Sunday, August 30, 2009

UAC-HAL's Multirole Transport Aircraft JV To Be Incorporated Next Month

When Indian Defence Minister AK Antony visits Russia next month on an official visit, the two countries will formally incorporate a joint venture (upgrade the existing Inter-Governmental Agreement or IGA) for the joint development and production of the Multirole Transport Aircraft (MTA), agreed upon back in early 2006. The documents of incorporation were finalised by senior HAL/MoD officials before and during the recently concluded MAKS-2009 air show at Zhukovsky outside Moscow. Workshare aspects have already been worked out between the two countries.

Very much like the agreement on BrahMos, the agreement will chart out production for the armed forces of India and Russia, in addition to friendly third countries, a list of which has already been drawn up and will be enshrined as an annexure to the main agreement document. According to sources, the agreement also contains the agreed joint intention to spin-off (to be pioneered by HAL's Aircraft Research and Design Centre, Bangalore) and market a civilian variant of the MTA in the form of a 100-seater passenger airplane for which HAL will be the lead partner and principal integrator. The Indian part of serial production of the MTA, when ready, will take place at HAL's Transport Aircraft Division in Kanpur.

India's CGS Vigraha Now Lanka's SLNS Sayurala

Photos Copyright Sri Lanka Navy

Friday, August 28, 2009

EXCLUSIVE: Navy's MiG-29K Squadron To Be Called "Black Panthers"

The Navy's brand new INAS 303 squadron is being christened "Black Panthers" and will get its first four MiG-29Ks in late October or early November. The squadron emblem (to the right) will be painted on the tails of all the MiG-29Ks -- a snarling Black Panther, with a red mouth and nose, and yellow eyes. According to sources, there had been talk of naming the squadron "Sea Wolves", though the Navy finally took a call to name the squadron after a big cat, like the White Tigers squadron is.

Sources at Naval HQ indicate that Commander Theophilus is tipped to take over as the first Commanding Officer of the Black Panthers squadron. Cdr Theophilus currently heads the Intensive Flying & Testing Unit (IFTU) that has been raised in anticipation of the MiG-29K.

The contract for 16 MiG-29K jets was signed with RAC-MiG on Jan 20, 2004 for $740.35-million, with an agreed delivery commencement date of June 2007 (more than two years late, as usual). More details on the Indian Navy's preparations for the MiG-29K soon on LiveFist.

Indian Maritime Doctrine Release Released

Farewell To Navy Chief And DRDO Chief

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Navy's Sea Harriers Airborne Again

Less than a week after the Navy lost a committed young pilot Lt Cdr Saurav Saxena in a Sea Harrier fighter crash off the coast of Goa, the fleet was made airborne again today, sources confirmed. In what seems to me to be a true tribute to the memory of the young pilot, the Navy went through the motions and began Sea Harrier flights earlier today.

Coincidentally, when Navy Chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta was asked this afternoon about (erroneous) reports that the Harrier fleet had been grounded following the August 21 crash, he thundered, "Who has grounded them? Have you grounded them? I certainly have not." Obviously he's right. The fleet was never grounded. No recommendation was made by the Navy in Goa to HQ to effect grounding of the fleet, simply because they are thorough professionals. Nobody wants a knee-jerk grounding without understanding precisely what made the aircraft go down. After any crash, there is an default period -- the length of which varies -- of no flight for the type, during which a laid-down routine of specific tests are conducted. This is not the same as grounding the fleet, a far more serious decision whenever it is taken. The checks conducted during the post-crash period may lead to a recommendation for fleet grounding, but in this case it did not happen, thankfully. Grounding a fleet is an unnerving, difficult decision on any military commander.

Godspeed to our Naval aviators and their beautiful birds. Shano Varun.

Igor Djadan's MiG-29K Photos From MAKS-2009

Photos Copyright Igor Djadan

Navy Chief's Curtain Call

The outgoing Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Sureesh Mehta held his farewell press conference today. He spoke about a whole host of things, including China, the Indian Ocean, coastal security, the need for functional rather than geographical commands, post-26/11 lessons, military diplomacy, the INS Vikramaditya etc. Just a couple of things I thought I'd put down. One, he said the INS Shivalik, underwent a successful full-power test on August 24, and is likely to be commissioned in the next two months. "It was my fervent deseire to see Shivalik commissioned in my time. She's almost there, but not quite," he said.

Admiral Mehta confirmed what has been doing the rounds for a while now about the delay in the Scorpene submarine programme. He said, "We have lost a lot of time no doubt. Mazagon Docks is required to procure certain material from France, whilst the hull construction activity is going on here. There has been a little phase difference in this respect, and we are trying to resolve it. But we have lost a lot of time. MDL has to do something contractual to progress it."

Saraswat Named New DRDO Chief

The government decided yesterday that VK Saraswat, Chief Controller (Missiles & Strategic Systems) at India's Defence Research & Development Organisation, will be the next DG of DRDO, and its attendant office as Scientific Advisor to the Defence Minister. As I've posted earlier, Dr Saraswat is virtually synonymous with the Prithvi ballistic missile programme, though his recent renown is owed more to India's markedly successful anti-ballistic missile programme, Programme Air Defence (PAD) that has flourished during its test-phase overseen virtually single-handedly by him at DRDO Headquarters in Delhi. Losing out in the sweepstakes is Dr A Sivathanu Pillai, CEO & MD of BrahMos Aerospace, though it appears the government wants him to focus his energies on the hypersonic cruise missile programme. Here's the official release that came in today:

Eminent missile scientist Dr VK Saraswat will be the new head of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). He will take over from M Natarajan on September 1, 2009 as the Secretary, Department of Defence Research & Development, Scientific Adviser to the Defence Minister and Director-General, DRDO. Dr. Saraswat is presently a Distinguished Scientist and Chief Controller Research and Development (Missiles and Strategic Systems) in the DRDO.

Padmashri Dr Vijay Kumar Saraswat spearheaded the development of country’s strategic and tactical missile systems including the ‘Agni’ series of strategic missiles covering a range up to 3,000 kms. Dr. Saraswat, a Ph.D in Combustion Engineering, started his career in DRDO in 1972 at the Defence Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL), Hyderabad and was responsible for the development of country’s first Liquid Propulsion Engine. As Project Director ‘Prithvi’’, he steered the design, development, production and induction of the first indigenous Surface-to-Surface missile system into the armed forces. The successful testing of ‘Dhanush’ missile on board a moving ship with high terminal accuracy brought a new dimension in the national defence capability. As Program Director AD (Air Defence), Dr. Saraswat pioneered the concept of theatre defence system and integration of national Air Defence elements. He was Director, Research Centre Imarat (RCI) before taking over as CCR&D(MSS) in November, 2005.

Dr Saraswat is a forerunner in the development of number of critical missile technologies that were under denial due to the Missile Technology Control Regime, thus making India self-reliant in Missile Technologies. He has headed various committees of national importance. Dr. Saraswat has received several awards including Prof Jai Krishna Memorial Award of the Indian National Academy of Engineering (INAE) and National Systems Gold Medal by the Systems Society of India. International Academy of Engineering, Russia elected Dr. Saraswat as a Member of the Academy and honoured him as an Academician.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

IAF-USAF Joint Transport Exercise This October

The photograph to the right shows Indian paratroopers dropping out of a USAF C-130E aircraft near Agra during Exercise Cope India 2003. On October 19 this year, India and the US will begin conducting a five-day exercise involving their transport aircraft. According to a statement issued today by the IAF, the participating IAF aircraft include the IL-76, An-32 and Mi-17 chopper, while the Americans will field a C-17 Globemaster-III, a C-130J Super Hercules and a C-130H tactical transport. The IAF statement says, "The exercise is aimed at evaluating the efficacy of joint operations in the realm of tactics, aero medical aspects and Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) missions involving medium and heavy lift transport aircraft."

Photo Copyright TSgt. Mike Buytas, USAF

Monday, August 24, 2009

Photos: First Batch of Indian Licensed T-90 Tanks Roll Out

Mail Today: PAKFA Takes Off This November

Regret the incorrect headline (out of my hands, unfortunately!), but here's my piece in today's edition of Mail Today. There's also a paragraph that has somehow been edited out, which contained a detailed list of all the technical differences between the Russian single-seater T-50 and the Indian twin-seat FGFA, differences probably being brought out for the first time. Either way, that paragraph will appear in a follow-on piece that should appear in the paper in a few days. Plus details of the draft work-share proposal between KNAAPO, Irkutsk and HAL-Nashik. All of those edited-out details in the next instalment.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

First "True" Impression of FGFA?

Lapel pins handed out at the just concluded MAKS-2009 air show at Zhukovsky had this aft cross-section of the Sukhoi T-50, the Indo-Russian fifth generation fighter aircraft (FGFA, by Indian designation). RussiaToday quotes Sukhoi official as saying that the lapel pin is a cheap Chinese fake ("wait till they reverse engineer the PAK-FA, my friend!"), though other Russian officials apparently said this was an authentic depiction of the prototype and wind tunnel model. Since we've constantly been treated only to fantasy impressions and imaginary depictions, here's something that's out from Sukhoi itself.

Photo Copyright RussiaToday

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Friday, August 21, 2009

Upgraded Sea Harrier Crashes Off Goa Coast

A Sea Harrier of the Indian Navy crashed this morning, minutes before 12PM off the coast of Goa. The pilot, Lt Cdr Saurav C Saxena of the White Tigers Squadron was killed in the crash. A court of inquiry (COI) has been ordered. The aircraft that crashed one of the seven newly upgraded (Limited Upgrade) Sea Harriers of the Navy (two more are currently under upgrade by HAL). The Harrier was flying a mission in support of a Naval Veer-class guided missile corvette about 20 miles off the coast of Goa when it went down. Personnel on board the warship reported witnessing the aircraft impact the water. The crash did not happen during an exercise as has been reported by some agencies. It was very much an operational mission involving support of a corvette from a Mumbai squadron.

The depth of the sea at the point of impact is only about 40-meters, and therefore the Navy is hoping to rapidly complete a salvage operation. Some parts have already been salvaged. Investigations into the crash, like all previous inquiries involving the Sea Harrier, will be deeply difficult since the aircraft does not have a Flight Data Recorder (FDR) or even an accident-oriented Cockpit Voice Recorder (except for training purposes, with manual override available to the pilot). Lt Cdr Saxena is noted to have been a highly professional pilot, with a good deal of experience in fleet support missions.

Incidentally, Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Sureesh Mehta was in Goa on a farewell visit at the time of the crash.

RIP Lt Cdr SC Saxena.

EXCLUSIVE: Russia Formalises Su-35 Offer To India

After mentioning India last July among three countries to which the Sukhoi Su-35 would be pitched for export, sources reveal that Rosoboronexport has now formalised an offer to the Indian government. The United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) is understood to have conveyed officially to the Indian government just days ahead of the MAKS 2009 aero-show at Zhukovsky that India has the option of purchasing 16-20 Su-35 fighters -- about a squadron's worth. According to the offer, the production would be prioritised along with the Russian order for 48 jets, a deal that was finally struck once the show opened, but had obviously been finalised many weeks ago. The air forces of Brazil and Venezuela are also considering options with involving unspecified numbers of the Su-35. More details soon.

Image Copyright KNAAPO

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Tragic Sukhoi Collision Kicks Off MAKS-2009

Two Sukhoi-27s of the Russian fighter display team, the Russkiye Vityazi, collided today during a practice session. According to news agencies, the pilot of the lead aircraft of the formation was killed after his he ejected from his doomed jet -- it apparently spun out of control and went down after the collision. Two other pilots who ejected survived. I took these photos at a performance of the same display team at MAKS-2007. Still trying to ascertain if the lead pilot who went down was the same one I met and interviewed two years ago Zhukovsky -- the agencies haven't named him yet. RIP.

Photos Copyright Shiv Aroor

Saturday, August 15, 2009

L&T's Arihant Advertisement

Navy Celebrates Independence Day

INS Sujata, one of the Navy's Sukanya-class large patrol vessels at the Navy's I-Day celebrations today.

Photos Courtesy Southern Naval Command

Friday, August 14, 2009

DAE's Official Cutaway of Arihant

This is an official illustration of India's Arihant SSBN, made available to Frontline magazine by the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE). The shape looks to be pretty much what we saw in Visakhapatnam, barring the hump contours immediately behind the conning tower.

Image Copyright DAE via Frontline Magazine

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Indigenous Unmanned Ground Vehicle for Indian Army

The Army could soon have its first Unmanned Ground Vehicle!The first prototype of Unmanned Ground Vehicle on BMP-II vehicle platform has been developed by the Combat Vehicles Research & Development Establishment (CVRDE), Avadi, Chennai. The prototype consists of a drive-by-wire (DBW) system which includes electro-mechanical actuators and drives for the driver interfaces such as acceleration, brake, gear shifting, steering, clutch, parking brake, etc. The DBW system is controlled by a PXI-based controller in the remote vehicle and receives commands on a wireless LAN from a lab view-based GUI located in the base station.

The position feedbacks from the encoders on the steering actuators and from limit switches on the gear shift levers are obtained at the base station for accurate control. The clutching and gear shifting operations have been combined in the GUI, rendering the advantages of an automatic transmission to the conventional powerpack. Remote switching on the engine is also built in the controller. The unmanned BMP was demonstrated to Dr A Sivathanu Pillai, Distinguished Scientist on 25 May 2009. The signals from the engine, like engine RPM, vehicle speed, etc are acquired by a data acquisition card and displayed in the GUI. The electro-mechanical actuators for the BMP-II have been designed in such a way that the driver’s accessibilityto all the control pedals is not affected. The reverse effect on the actuators due to the manual override was considered during the design and selection of electro-mechanical actuators.

Text & Photo: DRDO

Army's New Norms For Commendation Badges

The Indian Army has decided that from now on, only two types of Commendation Badges will beworn on the uniform -- a) COAS Commendation Badges and (b) Army Commendation (the term “Army” encompasses all GOsC-in-C, ARTRAC and VCOAS with respect to award of Commendation Badges). Commendation Badge awarded more than once will be denoted by a star (eg second occasion will be denoted by a single star, third by two stars and so on) A maximum of three stars will be permitted in each of the Commendation Badge (viz COAS Commendation Badge and Army Commendation Badge) Only one each of the above, when awarded, will be worn immediately above and on either side of the button of the flap of the left breast pocket. Individuals awarded the CNS/CAS Commendation cards can continue to wear the CNS/CAS Commendation badge as long as they are posted to Navy/Air Force/Tri Service organizations. On reversion to Army they will wear the COAS commendation badge. Service Chief’s Commendation Card awarded more than once will be depicted by a star. Individuals posted to Navy/Air Force/tri service organizations can wear the Commendation Badge of that service/establishment only for the duration of their tenure. On reversion to Army, they will wear the Army Commendation Badge. In case these individuals have already been awarded or are awarded later an Army Commendation Badge then the tri service Commendation Badge will be represented by a star on the Army Commendation Badge.