Monday, May 30, 2011

Eurofighter Gets Its Big Political Push In Delhi Tomorrow

After the French scored some pretty solid brownies last week by declaring that they were putting on hold the supply of heavy military items to Pakistan, German chancellor Angela Merkel lands in Delhi tomorrow to lobby for the Eurofighter Typhoon, one of two finalists in India's $12-billion M-MRCA fighter competition. Last week, French defence minister Gérard Longuet (who was here to lobby for the other finalist, the Dassault Rafale) sniped the Typhoon's multi-nation heritage, saying, "We are one country, and we have enjoyed a relationship since 1953. Dealing with one country you know well, I imagine, is better than dealing with four countries. It is just simpler." Merkel arrives amidst reports that the commercial bids of the two contenders will be opened as early as next week. More tomorrow.

MBDA To Race Indo-French SR-SAM In 2 Indian Competitions

May 30 / 10.42AM: In a significant break from pitching ready, operational products in Indian weapon tenders, French missile firm MBDA has pitched the in-development Indo-French joint short-range surface to air missile (SR-SAM) or Maitri in at least one Indian competition -- the Indian Army's early 2010 tender for a QR-SAM [PDF]. In the December 2010 edition of the company's in-house journal, MBDA says that it has "decided to respond to the QRSAM Quick Reaction Surface-to-Air Missile (QRSAM) competition with the SRSAM, thus offering the Indians enhanced synergies."

The Indian Army has also expressed its interest [PDF] in acquiring a short-range surface to air missile.

The SR-SAM Maitri is being developed for all three Indian armed services and export, and could see a first test-firing in 2012. On the status of the SR-SAM, the same Dec 2010 issue quotes MBDA's export development director Michel Pétré as saying, “Today this project, which mobilises a vast set of competences, has reached a very advanced stage, and discussions are continuing with persistence, passion and patience.” (Which is actually a seriously polite way of saying, "Dude, we've been at it for four years, get the friggin agreement done already...").

Sunday, May 29, 2011

[UPDATED] REPORT: Russia Snubs India, Cancels 2 Joint Exercises

In a thumping sign that "relations between India and Russia [have] soured in recent years", it has come to light that Russia abruptly cancelled an INDRA-series naval exercise with India last month and has now cancelled an INDRA-series army exercise scheduled for June, reports India Today magazine senior editor Sandeep Unnithan. The Russians apparently notified the Indian contingent of its decision on the naval exercise inappropriately late -- well, after the five participating Indian warships (including five destroyers) steamed into Vladivostok.

Read the full report here. Hardcore.

[UPDATE @ 12.54PM / MAY 30] The Indian Navy has sent an official report on Russia's snub, to India's Foreign Ministry. An MoD officer said the Navy was furious about the way the Russians pulled from the INDRA exercise. A senior source indicated that even the face-saving table-top exercise, referred to in the India Today piece didn't actually happen.

Photo by Naresh Kumar / MoD Photo Division [From the last INDRA exercise in Oct 2010]

Friday, May 27, 2011

Discouraging Pak Requests For Heavy Weapons, Naval Stuff: French Defence Minister

"They did come up in my discussions with the Indian Defence Minister, India's concerns [over France's supply of military hardware to Pakistan]. We supply Pakistan equipment that enables them to intercept terrorist communications. And we have decided to discourage any requests from Pakistan for heavy equipment, notably naval equipment," French Defence Minister Gérard Longuet said in response to a question I put to him this morning at a press conference in Delhi.

Asked if France, which has supplied several large military systems to Pakistan including fighter aircraft and submarines in the past, was reviewing its military supply policy to Islamabad, Longuet said, "We are awaiting certain clarifications from Pakistan." He did not say what those clarifications were, or when he expected them. They are, presumably, about Pakistan's sponsorship of terror groups on its soil and Afghanistan.

Asked about the M-MRCA, and US disappointment, the French Minister said, "The US might be sad [about its two aircraft being eliminated in the IAF M-MRCA contest], but with 50 per cent of the world arms market, they no doubt have other satisfactions." He added, "We have full confidence in Indian procedures. The government wants full transparency, and Dassault has been completely transparent." A team of US government officials met the Indian defence minister yesterday.

In an expected swipe at the Eurofighter consortium, the French Defence Minister said, "We are one country, and we have enjoyed a relationship since 1953. Dealing with one country you know well, I imagine, is better than dealing with four countries. It is just simpler."

Also, "There will be no restrictions on the use of our equipment. That is an assurance." He provided no further details on the Rafale offer.

On the IAF Mirage-2000 upgrade, Longuet said, "We are in the final stages of the upgrade agreement. It is up to the Indian political establishment to take a decision. We are confident that it will happen soon."

Photo Courtesy DPR Defence

Thursday, May 26, 2011

India, Pakistan To Talk Siachen. For The 12th Time.

This statement from the Indian MoD today sums it up just fine: The twelfth round of Defence Secretary level talks between India and Pakistan on Siachen will be held in New Delhi on the 30th and 31st of May 2011.

The Indian delegation will be led by the Defence Secretary Pradeep Kumar. The other members of the team include Special Secretary RK Mathur, Indian Army director general military ops Lt Gen AM Verma and India's Surveyor General S Subha Rao.

The Pakistan delegation [an all General unit!] will be led by Defence Secretary Lt Gen (Retd.) Syed Ather Ali. The other members include Maj Gen Ashfaq Nadeem Ahmed, Maj Gen Munwar Ahmed Solehri and Maj Gen (Retd.) Mir Haider Ali Khan.

The Defence Secretary level talks between the two countries to resolve the Siachen issue date back to 1985. The decision to hold talks followed discussions between Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and Pakistan President Gen Zia-ul-Haq in Oman and New Delhi. The talks became a part of the composite dialogue with Pakistan, on all issues including Kashmir, from the eighth round of talks in August 2004 in New Delhi.

The Siachen issue is historical in nature. The Cease Fire Line (CFL) and the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu & Kashmir were delineated by the Karachi Agreement 1949 and the Shimla Agreement 1972 respectively up to point NJ 9842. The area beyond this point has remained un-delineated. This has led to different interpretations. The Karachi Agreement describes the CFL up to point NJ 9842 and mentions that ‘it thereafter lies northwards towards the glaciers’. Similarly the Shimla Agreement is also silent on the delineation beyond NJ 9842. Pakistan claims that the line joins NJ 9842 with the Karakoram Pass, which is North-West of NJ 9842. The Indian position is that the line runs towards the glaciers along the watersheds formed by the Saltoro Range as per the internationally accepted principle of border delineation.

Previously on Livefist:
Exclusive photos of Indian troops at Siachen 1 & 2

Photo Courtesy Indian Army / Indian troops at Siachen

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Things Pink, French Defence Minister Hits Delhi Tomorrow

French defence minister Gérard Longuet (2nd from right, after a recent Rafale flight) is scheduled to meet Indian defence minister AK Antony and Chief of Air Staff PV Naik tomorrow in New Delhi. Things are pink. The French expect to land a $2.4-billion contract to upgrade the IAF's Mirage-2000 jets, and the country's Rafale has, as you no doubt know, made it to the final phase of the IAF's M-MRCA fighter competition. Just wondering if the Indian defence minister, who has a propensity to bring up arms sales to Pakistan (always with a knowing smile) with just about anyone who knocks on his door, will have a thing or two to say to Minister Longuet. Earlier this month, when Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani visited Paris, fresh from having Neptune's Spear thrust into his country, the French defence minister made an unscheduled call on the visiting dignitary. Meeting the French defence minister was not on Gilani's official agenda, and therefore the unofficial meeting was seen as France doing what the Indian government positively destests -- "doing it with both sides". Personally I think the Indian government places way too much on how other countries interact with Pakistan, but there it is.

I'll be meeting Longuet on Friday [Done. See here]. If you folks have any questions about the Rafale offer or anything else to do with Indo-French defence relations, let me have them.

[UPDATED] Commercial Talks Begin For IAF Basic Trainer

[MAY 20 / 9.38AM] The Indian basic trainer competition has entered its final phase. Commercial bids of the three final contenders were opened this week (Livefist had reported earlier about the three contenders making it to the final phase). The government will now choose between (in photos from top) the Pilatus PC-21 PC-7, Hawker-Beechcraft T-6C Texan-II and Korean Aerospace KT-1. More soon.

[UPDATE @ MAY 25 / 1.54AM] Sources reveal that the Pilatus PC-21 PC-7 has emerged the lowest bidder. No official confirmation yet. Stay tuned.

Monday, May 23, 2011

IAF Chief Scopes Out PAK FA, Upgraded MiG-29

Indian Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal Pradeep Naik today witnessed a flight of the fifth generation concept Sukhoi T-50 PAK FA at Zhukovsky outside Moscow. Naik, who retires at the end of July, is in Russia on a week-long official visit. The chief also received a full briefing on the programme at the Gromov institute on the PAK FA. There's more in this TASS report (translate).

Previously on Livefist:
An IAF view of the FGFA partnership
India, Russia formalise 5th Gen fighter effort

File Photo ©RIA Novosti

UPDATED: Indian Torpedoes Near Ready

Rare photos of the 2009-2010 development sea trials of (from top) India's two principal underwater weapon development programmes -- the Torpedo-Advanced Light (TAL) and the Varunastra heavyweight high speed torpedo, developed by the Naval Science & Tech Laboratory (NSTL) in Visakhapatnam. After several stops and starts, the Varunastra is to enter its user trial phase with the Indian Navy this year, while Bharat Dynamics Ltd (BDL), India's principal state-owned missile manufacturer, will begin delivering the first of 25 TALs to the Navy shortly.

Little is known about either programme, mostly because that's the way the government has wanted it. Scant bits of literature (sometimes inadvertent) suggests that technologies involves in both or either of the torpedo programmes include sea water actuated / silver zinc propulsion packages, contra-rotating motor and propellers, proximity sensors, HE warheads, composite material construction, stepless speed control, fibre optic guidance, floating recorder and transmitter (FRAT), noise cancellation techniques and low noise FRP propellers.

[UPDATE @ 2.29AM / MAY 24] Will the DRDO never learn? It appears that some of the photos used by the DRDO in its official brochure (PDF here) to represent its underwater weapons programmes, have actually been lifted from foreign vendors' brochures. Prasun K Sengupta has pointed in the comments section of this post, to links to the original images in the case of the Varunastra and Thermal Torpedo that appear in the DRDO brochure -- the Varunastra and Thermal Torpedo captioned in the brochure are actually torpedoes manufactured by Saab. No clarity on the TAL, though. Will ask DRDO for some clarity tomorrow. DRDO's goofed plenty before with this sort of thing, so will check.

REPORT: India Goes Full Steam To Sign M-MRCA Deal

©Copyright Times of India

Sunday, May 22, 2011

India's Astra BVRAAM Tested Twice, Fails Once

A test-firing of India's Astra beyond visual range air-to-air missile on May 20 failed, according to a report in The Hindu newspaper. The report quotes Dr Avinash Chander, the DRDO's chief controller for missiles as saying, "A snag developed during a manoeuvre. The missile lost control after it reached a certain height. A team is analysing the data." The missile was test-fired again the next day, May 21, and is reported to have met all parameters. Found this Astra schematics slide in my files. Pretty sure I haven't posted it before:

Saturday, May 21, 2011

India's Rustom MALE UAV Flies Again

DRDO Statement: A successful flight test of the Rustom-1 UAV was conducted at around 12 noon on 21st May 2011. It was the second successful flight of "Rustom 1" being developed by the Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE), a DRDO lab engaged in pioneering R&D work in the field of aeronautics. The "Rustom 1" has an endurance of 14 hrs. and altitude ceiling of 8000 meters. Rustom 1 has been achieved by converting a manned aircraft in to a UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) by removing pilot seat and making required electrical, mechanical and aerodynamic modifications. The test flight was conducted at the airfield belonging to the M/s Taneja Aerospace (TAAL) located near Hosur. Many improvements have been carried outs since the last flight, in terms of piloting, landing, taxiing etc. The flight was a precursor to the flight with payloads as required by the Services. The complete sequence of events went off well to the total satisfaction of the scientists and technical personnel of the Bangalore's Aeronautical Development Establishment who have developed the UAV. Lt Col Thappa from the Army was the external pilot for total mission flight who had no difficulty for control of the vehicle.

Dr Prahlada, Chief controller Research and Development (Aeronautics Programs), informed that with the successful accurate flying of Rustom 1 today, ADE is geared up for integration of payloads with the Aircraft within next three months, to demonstrate performance of payloads and necessary secure data-link to the users.

Here's a vid of the Rustom-1's first flight in October last year.

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Friday, May 20, 2011

India Names Next Air Force Chief

Air Marshal Norman Anil Kumar Browne will take over as the Indian Air Force's new chief on July 31. Currently Vice Chief, Browne has over 3,100 hours of flying on aircraft that include Hunters, all variants of the MiG-21, Jaguars and Su-30s. A fighter combat leader, Browne served as instructor at the IAF's top gun school, the Tactics and Air Combat Development Establishment (TACDE).

According to an IAF statement today, Air Marshal Browne established the Indian defence wing in Tel Aviv in April 1997 where he served as Defence Attache till July 2000. Between 2007-2009, he was IAF Deputy Chief at Air Headquarters, responsible for all major modernization programmes.

Before taking over as the Vice Chief of the Air Staff (VCAS) at Air Headquarters on Jan 1 this year, he commanded the IAF's Western Air Command, the lAF's most vital operational command. Under his command and personal supervision, the first ever landing of an Antonov An-32 took place at the Nyoma advance landing ground, located at an altitude of 13,300 feet on 18 September 2009 (see photo).

More here, on what the next chief thinks of the PAF and modernisation.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

IAF Mirage-2000 Upgrade Cleared?

Expected, according to several reports, to be cleared by the Indian government at any time, DefenseNews reports now that India's Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), the apex body that paves the way for contract signing, has cleared the Indian Air Force Mirage-2000 upgrade deal with Dassault (also MBDA, Thales and HAL). The deal, expected to be between $2.1-2.4 billion will involve the upgrade of 51 platforms.

There's no official confirmation yet on the DefenseNews report. Will post if it comes in.

More Livefist posts on the IAF Mirage-2000 upgrade here and here.

Rafale vs Typhoon: A History Of Malice

In 2005, the typically circumspect-in-public Dassault Aviation had this to say about the Rafale losing to the Boeing F-15 for a Singapore air force contract: "Bamboo always leans the way it's pushed the hardest." It took solace in the fact that its "status of finalist at Singapore proves that [the Rafale] has every chance of becoming an export success". It was a contest in which the Rafale notably pipped the Eurofighter to the final round.

The Rafale and Eurofighter have competed for several contracts, but India's $12-billion M-MRCA fighter competition is perhaps the first competitive tender in which the two find themselves in a two-horse final. The deal also happens to be the largest single contract that either has ever competed for.

The identity of both airplane programmes was born from the famously acrimonious exit of France in 1985 from the collaborative European venture that finally spawned the Eurofighter. And for two airplanes with comparable ancestry and similar design philosophies, the Rafale and Typhoon have inevitably had a journey peppered with mutual hostility. In the last two weeks since the downselect that pushed both aircraft into the M-MRCA final, hostility has been mostly covert. But it hasn't always been like that. Most recently, EADS had this to say, describing the Typhoon's air show performances at Aero India 2011: "Two impressive air displays to show its power, agility and short take off and landing run. Not like the French Rafale - forced to use the spare aircraft after the first one failed the pre-take off checks and that cut its display short probably for some issue also with the second aircraft - the EF at Aero India was without any problems, confirming the 'traditional' reliability of the system when deployed also so far from the main base."

In May 2008, Eurofighter said pretty much the same at the ILA Berlin show: "As the world’s most advanced swing-role combat system flexed its muscles, the aircrew of our competitors, Rafale and Gripen, could only stand next to their parked jets in the static display area and admire the show."

Things really came to a head, however, during the Dubai air show in November 2009, when Eurofighter accused Dassault of feeding the online media with information about how the Rafale had cut the Typhoon to ribbons in simulated engagements over UAE. "The fact that these reports are unofficial," noted Eurofighter a few months later, "could be a sign of our French competitor frustration in not having signed the much anticipated contract with UAE or possibly even to fulfill a basic need to develop positive stories about the currently unexported fighter." The consortium went on to assert that the stories were false simply because the Rafales and Typhoons "worked together on the same team".

The lenghthy rebuttal ended with Eurofighter asserting that "throughout the exercise Typhoon was always carrying a greater payload than Rafale, Typhoon always came into the fight above Rafale and Typhoon take off performance was always more stunning than Rafale - all fully as expected."

A report [PDF] titled The Industrial and Economic Benefits of Eurofighter Typhoon by one Professor Keith Hartley at York University's Centre for Defence Economics (commissioned by the Eurofighter PR & Communications Office, Munich) notes in one part: "Eurofighter has provided a ranking of rival aircraft in terms of cost and combat effectiveness. This ranking shows that for similar cost, Typhoon is more combat effective than Rafale, JSF, F-15E and F/A-18E; the F-16 and Su-35 are cheaper but considerably less capable; and only the F/A-22 is superior to Typhoon on combat performance, but at considerably higher cost. One study reported that in simulated combat against a Su-35, the F-22 shoots down 10 for every one of its own losses; Eurofighter just under half (some 4.5 Su-35s for every Typhoon); and Rafale was next best which lost one for one."

While the American F/A-18 and F-16 were still in the competition, the two European twin-engines had enough on their plates not to train guns at each other, at least too directly. The MiG-35 and Gripen were never real threats as far as either was concerned in the competition. But with all four eliminated, the floor is well and truly open for war. Since the April elimination, there's been mostly shadow play, the usual. Nothing explicit. Nothing out in the open. Things are still delicate. And there are still a large number of questions about how the two-horse situation has been arrived at at all. It's probably typical that despite the competition and the huge number of comparisons, there are no convincing answers about which is a better aircraft. So I'm putting this question out there, and inviting you to share your thoughts: Typhoon vs Rafale - Which aircraft makes better sense for India and why? Vote below, and comment with your opinion.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

TV REPORT: Indian Boomer Safe After Dockyard Accident

See the main news report on Livefist here.

©Copyright Newsx

Four Indian Navy Personnel Killed In Dockyard Accident

Four Indian Navy personnel -- two officers and two sailors -- were killed today in a tragic accident at the naval dockyard in Visakhapatnam on the country's Eastern seaboard. In a statement a few minutes ago, the Navy said, "The Indian Navy regrets to inform the occurrence of an accident at Naval Dockyard (Visakhapatnam) due to collapse of a docking gate during routine operations that were being undertaken today, 18 May 11. While the cause of the accident and other details are being ascertained, we can confirm with deep sorrow that two officers and one sailor lost their lives and one sailor injured [the fourth was confirmed to have passed away shortly after this statement was issued]. A Board of Inquiry has been ordered to ascertain the cause and circumstances leading to the accident."

Deepest condolences to the families of Commander Ashwani Kumar (47 years old), Commander Ranbir Ranjan (30) and sailors Madhu Babu (31) and Rajesh (30). R.I.P.

FULL DOCU: Hunters At Dawn - The Air Battle Of Longewala

The Indian Air Force has given Livefist exclusive permission to host a full version of the documentary Hunters at Dawn - The Air Battle of Longewala. Here it is. (For a short history of why it was posted, then removed and reposted, see here.)

The IAF has requested me to notify readers to direct all queries for acquiring a VCD of the film to or

An Unofficial Stealth Rafale Fantasy

A 3D artist based in Argentina has put out these renders of his impression of a future stealthy Rafale. As pointed out on RafaleNews, note twin fins replacing the single one and low-RCS enclosed weaopons pods replacing exposed weapons.

Images by Buitreaux

Monday, May 16, 2011

[UPDATED @ 9.21pm] Hunters At Dawn - The Air Battle Of Longewala

A splendid documentary Hunters at Dawn - The Air Battle of Longewala was made in 2007 by Indian filmmaker Rohan Cowasjee. It was a film commissioned by the Indian Air Force. Yesterday, I dusted out my DVD copy of the film and decided to upload a low-rez version on Youtube (since taken down) to see if it could still generate a measure of interest in the film. It resoundingly did. I've received close to two-hundred e-mail requests for information on where DVD copies of the film can be purchased, specifically looking for a possibility of ordering the film online. But if you're thinking Amazon, eBay, Flipkart, forget about it.

You need to write directly to the IAF on and make a specific request for the film. Your order will then be processed by Air Headquarters before a copy is shipped out to you.

For those wondering why I've taken the film off my Youtube channel, I'd intended to keep it on for longer, but it appears to have done its job, and the IAF requested me to forward any interest in the film directly to them. I hope the film gets its due now. The IAF owns copyright to the film, and therefore it was not possible for me to keep the video up, even in low-rez, any longer.

[UPDATED @ 7.50PM - May 16] - Folks, I'm gonna have to request you to stop sending me requests for copies of the documentary! I've been positively swamped with requests. I truly wish I could help, but as noted above, you'll have to get in touch directly with the IAF for a VCD or DVD copy. Unfortunately, the only way to get your copy is through the IAF (procedures are procedures). I'll let you know if there's any other way. In the meanwhile, send your requests only to

[UPDATE @ 9.21PM - May 16] - Someone just gave me a heads-up. Air Marshal MS Bawa, one of the protagonists of the Longewala battle, and featured prominently in the documentary, hosts a copy of the film on his Youtube channel, and has done so since Jan 2010! And from the looks of it, not too many people know about it (certainly not the IAF itself).

Indian State TV Discussion On M-MRCA Contest

A panel discussion on the IAF's M-MRCA fighter contest on Defence Watch, a weekly segment on Indian state-run television news broadcaster Doordarshan News (DD News). Interestingly, the anchor of the segment, popular defence commentator Maj Gen (Retd.) Ashok Mehta, suggested in an opinion piece last week that the Dassault Rafale had been covertly decided as the winner of the M-MRCA competition, and that a certain "high level back channel Italian connection" had swung it. Also see here.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Why MBT Arjun Isn't Part Of The Army's Current Wargame

There's a good deal of curiosity out there (and some speculation) about why India's indigenous Arjun main battle tank was kept out of the current corps-level exercise Vijayee Bhava that's on in 2,400 sq-km of territory not far from where the Arjuns recently entered operational service. Well for an official word (cue, conspiracy theorists), I put the question on Thursday afternoon to the Army's Western Commander Lt Gen Shankar Ghosh, under whose command (HQ: Chandimandir) the exercise is being conducted. He said, "It's very simple. I don't have any Arjuns at Western Command. I cannot use what I do not have under me."

The Arjun regiment (75th Armoured) comes under the Army's Southern Command, headquartered in Pune, a theatre formation that apparently had nothing to do with the current exercise in terms of asset contributions. The Vijayee Bhava exercise currently deploys a large number of T-90 and T-72 tanks from regiments under the Western Command.

There's extensive coverage on Livefist of the Arjun saga, its trials against the T-90 and its final acceptance by a reputedly reluctant Army. Just realised I hadn't posted about the Arjun for almost a year. I was dodging Grad rockets in Libya the day the tanks entered operational service. Oh well.

Photo ©The Hindu

Thursday, May 12, 2011

PHOTOS #3: At Ex Vijayee Bhava

Army Statement: Manoeuvring columns of Indian Army tanks and hovering helicopters in soaring temperatures in the desert terrain of northern Rajasthan near Suratgarh simulated an intense battlefield scenario in the joint Army-IAF exercise Vijayee Bhava as it entered its crucial culmination phase.

The month-long exercise of a simulated battlefield environment involving the Ambala-based Kharga Corps and the air elements of Western Air Command (WAC) was progressively built on from the smallest unit upwards to the entirety of the Corps.

Validating the joint nature of the operations, GOC-in-C, Western Command, Lt Gen SR Ghosh flew in an IAF Jaguar over the large exercise area covering nearly 2,400 sq km. The exercise is aimed at making the force more agile, versatile, lethal, networked and capable of giving victory in war, outlined the Army Commander.

The dynamic process of operations, both offensive and defensive, integrating and validation of concepts of modern warfare that have emerged during the transformation studies of Indian Army, network centricity, testing and evaluation of new equipments are some of the objectives achieved in the exercise.

The exercise aimed at rapid mobilization involved several mechanized operations towards offensive operations. Battlefield transparency and operational plans based on real-time situational awareness was enhanced using intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) inputs from unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and satellites.

With air assets to play a decisive role in future battles, the increased air assets of the Army and Air Force were employed in an integrated manner in the exercise. Integration with the Air Force in all stages and employment of airborne and heliborne Special Forces has been a highlight of the Exercise Vijayee Bhava.

The IAF elements involved in the exercise included Mig-29, Mig-21 Bison, Jaguars, IL-76, AN-32, Mi-17 1V, Avro, Chetak and the attack helicopters – Mi-25/35. Offensive Air Defence was integral in the exercise that included interception in enemy territory. Nearly 100 fighter sorties, decimation of advancing armour, round-the-clock readiness for fighters and attack helicopters, mobilization of several ground and airborne air defence assets were undertaken by the IAF. 300 paratroopers and 50 despatchers were air dropped from one IL-76 and six AN-32 transport aircraft in stealthy night operations. The IAF pressed in Mi-17 1V Utility helicopters for special heliborne operations (SHBO), including dropping of Special Forces behind simulated enemy lines.

Exercise Vijayee Bhava draws to a close in mid-May.

Photos Courtesy DPR Defence

PHOTOS #2: At Ex Vijayee Bhava

Photos by Shiv Aroor
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PHOTOS #1: At Ex Vijayee Bhava

Photos by Shiv Aroor
Sent on my BlackBerry® from Vodafone

Off To Cover Army-IAF Exercise

Will be leaving in a few hours for the Thar Desert to check out a bit of Exercise Vijayee Bhava, an Indian Army-IAF drill involving tanks, combat aircraft, infantry and special forces. It's gonna be crazy hot. If there's a mobile signal out there, I'll post photos on the fly through the day. If not, they'll be up here at night.
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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Indian Politician Says Sonia Gandhi Has Rigged M-MRCA Deal for Rafale

If the Indian M-MRCA fighter competition wasn't quite surreal enough, in comes an Indian politician-economist, notably re-energized by his current association with India's "anti-corruption" movement and India's monumental telecom scam investigation, to stir the pot some more. A known fire-bomber with an unabashed antipathy to India's ruling Congress party, Subramanian Swamy has now apparently trained his ire at the IAF's $12-billion M-MRCA fighter deal.

Swamy, officially leader of the Janata Party, but best known for years as a voluble and dogged government baiter on all matters graft, says he has written to Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh making some very dramatic allegations. The letter (full text in image above) was written on April 29, two days after the dramatic M-MRCA elimination. Like all his letters, this one says that it draws on "inside information" from within the government. Let's get to the contents:

Swamy writes: "My sources indicate that the pre-determined decision to favour the French aircraft [Dassault's Rafale] was the outcome of several conversations between the wife of French President Ms. Carla Bruni and the Chairperson of the National Advisory Council Ms. Sonia Gandhi, and surprisingly also with two foreign nationals who are the sisters of Ms. Sonia Gandhi."

It is not clear what information Swamy has based his allegations on.

At the very least, it should be said that Subramanian Swamy was once quite aptly described by a leading news weekly as "the Professor Moriarty to Sonia's Sherlock Holmes", so there shouldn't be any real surprise that the target of his letter is specifically the Congress Party president. That said, the allegations he makes are indubitably explosive. Swamy's letter refers to "credible information" in his possession, but says nothing about what this credible information is. It is not clear if he has shared any further information with the Prime Minister apart from this letter.

The operative part of his letter goes: "Based on some credible information given to me on the conversation between Ms. Carla Bruni and Ms Sonia Gandhi’s sisters, there has been an agreement of the French to pay a hefty bribe for favouring the purchase of French aircrafts."

Interestingly, a popular Indian military commentator has made a slightly backhanded allusion to pretty much the same thing today. In this column published in today's Pioneer, Maj Gen (Retd) Ashok Mehta writes, "The IAF favours the Rafale not the least because the French are promising the moon. There is also a high level back channel Italian connection, they say." So either the columnist has read Subramanian Swamy's letter, or has his own "insiders", in which case, as you've no doubt guessed, we have two prominent Indian figures saying that the Rafale has already been chosen to win the M-MRCA competition, and that it took a high-level government connection -- Swamy names Sonia Gandhi, the Maj Gen her nationality -- to work it through.

It should be reiterated that neither of these controversial assertions has been backed in substance -- at least as far as I know -- in either the letter or the column. We'll have to see where this goes.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Monday, May 09, 2011

IAF to US: Don't Want Your Fighters, But We Like Your Basic Trainer

Not that this will even fractionally appease an embittered US Government, still seriously pissed off after the recent M-MRCA fighter elimination, an American-built aircraft is understood to have emerged tops in technical and flight evaluations of India's effort to procure primary trainer aircraft. I hear that the Hawker Beechcraft T-6C Texan-II (in IAF colours above) is on top of the list of five basic trainer aircraft that were put through field trials during October-December last year as part of the Indian Air Force's competition for 181 (75+106) aircraft. The Ministry of Defence received the IAF's trial report recommendations in February this year. The IAF desperately needs a new Stage-1 trainer fleet to replace its troubled and old HPT-32 Deepaks. Sources say this contract will be awarded before the year is out.

While there is no official confirmation from the MoD or the IAF, sources also suggest that the German Grob 120TP and the EADS PZL-130 Orlik TC-II were eliminated in a post-trial downselect. The Texan-II, the Korean Aerospace KT-1 and Pilatus PC-21 are understood to be in the finals now.

PHOTOS: Exercise Vijayee Bhava Near The Pak Border

Indian MoD Statement: Exercise Vijayee Bhava, the first amongst a series of Western Command routine annual summer exercises is underway in the South Western Sector. The manoeuvres are being conducted in North Rajasthan to test the operational & transformational effectiveness of the Ambala-based Kharga Corps as also validate new concepts which have emerged during the transformation studies undertaken by the Army. The pivot corps manoeuvres are scheduled to take place later this month. The Command HQ synergises the operations of the Pivot and Strike Corps.

This Exercise envisages sustained massed mechanized manoeuvres, in a simulated environment, by composite combat entities, ably supported by air and complemented by a wide array of weapon systems and enabling combat logistics.

The Indian Army, which is working towards a 'capability based approach', has embarked on a series of transformational initiatives spanning concepts, organisational structures and absorption of new age technologies, particularly in the fields of precision munitions, advance surveillance systems , space and network-centricity. These will be fielded and trial evaluated by nominated test bed formations and units participating in the exercise. The thrust of the transformational initiative is for the Army to emerge as a modern, lean, agile and enabled force.

While the acquisition of hi-tech weaponry and combat support systems is an essential pre-requisite for a capability based approach, honing of human skills to harness technological advancements in military hardware is a never ending challenge. During the conduct of the exercise, combat decisions taken at each level of command will be analysed for their ability to synergise the application of state-of-the-art weapon platforms, to achieve optimum results. Such routine exercises with troops are conducted during the training cycles of formations.

Photos Courtesy DPR Defence / Indian Army

Army-IAF Offensive Drill Near Pak Border Begins

A six-day joint Indian Army-IAF exercise Vijayee Bhava ("Be Victorious") began today in the desert sectors of Western India, bordering Pakistan. The conventional exercise, centred around the Indian Army's 2 Corps, draws elements from both services, and involves simulations of a rapid armoured offensive into enemy territory to hold ground. It is not known if the indigenous Arjun tank, part of the 75th Armoured Regiment, is also part of the exercise.

I will be travelling to the Suratgarh sector on May 12 to report on the exercise. Lots of photos and updates. The last IAF-Army exercise I covered in the desert sectors was Desert Strike in November 2005.

Photo ©Shiv Aroor / Exercise Desert Strike 2005