Monday, August 30, 2010

Indian Navy Submarine XO Dies At Sea

Lt Cdr Firdaus D Moghal, Executive Officer of Indian Naval Submarine Shankush (photo) died in an accident at sea off Mumbai this morning. The submarine, on a planned exercise had developed a defect as a result of which, the boat's maintenance crew had come out on the casing to attempt repairs. While on deck, the maintenance team was washed overboard due to very rough sea state.

A team of fiove officers and sailors led by the Executive Officer Lt Cdr Moghal started the rescue operation immediately and managed to recover all the sailors who were washed overboard. During the operation, the officer was also washed overboard and suffered injuries on his forehead. He was subsequently rescued by a Navy helicopter dispatched from INS Shikra (Naval Air Station) at Mumbai. The officer was administered first aid in-flight, but could not be revived. The post mortem report has indicated death by drowning due to an injury.

The officer was commissioned on Jan 1, 1998 and is survived by his wife Kerzinn and a two year old son. Rest in peace.

Photo Copyright Kapil Chandni/Bharat Rakshak

PHOTOS: IAF Upgraded MiG-27 Avionics Part Trainer

Just received these photos from a source at HAL. The last photo is of the Elta podded self-protection jammer introduced on the upgraded MiG-27. Here's my special report last month detailing the IAF MiG-27 upgrade.

The Video The Indian Navy Was Shown As Part Of NG's MQ-8 Fire Scout Pitch

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Kaveri's Compressor Blades + The Indian Single Crystal Effort

Got a lot of queries from you folks asking for more on the Kaveri aeroengine. Sourced the photos and slides above from a presentation from India's Defence Metallurgical Research Lab (DMRL) in Hyderabad. Will update this with more.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Defence Minister: Agni-V IRBM Ready For First Test

The Indian Agni-V intermediate range ballistic missile is ready is ready for its first test, Defence Minister AK Antony said in Hyerabad on Friday. The actual test, however, is likely to be conducted only sometime in January-March next year. DRDO sources confirmed once again that Spring 2011 was the likely time that the 5,000-km range weapon would first be tested. Notwithstanding the Minister's comments, DRDO sources indicated that the first Agni-V was about 90 per cent complete, with minor work on the missile's third stage and heatshield assemblies remaining. The team is also working overtime to ensure there are no quality control issues that have dogged two previous tests under the Agni programe. By November, the first missile should be complete in all respects for its first flight test, though a comprehensive routine of subsystem tests will continue till the end of the year. With the February test, the Agni-III completed its routine of tests and is now ready for induction into India's nuclear force structure.

Images ©VisualMotion

Friday, August 27, 2010

Unofficial Impressions Of India's AURA UCAV Concept

The top image is by one of Livefist's readers, designer Varun Jain. The second is by Brazilian aerospace blogger EM Pinto who sent me this quick impression he made of what India's AURA UCAV could look like. Both based their drawings on these official impressions of the proposed platform.

Indian Army Northern Commander Denied China Visa

You've probably seen this on the news. Lt Gen Baljit Jaswal, GOC-in-C, Northern Command of the Indian Army -- overall forces commander for Jammu & Kashmir -- has been denied a China visa for an official visit. The reason -- he commands what China perceives is a "disputed area". Well, stuff's hit the fan as you can imagine. All military interactions, such as they were, have been suspended between both countries, with an overwhelming sense that this is China once again feeding its needling needs. The two countries have in the recent past held rudimentary joint drills, landmark naval port calls, and were contemplating a very basic joint air force drill in a timeframe of the next 12 months, all in the recycle bin until further notice. The Indian government's position now is that all Sino-Indian military exchange lie temporarily suspended and will remain so contingent on China taking corrective action.

Frustrated ST Kinetics Waits For Guns To Cool

"There comes a time when frustration takes its toll. It's come to a point where I wonder about ST Kinetics being driven out of the Indian market by frustration. We are a public listed company with shareholders we are accountable to. We cannot simply continue with something that appears like a blackhole."

Telling words, spoken by Brigadier General Patrick Choy, Chief Marketing Officer at Singaporean gun maker ST Kinetics, and the man who leads the company's activities in India. I had a brief Thursday morning meeting with Gen Choy, in which he detailed the weird limbo his team currently languishes in, following news that his company had been recommended for a blacklist.

A few days ago, Gen Choy's team received instructions from the Indian Army asking them to remove their iFH-2000 towed howitzer from the Pokhran field firing range in Rajasthan, a formality following the shock scrapping of India's towed gun tender in July. Not officially on the Indian government blacklist yet -- but nevertheless, possibly just a step away from it -- the company has, ironically, received the new towed gun RFI, and even plans to respond. Whether they fly their gun out of India, or store it away in Gwalior (where their Pegasus light-weight howitzer also lies stored, incidentally) hoping for the best is a call they'll soon take. But what weighs on their minds is something much heavier -- the circumstances of the blacklist.

Significantly, it turns out, the team that authored the recent Indian audit report (that details the OFB-ST Kinetics interface on the close-quarter carbine episode with the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs), may not have had the opportunity (big question: how come?) to study all relevant documents and agreements that appear to have existed between the two entities. For instance, some -- including an April 2008 MoU detailing phased offsets and work-share -- appear to refute or at least rebutt suggestions in the audit report that the OFB and ST Kinetics had done no homework on how they planned to build carbines together before the former approached the Indian Home Ministry with an offer. More details here.

For now, however, as Gen Choy put it, it's a blackhole. That's a sentiment that should ring familiar to a lot of folks out there trying to push weapons into India.

Framegrab Courtesy Manu Sood/8ak

PHOTOS: Kaveri Turbine Components & Early Thermodynamic Testing

A few quick points. There are eight Kaveri engines in existence today and four Kabini cores. The engine that will be tested on an Il-76 test-bed this October at Russia's Gromov institute will be one of the eight samples that already exists -- not a Kaveri with a Snecma M88 ECO core, which does not exist yet; GTRE has only completed preliminary design and configuration for the 90kN Kaveri-ECO engine.

Photos Courtesy GTRE

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

KAVERI UPDATE: Critical Flight Tests On IL-76 Testbed This October

The Indian government today provided a comprehensive update on the indigenous Kaveri turbofan programme. Here it is, in full:

(i) All major engine sub-assemblies have been tested for aerodynamic performance and structural integrity (life & safety) requirements from qualification point of view. (ii) Critical sub-systems have been developed. (iii) Full authority Kaveri Digital engine Control System (KADECS) has been designed and developed. (iv) Various critical technologies in the fields of instrumentation/measurement, health monitoring, data acquisition, etc. have been developed. (v) Twelve materials (Titanium, Steel and super alloys) have been developed and type certified. (vi) Directionally Solidified (DS) casting technology and high temperature tip brazing technology for the High Pressure and Low Pressure turbine blades & vanes have been developed. (vii) Adequate manufacturing technology base has been established.

The reasons for the delay in developing the said engine are as follows:

(i) Non-availability of critical materials, viz., nickel and titanium based alloys in the country. (ii) Low priority from foreign manufacturing agencies in view of the Minimum Order Quantity (MOQ) vis-à-vis the production order quantity from other engine houses. (iii) Lack of manufacturing infrastructure for critical components. (iv) Flying Test Bed (FTB) trials were not originally envisaged but included subsequently, based on the recommendations of Certification Agency and IAF. (v) US sanctions imposed during 1998 affected the delivery of critical systems & components. (vi) Lack of infrastructure of engine testing and component / system level testing within the country leading to dependency on foreign agencies.

Kaveri engine testing under simulated altitude and forward speed conditions during February 2010 has been successfully completed. Another engine has been integrated with IL-76 aircraft at Gromov Flight Research Institute (GFRI), Moscow for ground and flight test which is expected to complete by October 2010 (sic). These two major milestones would make 'Kaveri' engine certified for flight operations. Productions of LCAs are, meanwhile, as decided by user, being fitted with imported engines.

Kaveri Photo by Shiv Aroor

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Typhoon Crashes In Spain, Saudi Pilot Dead

A Saudi Air Force Lieutenant Colonel has been killed when the Eurofighter Typhoon he was flying crashed this morning, local time, at the Moron Air Force Base in Spain. The Spanish pilot managed to eject before the aircraft hit the ground. According to reports, Saudi Arabia had two pilots in Spain to train on the Typhoon, in line with an agreement between Saudi Arabia and Spain. More details shortly.

Monday, August 23, 2010

IIT-Kanpur To Help Create Indian UCAV

The Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur (IIT-K) will now help develop critical technologies for AURA, India's concept UCAV programme. Sources tell me aerospace researchers at IIT-K (some of the best in the country, incidentally), have been given research work worth almost half-a-million dollars, and will soon get even more.

Coming Soon: MMRCA BUZZ -- Why The IAF Is Nervous About The Americans


Friday, August 20, 2010

Indian Navy For New Rotory-UAVs

The photos above show Austrian firm Schiebel's CAMCOPTER S-100 unmanned helicopter during a demo for the Indian Navy aboard one of its Sukanya-class offshore patrol vessels. This was October 2007 in the Arabian Sea. Three years forward, the Navy today published an RFI to support a potential buy of VTOL UAVs -- really, rotory-wing shipborne UAVs. The Navy supports the IAI-HAL Chetak-based NRUAV programme, but has identified the need for the capability before the tentative timeframe offered by IAI and HAL to operationalise the NRUAV. The Northrop-Grumman MQ-8 Fire Scout is a certain contender.

India's New VVIP Helicopter

The AW101 in Indian Air Force colours on the cover of the latest issue of Vayu magazine.

Sent using a Sony Ericsson mobile phone

Thursday, August 19, 2010

MMRCA BUZZ: MiG-35 Was Never In The Running?

Quick disclaimer: with nothing official on the MMRCA competition available from the Indian government -- at one level, rightly so -- the only available information is hearsay. And I don't think debate about rumours is going to ever affect a professionally managed competition. This is a pot that stirs itself. It could be bang on, it could be totally off. I'm hoping everyone will look at the assertions on their own merit. These are bits of conversations with officers, ex-Chiefs etc over the last few weeks strung together. Ok, let's get down to it.

The overriding sense I get from my sources is this: It is not a question of what chance the MiG-35 has in the MMRCA sweepstakes but whether the MiG-35 ever had a chance in the first place. From the start, it turns out, both the MoD and a controlling section of the IAF have agreed on one crucial thing -- the next aircraft the IAF operated would need to be a truly modern platform that "broke the mould". That was to be the starting point of everything that followed. The IAF's next aircraft needed to be a top-of-the-line aircraft that broke out from the old mould and signalled new things for India in every possible sense: technology, diplomacy, security cooperation, political opportunity, military interoperability, logistical exchange and economics.

As late as mid-2006, a time when there was a breathless guessing game about precisely when the Indian MoD would send out its MMRCA RFP, there were apparently quiet discussions on over whether Moscow could be brought on board and persuaded to stay out of the proposed MMRCA competition. It was suggested that this be made possible through interactions at the highest levels, but first the MoD and IAF needed to figure the feasibility of such a proposal. It is said that the Russian Ambassador to New Delhi at the time was called in for an unofficial discussion on the highly controversial possibility of Russia actually being kept out of the sweepstakes. He was accompanied by Russia's Air Attache. As the IAF expected, the Russian envoy was incredulous. He said there was no way on earth his Russian bosses would ever be persuaded to agree to that. Obviously. A month before that in January 2007 was an important event -- India and Russia finally formalised their joint fifth generation aircraft plan, though actual agreements came later.

In February 2005, Russia had sent a MiG-29M/M2 MRCA to AeroIndia 05. For AeroIndia 07, MiG pulled out all the stops.

In February 2007, the "MiG-35" (actually the MiG-29M2 No. 154, a 17-year-old airframe with blue-painted fins) was officially unveiled to the world at AeroIndia 07 at the IAF's Yelahanka base. Coupled with the bright red and blue thrust-vectored MiG-29OVT, the two aircraft put up a deeply memorable show. But IAF officers who had a chance to check out the aircraft came away very unimpressed. "It is an old aircraft with a few MFDs," one of them said at the time. At the time, it indeed was, but Russia had said it was merely a proof-of-concept platform that would be evolved into a formidable new Fulcrum.

Six months later, on August 28, 2007 -- two days after the MAKS 2007 air show at Zhukovsky (see photo, me and MiG's Stanislav Gorbunov after our sortie) -- the Indian government finally and belatedly issued its long-awaited RFP to six vendors, 211 pages long and delayed ostensibly by the offsets and selection model sections. This probably means nothing, but in all MoD and official acquisition council papers concerning the MMRCA competition since the RFP, the MiG-35 is first in the list of six competitors. As a matter of record, the official order of the remaining competitors is Gripen, F-16, F/A-18, Typhoon, Rafale. A senior IAF officer who was part of a delegation to MAKS 2007 met UAC boss Alexei Fedorov on August 22-23, 2007, and is understood to have had a very "frank chat". Fedorov was told that the Indian government was willing to consider the MiG-35, though its chances were slim, considering the three explicit guiding principals of the selection process, and the two unspoken ones (more on these later). Fedorov is understood to have said that the Russian government was fully aware of the "winds of change" in New Delhi, but was confident that MiG would put up a good fight, politically too.

On a political level, it was conveyed to the Russians that the flagship Russian airplane, the Su-30, was being patronized extensively by India (plans were afoot already then to up orders), and that the MiG-35 was hardly a platform the Russian Air Force itself was interested in.

On March 7, 2008, the Indian government, after prolonged cost negotiations, finally concluded a $964.1-million contract to upgrade the IAF's entire fleet of over 60 MiG-29s (the Indian phase of the upgrade began in June this year). Shortly thereafter, on April 28, 2008, RAC-MiG/Rosoboronexport submitted an MMRCA technical bid for the MiG-35/35D to the MoD, offering a Fulcrum with an improved airframe, new generation avionics and an AESA radar, the Phazotron Zhuk-AE.

In October-December 2008, during evaluations of the MMRCA technical bids, two Russian MiG-29s crashed after critical structural failures of their fins, forcing the Russian Air Force to ground its entire fleet shortly thereafter. Coming as the accidents did so soon after the upgrade contract was concluded, the IAF generated a query, routed through the Russian Air Attache, asking for a full brief on the accidents on why the Russians had been forced to ground their entire fleet. In April 2009, Russia responded, saying there were structural faults in the MiG-29 platform, and that the accidents had been caused as a result of structural failure of the aircraft's fin root ribs. Significantly, the Russians conveyed that a specific "repair scheme" would be included in the March 2008 upgrade manifest. The IAF, however, demanded to know what immediate checks needed to be carried out and requested full accident reports. These were provided. The Russians grounding their entire Fulcrum fleet created a huge stir. Sections of the MoD/IAF debated the possibility of manipulating the entire issue to somehow put the MiG-35 out of the reckoning, but nothing whatsoever in the RFP terms would allow it. Also, by this time, the "guiding principles" as expounded by the MoD had begun to echo like a mantra.

The explicit principles -- first, the IAF's operational needs should be fulfilled. Two, the selection process needed to be competitive and transparent, and finally, that the competition would lead to a legacy leap for Indian industrial capabilities. The unspoken principles -- first, the competition should provide robust leverage to India's multifarious 21st Century political aspirations. And second, as previously stated, the competition needs to break old moulds in every sense to create strategic space for other partnerships.

A former IAF chief, who served during a crucial phase of the MMRCA planning, admits that the competition is a political opportunity that incidentally gives the Indian Air Force a chunky stop-gap to tide over legacy jet phase-outs and delays in the Tejas -- not the other way round. "You can argue ad nauseum about sanctioned strength and squadron strength. The fact is the IAF's requirement is not only much simpler, but much smaller too. As long as the pilots get a top-of-the-line airplane, nobody is complaining. Let the politicians do the politics. That is their job," he says, adding, "The IAF's requirements for a fresh batch of medium fighter jets came at a time when our strategic aspirations were in a state of great flux. It will be an enabler in many ways."

In March 2010, around the time the crucial MMRCA field evaluation trials were winding down, the Indian government exercised options and signed up for 29 additional MiG-29K/KUB shipborne fighters for the Navy at a cost of $1.46-billion, taking its total order to 45 planes. In other words, since the time the IAF first approached the government with a requirement for a quick induction of medium fighters (it wanted to quickly contract for 60-70 more Mirage-2000s at he time), the Indian government has pumped approximately $3.5-billion into procuring MiG-29 platforms or platform related services.

The maximum I could squeeze out from informed sources about the MiG-35's performance in the field evaluation trials is that the platform achieved "average compliance". Areas of poor compliance are said to have occured at the Leh leg (engine related and emmissions issues), avionics exploitation and PGM delivery routines in Russia. The IAF are also said to have been fairly unimpressed with what the Russians had managed to achieve with the aircraft since they first saw it in February 2007. If the MiG-35's performance was average in the trials, they know about it, since the IAF trial team briefed every contending team about their horse's performance after trials concluded. There are more specific details about the MiG-35's performance during the FET, but I was requested not to include those.

The Indian government remains utterly unconvinced of Russia's ability to provide any meaningful industrial package to India as a mandatory part of the MMRCA. The India-Russia relationship is anything but new -- it stretches back 47 years. India has learnt much from Russia, and has been provided the opportunity to cookie-cut airplanes through decades. But when it comes to meaningful industrial collaboration, the Indian government feels the Russians are better at selling and license building, rather than true blue industrial cooperation. And it is not as if there has been no framework for cooperation.

"It is not as though they have not had a chance to deepen their relationship with us industrially. Nobody knows the Indian industrial capability better than the Russians. They have exploited our weaknesses to the hilt for over four decades. But even then their industrial base is in tatters. In my opinion, whatever we can ever get from the Russians, we have already got or are soon to get. To expect anything more is unreasonable," says a former IAF Chief. Apparently, the Indian government also doesn't believe the Russians have anything to offer over and above what the Indians are already signing up for -- the fifth generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) will be an ostensibly joint effort.

While the initial Naval MiG-29K deal was too good not to go for (at least in 2004!) and the upgrade of the IAF MiG-29s was something the IAF could postpone but not sidestep, sources say the government has very low confidence in the industrial health of MiG Corporation, tottering as it apparently is from airframe to airframe. Russia's inability to stick to delivery timeframes, especially for MiG Corp, is another spoiler.

A point frequently raised in favour of choosing Russian aircraft is the quality of the Indo-Russian relationship; the fact that Russia has been a faithful friend in times of need/distress. Interestingly, as one Chief pointed out, India has done more than enough to earn Russia's friendship. He says, "Russia has been a time-tested friend in our time of need, but what about the other way round? India has bailed out Russian politicians and leaders time and time again. The MMRCA is also a chance to demonstrate that India is a level partner, and nothing can ever be taken for granted. India is no longer a push-over. I say push-over because there was a time when we undeniably were. In the last decade, there have been instances of flagrant disregard for this so-called partnership. At the same time, we have to be careful about our new prospective relationships. For one thing, the US has an even worse record of reneging on promises."

The same Chief points out that Russians have provided us technology for decades, but we still have a highly flawed, delayed indigenous fighter program. In other words, the perception is that if the Indian military-industrial complex (read HAL and DRDO) is to blame for India's lack of maturity as an aerospace developer, then Russia is at least as much to blame for not allowing it, but rather remaining content with what has essentially been a buyer-seller relationship. "Let it be recorded at some point, that for every time the Russians have said yes, there has been another time they've said no. And let me also say that this is precisely the sort of scenario you may expect to have with the Americans. The quality of relations with Russia and US may be different, but not in any way that would matter to India's own aspirations. Both countries are similar in more fundamental ways. That is an important thing to be remembered," he says.

Another officer, a Naval aviator this time, had a very evocative phrase to describe where India-Russia relations were: "strategic menopause".

Overall, the sense is that the path taken by the MiG-35 so far in the MMRCA competition needs to be seen in the light of the unspoken guiding principles and what the IAF and MoD originally wanted to persuade the Russians about. If the MiG-35 makes it past any potential downselect, it may be seen as having weathered a great deal to get there, no least a concerted attempt to completely discredit Russian technology by virtually all of the other five contenders in the Indian competition. I've put this post up now, but will be adding more to it over the next couple of days.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

With Cold Response To UCAV Query, IAF Throws Weight Behind Indian Programme

Following a totally flat response to its surprise June RFI for a fleet of UCAVs, the Indian Air Force is throwing its weight fully behind India's indigenous UCAV programme, codenamed AURA. The highly classified programme, completely unknown until it was reported on here on Livefist (follow-up posts here and here), is currently working to define a stealth flying-wing UCAV platform. I asked a senior IAF officer recently about the RFI and how it fit in with the AURA programme. He said, "The UCAV we operate will be an Indian platform. The RFI was an exercise to query the international market to get a sense of what is available in terms of platforms and technology. But the platform we finally induct will be an Indian one."

BAE Systems is the only company that confirmed to me that it had responded to the IAF's RFI. The company's India spokesperson Guy Douglas told me, "We did reply to the RFI... However, and as we stated in the RFI response, we are unlikely to be able to offer a realistic response to a UCAV RFP within the immediate timeframe. In July we unveiled Taranis, the world's first stealthy autonomous UCAV. As Taranis is still in the prototype phase of development it would be incorrect to suggest it is available to compete for this programme. Instead we have made it clear that we are very interested in working together with the DRDO, and other agencies and companies in India to help develop an indigenous UAS capability." Since there are no operational UCAV products anywhere on earth that fit the IAF's stated requirements, the IAF had been expecting responses, at the very least, like BAE's.

Dassault Aviation, which also received the RFI, decided not to respond, but is understood to have separately conveyed its openness in partnering India on the AURA programme, though this will have nothing to do with the nEUROn UCAV demonstrator programme. Companies that received the IAF's RFI, but chose not to respond, include Boeing, Lockeed-Martin, General Atomics and EADS. Israel's IAI and Russia's UAC also received the RFI, but did not confirm how or if they responded.

IAF Chief: "Merely Sophisticated Arsenal Cannot Guarantee Victory"

IAF chief Air Chief Mshl PV Naik at a day-long national conference on Aerospace Leadership, organized by IAF in association with Centre for Air Power Studies (CAPS).

Indian Su-30MKI Upgrade To Cost Rs 10,920-Crore

Defence Minister AK Antony mentioned India's proposed Su-30MKI upgrade in Parliament today. He said, "There is proposal to upgrade the SU-30 MKI aircraft of the Indian Air Force by M/s Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) with the support of the Russian Original Equipment Manufacturer. The current estimated cost is Rs 10,920 crores and the aircraft are likely to be upgraded in a phased manner from year 2012 onwards."

MMRCA RUMOUR: MiG-35 Out, Details Tomorrow

Monday, August 16, 2010

India To Progress Javelin ATGM Deal, "Enormously Expensive" Gaffed US Soldiers In India Last Year

Couldn't resist this one. The uniformed PR soldiers of the US 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, which was in India last year for the Yudh Abhyas 09 mechanised joint exercise, described the Javelin ATGM as "enormously expensive" in a press release (first page, above) bang in the middle of an inspired pitch of the system to the Indian forces. Wonder what the Raytheon-Lockheed Martin gents who were faithfully embedded with the US contingent think/thought of this (probably nothing, the deal is pretty much in the bag now). The Javelin's in the news because Indian Defence Minister AK Antony told Parliament today, "The defence ministry proposes to issue a letter of request (LoR) to the US government under their foreign military sales (FMS) route for procurement of third generation anti-tank guided missile along with transfer of technology."

Known DRDO Critic, Former Def Sec Goes Mellow From Comfy Gubernatorial Chair

The letter above, from Chattisgarh Governor Shekhar Dutt to DRDO chief VK Saraswat is a lovely illustration of how things change depending on the hat you wear. Governor Dutt was Defence Secretary to the Indian government from July 2005-2007, a time of deep turmoil and very harsh criticism of the DRDO, a campaign that he, as Defence Secretary, made no bones about supporting. A well-respected, straight-talking gentleman, Dutt -- a decorated ex-Army officer -- was one of the few bureaucrats who unequivocally supported demands for a revamp of the DRDO at the time when there severe opposition and lots of lobbying for a status quo. The P Rama Rao Committee, the bitter pill the DRDO was forced to (and is still being forced to) swallow was Dutt's brainchild. After a stint as Deputy NSA, Dutt was appointed Governor of Chattisgarh in January this year.

REPORT: Lanka Lauds IPKF, Finally

©Copyright Hindustan Times

IMPACT: Embarrassed DRDO Pulls Down Howler Webpage Graphic

Two days after I highlighted a DRDO howler on Livefist, there's fortunately been some follow-up. Following an alert that was sounded yesterday after the post was circulated at DRDO HQ, the people in charge were ordered to immediately dispense with the graphic and re-create it using images of only indigenous weapons programmes. In the meantime, they've replaced the old howler with a static image of the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (see image). Oh, well. :)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

IAF Foresees Delays In Indo-Russian 5th Gen Fighter Programme

A senior officer of the Indian Air Force has said that India foresees "substantial delays" in the Indo-Russian Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) programme, with slippages that could run into a year or more for inductions into Indian service. The Indian Air Force plans to contract for 50 single-seat (prototype designated T-50) fighters and 200-250 twin-seat variants -- the latter will be built with Indian financial and technological involvement. More details soon.

August 15 | Never Forget Our Heroes


At 0630 hrs of February 26, 2010, a guarded residential compound of Indian Embassy in Kabul, housing six army medical officers, four paramedics and two other Army officers of the English Language Training Team (ELTT) were suddenly attacked by heavily armed and determined terrorist suicide bombers. A terrorist, after detonating a Suicidal Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device (SVBIED) resulting in the death of three security guards, entered the compound to kill any survivors. The terrorist proceed to fire burst of Kalshnikov rounds into the individual rooms and started throwing hand grenades. In the melee, five unarmed officers took shelter in one of the rooms which was subjected to grenade attack and the fire on its roof spread consequently to the bathroom where another group of five officers were sheltered. On hearing shouts of the five officers, Maj Laishram Jytoin Singh crawled out from under the debris of his room. Maj Laishram Jyotin Singh charged with bare hands at the armed terrorist and pinned him down to ensure that the terrorists could no longer lob more grenades or direct fire at the officers cornered in a burning room. He continued to grapple with armed terrorist and did not let him go till the terrorist panicked and detonated his suicide vest, resulting in the instantaneous death of the terrorist and martyrdom of Maj Laishram Jyotin Singh. Maj Laishram Jyotin Singh gave up his life for the sake of five of his colleagues, one of whom unfortunately was still charred to death, and another succumbed to his injuries five days later. His sacrifice, in addition, also saved the lives of two officers, and four paramedics and two Afghan civilians still alive within the compound. For his act of exemplary courage, grit, selflessness and valour in the face of a terrorist attack, resulting in his sacrifice and saving 10 of his colleagues, Major Laishram Jyotin Singh is recommended for the award of Ashok Chakra (Posthumous).


On February 23, 2010, after receiving information about the presence of terrorists in Chinkipur, a heavily congested built up area, Captain Davinder Singh Jass after carrying out meticulous planning, moved to the areas. While closing into the target area his leading squad came under heavy indiscriminate terrorist fire from multiple directions, injuring some members of his squad. With utter disregard to his personal safety he successfully evacuated one of his injured men to safety. Thereafter the officer crawled forward again to evacuate the second man but was grievously injured. Inspite of his injuries he pulled out the second man to safety. Subsequently, unmindful of the injuries, he continued engaging the terrorists and closed in to one of the hiding terrorist. In a daring encounter he killed one foreign terrorist in a fierce hand to hand combat. He later succumbed to his injuries fighting for his motherland in the finest traditions of Indian Army. For his exemplary and gallant act, he was awarded the Kirti Chakra (Posthumous).


On July 12, 2009 at 0700 hrs, Shri Vinod Kumar Choubey, Superintendent of Police, Rajnandgaon received a message that naxalites have attacked Madanwara outpost of PS Manpur, District Rajnandangaon and killed two policemen. Sensing the serious consequences of the incident, Shri Choubey, SP, and the IGP rushed to the spot from their respective Headquarters. En-route, Shri Choubey’s carcade was ambushed by the naxalites near police station Manpur. However, he kept moving and instructed the ASI at PS Manpur to come in a mine proof vehicle (MPV) with additional force. The naxalites had laid fresh road blocks on the road. Shri Choubey cleared the blocs and bravely reached the site where a fierce fighting was going on between the police and naxalites. The MPV of police was attacked with bullets and bombs. The men in MPV were in a perilous capture and death situation but were fighting. The IGP’s party and SP’s party kept attacking the naxalites. Timely intervention saved the trapped policemen in a fierce battle. A transport bus of civilians which had entered amidst the ambush was also rescued to safety. About 300 naxalites came from the forest firing fiercely. Many climbed up the trees and threw grenades incessantly at the police party. Police was caught in a precarious situation and were exposed in the open without any cover. They were being fired at from all directions. However, the police party led by Shri Choubey retained their nerves and despite the naxalites’ numerical and topographical advantage, courageously took on the attack and retaliated formidably while making concerted efforts to save the life of their men in grave situation with the reinforcement not in sight. In this adverse situation, Shri Choubey leading from the front as leader of the party decided to make a dent in the naxal attack, and moved from his position and sprang towards the naxalites in the trenches 10 meters away and fired at them. This bold and unexpected counter attack caused a flutter of panic amongst the naxalites and forced them to retreat behind the large rocks. Thus emboldened policemen opened fire and continued the attack. A fierce uneven battle ensued. Shri Choubey fought heroically with iron determination and raw grit. In the continued firing, he was grievously hurt, but continued to fire and ultimately made the supreme sacrifice of his life at the altar of duty. He displayed an exceptional quality of leadership and bravery worth emulating where an officer rose to the occasion and laid down his life saving his men from deadly attack of the naxalites. For this exemplary and gallant act he was awarded Kirti Chakra, posthumously.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Lockheed Pipes In: F-16IN Has Great Growth Prospects

The American teens are working overtime to battle deep perceptions that their wares -- the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and F-16IN Super Viper -- are essentially old aircraft (i.e. not modern) with a few new systems bunged in, and are basically platforms in the twilight of their operational lives, being replaced as they are with new assets by US forces. Boeing tried dealing with that perception a few days ago when it revealed that India was being offered something called the International Roadmap as part of the MMRCA competition. Arch-rival Lockheed-Martin articulated something similar recently, which they sent over. Posting it in full:

"While the Super Viper is a new design just for India, it is also the starting point for future growth. The F-16 has a well documented history of continuous evolution in capability. This is very important since the F-16IN is inherently designed for a long service life (in excess of 6500 flight hours). During this service life the desire will likely arise for significant upgradation to add capability for expanded mission roles, improved combat capability, and reduced operating costs. There are two primary enablers to this evolution: technology advancements and a proactive upgradation strategy.

Technology Advancements. The Super Viper is on the cutting edge of fighter aircraft technology with its 5th gen-based AESA radar, fiber optics data network, large flat panel color displays and the latest precision weapons. Starting now the Super Viper has inherent growth capacity due to ample unused space and large processing reserves. Nevertheless, emerging technologies will enable even greater capability. The history of technology advancement, especially for digital systems, shows that this added capability comes in increasingly smaller packages with lower power requirements. (Today’s mobile phone includes web browsing, games, and video in a smaller size than yesterday’s voice-only device.) The F-16 has demonstrated this many times across seven major block changes. This includes five generations of core avionics, five radar versions, ten different EW suites, and dozens of new weapons without changing the aircraft structure or size.
To take advantage of these new technologies the Super Viper has a growth-oriented architecture for adding new systems and capabilities. Maximum use has been made of commercial standards and technology such as processing, software and networking.

Upgradation Strategy. The U.S. Air Force along with the European operators of the F-16 have been jointly executing a long term continuous upgradation strategy since the beginning of the F-16 program. As part of the overall sustainment philosophy, this strategy recognizes the need for continuous improvement and it defines a step-wise approach to keeping the F-16 on the forefront of war fighting capability. There are F-16s flying today in the U.S. and in Europe that are 30 years old but they have the same systems and capabilities as a new Block 50 F-16.
At the heart of the strategy is a long term capability improvement roadmap which is synchronized with technology-driven improvements in weapons, sensors, displays, and computing. These key technology areas have their own improvement roadmaps which dovetail with the aircraft capability improvement roadmap. The roadmap is implemented through a series of software releases and hardware updates. For the U.S. and European Air Forces there is typically a major software release each 18 months. This allows for balance between rapid fielding of new capability and time required to assimilate the new capabilities into operational use. Major hardware updates are likewise spaced out to optimize fleet management while aircraft are being inducted into the modification program.

In summary, the growth potential for the Super Viper is much more than just the currently available spare capacity. Combining the latest technologies with a long term continuous upgradation strategy will keep the F-16IN relevant from the day it is first inducted until it is finally retired from service.

HAL Sitara Trainer To Miss IOC Deadline

The HAL HJT-36 Sitara intermediate jet trainer won't achieve initial operational clearance/capability (IOC) by the end of this year as planned. A report detailing fresh problems with the aircraft noticed during hot-weather trials held in Rajasthan in May this year, was received by the Air HQ on the morning of August 12. The IAF plans to induct over 200 of the aircraft. Details on the problems soon.

DRDO Built INS Chakra, M1 Abrams Tank, Arrow Missile System

In its enthusiasm for bells and whistles, the Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) has this howler as part of a soft-focus flash movie that begins when you launch their newly designed webpage. You know they wanted to trumpet the Arihant, but the sub in the picture is INS Chakra, the very Russian Charlie-1 class nuclear attack submarine that India leased in 1988. The DRDO guys should've been told that there's a very nice photo of the Arihant that was rendered de-clas after it appeared in the Prime Minister's status report to the nation, scooped of course by Livefist. And as commenters have pointed out, the film shows that the DRDO also builds the American M1 Abrams tank and Israeli Arrow ABM system, while some DRDO babu has put the Indian tricolour on the iconic World War-2 photograph of the US victory in the Battle of Iwo Jima. Has anyone seen anything more mortifying than this? The sad part is, if the DRDO had used the Arihant, Arjun and AAD interceptor instead, nobody could've said a word -- these are all programmes that are either swimming along nicely or have finally turned the corner after years of delays. Yet, some nitwit sitting in DRDO Bhawan's salubrious confines chooses to go with Google Images, and mount this piece of execrable, infuriating nonsense.

This may be just someone's foolishness, but it's this kind of braindead, careless tripe that reflects an entrenched devil-may-care attitude that we see in so many things that DRDO does. And it's such nonsense that demolishes all the good, positive image-building that the DRDO is clearly spending so much money on. Stuff like this proves that in the end, it's all just skin deep. How deeply disappointing. DRDO should find the guy who chose the photos above and give him what we in India call a "rocket". That would be appropriate too.

PHOTO: First Modified EMB-145 Fuselage For India's AEW&C

The fuselage of India's first Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) aircraft was completed on 22 March 2010 at Embraer's facility in Brazil, marking the beginning of the physical manufacture of the modified aircraft for India's AEW&C programme. Some of the folks in the photo include DRDO chief Dr VK Saraswat, IAF Deputy Chief Air Marshal NV Tyagi, DRDO CC R&D (Ae & SI) Dr Prahlada and CABS Director Dr S Christopher.

Photo Courtesy DRDO

$670-mil RFP For IAF Jaguar Re-Engine Soon

A long-awaited RFP to select new engines for the IAF's fleet of Jaguar deep penetration/maritime strike aircraft will be out shortly according to top government sources. Over the last couple of years since the IAF articulated its intention to replace the current Rolls-Royce-Turbomeca Mk811 powerplants (for enhanced thrust across the Jaguar's operational envelope), the two contending firms -- Honeywell (F125IN) and Rolls-Royce-Turbomeca (Adour Mk821)-- have campaigned bitterly against each other. This is a deal worth over $650-million. A detailed post on both engines soon.

Photo Courtesy Indian Air Force

Friday, August 13, 2010

Gripen's 32-Page Supplement With Latest Edition Of INDIA TODAY Magazine

Gripen IN - Future is Made in India

Boeing Offers India "Super Hornet International Roadmap"

Boeing has said it is offering India the "International Super Hornet Roadmap", which it describes as the next evolution of the Block II Super Hornet -- "which increases survivability, situational awareness, and performance for customers". The company says it has been investing in the International Roadmap for the last two years along with the US Navy. Under the programme, says Boeing, if India chooses the Super Hornet as part of the MMRCA, the Indian Air Force will have the option of adding evolutionary technologies to the platform within this decade on an incremental basis starting 2015. Funded by the US Navy and developed by Boeing, the roadmap on offer allows for the planned insertion of maturing technologies over time. Boeing says this would give the IAF flexibility over the years if they want to insert/ integrate the following new technologies:
  • Enhanced Performance Engines
  • Next-generation cockpit
  • Spherical missile laser warning
  • Internal Infra-Red Search & Track (IRST)
  • Conformal fuel tanks (see aircraft in slide)
  • Enclosed weapons pod (see aircraft in slide)
  • Designed-in stealth
  • Future survivability technology that will "make the Block II Super Hornet harder to detect, harder to hit, and harder to kill"
According to a note that Boeing sent over, "While India is getting Block II of the Super Hornet, the International Super Hornet roadmap gives India the choice of considerable growth potential. India will be able to participate as an International Super Hornet Roadmap customer, if desired, and could potentially enhance future Indian Super Hornets. The design and growth of the Super Hornet has been done keeping a 40 year life span during which the aircraft remains combat proven."

Thursday, August 12, 2010

IAF To Order More Tejas Mk-1s

The Indian Air Force is processing a contract for 20 additional limited series Tejas Mk-1 light fighters -- the ones powered by the underpowered GE F-404-IN20. This will be in addition to the 20 already contracted for a few years ago. While base infrastructure is coming up expeditiously at Sulur, first Tejas deliveries to the IAF will be based at the Bangalore-based Aircraft Systems and Testing Establishment (ASTE) for upto a year or more to iron out induction-related troubles. Once the IAF is satisfied that the fighters are well-supported, and all potential issues with HAL are sorted out, the aircraft will be shifted to Sulur. It has emerged that the IAF may choose to either base the second Tejas squadron also at Sulur, or even at nearby Kayathar, where it is in the process of building up a brand new air base. The Tejas is scheduled to achieve initial operational clearance/capability (IOC) in December this year, with the first squadron inducted by next year.