Saturday, July 31, 2010

Coming Up...

A round-up of all the rumours on India's MMRCA competition and where it's headed. Stay tuned.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Bangalore Defence Journalists Simmer At HAL, Former Spokesperson Announces Campaign Against "Iron Curtain" Media Policy

There's some very unseemly tension brewing between defence journalists in Bangalore and Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL). It all began with some apparent intrigue/bungling by the folks at HAL, resulting in only a small group of reporters being invited for the Hawk deal signing event. It apparently took complaints to the Defence Ministry by a handful of the uninvited, and last minute intervention at the MoD-level to bring things back on track.

As it stands, Bangalore-based defence journalists say they feel ignored already, and that HAL's new media policy of intrigue has only fuelled their anger. Former HAL spokesperson Anantha Krishnan M has more on his blog and has decided to start a campaign against what he calls HAL's "iron curtain policy on the media". In October-November last year, I'd posted extensively on HAL's inexplicable decision to shut down its press division, making it the only defence public sector firm without a formal spokesperson. Considering some of the stuff being said out there, things could get pretty ugly soon. Watch this space.

First Indian C-130J To Start Flight Testing Soon

Photo Courtesy IndiaStrategic

Bofors In The Wilderness

Just received this picture of what appears to be the BAE-Bofors FH77-B05-L52 towed gun in Leh, Jammu & Kashmir. On July 28, the MoD officially gave Parliament a list of vendors that have been recommended recently for a blacklist, and it reads like a roll-call of modern gun makers. ST Kinetics and Rheinmetall join the hallowed company of Soltam and Denel.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Hawk Redux -- "Al Yamma Yamma"? :)

India Signs Up For 57 More BAE Hawk Jet Trainers

Here goes BAE's statement today (without the fluff): BAE Systems has secured a new order, worth over £500 million, with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), to supply products and services to enable a further 57 Hawk Advanced Jet Trainer (AJT) aircraft to be built under licence in India for the Indian Air Force (40 aircraft) and Indian Navy (17 aircraft). The final terms and conditions for the contract were signed by Guy Griffiths, Group Managing Director International, BAE Systems, in the presence of British Prime Minister, David Cameron on his visit to India and BAE Systems' Chairman Dick Olver.

The aircraft will be manufactured under licence at HAL's facilities in Bangalore and BAE Systems will provide specialist engineering services, the raw materials and equipment necessary for airframe production and the support package for the Indian Air Force and Indian Navy end users.

Commenting on the news BAE Systems India Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Andrew Gallagher said,
"HAL is the premier aerospace company in India and BAE Systems is proud to be able to build on its long-standing relationship with HAL to deliver a further batch of this excellent aircraft to increase the Indian Air Force's fast jet training capacity and establish a similar fast jet training solution for the Indian Navy. The Hawk AJT fast jet training solution enables an Air Force or Navy to provide front line pilots for even the most modern fighter aircraft such as the Eurofighter Typhoon or Sukhoi Su-30."

Guy Griffiths, added,
"This new order continues and strengthens the long standing relationship between BAE Systems and HAL. It highlights the importance of BAE Systems' strategic development of India as a home market, and the benefit of solid Government support."

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

First F/A-18 Super Hornet With HAL-built Gun Bay Door

On July 20 Boeing delivered to the US Navy the first F/A-18E Super Hornet featuring a gun bay door manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). HAL manufactures the doors at its facility in Bangalore. The gun bay door contract is the first military contract between Boeing and HAL.

PHOTO: IAF Mi-17 Snapped Today On SAR & CASEVAC Mission In Jammu Flashfloods

PHOTO: HAL Chief Scopes Out Gripen NG Demo At Farnborough

HAL chairman Ashok Nayak checks out the Gripen Demo at Farnborough. Also seen: Gripen India head Eddy de la Motte and Saab India chief Inder Sial.

EXCLUSIVE: Official Schematics Of India's Layered Missile Defence System, Including Cruise Missile Defence [DECLASS]

A good time to put these slides up -- official slides from India's Programme AD, which conducted a successful test of the endo-atmospheric AAD interceptor today. Seen here for the first time, slide-4 illustrates the AAD interceptor in a cruise missile defence role. Also, note the stated intention toward international collaboration for an IIR seeker for the Phase-2 weapons. Read, Israel.

Monday, July 26, 2010

PHOTOS: India's AAD Interceptor Missile Test Today

The AAD interceptor and the modified Prithvi target missile.

Photos Courtesy DRDO

March Scrub Behind It, DRDO Successfully Tests Lower Atmosphere Missile Interceptor

DRDO Statement (edited): India's Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) today successfully conducted its fourth consecutive AAD interceptor missile test in the endo-atmospheric regime at 15-km altitude off the Integrated Test Range, Chandipur, Orissa. The single stage interceptor missile fitted with a directional warhead and other advanced systems neutralized the target.
The target ballistic 'enemy' missile was launched from Launch Complex–III, ITR Chandipur. The interceptor missile fitted with a directional warhead was launched from Wheeler Island and destroyed the target missile breaking it into fragments. This was tracked by various radars and sensors. All weapon system elements including command and control, communication and radar performed satisfactorily.

Friday, July 23, 2010

FLASH! Indian 155mm/52cal Towed Gun Competition Scrapped A Record Third Time, Re-Tender Signalled

Horror for the Indian Army with a dark dollop of deja vu. Its eight-year effort to buy and build 1,580 (400 + 1,180) new towed 155mm/52cal howitzers has been scrapped, with fresh indications now that it will be re-tendered a record third time. The Indian Army issued a fresh RFI today inviting information from global vendors on modern 155mm/52cal towed gun systems. Yesterday, the Army had goofed up with an RFI that asked for guns it described as "towed (self-propelled)" -- an embarrassing boo-boo it corrected today by expunging the "self-propelled" part and re-releasing the RFI for just "towed" guns. The re-tender is understood to have been made necessary after the BAE-Bofors FH77-B05-L52 gun wound up (for the record third time!) the only gun in the fray, after its competitor in the latest round of trials, ST Kinetics, entered India's blacklist. More details shortly on the guns that are likely to be part of the fresh competition. All I can do is feel sorry for the Army. More details on the mess shortly. And do read Saurabh Joshi's excellently detailed post on the fiasco here on Stratpost.

They're Both Smiling, But They're Both Pissed Off

Admiral Mike Mullen (left), chairman of the US Joint Chiefs, was in Delhi to (among other things) push forward three stalled bilateral defence agreements that have been stalled with no resolution in sight. His frustration with the status quo emerged at a briefing for journalists that I attended this evening. The three agreements are the politically contentious Logistics Supply Agreement (a euphemism for the ACSA), the Communication Interoperability & Security Memorandum Agreement (CISMOA) -- without which, the US insists, India's C-130Js and P-8Is will be little more than flying hunks of metal -- and the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-Spatial Cooperation (BECA). Status: no movement. Indian Decence Minister AK Antony reiterated New Delhi's concerns about Washington's continued supply of conventional armaments to Pakistan under the "delusion" that they're being used in the war on terror, but was politely snubbed by the Admiral, who later said, "I don't believe we've sold them anything that imbalances the capability between the two countries. We do believe they are using everything we supply them with against terror in their country. If that changes, we'd have to look at that."

Chairman US Joint Chiefs Admiral Mike Mullen In India

Sent using a Sony Ericsson mobile phone

PHOTO: F-22 Raptor At Farnborough 2010

Photo ©Lockheed-Martin

Typhoon Customers Get New Helmet Mounted Symbology System

Eurofighter Statement: The photo above shows BAE Systems test pilot Nat Makepeace wearing the new HMSS helmet for the Eurofighter air display at Farnborough 2010. In July 2010 the UK Royal Air Force, Spanish Air Force, Italian Air Force and the German Luftwaffe began taking delivery of the Helmet Mounted Symbology System (HMSS) which will form a key component of their Eurofighter Typhoon weapon systems.

Photo ©EADS

Thursday, July 22, 2010

PHOTO: Indian Delegation With The Gripen NG Demo At Farnborough 2010

The photograph shows Gripen India Campaign Director, Eddy de la Motte (2nd from left), Swedish Air Force Chief Gen Anders Silwer (3rd from left), Indian Minister of State for Defence Mr. M M Pallam Raju (4th from left), Brazilian Air Forces Chief Gen Juniti Saito (5th from left) and Secretary Defence Production Mr. R K Singh (6th from left) by the Gripen NG Demonstrator at Farnborough Air Show. Also seen is Air Marshal Sumit Mukerji, AOC-in-C, Southern Air Command (7th from left).

Boeing Reveals F/A-18 International At Farnborough 2010

Saw a grab of this slide on Steve Trimble's site, and so asked Boeing to send me a copy of the original presentation by Shelley Lavender, veep for Global Strike Systems. It depicts Boeing's vision for the Super Hornet platform from 2015 forward.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Comparison Of India's LCH Against Other Attack Choppers

The highlighted helicopters currently compete for India's 22 attack helicopter competition. The AH-64 is already in India and has begun trials. The Mi-28 will follow.

©Copyright SP's Aviation

PHOTOS: Gripen NG Demo At Farnborough 2010

Photos by Peter Liander (Saab)

BAE-HAL Sort Out Problems, India To Buy 57 More Hawk AJTs

BAE Systems has not only managed to fend off a low-intensity war with HAL over a host of problems with the Hawk advanced jet trainer license build programme, including a damages claim, but is on the threshold of receiving a fat follow-on order for 57 more Hawks to add to 66 already contracted for. All 57 will be manufactured by HAL in country. With this new development, India's RFI last year for 57 new jet trainers -- sent out when things had really soured between BAE and HAL -- is null and void, and the Hawk prevails after all. As was the plan earlier, 40 of the new order will be for the air force and 17 for the Indian Navy. HAL chairman Ashok Nayak told Hindustan Times correspondent Rahul Singh in Farnborough yesterday, "We have ironed out all niggles with BAE Systems. The deal is going to be signed soon." Just how both sides ironed out those niggles would be supremely interesting.

NEWS VIDEO: Indian Army Brigadier Under Investigation For "Behaving Like A Don"

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Indian Army Brigadier Under Investigation For 'Behaving Like A Don'

Brigadier PK Tikoo, Chief of the Army's Military Farms Directorate, under investigation. Tonight at 9PM on Headlines Today.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Components Of India's AEW&C System

The antenna unit, radar processor and central unit of India's AEW&C. More here.

Indian DSRV Buy Near? Navy Wants 2 New DSRV-Handling Diving Support Ships

In new indications that the Indian Navy will possibly expedite its long delayed procurement of one or more deep submergence rescue vehicles (DSRVs), it has now invited information from shipbuilders, both local and global, to support the procurement of two new 3000-ton diving support vessels. The Navy wants both ships built with 400-sqm deck space for a "DSRV and associated gear". The ships will also need a helo deck (without a hangar), suitable accommodation for DSRV kit operators, integral boats, diving bells (for rescues upto 300-m) for 2-3 men with a moon pool and, of course, recompression chambers.

The Indian Navy's attempt to buy two DSRVs was cancelled in 2005 following charges of corruption, though the effort has finally picked up again. The Indian Navy has a submarine rescue agreement with the US Navy (air-deployed DSRV kit in 48 hours), on which it would be wholly dependent if an Indian submarine were ever in distress.

Friday, July 16, 2010

PHOTO: The A380 Super Jumbo In Delhi

Photo Courtesy Wg Cdr RS Chauhan / By Aditya S Chauhan

PHOTO: Typhoon Practices Full Weapon Load Air Display For Farnborough

UK Development jet IPA 5 practices its 'fully loaded' display for Farnborough into the evening at BAE Systems' site in Warton, Lancashire.

Photo By Neil Bury

Dhruv, Tejas Replace Super Hornet In AeroIndia 2011 Publicity Material

I posted here a few weeks ago about the Defence Ministry's rather peculiar decision to depict the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet (a contender in the Indian MMRCA competition) as part of official publicity and logo material for AeroIndia 2011. Well, I don't know if someone reacted to my post (!), but the latest is that they've done away with that -- and replaced it with the theme depicted above: an ALH Dhruv from the IAF Sarang display team and an LCA Tejas along with a GSLV rocket. Oh well. The next edition of AeroIndia takes place from 9-13 February 2011.

Paki JF-17 Arrives In Farnborough

Photo ©Global Aviation Resource / Paul Dopson

FIRST LOOK: Wind Tunnel Model Of India's Hypersonic Demonstrator Vehicle

This post will be updated with written content shortly.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Second LR-SAM Test Before November, IAF & Army Interested

The joint Israeli-Indian Long Range Surface to Air Missile (LR-SAM for India, designated Barak-8 in Israel) will undergo its first test-firing at India's Integrated Test Range before November, if sources are to be believed. LiveFist has learnt that the LR-SAM, when inducted, will be housed in four vertical launch units (VLUs), each housing eight missiles, on each of the three Project-15A destroyers and seven Project-17A stealth frigates, i.e, each of India's next generation warships will carry at least 32 LR-SAMs. The combat suites of both vessel classes will be built around the Elta EL/M-2248 MF-STAR.

Scientists and engineers from DRDL were in Israel for the missile's first test flight earlier this year. The dual-pulse smokeless solid rocket motor propelled missile is being built with an effective range of 70-km and a ceiling of 16-km -- that's official. The missile's high agility is being provided by a tungsten jet vane system for thrust vector control and a highly evolved electro-pneumatic control actuation system. Following fresh interest evinced by the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the Indian Army, the dual-mode guided weapon (GPS + data link for midcourse guidance / seeker for terminal homing) will be deployable on mobile launchers as well. The weapon system can engage 12 targets with 24 missiles.

Coming Up...

A comprehensive post on the IAI-DRDL Long-Range Surface-to-Air Missile (LR-SAM) programme.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Indian 40mm UBGL Finally Enters Mass Production

Copyright DRDO Newsletter

Report: Elta Or EADS To Help Build Tejas AESA, Project Codenamed "Uttam"

India's home-grown AESA radar effort will soon finalise a developent partner, reports The Indian Express. According to the report, a progressive downselect since December -- when the DRDO first invited bids -- has come down to Israel's Elta and EADS Defence & Security, following the elimination of Selex, Phazotron and Thales. A recent Livefist post on the Tejas AESA is here. Oh, and by the way, I hear the LCA AESA is being developed under something called "Project Uttam".

48 Years Later, A Soldier Returns

The mortal remains of Sepoy KC Katoch were found by Border Roads engineers on 1 July in Arunachal's Lohit Valley -- 48 years after he perished in battle against the Chinese in the 1962 war. The 4th Dogra soldier was part of the brave resistance at Walong. He will be cremated with full military honours on July 15 in his village near Palampur, HP. Coverage on Headlines Today from tomorrow.

Monday, July 12, 2010

PHOTO: Underwater Launch Canister For K-15 Sagarika Submarine-launched Missile

Just got this photograph of the R-Glass composite canister for the K-15 Sagarika submarine launched missile (officially, Programme B-05). It's a four-layered thermal protected canister, presumably for India's prospective Arihant-class SSBNs.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

LCA (Navy) Programme Director's Speech On NP-1 Roll-out Day

The following is the full text of the speech that was delivered by LCA-Navy programme director COMMODORE CD BALAJI on 06 July 2010 at the roll-out ceremony of the aircraft's first prototype, NP-1.

In 2003, based on the progress made on the Air Force LCA Programme the Govt approved Phase-1 development of 2 LCA Navy Prototypes that would operate from an aircraft carrier with the concept of Ski-jump Take-off and Arrested Recovery (STOBAR). Navy actively supported this Challenging programme to design, develop, build and flight test a carrier borne aircraft for the first time in the country. The two prototypes under development would be used to demonstrate that the aircraft is capable of operating from a ship, i.e., carrier compatible.

The question often asked is ‘what are the changes in LCA(Navy) in comparison to the Air Force version?’ Typically the aircraft will get airborne in about 200m over the ski-jump on the ship as against a land based take-off run of about 800m. Landing on the ship is with an arrester hook on the aircraft engaging an arrester wire on the ship and the aircraft stops in 90m which is about 1/10th land based stopping distance.

Unlike shore based take-off and landing applications, typical ship borne requirements imposes large loads on the aircraft structure which entails new design. Also, the nose section of the aircraft is drooped down in order to have better pilot vision for ship landing. Whilst the external aerodynamic shape of the aircraft is same as the Air Force Trainer, the internal structure is entirely different due to larger loads resulting from carrier operations. However, all Mechanical, Avionics and Flight Control system layout are by and large common with the Air Force version. The design of LCA(Navy) has been performed in a 3Dimensional Computer Aided Design (CAD) concurrent engineering environment. A Digital Mock Up (DMU) of the aircraft was ultimately created which had all the internal equipment laid out. This helped in visualising possible areas of clash with various system groups and the structural interfaces due a possibility of ‘virtual walk through’. No physical mock up has been built. Due to first time design, there could be additional reserve factors taken as a conservative measure, but would be optimised based on experience in the future prototypes. This would result in significant weight savings.

Areas identified as challenges over and above the Air Force Version were structural design, Landing gear design, arrester hook, introduction of a new control surface (LEVCON) and ski-jump take-off. A case in point for Naval specific activities was the development of large sized landing gear forgings. Midhani had to develop the special tooling and processes and provide the special steel forgings. In addition, Bharat Forge, Pune provided the near shaped forgings of the major landing gear elements. These have been fabricated at private companies at Hyderabad and landing gears have been assembled at HAL (Nasik). Some of the typical challenges encountered during the development cycle, resulted in them taking longer than anticipated. However, today these have been resolved and we all await the aircraft’s rollout in the presence of the Hon’ble Raksha Mantri and the Chief of the Naval Staff.

In its primary role of Air to Air combat, the aircraft will carry both Close Combat Missiles (CCM) and Beyond Visual Range (BVR) Missiles. In its Air to Sea role, the aircraft will carry Anti Ship Missile (ASM). The aircraft can carry external fuel drop tanks to increase range and endurance. The aircraft can carry a wide variety of bombs based on role requirement.

To meet specific Naval testing, new test facilities have and are being developed. A new landing gear drop test facility has been created to handle testing to Naval requirements for qualifying larger landing gear loads. A hardware-in-loop simulation for flight control system testing called ‘Iron-bird’ has been set up and functioning. In this facility, entire hydraulics, flight control system and avionics would be integrated for the evaluation of the software. The Avionics and Weapon test rigs have been suitably modified to test the changes in system layout and architecture required for the Naval version. Shore Based Test Facility (SBTF) to simulate an aircraft carrier with ski-jump and arrested recovery is being set up at the Naval Air Station at Goa. The ski-jump facility is expected to be ready by the last quarter of 2011 and the landing area a year later. Goa Shipyard Ltd is handling the complete structural work, system integration and operations. R&D Engineers and CCE(R&D) west Pune are handling the civil works. Specialised equipment supply is from Russia in order to have the same configuration as on the Vikramaditya.

It is critical to demonstrate carrier compatibility to infuse confidence in the Indian Navy that we indeed have a Carrier borne aircraft and towards that it is critical to demonstrate ski-jump take off and validate the simulations that have been carried out by the control Law team. Navy has defined the Mission and Performance requirements expected of the aircraft. As mentioned earlier, due to first time design, there may be shortfall in certain parameters with the current engine. Two more LCA(Navy) prototypes has been sanctioned by the Govt in Dec 2009 with a higher thrust engine to enable meeting the Mission objectives set out by the Navy.

The act of ‘Rollout’ is a significant milestone in the development process of an aircraft wherein it is structurally complete, equipment installed, plumbing and wiring completed. The aircraft is on its wheels and can be moved by assisted power and is a precursor to the phase of ground based system integration testing leading the engine ground run, taxi tests and flight. Every effort is being made by all the stake holders to have the maiden flight in 3 to 4 months time.

This day of NP1 rollout has been possible with the active involvement of HAL as the Principal Partner of ADA and support by DRDO, CSIR labs, CEMILAC, DGAQA, Public and Private sector industries, Educational Institutions and a host of other agencies. I wish to salute all of those who have contributed as a composite LCA Navy Team in realising this important milestone and look forward to the same spirit to take the aircraft towards its maiden flight at the earliest.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

SPECIAL REPORT: The Story Of India's MiG-27 Upgrade

An unreliable nav system that pilots refused to rely on. Zero precision attack capability. Very limited night attack capability. Execrable airborne LRU reliability levels. Degradation of auto weapon delivery. That was the Indian Air Force fleet of MiG-27s towards the end of the 1990s -- one of the world's best strike aircraft in the 1970s, but utterly obsolete two decades later. A proposal was put up to organise a comprehensive upgrade of the fleet to transform the aircraft into a potent, accurate, all weather, day or night interdictor. Fortunately, foreseeing the government stalling the proposal, the IAF began discussing the possibility of a fully Indian upgrade programme involving HAL and the Defence Avionics Research Establishment (DARE). As you can imagine, the Russians weren't pleased, but they'd already given the Indian government reason to keep them out of main part of the programme.

Finally, on 14 March 2002, a momentous tripartite agreement was signed between the Indian Air Force, HAL and DARE. The prime agency for the upgrade was DARE, with HAL as the joint agency. Regional Centres for Military Airworthiness (RCMAs) and CEMILAC were also involved.

The team knew it needed to work fast -- this was a litmus test of what a fully Indian upgrade programme could achieve in a short time. For starters, to reduce development time, the team resorted to concurrent engineering and began using proven hardware and software modules common to the Su-30MKI and Jaguar NAVWASS programme. To save flight test and evaluation time, two prototype upgraded aircraft were made, according to a detailed presentation on the upgrade by project director P.M. Soundar Rajan of DARE. The development methodology was rigorous but efficient, with multiple agencies breaking a lot of institutional barriers to work together like they never had before.

The MiG-27 needed plenty of work. Equipment that went into the upgrade included a HUD and a full colour high definition display (HDD). The core of the upgrade involved two new pieces of computer equipment in the Flogger's nose bay. A new laser ranger replaced the old KLEN system. The main nav sensor, the INGPS along with VOR/ILS were also located in the nose bay. The new electronic warfare suite included a new radar warning receiver, an ELTA podded jammer and counter-measures dispenser system (CMDS). The upgraded aircraft was also made capable of carrying a laser designation pod and a photo recee pod.

Cutting down time taken to plan a mission was a high priority under the upgrade terms. The IAF's Software Development Institute (SDI) was roped in to develop a brand new mission planning system (MPS), which brought down mission planning time from 2-3 hours to about 30 minutes. A data-transfer unit was also conceived, to transfer RWR pre-flight messages (PFM) and MPS data straight to the aircraft -- a common function on modern fighters, but a breath of truly fresh air for the lumbering MiG-27. The system does, however, have a shortcoming - PFMs for the ELTA self-protection jammer and INCOM R/T crystallisation cannot be loaded through the DTU and still have to be fed directly into the aircraft.

The upgraded cockpit was a true legacy leap. Livefist reported earlier on the dramatic comparison of the MiG-27 cockpit, before and after upgrade. The upgraded cockpit is, as DARE puts it, "neater, de-cluttered and much more functionally ergonomic as compared to the non-upgrade cockpit". No argument with that. The RWR and CMDS were placed in the pilot's primary field of vision. An indigenous MFD displayed maps, horizontal situation and laser pod video. With time required to feed in date pre-mission reduced by a factor of four, and less time for alignment, the time for launch was brought down dramatically.

What, in effect, the MiG-27 upgrade has made possible is substantially reduced the pilot's workload. He no longer has to pay as much attention to navigation as he used to, situational awareness is no longer a daunting challenge even while flying at low levels and routine tasks have been shifted off the pilot's plate, allowing him to focus less on flying and more on tactics and the mission at hand. Target acquisition is also remarkably more efficient and intuitive now. Targets can now be acquired even in the dark night laser designator pod video, and since this involves head-down work, HUD symbology is overlaid over the video. Little things like this have transformed the MiG-27 mission experience. Pilots can now also leave the flying to the auto-pilot, now fully integrated in the auto-nav and auto-attack modes. The centre of the display has been designed to be un-cluttered to allow pilots to easily locate and identify the target. The sensor is slewable too. Overall, a substantially improved nav-attack system. For example, in a CCIP dive, a manoeuver that required every last shred of the pilot's attention, now has very accurate sights catering for the aircraft's changing parameters and allowing the pilot to monitor terminal air defence activity, managing the ECM suite and managing overall situational awareness.

The upgrade has given the MiG-27 new modes of attack, including CCRP, CCIP memory and Target of Opportunity -- these have given pilots the flexibility to attack planned and unplanned targets with equal efficacy. On the upgraded MiG-27, virtually attack parameters can be adjusted with a flick of a control switch now, and will no longer involve untimely sweats in the cockpit.

Weapon accuracy was a real concern. During upgrade trials, an upgraded MiG-27 conducted an HALR laser-pod assisted drop of a 500-kg dumb bomb from 7.5-km. Its missed distance was 15-metres. This was a dumb bomb, not a PGM.

The MiG-27s electronic warfare suite underwent many substantial changes. For starters, the front antennae of the Tarang 1B radar warning receiver (RWR) were moved from the wing leading edges to the nose, removing the earlier problem of masking which has apparently plagued the Tarang experience in virtually every other aircraft it has been used on. Incidentally, the upgraded MiG-27 is now the only aircraft in the Indian inventory that provides true 360-degrees, mask-free RWR cover. The self-protection jammer and and countermeasures dispensing system (CMDS) can now be autocued by the RWR, and the new integrated display provides, for the first time on the MiG-27, a perfectly clear picture of the electronic orbat around the aircraft.

The MiG-27 continues, however, to be a highly controversial aircraft in Indian service, recently seeing a long spell of grounding. Former IAF flight safety chief Air Marshal PS Ahluwalia has long argued that the MiG-27 engine has fundamental flaws that make it a dangerous machine to fly, and should be phased out forthwith. More on this last bit soon.