing strongly for another Rs 45,000 crore order to build six more submarines under Project 75-I.

DPSU order books

Defence Public Sector Undertaking
Order book (Rs. crore)

 (Source: Parliamentary answers by govt)

 Between them, the four DPSUs shipyards – MDL, Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers (GRSE), Goa Shipyard Ltd (GSL) and Hindustan Shipyard Ltd (HSL) – have orders in hand worth Rs 97,278 crore. The bulk of these are “nominated” orders, which means the defence ministry has awarded them without competitive tendering. 

Meanwhile private sector shipyards like Larsen & Toubro and Reliance Naval are struggling for orders, as their production facilities remain grossly underutilised. 

Answering another question in Parliament, the defence ministry also claimed success in expediting defence procurement.

“In the last three years from 2016-17 to 2018-19 and current year till Sept 2019, Government has accorded Acceptance of Necessity (AoN) to 130 proposals, worth Rs. 263,704 Crore approximately, under various categories of Capital procurement which promotes domestic manufacturing as per DPP-2016,” stated the defence ministry.

Not one of these clearances has yet resulted in an order, with the procurement process usually taking well over five years for an AoN to translate into an order.

The defence ministry informed Parliament that, besides 41 Ordnance Factories and nine DPSUs in the public sector, “275 Licensed companies and approximately 42,000 [private sector] vendors of OFB and DPSUs are engaged in defence production.”

Together, these firms have productionised, or are in the process of building indigenous products, developed by the Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO), worth over Rs 275,000 crore.

These include the Tejas fighter, Arjun tanks, naval sonars, various radars, electronic warfare systems, torpedoes, Pinaka rocket launchers and the Agni, Prithvi, BrahMos and Akash missiles. 

Tuesday, 26 November 2019

India can save billions as US plans to retire Global Hawk drones

To save money for cutting-edge warfighting weapons, the USAF has proposed to the scrap two-thirds of its fleet of 35 Global Hawk drones. India should snap them up

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 26th Nov 19

Stemming from America’s changing security threats is a lucrative opportunity for New Delhi to save billions of dollars on its on-going purchase of 30 Sea Guardian unmanned aerial systems (UAS), and another 10 P-8I Poseidon multi-mission maritime aircraft (MMA) for monitoring the Indian Ocean. 

Instead of spending an estimated $2.5 billion on Sea Guardian drones, India could buy up to 24 far more capable, sophisticated and longer-range RQ-4 Global Hawk drones that the US Air Force (USAF) wants to discard. It believes long-range drones are superfluous as Washington shifts attention from combating terrorism (which requires drones to track and kill terrorists) and focuses instead on building the capabilities needed to combat a new threat – superpower adversaries Russia and China.

To save money for buying cutting-edge warfighting weapons like stealth bombers and hypersonic missiles, the USAF has reportedly proposed to the US Department of Defense (the Pentagon) to scrap two-thirds of its fleet of about 35 Global Hawk drones.

If the Pentagon accepts the USAF proposal, that would clear the decks for India’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) to ask for the retired Global Hawk UASs under the Pentagon’s “Excess Defence Articles” (EDA) programme. The Pentagon’s decision will be known in February 2020, when it submits its final budget projections to the US Congress.

The EDA programme allows the Pentagon to supply its unneeded weaponry to allies and partner countries at heavily discounted prices, or even free of cost in cases where US national security objectives are being furthered. Building India’s capability as a “net security provider” in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) is a stated US national security policy objective.

In 2005, India experienced the cost benefits of buying US equipment under the EDA programme. That year, the Pentagon sold the Indian Navy the USS Trenton -- an amphibious warfare ship, now renamed INS Jalashwa -- for just $60 million, about a tenth of what it was worth. That price included the cost of six helicopters on the warship. The Jalashwa is currently the second-biggest warship in India’s navy.

The Global Hawk is classified as a “high altitude long endurance” (HALE) UAS, that can carry out surveillance of a stretch of land or ocean for over 30 hours continuously, physically scanning up to 100,000 square kilometres each day – more than the Sea Guardians that India’s millitary is currently acquiring. 

Teams of drone pilots, working in shifts, fly long-range drone missions from ground stations thousands of kilometres away, using satellite communication links. The information the UAS picks up is transmitted to the ground station in real time, allowing the military to respond to threats immediately.

US firm Northrop Grumman, which designed and built the Global Hawk, is currently developing it into a maritime variant called the MQ-4C Triton, which is customised for oceanic surveillance. Under the so-called Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) program, Northrop Grumman is integrating the Triton with the P-8A Poseidon for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) maritime missions.

Joining the US, Australia, which also operates the P-8A Poseidon, has joined BAMS. With the Indian Navy currently operating the world’s largest Poseidon fleet (outside for the US Navy), acquiring Global Hawks under the EDA programme and modifying them to MQ-4C Triton configuration could provide a cheap and effective BAMS solution for surveillance of the Indian Ocean.

Since 2001, a generation of US drones like the Predator, Reaper and Global Hawk has played a central role in the “War on Terror”, killing hundreds of terrorists and their supporters in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq and Yemen. But UAS are highly vulnerable to radar-based air defence systems of the kind that state adversaries deploy. This was underscored in June, when Iran shot down a Global Hawk that America was operating over the Strait of Hormuz.

However, India does not intend to fly Sea Guardian drones (or Global Hawks if those are bought) over hostile airspace, but over international waters – to monitor shipping over the vast expanses of the Indian Ocean. Therefore the vulnerability of these UAS to radar-guided air defence weapons is not a major concern.

Asked whether it plans to approach the Pentagon for buying surplus Global Hawk drones under the EDA programme, the navy has not commented.

The Pentagon’s shift from counterterrorism to combating great-power threats from China and Russia has been laid out in the Pentagon’s National Defense Strategy document that was published in January 2018.

Friday, 22 November 2019

Congress slams terror-accused MP Pragya Thakur’s appointment to Parliamentary defence panel

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 22nd Nov 19

A controversy has been stoked over the nomination of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) member of parliament (MP) Pragya Thakur to the 21-member Parliamentary Consultative Committee on defenceheaded by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh.

Her nomination by the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs (MoPA) was announced on Thursday, along with that of Farooq Abdullah, former chief minister of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, who is currently detained along with numerous Kashmiri politicians under the stringent Public Security Act (PSA).

The opposition has criticised Thakur’s nomination to the defence consultative committee on the grounds that she is facing charges of terrorist activities, specifically in the 2008 Malegaon bomb blasts case, where six innocents were killed by an explosive device strapped to a two-wheeler that was registered in Thakur’s name.

While the National Investigation Agency (NIA) has dropped charges against Thakur under the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act, Thakur continues to face multiple charges under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, Indian Penal Code, Arms Act and the Explosive Substances Act. Since April 2017, she has been out on bail, granted on grounds of ill health.

Contacted for a reaction to Thakur's appointment, the army declined to respond.

The two houses of Parliament currently have 37 consultative committees, each affiliated to a separate ministry or department. According to the “Guidelines of Constitution, Functions and Procedures of Consultative Committees”, formulated by the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs in 2005, each consultative committee must have a minimum of ten and a maximum membership of 30 MPs. That effectively means that every MP is likely to be on at least one consultative committee.

Additionally, MPs with a special interest in a particular subject can be invited as a Permanent Special Invitee to the dealing ministry’s consultative committee, subject to a maximum of five such permanent invitees.

The consultative committees have “The objectives of creating awareness among MPs about the working of the government, of promoting informal consultations between the government and MPs, and to provide an opportunity for government to benefit from the advice and guidance of MPs.”

Consultative committees have little power to influence government. The US Congress standing committees effectively control budgets and can summon officials and citizens to provide testimony, with false testimony punishable for perjury. In contrast, the Guidelines state: “The Consultative Committees will not have the right to summon any witness, to send for or demand the production of any file or to examine any official record.”

“In India, MPs do little preparatory work before committee meetings, contribute little and often skip meetings with no questions asked,” says a senior MP, speaking anonymously.

Furthermore, the government can entirely disregard the committees recommendations that have financial implications “and any recommendation concerning security, defence, external affairs and atomic energy.”

Thakur has volunteered to serve on the defence consultative committee. According to the Guidelines, “Members must… send in their request to their party’s leader in their House of Parliament, who forward’s it with her recommendations to the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs. The ministry then notifies her membership, taking note of the vacancies, on a first-come-first-served basis.”

More powerful than consultative committees are parliament’s Departmentally Related Standing Committees. These consider, and report on, the budgetary allocation, and the Annual Reports of their affiliated ministry/department. 

The Standing Committee on Defence has 21 members and is headed by BJP MP Jual Oram. Its opposition members include Rahul Gandhi and Abhishek Singhvi.

Thursday, 21 November 2019

India is seventh-most affected by terror, but attacks becoming less bloody

High-casualty terrorist strikes, such as this car bomb at Pulwama that killed 40 troopers, obscure the fact that more than two-third of all attacks result in no deaths

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 21st Nov 19

With 350 Indians killed and 540 injured in 748 terrorist incidents in 2018, India is at seventh place in a global think tank’s list of countries most affected by terrorism. 

The annual report by the Sydney-based Institute for Economics and Peace states that the country most affected by terrorism in 2018 was Afghanistan (7,379 killed), which supplanted Iraq (1,054 killed) as the deadliest country. Iraq, now at second place, is followed by Nigeria, Syria, Pakistan and Somalia, in that order.

The report states that 8,473 Indians have died since 2001 at the hands of terrorists. However, the 2018 death count was 10 per cent lower than 2017, and 53 per cent lower than its peak in 2009. 

“However, the number of terrorist attacks has increased by 14 per cent over the same period, peaking in 2016 at over 900,” states the report. 

This trend indicates that terror attacks in India are becoming steadily less bloody. In 1998, about 4.3 people were killed in each attack. That dropped to 1.6 deaths per attack in 2008, and 0.5 in 2018. “In 2018 alone, 69 per cent of attacks had zero fatalities and 22 per cent had one fatality,” says the report.

With the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) under pressure and in retreat, the world’s deadliest terrorist group is now the Taliban in Afghanistan, which accounted for 38 per cent of all deaths in 2018. ISIS had been the deadliest group each year since 2013. At third place is the Khorasan Chapter of the Islamic State, which is active in Afghanistan and Pakistan and is now surfacing in India. At fourth place is the deadly Nigerian group, Boko Haram.

The Institute for Economics and Peace counts armed insurgent groups in Kashmir and the north-east, such as Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) as “terrorist groups”. Based on that, it reports that “Compared to other countries amongst the ten most impacted, India faces a wider range of terrorist groups, with Islamist, communist and separatist groups all active in the country.”

Jammu & Kashmir is India’s region most impacted by terrorism in 2018, with 321 attacks, resulting in 123 deaths, most of which were perpetrated by HM, Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). 

“Both JeM and LeT have also been active in Pakistan and Afghanistan, though most of their attacks are carried out in India,” notes the report.

India’s second most impacted region was Chhattisgarh, in the centre of the communist “red corridor”. Chhattisgarh suffered 138 attacks in 2018, resulting in 123 deaths, all from Maoist extremists. While there were far fewer attacks than in Kashmir, the death toll in Chhattisgarh is identical.

In the 2019 Global Terrorism Index, worldwide deaths from terrorism fell for the fourth consecutive year after peaking in 2014, when 33,555 people were killed in terror-related incidents. Since then, the number of deaths has steadily decreased to 15,952 in the current year.

This decline was not uniform across countries. 98 countries reported fewer terror-related deaths, with Europe recording an improvement of 70 per cent – its lowest number of incidents since 2012.

However, there were 40 countries where more people were killed compared to last year.

If Afghanistan deteriorated more markedly than any other country, Bangladesh was South Asia’s silver lining. Bangladesh recorded 31 terrorist attacks and seven fatalities in 2018, a 70 per cent reduction in deaths from the prior year. 

“Five of the eight terrorist organisations that perpetrated the attacks in 2017 recorded no incidents in 2018, including the Islamic State in Bangladesh,” noted the report.

Pakistan too showed a clear improvement, with 366 terror attacks in 2018. This was a 37 per cent reduction in both the number of attacks and the number of deaths compared to the prior year. 

Wednesday, 20 November 2019

Book review: India’s civil-military friction

The Absent Dialogue: Politicians, Bureaucrats and the Military in India
Anit Mukherjee
Oxford University Press
Price: Rs 1,100/-
Pages: 313

Relations between India’s military and its civilian elite – the political class and the bureaucracy – have always been tinged with suspicion, well before army chief General VK Singh took the government to court in 2012 over his date of birth (and, therefore, retirement). The day General Singh filed his case, the government was rattled by reports that an army battalion was moving from Hisar towards Delhi and a parachute battalion was moving on the capital from Agra. Fearing a coup attempt, intelligence agencies sounded a false terror attack warning to slow traffic towards Delhi; and the government summoned top generals to ask what was going on. Nothing came of it, or of the chief’s petition, but the media firestorm around this underlined the delicacy of civil-military relations in India.

Anit Mukherjee’s excellent new book reveals that this was hardly the first such incident. When Jawaharlal Nehru died in 1964, New Delhi received reports that army units were moving in from Western Command in Punjab. This was worrying, given the predictions of western political analysts that Indian democracy would die with Nehru, and the military would take over. It is unclear whether the army’s move was unauthorized, or a precaution to control the massive crowds expected at Nehru’s funeral. At any rate, it led to the Western Army Commander, Lieutenant General Sam Manekshaw, being transferred to the Eastern Command.

Next, when Lal Bahadur Shastri died in 1966, acting prime minister, Gulzari Lal Nanda allegedly called for Border Security Force (BSF) units to move to Delhi. Indira Gandhi feared this was an attempted coup by Nanda, but the latter clarified later that he called in the BSF to guard against any army coup attempt. Soon after that, the army chief of the day, General JN Chaudhuri, recounted to the British High Commissioner in India that he had had to reassure Defence Minister YB Chavan that a coup was inconceivable. Chaudhuri also told the High Commissioner that, if the President of India ordered the army to take over, even against the wishes of the government, the military would have the political cover to comply.

Such conversations might seem inconceivable today, but the 2012 incident was just seven years ago. That makes Mr Mukherjee’s study of civil-military relations relevant and timely. In The Absent Dialogue, he argues that successive prime ministers have guarded against a politicised military by incrementally relegating it to the political side lines, where it enjoys nominal autonomy in the conduct of operations. But this political defanging has been so complete, that the army, navy and air force have lost much of their functional effectiveness. The book’s first three sentences sum up its central question: “How does a developing country create an effective military that is not a threat to its democracy? Can a state exercise civilian control and, at the same time, maximize the effectiveness of its military? Or is this a zero-sum game where one comes at the cost of the other?”

Mr Mukherjee is well equipped to answer these questions. He has served nine years as an officer in an Indian Army combat unit, including counter-insurgency stints in Kashmir and Nagaland. He has done his Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University, USA and is now teaching at the Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Singapore. His doctoral dissertation was on civil-military relations and he has refined that over the last decade into what will be one of the definitive reference works on this subject.

He tackles his subject with painstaking analytical rigour. He characterizes the civil-military arena in India as a three-pronged dynamic involving civilians who lack expertise on defence issues; a military firmly yoked under strong bureaucratic control; but which enjoys functional autonomy in the tactical and operational realms. Students of Indian security would instantly recognise this as our civil-military paradigm. In assessing military effectiveness, Mukherjee explores five functional dimensions in separate chapters: weapons and equipment procurement; tri-services functioning or “jointness”; military education; officers’ promotion policies and defence planning. Each dimension demonstrates how flawed civil-military relations have damaged that particular aspect of functional efficiency.

A particular strength of the book is its historical grounding. Mr Mukherjee recounts Lord Louis Mountbatten’s attempts, continuing for decades after independence, to induce Nehru and his prime ministerial successors, to put in place an empowering structure for higher military command, including appointing a “permanent chairman of the chiefs of staff committee” – which India is still debating. Interestingly, the author recounts that Mountbatten regarded the navy and air force as a dozen years behind the army in producing experienced senior officers, since those two services had been “Indianised” later. Precisely 12 years later, in 1960, Mountbatten wrote to Nehru suggesting he appoint General KS Thimayya tri-service commander, but the influential defence minister, Krishna Menon, who detested the popular Thimayya, stood in the way. As late as 1977, 30 years after independence, Mountbatten proposed (in vain) to speak to incoming Prime Minister Morarji Desai about appointing a tri-service commander. Ironically, it is Prime Minister Narendra Modi who has taken up Mountbatten’s suggestion, with his Independence Day announcement of a tri-services commander. It remains to be seen when that will be acted upon.

Mr Mukherjee’s book has garnered plaudits even before publication. The chapter on “jointness” was awarded the prestigious Amos Perlmutter Prize in 2017, for the best essay submitted to the Journal of Strategic Studies. The book is slated to be discussed during the Chandigarh Literature Festival in December and the Jaipur Literature Festival in January 2020. Astonishingly, given the market for this book in the Indian army, navy and air force and the strategic community, the publishers have published just 300 copies of the book in the first run. You might well have to wait your turn to obtain it.

Sunday, 17 November 2019

Exercise “Tiger Triumph”: US Marines to showcase skills for the first time in India

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 17th Nov 19

For decades, elite troops of the United States Marine Corps (USMC) have protected Washington’s embassy in New Delhi. On Sunday, for the first time ever, the USMC will showcase its professional skills in India, as the joint US-India tri-service exercise “Tiger Triumph” hits the sea at Kakinada, off Visakhapatnam.

Over the next five days, Indian and American soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen will operate together in a simulated “humanitarian aid and disaster relief” (HADR) situation – jointly providing succour to an Indian Ocean country that has been hit by a natural disaster.

But the HADR scenario is only a convenient backdrop. In fact, the two militaries are honing their capability to work together in an amphibious landing – such as a joint invasion of an enemy coast; or an operation to free one’s own territory that has been captured by an enemy country, a terrorist group, or mercenary force.

Ironically, it was a joint US-Indian HADR effort – in the wake of the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004 – that birthed the current era of US-India military cooperation. Operating with the Indian Navy to deliver relief to Indonesia and Sri Lanka, the US Navy reported to Washington that here was a regional partner worth having. The next year saw the US-India defence cooperation agreement.

HADR and a real combat beach landing require similar military resources. The Indian side will deploy its biggest amphibious assault ship, INS Jalashwa; a tank landing ship, INS Airavat; and INS Sandhayak, a survey ship that will function as a hospital ship. 

The US Task Force will include the naval landing ship USS Germantown, which is equipped with landing craft and amphibious assault vehicles needed to land large numbers of marines onto a beach. Specially trained troops from the Third Marine Expeditionary Force – a specialist unit for combat beach landings – will be accompanied by a medical team.

The exercise will involve sailing from Vishakhapatnam to Kakinada, and then staging a shore landing and setting up a joint command centre and a joint relief and medical camp. 

For the Indian Army, this will be a chance to learn from amphibious landing masters, whose tactics date back to the Pacific Campaign in World War II, where they captured one island after another from the Japanese – Midway, Wake Island, Iwo Jima and Guadalcanal.

For the exercise, India is fielding a battalion group, from 19 MADRAS, and BMP-II armoured vehicles from 7 GUARDS. The Indian Air Force (IAF) will deploy one C-130J Super Hercules aircraft, Mi-17 transport helicopters and a Rapid Action Medical Team.

While Exercise Tiger Triumph is an early step in learning, and is therefore being carried out with fewer resources, a full-scale, tri-service beach landing operation is the capability that India is seeking to build.

In such a combat operation, INS Jalashwa, or another Indian landing platform dock (LPD), would carry a battalion of soldiers (850 men), with armoured assault vehicles, to within 30-50 kilometres of the beach, from where smaller, flat-bottomed landing craft mechanised (LCM) would carry the invasion force to the beach. 

To protect the invasion force during the beach landing, the Jalashwa’s six helicopters would heli-drop marine commandos behind the enemy troops that are defending the beach. In addition, naval frigates or destroyers would provide fire support, with their 100 millimetre main guns plastering the enemy’s coastal defences. Simultaneously, IAF fighters, operating from shore bases, might also support the beach landing.

Since 2000, the navy’s Maritime Warfare Centre in Visakhapatnam has been refining these tactics. An Indo-US planning exercise, called “Habunag” has coordinated expeditionary HADR activities with the US navy. Now the USMC will have its word. 

Friday, 15 November 2019

Bhadauria backs indigenisation, is first IAF chief to fly an HAL prototype

Bhadauria straps up for a "six spin" test on the HTT-40

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 15th Nov 19

Signalling a new, positive attitude in the Indian Air Force (IAF) towards indigenous aircraft, its recently appointed chief, Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria, test-flew the prototype Hindustan Turbo Trainer – 40 (HTT-40) at Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) in Bengaluru on Thursday. 

Bhadauria became the first serving IAF chief to fly an HAL-developed aircraft at the prototype stage. Bhadauria, himself an accomplished test pilot who has test-flown the Tejas fighter, was taken through the gruelling “six-spin routine” in which the HTT-40 prototype was allowed to spin six times before the pilot recovered it into level flight.

For a prototype trainer aircraft, the “six-spin” test is considered the most conclusive landmark that signals the aircraft is ready to go into operational service.

“The air chief expressed his satisfaction with the aircraft performance and appreciated the design, project and flight test teams for having achieved commendable progress”, stated HAL after the flight.

The HTT-40, which will be used for training rookie pilots of the IAF and navy, has now completed all major test points and met the performance parameters spelt out in the IAF’s Preliminary Staff Qualitative Requirements (PSQR). During testing the HTT-40 has completed stalls, engine re-lights, inverted flying, acrobatic flying and systems testing. 

“The project now needs to be speeded up for certification and HAL must target setting of modern manufacturing facilities with high production rate from the beginning,” stated Bhadauria.

HAL is now looking forward to receiving a Request for Proposals (RFP) from the IAF for manufacturing the HTT-40. An estimated 106 basic trainers are needed to supplement the IAF’s fleet of 75 Pilatus PC-7 Mark II trainers that were imported from Switzerland.

For years, the IAF has tried to shut down the HTT-40 programme, demanding the import of more Pilatus trainers instead. But through this period successive HAL chiefs have backed the HTT-40, committing Rs 350 crore of internal HAL funds to the project. 

Over the last five years, a team of young, talented HAL designers have worked without IAF assistance or funding, backed to the hilt by former defence ministers, AK Antony and Manohar Parrikar. 

For the Pilatus PC-7 Mark II trainer, the successful flight testing of the HTT-40 most likely spells the end of further imports. The HTT-40 falls under the category of “Indian designed, developed and manufactured” (IDDM) equipment, and the MoD cannot import more Pilatus without a detailed explanation of why the HTT-40 is being ignored.

Supreme Court junks Rafale review petitions, but keeps doors open for a CBI probe

The judgment clears the decks for 36 Rafales on order, and participation in a planned tender for 114 fighters

Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 15th Nov 19

The Supreme Court (SC) on Thursday dismissed a clutch of petitions seeking a review of its December 2018 judgement, which had absolved the government of wrongdoing or procedural impropriety in concluding a Euro 7.8 billion purchase of 36 Rafale fighter aircraft from France in September 2016.

The apex court’s detailed order underlines its reluctance to involve itself in, or adjudicate on, the complex business of weapons procurement or inter-governmental defence contracts. 

“We cannot lose sight of the fact that we are dealing with a contract for aircrafts, which was pending before different Governments for quite some time and the necessity of those aircrafts have never been in dispute”, stated the judgment.

On the crucial aspect of the price paid for the Rafale, which the petitioners – lawyer Prashant Bhushan and former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie – contended was excessive, the judgment stated: “The Court satisfied itself with the material made available.” The material referred to was given by the government to the Court in a sealed cover.

Making clear the cursory nature of the Court’s scrutiny, the judgment stated: “It is not the function of this Court to determine the prices… The internal mechanism of such pricing would take care of the situation.”

Issues related to pricing and aircraft configuration “have to be left to the best judgment of the competent authorities,” said the judgment.

Yet, the judges simultaneously claimed: “We have elaborately dealt with the pleas of the learned counsel for the [petitioners]… under the heads of ‘Decision Making Process’, ‘Pricing’ and ‘Offsets’. The judgment stated the Court had satisfied itself with “the correctness of the decision making process.”

The review petition filed by Bhushan, Sinha and Shourie in January 2019 contended their original petition had not sought any investigation by the SC. Rather, they had pleaded for registration of a First Information Report (FIR) by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which was the agency best qualified and equipped to handle such an investigation.

The judgment, however, rejected this contention. 

“No doubt that there was a prayer made for registration of FIR and further investigation but then, once we had examined the three aspects on merits, we did not consider it appropriate to issue any directions as prayed for by the petitioners.”

The review petition also argued that the SC’s judgment on December 2018 was based on incorrect information submitted by the government under oath, and that additional information – published in the national media – had come to light, making it evident that the government had paid an inflated price for the Rafale, over the objections of its own price negotiation experts.

Responding to that, the Attorney General had objected in Court to the petitioners’ use of classified material relating to internal decision making, which he contended the media published in violation of the Official Secrets Act. However, in an order issued on April 10, the apex court rejected that contention, upholding freedom of the press.

Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul authored the first part of the judgment. However, the third judge on the bench, Justice KM Joseph, wrote a separate, but concurring, judgment that interpreted differently the petitioners’ prayer for a CBI inquiry.

Joseph opined that the main verdict (by Gogoi and Kaul) would not stand in the way of the CBI taking lawful action on the complaint, which was clearly a cognizable offence under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 2018. However, the CBI would be limited by Section 17A of the Act, which requires the government to accord prior permission for prosecuting an official for an offence carried out in the discharge of his duty.

Joseph’s judgment recognised that attempting to obtain government permission would be “a futile exercise” and that “the petitioners cannot succeed”. At the same time, he left the door open for a CBI inquiry with the statement: “It is my view that the judgment sought to be reviewed will not stand in the way of [the CBI] from taking action… [subject to]… obtaining previous approval under Section 17A of the Prevention of Corruption Act.”

One of the petitioners, Prashant Bhushan, confirms he will be demanding a CBI probe. “I will be writing to the CBI, asking the agency to approach the government for permission under Section 17A to investigate the Rafale scam,” said Bhushan.

Even as the SC deliberated the Rafale issue, the government has already made a major chunk of payment to French firm Dassault for 36 Rafales. The first fighter is scheduled to be delivered in mid-2020. Thursday’s judgment clears the decks for Dassault to offer the Rafale in another on-going Indian procurement for 114 medium fighters.