Monday, May 31, 2010

Indian Army Wants Amphibious Assault Rifles

The Indian Army (according to a just released RFI) is looking to procure assault rifles of 7.62 x 51mm caliber capable of being carried under water in marine and water bodies along with their accessories and attachments and brought to operational use immediately after coming out of the water. The weapon should have military standard picatinny rails along with reflex/holographic sights, night/TI sights, IR lasers and tactical lights.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Arjun Roars!

Arjun main battle tanks of the Indian Army's 43rd Regiment in Rajasthan. Ignore CVRDE's totally unnecessary photoshopping! The original un-photoshopped version will be the lead photograph in India Today associate editor Sandeep Unnithan's piece on DRDO in the upcoming issue of the magazine.

Photo By CVRDE / Used Here Courtesy Sandeep Unnithan

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Barak LR-SAM First Test Firing!

The Barak-8 next generation long range surface to air missile (LR-SAM) being developed and funded jointly by IAI and DRDO, had its first test-flight last fortnight, reports India Today associate editor Sandeep Unnithan, with a second test to take place at the Integrated Test Range (ITR) in India later this year. I had reported in January about the first impending flight that is reported to have taken place a fortnight ago. My post about the Barak-8 advert is here, and more impression images of the missile are here. Unnithan's exclusive interview with DRDO chief VK Saraswat and his piece 'Trimming the Fat' will be in the June 6 edition of India Today magazine.

Friday, May 28, 2010

AoA: What Happens To Lt Gen Kishan Pal?

I have never met Lt Gen Kishan Pal, Srinagar Corps Commander during the Kargil War, nor was I a journalist when the war was being fought. I was in college in the summer of 1999, and remember poring over superbly vivid war dispatches in The Indian Express, the Times and occasionally Statesman. I had no idea at the time that I would be a defence journalist, or a journalist at all. But I do remember being thoroughly swept by the utter detail in the reports that correspondents sent back from the front. And anyone who kept a close tab on developments couldn't possibly forget the coverage that was given to operations in Batalik. I met Brigadier Devinder Singh for the first time in March this year, and totally by chance. His case was to come up at the Armed Forces Tribunal just as the infamous Sukna episode was winding down. On Wednesday afternoon, when Headlines Today broke the news about his legal victory, all those reports about Batalik came flooding back. It seemed improbably, fantastic that one man's war against a system that appeared calibrated to fix him, was now told it had behaved in the most reprehensible way possible. It seemed outlandish, crazy, almost surreal. And believe me, it seemed so to the Brigadier as well. At least at first. When I spoke to him in March for the first time, he wasn't hopeful of anything substantial from the tribunal. "One hopes they will see my point of view, even though it has been a long time since the operations," he said to me, with a rueful smile, but every bit still the soldier.

Brigadier Devinder Singh may have won back some undeniable honour for himself and his formation, the 70 Brigade, but every correspondent that covered the war -- and those who followed it as closely as I did -- agree that the judgement has interminably complicated what the establishment would have best liked kept asleep. Brigadier Singh was superbly modest when he spoke to Headlines Today, suggesting that the verdict was specific to his case and did not necessarily call into question to veracity of the official history of the operations as a whole. I, and a lot of others, think it actually does.

That history is always someone's opinion has always been known. But this judgement has frighteningly proved how personal interpersonal prejudices and malafide intentions are totally, utterly, meaningfully a part of official records of events. How else could one explain the superimposition of a fictitious brigade headquarters, headed by one Brigadier Ashok Dugal, in the operations? The judgement is searing proof that the biases of men, the top commanders during the war, may have totally subverted any truth we may ever hope to learn about Kargil. Will that truth only reside in a clutch of journalists who visited the front and were able to see and record what they saw before the establishment could bend it out of shape in battle performance reports and official histories? It's a question worth pondering. No wonder all our most important official histories are still officially classified.

What about Lt Gen Kishan Pal, who has finally found guts -- a full 24 hours after the judgement came out -- to come out and deny that he fudged any reports or showed any bias. What happens to him? Should he be reprimanded? Should he receive a rap on the knuckles? Is a rap enough for letting his prejudices steal honour from a battle formation and commander that deserved much more than they got? Is there any procedure that will allow the country to bring this General to task, and complete the truth about what really happened, and how lies came to be told on official documents that will live forever in the treasure-chests of the nation? All questions worth thinking about. In my opinion, of course.

EXCLUSIVE PHOTOS: More From Eurocopter Fennec Field Trials In India

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Kargil Hero Wins Landmark Case Against Army, Court Orders Govt To Correct Falsified Records, War History

He took the news quietly, and when I spoke to him over the phone on Wednesday afternoon, I couldn't figure what he was feeling. Joy? Disbelief? A bit of both I think. Wednesday was undoubtedly one of the most important days for Kargil war hero Brigadier Devinder Singh, former 70 Brigade commander who famously led the assault on Point 5203 and the Jubar Complex in Batalik Sector during the Kargil war. After a decade of battling an insidious system that made every attempt to falsify his record, deny him rightful war-time decorations and a promotion, fudge war reports and even infuse naked falsehoods into the official history of the Kargil War, Brigadier Singh has finally won his hard-fought case against the Army and the government. On Wednesday, the Armed Forces Tribunal upheld his petition, expunging several pieces of falsehood that fully misrepresented his performance during the war -- falsehoods at the behest of then 15 Corps commander Lt Gen Kishan Pal, a man who should now be on the block for lying on official documents. Brigadier Singh's victory could open a huge can of worms over the highly controversial records of the Kargil War, including its official history, which remains classified to this day. The verdict proves that a lot of other truths about the war may be lost for ever.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Revealed for the first time here on LiveFist, India's proposed unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) is being developed under what is called Programme AURA (Autonomous Unmanned Research Aircraft) and the prototype technology demonstrator being conceptualised goes by the working title Indian Unmanned Strike Aircraft (IUSA) or Indian Unmanned Strike Aircraft Programme (IUSAP). The Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE) and Agency (ADA) are currently conducting a feasibility study of two UCAV designs and expects to freeze a concept in 2011. The National Aeronautics Laboratory is also involved in the concept study of the IUSA. While the Nishant and Rustom UAVs have been publicly shown before, the Defence Ministry has asked ADA to keep the IUSAP classified and out of sight as far as possible. I've been told by sources that the first demonstrator is likely to be an all composite swept-wing model, though a lot of design elements haven't been frozen just yet.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Schematics Of India's Light Combat Helicopter

Part of a handout brochure on the day of the inaugural flight.

Indian Army Scouts For Hovercraft Troop Transports

The Indian Army is looking to acquire an unspecified number of armed military hovercraft, technically Air Cushioned Vehicles Troop Carriage (ACV-TC) for use in the Eastern theatre. The Army wants hovercraft that can cruise at 25-40 knots with 80 fully equipped combat troops (excluding crew) along with their battle loads, three-days of logistics requiremements, and vehicles in lieu of troops when necessary. The Army has specified that contending hovercraft should be able to operate in marshy land, sand bars, mudflats, mangroves, tidal creeks, swamps, weed choked lakes, lagoons, backwaters, islands and coastal areas.

NAL Saras In Tailspin, Russians Called In

Fifteen years after it pulled out from India's Saras light civilian transport aircraft programme, Russia's Myasischev Design Bureau (MDB) is back in the prestigious but persistently shaky airplane project under development by India's National Aerospace Laboratory since the early nineties. The bureau, along with Russia's Tsentralniy Aerogidrodinamicheskiy Institut (TsAGI) and the Gromov Flight Research Institute (LII), have been hurriedly commissioned into the programme to assist in refinement and core modification of the Saras design, which after six years of flight testing, has finally been judged to have faulty design elements. I'm told a team from Myasischev arrived in Bangalore on May 17 on a month-long visit for detailed discussions with programme leaders on the scope of work to be conducted on the Saras, a programme that has been in a fairly troubled state ever since its second prototype crashed tragically last year, killing its three-man test crew. Crash investigations had also pointed to serious flaws in the aircraft's basic design, which could be why the Russians have hurriedly been brought back in. The composition of the Russian team currently at NAL Headquarters in Bangalore tells you a little about what the project is looking for. The team consists of MDB chief designer Dr Alexander Bruk, his deputy Dr Alexander Arkhipov, Chief Specialist on Flight Dynamics Dr Eduard Abramenko, Engineer Designer on Control System Dr Vladimir Vinogadov and Dr Victor Frolovskiy from the Department of Design. The scope of work to be conducted by Myasischev includes flight testing and certification of the aircraft as well.

Tomorrow on LiveFist: never-before details of India's low-key UCAV programme.

Monday, May 24, 2010

PHOTOS: LCA Tejas PV-2 Makes An Appearance At LCH Inaugural

Coming up: An exclusive update on the NAL Saras aircraft programme.

Photos by Shiv Aroor

FIRST PHOTOS: HAL's Light Utility Helicopter Makes Its First Appearance

Scoped the rather clunky mock-up of HAL's Light Utility Helicopter (LUH), on display for the first time ever at the Light Combat Helicopter inaugural flight event in Bangalore. I had written recently about how HAL was scouting for a foreign turboshaft engine for the programme. This helo is being developed to meet a 187-helicopter requirement by the Army and Air Force (over and above the 197 in the RSH competition).

Photos by Shiv Aroor

Coming Up On LiveFist

Exclusive first time photos of HAL's Light Utility Helicopter (LUH), late tonight. Stay tuned.

EXCLUSIVE PHOTOS: Inaugural Flight Of India's Light Combat Helicopter (Part 5)

There has apparently been a measure of comment about some of the external wiring visible on the LCH. To clarify, these are wirings for the trials only, and not part of standard fit. So criticism about bad fabrication etc are misinformed.

Photos by Shiv Aroor

EXCLUSIVE PHOTOS: Inaugural Flight Of India's Light Combat Helicopter (Part 4)

Photos Courtesy DPR Defence

Saturday, May 22, 2010

PHOTO: LCH Practices For Sunday's Inaugural, Snapped By Planespotter

Photo Courtesy Anantha Krishnan M

Light Combat Helicopter Inaugural Flight To Be Low Key

The inaugural flight of India's Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) will go ahead on schedule tomorrow morning, though the Defence Minister will not be chief guest -- he will be replaced by Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal PV Naik. Through the day, in view of the tragic crash of the Air India Boeing 737 in Mangalore, it was expected that the event would be postponed. Will be there to cover the flight tomorrow. A moment for the dead of Flight IX-812.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

'Lockheed-Martin's Failure To Respond Has Affected Our Programme Schedule': LCA (Navy) Programme

Top officials associated with the Light Combat Aircraft naval variant (LCA-Navy) have confirmed to LiveFist that Lockheed-Martin's inability to obtain US State Department clearances to consult with the programme have introduced a "significant delay component" into the schedule of the first aircraft roll-out. In the next few days, ADE is likely to officially hire the services of EADS, which lost the original bid in 2009. When contacted about the development, Lockheed-Martin's India spokesperson John W Giese said, "Lockeed-Martin continues to work with the US government to support the Light Combat Aircraft program." Am still awaiting an EADS comment.

The LCA-Navy desperately needs the services of a technological consultant to tweak the platform's landing gear and arrestor hook design configuration and conduct an urgent audit of the work done so far -- in addition to helping solve some critical airframe weight issues.

"There are some issues which need to be dealt with before we can progress. We are at an advanced stage of discussions with EADS and are hoping to stick to our timeline as much as possible," an official said. As reported earlier on LiveFist, the LCA-Navy's first prototype looks forward to a roll out in two months time, followed by three months of rigorous ground tests for confidence. Time is now absolutely critical, and the ADE has set the latter half of December as a window for a possible first flight.