Wednesday, September 30, 2009

MiG-29Ks For Indian Navy Executes Final Flight-Tests Off Carrier Deck

MiG PRESS RELEASE (ABRIDGED): Russian Aircraft Corporation (RAC) "MiG" has successfully performed flight tests of MiG-29K/KUB fighters on the heavy aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, leased out for the these trials by the Indian Navy. These are the first take-offs and landings from an aircraft carrier for the aircraft purchased by the Indian Navy. The flights took place in the Barents Sea on 28 and 29 September. Representatives of the Indian Navy witnessed the flights.

Flights from the ship were performed by test pilots of RAC "MiG" Michael Beljaev, Pavel Vlasov, Nikolay Diorditsa, and test pilot of the Russian Air Force, Colonel Oleg Spichka. General director of JSC «Russian Aircraft Corporation «MiG» Michael Pogosjan was on th Kuznetsov during the tests.

Interesting UAE Report On Potential Rafale Deal

Copyright The National

Luftwaffe Typhoon Intercepts An-72 Snooper Over Lithuania This Month

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Indian Army Appointments

Lt Gen Baljit Singh Jaswal (photo) takes over as the Indian Army's GOC-in-C Northern Command on October 1. He takes office after incumbent Lt Gen Prabodh Chand Bhardwaj takes on strength as Vice Chief of Army Staff (VCOAS) on October 1. Lt Gen AS Lamba, currently Chief of Staff at the Army's Shimla-based training command (ARTRAC) will take over as GOC-in-C, ARTRAC. The appointment of Lt Gen Bhardwaj as Vice Chief had created a stir in the Army (and the Press), though this does not in any way upset the succession scene. The Army's current Eastern Commander, Lt Gen Vijay Kumar Singh, is still in line to be the next Chief of Army Staff when the current Chief, General Deepak Kapoor, retires next March.

Monday, September 28, 2009

India's Next Advanced Trainer Competition

In April this year, the Indian Ministry of Defence put out requests for information (RFI) for advanced jet trainers to meet a requirement of 57 new lead-in trainer aircraft, of which the Indian Air Force needs 40 and the Indian Navy, 17. The RFIs were sent out after the Indian government, to the great agitation of BAE Systems, chose not to use the option of purchasing 40+17 additional Hawk-132s from BAE as part of the 2004 deal for 66 Hawks AJTs, currently being built under license by HAL. A small saving grace for BAE is the fact that they received an RFI too, for the Hawk-128, the trainer programme's latest build variant. Firms like RAC-MiG and Aero Vodochody, which were part of the unprecedented two-decade long advanced jet trainer competition that ended in BAE winning in 2004, are back in the fray, and will be hoping to capitalise big time on the tentative bad-blood that has been allowed to ferment between HAL and BAE Systems. The government is budgeting $1-billion for the next line of trainers. The six airplanes pictured above will compete once the formal tender is out. And that, of course, is contingent on whether BAE manages or fails to convince the government to change its mind and stick to the Hawk-132.

Official Product Photos ©Copyright (in sequence) Aero Vodochody a.s. /Alenia Aermacchi / RAC-MiG / Lockheed-Martin / Yak Aircraft Corporation / BAE Systems

Saturday, September 26, 2009

AoA: What Happens To Previous Transgressions?

When you filled out your first ever visa form for a foreign nation, you probably chuckled to yourself when the form asked you to declare if you belonged to a terrorist group and meant to mobilise anti-national forces upon entry into that country. One particular visa form also asks, a little rakishly, if you mean to promote sexually deviant behaviour in the country you intend to visit. Obviously a lot of people lie in their visa forms. But the reason I was thinking about visa forms today was because I was cleaning my house out and found a copy of India's Defence Procurement Procedure 2006, a document that was hailed at its release for providing all the underpinnings of transparent, fair purchase of weapons and equipment for India's armed forces. I flipped over to "Annexure I of Appendix H of Schedule I", a component we all know as the Integrity Pact. It is a formidable piece of literature if there ever was one, composed with a great clarity of purpose, and I'm not being sarcastic here. Thing is, it's a fill-in-the-blanks form that calls upon weapons manufacturers to make declarations very much like those amusing questions in a visa form. Sample this:

Clause 7.1 if the Integrity Pact, titled Previous Transgressions, mandates that the "Bidder declares that no previous transgression occurred in the last three years immediately before signing of this Integrity Pact, with any other company in any country in respect of any corrupt practices envisaged hereunder or with any Public Sector Enterprise in India or any Government Department in India, that could justify bidder’s exclusion from the tender process."

That's a visa form question, and no mistake. The Integrity Pact, unfortunately, does not call upon bidders to provide a fair and voluntary declaration of alleged involvement in misconduct. I'm not talking about blog posts (!) or news reports calling into question the activities of armament companies. I'm talking about official committees of inquiry in other nations, foreign government complaints, formal investigations, that sort of things. You know, hard stuff. Wouldn't it be something if the Integrity Pact made it compulsory for every bidder to declare, without prejudice, every single case of alleged malfeasance that it was being formally investigated for? Let the government then track those cases using its own resources, such as they are. Give the bidders an opportunity to annexure their own stand on each case of alleged misconduct, but get it down in the contract. Get it down on paper. You're doing so much with the Integrity Pact. Why not go all the way?

If such a declaration were indeed mandatory in the Integrity Pact, the contract agreements would do a number of things. First, and least importantly, they'd make the contracts much more readable! Second, it would provide the government with a sharp gauge of what the bidders consider to be serious misconduct. Third, it would provide the government a superb measure of legal (and moral?) leverage in the event that any of the bidders have to be penalised (which, when it happens, pans out in a ludicrously unproductive way, but that's another matter). Not that the government needs any more overriding powers in tender competitions, but it would help keep things even more transparent.

Because let's make no mistake about it. For reasons understood by all, the Indian government insulates itself very effectively against the conduct of armament makers outside the borders of India and insulates itself even more from their reputations. A promise of good behaviour in the preceding three years before the tender (which is what the Integrity Pact demands) is as much as South Block was willing to push the boat, even with a relatively revolutionary initiative as the Integrity Pact. Well, it isn't nearly enough.

For the sake of argument, consider the MMRCA contract. Every single one of the bidders fights allegations of corruption. Every single one. Russia's RAC-MiG continues to fight allegations of malfeasance in a contract with Sri Lanka for MiG-29 fighter planes. Sweden's Saab has had allegations of corruption in the supply of Gripen jets to the Czech Republic and South Africa. Boeing lost the US Air Force's enormous refuelling tanker contract on account of the Darlene Druyun episode, and was suspected of using undue influence in its sale of F-15s to South Korea. Reliable reports suggest that Lockheed-Martin's ex-Country Head had access to classified Indian government documents pertaining to the Indian MMRCA tender itself. Dassault Aviation also was suspected of bribing an official in the South Korean fighter competition. The Eurofighter Typhoon stands smeared deeply by BAE's alleged conduct in the Saudi Arabian Al Yamama deal.

And these are just the scandals the media picked up on. Corruption in defence deals has a supreme and uncanny ability to dodge vigilance and media radar very effectively. That's because the stakes involved are high enough to compel both giver and receiver to make all possible arrangements for discretion and subterfuge. Indeed, it is also an open secret that the pickings from defence deals are a premium way of filling the coffers of political parties in power. But a country like India, which will not be weapons self-reliant any time soon, cannot afford to soundproof itself from the activities of its potential suppliers abroad.

The conduct of weapons companies has to have a bearing on the potential profits they make from Indian money. Right now, it plainly doesn't. Not enough anyway. Start by getting each one of them to place on record the alleged dirt. Just start by that.

Inside DRDO's Kaveri Jet Engine

Photos & Material Copyright DRDO

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Rafale Wins The MMRCA Competition On LiveFist!

In a poll conducted here on LiveFist, the French would probably be pleased to know that readers of this blog thought that the Rafale should be chosen in India's $12-billion medium multirole combat aircraft (MMRCA) competition. In almost 1,000 votes polled over two days, the Rafale was on top with 28 per cent (278 votes)! What definitely won't warm the cockles of the folks at Lockheed-Martin is that the company's F-16IN Super Viper was trounced, coming in last with a measly 3 per cent of votes polled (38 votes). The Russian MiG-35 enjoys a great a deal of love, obviously, despite being heckled about quite a bit. The Fulcrum-F took 225 votes, that's a nice chunky 23 per cent of the total votes polled. Sweden's Gripen disappointed with a 12 per cent performance (120 votes), though it was still miles above its bĂȘte noire in the competition, the F-16. Not surprisingly, readers placed the Eurofighter Typhoon and the Boeing F/A-18 virtually neck-t0-neck with 16 (166 votes) and 15 per cent (151 votes) of the total votes polled respectively.

Photo of Rafale ©Copyright Dassault Aviation

Monday, September 21, 2009

RIP Nitin Luthra

It was with deep sorrow that I learnt this morning that Nitin Luthra, passed away in the early hours. Nitin, 32, had just taken on position as Director & News Editor at the Indian defence magazine India Strategic, a journal edited and published by his father Gulshan Luthra. Nitin previously spent almost three years as a staff reporter covering aviation and defence for Dow Jones Newswires, and six years before that as an equities correspondent with Reuters. He leaves behind his wife Surabhi and their four-year-old son. RIP.

IMAGES: IAF Dhruv Rescues Army Mountaineers

An ALH Dhruv from the IAF's 117 HU rescues Army mountaineers from the Pin Parbati Pass in Himachal on September 14. The chopper was piloted by Wg Cdr Nikhil Naidu with co-pilot Wg Cdr UKS Bhaduria.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Indian Army Special Forces For New 9mm Pistol

The Indian Army has put out a request for information (RFI) for new semi-automatic 9mm (9x19) pistols for its Special Forces and Parachute units. According to the RFI document, the Army has detailed that it is looking for a weapon that has "the option of fixing on a laser and a high intensity flash light. It should be light weight, easy to carry and operate, robust pistol with which a Para Trooper should be able to carry out static line and free fall parachute jumps with the weapon on person/packed in the rucksack/weapon container."

The SF and Para units currently have Austrian Glock 17 and and Belgian firm Fabrique Nationale de Herstal's (FN) FN-35 9mm pistols. According to sources, the Army is expecting responses from a lot of companies which include Israeli Military Industries (SP-21 Barak) and German firm Carl Walther GmbH Sportwaffen (Walther P99).

FIRST IMAGES: IAF An-32 Lands At Nyoma, Ladakh

Photos Courtesy DPR Defence / Indian Air Force

Admiral Arun Prakash: The Arihant In Perspective

The following column, providing a robust and authentic account of India's ATV SSBN programme, the first by a former Navy Chief after the launch of the submarine in July, appears in FORCE Magazine:

Following close in the wake of India's nuclear submarine launch, former Navy Chief Sureesh Mehta's observations about the yawning gap between the militaries of China and India created a minor flutter in the media. But his candid admission revealed no secrets. In fact his remarks should serve to focus attention on the contrasting approaches of the two nations. We seem to have pinned all our hopes on high GDP growth triggering a Biblical “loaves and fish” miracle in India. The Chinese, on the other hand, adopting a multi-track approach, have ensured balanced growth of their nation by pursuing all constituents of Comprehensive National Power; economic, technological, diplomatic, social, cultural, and of course, military. It is in situations of asymmetry such as this, as Pakistan has repeatedly demonstrated to us, that a nuclear deterrent comes in handy if brandished noisily. Since that is not our style, let us at least dust off the cobwebs, mental and actual, and take stock of where our own nuclear deterrent stands after the launch of the Advanced Technology Vessel (ATV) on 26th July 2009.

Obsessive Secrecy?

The ATV project has been probably one of India's worst kept secrets. A Google search for “ATV Submarine“ would, on any day, would throw up between 100, 000 to 200, 000 results ranging from news snippets, blog discussions and Wikipedia articles to learned analyses on the Federation of American Scientists website. Every aspect of the project has been discussed threadbare in cyber-space by self-appointed experts, amateur security analysts and plain nuts; sprinkled with inputs from retired scientists and an occasional press release by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) and Naval HQ have been content to maintain stoic silence about the ATV in the face of this tell-tale evidence and using, as a last resort, the “neither confirm nor deny” line to fend off the inquisitive media. Perhaps there was a method in all this secrecy and we did manage to befuddle everyone who tried to garner the truth from the heap of disinformation and half-truths available in the public domain on the ATV.

But the trouble with excessive secrecy is that while it may or may not deceive the enemy, it can certainly obfuscate the truth and lead you to the wrong conclusions; often with deleterious consequences. Now that the submarine is out of the closet, we need to discuss some aspects of this project which has a vital bearing on national security.

Project Management Paradigm

India must be unique amongst nations that undertake major expenditure on defence R&D in that; both timelines and cost ceilings are infinitely flexible and neither accountability nor responsibility for delays, or even failure, are ever affixed. Subjective in-house “peer reviews” can never be a substitute for hardnosed audits and progress-checks by independent experts, as well as end-users. The dismal story of projects like the Kaveri turbo-jet engine, the Light Combat Aircraft, the Arjun battle tank and the Trishul surface-to-air missile could have been very different, had they not been wrapped in furtive secrecy and been subjected, instead, to periodic scrutiny and oversight.

Of all the DRDO projects, to date, perhaps it is only the ATV which has forged ahead steadily, and, even after allowing for time and cost overruns as well as other shortcoming, can be called an outstanding success story. While we will dwell on some of the issues later, it can be stated up-front that this major achievement is mainly attributable to three factors, which should provide salutary lessons for the other two Services. The high level of synergy and co-ordination attained by the IN, DRDO and Department of Atomic Energy (DAE).

The tremendous good sense displayed by DRDO in placing the Navy in the driving seat, resulting in the intimate participation of the end-user in the project. The sustained and non-invasive support provided by successive Secretaries of DRDO to the project.

Genesis and Growth

The IN had begun to examine the viability of indigenous design and construction of a nuclear submarine as far back as 1967, and the initiative gathered momentum soon after the 1974 “peaceful nuclear explosion”. By 1978 a small IN-DAE team had been located at BARC to undertake serious design and feasibility studies. This study obviously brought home the magnitude of the colossal challenge posed by this undertaking, and it was decided to approach the USSR for assistance.

A decade after signing the 1971 Treaty of Peace and Friendship, the Soviet Deputy Defence Minister Marshal Ogarkov made an unprecedented offer, to lease a nuclear powered submarine to India along with a training and maintenance package. In 1988 a Charlie I Class (Project 670) Soviet nuclear attack submarine (SSN) arrived in Indian waters on a 3-year lease. Renamed INS Chakra, this SSN carried neither the weapons nor the systems for a strategic role, and therefore served a limited purpose; that of providing experience to IN personnel in the operation, maintenance and deployment of a nuclear-propelled submarine.

Tagged on to the lease offer had been an option for acquiring Soviet “assistance for design and construction of a nuclear-powered submarine” at a later date. Sometimes in the mid-1980s, in a far-sighted initiative, the IN and the DRDO joined forces, to constitute the Advanced Technology Vessel Project as an R&D venture. Funded by DRDO, the project was headed by a three-star Director General and manned largely by naval personnel.

On completion of preliminary concept studies, realization began to dawn on the ATV group, of the immense complexity of most disciplines involved in this ambitious project. The heart of this 6000 ton nuclear-powered vessel would be miniature low-enriched uranium (LEU) fuelled pressurized light-water reactor (PWR) delivering about 90 megawatts (120,000 horsepower) of power to drive it at 25 knots.

Unlike civilian power reactors which operate at a steady state, a naval reactor has to respond instantly to repeated variations in power for ship maneuvering. Nuclear safety, radiation, shock, quieting, and operating performance requirements in addition to operation in close proximity to the crew dictate exceptionally high standards for design, manufacturing and quality assurance. Once on patrol, a submarine's reactor remains inaccessible for inspection or replacement throughout its core life -- unlike a typical commercial nuclear reactor which can be shut down for refueling or repairs as required.

For scientists used to designing shore-based natural uranium/heavy water reactors spread over a couple of football fields, miniaturizing reactor components to fit inside a 20x20 foot compartment, with the whole assembly weighing no more than 300-400 tons, posed an insurmountable obstacle. No less daunting were the challenges of submarine design, hull fabrication and underwater missile launch, to name just a few.

ATV Spin-offs

The promised Russian assistance, both material and intellectual did come; albeit in fits and starts which accounted for most of the programme delays, and at prices which escalated at a breathtaking rate. However, Indians being quick learners, our scientists, engineers and designers too, rapidly gained proficiency in many of the complex technologies involved in nuclear submarine construction. In this process, DAE scientists also succeeded in building and fuelling a small shore-based reactor in Kalpakkam, which now serves as a useful training aid for submarine crews. In addition, there are many areas in which the tremendously beneficial fall-out of the ATV project has gone un-noticed by the public. Firstly, a large number of private sector companies have not just participated but contributed most significantly to the project by mastering esoteric techniques and technologies, to design and fabricate major systems for the vessel. Secondly, the ATV HQ has spawned a huge indigenization process in which small and medium ancillary industries all over the country have participated to contribute sub-systems and components manufactured to high precision and reliability specifications. Lastly, DRDO and other defence laboratories have come up trumps in developing some excellent products like combat-management systems, sonars, and electronic warfare systems for the ATV. The launch of the first ATV, whose correct current designation is S-2 (she will become INS Arihant only on commissioning in due course) is no doubt a most significant milestone in every respect and marks a major step in India's quest for a ballistic missile armed submarine, known in US parlance as SSBN. However, in order to tread the thin line between skepticism and euphoria, and retain a balanced perspective, it is necessary to note the fact the S-2 is only the first step in a long journey, and it may be a year or more away from becoming an operational sea-going submarine.

More importantly, she may remain a “technology demonstrator” for a long time before attaining the status of a ballistic missile nuclear submarine or SSBN due to three major factors.


The reasons why nations place a significant part of their nuclear arsenals on board SSBNs is because of their supposed undetectability. Once at its patrol depth of a few hundred meters in the murky ocean deep, the SSBN is considered safe from prying satellites and risk of attack, and poses a continuous, threat to the adversary with her battery of submarine launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs).

The only way to detect an SSBN, or any submarine for that matter, is through acoustics. The noise generated by a submarine's hull, reactor, machinery, propeller and even her crew, across the full spectrum of frequencies can be picked up by the adversary's listening devices mounted on ships, helicopters or submarines. Known as low-frequency recording and analysis or LOFAR devices, these sensors can detect submarine noise at tens of miles and pinpoint an SSBN within minutes. The Hollywood movie “Hunt for Red October” typified the deadly serious Cold War cat-and-mouse game played out between US and Soviet navies to locate and mark each other's SSBNs, using LOFAR as well as sonar; with the Soviets usually at a disadvantage because of their traditionally noisier submarine designs. In our case, the first crucial test of the Arihant's design will be the careful calibration of her underwater noise signature, which will determine her degree of invulnerability and suitability as a SLBM carrying platform. This may call for extensive trials involving minor adjustments or major design modifications - if not for S-2, certainly for her successors.

Reactor Design

For the submarine leg of the nuclear triad to have significance, there must be one or more fully armed SSBNs on continuous patrol, which could last for months. Before one SSBN returns home she must be relieved on patrol by another one. This obviously requires, not just, that there should be a certain minimum number of SSBNs available in one's inventory, but also that at least 2-3 of them should be operationally available at any given time.

The most crucial factor in SSBN availability is her refueling cycle. Refueling, or replacing the enriched uranium fuel rods, of a submarine reactor is a complex dockyard operation which may take a submarine out of circulation for anything from 18-24 months.

The life of a reactor core is decided, apart from enrichment level of uranium fuel rods, by its operating regime. Since a SSBN has to travel long distances to its patrol area at high speeds, the power demand is invariably high and rapidly consumes reactor life. Reactor technology has been steadily advancing since the USS Nautilus first went to sea in 1954. Today the US Navy has 25 different types of reactors running into the 9th generation of development, many of such sophistication that, they do not require refueling throughout their lifetimes. The nuclear reactor installed on the S-2, according to open source information, is understood to be based on first or second generation Soviet era technology with a short re-fuelling cycle. The implications are that either her patrol areas will have to remain close to base, or that her endurance on patrol would be limited, and of course that there would be long gaps between patrols when refueling is under way. The shortcomings of this reactor design, demand larger submarine numbers at huge expense.

Missile Range

It is more than likely that Jin class SSBNs of the PLA Navy are, today, targeting both New Delhi and San Francisco with their 8000 km Ju-Long missiles from patrol areas in the home waters of the South China Sea. The effectiveness of the SSBN as an instrument of deterrence is obviously related to the range as well as number of SLBMs carried by her. While the SSBN does have the asset of mobility, her patrol areas must be chosen with great care to ensure that a valuable strategic asset of this nature is not placed in harm's way. In this context, the shorter the range of her SLBM, the closer she must position herself to a hostile shore. In India's case, the basic requirement is to deter China from threatening us with her considerable nuclear arsenal. This can only be achieved with SLBMs of inter-continental (5000-8000 km) range which have the warhead yield to threaten China's cities and nuclear forces located deep inland. Such a missile would enable the SSBN to take up operational patrols in safe areas in the Bay of Bengal or even Arabian Sea. Missile range would also compensate, to an extent, for shortcomings in reactor design. The weapon slated for fitment on the S-2 is understood to be a SLBM whose range is currently limited to 700-1000 km. The successful underwater launch and flight trials of this missile (variously named by the media as Dhanush or K-15) is certainly a big feather in the DRDO's cap, but its limited range constitutes a handicap for S-2. Moreover, this achievement needs to be assessed against the background that the DRDO's 25 year old guided missile programme has yet to deliver an inter-continental ballistic missile.

At the same time ISRO, having obviously mastered the propellant technologies, routinely launches rockets which can achieve linear ranges of up to 10, 000 km. And yet the invisible firewall between the two organizations seems to prevent transfer of technology, even in national interest. While work on more advanced SLBMs is no doubt in progress, it has to be borne in mind that longer range missiles will have to be powered by propellant motors of larger length and diameter, and the resultant weapon is unlikely to fit within the hull of an Arihant class SSBN, in sufficient numbers (16-24).

After Arihant; What?

The launch of the S-2 is, no doubt, a most significant and encouraging demonstration of India's technological skills and managerial expertise. But much more than that, this vessel will provide a trials platform which will enable us to learn from our own experience, what no one is going to teach us; the arcane disciplines of SSBN operations and maintenance. The main beneficiaries of this experience will be two submarines which follow S-2. The S-3 and S-4 are planned to be built on the same baseline design as S-2, in order to consolidate shipbuilding expertise and industrial capabilities. They will therefore incorporate only those capability enhancements which can be accommodated within the same hull-form and supported by the same nuclear power-plant. Therefore it is the fourth submarine in this series the S-5, still a few years ahead, which should be an object of sharp focus for not just the IN but even more so, the DAE and DRDO. In a 50-60 year perspective, India should be looking at a standing force of 4-6 SSBNs; accompanied, if possible by a smaller force of nuclear attack submarines or SSNs. While we are well on the way to achieving mastery over many of the technologies involved, there are three key areas which would need special focus: The acquisition of propellant technology for producing underwater launched ballistic missiles of inter-continental range. The length and diameter of the missile will decide the dimensions of the SSBN. These SLBM's should preferably be capable of carrying 4-6 multiple independently-targetable re-entry vehicles (MIRV).

The indigenous design of a SSBN hull which will be able to accommodate a battery of 16-24 such SLBMs. The indigenous design of a nuclear propulsion plants of about 200 megawatt capacity, with a 6-8 years refueling cycle, to drive a SSBN of 10,000-12,000 tons at about 30 knots.

Having committed ourselves to fielding a credible deterrent in the form of a nuclear triad, we no longer have a choice but to go down this route at the earliest. This is one area where dependence on foreign sources, especially for hardware, must be minimised and autarchy aimed for. Once we acquire indigenous capability for design and production of naval reactors and LEU cores, as well as long range SLBMs, we would have achieved such autarchy.

Future Project Management

The PLA Navy sent its first (Han class) nuclear submarine to sea in 1974, and today the Chinese nuclear flotilla consists of 3-4 Xia and Jin class SSBNs as well as 5-6 Han and Shang class SSNs. Given that we are already 30 years behind China in this field, there is not a day to be lost in committing the necessary capital as well as human resources from the Navy, DAE and DRDO to commence design and development work.

This is going to be a complex, laborious and time consuming endeavour, and a period of even 10-15 years for attaining the capabilities listed above may be optimistic. So far, Russia has remained the main source of technology for us, but in the changing circumstances, we must not shy away from seeking advanced reactor technology from the US or France for our strategic programmes. There is no doubt that the DRDO-Navy synergy worked well during the developmental phase of the ATV. With the launch of S-2, this project now needs to transition rapidly and seamlessly from R&D mode to serial production mode. The time has therefore come to create a new management structure in which all the national capabilities created for the ATV (in the public as well as private sectors) can be brought under an umbrella corporation for serial production of nuclear submarines for the IN. Lifting the pall of secrecy will promote a better dialogue with operators and lead to design improvements.

Command & Control

The protracted trials period of S-2 should be used by the Navy to prepare itself to enter a new and uncharted era of SSBN operations, maintenance, and above all, nuclear safety. In this context, two important issues come instantly to mind.

From the time she sails out for a deterrent patrol, till her return to harbor, a SSBN will form part of the Strategic Forces Command (SFC) and remain under its direct operational control. However, for all other purposes, the submarine would be like any other naval unit. This duality of control, and the specific modalities of change of operational control (CHOP), would need to be meticulously worked out, ensuring failsafe communication between the Nuclear Command Authority (NCA), Chairman COSC, Commander SFC and Captain of the SSBN.

Nuclear weapon preparation/assembly on land has, so far, involved participation of SFC, DAE and DRDO personnel. SSBN operations will involve a new paradigm for India because the SLBMs carried on patrol would be fully assembled, and possibly containerized, nuclear weapons, ready for launch when required. The launch order, to be executed jointly by the Captain of the SSBN and his second-in-command, will need to be duly authorized through secure and authenticated means by the National Command Authority. In order to ensure instant launch when ordered, and to prevent unauthorized launch, a system of software permissive action links (PALs) will have to be devised, along with triple-redundant underwater communications. These are complex issues which require time and resources to resolve.

And the final thought; would a brand new nuclear war-head required to face the rigours of an underwater launch, not require a “hot” test to prove its design?

(Admiral Prakash was India's Chief of the Naval Staff from 31 July 2004-31 Oct 2006. He currently divides his time between Dehradun and Delhi. This column is Copyright of FORCE Magazine, at which the Admiral is Maritime & Strategic Affairs Editor. He contributes columns to journals, magazines, newspapers and, occasionally, to LiveFist)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Joint Indo-Tajik Army Expedition to Mount Stok and Gulap Kangri

For my July 2007 post on India's air base in Ayni, Tajikistan, go here.

Photos Courtesy DPR Defence / Indian Army

AoA: Stop Apologising For China

If by some chance you think the media is going overboard with the China incursions issue, you only have to speak to our militarymen in Ladakh. Later today, the establishment will hold a meeting of its China Study Group, a valuable opportunity to harness the latitude provided by the overarching international perception of Chinese aggression, to make some very serious course corrections as far as India's China policy is concerned. Let's first get a few facts straight. India is no longer the reluctant, deluded, unsteady force that it was in 1962. It doesn't have the same deluded Prime Minister nor the pliant dandy of a Chief of Army Staff of that day. No matter which way you look at it, much has changed since 1962. There have been two border skirmishes with China in the 1970s and the 1980s -- both times, China was stung sharply by a radically enlivened Indian response. But this isn't about jingoism. Because there are harder facts to face. The prospect of war between India and China today should be unthinkable. And let's face the hardest fact of all: right now, it's much more unthinkable for India, than it is for our friends across the Himalayas.

For the stepping-stone latitude that the establishment allows our armed forces, the country is in a formidable position today to defend the sovereignty of India. Let's make no mistake about that. We may whine endlessly about how China far outguns India in the final bean-count -- and how India has a long way to go to match China's infrastructural aggressions in Tibet -- but if war were to break today anywhere along the Line of Actual Control, it won't be the bizarrely skewed affair that it was in 1962. We can debate endlessly about deployed mountain divisions and a scattering of artillery regiments. But the fact is, our military planners know what they're doing, and more importantly, have done the best they can within the narrow confines of what the political establishment will allow them to. That's the important thing.

But the entire exercise of our security posture would be belied and discredited, if the only way to prove our defences against China was through a war. War is not a near option, and India should do everything in its power to ensure that such an option is never exercised. One of those ways is to ramp up defences and show China that if they send troops marauding down the Tawang valley like they did in 1962, they'll be mowed down with extreme prejudice by the Indian Army's Korea Brigade. You get the picture.

But the more critical and dangerous aspect is India's inexplicably resolute policy of apology. These past few days, our political leaders have done nothing but justify China's acts of aggression. The SM Krishnas and the Shashi Tharoors of this country, when asked about China's incursions, haven't batted an eyelid before explaining that the incursions have taken place because of a difference in perception. Hold on, isn't that something we should be hearing from the Chinese? No wonder Beijing hasn't felt the need to justify its actions. With folks like our Foreign Office people, China won't ever need to.

Maybe it's only fleetingly occured to the security establishment that it is in China's interest to maintain a status quo along the Line of Actual Control. But why is it not even superficially bothered by the fact that decades pass with absolutely zero progress on the border dispute? If the meeting today has any intentions of making some hard policy course corrections, it needs to first allow the establishment to publicly recognise China's acts of aggression for what they are. Everything else must follow. The NSA's meeting is a precious opportunity to make hard decisions. And decisions taken at this precise point of time, would happily fit in with the UPA's penchant for not doing anything alarming in terms of foreign policy. They wouldn't alarm because the whole world would understand right now. Start by unequivocally denouncing China's dangerous ways. Play their game stepping up activity on the borders. For god's sake, milk the Dalai Lama-Tawang game for all it's worth -- it's a beautiful tool that we still haven't learnt how to use effectively. And if the Gurudas Dasguptas or Sitaram Yechurys of the country so much as show a hair of a pro-China stance -- I notice the hypocrites haven't dared say anything so far on the incursions -- they should be officially rebuked without mercy (if nothing more serious can be permitted).

The image of a soft power can change by the men (and woman, the Foreign Secretary) who meet at South Block today. If only they have the will to see it through. I hope Sonia Gandhi isn't advising her Prime Minister to be like her grandfather-in-law in 1962. I truly hope not. Will be reporting on the meeting today. Will post more later.

(Angle of Attack is a weekly column starting today. LiveFist will also have a few new columnists from abroad from next week. Stay tuned)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Project 15A Destroyer INS Kochi To Be Launched This Week

The second of the three Indian Project 15-A stealth destroyers will be launched on September 18 by Mrs Madhulika Verma, wife of Admiral Nirmal Verma, Chief of the Naval Staff. The 6,500 ton ship, to be christened INS Kochi, is being built by Mazagon Docks in Mumbai. Designed indigenously by the Directorate of Naval Design, these are a follow-on of the existing Delhi-class.

The ship has advanced stealth features, which make it less vulnerable to detection by enemy radar and will be fitted with state-of-the-art weapon systems which include the supersonic BrahMos surface-to-surface missile, the LRSAM Long Range Surface-to-Air Missile and the MFStar multi-function radar system providing accurate data on surface and air targets. In addition, the ship’s close-range defence capability will be boosted by four AK-630 rapid-fire guns and a Medium Range gun. The ships will also be fitted with indigenously developed twin-tube torpedo launchers and anti-submarine rocket launchers, the NPOL developed Humsa-NG hull-mounted sonar, and two multi-role helicopters adding punch to the ship’s anti-submarine capability. The maximum speed of the ship is above 30 knots.

The destroyer will be launched using the pontoon-assisted launch technique, to be employed for the first time in the history of indigenous warship building. This technique helps in overcoming slipway/draft constraints and permits launching of heavier vessels.

Text & Image Copyright Indian Navy

Boeing's Statement On My "Malicious Code" Story

Just got this response from Boeing to my report on the controversial "malicious code" clause in the P-8I contract. This is a statement from Dr Vivek Lall Vice, President and India Country Head, Boeing Integrated Defense Systems. Here it is:

In your story, "Is Indo-US plane deal a compromise?" (India Today, Sept 11), you leave readers with the impression that a "potentially explosive clause" in the contract India signed for the purchase of eight Boeing P-8I aircraft will allow an unnamed US entity to inject malicious code into the aircraft operating software. In fact, the purpose of the clause is quite the opposite. The malicious code clause, signed by Boeing with full concurrence, intentionally protects India against injection of any malicious software that could inhibit the desired and designed function of the equipment, or cause it physical damage. The Government of India stipulated the requirement, and by signing the contract, Boeing is agreeing it will not include, nor allow third parties to include any malicious software in the delivered system. Boeing has passed this requirment down to our suppliers. Boeing takes this contractual requirement extremely seriously as our company reputation and operation demands the highest ethical behavior. [STATEMENT ENDS]

However, the report on Headlines Today more to do with the following excerpt from the contract:

"In the event of nonconformance or defect attributed to malicious code, Buyer’s sole and exclusive remedy is to require Seller to modify the hardware and/or software to remove the malicious code or to replace the malicious code with code that is not malicious code."

Photos: Navy Chief Arrives at Southern Naval Command on First Visit

Monday, September 14, 2009

Which Engine Will Power The Tejas?

Late next month, a critical competition process kicks off for the selection of an alternate power source for the Indian Light Combat Aircraft (LCA Tejas). After pre-bid feasibility studies that were conducted through much of 2008, the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) -- the umbrella body of agencies involved in the LCA's development -- sent out Requests for Proposal (RfP) to Ohio-based GE Aviation for the F-414-400 and Hallbergmoos (Germany) based Eurojet Turbo GmbH for the EJ200. Both companies are required to submit their technical proposals by October 12. Technical evaluations of the engines will be complete by the end of the year, though these are planned to be truncated since a lot of technical work has been pre-completed during the feasibility studies. The technical evaluation will be followed by a full schedule of trials. As you might remember, it was the Defence Ministry's Aeronautics R&D Board Propulsion Panel, headed by ADA Project Director (Propulsion Systems) Dr KVL Rao, which recommended in July last year that the LCA programme rapidly begin a process to choose between the two mentioned engines to power upto 100 fighters (with an option to power 60 more). It was after his recommendations were submitted to the ADA that feasibility studies were begun with both GE and Eurojet for their respective turbofans.

Modifications are a non-issue as of now, with both GE and Eurojet declaring that their engines can fit in the LCA's fuselage. A limited number of engines will be bought direct from the winning contender, while the rest will be license-built at HAL's engine factory in Koraput, Orissa. With all options exercised, the deal could be worth close to $600-million.

The obvious tie-in with the medium multirole combat aircraft (MMRCA) competition is the lifeblood of the Tejas new engine bid. While the EJ200 powers the Eurofighter Typhoon, the F414 powers Boeing's F/A-18E/F Super Hornet as well as the JAS-39 Gripen IN.

According to IAF sources embedded with ADA, on paper, both engines "just about" meet what the air force wants and needs from the LCA in terms of thrust. Having established that, what are the possible criteria of selection, if one were to put aside political and/or other considerations?

Point 1, virtually everyone I've spoken to at the ADA and air force believe that the engine that meets the new thrust compliance bar and fits the Tejas with the least amount of engineering, fabrication or modification will be selected. Both engines say they meet the maximum thrust requirements demanded by the IAF. The American F-414-400 is physically similar, if not identical, to the F-404 that currently powers the Tejas, and is, remember, a technological derivative of the same. Therefore, it stands to reason that ADA believes the people at GE when they say the F-414 is a spot-on fit without any tinkering. Similarly, based on information gleaned from the feasibility study, Eurojet boss Hartmut Tenter told Flightglobal earlier this year that "the EJ200 fits perfectly into the same hole." Ok.

Point 2, weight issues, which won't be taken, um, lightly. The F-414-400, at 1,109-kgs is approximately 120-kgs heavier than the EJ200.

Point 3, the F-414-400 has a stated maximum thrust of 98kN, more than the EJ200's 90kN, even though both technically meet the IAF's requirement for a 90kN turbofan. Will the extra thrust that the American engine apparently offers be enough reason to ignore the 120-kgs of additional weight that it brings to the competition? Maybe.

Point 4, the folks at ADA have had a great amount of experience working with GE on the LCA programme, so the American firm is well-versed with the rough and tumble of the IAF's qualitative requirements. Working with a firm that is already "in the picture" about your requirements is an intangible consideration, but a consideration nevertheless.

Point 5, if the IAF's mantra for lowering inventory type is taken even a bit seriously, then the outcome of this competition could bring a great amount of influence to bear on the far more lucrative MMRCA competition. This alone could give the government a huge amount of leverage either way, though it could also slow things down significantly to the detriment of the LCA programme.

The selection process begins next month. Stay tuned.

Photo of Tejas ©Copyright Kedar Karmarkar

LCA Team Has Trouble Filling The Hours :)

Copyright HAL

Lockheed Launches Attack On Gripen's MMRCA Campaign

The gloves are off, not that they were ever on. Just a few days after Gripen held a well-reported press conference in Delhi last week, Lockheed-Martin has hit out at the Swedish plane-maker's campaign for India's $10.2-billion medium multirole combat aircraft (MMRCA) competition. At a reception for Lockheed-Martin's new India head Roger Rose, there was lots of talk on Gripen country head Eddy de la Motte's repeated affirmation that there would be "total transfer of technology" if the Gripen was selected. Lockheed-Martin Vice President (Business Development, India) Orville Prins told journalists that the Gripen campaign's assertion that there would be 100 per cent ToT was "dishonest and inaccurate".

Prins pointed out that with an admitted 35 per cent of the Gripen being made up by American components and systems, there was no way that the Swedes could trumpet full transfer of technology, simply because a full transfer of technology would mean formal release of the said technology by the US government, which may or may not be forthcoming. "Without formal sanction for technology release, it simply not honest to say you can transfer all technology. It is plainly false," Prins said.

Like I said, the gloves are off, and even the world's biggest aerospace firm feels the heat sometime or other. The F-16IN campaign considers itself seriously threatened by the Gripen IN's concerted effort to fritter out American content. It's interesting how Lockheed-Martin would also rely on a political leash on the Swedes, rather than concentrate its effort on attacking its competitors on technology. But then again, even the Swedes know this isn't a meat and potatoes campaign.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

EXCLUSIVE: IAF Wants Extra Radar Mode On MMRCA AESAs

For all the stated technological advancements present in the only two operational AESA radars competing in the MMRCA competition, the Indian Air Force has informed the two principle integrators (Boeing and Lockheed-Martin respectively) that radar modes available on the Northrop-Grumman AN/APG-80 radar (F-16IN) and the Raytheon AN/APG-79 (F/A-18E/F) do not include a specific one that the IAF refuses to do without: the "weather radar mode". Though both Boeing and Lockheed-Martin tried to convince the IAF that their respective radars (and integrated avionics) were built to provide data and flightpath solutions through, over or around bad weather, the IAF has insisted that it wants the AESAs offered with a traditional weather radar mode as a separate mode option. The default modes demanded by the IAF, excluding interleaved and data-fused modes, are air-to-air search, air-to-air track, ocean surface search, synthetic aperture radar (SAR) mapping, ground/sea target indicator and track and active beam mapping.

Lockheed-Martin has made it official now that the APG-80 radar will therefore undergo a certain amount of further development work to meet the IAF's requirement. This applies to Raytheon as well.

Photo by Shiv Aroor / Raytheon APG-79, Lemoore Naval Air Station, California

Friday, September 11, 2009

EXCLUSIVE: A&N Command Recommends Sukhoi-30MKI Sqn At Car Nicobar

The photo on the left shows a pair of Su-30s at Air Force Station Car Nicobar, on India's Bay of Bengal island territories of Andaman & Nicobar. I took this photo in April 2005 during a visit to the islands with India's then Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Shashi Tyagi and then Defence Secretary Ajai Vikram Singh. It was just three months after the tsunami, and the island was still largely ravaged. Still, in a rare spasm of unabashed power projection, the government ordered a deployment of three Su-30s and six Jaguar IMs to the island for what it said was an exercise, but what was, quite obviously, a show of strength, and a very effective one at that. A message that things were back in business even though the IAF had tragically lost 128 personnel on the island, and that its guard was not down. It was also a splendid signal of deployed strength (even if it was just a few aircraft), a crashing of cymbals over the remarkable international military-humanitarian relief operation that the Indian forces embarked upon almost just minutes after the waves did their terrible work.

Flash forward four years and the Andaman & Nicobar Command (ANC), India's only theatre command, is learnt to have officially recommended that a fleet of Su-30MKIs be deployed permanently at AFS Car Nic, with a mainland support structure in Tamil Nadu. The recommendation is part of a whole host of items that were placed on the table during a seminar at Port Blair last week attended by former President APJ Abdul Kalam, the Prime Minister's special envoy on nuclear issues and climate change Shyam Saran and Deputy National Security Advisor (and former Defence Secretary) Shekhar Dutt.

A while before the recommendation to base Su-30s at Car Nic was firmed up, the station already began a comprehensive upgrade programme under the IAF's ambitious Modernisation of Airfield Infrastructure (MAFI) project.

In that phase immediately after the tsunami, the government had already begun toying with the idea of permanently basing fighters at Car Nicobar, though the IAF leadership at the time said depleting squadron strength meant that they could not spare fighters for a fresh squadron on the island at that juncture. The IAF therefore settled for periodic detachments of two Su-30s and six Jaguars (see photo) to the island. But with forty more Sukhois than initially contracted, plus a definitive process on to counter depleting squadron strength, it was decided that the idea of permanently basing fighters at Car Nic needed to be revisited. In January 2006, when I visited the islands for a week again to cover the Milan 05 exercise, the Sukhois were back, and performed aerobatic displays over Port Blair's magnificent marine esplanade, as well as over Car Nicobar in front of large delagations of military officers and diplomats from the participating countries, including Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia among others, and for the first time with a ship (the UMS Anawrahta frigate), the Myanmar Navy.

Like much else in India's establishment structure, the proposal to base Su-30s at Car Nicobar is currently just that -- a proposal. But the A&N Command has, in a short span of time, earned for itself a great deal of credibility with the government, and as the only real joint services theater command, the government takes it very seriously. If you think I'm being flippant by insinuating that the government doesn't take proposals for additional commands seriously, consider the sad tale of the defence forces' languishing proposals for an Aerospace Command and a Special Forces Command. Recently retired Navy Chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta, as a parting shot, even stressed to Defence Minister AK Antony during a personal farewell chat the country needed to move fully into the domain of functional commands, since geographical commands were pushing true tri-service jointness farther and farther away from the realm of possibility.

The recommendation for Su-30s at Car Nic comes endorsed by the Commander-in-Chief, Andaman & Nicobar (CINCAN). That he's a Vice Admiral says a lot.

Photos Copyright Shiv Aroor / LiveFist