Saturday, June 30, 2012

Light Combat Helicopter Sea-level Trials Successful

Exclusive photos of the ongoing sea-level trials of the second prototype of India's Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) on the outskirts of the Chennai. Check out that sexy cockpit shot as the pilots near the East coast. The last photo, also taken from the LCH, shows the IAF chase Mi-8 from Yelahanka air force station that's flying with and observing/recording the LCH during the current round of sea-level trials. The trials will continue for another 7-9 days.

Photos / LCH Test Team

Thursday, June 28, 2012

FLASH! Light Combat Helicopter Sea-level Trials From Tomorrow

India's Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) is all set to begin a week of sea-level trials early tomorrow morning at Tambaram, on the outskirts of Chennai. The second prototype of the LCH landed at Tambaram today along with a Mi-8 chase helicopter from the Yelahanka air force station. The trials which could stretch to ten days will include generic performance and handling at sea-level (Bangalore is at 3,000 feet above sea level), calibration of the LCH's air speed measurement system and measurement of forces in terms of stress on various components of the platform.

Livefist wishes the test team the very best for the week ahead!

Incidentally -- something big to look out for soon is the third prototype of the LCH, which my sources tell me will be the defining shape and configuration of the final LCH. I'm told it will look significantly different in terms of dimensions too.

PHOTOS: INS Vikramaditya Sea Trials

1. Russian and Indian teams on the Vikramaditya flight deck. 2. Vikramaditya preparing to leave harbour for sea trials in the White Sea. 3. Vikramditya at anchor on the White Sea. 4. Vikramditya initial steaming during sea trials in the White Sea.

Photos / DPR Defence & Indian Navy

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

India's Tejas Completes Bombing Trials From Uttarlai

As part of its campaign for the second phase of initial operational clearance (IOC-2) and final operational clearance (FOC), the Light Combat Aircraft Tejas has just completed a two-day schedule of weapons trials at the desert field firing range in Pokhran, Rajasthan. The trials involved three Tejas platforms  (LSPs 2, 3 and 5)  taking off from the IAF's Uttarlai station and deploying a series of weapons, including laser-guided 1000-lbs bombs and unguided bombs. The tests were a continuation of weapons deployment trials that took place at Pokhran in September last year. LSPs 2 and 5 were fielded again this year, but LSP4 used last year was replaced with LSP3 for this year's tests.

Over-sea trials are expected to ensue shortly. Remember, the Tejas is yet to testfire a BVR missile -- the Rafael Derby or the Vympel R-77.

Monday, June 25, 2012

DRDO's Strike Scenario For 3 Indian Fighter Efforts

Wanted to write about this, but I just got back to Delhi from a weekend in Bangalore, and I'm rushing off to work, so I'm putting it up anyway. It's from a recent DRDO presentation and perhaps the first that depicts the LCA, AMCA and FGFA in an operational scenario. Comment and tell what you think this slide tells us.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

India Begins $2.2-billion QR-SAM Procurement Effort

The Indian government has cleared the way for a massive $2.2-billion procurement effort for quick-reaction surface-to-air missiles (QR-SAMs) to arm eight air defence regiments of the Indian Army. The missiles are intended to replace obsolete Soviet air defence systems, most of which are unserviceable anyway.

As I reported a year ago, MBDA will be pitching the in-development Indo-French joint short-range surface to air missile (SR-SAM) or Maitri for the competition, in the hope that "enhanced synergies" will see a concept weapon get its big break even before its fully operational. It is not clear if MBDA will field any other product. I hear that MBDA has competition from the Rafael-IAI SpyDer, an upgraded version of Raytheon's MIM-23 Hawk or modified SLAMRAAM  and the Russian TOR M1 9M330.

The Army, as I reported a year ago, is looking for a QR-SAM system with a reaction time of six seconds or less, with an engagement range of 9-15 km at altitudes of not less than 6 km. It's looking for a weapon that delivers a single shot kill probability (SSKP) of at least 70% for a single missile fired, and 85% for a salvo shot involving two missiles. The missile also needs to be able to threats moving at speeds ranging from 0 km/h (a hovering helicopter) to 500 m/s on fast jets. The Army is hoping for systems that deploy missiles that have ECCM capabilities and compatibility with vehicles currently in use. The full parameters are here.

VIDEO: Report On India's Secret Unmanned Stealth Bomber

Thursday, June 21, 2012

New Cutaway View Of India's AMCA Fighter

Here's a new image of India's Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft  (AMCA) with a view of its weapons bay with beyond visual range weapons, and the bay door mechanism.

Related posts:
IAF's evolutionary wishlist for the AMCA
- The stealth in India's AMCA

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Livefist Wins At Defence IQ Blogging Awards 2012!

Delighted to announce that Livefist has been voted best Regional Defence Blog at the Defence IQ Blogging Awards 2012!

Judging Livefist the best in the category, the panel said, "Livefist quite simply stands out in a crowded sector of Indian focused blogs. Livefist breaks the mould providing up to date and informative views on the Indian Defence Sector which other Indian blogs sometimes overlook."

Thrilled and somewhat humbled -- Livefist was up against some very worthy blogs, all of which I follow, and all of which in my opinion deserved to win. Here's the full list of winners this year. Finally, thanks to Defence IQ for the recognition, and to all of you, who make Livefist what it is. :)

PHOTOS: First Ever India-China Naval Exercise

On completion of the four day visit to Shanghai, INS Shivalik and PLA(N) Ma'anshan conducted passage exercises comprising naval manouevers, communication exercises and cross deck helicopter landings.

Now, A Third Indigenous UAV Turbofan Effort

India's HAL has begun scouting for a technology partner for it recently revealed all-new 20kN turbofan engine programme aimed at powering UAV/UCAVs, military trainers, transports and light utility aircraft. The yet unnamed project under HAL's Engine Test Bed Research & Development Centre (ETBRDC) in Bangalore is now the third Indian effort to build turbofan powerplants for unmanned aircraft.

The two existing efforts are the GTRE  small turbofan concept Laghu Shakti (the same as this one, for which GTRE has a tie-up with Russia's NPO Saturn?), and a spin-off modification of the Kaveri turbofan that we now know will power India's AURA/IUSAV stealth UCAV.

There's a bit of overlap that needs sorting out though. In 2007, HAL had revealed that it was developing a "twin spool turbofan engine to power a cruise missile under design". It had gone on to say that  that "ETBRDC will jointly develop this engine with NAL and GTRE. The engine is small; the technology involved is as complex as any bigger engine. Since the  usage is for missile application, no external help can be sought and the engine has to be wholly indigenous. This is a challenging task and ETBRDC is confident that it can meet the challenge." (Was HAL talking about the Laghu Shakti? Possibly. The new 20kN engine effort was only announced in February this year.)

So there it is, tentatively: the GTRE-HAL-NAL Laghu Shakti for the Nirbhay cruise missile and unmanned applications, a modified spin-off version of the Kaveri engine, and HAL's new ab initio turbofan proposal.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

IAF Super Hercs Fly Together To Test Capabilities

At the break of dawn early this week the Veiled Vipers (77 Sqn) flew all six of its C-130J Super Hercules special mission transports in a tactical formation in what the IAF said was a display of "operational capability and potential of the Indian Air Force in combat airlift operations". The Lockheed-Martin C-130J is the newest aircraft in the IAF inventory. The government is currently processing an order for six more aircraft.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Coming up...

1. India's 3 separate UAV engine programmes.
2. Contenders in India's SIGINT aircraft competition.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

EXCLUSIVE: First Official Impressions Of India's AURA UCAV

The computer images here are the first ever images from the official design phase of India's AURA unmanned strike air vehicle (USAV), a stealthy flying-wing UCAV that the Aeronautical Development Establishment describes as an "unmanned bomber".

In effect, what you see here is what scientists on the programme have decided it will look like -- post aerodynamic shape optimization and design optimization. Almost exactly two years ago, I had scooped some preliminary impressions of the USAV, though the new images you see here show that the platform has properly taken shape now. The two "see-through" images are the first depicting the AURA/USAV with its internal weapons bays, weapons and intake-exhaust architecture.

The AURA/USAV is clearly a nEUROn derivative, and the guesswork impressions I commissioned from digital artist Anurag Rana a few months ago were pretty much on the money, it turns out.

These images posted here for the first time were part of a key-note presentation that DRDO chief Dr Vijay Saraswat made in Sweden last month at the Aerospace Forum. The presentation indicates that the USAV is to be ready for operations by 2020, incorporating the country's flying wing design, flying wing controls, radar absorbent paint and a serpentine air intake. Important to note that Dassault Aviation, which leads the nEUROn programme, and Saab -- in charge of overall design -- have both offered to assist DRDO in their unmanned programmes (BAE Systems has separately offered to assist too).

More on the USAV's technologies later this week.

VIDEO: MoD Suspends BEML Chief For Scam Probe

©Copyright Headlines Today

Coming Up: India's AURA/USAV Takes 'Shape'

Post goes up Tuesday night IST.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

DRDO Chief Takes A Spin In A Gripen

Photo | Saurabh Joshi/Stratpost

Photo | Saurabh Joshi/Stratpost

Photo | Saurabh Joshi/Stratpost
Dr Vijay Kumar Saraswat, chief of India's Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) took a spin in the backseat of a Saab Gripen-D on May 31 at Linköping, Sweden. Saraswat was in Sweden to attend Aerospace Forum Sweden, a seminar where he made a detailed presentation on India's unmanned programmes.

The Gripen was, until early last year, a contender in India's $12-billion medium multirole combat aircraft (MMRCA) competition. It was one of the four aircraft that were eliminated from the reckoning in the competition's first downselect. A week before his sortie, India's air force chief, Air Chief Marshal Norman Browne, did a sortie in a Rafale (the aircraft that emerged on top in the competition, and for which a final contract is currently being negotiated with maker Dassault) at the Saint-Dizier air force base in France.

The DRDO chief's sortie has less to do with the MMRCA competition and more, perhaps, to do with Saab's own interest in engaging with the DRDO in a variety of programmes, presumably the Tejas Mk.2, unmanned air vehicles (including UCAVs) and others.

Somehow, considering where the indigenous fighter programme is right now, it might have been a more impactful photo-op if Dr Saraswat had chosen to make his fighter debut in the Tejas Mk.1 trainer. The Gripen and Tejas are variously compared too. Who knows, maybe he'll do it now.

Incidentally, I did a sortie in a Gripen-D too (likely the very same aircraft) in October 2009, with Saab test pilot Robin Nordlander.

Stratpost editor Saurabh Joshi was at the flightline during the DRDO chief's flight and took these photos he's been kind enough to share with me.

Monday, June 04, 2012

VIDEO: Archival Footage Of Akash Missile Tests

There've been a series of test firings of the army and air force versions of India's Akash SAM these last couple of weeks. Dug up some of this archival footage from tests a few years ago, which also show ripple firing and salvo tests similar to the ones happening currently.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Unprecedented: State Defence Firm To Sue Just Retired Indian Army Chief

This has never happened before. Nothing even close. The Chairman of Indian state-owned defence contractor BEML said today that he planned to sue General Vijay Kumar Singh, who retired as Chief of Army Staff yesterday, for defamation. The Indian Army is BEML's single biggest customer. The provocation, strangely belated, appears to be the official Army statement and on-camera comments, first on a potential Tatra truck scam, and now a potential scam in the procurement of WZT-3 armoured recovery vehicles from Poland's Bumar, via partner BEML. General Singh has scoffed at the demand for an apology and threat to sue.

The uneasy relations between public sector defence firm management and the armed forces is not new (most notably apparent in IAF-HAL relations), but never before have things precipitated to such a level -- past Chief have usually sniped at their suppliers through testimony in Parliament or to the National Auditor. Never before has an armed forces chief come out in the open to question both the quality of a product supplied by a state-owned company, and, more importantly, question the manner in which they were supplied. What I find interesting is that the BEML chairman chose to wait until the Army chief had retired before actually holding his press conference and announcing his plans to sue.

While the Tatra and ARV procurements will be investigated, it is certainly true that there is little accountability in the foreign partnerships and tendering norms at state-owned defence firms.