Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Sunday, August 28, 2011

An Update On India's Helicopter Programmes

The delayed weaponised version of India's ALH Dhruv helicopter, designated Dhruv-WSI will begin a fresh a final round of firing trials next month, starting with its 20-mm turret gun, followed by trials of its 70mm rockets and MBDA Mistral air-to-air missiles in November. Aiming for initial operational clearance (IOC) by December this year, deliveries of the production helicopters are set to happen before March 2012. The weapon systems are currently being ground tested in integrated configuration (IADS).

In October, the Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) programme will begin its first off-base trials at sea-level, followed by off-based hot weather and cold weather trials at high altitude in Ladakh. Weapons trials will commence between the hot and cold weather trials. HAL aims to finish flight testing by February 2013. A third prototype/tech demonstrator TD-3 is under fabrication and will soon join the test programme. While no firm orders have yet been placed for the LCH, the IAF (primary customer) has confirmed a requirement of 65 units, while the Army has said it intends to order 114.

After freezing configuration in June 2009 and design in August last year, HAL is now in the process of identifying systems and equipment for its Light Utility Helicopter (LUH). The transmission and rotor system design has been completed, and is fully indigenous. Raising of assembly jigs and fixtures is currently in progress. One ground test vehicle (GTV) and three prototypes of the LUH are planned, with a first prototype flight in 2012 and initial operational clearance by 2014. Apart from servicing a requirement of 187 helicopters from the Army and IAF, HAL expects to sell at least 100 to the civil market.

While the weaponised Dhruv and LCH will be manufactured in existing HAL facilities, greenfield production lines will be built for the LUH and medium-lift Indian Multirole Helicopter (IMRH). For the latter, design and development is yet to begin, as HAL hasn't identified a technology/design partner yet.

Information from a new interview with P. Soundara Rajan, MD (Helo Complex), HAL, published in Vayu IV/2011

An Award For Reporting In Libya

Folks, I won an award today at the eNBA 2011 media awards for excellence in continuing coverage of the Libyan uprising. Headlines Today deputy editor Gaurav C Sawant and I, as those who follow Livefist will know, spent a fortnight inside Libya in March tracking the rebels' progress west. The award comes at a time when the Libyan people are hopefully close to reclaiming their great country. Godspeed and thanks.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Coming up...

Sorry about the slow updates, folks. Been caught up anchoring from Delhi's Ramlila Maidan and the campaign against corruption. There are no hopes that it'll be over soon, but I'm back to regular blogging tomorrow with a full update on India's helicopter programmes in detail. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

PHOTOS: Navy Inducts 2nd Indian Stealth Frigate

Apologies for this late post, I know a lot of you have been asking about these. The induction of INS Satpura (F48) took place on August 20, but I wasn't in Mumbai (in Delhi to anchor from the anti-corruption campaign). Here's the statement the Navy released on Saturday as well:

The Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Nirmal Verma today commissioned INS Satpura into the Indian Navy. Satpura is the second of the indigenously designed and constructed stealth frigates of the Shivalik Class, built by Mazagon Dock Ltd, Mumbai. This momentous occasion is a 'red-letter' day for the Navy, and is a tribute to the indigenous ship building industry which further strengthens the Navy's resolve to move from a buyer's Navy to a builder's Navy.

The ceremony was marked with an inspection of a Guard of Honour by the Chief of Naval Staff. The CMD of Mazagaon Docks addressed the gathering after which the Commanding Officer Captain Sharath Mohan read out the Commissioning Warrant. The formal ceremony began with the Colour Guard presenting arms while the National Flag & Naval Ensign were hoisted along with the Commissioning pennant for the first time onboard the Ship, thus marking the induction of INS Satpura into the Naval Fleet. INS Satpura and also other ships in the Naval Dockyard were dressed overall for the occasion.

INS Satpura is armed with a formidable array of surface, sub-surface and air-defence weapons. These include long range anti-ship missiles, anti-aircraft missiles and anti-missile defence systems, which can detect and engage the enemy at extended ranges, thereby giving her significant combat power. The weapon-sensor fit of the Satpura is controlled through a Combat Management System, designed and developed by the Indian Navy and manufactured by Bharat Electronics. The system allows the seamless integration of the ship's systems as well as with the weapons and sensors of other Fleet ships, thus enabling the concept of 'Co-operative Engagement Capability' (CEC). The two multi-role helicopters that are embarked on Satpura provide enhanced surveillance and attack capability.

INS Satpura has been conceived and designed by an Indian Naval design team. This class of ships will be the mainstay frigates of the Indian Navy in the first half of the 21st century. The incorporation of numerous new design features aboard INS Satpura effectively reduces the probability of her being detected at sea. The in-built structural, thermal and acoustic stealth features augment the potent capability of the ship to address threats in all dimensions of maritime warfare.

The ship is propelled by two modern LM 2500 Gas Turbine, which enable her to generate speeds in excess of 30 knots (or over 55 kmph), and two SEMT Pielstic Diesel Engines for normal cruising speeds. The ship's electric power is provided by four Diesel Alternators, which together produce 4 Mega-Watts of power-enough to light up a small town.The power generation and distribution on board is controlled through an 'Automated Power Management System' (APMS).

INS Satpura is also equipped to operate in an environment contaminated by nuclear, biological or chemical agents. The state-of-the-art 'Total Atmospheric Control System' (TACS) ensures filtration of the air going into the ship at all times. In addition, it ensures the complete removal of radioactive, chemical or biological impurities, thereby protecting the crew and shipborne systems.

The ship's domestic requirements of fresh water are met through two Reverse Osmosis plants, while a fully automated galley, ensures that the crew can be fed a variety of cuisines, including freshly baked bread and home-made ice cream. The accommodation for the 35 officers and 250 crew members of INS Satpura incorporates advanced ergonomic design and ensures crew comfort and space management.

PAK FA Ends MAKS Hot & Low

This sucks. MAKS 2011 ended on a real downer for the PAK FA programme. The video above shows what happened during the take-off roll of the second T-50 prototype -- a starboard engine flameout after two sharp spikes of flame. The take-off was immediately aborted by pilot Sergei Bordan. Sukhoi has apparently put it down to a malfunction in the fuel supply system and the FADEC. Not a pretty way to end your first public show. Damn.

Monday, August 15, 2011

India's I-Day Gallantry Award Winners & Why (Part 2)

The following Indian Navy personnel have been decorate with the Nao Sena Medal (Gallantry). 1. COMMANDER ARUN BAHUGUNA (Marine Commando, CO INS Kankarso) On 28 January 2011, INS Cankarso, under the command of Commander Arun Bahuguna, was on an antipiracy patrol off the Lakshadweep Islands was directed to intercept a pirate ‘mother-ship’ who has successfully intercepted the Thai-flagged pirated trawler, Prantalay-14. Pirates aboard the Prantalay-14 began firing upon the Cankarso. Despite the discernible hail of bullets Commander Bahuguna, remained on the Bridge of his ship providing very visible and hence inspirational leadership to his officers and men. Appreciating that the imminent onset of darkness Commander Bahuguna daringly closed the pirate vessel and engaged her with his ship’s Medium Machine Gun. Personally supervising, directing and controlling the warship’s firing, in the course of the engagement, some petrol-tanks stored on the forecastle of Prantalay-14 were hit, starting a fire that soon engulfed the trawler, causing pirates and crew alike to abandon the vessel by jumping into the water. Commander Bahuguna once again was an exemplar directing the humane and speedy recovery of personnel from the sea. Commander Arun Bahuguna displayed exceptional courage and initiative in the face of great danger and is awarded “Nao Sena Medal (Gallantry)”.

2. COMMANDER JOJI TOM MUNDAKEL (CO INS Suvarna) In a similar operation Cdr Joji Tom Mundackel successfully intercepted MV Mortaza on 26 Mar 11. His action led to capture of 16 pirates and rescue of 16 hostages onboard. On 23rd Mar 11 and 26th Mar 11 pirate attacks were reported on MSC Eva and MV Kensington respectively around 300-400 nm West of Lakshadweep Islands in the Arabian Sea. On receiving reports of the failed attacks, Indian Naval ships and aircraft already on anti-piracy deployment in the Lakshadweep islands were diverted to the area. The IN surveillance aircraft located Morteza with skiffs in tow and INS Suvarna arrived at the scene soon thereafter. INS Suvarna made repeated attempts to communicate with the mother ship Morteza in vain. Thereafter INS Suvarna warned the mother Morteza to stop, Morteza did not stop and instead tried to escape and fired at INS Suvarna. INS Suvarna returned limited fire. Personnel onboard Morteza were observed abandoning the ship and INS Suvarna rescued a total of 32 personnel. CGS Sangram, deployed for anti-piracy operations, was also involved in the operation.

3. COMMANDER S MUTHU KUMARAN (Marine Commando, Headquarters Southern Naval Command, Kochi) In another anti-piracy action Commander Muthukumaran leading a 12 member team of MARCOS rescued 14 crew members of MV Orinoco and sanitised the ship in the face of extensive hurdles and possible retaliation by pirates. At about 6 AM on 11 Nov, about 450 nautical miles West of Mumbai, a merchant ship MV BBC Orinoco with a crew of 14 (5 Ukraine and 9 Philippino) reported being attacked by pirates. The crew locked themselves in the ships Engine room and the Steering compartment and communicated with their agents, UK MTO Dubai, on e-mail. Dubai, in turn, intimated the Indian Navy for assistance. On receipt of this information, the Indian Navy promptly detached one of its Missile Corvettes, INS Veer, to intercept the distressed vessel and also sailed a capital ship INS Delhi with a team of Marine Commandos (MARCOS) embarked. One of the Navy’s Long Range Maritime Patrol Aircraft was extensively deployed for aerial surveillance. The Indian Coast Guard, too, responded with alacrity adjusting all routine deployments to keep one or more Dornier aircraft on hot standby, besides asking their ships on assigned mission to be also on stand-by. At daybreak, the naval forces, which had arrived at the scene, commenced their actions. MARCOS under the command of Commander Muthukumaran slithered onto the merchant ship from a Sea King helicopter and took the crew, who were locked in compartments, to safety, while the helicopter provided air borne fire support. MV BBC Orinoco is a General Cargo Carrier and is registered in Antigua and Barbuda.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

India's I-Day Gallantry Award Winners & Why (Part 1)

The following Indian Army personnel have been decorated with the Shaurya Chakra. 1. MAJOR ABHISHEK CHAKRABARTY planned, executed and personally led an operation on 07-08 February 2011 in a village in Ramban District of Jammu & Kashmir resulting in killing of three hardcore terrorists, with no casualty to own troops and no collateral damage. Two terrorists were killed personally by the officer. Maj Chakrabarty got intelligence on 07 February 2011 at 2100 hours of presence of three hardcore terrorists in a hideout. Officer swung into action, with his team of six soldiers and cordoned the area by 0030 hours on 08 February 2011. At 0755 hours, the officer with his buddy moved towards the hideout, where he was fired upon by the terrorists. Undeterred, the officer fired back and killed one terrorist from a dangerously close range. By 1300 hours, second terrorist was eliminated by his team. After seven hours of fire-fight, the officer burnt the bushes near the hideout using Molotov Cocktail. He then personally led a party of three Other Ranks, to the roof of the hideout, lobbed a grenade and a rammer charge inside the hideout and fired with his AK-47, killing the third terrorist.

2. On prolonged cultivation of intelligence and covert surveillance a real time information was received on 13 May 2010, by MAJOR S KARTIK RAJA about the movement of 08-10 armed terrorists in general area in a village in Thoubal District of Manipur. Taking advantage of the inclement weather conditions, multiple teams were sent to the site to seek contact. At around 0025 hours on 14 May 2010 one team came under indiscriminate firing. Major S Kartik Raja displaying aggressive spirit swiftly led his team to the place of contact while tactically readjusting the other teams. On reaching the site, he saw 08-10 terrorists running, who on being challenged replied by indiscriminate fire on the officer and his team. The officer displaying nerves of steel replied back with retaliatory fire and with utter disregard to his personal safety, he and his buddy gave a hot pursuit to the fleeing terrorists through the difficult hilly jungle terrain as they ran and rolled down the nearby hillock and closed in on terrorists, who were entrenched behind a boulder and firing from their automatics and lobbing grenades. The officer manoeuvred himself to a tactical position and displaying, marksmanship skills, single handedly eliminated two terrorists under illumination. The officer amidst a hail of bullets then closed in onto another entrenched terrorist and gunned him down from close quarters. Thereafter, the officer displaying tactical clarity far beyond his service manoeuvred his team into a tight cordon and plugged in the escape routes. This tactical move resulted in elimination of two more terrorists and the daring operation resulted in elimination of five hardcore terrorists and recovery of a huge quantity of warlike stores and incriminating documents.

3. On 30 September 2010, at 0900 hours on receiving information about terrorists, MAJOR DUSHYANT SINGH SHEKHAWAT led a search party in a village in Kupwara District of Jammu & Kashmir. On 01 October 2010 at 1030 hours Major Shekhawat’s party came under heavy fire of terrorists. Major Shekhawat showing raw courage closed towards a terrorist and eliminated him in a close quarter battle. At 1110 hours Captain Sudheer was wounded. Major Shekhawat and Lance Naik Raghbir, undeterred by overwhelming fire, extricated Captain Sudheer, however themselves came under fire of terrorists and one terrorist was eliminated by Captain Sudheer in a daring action. Major Shekhawat closed towards the other terrorist under effective covering fire by Naib Subedar Madan and Lance Naik Raghbir and eliminated him in fierce combat lasting twenty minutes. On 02 October 2010 at 1000 hours intense fire fight resumed with terrorist hiding in a cave. Major Shekhawat crawled and reached on top of the cave with Lance Naik Raghbir under accurate covering fire by Naib Subedar Madan. Major Shekhawat lobbed a grenade inside cave and his buddy shot the terrorist by jumping right in front.

4. On 16 September 2010, CAPTAIN SAURABH DHAMIJA while leading his troop as scout number 02 on search and destroy mission in general area in Pulwama District of Jammu and Kashmir, found himself face to face with three armed terrorists. Showing extreme presence of mind, the officer challenged the terrorists to surrender. During the firefight he fired from his hip and eliminated one terrorist. The other terrorists then hid behind a boulder. While trying to outflank them, the officer came under heavy automatic fire from a nearby height. Not loosing his nerves under fire, he redeployed his squads. Realising the proximity of own troops after redeployment, Capt Saurabh realized engaging the terrorist would have resulted in injury to own troops, he crawled up the boulder, when his weapon misfired. Displaying raw courage the officer grappled with the terrorist and snatched his weapon and eliminated him. The third terrorist tried to break contact and flee. The officer using the slain terrorist’s weapon injured the fleeing militant, who was later neutralised.

5. On 15 October 2010 at 1900 hours, acting on information about presence of terrorists in a village in Kokrajhar District of Assam, a search team was launched under Major TN Unnikrishnan. Meanwhile, information of suspects in two other villages nearby was received. Grabbing the opportunity, the search party was instantly dispersed into three small parties to lay ambushes in the suspected areas. LIEUTENANT ABHINAV TRIPATHI was incharge of one of the ambush party. On reaching the site at approx 2100 hours on 15 Oct 2010, Lieutenant Abhinav Tripathi quickly appreciated the ground, briefed his party and laid the ambush. At about 2230 hours, two persons approached the site on a motor cycle. They were completely surprised when they were challenged by the stops. Impulsively, they accelerated the motorcycle and also started spraying bullets in the direction of the stops. Lieutenant Abinav Tripathi retaliated by firing quick shots, which injured the driver fatally and the motorcycle fell down. The pillion rider sprinted towards the bamboo grove along the road, firing indiscriminately in all directions to break contact. Without getting unnerved under hostile fire, Lieutenant Abhinav Tripathi moved to outflank the fleeing terrorist and engaged him in close quarter combat killing him with a burst from his weapon. Lieutenant Abhinav Tripathi, executed a successful operation, resulting in the elimination of two hardcore terrorists with arms and ammunition. One of the terrorists was later identified to be a Self Styled Sergeant of a terrorist organisation, resulting in a major blow to the outfit.

6. On 05 April 2011, SAPPER AMARJIT SINGH as part of the house clearing team at a village in Pulwama District of Jammu & Kashmir was clearing a suspected hide lodging a terrorist. The terrorist hiding behind the mirror opened fire. The team commander pinned him down and ordered his teammates to clear out. Sapper Amarjit Singh, gauging the gravity of the situation, disregarding his own safety engaged the terrorist with effective fire to facilitate the team’s move to safety. In the ensuing fire fight, he daringly inflicted grievous injuries to the terrorist and continued engaging him at point blank range thereby enabling safe movement of his teammates. In the process he sustained previous gun shot wounds to his face and succumbed to his injuries. The previous injuries inflicted on the terrorist resulted in the death and elimination of a dreaded Divisional Commander of a terrorist outfit. Sapper Amarjit Singh displayed unflinching devotion to duty and indomitable courage and made the supreme sacrifice in the service of the Nation.

7. PARATROOPER PADAM BAHADUR was a member of Captain Tapas Deka’s squad. On 03 October 2010 during an Hostage Rescue Operation in East Siang District of Arunachal Pradesh, Captain Tapas moved for sentry silencing under the cover provided by Paratrooper Padam Bahadur. As the officer eliminated the sentry and secured the hostage, he came under heavy fire from two terrorists who were near sentry position. Paratrooper Padam acted quickly came out in open and engaged the terrorists from a flank. His brave act surprised the terrorists and drew their attention away from Captain Deka and hostage. Taking advantage of confusion in the terrorist ranks, displaying high marksmanship skills, he killed two terrorists in quick succession.

Army To Lead India's 65th I-Day Celebrations

From An MoD Statement: This year, India's Independence Day celebrations will be coordinated by the Army. The Guard of Honour tomorrow will be commanded by Lt Col N Seshagiri Rao of the Madras Regiment. The Army contingent will be commanded by Captain Ashwani Kumar Jha, Naval Contingent by Lt Cdr Vikram Singh, Air Force contingent by Sq Ldr Y Ananth Narayan and the Delhi Police contingent by ACP Rajnish Garg.

The Army contingent for PM’s Guard is drawn from the 28th Battalion of the Madras Regiment. The battalion was raised on 01 July 1976 Guava Hill near Wellington (Ooty) and has completed 35 glorious years of service. It has served with distinction in all kinds of operational environment including high altitude, Line of Control and counter insurgency/terrorism operations. The unit was awarded the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Northern Command, Unit Appreciation for its commendable performance in Op RAKSHAK and Op VIJAY (J&K) during 1998-99.

In 35 years, personnel of the unit have been awarded one Vir Chakra, one AVSM, three Shaurya Chakras, 15 Sena Medals and three Vishist Seva Medals. The Battalion has arrived in New Delhi after a very successful deployment on the Line of Control in the Rajouri Sector of J&K and is responsible for conducting various ceremonial duties at the Rashtrapati Bhawan, India Gate, Red Fort and other important ceremonial functions organized by HQ Delhi Area.

After inspecting the Guard of Honour tomorrow morning, the Prime Minister will proceed to the ramparts of the Red Fort where he will be greeted by Defence Minister, Minister of State for Defence, Chief of Army Staff General VK Singh, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Nirmal Verma and Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne. The GOC Delhi area will conduct the Prime Minister to the dais to unfurl the National Flag. The unfurling of the tri-colour will synchronize with the 21 Gun Salute fired by the valiant gunners of the elite 299 Field Regiment. The ceremonial battery will be commanded by Maj Vijay Kumar Shah and the Gun Position Officer will be Sub (AIG) Gurappadu R.

The Army contingent for the National Flag Guard is from the 2nd Battalion of the Rajput Regiment. Raised on November 30, 1798 at Badgaon, the Battalion designation has been changed eight times since its inception. Now known as the 2nd Battalion of the Rajput Regiment (Kalichindi), it has bagged nine battle honours and one theatre honour and has taken part in 1947, 1962 and 1971 operations, where its officers and men have exhibited extraordinary courage and valour. The battalion has been awarded with one Mahaveer Chakra, ten Vir Chakra, three Sena Medal (Gallantry), two Param Vishist Sewa Medal, two Ati Vishist Sewa Medal, one Yudh Seva Medal, two Vishist Seva Medal and eleven Sena Medal. The Battalion has the honour of having served in Sudan as part of the United Nation Peace Keeping Mission during 2007-08. The 2nd Battalion, Rajput Regiment also has the privilege of having given us the present Chief of Army Staff General VK Singh, who is also the Colonel of the Rajput Regiment.

Friday, August 12, 2011

HAL Slams Pakistan's Snipe At Dhruv

In a rare move, Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd has hit back at a report put out last month by Pakistan's state-owned APP new service which suggested that HAL's Dhruv helicopter was "beset with problems" and that its afflictions had caused both the Ecuadorian and Indian governments to reconsider further purchases.

In a rebuttal statement sent to the El Comercio newspaper which published the Pakistani report last month, HAL, speaking through its local representative in Ecuador, one Dr Juan Cortez T says (translated), "I would like to express my deep consternation that El Comercio would choose to publish such a false report. That the report is from a Pakistani state-owned wire service gives it no credibility whatsoever. All that the report has done is make an attempt to tarnish an internationally renowned aerospace company and the Ecuadorian government. I am surprised that a paper with a history of credibility like yours chose to publish such an article without verification of baseless allegations by vested interests."

The statement from the HAL representative also quotes the Ecuadorian air force chief as unequivocally rebutting the Pakistani APP report. Touché?

[Thanks to Twitter follower Abhinav Mukherjee for flagging this one!]

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

New Gripen Ad For MMRCA Says A Lot

This very interesting advert for the Gripen NG appears in the current edition of India's biggest news magazine, India Today. It says a lot of things. One, it appears three months after the Gripen was officially eliminated from the Indian MMRCA competition. Two, and more interestingly, Saab's creative concept has shifted away from simply highlighting the Gripen's virtues (also of "autonomy" and "independence"), and now takes a direct shot at the two finalists in the competition -- the Eurofighter Typhoon and Dassault Rafale -- on cost and stated capability. In short, Saab believes it still has a chance, and this fight isn't finished.

In one part, the advert says, "Performance counts when aircraft are in the air, defending the skies. Unfortunately, too many fighter aircraft are either sitting on the ground because they are too expensive to fly or simply do not have the capabilities that they were touted to have." Ouch.

Also, "[The Gripen IN] has taken the essential philosophy behind the Gripen to the next level, making it a fighter of the latest generation priced at less than half of its peers and operating at a fraction of the cost." The folks at Saab know all too well how delicate the next step in the MMRCA selection will be -- the opening of bids and toss-ups against a benchmark price, understood to be ready and defined.

It gets better. The ad goes on the declare "Today, India has a choice". Hmm, yep -- between the Typhoon and Rafale, right? Well, there's nothing official about it, but it's been rumoured for a while that the four companies that were eliminated three months ago from the Indian MMRCA fighter competition (including Saab), have been "asked" to stick around in the country. The applicability of the aphorism "it ain't over, till it's over" to Indian defence contracting is well known. And it has much to do with what some see as a track that runs parallel to the ongoing selection process. A track that appears to internalize the possibility of complete chaos, forcing a Plan B. Imagine that.

Monday, August 08, 2011

DRDO-Snecma Tie-up On Kaveri Still In Talks

The Indian MoD made the following statement in Parliament today about the Kaveri turbofan engine programme: "The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has made no agreement with a French firm to develop the Kaveri aero engine to be used for the Light Combat Aircraft, Tejas. However, DRDO is negotiating with M/s Snecma, France for co-development and co-production of Kaveri aero engine for the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas Mk.2. The project proposal will be put up for Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) approval after the completion of price negotiation. Indian Air Force (IAF) has been consulted at every stage and is part of negotiation. IAF has cleared the Kaveri engine co-development proposal with M/s Snecma, France. The draft engine technical specification has been examined and cleared by IAF. IAF has further suggested that the engine design should have minimal impact on the LCA Tejas airframe for future retrofitment."

In September last year, the DRDO/ADA officially announced that they had chosen the GE F414 engine to power the Tejas Mk.2. GE later announced that they would be supplying 99 engines to the Mk.2 effort. In January this year, the IAF revealed that it had projected a need for 83 Tejas fighters in the Mk.2 configuration. As things stand, the Kaveri is officially de-linked from the Tejas programme, and is aimed at the fifth generation AMCA effort and India's classified AURA stealth UCAV programme.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Week Left If You Want To Help Design India's Airliner

India's National Civil Aircraft Development (NCAD) programme will close entries to its brand new design bureau on August 15. So if you didn't know before, and are interested, the time to apply is now. The reason I'm posting this is because I get a lot of mail from people asking about opportunities like these.

The Indian Express has a front-page report today on the programme, with updated financial figures. It says that India's Department of Science will shortly propose development and series production of the 90-seater regional jetliner (for now, simply called the NCA) for $1.68-billion (Rs 7,555-crore). The report quotes government sources as saying that the design and development phase of the programme will begin in January 2012 and cost a little over $1-billion (Rs 4,500-crore) over three years. The programme will be a joint venture with an Indian private sector company, which will also provide a Chief Executive to the overall effort. Announcements on those fronts will be made in the next few months.

See also:
Proposed organisation structure
Official schematics of the proposed NCA

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Enfeebled Coastguard Gets Rockbottom Report

Yesterday, India's national audit agency, the Comptroller & Auditor General (CAG) placed reports in Parliament, the thickest among them detailing massive graft in the administration of the Commonwealth Games in 2010. Buried under that hot political story -- and only touched upon briefly by some media -- was the auditor's report on the Indian Coast Guard (ICG). The report was released at a particularly mortifying time for the ICG -- less than a week before, it was in the spotlight (along with the navy and Mumbai police) for being ostensibly clueless about the 1,000-ton abandoned merchant vessel MT Pavit that drifted across the Arabian Sea and ran aground on one of Mumbai's most popular beaches. The ship had sliced through layer after layer of India's maritime security tiers. The audit report is thundering indictment of red tape, turf battles, faulty procurement, government apathy and massively misdirected expenditure that has resulted in none of the heightened preparedness and minimised reaction time that the 26/11 attack had necessitated. Another day. Another wake up call. Pity.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Early Data On Yesterday's IAF Jaguar Crash

IAF trainee pilot Flt Lt Siddhartha Pandey, who tragically perished in a Jaguar ground attack aircraft crash yesterday, was on a low-level navigation syllabus sortie from the Gorakhpur Air Force Station, and was accompanied by a senior pilot in chase in another Jaguar. Flt Lt Pandey had been on a simulated attack run at ultra low level (below 300 feet to avoid radar) from initial point to target, completed in roughly 2.5 minutes. However, the pilot missed his target, the reasons for which will be part of the court of inquiry. His chase instructor radioed in asking him to turn back and redo the attack manoeuver. Now the normal drill during such training is to pull up to at least 500 feet, turn around, descend at your initial point and go back for the sim attack. Tragically, for reasons still unknown, Flt Lt Pandey began turning around at less than 300 feet, bleeding altitude all the while. The investigation will look into several human and technical factors. Of the latter, the possibilities include an inexplicable breakdown of the entire (or parts of the) flight control system, including the auto-stabilizer system or pitch trim controller, both overwhelmingly critical at such low altitude where reaction time is wafer thin.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

PHOTOS: MiG-21 Pilot Gets Final Sendoff

The mortal remains of the Flying Officer Suraj Pillai of the Indian Air Force, who was killed in a MiG-21 crash on August 2, were brought to Naval Air Station Kochi (INS Garuda) at 5:15AM today. His body was then taken to Aluva near Kochi where it was cremated with military honours. Flg Offr Pillai was 24 years old. R.I.P., brother.

PHOTO 1: The Mortal Remains of Flying Officer Suraj Pillai being transported from the IAF Aircraft at INS Garuda. PHOTO 2: Captain Himanshu Sapre, Commanding Officer INS Garuda paying respects at INS Garuda. PHOTO 3: The Final Military Honours for Flying Officer Suraj Pillai.
Courtesy Cdr Roy Francis / DPR
Sent on my BlackBerry® from Vodafone

IAF Jaguar Crashes, Pilot And Civilian Killed

Two days after one of its pilots was killed in a MiG-21 crash, an Indian Air Force Jaguar strike aircraft crashed today, killing its pilot. The aircraft, on a training sortie, crashed about 80-km from Gorakhpur. The pilot of the aicraft was Flight Lieutenant S Pandey. One civilian girl who was hit by splinters on the ground also succumbed to her injuries. R.I.P.
Sent on my BlackBerry® from Vodafone

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Time & Cost Spikes In Indian Warship Efforts, Parliament Told

Indian Parliament today was provided with details of substantial time and cost overruns in three of India's key warship building efforts: the Project 15A (Kolkata-class guided missile destroyers), Project 17 (Shivalik-class stealth frigates) and Project 28 (Kamorta-class ASW corvettes). These details have been put out for the first time. Here's what Parliament was told, in full:

The major indigenous warship building projects of the Navy running behind schedule are Project-15A, Project-17 and Project-28. The cost escalation in these projects has been about 225% for Project-15A, about 260% for Project-17 and about 157% for Project-28. The major cost escalation has been due to uncertainties associated with the complex warship building process. Project-wise reasons for cost escalations are as follows:

P-15A: The main reasons contributing towards cost escalations are: delay in supply of warship building quality steel by Russia, escalation due to increase in expenditure towards services of Russian specialists on account of inflation during the build period, impact of wage revision due from October 2003 and finalization of cost of weapons and sensors.

P-17: The main reasons contributing towards cost escalations are: delay in supply of warship building quality steel by Russia, delay in acquisition of weapon equipment from Russia, and delay in finalization of propulsion equipment in view of complex combined diesel and gas arrangement introduced for the first time in Indian Navy frigate. In case of Project-17, Air Conditioning system procured from M/s York Marine Systems, UK has been functioning satisfactorily on the first two ships. In case of Project-28, it was tendered on competitive basis and the order was placed on M/s York India.

P-28: Navy was using D40S/B-quality high tensile strength steel for construction of warships; however, due to high cost of import, indigenously developed DMR 249A steel was decided to be used on P-28 ships. However, there was delay in development of indigenous steel and associated complexities related to development of new weld consumables and welding techniques. The delay in identification of suitable propulsion package to meet stealth requirement of ships and delay in development of indigenous weapons and sensors also resulted in cost escalation.

Photo/Shiv Aroor [INS Shivalik commissioning]

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Nothing Wrong With MiG-29K, Indian Navy Told

The Indian Defence Minister made the following statement down today in Parliament: A Prototype MiG-29KUB (Trainer) met with an accident on 23rd June, 2011 in Russia. The aircraft belonged to Russian Aircraft Corporation (RAC) MiG, the manufacturer of the aircraft, and was utilized towards testing of systems and aircraft flight profiles. In this regard, RAC MiG requested the Indian Navy to temporarily suspend operation of the aircraft MiG-29K held in India pending report on the cause of accident.

A memorandum was served on 28th June, 2011 to RAC MiG to ensure that all matters on the MiG-29K aircraft of concern or requiring the attention of the Indian side be intimated on top priority without delay. Further, a detailed report on the cause of the accident has been sought from RAC MiG.

RAC MiG intimated on 28th June 2011 that based on analysis of data downloaded from the onboard flight data recorder, the Chief Designer of the MiG 29K/KUB has concluded that there were no shortcomings with regard to serviceability of aircraft systems, power plant and avionics.
RAC MiG therefore recommended the resumption of flying of MiG-29K/KUB aircraft in India without any restrictions. Further, RAC MiG has brought out in 1st week of July, 2011 that based on analysis of data from the onboard flight data recorder as well as examination of the aircraft wreckage, the investigation Board preliminarily concludes that all the aircraft systems, power plant and onboard equipment have worked normally from the beginning of the flight till collision with the ground. No destruction of airframe in the air has been noted.

There is no impact on the already concluded contract as the preliminary report of the Board, as intimated by RAC MiG, has brought out that the accident has not occurred due to failure or malfunction of aircraft systems.

IAF Mirage Upgrade To Take 10 Years

India's Minister of Defence A.K. Antony today told Parliament that the $2.4-billion contract to upgrade 51 IAF Mirage 2000 fighters (signed on July 29) will take 10 years to complete. Which means, by July 2021.

IAF MiG-21 Crashes, Pilot Killed

An Indian Air Force MiG-21M Type 96 fighter crashed today in the Rajasthan desert, killing its pilot, Flying Officer M Suraj Pillai, 24. The aircraft took off from Nal air force base and crashed shortly after. A court of inquiry will investigate the reasons for the crash. R.I.P.