Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Disappointed, But It Ain't Over: Eurofighter

Eurofighter Statement: India took the decision to select our competitor as the preferred bidder in the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) tender. Although this is not yet a contract signature and contract negotiations are still ahead, we are disappointed. However, we respect the decision of the Indian MoD. With the Eurofighter Typhoon, we offered the Indian Air Force the most modern combat aircraft available. Based on the Indian Government feedback, we will now carefully analyze and evaluate this situation together with our European Partner Companies and their respective Governments.

Photo / Shiv Aroor

Dassault Statement On Rafale Winning MMRCA

Saint-Cloud (France), January 31, 2012: Following the announcement of the final selection of the Rafale in the frame of the MMRCA program, Dassault Aviation and its partners are honored and grateful to the Indian Government and the people of India to be given the opportunity to extend their long-lasting  cooperation. Dassault Aviation and its partners reiterate their commitment to meet the operational requirements of the Indian Air Force and underline their pride in contributing to India’s defence for over half a century.

And a statement from French President Nicolas Sarkozy: The President of the French Republic has learned of India’s selection of the Rafale for the acquisition by the Indian Air Force of 126 fighter aircrafts. France is pleased with the Indian government’s decision to select the French aircraft to enter into exclusive negotiations with Dassault. This announcement comes at the end of a very high-level, fair and transparent competition involving two European finalists. The Rafale has been selected thanks to the aircraft’s competitive life-cycle costs, after the April 2011 pre-selection on the basis of its top-level operational performance. The negotiation of the contract will begin very soon and has the full support of the French authorities. It will include important technology transfers guaranteed by the French government. The realisation of the Rafale project will illustrate the depth and scale of the strategic partnership between France and India.

Photo / Vishal Jolapara

FIRST ON LIVEFIST: India Chooses The Rafale

It's the Rafale! The Indian government has declared the Dassault Rafale the lowest bidder in the Medium Multirole Combat Aircraft (M-MRCA) competition, signalling its prospective victory in a monumental competition that has spanned six years. The story broke first on Livefist. While a letter of intent (LoI) was issued to Dassault Aviation today, a final contract will be signed contingent on successful negotiations over the next 9-12 months. EADS Cassidian has been informed of the government's decision and is likely to receive further information in the days ahead on how the selection was made. The decision is a big blow to the EADS campaign, considering how much they'd thrown at winning this one.

When and if the deal is finally signed, it will be Dassault's first export contract for the Rafale and the single largest it has ever participated in. I only say "if" because there is still work left before contract signature. But this is, by far, the closest Dassault has gone to clinching an order for the Rafale. The Rafale pips the Eurofighter Typhoon for what is by far India's largest aerospace contract and one of the most keenly tracked in recent aerospace contracting.

Not to crow or anything, but I happen to be the only Indian journalist who has flown in the Rafale. Here's my account of that amazing ride. Only if you must though :)

Photo / Arpit Agarwal

No Deal Before March, But MMRCA Lowest Bidder "Soon": Minister

The Indian M-MRCA fighter deal won't be signed before the financial year draws down, Indian defence minister AK Antony told reporters in Delhi today, but confirmed that the lowest bidder would be declared "soon". It had been near certain that the results of the toss-up between bids by Dassault and EADS would be announced this month, though it now appears to have slipped into February. Stay tuned for more details.

Indian Daksh ROV Enters Service

DRDO Newsletter Text: The first batch of five remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Daksh, designed and developed by Research and Development Establishment (Engineers) [R&DE (E)], Pune, was handed over to Maj Gen Rakesh Bassi, Director General Combat Engineers, by the DRDO's S Sundaresh, in a flagging off ceremony held on 19 December 2011 at R&DE (E). A limited-series-production order for 20 Daksh has been placed by the Indian Army after extensive trials, testing and acceptance.

Daksh, a state-of-the-art ROV, will be an invaluable asset for Bomb Disposal Units of the Army, Police and Paramilitary Forces for handling improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and hazardous objects. It is the first indigenously developed unmanned vehicle or mobile-robot in the country Maj Gen Bassi said that it is an excellent effort made by DRDO and congratulated the Robotics Group of R&DE (E) for their tireless efforts. He added that the users will exploit the full potential of the system.The technology has been transferred for production to three firms, viz., M/s Dynalog (I) Ltd, M/s Theta Controls and M/s Bharat Electronics Ltd.

Photo & Text Copyright DRDO

Monday, January 30, 2012

DRDO AUV User Trials Soon

The DRDO Naval Science & Technology Laboratory (NSTL) autonomous unmanned vehicle (AUV) is to undergo user trials with the Navy shortly. The craft is capable of extended operations from shore/ship at a depth of 100m.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Army Heroes Honoured On Republic Day

The Indian government today conferred peacetime gallantry awards on four Army officers (clockwise from top left): Lt Navdeep Singh (Ashok Chakra, Posthumous), Lt Col Kamaldeep Singh (Kirti Chakra), Lt Sushil Khajuria (Kirti Chakra, Posthumous), Captain Ashutosh Kumar (Kirti Chakra). Here are their award citations in full:

Lieutenant Navdeep Singh was Ghatak Platoon Commander of 15 Maratha Light Infantry deployed in the High Altitude Area near the Line of Control. On receiving information about the infiltration of a group of terrorists at about 0030 hours on 20 August 2011, the officer gauged the likely route of the terrorists and laid an ambush at the appropriate spot. When the terrorists were spotted, the ambush was sprung by the officer himself. An exchange of intense fire ensued. Leading from the front, the officer eliminated three terrorists at close range. On seeing another terrorist approaching their position, with utter disregard to his personal safety, the officer swiftly changed his firing position. While doing so, he got hit by a bullet on his head. He nevertheless managed to eliminate the fourth terrorist. Further, displaying utmost bravery and comradeship, he pulled an injured fellow-soldier to safety and kept firing till he became unconscious due to excessive blood loss. Lieutenant Navdeep Singh displayed his indomitable spirit, determination and exceptional bravery while putting down the terrorists and making the supreme sacrifice for the nation.

Lt Col Kamaldeep Singh, 18 RR Bn, was mission Cdr for Op Maidanpura on 15 July 2011. On receipt of hard intelligence of presence of five hardcore terrorists in the area in Dist Kupwara, Jammu and Kashmir, the officer, at 2250 hours led five quick reaction teams and established cordon of target house. After confirmation of presence of terrorists, he tightened the cordon with another seventeen quick reaction teams, thereby sealing all possible exit routes and evacuated five civilians held hostage. While under fire, he readjusted his cordon parties to effectively engage the terrorists leading to immediate elimination of two terrorists. The Officer while in close cordon sited a terrorist bringing down heavy fire onto the cordon party. The Officer while controlling the operation himself maneuvered to an advantageous position through deft battle craft, eliminated one hard core terrorist and seriously decapacitated another. In an operation lasting over two days, he displayed absolute calmness, exemplary tactical acumen, and motivated his troops leading by personal example. For his professional acumen, astute leadership, indomitable courage and personal bravery which led to elimination of five hardcore terrorists, Lt Col Kamaldeep Singh is recommended for the award of ‘KIRTI CHAKRA’.

Based on receipt of specific information from own and police sources about the presence of armed cadres of Terrorists in general area Rangpisso Gaon, a joint search operation was launched under Capt Ashutosh Kumar with strength of one JCO and fifteen ORs alongwith a police team. At 0430 hrs while own troops were cordoning the village, move of suspected individuals was noticed. On being challenged, the individuals started firing indiscriminately at close to the terrorists making use of thick foliage and despite being under heavy effective fire, fired at the terrorists, killing one of them and injuring another who later succumbed to his injuries. The rest of the terrorists panicked and tried to escape while spraying heavy volume of bullets towards own troops. Determined not to let the fleeing terrorists escape, the officer ordered his troops to change position and pursue the escaping terrorists that led to the killing of one more terrorist by his party while apprehending one cadre alive. Arms and Ammunition, money and other war like stores were recovered from the slain terrorists. In the face of extreme adversity, inhospitable terrain, and stringent human rights regulations, the officer displayed utmost physical courage killing two dreaded terrorists included Commander. In addition, the officer displayed inspiring leadership and utmost tactical acumen in executing the operation leading to the killing of another terrorist and apprehending one alive, ensuring no collateral damage. This act of the officer is testimony to his dauntless courage, determination and professionalism for which Capt Ashutosh Kumar is recommended for the award of ‘KIRTI CHAKRA’.

Lt Sushil Khajuria while leading his team in a search operation in the main area in district Kupwara, Jammu and Kashmir came face to face with two terrorists. Displaying exceptional presence of mind he opened fire on them allowing his team to take cover. In the prolonged fire fight, the officer advanced from cover to cover and with unflinching resoluteness and raw courage, closed in and eliminated the terrorist from close range. The other terrorist brought down intense fire on the team. Sensing danger, the officer exhibiting conspicuous bravery of highest order immediately engaged and forced the terrorist to retreat. He pursued the terrorist, using the difficult folds in the ground, approached from an unexpected direction and personally eliminated the second terrorist. The officer, displaying exceptional sense of responsibility and camaraderie as a true leader unmindful of his personal safety immediately crawled forward to evacuate one of his injured colleague upholding the highest traditions of the Indian Army. For his act of conspicuous gallantry, exceptional leadership and camaraderie in the highest traditions of Army, Lt Sushil Khajuria is recommended for the award of ‘KIRTI CHAKRA (POSTHUMOUS)’.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

DRDO Tests Lakshya-II Target Drone

DRDO Statement: Flying at sea skimming height of about 15 meters at DRDO's test range near Balasore, Lakshya-II the advanced version of DRDO's Pilotless Target Aircraft today demonstrated its full capability. In a flight lasting over 30 minutes, it was made to dive down from an altitude of around 800 m to just 12 m and maintained required altitude for the specified time before demonstrating auto climb-out. The entire flight was pre-programed and was totally successful. It demonstrated various technologies and sub-systems including software correction to auto rudder scheme done to prevent loss of mission, engaging and flying in way point navigation mode while carrying 2 tow targets.  During the flight one of the tow targets was released and the other was deployed while way point navigation was on.  This was the 10th flight of Lakshya-II PTA and this was the first time that the ultimate capability of the Lakshya-II, was demonstrated achieving all the user's objectives. Lakshya-II has been designed and developed by the Bangalore base Aeronautical Development Establishment, a premiere DRDO lab specializing in UAVs and flight control systems.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

MMRCA This Week, January's Last?

To be very honest, I don't know what to believe anymore. The conflicting information emerging from the establishment means everything cancels everything else out, leaving you with kibbles. The most reasonable, credible-sounding ones had pointed to a decision before Republic Day (Jan 26), or at the very least by the end of this month. There's one week left this month. Can  a delayed decision be compartmentalized from other government activity (elections, Parliament, etc)? Why is it so unbelievable that the lowest bidder won't be announced in January? What's the hold-up? Hopefully the answers to those questions will emerge this week. I'll do my best to tell you more. Stay tuned.

Monday, January 23, 2012

PREVIEW: Indian Weapons For R-Day Parade

The DRDO contingent at the upcoming Republic Day Parade showcases three products: Agni-4 strategic ballistic missile, Prahaar tactical battlefield support high speed missile and Rustom-1 surveillance UAV.

Finally, Indian Navy Gets Nerpa Nuke Sub

K-152 Nerpa, soon to be christened INS Chakra
Russia has handed over the K-152 Nerpa Akula-II class nuclear powered attack submarine to the Indian Navy, says RIA Novosti, and confirmed by my sources in the Navy here in Delhi. The submarine, to be christened INS Chakra will sail to India shortly and be commissioned at Visakhapatnam. The submarine will be on lease for a period of 10 years.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Coast Guard Inducts New Indigenous IPV Rani Abbakka

Coast Guard Statement: The Indian Coast Guard ship ICGS Rani Abbakka, the 1st of a series of five inshore patrol vessels (IPV) built at Hindustan Shipyard Ltd, was commissioned at Visakhapatnam on Friday. The ship, incidentally, is named after Abbakka Mahadevi, the legendary queen of Tulunadu, Karnataka who fought the Portuguese in the latter half of the 16th Century.

The 50-m Inshore Patrol Vessel is the first of its class and is propelled by three MTU 4000 series diesel engines of 2720KW capacity at 2100-rpm each coupled with three 71S II Rolls Royce Jets to a maximum speed of 31.5 knots. At economical speed of 14 knots, it has an endurance of 1,500 nautical miles. The special features of the ship include an Integrated Bridge System (IBS), Machinery Control System (IMCS), and an indigenously built gun mount with fire control system. The ship is designed to carry one rigid inflatable boat and two geminis for SAR, law enforcement and maritime patrol. ICGS Rani Abbakka, manned by five officers and 34 men under the command of Commandant C Vivekananda, will be based at Chennai.

Photo / Indian Coast Guard

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Screw This, I'll See You In Court, Army Chief Tells Govt

Defence Minister AK Antony & Army chief Gen VK Singh
Most people didn't think this would happen. Most said it was an option that was available to Chief of Army Staff General Vijay Kumar Singh, but nobody actually thought he'd go ahead and do it. (Well, almost nobody -- I did a story on Headlines Today on Jan 1 quoting sources who said they were positive that the General planned to sue the Indian government in the Supreme Court) over the protracted and unseemly public debate over his year of birth. (For a full primer into the issue, read Sandeep Unnithan's cover story in India Today magazine).

The story broke this evening while I was (and am) far away from Delhi (that didn't stop the channel from tracking me down for a phone-in though). But what a story it is. Never before in the history has a serving Chief of Army Staff sued the government. It is not only unprecedented, but has been unthinkable. Even though my sources said they had no doubt that the Chief planned to actually sue the government, I remained skeptical. This is big deal. As most people know, the General has predicated his side of the argument on "honour, justice and integrity", something that a lot of people don't fully buy, considering that he is after all the Chief of Army Staff, and cannot aspire to more within the confines of his career in uniform. On the other hand, there's the history of the current government's almost uniform aloofness to military issues, even emotive ones like veteran pensions.

The whole unseemly affair now stands to play out in the country's apex court, and by no account is it going to be pretty. The Chief's decision to go to court also shows up three of the most powerful persons in India's Union Cabinet, for their utter failure to resolve the issue amicably and outside the shadow of political intrigue: Defence Minister A.K. Antony, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee (who had been especially appointed by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi to troubleshoot the issue) and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who has proven yet again that he has a penchant for letting things fester until they're ready to blow in his face.

It's an interesting start to the new year folks. Don't exhale.

Photo / Deccan Chronicle

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Model Of PAK-FA In IAF Colours

A 1:72 scale model of the Indo-Russian 5th Gen fighter, made by Manoj Mungasavalli from Zvesda. This model took almost a month of work and is perhaps the first model of the PAK FA with IAF markings.

Manoj, based in the UK, says, "I had specially designed the decals (stickers) for this. On the vertical stabiliser I have included a 'Bat' squadron symbol (just a guess). The just altered present camouflage paint scheme to include our national flag colors into the pattern which gives the Indian touch."

Friday, January 13, 2012

Countdown To MMRCA?

We're square in the time window now for an announcement on the M-MRCA competition. The last ten days have been thick with rumours of a Eurofighter victory (the company has wisely stayed away from comment). It's an incredibly delicate situation now. Last night, Reuters Aero tweeted saying the two parties were called for a meeting, but that it was unclear if this pertained to a decision or an update. The tweet appeared to draw its essence from an earlier tweet in the day by Newsx defence editor Vishal Thapar, who claimed that only Eurofighter representatives had been called for a meeting. He similarly wondered in his tweet if this had been for a "verdict or clarification". Now, unless this meeting was hardcore top-secret, my information is that no representatives of either company was summoned to any meeting yesterday (Thursday, Jan 12). My sources at both vendor companies and the MoD said there was no meeting, but that it was expected "soon". But this is hardly important. Assuming that the meeting didn't in fact happen, it is after all expected to happen at any time.

The sense I get is the government has until Republic Day (Jan 26) to declare the lowest bidder -- if it wants to, that is. After that, the country enters a phase of an elaborate series of crucial state elections that bring with them their own political sensitivities and code of conduct guidelines. The sense I get, therefore, is that if the government intends to make an announcement this month, it has to be in the next 10-odd days. Otherwise, it could drift for months as the establishment's mind gets diverted. As always, stay tuned.

Photo / Shiv Aroor

Thursday, January 12, 2012

5 Years Of Livefist!

Doesn't feel like it, but it's been five years on the blog today! I remember starting Livefist on the evening of 12 January 2007, sipping on cheap whiskey at the studio apartment I lived in at the time in South Delhi, contemplating existence and an offer to move from the newspaper I was with at the time to a television station (I did, two months later). I'd started this milblog as a place to bung defence stories I couldn't bung on air (I'd been warned my hands would be full on TV). But in five years, I think I can say Livefist turned out okay; the damn thing sort of has its space, yes? And I have all of you readers to thank. The encouragement I've received from you folks over the years (on email everyday, through the phone, and on at least three memorable occasions, in person) has been a supreme source of energy. So, wherever you are -- and if it's legal/unblasphemous -- do knock one back on me.

This year is going to be an exciting one, and I plan to experiment a bit more with the blog. I'll let you know all about it once things are in place. Meanwhile, as always, stay tuned and have the best year possible! -- Shiv

Dassault Holds Peace On MMRCA Rumours

Dassault hasn't reacted officially to reports suggesting that the Eurofighter has emerged the lowest bidder in the final arithmetic of the M-MRCA fighter competition, and is unlikely to do so. I'm trying to get word on what they think and if they've heard anything, but it's unlikely they'll say much. Meanwhile, rumours continue to swirl. Oh, and does anyone have the 2012 Dassault calendar (that's Miss February above, the bubble's mine of course) -- it's among the best mil calendars I've seen so far. Have to get my hands on one.

The Mint report also said that Dassault and EADS Cassidian representatives had been called for a meeting scheduled for this evening. Will keep tabs. Could this be the end? (Don't) hold your breath.

Rafale Art / Romain Hugault

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

PHOTOS: IAF Choppers Restore Snapped Power In Snowed-out Kashmir

Photos / DPR Defence & IAF

Indian Navy Frigate Captain Relieved Of Command

INS Talwar at the President's Fleet Review on 20 Dec 2011
The Commanding Officer of the Indian Navy's frontline missile frigate INS Talwar has been relieved of command to make way for an investigation into the death of a young officer out at sea just before New Year. Captain Rahul Parmar, a veteran with the navy's work-up force, will stay off the ship and its command as a Board of Inquiry (BoI) looks into whether the death of Sub Lieutenant Vipin Kumar on December 29 was caused by negligence or unnecessary pressure.

It took that photograph of the Talwar on December 20 off Mumbai, nine days before the incident in question: a sea swimming survival drill in the Arabian Sea, which involved officers and sailors jumping from the ship and rapidly swimming 50-meters away, simulating a jump-ship in the event of a hit or other accident. Sub Lt Kumar jumped, but failed to surface (ironically, he was a seasoned swimmer, ex-NDA). Elaborate search operations were conducted but he couldn't be found. First designated missing, he was later designated dead. On the ship's return, Captain Parmar was relieved of command. The navy has, however, said that the CO has been asked to step aside only so that the investigation isn't prejudiced.

The Talwar-class of ships are superb vessels, but this is the second time that a CO of one of these ships has lost command. On December 27, 2005, INS Trishul collided with a merchantman outside Mumbai harbour, an incident that first led to its commanding officer Captain Sunil Edwin David being relieved of command, but finally to his exit from service as well.

Photo of INS Talwar / Shiv Aroor

PHOTOS: Tejas Sea-level Trials At Goa

New official photographs of the LCA Tejas at Goa undergoing sea-level trials recently. The seventh limited series production aircraft (LSP-7) is expected to make its first flight by February. My previous post on the Tejas and its new problems is here.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

India's Aircraft Carrier Reveals Itself

Was just sent this photo of India's first indigenous aircraft carrier (IAC), which was floated out in December from its dry dock. The float out took place about 2.5 years after the ship's keel was laid at Kochi.

Photo / Copyright

Eurofighter Lowest Bidder In Indian MMRCA Bid, Sources Tell Newspaper

I'd been very wary all weekend about posting about a very strong rumour that's been doing the rounds specifically for the last five days or so, but now a mainsteam Indian business newspaper (Mint) has a piece today leading with precisely the opposite -- word that the Eurofighter Typhoon has been identified by the Indian MoD as the lowest bidder (L1) in India's monumental $20-billion medium multirole combat aircraft (M-MRCA) competition. Obviously, there is no official confirmation of this, and there is unlikely to be any until a formal announcement is made either way. The competition has been marked by hearsay and rumours right through its life (sometimes, vendors have leapt in to correct them), and I'm only putting this post up since a mainstream newspaper has put it down in print (and that I'd heard the rumour as well). It's delicate right now.

The brief report goes on to say that representatives of EADS Cassidian and Dassault are to be summoned to the MoD on Thursday (Jan 12). So is this it? We'll know soon. Stay tuned.

Photo / Shiv Aroor (Laage AFB, Germany)

Sunday, January 08, 2012

What Should The Indian Army Chief Do?

It's one of the most unseemly controversies in recent memory, with folks now sure that the current Chief of Army Staff will be remembered for nothing other than this battle over his year of birth. India Today magazine has the story on its cover this week. What do you think the Chief should do? Vote and comment below.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Pilatus Deal Not Approved Yet, MICA Deal Through

A correction to my previous post (since removed). The deal with Pilatus for 75 PC-7 basic trainer aircraft hasn't been approved yet (it will be soon). Today's meeting only cleared a 950-mil Euro deal for MBDA MICA missiles for the IAF's Mirage 2000 upgrade package.
Sent on my BlackBerry® from Vodafone

FIRST HAND | How Shrimp Nearly Wrecked India's First Brush With A Nuke Sub

By Vice Admiral (Retd) R.N. Ganesh

As always, the submarine left harbour in the small hours, while the city slept. A huge, ominous shadow in the dark, she moved silently but for the faint hiss of the water against her sides. At five thousand tons, she was the largest warship in the Indian Navy after the carriers. The young Captain on the bridge had done this  dozens of times, but taking this formidable vessel out through the narrow channel was still exciting, with a potential surprise lurking at every bend.

Vice Adm R.N. Ganesh
Slowly the submarine made its way out of the harbour and set course for the diving area. Today they were leaving on an extended surveillance patrol of the Bay islands under simulated war conditions, as part of the essential and never-ending process of maintaining presence in one’s own waters.

Before that, however, there was a game to be played. Units of the Fleet were returning from deployment in the south, and Headquarters had decided that the submarine would intercept them in a staged encounter and carry out a mock attack before detaching to proceed on her main mission. The ships would be closer in to  the shore and the submarine further out, listening out for them against the backdrop of shallow water noises. The interception area was some miles to seaward of an estuary, and recent rains would have made the seawater density variable, causing trimming problems. Not ideal waters for a large nuke, thought the Captain, but therein lay the challenge. In addition, his crew would enjoy the thrill of the hunt.

“Bridge - twenty minutes to diving area!” came the report from the charthouse. “Right - inform the Commander, please”. The order was still being relayed when the Captain reached the control room, just as the Commander ordered “diving stations.” The Engineer Officer was already there.

Monday, January 02, 2012

My Debut Photo On Airliners.net

Happy to announce, I've made my debut on http://www.airliners.net/, with this photograph I took of an Indian Navy Alouette III/Chetak at Rutland Island in the Andamans in November last. I should note here that all credit for my submission goes to Vishal Jolapara, one of India's most talented and passionate aviation photographers and planespotters. He noticed this photograph in one of my earlier posts and thought it was worth submitting to Airliners.net. He was kind enough to edit and re-edit the photograph before submitting it on my behalf. The photograph was finally accepted today on the site. My deep thanks to Vishal for the effort and interest. As someone who has no skills with a camera (I took this one with a dinky little Panasonic Lumix point and shoot), this is definitely a proud day :)