Sunday, March 29, 2009

Video: Today's BrahMos Block-II Test-firing

Video Courtesy DRDO

BrahMos Block-II tests successfully, ready for induction

BrahMos Statement: Today on 29th of March 2009 Land attack version of the BrahMos Block-II was tested from a Mobile Autonomous Launcher (MAL) at Pokhran test range by Indian Army officers. The missile took off successfully at 11.15AM. and hit the desired target bull's eye, meeting all mission parameters. The launch was witnessed by the DGMO Lt Gen AS Sekhon, Commandant School of Artillery Lt Gen KR Rao and Maj Gen VK Tiwari, ADG Artillery.

This is the third launch in series for the Block-II version for the Indian Army. With this launch the requirement of army for the land attack version with Block-II advanced seeker software with target discriminating capabilities has been fully met and this version is ready for induction.

Photo of today's launch Courtesy BrahMos Aerospace

Thursday, March 26, 2009


Going home (Chennai) for a week for a short break). Will try blogging over the next few days, but likely back only early next week. Take care, all.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Photos: The Russian Project 677 Lada/Amur submarine

The Rubin Bureau-designed Russian Navy's Sankt Petersburg, the lead ship of the class vying for the Indian Navy's second submarine production line.

Photos Courtesy Rubin Design Bureau

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

They've got Feroze Varun all wrong

Anyone who thinks Varun Gandhi's speech in Pilibhit/Barkhera makes him something of a Hindutva posterboy all of his own doing, has it all wrong. If you watch his speech with any measure of detachment -- and I know that's difficult -- you'd see just how put-on and out-of-character it all appears. His thuggish, dimwitted personality does not have the finesse to latch onto the finer contours of electoral politics. If anyone even remotely believes that the idea of for his speech was his own, they would have totally misread both Varun Gandhi and his state of being. He's a string-puppet, and was put up to the job by someone far more clever, far sharper and higher up in the saffron establishment. As was made clear by his bumbling, obtuse statement to the media later, Varun does not have the intellectual follow-through to stick with something he isn't obviously convinced about, politically or otherwise.

Because let's be absolutely clear about one thing. Feroze's (that's his given name, not Varun) violent, peurile adventurism is the result of carefully modulated instructions. I say this now because there are several reasons why I don't think he believes in the things he said, beyond maybe for the ludicrously cheap political gains. But again, let's not play down the gains. Because Varun Gandhi has, overnight, gone from being the underdog Gandhi, paranoid, insecure and with nothing to call his own, directly into the harsh glare of the public eye where he's assured himself the wilful permanence that the media has in the past dealt to folks like Uma Bharti and that jackass from the VHP. Varun Gandhi is now a star for the deeply offensive things he said in those speeches. Let's not kid ourselves. In all likelihood, he will win from Pilibhit and even campaign for the BJP in other constituencies.

Varun's mentor (whoever that is) found in him an adequately dim-witted yet sophisticated young man, with all the energy and passion of a comfortable life, coupled with an instant detachment from the obvious dust of politics. I remember his popular column in RSS newspaper Organiser. I remember how Varun wrote flagrantly unedited copy, rich with inaccuracies and factual boo-boos about defence and national security. I remember wondering how someone with an obvious brain could write such drivel. Obviously I know very little about politics and perception, because in the span of a year of writing those deeply misinformed columns, Varun automatically became something of an authority on the security of akhand Bharat, even if he couldn't expand SLBM if a gun was held to his forehead.

Varun was a year senior to me in a boarding school in South India for two years. We didn't know each other in any real sense, but I of course knew who he was -- in Class 5, I remember it being immeasurably smooth that a Gandhi studied at the same school I did. In a sense I thought I must be doing something right! Well, as it turns out, for whatever reason, I hated the school, and after two years, threatened my parents with desertion if they did not immediately get me out and back home. I don't know if Varun went on to graduate from that school, but I imagine he did. I faintly remember a conversation with him outside his dormitory block (I was waiting for another friend), where we talked about Nintendo videogames and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles -- it's hard to remember or imagine what a phenomenon the Turtles were back then. But I digress.

I just think Varun Gandhi's getting too much credit (I mean that in the neutral sense of course) for something that isn't really his brainchild. His adventurism -- such as it is -- will almost certainly crank up his political position (it already, indubitably, has). I know people who know Varun Gandhi well -- people who've been his friends for years, and remain friends. He used to a date someone who was half-Muslim. If anyone took his diatribe against sardars seriously, that would be laughable. Varun, as everyone knows, is half-Sikh by birth. But again, that's besides the point.

There are only two points here that matter, and they're the only ones that matter. One, Varun Gandhi has consolidated perceptions of him and his political position in equal measure -- something that has assured him a berth in the wagon of dirty democracy. Two, he will have people to thank for it.

India's New Submarine Hunter

Copyright Headlines Today

Monday, March 23, 2009

Outgoing HAL Chief kick-starts chopper school in B'lore

Days before he retires, HAL chairman Ashok Baweja has managed to realise a personally long-held dream -- to create a state-of-the-art helicopter training facility in Bangalore. The (rather cheesily titled) Helicopter Academy to Train by Simulation of Flying (HATSOFF) is the result of a $60-million joint venture entered into today with equal financial exposure by HAL and Canadian firm CAE Incorporated, a leading producer of simulation technologies. The joint venture has set a target of late 2010 to become fully functional -- at that point to begin with, it will be equipped to train upto 400 pilots every year. Although the centre plans to incorporate into its curriculum, training for a large number of different helicopter types, the kick-off courses will be offered on the ALH Dhruv (IAF/Army variant), the ALH Dhruv (civil variant), the Bell 412 and Eurocopter SA365 Dauphin.

According to a joint statement by HAL and CAE today, "The training centre will feature multimedia classrooms, computer-based training, brief/debrief facilities, and a training management information system. The CAE-built full-mission simulator for HATSOFF will feature a common motion system, vibration platform, and visual display system, and four separate cockpit modules that can be used in the full-mission simulator. When a cockpit is not used in the full-mission simulator, it will be used as a fixed-based flight training device (FTD). The simulator will be certified to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Joint Aviation Authority (JAA) Level D, the highest qualification for flight simulators."

Photo of AK and Mrs Baweja by Shiv Aroor / LiveFist
Photo of CAE NH90 chopper simulator Copyright CAE, Inc.

Blue Water Expedition at Lakshadweep by Army's Bison Division

Photos Courtesy Indian Army

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Mauritius chooses Dhruv

On March 24, a team of four pilots from Mauritius will arrive in Bangalore to begin month-long training on the ALH Dhruv. HAL signed a contract with the Mauritian government on February 27 for the sale of one civilian and VVIP transport variant of the helicopter. The country may buy upto two more in the near future sources say. This of course takes the total number of exported Dhruvs to seven (not counting the lease to Israel and the gifts to Nepal). This is a single chopper deal, but it's still something. Good going. HAL is also in talks with Suriname for the sale of upto three Dhruvs.

Photo of ALH civil variant by Shiv Aroor

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Next Chief

In February 2007, in a column in the Indian Express, I wrote about how the UPA government's decision to stick to protocol and designate, for the first time in history, a non-fighter pilot as the Chief of Air Staff, was "groundbreaking stuff". At least for India it was. I had written about how no government mandated that the Chief of Air Staff be a fighter pilot, and yet how right from Air Marshal TW Elmhirst to the man in office at the time (SP Tyagi), the selection process and consistently ensured that the man on top had fighter wings. So in that sense, the tenure of Air Chief Marshal Fali H Major has been a resounding first. Two years ago, it was a deep point for debate in defence circles. Make no mistake -- there were those who were severely opposed to the idea of a chopper pilot as chief. And that includes the Major's predecessor, Air Chief Marshal SP Tyagi, who said he would be "deeply embarassed" if the government asked for his opinion in the matter, and went on to add that "there was an inherent question as to whether someone who wasn't eligible to be the SASO of a command, could be eligible for the highest office".

But that's all in the past now. Air Chief Marshal Major has had two healthy, eventful years in office. And unless you seriously nitpick or provide credence to the quiet voices that always seep through the crannies of Vayu Bhawan, during his tenure he made no serious faux pas that would have handed him on a platter to his many detractors (there were and are many).

His recently designated successor, Vice Chief of Air Staff (VCAS) Air Marshal PV Naik is a rock-solid officer, whose name has been secured for the top job for some time now. As SASO Western Air Command and AOC-in-C Central Air Command, Naik has never once given the service or the establishment any reason to doubt that he will, without question, be the rightful next Chief of Air Staff. A no-nonsense fighter pilot with a dry sense of humour, Air Marshal Naik takes office under the next government, whichever way that swings!

As an officer who has commanded a base in the Valley and been on the directing staff at TACDE, Air Marshal Naik is superbly equipped with the huge task riding on his shoulders. For starters, with the impending expansion of the IAF space sub-branch and the creation of a crucial Directorate General of Operations (Air Marshal DC "Tiny" Kumaria is its first head), the IAF will begin to morph structurally and doctrinally in many different ways under the new chief. Urban warfare, the expansion of the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) operations doctrine, and endless other concepts and doctrines will flow into the operational knowledge pool. The doctrinal loop enters one of its most critical phases ever in the next two-three years. Old machines out, new machines in. In five years, if things go the way the air force wants them to, the service will be a completely new setup, virtually unrecognisable from its present structure, such as it is.

One thing's for sure. As always, there's a great deal to look forward to.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Air Marshal PV Naik to be next IAF chief

Air Marshal Pradeep Vasant Naik has been appointed the next Chief of Air Staff (CAS). He takes office on May 31, with the retirement of incumbent chief Air Chief Marshal Fali Homi Major. Born on 22 Jul 1949, Air Marshal Naik was commissioned into the Air Force on 21 Jun 1969 as a Fighter Pilot. During his long distinguished service spanning nearly 40 years he has served in a variety of Command Staff and Instructional appointments. He has the distinction of 3085 hrs of flying to his credit. The Air Officer also took part in 1971 war. Before taking over as VCAS, he was Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Allahabad based Central Air Command. Besides being a fellow of the National Defence College, New Delhi, College of Defence Management, Secundrabad and Defence Services Staff College, Wellington, he has attended a variety of courses like flying instructor Course, Jungle & Snow Survival, Junior Commanders Course. Air Marshal Naik was decorated with Param Vishist Seva Medal (PVSM) and Vishist Seva Medal (VSM). He is one of the Honorary ADCs of the Supreme Commander.

Advani promises military veterans One-Rank One-Pension

It goes without saying that there are few things less reliable than a politician before elections. However, it was no less than the BJP's prime ministerial candidate LK Advani who stopped by at the veteran hungerstrike at Jantar Mantar in Delhi and offered them his support. According to a statement released by the Indian Ex-Servicement Movement (IESM) which organises the hungerstrikes (and the return of upto 13,000 gallantry and good service medals so far to the government), Advani, on behalf of his party and its NDA partners, fully endorsed the demand and categorically stated that if elected to office, they will implement "One Rank One Pension" without any delay.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Photos: P-8 Wind Tunnel Tests

Generic high/low-speed and weapon separation wind-tunnel tests that were conducted on the P-8 at Boeing's facility on Philadelphia.

Photos Copyright Boeing

MiG's rejoinder to reports on Russia's MiG-29s being grounded

"Our attention has been drawn to some media reports on ‘grounding’ of MiG-29 aircraft in Russia. This is not only incorrect but misleading. The facts are that since the early 1990s, a substantial part of the Russian Air Force MiG-29 fleet has not been operated for different, primarily budgetary, reasons. In the course of scheduled inspections and maintenance of these aircraft, some defects in specific aircraft fins were ascertained in a relatively small number of aircraft. Based on this inspection, the RAC “MiG” Design Bureau has issued specific procedures for rectification which will enable these aircraft to remain fully operational through their service life. The bulk of MiG-29 type aircraft with the Russian Air Force continue in frontline service with fighter units in accordance with standard procedure.

The Indian Air Force, which has been operating MiG-29s for over 20 years, has three operational squadrons with the type. According to well informed sources, the IAF has its own system of regular maintenance and stringent technical checks and its MiG-29s continue in frontline service even as the upgradation programme is underway in Russia. Apart from this, in January 2009 RAC “MiG”, for the purpose of prompt notification of the IAF, forwarded a methodic for inspection of critical zones of the aircraft fins.

As concerns the new MiG-29K / KUB carrier-based aircraft, these have been designed and produced in full consideration of the maritime conditions in which they will be operated. These aircraft have been suitably ‘marinised’ and there is no question of any defects in the airframe structure even during the aircraft long term storage.” Indian Naval aircrew are presently converting to this type in Russia."

The P-8I Presentation

These are excerpts from the presentation that Boeing made on the P-8I to the IAF in 2006 and at Aero India in 2007. Putting all this up here for the record.

Presentation ©Copyright Boeing IDS

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

EXCLUSIVE Photos: Where the P-8 is built

The Renton, Washington factory where the P-8 is built. The photos also show the outside area, the awesome waterway. Very senior Boeing executives who fancy sports flying apparently use their waterplanes to come to work. Also the front page story by Seattle Times aerospace reporter Dominic Gates about the first P-8 in May last year when I visited.

All Photos by Shiv Aroor

Poseidon trail...

Coming up... lots of content on the Boeing P-8I. Photos, animations, videos. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Photos: New images of the Saudi Typhoons and the production line

Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) Typhoons at Warton, UK, shortly to be delivered. Also, the final assembly facilities at Caselle (Italy), Manching (Germany) and Warton (England).

First four photos and last photo Copyright Ray Troll (BAE Systems) / Fifth photo Copyright Geoffrey Lee Planefocus Ltd

The P-8I in Indian Navy colours

Don't know if I missed this one (posting it anyway!) -- the Boeing P-8I in Indian Navy colours.

Photo Copyright Boeing IDS

Sunday, March 15, 2009

EXCLUSIVE: DRDO's planned tracked unmanned vehicle

If everything goes according to plan, by the end of this year DRDO will begin testing a long-needed full-tracked unmanned remote-controlled military vehicle. The 14-ton vehicle will be an armoured, amphibious and air-transportable – its declared functions as of now include nuclear-biological-chemical reconnaisance, surveillance and mine-hunting. The vehicle chassis will be 6.7 metres long and 3.15 metres wide over the track guards (2.85 metres over just the tracks). The vehicle will have an independent torsion bar suspension system. Propulsion on land is proposed to be provided by the 2.5-metre wide tracks with track drive sprockets out front. The final drive ration as envisaged by the Combat Vehicles Research & Development Establishment (CVRDE), the laboratory that will pioneer the vehicle, is 5.5.

According to the DRDO, on hard level ground (while keeping its amphibious capability activated), the vehicle should cruise at a minimum of 65-km/h, with a maximum speed during mission mode of 20 km/h. The vehicle should be able to gun up from zero to 32 km/h in under eight seconds, and brake from 65 km/h to stand-still in about the same time. With a flat cruising range of 400-km, cross-country range of 200-km and a mission intensive range of 150-km @ 5 km/h, the vehicle is being developed to hold 462 litres of diesel.

The lab has also set down its obstacle abilities. The maximum gradient possible for the vehicle will be about 35° at 5 km/h, with the ability to cross a 2.5-m trench and a vertical obstacke 0.7-m high. Its operating terrain conditions should include plains, deserts, semi-deserts, urban areas and river line. Obviously with almost no expertise in armoured vehicle powerpacks, DRDO is in the market for a 400HP liquid inter-cooled four-stroke turbocharged diesel engine,with an electric start and the ability to operate in a minimum ambient temperature of -20°C and a maximum of 55°C. The engine would likely have a drive-by-wire management system, a high coolant temperature warning, shut off mechanism at Low oil pressure, low coolant level and no coolant flow, power de-rating mechanism at high coolant temperature and warning at the fuel filter choking.

Top Photo of BMP-2 model by Allan Yang

EXCLUSIVE: The K-15 Shourya test-firing in November 2008

The Project K-15 Shourya surface-to-surface missile being test-fired in November 2008 from the Integrated Test Range.

The Rafale's Thales RBE2 AESA Radar


Photos: The Typhoons enroute to India last month!

Get a load of these beauties. Photos taken by a German pilot while they were ferrying their Typhoons from Germany via UAE to India last month for Aero India 2009. These were released by Eurofighter though.

All Photos ©Copyright Major Marc "Tuna" Thoene (Luftwaffe)

Photos: Dassault nEUROn artist's impressions & wind-tunnel tests

The Dassault nEUROn stealth unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) will fly first at the end of 2011. Nifty B-2 wannabe.

All Photos ©Copyright Dassault