Wednesday, February 29, 2012

First Local Kit For Indian Scorpenes Arrives

The P75 Scorpene attack submarine lincense build programme at Mazagon Docks Ltd (MDL) has received its first consignment of locally produced submarine equipment, a delivery managed by DCNS India, a subsidiary of the European boatmaker.

MDL is in the process of license-building six Scorpenes under transfer of technology (ToT) from DCNS.

In June 2011, DCNS India signed a contract with Flash Forge India Pvt. Ltd. “We are providing our Indian partners with know-how and technical assistance to manufacture equipments which will be installed onboard the Scorpenes. Together with MDL, we are qualifying the suitable companies which are meeting the rigorous specifications needed for the submarines”, DCNS India MD Bernard Buisson said in a statement released today.

According to the statement, the Factory Acceptance Test (FAT) for the first locally made Scorpene’s equipment (for the large scale piping system) was successfully performed at Flash Forge premises in Visakhapatnam in January 2012. The selection process is under way for other equipment -- additional contracts with Indian firms will be announced shortly, DCNS has said.

First Flight Imminent, Govt Approves LCA Navy Line

The Defence Acquisition Council has approved the manufacture of eight limited series production (LSP) LCA Navy platforms for the Indian Navy. A first flight of the NP-1 is expected shortly. But as we saw recently, the navy is already pretty cheesed off.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Corruption Cloud Over Indian VVIP Copter Deal, Probe Ordered

Sorry about this late post -- was out all day yesterday. The MoD has ordered an inquiry into allegations that emerged last year in the Italian press (and then yesterday in The Indian Express) that Finmeccanica used corrupt practices to win a $700-million deal signed in Feb 2010 to supply 12 AgustaWestland AW 101 helicopters (image in IAF livery) for VVIP transport to the Indian Air Force.

In 2008, MAIL TODAY broke a story about how India's apex Cabinet Committee on Security had cleared the deal despite deviations in tender parameters. The Finance Ministry too reportedly objected to the deal, but was prevailed upon to approve it in the end. Days after the deal was signed, Sikorsky executives told me they would protest the decision, but only ended up writing a letter to the MoD asking for details of why the S-92 was rejected.

While only investigations will establish if kickbacks were paid and if so, to whom, my limited point for the moment is that the efficiency and alacrity with which the government pushed through the VVIP helicopter purchase was unusual -- the sort of thing totally lacking in the purchase of anything for the armed forces. The AW 101s, the first of which are set to arrive later this year, will be operated by the IAF's Delhi-based Communication Squadron, and used for the executive transport of the President, Prime Minister, Cabinet Ministers and visiting VVIPs.

Air Marshal Punches Out Of Doomed Mirage

He's the seniormost Indian Air Force officer ever to eject. Air Marshal Anil Chopra, currently Air Officer in charge of Personnel (AOP) at IAF HQ punched out of a Dassault Mirage 2000TH operational trainer over Central India just after noon. Air Marshal Chopra, Commodore Commandant of 1 Squadron Tigers was in Gwalior for a reunion of the elite Mirage unit and a tour of the base. A passionate fighter pilot, Air Marshal Chopra doesn't get to fly as often as he'd like. and is one of only a few senior officers who still flies when he gets a chance.

On Friday, he flew front cockpit with Tigers squadron commander Wing Commander Ram Kumar. Over Bhind, an area replete with ravines, the aircraft's Snecma M53 flamed out. After a series of relight attempts failed, the pilots initiated ejection procedures and bailed out. They were picked up by a SAR helicopter shortly thereafter and transferred to the military hospital in Gwalior. Both are safe and in good health.

Air Marshal Chopra has commanded the Tigers squadron and was part of the crew that ferried the first Mirages to India from France in the mid-1980s. He was posted in Russia during the MiG-21 upgrade programme and has commanded the Aircraft & Systems Testing Establishment (ASTE) in Bangalore. Before picking up the three-star rank, he was Air Officer Commanding (AOC) Jammu & Kashmir at Udhampur, overseeing military air ops in that theater.

Photo / Sanjay Simha on BR

Thursday, February 23, 2012

India At The Singapore Air Show

The Singapore Air Show earlier this month had an Indian pavilion that was stuffed with these clunky Tejas models and little else. Not quite sure why the government bothers to book space and go to the effort at all if this is all it can really come up with. Embarrassing. I have friends who went round to see. Livefist reader Pradeep Yamujala was kind enough to send me these photographs he took while he was at the show.

Photos Courtesy Pradeep Viswamitra Yamujala

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

First Photos Of India's Helina ATGM Firing Trials On HAL Rudra

These first photos of the indigenous Helina ATGM being fired from a Dhruv-WSI were posted by my friend Anantha Krishnan M on Tarmak007 and used here with courtesy. Nice work, Ananth!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

What's The Hold Up, Eurocopter Asks Indian Army

A wire service story reports that Eurocopter has written to Indian Army chief General V.K. Singh asking him why in heck the acquisition effort for 197 reconnaissance and surveillance helicopters (RSH) remains incomplete. "We take this opportunity to express our concern regarding the time frame for the very important programme, for which the RFP was issued in July 2008. "The technical evaluation process has now taken over 38 months and has not yet been concluded due to reasons which are unknown to us," the letter opens. Not surprising. Eurocopter, which fields the AS 550 C3 Fennec has had one shock too many in the country -- in 2007, the company managed an abort just a whisker away from victory against the Bell 407 Shen. Meanwhile... Rosoboronexport went ahead and put out a statement earlier this month claiming that its Ka-226T Sergei was well poised to "defeat" Eurocopter for the Indian deal. Anyway, my sources tell me a decision is expected soon. Stay tuned.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

PHOTOS: IAF To Induct New Mi-17 V5 Choppers Tomorrow

Photos / DPR Defence & IAF


These superb photographs of the recently concluded TROPEX 2012 have been made available exclusively to Livefist and are used here with courtesy. The Bay of Bengal exercise involved 40 warships and submarines and 13 aircraft/UAVs.

©Photos By & Courtesy Sitanshu Kar

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Coming Up...

Just received a beautiful set of photographs of the Indian Navy's just concluded TROPEX exercise in the Bay of Bengal. Will post later today.

Monday, February 13, 2012

EXCLUSIVE: What India's Stealth UCAV 'AURA' May Look Like

Commissioned exclusively for Livefist, and unofficially endorsed by a couple of people familiar with the secret programme, these are the first 3D artist's impressions of India's stealth unmanned combat aerial vehicle, AURA, a programme first revealed here on Livefist two years ago. Currently in the preliminary design phase, the AURA is likely to draw design philosophies and technologies from the European flying wing UCAV concepts. Artist Anurag Rana had little to work with apart from the scant impressions that appeared here on Livefist from official documentation. As more details emerge, these impressions will be progressively updated and modified, so stay tuned.

Art / Anurag Rana

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Coming Up...

I've commissioned an artist's impression of India's secret concept stealth UCAV, code-named AURA. Since there are no images available of any models that may exist within the programme, the artist had to depend on the small handful of graphic impressions that I managed to scoop here on Livefist when I first revealed the existence of the programme. Since the art is only an impression, I ran it through two sources of mine -- one on the programme and another in the IAF -- and both said it looked pretty close to what the programme was intending to build. So for what it's worth, I'll be posting those impressions here tomorrow. Do stay tuned.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

India's Next Chief Of Army Staff...

... will be one of these officers. It's a dark, intriguing time, with speculation that current Army chief General Vijay Kumar Singh may quit after losing his case against the government.

VIDEO: India Tests Anti-Missile Interceptor

Friday, February 10, 2012

India Tests Advanced Interceptor Missile In User Config

DRDO Statement: India's DRDO today conducted a successful test launch of its endo-atmospheric interceptor missile., part of the country's ballistic missile defence (BMD) programme DRDO’s Air Defence Missile AAD-05  (Photo 1) successfully hit a modified Prithvi ballistic missile (Photo 2) and destroyed it at a height of 15 kms off the coast of Orissa near Wheeler Island. Radars located at different locations tracked the incoming ballistic missile. With the target trajectory continuously updated by the radar, the onboard guidance computer guided the AAD-05 towards the target missile. The onboard radio frequency seeker identified the target missile, guided the AAD-05 to hit the target missile directly and destroyed it. Radar and Electro Optic Tracking Systems (EOTS) tracked the missile and also recorded the fragments of the target missile falling into the Bay of Bengal.  The interceptor hit the incoming ballistic missile directly and destroyed it at an altitude of 15-km. The mission was carried out in the final deliverable user configuration mode.

Photos / DPR Defence

Thursday, February 09, 2012

EXCLUSIVE: Impressions Of Rafale In IAF Colours

These superb 3D impressions of the Dassault Rafale in Indian Air Force colours have been made available exclusively to Livefist by artist/illustrator Anurag Rana. If the Rafale manages to pull off the MMRCA deal, this is what the jet will look like when delivered.

Images / Anurag Rana

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Indian Navy Exercise TROPEX-2012

Indian Navy Statement: Indian Defence Minister A.K. Antony was given a glimpse of the expansive scope and scale of the Indian Navy's annual Theatre Level Readiness and Operational Exercise (TROPEX) over a two day visit to the Bay of Bengal with the Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Nirmal Verma and the Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Eastern Naval Command Vice Admiral AK Chopra.

In the backdrop, were two completely networked fleets, widely dispersed across seas in the Indian Ocean, operating in a dense electronic environment to match their professional and technical proficiency. New platforms, weapons sensors, communication systems and tactics were being tested and tried to optimize the net combat power of the fleets. Over forty surface combatants of various classes, submarines and a large number of aircraft including UAVs are participating in the exercise. As would be the case in any operation of the twenty first century, the exercise had a jointmanship element as IAF aircraft such as AWACS, Sukhois, Mirages and Jaguars also participated.

'No Limits', the motto of INS Shivalik where the Defence Minister first landed, best described the scale of the Indian Naval operational exercise. The Defence Minister witnessed INS Shivalik execute, various evolutions including a 'surface gun shoot' and jackstay with INS Shakti in copy book fashion. Incidentally, it may be recalled that the Defence Minister had commissioned INS Shivalik on Apr 29, 2010 and Admiral Verma had commissioned INS Shakti on October 01, 2011. The integration of INS Shivalik and INS Shakti as fully operational components of the Eastern Fleet in such a short span of time reflected the efficiency and professionalism of Indian Navy's training and operational methodology.

INS Viraat, the Flag ship of the Western Fleet, demonstrated the power of a networked force as operational plots and pictures from remote sensors were transferred and collated in a flash to present a comprehensive picture of the Battlespace and effect optimal use of the weapons on board the various potent ships. The recently upgraded Sea Harriers proved their lethality with ranges extended by Air to Air refueling and BVR missiles. Su 30MKI aircraft, Mirages and Jaguars, being directed by an IAF AWACS, operating over sea for the first time tested the Air Defence capability of the INS Viraat even as the ships were operating in a Multi- threat scenario. During this battle the Defence Minister witnessed, first hand, the potency of the upgraded Sea Harriers particularly in the networked environment.

A critical part of Anti Missile Defence being Surface to Air Missiles (SAM), the Defence Minister witnessed the successful interception of a fast, low flying, Surface to Surface missile by a SAM. A clear night with a full moon laid an idyllic setting for this demonstration of power and professionalism.

The Defence Minister witnessed a successful and impressive launch of the Brahmos, supersonic long range anti shipping missile, from a recently up-graded Ranvir class destroyer. This was particularly satisfying as the launch of the missile was an affirmation of our indigenous weapon capabilities.

The Defence Minister also witnessed a full scale air power demonstration from INS Viraat with Seakings, Sea Harriers and Chetaks participating. Whilst on board INS Viraat, Shri Antony was also shown the reputed professionalism of the MARCOS as they carried out a precision landing on the flight deck in the middle of the sea using Combat Free Fall technique.

Photos / DPR, Navy 

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Indian Navy Chief Snipes Carrier Tejas

The Naval Tejas programme really had this coming. After failing to get the LCA Navy airborne in January in what would have been the platform's hugely delayed first flight, Indian Navy chief Admiral Nirmal Verma has rebuked the programme for its performance and delays.

Speaking to The Hindu at Port Blair, Admiral Verma has been quoted as saying, "They [ADA] focused largely on the Air Force programme and the LCA [Navy] did fall behind…. There have been many promises made by the ADA but they failed us... It is often said that there is only 15 per cent difference between both versions. The Navy has always maintained that it may be 15 per cent in terms of material and systems, but it is a substantial part. And they [ADA] underestimated it."

The LCA Navy effort battles huge odds, and has come in for some pretty harsh criticism recently. Last week, former IAF chief Air Chief Marshal Srinivasapuram Krishnaswamy wrote in a newspaper column, "A naval variant of the LCA seems unlikely to ever land on a ship’s deck. It may probably need a new engine apart from lots of testing and modifications. There is little demonstrated stamina to take these risks."
The programme is led by a retired navy officer, Commodore C.D. Balaji, who has been under tremendous pressure to show results. With the primary air force version of the Tejas also hitting technological roadblocks, it's bad news all round for the indigenous programme. Will update this post with more details on programme status. The last I heard is that the team were hoping to put the NP-1 prototype into the air at the end of January.

Eurojet's India Hopes Fade

Typhoon at Laage AFB, Germany | Photo / Shiv Aroor
India's selection of the Rafale constitutes a major blow to EADS, but little or nothing has been said about its implications for Eurojet, the four nation cooperative entity that builds the EJ200 turbofan that powers the Typhoon. With the Typhoon losing out in the MMRCA, it now appears likely that Eurojet Turbo GmbH will never do business with India.

In September 2010, the Indian government announced that it had chosen the GE F414 to power the indigenous Tejas Mk.2, a huge disappointment for Eurojet, which had been confident of upstaging its American rival. I visited Eurojet headquarters in Hallbergmoos, Germany nine months before that, and the company had been quite confident that it would beat General Electric.

While India does a fair bit of business with Rolls-Royce -- which has a maximum 34 per cent production share in the Eurojet consortium -- it has little or nothing to do with Avio, MTU Aero Engines and ITP, the other three partners. As things stand, the EJ200 turbofan may now never power an aircraft for India.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

India Chooses Rafale: What Do You Think?