Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Hawk Crash: Photos of its Passage to India

For the break report on the IAF's first Hawk crash, scroll down to the previous post. A terrible day for the IAF. One Hawk down. Here's some photos (forgive the quality) of the Hawk's journey to India.

Photo 1: On the leg from France to Malta

Photo 2: Banking to land at Malta

Photo 3: Flying over the Suez Canal

Photo 4: Above the wheat fields of Saudi Arabia

Photo 5: Over Dubai

Photo 6: Off the shores of Muscat

Photo 7: Touchdown in India at Jamnagar

Photo 8: Taken from rear cockpit, Bidar air field in sight

Photo 9: Landing at Bidar

All Photos by Peter Kosogorin

BREAKING NEWS: First IAF Hawk AJT Crashes!

The first IAF Hawk AJT crashed at 406 Air Force Station Bidar at 12.40PM on April 29. Just broke the news on Headlines Today. The crash happened just after take-off. Both pilots ejected and are safe. The aircraft is one of the first batch delivered by BAe Systems to the IAF. The Hawks were formally inducted into operational service with the IAF at a glittering ceremony in February this year. Just over two months after induction, the first crash.

There were whispers shortly after the Hawks landed in Bidar that the IAF was miffed with the quality of spares and some assemblies, though nothing could be confirmed at that time. And now a crash. IAF spokesperson Wg Cdr Mahesh Upasani incidentally has emphasised that there was no loss of life or damage to property on the ground, though the aircraft has been completely destroyed.

Crashes happen. That's the hard truth. But was there more to this one? There were complaints of shoddy spare kits and aggregates shipped from the UK with the initial fleet. There was talk of how the stuff sent was old stock, rusty. A court of inquiry has been ordered with the participation of personnel from Training Command. Let's see what happens. Was there a bird hit, or a problem with the Hawk's Rolls Royce MK-871 Adour turbofan?

A sad and disturbing day. But let me quote from the IAF's hand-out from the day the Hawks were inducted at Bidar on February 23: "The induction of the Hawk 132 has satisfied a long felt need of the Indian Air Force to have an Advanced Jet Trainer (AJT) to bridge the gap between the slow speed jet trainer aircraft like Kiran, and the advanced fighter aircraft currently in the IAF's inventory. The need for an AJT has only increased in urgency ever since it was first articulated by the IAF in 1982. Induction of newer, sophisticated fighters, and upgrades of the existing ones, meant that the technology gap facing a young fighter pilot, and hence, the skills demanded of him, have both increased substantively."

Last batch of Akash photos...

Photo 1: A rare photograph of the entire Akash system, including sensors, launchers, auto-loaders, support elements and control centres in one frame.

Photo 2: Start-up tests of the Akash missile battery.

Photo 3: The damn thing better work, God, the IAF is here with us.

Photo 4: And there they are, the Akash's first user testers from the IAF.

Photo 5: Akash batteries on the ready, telemetry systems check.

Photo 6: A short break before launch. This one is Battery 2.

Photo 7: DRDO chief controller (R&D-SI) Dr Prahlada briefing scientists and users from the Army and IAF.

Sara Akash

Photo 1: Group Captain SK Verma and Brigadier B Chakravarty inspecting the Akash surface-to-air missile tracked mobile launcher

Photos 2: the Rajendra battery level phased array radar that guides Akash. The radar tracks to 60-km with a range resolution ±30m and the ability to track 20 targets and engage 4 simultaneously. It provides the guidance to 12 missiles against four targets.

Photo 3: The Akash Battery Control Centre (BCC). This is the command and control centre of the Akash. Contains ruggedised computers for radar data processing, weapon control functions and air defence functions. Contains ruggedised radar and missile control stations, raster scan display. Can control upto four missile launchers.

Photo 4: The Akash telemetry truck.

Photo 5: Scientists and technicians explain parts of the launcher to Group Captain SK Verma and Brigadier B Chakravarty at ITR

Monday, April 28, 2008

MMRCA Begins: Lockheed-Martin pitches "the most advanced F-16 ever conceived"

Lockheed-Martin's press release today: The U.S. Government, supported by Lockheed Martin, today responded to the Indian Ministry of Defense's Request For Proposal (RFP) for a Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft Program (MMRCA) by proposing the most technologically advanced F-16 ever conceived, uniquely tailored to meet or exceed the requirements of the Indian Air Force.

"No other operational multi role strike fighter in the world today compares to this aircraft," said Orville Prins, Lockheed Martin's Business Development Vice President and MMRCA program Campaign Lead. "The F-16IN is a unique configuration of the F-16, designed to address the requirements specified in India's RFP. The F-16 is already the most reliable, maintainable, affordable and safest multi role fighter in the world. The F-16IN will be even better. This proposal also represents a long-term partnership between the Air Forces of India and the United States and between Indian industry and the F-16 industry team."

The F-16IN has been especially designed to include a multitude of cutting-edge technologies such as a modern, full-color, all-digital, glass cockpit; the APG-80 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar; the GE F110-132A engine for increased, thrust; a large weapons inventory; a highly effective electronic warfare suite; and Conformal Fuel Tanks (CFTs) to significantly extend range and persistence. The aircraft also includes advanced survivability features such as superior agility, excellent pilot situational awareness, and critical systems redundancy. The F-16IN is designed to provide outstanding front-line capability, unprecedented reliability, and an extremely low total cost of ownership.

The F-16IN is an advanced derivative of the most combat proven multi role strike fighter available in the international marketplace today. Twenty-four countries have selected the F-16 as their fighter aircraft of choice, with 14 of those countries selecting the aircraft for follow on buys an unprecedented 52 times.

Lockheed Martin has established four F-16 production lines outside of the United States. Additionally, the Company has successfully achieved more than $37B in offset program credits in 40 countries. A proven cornerstone of these programs is the ability to provide technology transfer to program partners. The F-16IN proposal assures that 108 of the 126 F-16IN aircraft would be delivered from Hindustan Aeronautics Limited under licensed production with Indian industry.

MMRCA Begins: Next-Gen Gripen in IAF livery

I'm a sucker for these artist's impression pictures of fighters, especially when these chaps paint their machines in IAF livery. Now doesn't the Gripen just look delectable in IAF colours? You're seeing it first here on LiveFist! I'm posting the releases that all the companies made today following their bid submissions. Here's the first, from Gripen India:

Gripen International is proud to offer the Indian Air Force Gripen IN, tailor-made to meet all current and future requirements of the Indian Air Force and employing only the very best and latest technologies from Sweden, Europe and the US.

Gripen IN is based on the newly launched Gripen NG, the next generation of Gripen, an enhanced version of the well proven Net Centric Warfare Gripen multi-role fighter, which has unbeatable low acquisition, operation and support costs. Gripen IN provides freedom of choice in weapons and sensors and an unrivalled sustained sortie generation rate through high availability.

Following submission of the Saab/Gripen team's bid Eddy de la Motte, Gripen International's India Campaign Director said "By choosing Gripen IN, India will receive an affordable world class weapons system that will enhance India's military operational capability and industrial defence base well into the future and in addition, will create independent capabilities right from the word go".

"Gripen IN will provide India with a capability that offers complete independence of weapon supply. In addition, Gripen IN comes with the guarantee that we are committed to ensuring that India will have the fighter that the Indian Air Force wants" he continued.

"We will do this by transferring all necessary technologies to enable Indian industry and the Air Force to build, operate and modify Gripen to meet all indigenous requirements over time. Gripen IN has huge future growth potential for India to harness to the maximum extent, ensuring that this fighter above all others, will stay in the lead as future technology brings yet greater effectiveness and firepower" he continued.

"Gripen is fully operational today and with the total long-term commitment and support of the Swedish government, I believe that Gripen IN will provide the basis for significant future Indian and international co-operative programmes in future".

MMRCA Competition begins today!

In the long, arduous journey that has come to define the MMRCA acquisition, real milestones are few and far between. Today is definitely one of those. The last date for submission of the bid proposals by the six companies participating in the $10-billion tender for 126 medium multirole combat airplanes.

The six companies and their contending products -- Boeing's F/A-18IN Super Hornet, Lockheed-Martin's F-16IN Fighting Falcon, Saab's JAS-39IN Gripen, RAC-MiG's MiG-35, EADS Eurofighter's Typhoon and Dassault's Rafale. I will be doing a special on the start of the contract this evening on my channel, Headlines Today. Will post the time here once the slot is confirmed.

Let the race begin!

I picked up the "MRCA" image from the net, but seem to have forgotten where it's from. If someone could alert me about Copyright, I'll be happy to place an acknowledgement here, or remove it altogether. Thanks.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Army Commander's Conference to review Army uniform, ruminate over 6PC

Boy, does the Army top brass have a lot to discuss! The financial year's first Army Commander's Conference takes place from April 28 till May 2, and there's going to be a lot on everyone's plate. For starters, it's going to be interesting to see Lt Gen HS Panag coming in from the Central Command. Remember, at the last Commander's Conference, he was the one who stood up and vociferously talked about how not enough institutional support existed for eliminating corruption. Shortly after, he was shunted off from the Northern Command under a blitz of media attention.

According to an army press release, the on-agenda topics include cyber security and improvement of communication systems. "Detailed discussions will also be carried out on Sixth Pay Commission Report, steps for mitigation of shortage of officers and improving quality of individual combat kit issued to all soldiers," the release added.

Senior MoD bureaucrats will also sit in one some of the conference sessions, particularly the ones dealing with "improvement of welfare measures for serving soldiers and ex-servicemen, policy on conditions of service of women officers, streamlining procurement procedure, developing infrastructure in remote areas along border areas and payment of rentals for land occupied by Army in Jammu & Kashmir and the North East".

The conference will also apparently examine the reports submitted by study groups on the merger of Regimental Centres, review of Army uniforms and review of study leave policy for officers in the Army.

Photo Copyright The Tribune

Gorshkov in September 2007

If Google Earth screen data is to be believed, here's a September 2007 satellite photograph of the Admiral Gorshkov dry-docked at the Sevmash shipyard in Severodvinsk, Russia. Looks pretty poorly now! Anyway, here's an occasion to record what's been said about the jinxed warship in the recently tabled 29th Parliamentary Standing Committee report on defence (Demands for Grants). Make what you will of it:

During examination of Demands for Grants for the previous years, the Committee had been informed that after refitting, Admiral Gorshkov would to be procured from Russia by the end of 2008. The original cost of Admiral Gorshkov was Rs.4,882 crore. It has been stated that Russian side has reportedly indicated revision in time and cost due to 'Growth of Work' and that the matter is being examined. Regarding the present status of procurement of Aircraft Carrier Admiral Gorshkov and the induction plan of Admiral Gorshkov, the Ministry of Defence in a written reply have stated:

"The proposals submitted by the Russian side are being examined. The process of examination of the scope and necessity for additional works has since been initiated. Proposed delivery schedule indicated by the Russian side for Ex-Admiral Gorshkov is 2012. This is being examined."

Regarding reasons for delay in procurement of Admiral Gorshkov from Russia, a representative of the Ministry of Defence, during oral evidence stated:

"Sir, I will just explain this. When we had signed the contract in the year 2004, it was based on a certain scope of work which we could arrive at. This is a big ship, 45,000 tonnes. Actually, when the work started, the Shipyard brought out various aspects of works which had not been costed earlier. This is something which is being discussed from the Russian side. Basically, it is about ship repair and equipment and not ammunition. It is in three different categories. One is the basic repair and re-equipping. There were a large number of equipment which was just meant to be repaired. Some of the repair equipment is now being converted to buying a new one and replacing. So, part of that cost is there."

Admiral Gorshkov has run into time and cost over run due to change in scope of work. The initial cost of the Gorshkov is stated to be Rs. 4,882 crore. The deal appears to have become fait accompli with little scope for effecting economy. The Committee desire the Ministry of Defence which is presently examining the proposed modifications in the deal to complete the task of examination expeditiously under intimation to the Committee. The Committee desire that revised agreement in this regard should have an inbuilt provision for automatic transfer of upgraded technology without the liability of additional royalty payment.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

MBT Arjun Trouble: Special team to Germany

A special team comprising personnel from the Army EME, Armoured Corps and DRDO has left for Augsburg and Hanover Germany to find just how to fix the transmission problems that put paid to MBT Arjun's low temperature accelerated usage cum reliability trials (AUCRT) in Pokhran recently. I've spoken to my sources at Avadi, and here's the update on what happened.

For starters, nobody at Avadi believes there has been any sabotage to the tanks, and I think that pretty much puts a lid on what Minister of State for Defence Production and Supply Rao Inderjit Singh said on Thursday. Arjun tank officials were completely taken aback by the Minister's statement, though they told me it was probably him reconciling himself with the unforeseen problems Arjun is facing now -- after a visit to the CVRDE and HVF last year, which included a drive in the tank (much like mine), Rao Inderjit Singh is a staunch proponent of the jinxed programme. Second, Army chief General Deepak Kapoor was at Avadi yesterday, where he has given instructions to the team take quick action and bring the remainder of the trials up to speed without further delay.

Ok, now back to what the problem really is. Of the 5,000-km of AUCRT of two production-series tanks by the 43rd Armoured Regiment, 3,000-km were conducted in below-40° conditions. Of these 3,000 , 2,000-km were conducted in Pokhran and 1,000-km at the Mahajan Field Firing Range (MFFR). The problems that have brought the AUCRT to a grinding halt had nothing to do with the Arjun's MTU engine, as has been reported expansively, but its transmission system (a.k.a. gearbox), also built by a German firm Renk AG. (Engine + Gearbox = Powerpack). One particular bearing in the gearbox failed. The German maker of the gearbox was immediately summoned, and it sent a team of engineers to Pokhran, where they proceeded to indentify the bearing failure. The possibility of low-quality sub-standard bearings in the transmission system by Renk is currently under investigation. One of the transmission systems was ad-hoc rectified by a team of Army EME engineers and HVF personnel on-site, while the other powerpack was sent back to Avadi for investigation.

The Renk gearbox that MBT Arjun uses is a complicated piece of machinery, also dated in its design -- this has added a new element of intrigue to the problems that surfaced at Pokhran. Like someone at Avadi described it: "It's like going back to your computer dealer in this day and age and saying, could you please give me a replacement Pentium-II." Either way, the bearing issue is being ironed out. It's just bizarre how much bad luck the tank has when it gets into trials. As the same source said: "Everyone is baffled. If a tank can run smoothly for thousands of kilometers, why do problems only crop up during trials?"

The warranty on the Arjun powerpack is 5,000-km, though some of the tanks have done between 7,000 and 9,000-km already. The above 40° conditions trials will take place over 2,000-km somewhere in June/July, though a decision on whether the sub-40° trials will be re-conducted will be taken after a trial cum performance report is submitted to the Army by the end of this month or early May.

As opposed to the reports that have been pouring in ever since the Parliamentary Standing Committee report came out some days ago, the recent trials saw no glitches, snags or problems with the Arjun's 120mm weapon system, the engine, hydro-pneumatic suspension or laser range finder. The devil was in the transmission system.

Friday, April 25, 2008

DRDO release: Army chief at CVRDE

Just received this press release from DRDO regarding the Chief of Army Staff's sudden visit to Chennai to clear up the Arjun mess. The release makes it sound like this is just another official visit, when it's quite clear that the Chief visited specifically for a brief on the Arjun MBT:

Gen Deepak Kapoor Chief of Army Staff, visited Combat Vehicles Research and Development Establishment (CVRDE), Avadi, Chennai on 24th April 2008. M. Natarajan, Scientific Adviser to Raksha Mantri was also present during the visit. S. Sundaresh, Director, CVRDE briefed the chief about the ongoing and the future activities of the organisation in the field of Armoured Fighting Vehicles to the visiting delegates / dignitaries. Chief of Army Staff has also interacted with the young scientists and motivated them for their involvement and contribution in the Research and development of defence projects.

Indian Navy Cricket Mania at the North Pole!

People, you don't see photos like these too often. Cricket mania at North Pole – Indian Navy North Pole Expedition team playing cricket match with their British counter part at the North Pole on 10 Apr 08.Ski Poles as wickets and shovels as bats.

Photos Courtesy Indian Navy

Indian Navy at the North Pole

Just received these photos from the Navy. Photo 1is the Indian Navy North Pole Expedition Team at the geographic North Pole on 09 April 2008 at 2016 hrs IST. Photo 2 is the Indian Navy North Pole expedition team after it arrived in Delhi on 24 Apr 08 after successful expedition of North Pole.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Eurofighter's "Ready for India" event in Delhi

At a little past noon on Thursday, at an extravagant event in Delhi's Imperial Hotel ballroom, EADS formally invited India to become a "partner" of the Eurofighter Typhoon programme. The invitation was formally extended by Bernhard Gerwert, CEO of EADS Military Air Systems in the presence of a bunch of member country Ambassadors/Charge d'Affaires, but had me a little puzzled. Who are these guys kidding (actually, who are all six of the MRCA contenders kidding about "partnership"!)? There's no partnership here. But Gerwert pressed on. He indicated that if India were to sign on the dotted line for 126 Typhoons, it would automatically be given technological and development participation in future tranches of the fighter plane platform. Like Northrop-Grumman offering the Navy technological participation in future variants of the E-2 Hawkeye. Attractive, but a little out of place.

The Eurofighter event comes four days before the RfP response proposal expires on April 28 -- six fat proposals will be submitted by five embassies to the Ministry of Defence on the morning of April 28. Everyone's obviously waiting till the last minute, hoping to get a final juicy bit of inside info on a competitor's bid document, and alter their own accordingly (that isn't far-fetched at all, by the way)!

Boeing sent in a whirlwind press release late Thursday evening, for the first time announcing the existence of an F/A-18IN variant for India, announcing the following:

"The Boeing Company today delivered a detailed 7,000-page proposal offering its advanced F/A-18E/F Super Hornet to the Indian Air Force as part of India’s Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) competition. Five roller bags containing copies of Boeing’s MMRCA proposal are shown being readied for delivery to India on Tuesday April 22, 2008 in St. Louis, MO. The Super Hornet variant being offered to India, the F/A-18IN is based on the F/A-18E/F model flown by the U.S. Navy and currently being built for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF)."

Yesterday, Gripen had a massive roll-out. The only chaps keeping real quiet about everything are the Russians and the French. Not a peep out of them in the last six months.

The Pay Commission Drums Are Rolling!

Received this mail from Commodore Ranjit Rai (Retd) a few minutes ago. This Pay Commission thing is getting big! Ex-Servicemen who want to hold a peaceful protest against the 6th Pay Commission recommendations at Delhi Boat Club on April 27th have been denied permission to do so by the Home Ministry. They are now up in arms as it were. It's cheesy, but hey, this is about military pay! Check this out:


If thousands of ex-Servicemen March for Pay on 27th like the Dandi March, we will bethe first professional Armed Force to do so. Correct me if I am wrong. I hope the Government can avoid it, as support for the Rally even bythe Navy Foundation is not there and is mixed even amongst us.

The load of emails in my computer has risen by the day as the PayCommission drums roll to 27th. Gen N C Vij has written very well withclear recommendations which has sparked this. I salute him and I amsure our Chiefs have written more and better so that we do not have tomarch on 27th.

But it is time for a Poem now.

My Instructor at Staff College used to tell us Written word isBrandy, Song is Cognac, Poetry is ultimate it is called Aramaic ....Ibought him a book on Mirza Ghalib he enjoyed and so may be, he gaveme Instructor Grading.

I was posted to DSSC but Commandant Gen Sethna flew down to meet hisParsee friend COP Adm Ghandhi and convinced him a UK trained 6 monthStaff College officer will be useless in Wellington. We will have toteach him EX Trishul etc ......his words. So appointment was cancelledand I wrote a poetry to assuage my wife who is from the South and waslooking forward to Wellington. If I had gone the only advantage wouldhave been, I may have played better golf and learnt TRISHUL, what everit is and gone higher.

My Instructor a fine Cdr made the syndicate write poetry in StaffCollege as one exercise and one Appreciation in poetry and marked us.I am sure we do the same in DSSC. It was great fun. So to poetry.


The Armed Forces frustrations and drums are getting louder by the day
They are calling the Government and IAS to judgment, and now's the time to pay
For the accumulated wrongs you've done your forces and their trust betrayed
So hear those drums swelling, hear them well and be afraid.

You all came to power on India’s waves of Independence that you would make your mark,
In a land that shone in Asia like the Kohinoor diamond in the dark.
In simple faith we uniformed people put our trust in your administrative care,
And the Armed Forces were repaid by your wrath and ruled by fear.

Sixty years of political and IAS rule and mis rule and your lavish postings and trips abroad
A nation's military heritage is being lost through your patronage and the Pay Commissions' frauds.

The Chiefs grow fat while mid level others must starve and famine stalks our PBOR.
The drums of anger are beating for the truth is seeping in to the fore.
The IAS have feet of clay and their tricks should not sustain many more
The shattered dreams of the Armed Forces that once seemed bright with RM's unkempt promises should be regained.

For we all know where the finger points with our coldness aimed
So hear the drums on 27th and listen to them well,
They foretell the end of loyal days and they will have much to tell.

For they who sow the seeds of hate will reap the grapes of wrath,
So succumb in your committees Sirs, at the end of this sorry path, with the might of your pen for those who wield the sword.
Both are important for India, the super power

Chidmabaram boasts he has the money and Manmohan is his shower
The pay commission drums are getting louder, hear them coming Masters
Please do not be lulled by our supposed nuclear strength, strategic tie ups and the peace process

To forget 1962, 65 and the Kargil debacles will be at our own distress
It must never be allowed to happen again
The challenge will once again be across our High Himalayas.
Take it with the power of your IAS pen for your own military sword.
Let 27th not happen.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Next-Generation Gripen unveiled today!

Saab unveiled the first of the next generation of combat fighters, the Gripen Demonstrator aircraft this afternoon in Sweden. Here are the first pictures from the ceremony today. Feast!

Just finished reading Air Marshal Philip Rajkumar's The Tejas Story (Manohar Publishers). A rare look inside the Light Combat Aircraft programme. I'll be posting some excerpts and a review in the next couple of days; but I recommend the book outright. It's a must read for anyone with even a passing interest in how the LCA came to be. It's got loads of inside stuff on the ego clashes, the whimsical demands from everywhere, the massive personality clashes and finally, of course, a nice bit about how our scientists overcame the death-drought of post-Pokhran sanctions. One of the fun books I've read recently.

An interesting point came up in today's Parliament questions. The Defence Minister has said that the government was making efforts to relax the 26 per cent foreign direct investment cap in defence to facilitate HAL's Multirole Transport Aircraft (MTA) programme. Imagine -- it took the needs of public sector undertaking to get the damned cap relaxed, when the private sector has clamoured for years and years for the same. More soon on the MTA.

Photos ©Copyright Gripen International by Peter Karlsson, Svarteld form & foto AB

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Three Star Discontent: Lt Gen PC Bhardwaj versus Lt Gen PC Katoch

Lieutenant General Prabodh Chandra Bharadwaj (see photo, left) is a name you've probably seen a lot in the press lately. Well for those who haven't been paying attention (or couldn't care less, as could well and justifiably be the case!), he's the general who recently took over as General Officer Commanding-in-Chief (GOC-in-C) of the Army's Udhampur-headquartered Northern Command -- the command vacated by Lt Gen HS Panag after he was shunted out to Lucknow to head the Central Command.

Well anyway, Gen Bhardwaj is in the centre of a sticky HR mess in the Army's most sensitive command. After commanding 14 Corps in Leh, he took over as Northern Commander on March 1 this year, but he's been commanding without his crucial Chief of Staff, Lt Gen Prakash Chand Katoch (see photo, right), an Uttam Yudh Seva Medal awardee for Kargil. Katoch has proceeded on 90 days leave because he refuses to serve under Gen Bhardwaj -- a junior officer, 172 places below Katoch in the ladder of Army seniority. Gen Katoch is certain to be accomodated at Army Headquarters in Delhi very shortly as Director General Information Services -- such is the fever-pitch of angst, while Lt Gen JS Lidder will fill Katoch's position. But here's the glitch -- even Lidder is senior to Bhardwaj, but his relations with the Army top brass are not quite as healthy as Katoch's. You see what I mean? The incidence of such situtations has increased over the last ten-odd years.

A lot of officers now live in a constant state of equivocation about whether they'll have to serve under their juniors in the future. Remember the whole Lt Gen Raj Kadyan fiasco, where he was forced to serve under a junior at the Eastern Command. It's no longer a singular case. A lot of people are ascribing these skewed conditions -- where juniors are allowed to command their seniors -- as a result of postings being shuffled at the whim of the Army top brass, with little or no interference from the Defence Ministry. We saw how the Panag drama unfolded. There still hasn't been a satisfactory response about why he was given marching orders after just a year in Udhampur.

Even Defence Minister AK Antony was chuffed enough by the circumstances of the last few months to go off on a tangent about "fair and transparent promotion boards" while addressing the IAF Commanders' Conference in the Capital on Monday morning

On a final note, and for information's sake, Gen Bhardwaj himself is no stranger to media attention. After serving as GOC Delhi Area, made it to the three-star rank on his second attempt. After promotion to Lt Gen, he was immediately posted to command the sensitive Leh-based 14 Corps. Outlook magazine ran a piece last year about the "Rs 5,000 crore" high altitude ration scam which took place when he was Corps commander. The magazine wondered how Bhardwaj could be posted to such a sensitive corps on promotion when he was first denied that very promotion.

Monday, April 21, 2008

LCA Tejas going to Berlin? Nope.

Looks like foreign air shows just can't get enough of the Light Combat Aircraft! After being listed erroneously as part of the flying displays during 2007's Paris Air Show and the MAKS-2007 in Moscow last August, the oblivious Tejas has been officially designated as part of the "equisite product display" at the ILA Berlin Air Show from May 27-June 1 at which India is official country partner. I remember the massive disappointment last year when HAL announced that the product display was indeed incorrect, and that there was no way the LCA was in any position to be ferried to France and back at such a critical phase of development.

Well, I hate to break it to you again – the Tejas isn't going to Germany either. I just spoke to the HAL spokesperson, who has confirmed that the LCA will not be present at the Berlin Air Show.

HAL is instead sending three Advanced Light Helicopters (ALH Dhruv) which will be available for demonstration flights. The people at the Berlin Air Show are wrong again – the IJT Sitara trainer will also give the show a miss. I truly hope there's some headway where the Dhruv is concerned. Not only is it HAL's most visible product, but also the one with the filthiest luck.

Other participants from India include DRDO, BEL, BDL, BHEL, OFM, MDNL, ISRO, BrahMos, L&T, Tata Power, Tata Advanced Materials, Accord Software & Systems, Saraswati Dynamics and CADES.

Photo Courtesy HAL

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Photo Beauty! Typhoon tears past HMS Daring

Sorry for this bombardment of Typhoon photos. Just had to post this one, taken just a few days ago. A crowd gathers on deck as a Royal Air Force XI Squadron Eurofighter Typhoon crosses paths with Royal Navy ship HMS Daring (Type 45 destroyer) during sea trials with the vessel.

USS Cole in India!

Remember the USS Cole? The famous American destroyer that was almost destroyed by an Al Qaeda suicide boatman in Aden in 2000 as part of the millenium attack plots? Well, she's in Indian waters now off the coast of Goa, and here for the Konkan 08 joint maritime operations exercise between the Indian and Royal navies as an embedded unit, taking a break from her deployment off Lebanon.

Ships have begun moving out for the Arabian Sea exercise, which begins tomorrow and continues till May 2. The Royal Navy's flag-ship for the exercise is the light aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious with six Merlin helicopters, guided missile frigate HMS Westminster, fleet replenishment tanker RFA Wave Knight, the afloat stores ship RFA Fort Austin and the hunter-killer submarine HMS Trafalgar. Embedded along with the Cole is French La Fayette-class frigate Surcouf.

The Indian Navy will field destroyers INS Mysore and Rajput, missile frigate INS Gomati, Class-209 attack submarine INS Shishumar and fleet tanker INS Aditya.

The exercise is to be conducted under the command of Western fleet commander Rear Admiral Anil Chopra. The British Force is to be commanded by Commodore Tom Cunningham RN, Commander Carrier Strike Group, who will be embarked on HMS Illustrious.

According to a press release from the British High Commission, "During the exercises at sea, the major thrust will be on combined maritime operations, with the Indian Navy’s Sea Harrier aircraft operating from Goa, and exercises between the submarines of the two navies. Other aspects of the exercise include intermediate and advanced Anti-Submarine Warfare, Maritime Interdiction Operations, VBSS (Visit, Board, Search and Seizure) procedures, Naval Gunfire Support, Clearance Diving and tactical manoeuvres."

P-8 Poseidon for Navy in sight?

The photo to the right is the very first P-8A Poseidon fuselage being lowered into a tooling fixture at Renton, Washington on April 3 this year. The Indian government is almost certain to sign up in the coming couple of weeks for eight long-range maritime reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare aircraft, with the option for four-to-eight more for the Navy. Boeing submitted its bid in April 2006, and field evaluations were held in June 2007 on an official test-bed platform -- production of the first P-8 (in the photo) didn't start till December 2007. The Navy was given a demonstration of the P-8 on a P-3 Orion testbed for systems, a C-40 for handling and a leased 737-800 for flight trials.

This could go down as one of the shortest timed wins if Boeing does land the deal -- though in official circles this is being taken as a given already. It would also be very welcome for a company that's still licking its wounds over the massively abortive tanker bid. (Slide to the left is from a presentation Boeing made during Aero India 2007, showing the aircraft's surveillance range and sweep)

When it lands the deal, the P-8 will have beaten the EADS MPA A319-CJ (see photo, along with the larger A320 MPA) a platform the company was putting together for other European nations. The deal to Boeing actually puts a pretty big damper on EADS' plans with its MPA family, though there's still whole bunches of legacy Atlantique-class fleets in European navies that are in desparate need of replacement.

The Navy plans to deploy its new airplanes at INS Rajali in Arakkonam, currently home to its fleet of magnificent Tu-142 long range maritime reconnaisance turboprops. By the time the new babies start arriving around 2012, the Tu-142s will slowly be eased out of service in a phased manner

Photo of P-8A fuselage by Jim Anderson ©Copyright Boeing IDS; Artists impression of MPA319-CJ with Indian Navy livery ©EADS

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Brand New Gripen Photos!

These are brand new Gripen photos. The first two photographs are the inaugural pair of Gripens handed over to the South African Air Force on April 7, 2008, and the last two are the Gripen's Meteor BVR missile firing test taken in March 2008. These Swedish aircraft designers are Michelangelos. Every last one of them.

Photos 1 & 2: ©Copyright 2008 Frans Dely / Gripen International, Photo 3: ©Copyright 2008 MBDA, Photo 4: ©Copyright 2008 Anders Ã…berg / Vidsel Test Range

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

New awesome Typhoon photos!

Just received some nice new Eurofighter Typhoon photos -- the first three are from this months's 90th anniversary celebrations of the RAF, where four Typhoons are seen tearing along with the Red Arrows' Hawk AJTs. The others are from a March 2008 test flight of an RAF Tyhoon over Welsh countryside. As the extended deadline for the MRCA RfP draws near (end of the month), I'll try posting brand new photos of all six fighters on LiveFist. Have received some real beauties of the Gripen from Hungary. Will post those shortly.