Sunday, July 31, 2011

Indian Air Force Gets New Chief

Taking over as India's 23rd Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Norman Browne today said, "The biggest challenge facing us in the coming years, is to manage [this] fast paced change effectively, without compromising on high operational standards. Operating across a broad spectrum of equipment vintage, would test our innovativeness and capabilities. The nation has reposed a high degree of trust and confidence in our capabilities. It is indeed an onerous asking, and I am confident that as capable men and women we will work shoulder to shoulder in discharging our responsibilities befittingly."

Godspeed and fair winds to the new chief.

Friday, July 29, 2011

IAF Signs $2.4-billion Mirage 2000 Upgrade Contract

The Indian government today signed the $2.4-billion (Rs 10,900-crore) contract with French firms Dassault and Thales to upgrade 51 Mirage 2000H/TH fighter jets. The contract was signed at the Indian Ministry of Derfence today. Meanwhile, here's the Dassault-Thales joint press release [PDF] announcing contract signature. As reported first on Livefist, the deal was cleared by India's apex Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) on July 13.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Pak Snipes Indian Dhruvs In Ecuador

The Pakistan government, through its press service (Associated Press of Pakistan), has made a stinging attack on HAL's flagship export, the Dhruv helicopter, suggesting that the small fleet that India sold to Ecuador a few years ago are now "beset with problems", including low availability, expensive spares, faulty after-sales service and over-invoicing by HAL. HAL hasn't responded officially just yet, but will shortly. See what you make of the Pak release. (A HAL source I spoke to said the tenor of the report "almost definitely" suggested a U.S. plant, with the APP a willing vessel). Anyway, here it is in full:

ISLAMABAD, July 27 (APP) - Ecuadorian Air Force (EAF) which inducted seven Indian manufactured Dhruv helicopters, at a package cost of $50 millions, is finding itself beset with problems even as the last consignment of two helicopters has barely arrived in the country. According to the aviation sources, one of the inducted Dhruv helicopters crashed last year while two others have been grounded on account of malfunctioning of over-speed management unit (OMU).

While the Ecuadorian Air Force is plagued by Dhruv related maintenance issues, its difficulties have been compounded by exorbitant repair cost demanded by Indian manufacturers. The original US company that manufactures the OMU, charges $100m000 as the repair cost while the Indians have demanded $250,000 for the same job.

India has also raised the price of two additional Dhruvs that the EAF had originally planned as additional follow through acquisitions; demanding $12 million apiece. The EAF has informed the Indian government that because of cost issues, maintenance problems, under par flight performance and poor post sale spare support it is considering cancelling further orders for induction of Dhruv helicopters.

According to observers the disappointing Ecuadorian experience with the Dhruv Helicopters doesn’t augur well for the Indian efforts to find a toe hold in South American countries for its aviation products.

It is bound to have its negative fallout as other South American governments; Columbia, Brazil and Chile, who were contemplating induction of Dhruv helicopters in their respective air forces, are now certain to revisit such plans.

Dhruv is not only accident prone, overly priced and having maintenance support issues, it also comes with the Indian tendency of creating dependence and over invoicing, which make even costlier options from other countries more palatable, say observers.

Do You Follow Livefist On Twitter?

I got a bunch of e-mails yesterday asking me why I hadn't blogged more comprehensively about the Indian Air Force chief's farewell press conference on Tuesday. Honestly, I didn't have the time to put it together. However, a lot of you may have noticed that I tweeted live from the press conference all the important things the IAF chief said. Thanks for your interest, those of you who wrote in, but there will be times when I may not be able to post in a timely or comprehensive manner. I do, however, tweet often and every day on things that are happening in Indian defence. There may be times when what I tweet may not make it to the blog itself. Therefore, if you want to stay fully connected to Livefist, do consider following me on Twitter as well. The link is right below.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

FIRST PHOTOS: Satpura, 2nd P17 Stealth Frigate Enters Service Next Month

Satpura, India's second Second Shivalik class Indigenous Stealth Frigate. Conceived and designed by the Indian Naval Design team to be the mainstay frigates of Indian Navy for the first half of 21 century. The ship is scheduled to be commissioned on 20 Aug 2011.

See photos of commissioning of F47, INS Shivalik last year.

Photos Courtesy Indian Navy

Thursday, July 21, 2011

VIDEO: Prahaar Missile Launch

The Prahaar's Transporter-Erector-Launcher

Photo Courtesy DRDO

MORE PHOTOS: India's New Missile Prahaar

Photos Courtesy DRDO

FIRST PHOTOS: Prahaar Missile Test

The DRDO has just issued this press-release on the Prahaar missile launch: DRDO successfully flight tested its latest surface to surface missile Prahaar at 08.20 A.M on 21st July 2011 from Launch Complex III, off Chandipur Coast, ITR, Balasore, Orissa. The missile with a range of 150 km, comparable to ATACMS Missile of United States of America, fills the vital gap between Multi Barrel Rockets and Medium range Ballistic Missiles. The missile capable of carrying different types of warheads, operates as battle field support system to the Indian Army.

The missile with a length of 7.3 meters and diameter of 420 mm weighing 1280 kgs, and a single stage solid propulsion system goes to a height of 35 kms before reaching the targets of the range of 150 kms in about 250 seconds. The missile equipped with state-of-the-art high accuracy navigation, guidance and electro mechanical actuation systems with latest onboard computer achieved terminal accuracy of less than 10 meters.

The missile with a pay load of 200 kg has a fast reaction time, which is essential for the battle field tactical missile. The missile is launched from a Road Mobile System, which can carry six missiles at a time and can be fired in salvo mode in all directions covering the entire azimuth plane.

The missile system is developed to provide Indian Army a cost effective, quick reaction, all weather, all terrain, high accurate battle field support tactical system. The development of missile is carried out by the DRDO scientists in a short span of less than two years.

The flight path of the Missile was tracked and monitored by the various radar systems and electro optical systems located along the coast of Orissa. An Indian naval ship located near target point in Bay of Bengal witnessed the final event. The missile was developed by the DRDO Scientists with support from Indian Industry and Quality assurance agency MSQAA.

The launch operations were witnessed by Dr. V.K. Saraswat, Scientific Adviser to Raksha Mantri and Secretary Defence R & D, Lt Gen Vinod Nayanar, AVSM, Director General of Artillery, IHQ of MoD (Army). The operations were over seen by Avinash Chander, Chief Controller R&D, V.L.N. Rao, Programme Director AD, S.K. Ray, Director RCI, and S.P. Dash, Director ITR.

Defence Minister A.K. Antony congratulated the Scientists of DRDO for the successful maiden launch of the new missile.

Photos ©DRDO (via Ananthakrishnan M)

Prahaar Missile Tested Successfully

India's newest missile Prahaar was successfully tested a short while ago at the Integrated Test Range off India's East Coast. DRDO sources says the launch took place around 8.15AM. At this time, two sources in DRDO confirm that the weapon met all test parameters. The missile was tracked by telemetry points a Indian Navy vessels along its path, and is said to have killed a target in the Bay of Bengal "with high accuracy". DRDO will issue a statement (and hopefully photos) in a short while. Will update this post. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Prahaar Debut Launch Tomorrow

There have been indications that the Prahaar will be visibly similar to the Indian endo-atmospheric interceptor missile, though this is not confirmed. The team is ready for the missile's first test-firing tomorrow morning. Stay tuned for updates and pray it isn't another scrub.

Impression ©Livefist

Russian Carrier & Frigates On Course, Navy Chief Told

INDIAN NAVY STATEMENT: The Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Nirmal Verma returned on 18 July 2011 after a productive and fruitful six day official visit to Russia. During his visit, the Admiral visited Vladivostok, Moscow, St Petersburg and Kaliningrad. The Admiral made a first hand assessment of all projects and held vital discussions with officials at the highest leadership levels of the Russian armed forces and defence industry. Reviewing ongoing projects, the Admiral observed that they were progressing satisfactorily and had reached critical stages of maturity. He also expressed satisfaction with the quality of construction and repairs.

During his visit to Kaliningrad (see photo), the Admiral reviewed the progress of the Project 1135.6 (Talwar Class) follow-on ships, under construction at the Yantar shipyard. He was reassured that the first ship 'Teg' would commence trials shortly and be delivered in six to eight months.

The Admiral took an extensive tour of Vikramaditya on his visit to the Sevmash Shipyard, where he observed that significant progress had been made and the ship was shaping up well for the Preliminary Sea Trials.

During discussions with the Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Navy on operational exchanges between the two navies, the two Chiefs agreed that the INDRA series of exercises form an important aspect of their bilateral relationship and would need to be continued and extended in scope and participation. They also discussed possible avenues of co-operation including anti-piracy operations.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Prahaar Test Postponed

The test of India's new tactical missile Prahaar, scheduled for today, has been postponed to later this week for unspecified reasons. Detail later.

[@1722HRS]: The Prahaar test-firing is scheduled for tomorrow morning, weather permitting.

[7.22AM / JUL 18] Nope, not happening. Sometime this week, likely Thursday (July 21).
Sent on my BlackBerry® from Vodafone

Saturday, July 16, 2011

New Missile 'Prahaar' Debut Testfire Tomorrow

India's newest missile, Prahaar, is scheduled to be test-fired tomorrow from the Integrated Test Range (ITR) on the country's eastern seaboard. The missile (the existence of which had been unknown until a few weeks ago) has been officially described as a quick reaction surface to surface weapon that will be road-mobile, cannisterised and in a six-missile per unit configuration. Nothing else is officially known, though there has been -- and continues to be -- a great deal of speculation over what the missile's antecedents are. The DRDO has said the missile has been in development for four years. Stay tuned for updates tomorrow.

Friday, July 15, 2011

POLL: Is The IAF Mirage 2000 Upgrade Too Expensive?

This is something that has been debated by the IAF and the MoD, which have considered all options before making a decision to upgrade 51 Indian Mirage 2000 fighter jets to the -V standard. Since there is still a lack of clarity about the value of the upgrade contract, let me put down what best I know at this stage (the figure in the infographic below is a consolidated figure that includes the cost of weapons and infrastructure). The cost of upgrade contract is understood to be $2.7-billion. The cost of the weapons component is $700-million, and the cost of infrastructure between $500 too 600 million.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Finally, Indian Govt Clears Mirage Upgrade Deal

FIRST ON LIVEFIST: After months of frenetic anticipation -- and a whiff of conflict over the price of the weapons package -- the Indian government today cleared a long-pending deal to upgrade 51 Indian Air Force Mirage 2000H/TH fighters. The deal with Dassault, Thales and MBDA HAL will be signed shortly. The deal, which has remained in its final stages for over a year without being cleared, will fit 51 IAF Mirages with new avionics, the Thales RDY-2 multimode radar and RF/IR MICA air-to-air missiles.

It is unclear what the total deal value is, with suggestions ranging from $2.1-billion to over $4-billion. It is also understood that the weapons component of the deal, worth $700-million, remains to be cleared by the government. Will update.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

IAF, RAF Jets Gun Up For New Bollywood Film

The promos of Bollywood actor Shahid Kapoor's new film Mausam were put out yesterday. Kapoor stars as an Indian Air Force pilot in the film. And if the promo is anything to go by, he's a Mirage 2000H pilot (Floggers/[Tornados] landing behind him in the fourth still), though for the film itself, he was shot in a UAE Air Force F-16 Block 60 and RAF aircraft as well. What is the jet in that last picture though -- anyone?

Saturday, July 09, 2011

COLUMN: MMRCA, The Right Choice For The Wrong Reasons

By Admiral Arun Prakash

Media reports that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has asked two of the six aspirants for the ongoing Medium Multi-role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) competition to extend the validity of their quotes would seem a clear indication that these two; the French Dassault Rafale and the Eurofighter Consortium’s Typhoon II – both of European provenance – have overhauled their rivals, to reach the finals. This development coupled with US Ambassador Roemer’s recent resignation, related or not, is likely to cast a pall of gloom, at least temporarily, over Indo-American relations.

These are lean times, world-wide, and bagging this huge contract will have a positive impact on the relatively small economies of the European nations involved. Conversely, the loss of business worth $11 billion (running into many times this figure on account of product-support extending over the full 30-35 year life-span of the aircraft) would come as a blow to the aerospace industry of even a major economic power like the USA.

More than anything else, it could be interpreted as a rebuff to the sustained efforts of three successive US Presidents who have gone out of their way to bring about unprecedented warmth and proximity in Indo-US relations. There is a view that awarding the MMRCA contract to one of the two US contenders, the F-16 Super Viper or the F/A-18 Super Hornet, would have been an appropriate quid pro quo; a suitable expression of gratitude, ensuring strategic convergence between the two nations. Such a buy would have brought the respective industries and armed forces into much closer engagement, and possibly gained entry for the IAF into the world-wide US military logistics loop.

However this may merely be a simplistic view, because the affairs of State are guided by diverse weighty considerations, and things are not always as they appear to the man on the street.

PHOTOS: Inside The Boeing C-17's Home

Photos taken during my visit in 2008 to Boeing's C-17 facility in Long Beach, California where the ten aircraft (and six options) for India will be manufactured.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Livefist Contest: What Is The IAF Chief Saying?

I found this brilliant photograph of Indian Air Force chief Pradeep Naik, and knew it had to be a cartoon. But I couldn't think of anything good enough for that speech bubble, so I'm throwing it open. Do comment with what you think the IAF Chief is saying. No vulgarity and profanity please -- he is our chief.

Photo ©India Strategic

PHOTOS: Japanese Destroyers At Kochi

Japanese destroyers JDS Samidare and JDS Umigiri on a port call at Kochi.

Courtesy DPR Defence / Indian Navy

Tonight @ 10: Sri Lanka's Killing Fields

Sunday, July 03, 2011

India's DRDO Reveals New Tactical Missile 'Prahaar'

India's DRDO has revealed that a new 150-km quick reaction missile "Prahaar" is to be tested for the first time later this month. While there have been indications in the past that the DRDO was working on a weapon system to fill operational gaps between the rocket systems used by the armed forces and the Prithvi family of short-range ballistic missiles, its name and rough range have only been revealed now.

I'm back in India later this week, and will post more on Prahaar soon.

Friday, July 01, 2011

R.I.P. Two Russian Pilots Who Died In The June 23 MiG-29KUB Crash

Russian test pilots Colonel Alexander and Oleg Kruzhalin were killed when the MiG-29KUB they were test-flying prior to delivery to the Indian Navy crashed in Russia. Reports suggest that the pilots couldn't pull the jet out of a dive. Indian Navy chief Admiral Nirmal Verma told reporters yesterday that the Indian Navy didn't plan to ground the 11 K/KUBs it had received so far. R.I.P.

A Day At The Smithsonian National Air & Space

The Enola Gay is at the museum's other site in a separate location. Hope to scope her out too.

VIDEO: Rafale Demo At Le Bourget 2011