Wednesday, December 30, 2009

LCH 1st Flight "In A Few Weeks", Says HAL Chairman

Photo ©Courtesy India Strategic

Indian Army To Upgrade Vintage Ack-Ack Guns

Thirty-two years after the first lot of them were first inducted into service with the Army's Air Defence Artillery (now the Corps of Army Air Defence), the Ministry of Defence is finally considering an upgrade for the Army's (t)rusty Soviet era ZU-23-2 twin-barrel anti-aircraft autocannons. While a total of close to 1,000 guns were inducted, an unknown number remain in service. According to the request for information (RFI) that has been sent out to firms in Israel, Poland and Russia among others, the Army is essentially looking for a rugged electro-optical fire control system (EOFCS), electro-mechanical gun drives and a new rugged power supply for all the gun's systems.

Indian Army Wants Cornershot Weapon

The Indian Army is looking to procure an undisclosed number of "weapon systems for shooting around the corner without exposing the firer or with minimum exposure to the firer" according to a recent Request for Information (RFI). These are presumably for the Special Forces and some infantry units. The request calls for information on weapons that can engage targets effectively beyond 200-metres. The US-Israeli firm Cornershot LLC is currently the only firm with such weapons in its catalogue that would be open to doing such business with the Indian military (the other is an untested specimen from the Pakistan Ordnance Factory, and a third from Iran). The need for engagement beyond 200-metres means the Army will be looking for a cornershot weapon based at least on a 5.7-mm pistol-based, but this isn't specified in the RFI. The National Security Guard (NSG) recently tested a Cornershot pistol weapon and has ordered an undisclosed number for its anti-terror force.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

EXCLUSIVE: The Sea Gripen Pitch To The Indian Navy

As was reported recently, the Indian Navy has sent out an RFI on a new multirole deck-based fighter. One of the potential contenders is Saab with its little known Sea Gripen. Here's an official brief along with official photographs of the Sea Gripen by Peter Nilsson, VP Op Capabilities at Gripen:

The Sea Gripen Programme Saab AB has since the beginning of the Gripen programme analysed and discussed a carrier based version from time to time. The first studies go back to the mid-90s. The studies have been initiated due to interest shown by difference countries which see the land based Gripen as their future land based fighter alternative and who also have, or are aiming to, develop carriers within their fleets. One of the main reasons is Gripen’s one of a kind capability to operate from rugged short road strips, which leads to the obvious corollary of “How much re-construction is needed to re-design the Gripen into a carrier based version?”

The basic Swedish Air Force requirements in the original design for securing the capability of short strips operations is very like “carrier based ops”. Qualities like; low landing speed, high pitch and roll authority, high precision glide slope control, high precision landing capability, high sink rate clearance, strengthened airframe etc. are built-in from the beginning.

Add Gripen´s character for active service in field with easy maintenance (engine changes < 1 hour in field, no need for external power etc) makes the “jump” much shorter with Gripen compared to other land-based fighters’ opportunity to transform into a “deck-based” fighter.

The decision to launch the programme within Saab AB was taken in the context of Gripen market opportunities in two nations which are both at the beginning of developing a carrier based capability for their Armed Forces, namely Brazil and India. The Sea Gripen Programme is aimed for naval-/carrier based operations.

A few highlights: The Sea Gripen is a development programme with its origin from the Gripen NG programme. Sea Gripen is aimed for both CATOBAR and STOBAR operations. The main technical re-designs are:
  • New undercarriage and nose gear to cope with higher sink rate forces and catapult launches.
  • Strengthened air frame in some areas.
  • Redesigned arrestor hook
  • “Marinazing” of the aircraft (increased requirements on salt water protections, operations in hot and humidity conditions etc.)

All together the re-design will add weight on the airframe which will give an empty weight between 7500-8000 kg. (~400 kg extra weight compare to Gripen NG) Due to its balanced size there are no needs for structural changes like folding wings Sea Gripen will be a very appealing alternative for nations with smaller size carriers. Its well balanced weight/size compare to heavy twin-engine alternatives will allow nations to move from “air defence”- carriers to a concept with strategic capabilities, without a replacement of their carriers. All sensors, avionics and weapons within the Gripen NG programme will be offered in the Sea Gripen.

Coming Soon: The Story Of The Medium Combat Aircraft

PhotoArt ©Shiv Aroor

Friday, December 25, 2009

1st Image Of Indian Harrier With Derby Missiles!

Thanks to Vishnu (Som) for the heads-up on this photo. This could be the first image of an Indian Navy Sea Harrier (Limited Upgrade) with its new Derby beyond visual range air-to-air missiles.

PHOTOS: MiG-29KUB Aerial Refuelling Etc

Photos From Vayu Aerospace & Defence Review VI/2009

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Days Numbered For Military Secretary?

If sources are to be believed, Lt Gen Avadhesh Prakash (right), Military Secretary at Army HQ will soon be shunted from office and replaced. As you've no doubt seen in reports, his name has come out at the top of a culpability list drawn up by an inquiry into a shameful land scam in North Bengal. The charges are that he freely facilitated the transfer of sensitive defence land to dubious developers in exchange for post-retirement benefits. The Army yesterday put out a tepid statement saying that all action will be taken "in accordance with military law" (as though they have a choice in the matter!), but it is understood that the hammer will fall quite soon on General Prakash. A replacement, incidentally, has already been unofficially notified.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

PHOTOS: Indian Navy Foils Piracy Attempt Again

At about 5:30 PM on 19 Dec 09, while proceeding to effect rendezvous with Merchant Ship MV SEAMEC II, Indian Naval Warship deployed in the Gulf of Aden picked up a distress call from MV SANDERLING ACE, of sighting a white skiff (speed boat) approaching her at 20 Knots. MV SANDERLING ACE also raised an alarm on Ship Security Alert System. On receiving the alarm, the Indian Naval Warship immediately launched her Chetak helicopter to intercept the skiff. On sighting the helo, the SKIFF broke off from the merchant vessel. Subsequently, when the helicopter fired warning shots, the SKIFF stopped. Ship thereafter closed the skiff. During the process of investigation by the ship, nothing suspicious was found onboard. The seven pirates in the boat expressed inability to understand any language other than Arabic. As no other piracy triggers were observed, the skiff was released after investigation.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

It's Official: Ecuadorian Dhruv Crash By Pilot Error

It's what even the Ecuadorian air chief said on the day of the crash. And as reported consistently here on LiveFist, it was indeed cyclic saturation caused by a hard left by the pilots that caused the Dhruv to rapidly lose altitude, tip over and go down. Sources say that the conclusion was drawn as much from the analysis in the US of the FDR/CVR as from the direct testimony of the pilots of the crashed chopper and the one flying directly behind them. More details soon. For now, the HAL folks in Quito can breathe just that little bit easier. But only just.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Dhanush Splash!

India's DHANUSH Missile (Naval variant of PRITHVI) was successfully launched from INS Subhadra patrol vessel off Orissa Coast at 1135 hrs today. DRDO has announced that the 350-km range test met all parameters successfully. More tests follow.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Planespotting: Super Herc Off Cenang Beach

Took this photo from Cenang Beach, Langkawi. Closing day of LIMA 2009.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Inadvertent Collision With Lima 2009!

An inadvertent collision with the LIMA 2009 aerospace and naval show in Langkawi, Malaysia. Caught this MiG-29N of the Malaysian Air Force doing some low-passes as me and my wife were heading to the Cenang beach. The second photo is me para-sailing off the Cenang beach, and lit up there below me is a Thai Navy frigate. Back in India soon.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Top Gun Willard Back In Delhi

Admiral Robert F. Willard, Chief of the US PACOM, but better known as the villain MiG-28 (a black Northrop F-5 in reality) pilot in the film Top Gun is in Delhi on another official visit. I met and spoke to him last year. Great guy.

Week After Flight, President Wants To Know Why Su-30MKIs Are Crashing

President of India Pratibha Patil has expressed concern and asked to be supplied with more information on the grounding of the Indian Air Force's Sukhoi fleet, just days after she became the first ever woman to fly in a Su-30MKI fighter. Sources tell LiveFist that Air HQ is currently preparing a comprehensive docket with information on the November 30 accident involving a Sukhoi-30MKI, in which both pilots survived, plus information on the procedures used by the IAF which necessitates such temporary no-flying periods to eliminate immediate problem areas that may have flight safety implications across the fleet.

Just to stir up the irony a little more, here's what the folks at Irkutsk had to say in a trumpeting little statement (nevermind the English) on the day that the President went up in the MKI: "In India, this plane has become a symbol of national pride. It takes part in all military parades and aviation exhibitions held in the country, successfully represents the national air forces on the international military games. Its image is placed on the anniversary coin which has been let out to the 75th anniversary of the air forces of India."

Indian Navy's New Fleet Replenishment Vessel

The first of two Italian-built fleet replenishment vessels of a new class will be commissioned into the Indian Navy by July next year. The second vessel will follow in the latter half of 2011.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Mahindras, BAE Formalise JV, To Build Mil Vehicles, Howitzers In Faridabad

Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd. and BAE Systems have signed an agreement to create a land systems focused, joint venture defence company, based in India. Approved by the Foreign Investment Promotion Board of the Government of India (GoI) earlier this year, the parent companies' initial investment will be US$21.25 million. The company’s equity split will be 74% Mahindra and 26% BAE Systems, in accordance with the current defence sector Foreign Direct Investment regulations of the GoI.

The joint venture company, whose name is currently going through the official certification process, will be headquartered in New Delhi with manufacturing at a purpose built facility nearby in Faridabad. Initially there will be about 100 employees and existing projects include the Axe high mobility vehicle as well as up-armoured and bulletproof Scorpios, Boleros, Rakshak, Rapid Intervention Vehicles and the Marksman light armoured vehicle.

In anticipation of the new company, the two shareholders have been progressing a major new project to develop a mine protected vehicle specifically designed to meet the needs of the Indian armed and paramilitary forces. The companies have worked in partnership to produce a prototype vehicle using the mine defeating technologies of the BAE Systems South Africa RG series of vehicles and Mahindra's knowledge of Indian requirements and conditions. This development process has resulted in a brand new mine protected vehicle currently named MPVI (Mine Protected Vehicle India). A prototype MPVI has been produced and will eventually be manufactured at the JV facility in Faridabad using indigenously produced materials.

It is also intended that the JV company will be involved in a number of future artillery programmes including the M777 light weight howitzer and the FH77B 155mm howitzer. It is envisaged that the JV will become a centre of excellence for Indian artillery programmes.

Excerpted from BAE/MDS Joint Press Statement

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

PHOTOS: Tejas PV5 Two-Seat Trainer Maiden Flight

What a treat to land at an obscure airport and see these in your inbox. Posting them late, but what the hell! Here's the ADA press statement from the day of the flight:

Two seater (Trainer) version of Tejas (PV-5) made its maiden flight on 26 Nov 09. The flight took off from HAL,Airport at 1300 hrs. The successful maiden flight covered an altitude of 9km and Mach number 0.85. The prototype was flown by Gp Capt Ritu Raj Tyagi of the National Flight Test Centre (NFTC). Air Cmde Rohit Varma, Project Director (Flight Test) flew in the rear cockpit. Wg Cdr (Retd) PK Raveendran, Group Director (Flight Test) was the Test Director. Extensive preparatory work that has gone in resulted in the first flight profile being executed with clock work precision. All the objectives set out for the flight were achieved and all the systems on board the new prototype performed well through out the sortie.

Successful flight of Tejas trainer is a major milestone for Tejas programme and a significant achievement for all the stake holders in the programme, which include ADA, HAL, NAL, ADE, CEMILAC, DGAQA, Indian Air Force and Indian Navy. With the Tejas scheduled to be cleared for Initial Operations with the Indian Air Force by end 2010, successful maiden flight of Tejas trainer has given a fillip to the programme. The trainer when fully developed will have the full operational capability from the rear cockpit as well. As Tejas Trainer has a lot of commonality with Tejas Naval version, even Tejas Navy programme would see accelerated progress as a result of the successful first flight.

As the first flight coincided with the programme review by the Air Force, the historic event was witnessed by Air Mshl NV Tyagi, AVSM, VM, VSM, who was the Chairman of the Review Committee along with Mr Ashok Nayak, Chairman, HAL, Chief Controller, DRDO Dr D Banerjee and Mr PS Subramanyam, Programme Director (Combat Aircraft) & Director, ADA.