Thursday, August 30, 2012

India's New AW101 VVIP Merlin Lift Off

Some bad publicity recently, but here's the first of India's 12 AgustaWestland AW101 Merlin VVIP executive transport choppers! These photos are from the Fightercontrol forum. If I'm overlooking a permission/credit, please let me know.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

VIDEO: Prithvi-II Missile Tested

4th Time Lucky? Army Floats Wheeled Gun Bid

Konštrukta ZUZANA / PHOTO: Konštrukta
Sigh. Because that's really all one can do about Indian artillery procurement. Oh well. After cancelling its last attempt at procuring 180 wheeled self-propelled 155mm artillery systems, the Army has begun the process afresh, sending out a new RFI to prospective vendors. The RFI, which specifies nothing apart from the requirement of a 155mm 45/52cal gun, leaves the door open for systems that could include the Konštrukta SpGH Zuzana 2, Nexter CAESAR, Rheinmetall RWG-52 and BAE-Bofors FH77 BW L52 Archer. 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

India's First Embraer AEW&C On Indian Soil

DRDO Statement: The first fully modified aircraft for India's indigenous Airborne Early Warning and Control System landed on Indian soil at CABS (Centre for Airborne Systems, Bangalore, a DRDO laboratory) at 22:10 hours at HAL airport, Wednesdat night. The aircraft and the flight crew was received by Dr Christopher Program Director and Dr K Tamil Mani, Chief Executive, CEMILAC. The acceptance of the Aircraft was completed over a period of 15 days at Embraer Facilities in Brazil,  by a team from CABS,  its work centres, CEMILAC, DGAQA & IAF. The Aircraft was flagged off from M/s Embraer, Brazil on 17 Aug 2012 at 1125 hours by Shri G Elangovan, Chief Controller R&D, Dr S Christopher, Programme Director, Mr K Tamil Mani, Chief Executive, CEMILAC and team members and was flown across multiple continents to arrive in India today.

The Aircraft ferried with several mission system external components of DRDO including the Active Electronically scanned Array Antenna with passive electronics fitted on the Aircraft. The arrival of this Aircraft marks the beginning of another phase of journey leading to the next major milestone of integration of the DRDO developed mission system, which will be followed by development flight trials in India beginning of 2013. It may be noted that this is the first Aircraft delivered by M/s Embraer for which the contract was signed in 2008. The next Aircraft is expected to arrive in December 2012.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Embarrassed DRDO Lambasts TV Report

On August 13, television news station CNN-IBN aired a story (text and video) titled 'DRDO spending crores, but no positive outcome' on an internal government audit that had made troubling observations about the DRDO's conduct and the manner in which it was going about ramping up weapons self-reliance in the country.

Saw the story? Ok. Five days after the story went on air, DRDO issued a statement to the entire media, responding to the CNN-IBN TV report. I'm putting that response here in full. My take: It's full of unnecessary platitudes, typically diversionary irrelevancies, insinuations that the TV station is working for arms dealers and an expected sentimentality on indigenous development. I wonder why the DRDO has such a problem dealing with the report head-on. Over 14 points, it just barely touches upon the substance of the audit report, and that too to say they are not final, and can still be struck down. Here it is in full, verbatim:

1. DRDO’s response to reports in certain section of media about an internal audit report pertaining to Ministry of Defence, leaked out to them (as claimed by these media reps)

2. The report referred is a confidential document pertaining to the MoD. It is not understood how the contents have reached public domain in total violation of laid down orders on handling of such documents. Response to the audit authorities by DRDO is being similarly rendered under confidential classification only.

3. The original objective of the internal audit was to conduct an internal review of the wings of the MoD namely, Army, Navy, Air Force , Ordnance factories and DRDO.

4. Since laid down procedure was not followed and the report was issued without authorization, the matter is under examination and correspondence with the concerned authorities.

5. As already indicated, notwithstanding the fact that the report was vitiated by a faulty audit process, DRDO is recording its responses.

6. However, for the sake of clarity it is stated that the issues raised are essentially in the nature of preliminary observations which, in accordance with the laid down audit procedure, are required to be discussed with executive authorities during formal entry and exit meetings before compilation of audit report. Normally, the internal audit observations are settled by clarifications from the concerned department. Such preliminary observations are required to be formally issued and replies to the same should be sought prior to compilation of any report. Only if the replies are not satisfactory is the next step of making a preliminary report taken. In the extant case, the laid down procedure was not followed and to that extent, the process of audit stands vitiated. Thus, even before seeking replies of DRDO, presumption and baseless conclusions appear to have been arrived at.

7. The draft report, as per procedure, is also required to be submitted to the competent (audit) authority for its approval before it is issued to the executive authorities. This also does not appear to have been done.

8. The observations are apparently based on individual perceptions and hasty presumptions rather than facts and are a curious mix of fact and fiction issued without seeking the formal replies of the executive authorities. In several instances, the statements have taken the shape of undue criticism and derogatory remarks.

9. DRDO strongly refutes observations made in the report and is in the process of compiling its responses despite the fact that the findings of audit already stand vitiated. The replies to audit will be sent in due course as per procedure.

10. All laid down procedures are being followed by DRDO in a transparent manner and interests of the State are the sole consideration during the process of decision making.

11. DRDO is committed to the cause of indigenous development of state of the art weapon systems for the Indian Armed Forces with total focus on transparency, probity and accountability.

12. Unfortunately, the perverse campaign has been launched at a juncture when DRDO is making rapid strides into high end defence technologies and indigenously churning out one after another, contemporary weapon systems and equipment, sharply reducing the dependence on imports, the efforts have helped India to raise the level of indigenous content in meeting its requirements of defence systems to around 60%; the figures are rising steadily. Thus, anyone can easily guess, who will be the beneficiary’s this campaign and who is going to loose. Not only the manner in which the audit has been conducted but also the manner in which sensitive information pertaining to India’s Defence Research Programs has been leaked out is unfortunate.

14. It need be borne in mind that R&D projects involving development of complex system such as missiles, combat aircrafts, battle tanks etc, as well as those involving development of newer technologies, require a large number of experiments and iteration before success is achieved. It involves handling uncertainties and as such predicting the exact number of iteration is not feasible. Allowing flexibility in the system and confidence in the project team are essential to achieve success.

For the story on that image above, go here.

New Nag Carrier Botches Trials

The July trials of an improved version of DRDO's Nag missile carrier (NAMICA) at the Mahajan Field Firing Range (MFFR) in Rajasthan have ended badly, say reports. Apart from most of the missiles under test failing to hit their targets, the tracked vehicle also "underperformed", wire service PTI quotes unnamed DRDO officials as saying. It also quotes DRDO spokesperson Ravi Gupta as saying the trials were a "partial success". I've spoken to sources who confirm the report.

The NAMICA Mk.1 (seven have been ordered), tested by the Army between 2007-10, had certain deficiencies while operating in high ambient temperatures.
The Army then demanded a host of changes on the improved Mk.2 platform (of which they intend to purchase at least 200 if it meets all requirements), including reduction of all-up weight to 15 tons, improved reliability of missile launcher platform drive mechanisms, provision of higher-resolution target acquisition sight for the gunner, enhanced user-friendliness in acquisition of target through reduced offset between sight and missile seeker-acquired target scene image, improved amphibious performance, and provision of a target surveillance and acquisition sight for the crew commander.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Embraer Delivers First AEW&C Aircraft to India

PRESS RELEASE | São Paulo, August 16, 2012 | Embraer Defense and Security today delivered the first EMB 145 Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) class of aircraft to the Government of India, in a ceremony held at Embraer’s headquarters in São José dos Campos, Brazil. The delivery follows successful completion of ground and flight tests of the aircraft which met operational targets established by both Embraer and Centre for Airborne Systems (CABS) of Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO). Later on the aircraft will be delivered to the Indian Air Force after integration of missions systems of DRDO by CABS in India.

The collaboration with DRDO in such a complex program strengthens the ties between Brazil and India”, said Luiz Carlos Aguiar, President & CEO of Embraer Defense and Security. “We are very proud to meet the expectations of our clients in providing CABS, DRDO with this platform.”

This EMB 145 AEW&C features major capabilities such as in-flight refueling system, significant increase in electric and cooling capacity and a comprehensive set of structural changes to which will allow the installation of the advanced mission systems that have been developed by India’s CABS (Centre for Air Borne Systems) along with its work centers of DRDO”, said Dr. Elangovan, Chief Controller R&D (Avionics & Aero) of DRDO.

The success of this programme is the symbol of cooperation between India and Brazil”, said Dr. Christopher Programme Director AEW&C and Director CABS. “The airborne Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) designed and developed by CABS, is now flying on top of this modified Embraer aircraft is one example of such cooperation. CABS, DRDO will integrate all other mission systems in India and deliver it to Indian Air Force”.

Remaining AEW&C aircraft are due to be delivered to the Indian Air Force as part of a contract signed in 2008 that includes a comprehensive package for training, technical support, spare parts, and ground support equipment. These aircraft, upon entry-into-service, will join four Embraer Legacy 600 jets – currently operated by the Indian Air Force (IAF) for the transportation of Indian government officials and foreign dignitaries – and a fifth Embraer Legacy 600 which belongs to the Border Security Force (BSF), under India’s Home Ministry.

In a landmark event the EMB-145I aircraft designed and developed for AEW&C role has been delivered to Centre for Airborne Systems (CABS) of Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) by M/s Embraer for ferry to India. With ownership of the aircraft transferred to DRDO, the aircraft has been flagged off by the Indian Delegation comprising of Mr G Elangovan, DS & CC R&D (Avionics & Aero), Dr K Tamilmani, DS & CE, CEMILAC, Dr S Christopher, DS, Programme Director (AEW&C) & Director, CABS, Mr MS Easwaran, Associate Programme Director (AEW&C), Air Cmde B Banerjee, PD (AFPT), Air Cmde Rippon Gupta, PD, C4ISR at M/s Embraer, Sao Jose dos Compos, Brazil. The Factory Acceptance Test including Ground and Flight tests have been successfully completed and met operational targets set by CABS and Embraer.

One of the major achievements of CABS is the design, development and testing of 10m x 1m x 0.5 m Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) weighing 1600 kg. The structural AESA with dummy electronics is certified for airworthiness by the Brazilian certification agency, ANAC, equivalent of FAA in USA. The aircraft is fitted with AESA and the airworthy units from other workcenters of DRDO have been flight tested prior to ferry to India.

The aircraft after its arrival in India later this month will be integrated with Mission Systems Avionics and will commence the developmental trials of Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) System for IAF, after successful Ground Evaluation clearances by DGAQA and CEMILAC.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Vintage IAF Tiger Moth Comes Back To Life!

By ANURAG RANA for Livefist | Aviation has had a history of about 100 years – in which the field has grown by leaps and bounds – especially the field of military aviation. The Indian Air Force has had the fortune of participating in a good 80 years of this development of flight, and over the course of time has flown various types of aircraft. Many of these aircraft in which the early pioneers pushed the envelope of flight have long ceased to fly and have been standing still in the IAF Museam - Palam in Delhi.

Starting with a commonwealth origin, many of these aircraft participated in WWII – stopping the march of the invincible Japanese over India, and after Independence defended the homeland on multiple occasions. Take for example the de Havilland Tiger Moth biplane of 1930 origin, long used to train a generation of Indian pilots before they went on to fly Hawker Hurricanes and Supermarine Spitfires in battle. It is about time that these aircraft were put back where they belong – in the skies.

The IAF has partnered with a UK company – Reflight ( to restore a few of these vintage aircraft and form the IAF Vintage Flight (IAF VF) Squadron. The IAF VF will appear to the public as an emblem for remembrance and inspiration. There are currently two aircraft – the Tiger Moth biplane and Harvard under renovation/refurbishment in the UK, with about 6 more to follow. The Tiger Moth has already had a major renovation done with the airframe and the engine restored and put to a test – as shown in the above video. The most important test – of making the machine fly in the air is expected to take place in another week. RAF Pilot Mike Edwards, OBE (Order of the British Empire – for services to the Crown) is the Chief Advisor and Architect of the IAF Vintage Flight – and is both the source of this video and sitting in the cockpit in the footage. He will be flying the machine on its first sortie after restoration.

Upon its successful flight, the Tiger Moth will be crated and shipped to India, and if all goes well – will make its first public appearance on the 80th IAF Day – 8th October 2012. Upon restoration of the rest of the vintage aircraft as well – the IAF could boast of having such precious gems like the only flying 1920s Westland Wapiti (the aircraft which heralded the birth of the IAF), the only flying Hawker Tempest of the WWII Era, a Hawker Hurricane which is a veteran of the famous Battle of Britain and which formed a part of the squadron commanded by Marshal of the Air Force (then Sqn Ldr) Arjan Singh, DFC WWII. It will also include vintage indigenous aircrafts like the HTS-2seater training aircraft, IAF Vampire and the very famous ‘Sabre Slayer’ – the British origin Gnat that later became indigenous into ‘Ajeet’. With proper care and support – these vintage machines will fly well into another century of their lives, and the IAF Vintage Flight will very well be the finest in the region – and amongst the best in the world continuing to inspire a future generation of aviators.

IAF Braveheart Pilots Decorated For Gallantry

On 19 Dec 2011, Wg Cdr Vatsal Kumar Singh was detailed to fly a helicopter in a low level mission in the densely forested and heavily Naxal infested area, in support of the CRPF. The landing site was only a small clearing in the jungle with very tall trees around it and an undulating landing surface, which made the task even more difficult. After having completed two shuttles and having transported thirty commandos, while he was executing the third shuttle with seventeen persons on board, his helicopter was fired upon with automatic weapons from the left and below the aircraft. He immediately turned away from the probable direction of fire and gained height. After having ascertained that all aircraft parameters were normal, he decided to return to base, i.e. Jagdalpur. Subsequently, the aircraft started experiencing severe vibrations and the entire cargo compartment was filled with the smell of burnt explosives. The severe vibrations made it extremely challenging to make sure that the helicopter does not go out of control with an any time possibility of an engine malfunction, Wg Cdr VK Singh kept his calm and controlled the helicopter with his professional acumen and flying skills. He reduced the speed and minimised the vibrations and kept a close vigil on the vital engine parameters. His calm and controlled composure and exceptional courage ensured that he tracked every event in the helicopter meticulously and brought seventeen men and the machine to safety, in an extremely professional manner after flying for forty long and demanding minutes. In recovering the helicopter and personnel on board from the precarious situation in the face of intense danger and imminent threat to life, he showed exceptional courage and flying skills of the highest order. For this exceptional display of courage, inspirational leadership and composure under adverse conditions, Wing Commander Vatsal Kumar Singh has been awarded Shaurya Chakra.

On 10 Oct 2011, Sqn Ldr Ajit Bhaskar Vasane was authorised to lead a two aircraft training mission. At an altitude of 9 km, the Head-Up Display (HUD) of the aircraft flickered and after a while, went blank. Immediately thereafter, fire emanated from the starboard side of the HUD. The situation deteriorated rapidly with noxious fumes and smoke filling the cockpit. In these circumstances with rapidly increasing intensity of fire posing a great personal risk, he initiated emergency recovery of the aircraft. While doing so, with exceptional presence of mind and courage of the highest order, he elected to avoid overflying various petro-chemical installations in the vicinity of the area, even though this prolonged flight endangered his life.
Throughout the flight, he displayed exceptional courage, maintained extreme calm and composure, thorough professionalism and presence of mind in keeping with the highest traditions of the Indian Air Force. Sqn Ldr AB Vasane’s courageous actions in handling such an unforeseen critical emergency not only saving himself and recovering the aircraft, but also preventing possible catastrophic damage to the strategically important and vital petro-chemical installations in the area, which are a national asset. For the display of exceptional courage and very high standards of professionalism, Squadron Leader Ajit Bhaskar Vasane has been awarded Shaurya Chakra.

On 06 Feb 2012, Flt Lt Gunadnya Ramesh Kharche was detailed to fly as captain for a low-level navigation sortie on an An-32 aircraft. While effecting the rejoin, when the undercarriage was lowered, the starboard and nose undercarriage was locked down. Even emergency means of lowering the port undercarriage failed to yield any results. Inspite of his limited experience as captain on type, Flt Lt GR Kharche maintained his composure in this grave emergency and decided to carry out an emergency landing on starboard main wheel and nose wheel. While landing in such configuration likelihood of a dangerous situation of aircraft getting out of control is very high. He assessed the situation and ensured that the entire available crew resources were marshaled in the most professional way to handle the emergency. Landing an An-32 aircraft without one of the main wheel is an extremely rare emergency. Flt Lt GR Kharche carried out a safe emergency landing with only starboard main wheel and nose wheel. The aircraft landing was controlled in the most courageous way and the aircraft suffered minimal damage. After landing, the action to evacuate the personnel on board were carried out most efficiently under his supervision. Flt Lt GR Kharche displayed qualities of exceptional courage and extreme professionalism during handling of such a grave emergency inspite of limited experience. His actions not only saved the lives of personnel onboard but also recovered the aircraft with minimal damage. For the display of exemplary courage and composure in handling an extremely rare emergency, Flight Lieutenant Gunadnya Ramesh Kharche has been awarded Shaurya Chakra.

Decorations For Siachen Pioneers Pilots

The government today awards the Late Major Chandra Shekhar Singh and Major Amit Mohindra India's third highest peacetime gallantry award, the Shaurya Chakra. The two officers were in a crash when their Cheetah helicopter went down after unloading supplies at the dangerously placed Bhim Post on the Saltoro massif flanking the Siachen glacier, the world's highest altitude battlefield. While Maj Singh was killed in the crash, Maj Mohindra was severely injured but survived.

Friday, August 10, 2012

India's Arjun Mk.2 Tank Revealed

By Atul Chandra
FORCE Magazine

Avadi, Chennai: After more than three decades of development, India’s Arjun Main Battle Tank (MBT) has literally emerged like a phoenix from the ashes, surprising even its most sceptical observers. Last year, the Arjun outgunned the Indian army’s T-72 and T-90 MBT’s, when trials were conducted with the respective units putting up their best tanks and personnel.

FORCE visited the Combat Vehicles Research & Development Establishment (CVRDE) for an exclusive insight into the programme. We learnt that while the Arjun Mk-2 is substantially improved and more capable than the Arjun Mk-1; it is too heavy, limiting areas where it can be deployed by the Army. And that renders it unsuitable for the army’s operational requirements for a Main Battle Tank (MBT). According to P Sivakumar, Director CVRDE, “the weight of the Arjun prevents it from being deployed in all the areas required by the Army”.

Keeping this in mind, the Arjun Mk-2’s improved performance seems to have put the Army in a spot. What does one do with a tank that is fast, can shoot accurately on the move and is relatively well protected but is too heavy to be deployed in the deserts near the Pakistan border as a replacement for the T-72 or T-90? Paradoxically, while the tank itself has demonstrated high speed and mobility, its weight precludes it from being able to operate anywhere the army wants it to. The Arjun Mk-2 will weigh around 67 tonnes and this fatally limits the tank’s operational effectiveness for the Indian Army.

The tank is too heavy to be deployed across the border with Pakistan. It is unable to effectively traverse terrain filled with natural and/or artificial obstacles. Or areas criss-crossed with rivers and canals. That rules out most places in Rajasthan, Punjab and the mountainous terrain of the J&K sector.

This has forced the army to identify areas where the Arjun can safely be deployed and its operational units based. This probably means the Arjun will not fight alongside the T-90s and T-72s. It will certainly not be part of the Indian Army’s strike corps formations, as it could get bogged down in unfamiliar terrain. This runs counter to the philosophy of armoured formations, which are designed for mobile offensive operations deep inside enemy territory. Unlike the T series tanks that have been airlifted to high altitudes like Leh and even out of the country, the Arjun cannot be airlifted by the IL-76 and C-130 J transports of the Indian Air Force (IAF). The C-17 Globemaster to be inducted by the Indian Air Force (IAF) has a maximum payload of 75 tonnes — insufficient to airlift the 67 tonne Arjun Mk-2 with attendant support equipment.

During this correspondent’s visit to the CVRDE facility at Avadi in Tamil Nadu, it was evident that despite the best efforts of its highly committed team of designers and scientists, the Arjun is unlikely to ever be ordered in significant quantities by the Indian Army — which fields close to 3,500 tanks in its Order of Battle (ORBAT). The total orders for the Arjun as of today are 240 (124 Mk-1 and 116 Mk-2). For the Army, ordering more tanks would result in it having to devote more resources — something it seems loath to do.

As things stand presently, the first Arjun Mk-2 will roll off the production line at Heavy Vehicles Factory (HVF) Avadi, two and a half years (30 months) after the order is placed. With the orders likely to be finalized towards the end of the year, the first Mk-2 tank will enter operational service in 2016. With HVF Avadi looking at a production rate of 30 tanks a year, all 116 tanks will be delivered by 2020. If work on the Future Main Battle Tank (FMBT) begins now in right earnest, then the first tanks could be ready for operational service circa 2025. Until then, the army would rather soldier on with its T-90 and upgraded T-72 tanks, which in any case have the required infrastructure in terms of training, manufacture and overhaul.

The major improvement in the Arjun Mk-2, is its missile firing capability from the gun barrel. This was demonstrated in 2004, with Israel Aerospace Industries’ (IAI’s) Laser Homing Attack/Anti Tank Missile (LAHAT). But the tank did not have an integrated Laser Target Tracker (LTT) at that point of time. That is now in the final stages of inspection and is being demonstrated to the user. The army has also asked for more types of ammunition on the Mk-2. This includes Thermobaric rounds and Penetration cum Blast rounds that will be developed in India. Thermobaric warheads create a sustained and intense pressure wave, which can be used against bunkers and hardened targets, while causing minimum damage to the surrounding areas. The army has also asked for two types of practice rounds, including blank rounds for ceremonial purposes. These will also reduce wear and tear on the barrel during training. In terms of protection, the Mk-2 will have full frontal Explosive Reactive Armour (ERA) and since commonality was desirable, it will use the same structuring as the T-series. The Defence Research & Development Organization (DRDO) is re-developing the explosive element, which is currently Russian, with better protection capability. It is being developed at the High Energy Materials Research Laboratory (HEMRL). This will be used for the Arjun, T-90 and T-72 tanks. Active Protection Systems (APS) that help evade attack — both by confusing enemy sensors (soft-kill) or by physically destroying incoming warheads (hard-kill) — will also be incorporated on the Mk-2.

The Israeli ‘Trophy’ system is being considered for the Mk-2. There will also be a mine plough to deal with pressure based mines, magnetic mines and tilt based mines. The driver’s seat on the Mk-2 is now suspended from the roof, compared to being fixed to the floor on the Mk-1 — this provides better mine protection capability. With the Explosive Reactive Armour (ERA) and mine plough together weighing 3 tonnes and additional add-ons expected, the MK-2s weight is expected to increase from 62 tonne to 67 tonne. The suspension has been re-designed to handle 70 tonne. To cater to complaints of track shedding, the revised tracks will have an increased horn length (19 mm) and the wheels have become slightly bigger. The tracks are imported from Germany but the rest is indigenous. The engine will remain the same on the Mk-2. With the original power pack on the Mk-1, the final drive catered to a top speed of 72 kmph. For the Mk-2, the final drive has been changed by increasing the reduction ratio from 4.4 to 5.3 and the top speed is now reduced 58.5 kmph but the torque and the force available at the contact between the track and the road has increased which can cater for the increased weight. Despite the increased weight, CVRDE claims that the acceleration is better than the Mk-1, while fuel efficiency remains the same.

The Arjun Mk-2 programme also suffered a severe setback with the unfortunate demise of senior scientist G K Kumaravel a few months ago. Kumaravel died in a road accident, while at Pokhran for trials of the Arjun Mk-2. He was heading the Arjun programme and slated to take over as Director, CVRDE in the future. He had played a crucial role in the developments and system integration of the Arjun MBT Mk II. The Arjun programme will now be led by V Balamurugan. The biggest problem being faced by the Arjun and a fate that is shared by almost all other indigenous programmes, is the small numbers ordered — that precludes investment in the required production and tooling. Sivakumar told FORCE that “Greater numbers are essential for reducing the price, establishing the process, good quality control mechanisms and continuous consistency in production”. This is also the reason he says that orders are a must. The Heavy Vehicles Factory (HVF) has not been producing Arjun MBT’s for two years and lot of the know-how is being lost.

While officials at CVRDE say the Army has been happy with the performance of the Mk-1, FORCE learnt that non-availability of spares is a continuing problem — the usage of spares was greater than anticipated. There have been complaints of track shedding, though CVRDE officials say that’s caused by inexperienced drivers who’re used to the T-72 and T-90. The 120 mm tank gun has been proved on the Mk-1 series and today, the Arjun barrel offers better life when compared to the T series of tanks. There have been barrel issues on a few tanks and a committee is looking into the matter, according to CVRDE officials.

The process of obtaining replacement spares is time consuming, since there are a number of agencies involved. Limited production numbers further exacerbate the problem. Director Sivakumar told FORCE that steps were being taken to tackle this problem and “unlike the Mk-1, where orders for the tank and the Engineering Support Package (ESP) were handled separately, in the Arjun Mk-2 this will be done simultaneously. That will reduce the time taken for delivery of the required items”. According to him, production has improved dramatically and an Israeli firm is now working on computerization of the line.

Meanwhile, the Indian Army is struggling to maintain its ageing fleet of T-72 MBT’s. While the T-72 was acknowledged to be one of the finest Russian tank designs, the ageing tank fleet is now increasingly difficult to maintain. Its small size and cramped turret make it difficult to incorporate the latest technology — like fire control systems, night vision and electronics. Unfortunately for the Army, the T-90 has not proved to be as sterling a performer as its predecessor. A number of glitches have come to the fore and production at HVF has been slow to take off. Russia has also refused to transfer technology related to metallurgy for T-90S gun barrels and armour plates to the HVF.

Despite all that, the Arjun outgunning the T-90 and T-72 in comparative trials, is akin to the Light Combat Aircraft ‘Tejas’, defeating the F-16 in a dogfight! The units that took part in the competition put up their best tanks and crew. The Arjun managed to fare very well. Army sources have freely admitted to FORCE, that there is a mind block with regard to the Arjun, by those who have operated the T series tanks. But they also admit that the Arjun is appreciably more modern in comparison to the T-72 & T-90, in many respects. For example, the Arjun can fire almost twice the number of rounds the T series tanks can, from its main gun.

The Arjun Mk-2 in many ways is what the Arjun Mk-1 should probably have been. Tragically, total orders for the Arjun over the next decade are unlikely to exceed 400 to 500 units including the 240 already ordered, plus other variants like the Armoured Repair and Recovery Vehicle (ARRV), Catapult 130 mm Self Propelled Gun and SP-155 gun chassis. The last refers to a tracked base that was to be mated with a Slovakian gun, in collaboration with Bharat Earth Movers Limited (BEML). That proposal has already run into rough weather. It remains to be seen if the army will accept such indigenous offerings or prefer to go abroad for proven systems, which can be inducted quickly and in meaningful numbers, to arrest the alarming decline in its armoured and artillery capability.

What is however clear is that continued production and development of the Arjun must be allowed to continue, if critical design, development and production know-how is not to be frittered away. It is also essential to keep the production line functional — through manufacture, repair, overhaul and upgrades, till the Future Main Battle Tank (FMBT) programme begins to gather steam. Keeping this in mind, it is likely that the DRDO will be able to prevail on the army for a few more orders, to enable low-rate production to continue. It is imperative that the DRDO and the Army move faster on the FMBT programme, to ensure that it is ready in time to replace the T-72.

In all, the army’s armour profile through 2015-2020 could comprise of approximately 1700 T-90S, 1800-2000 upgraded T-72M1s, and 250-500 Arjun’s. Surely, prospective orders for the FMBT, which at the very least would be for 1000-1500 tanks, are incentive enough for this to be taken up as a national project. This futuristic tank is unlikely to cost less than Rs 50 crore a piece — the total orders would be worth Rs 50,000 to 75,000 crore.

Fists of Iron: India's
Future Main Battle Tank

The quest to indigenously design and develop a Future Main Battle Tank (FMBT) by the Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO), must be accorded the status of a national project, if it is to succeed. The prize could be a minimum order of at least a thousand tanks, to replace the Indian Army’s T-72 tanks, starting 2022.

It is more likely that the FMBT will be ready only around 2025. DRDO will require at least a decade to have the first examples ready for trials and then roll out production variants a few years later. While the estimated development cost of Rs 5,000 crore might seem large, the investment would pay itself back many times over. An order for 1000 FMBT’s would be worth Rs 50,000 crore (Rs 50 crore per piece) over two to three decades. It would boost indigenous Tier-1 and Tier-2 industries involved in the programme.

The FMBT at present is expected to be a highly mobile Main Battle Tank (MBT) in the 50-55 tonne class. It would have the latest technology, like advanced materials to keep the weight down, a smooth bore 120 mm main gun capable of firing missiles and advanced munitions, a modern, high powered engine (1800 hp) with state of the art transmission, suspension and running gear. It will incorporate a high level of crew protection, through use of next-generation Active Protection Systems (APS) to supplement its armour protection. It will also provide a high level of situational awareness to the crew through sensors, data links and the ability to operate in a networked battlefield.

While the Army has asked CVRDE to refrain from talking about the programme, work has already begun on the engine development — a good sign for the programme. Interestingly, companies like Renk and AVL have refused to provide consultancy for engine development. The development of the 120 mm smooth bore main gun will also provide its own challenges, in terms of design and weight. Keeping in mind the Israeli involvement in the Arjun programme, it is very likely that Israeli companies will play a vital role in the development of the FMBT.

CVRDE has gained considerable experience in tank design and development with the Arjun and Arjun MK-2 upgrade. Designing a 50 tonne tank with the features demanded by the Army, will be an extremely difficult task. However many of the parts of the FMBT are likely to be indigenous — such as the power pack, suspension and running gear, 120 mm smooth bore main gun, explosive reactive armour (ERA) panels, communication and data link sets. Facilities would have been set up by then for either joint production, or license manufacture of night sights, targeting and fire control systems etc.

INTERVIEW WITH Director, CVRDE, Dr Sivakumar
‘At Present, the Army has Decided to Induct 118 Arjun Mk-2 Tanks Instead of 124’

What is the status of the Arjun Mk-2 programme currently?

The Arjun Mk-1 with a total of 89 improvements decided upon with the Army, is called the Arjun Mk-2. These 89 improvements have been made not only keeping in mind the concerns and issues faced on the Arjun Mk-1 tank but also to cater for future requirements of the army. At present, the army has decided to induct 118 Arjun Mk-2 tanks instead of 124. This is the result of a policy decision that will see the war reserve for all armoured regiments in the future being reduced by three. And so, two regiments of Arjun Mk-2 will be short of six reserve tanks. The indent for 118 tanks is almost in the final stage. The army has said that it will decide if it is satisfied with the Arjun Mk-2, only after the trials (which began last month and are expected to go on for two to three months) are completed. The Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) will require 30 months (2.5 years) from the placement of the order, for the first batch of Arjun Mk-2 to be delivered to the army. The Mk-2 will incorporate all that we learnt while battling issues with the Arjun Mk-1, in terms of production, performance, quality etc. CVRDE is working to ensure that whatever problems were faced by the Mk-1 will not be repeated in the Mk-2. Based on the Mk-2 programme, we have formed a core committee called the Arjun Core Committee that will monitor the progress of the Arjun Mk-2 on a monthly basis. All the stakeholders starting from the DRDO, the Directorate General of Quality Assurance (DGQA), the Corps of Electronics & Mechanical Engineers (EME) and the users, are present on the committee and we have obtained excellent support from all the stakeholders.

What are the major changes in the Arjun Mk-2?

The Arjun Mk-2 will see the tank weight increase from 62 to 67 tonnes, as a result of specific requirements from the user — which include additions such as the track width, mine plough and Explosive Reactive Armour (ERA) on the glacis plate, as well as the front of the turret. These two requirements alone will add three tonnes to the weight of the Arjun Mk-1. Along with other additions, the Mk-2 is expected to top out at 67 tonnes. We decided after studying the power pack (MTU engine with RENK transmission), that it is excellently suited for Indian desert conditions. We have steadily made this engine and transmission more and more rugged over the last many years, besides improving things like the air filtration system and cooling system. Hence, we have convinced the user that the same power pack, with a new final drive using a higher reduction ratio, can be used for the Arjun Mk-2. This was proved to the Army last year, when we drove 1350 km with the power pack modified to this standard and simulated weights of up to 66 tonne. We converted production vehicle P-1 into Mk-2 with 53 improvements, to obtain feedback. This tank took part in an exercise last summer that lasted almost two weeks, with temperatures of 46 degrees. We have improved the suspension — to provide the same life to components despite the increase in weight. To cater for this new suspension, we have developed a new hull for the Arjun Mk-2.

The Mk-2 variant is now capable of firing missiles, which was not possible in the Mk-1. We had already proved the LAHAT missile as a standby. We are now integrating it on the Mk-2. Apart from that, the Mk-2 will feature a remote controlled weapon system atop the turret. In Mk-1, this required the loader to come out and fire the weapon. The Mk-2 will have an improved commander’s panoramic sight with night vision, hunter killer capability between the commander, gunner and loader. Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) which is not present in T series tank is present. It has been enhanced from 4.5 kW to in excess of 8 kW for the Mk-2. With regards to the Chassis Automotive System, we have digital communication systems, advanced navigation systems etc. We have increased the track width, to ensure that the ground pressure remains the same in spite of the increased weight.

What is the status of the Arjun Mk-1 at present?

The Arjun Mk-1 received orders for a total of 124 numbers. The two regiments equipped with 45 Arjun tanks each, are the 43rd armoured regiment and the 75th armoured regiment at Jaisalmer. The Arjun is fully operational with these two regiments now. The balance 34 tanks will be used to meet the Army’s BRIC requirements and these are spread across the Corps of Electronics & Mechanical Engineers (EME), war reserve, training establishments, DRDO/DGQA etc. Heavy Vehicles Factory (HVF) Avadi has dispatched 116 Arjun Mk-1 tanks. The remaining eight tanks will be delivered over the next five to six months. Most of the spares for the Arjun MBT were consumed during the various trials. We are now working to ensure availability of fresh spares. The other part is the Engineering Support Package (ESP) for the Arjun which includes spares, training and training aids. This is being done in parallel. As far the Arjun Mk-1 is concerned, about 90 percent of its tasks are complete.

What is the cost of the programme till date?

Each Arjun Mk-1 costs Rs 20 crore plus. Each Arjun Mk-2 with all improvements will cost approximately Rs 34 crore. The Arjun Mk-1 programme cost approximately Rs 360 crores. With that money, we made 11 prototypes and 15 pre-production series tanks and the required spares. This included the cost of creating the production line. We are looking at a number of variants based on the Arjun platform, such as Armoured Repair and Recovery Vehicle (ARRV) which is close to finalization. We are also looking to use the Arjun chassis to mount a Russian 130 mm Catapult gun, which was earlier mounted on the Vijayanta chassis. We will also be competing for the Indian Army requirement for a self propelled, tracked gun. We will offer a Slovakian 155 mm gun mounted on the Arjun along with Bharat Earth Movers Limited (BEML). We have also built the Arjun Bridge Laying Tank (BLT) but the Army says it may not be required. The cost per tank will certainly go down if we get more orders. This will help reduce the import content as well. The Mk-1 has nearly 60 percent imported content and even though there is a lot of value addition being done, the import content will remain the same for the Mk-2. Since the size of the order is small, no foreign company is willing to offer Transfer of Technology (ToT). I feel that if the Mk-2 is ordered by four regiments, then the import content could go down to 43 per cent and further down to 25 per cent if orders are placed for a total of six regiments. The lifecycle costs of the Arjun will be much cheaper than other tanks. The programme has also been able to offer numerous improvements to a number of indigenous programmes and armoured vehicles in service with the army.

(Defence and aersospace journalist Atul Chandra is Bangalore correspondent with FORCE Magazine. This piece appears in the August 2012 edition and has been used here with permission. All text and photos are courtesy FORCE.)

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Another Major Delay For Navy's 1st Indian Aircraft Carrier

India's first indigenous aircraft carrier, the new Vikrant, won't be commissioned before 2017, Indian Navy chief Admiral Nirmal Verma said yesterday, indicating a further two year delay from the previously known time-frame. The Admiral explained that over and above existing delays, there had been serious problems in the installation of gearboxes, coupled with an unfortunate road accident from Pune to Kochi where a truck transporting generators for the ship turned turtle, forcing the shipbuilders to send the equipment back to the OEM for inspection and repair.

When the chief was asked about IAC-2, likely to be named Vishal, the Navy chief said, "It's too soon to talk about that. I've got more pressing priorities now." It is known that Vishal will be a much larger ship than the Vikrant, and therefore in a class of its own. While the Navy chief was circumspect about specifications and configuration, it is also near certain that the second carrier will be a CATOBAR flat-top -- at least that's what the Indian Navy is gunning for.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Update On Indian Navy Force Modernisation

Excerpts from Indian Navy chief Admiral Nirmal Verma's opening address today at his final press conference. These excerpts provide a pretty comprehensive update on force modernisation:

Over the past three years the Indian Navy has made very significant progress towards capability accretion and this, is as intended to be, in consonance with a conceived vision and plan. The past three years have seen the publication of three major documents – the Maritime Capabilities Perspective Plan 2012-27, the XII Plan document and the XII Infrastructure Plan document. During XI Plan period, which concluded on 31 Mar this year close to 200 Acceptances of Necessity (AoNs) with a total value of Rs 2,73,070 Crs were obtained. Of these, 161 contracts with a total value of Rs 92,069 Crs have been concluded.

Our indigenous warship building program is poised to touch new heights with 43 warships currently under construction in our shipyards. These include the indigenous aircraft carrier, destroyers, corvettes and submarines. Three ships of Project 15A, which are follow-ons of the existing Delhi Class destroyers, with improved stealth features and weapon and sensor fit are scheduled for induction commencing early next year. A contract has also been signed with M/s MDL for four more P15B destroyers, which will follow the P15A ships. Four Anti Submarine Warfare Corvettes, being built at GRSE, Kolkata, are the first stealth corvettes designed and built indigenously as specialised anti-submarine warfare (ASW) surface combatants. The first ship is scheduled to be inducted early next year and the others will follow at a yearly interval.

In order to augment our offshore patrolling capability, four offshore patrol vessels are under construction at Goa Shipyard Limited. The ships are scheduled for induction from the end of this year onwards. Five other offshore patrol vessels will be built at a private Shipyard. These ships, along with two cadet training ships under construction at another private Shipyard, are the first warship orders ever given to private shipyards since our independence. Eight new, upgraded landing craft are also under construction at GRSE, Kolkata and will augment the force levels in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. These ships will replace the old Landing Craft Utility or LCUs, which are in the process of being phased out.

Our survey ships and hydrographers are a valuable part of the Navy and are much in demand amongst a variety of littoral states in the Indian Ocean Region. To augment their force levels, six new catamaran hull Survey vessels are being built by M/s Alcock Ashdown Gujarat Ltd, at Bhavnagar. The first ship is undergoing sea trials and is scheduled to be commissioned later this year. The construction of Scorpene submarines under Project 75 is underway and MDL and the Department of Defence Production maintain that the first submarine is likely to be commissioned in 2015 and the sixth submarine by 2018.

In addition to the 46 ships under construction, Acceptance of Necessity for 49 more ships and submarines has been obtained. These include seven more follow-on ships of the Shivalik Class, under Project 17-A, which are to be built at both MDL, Mumbai and GRSE, Kolkata and we are working towards contract conclusion in the current financial year. Contracts for four water-jet FACs, to be built at GRSE, Kolkata, one more training ship, to be built at a private shipyard and two mine hunters to be built in South Korea are likely to be concluded during the current financial year. Six more mine hunters will be subsequently built at Goa Shipyard under ToT. Options for the Deep Submergence and Rescue vessel (DSRV) are presently undergoing technical evaluation. In addition, approval for construction of six submarines under Project -75(I) is at the final stages of approval. Requests for Proposals in respect of four LPDs, 16 shallow water ASW ships – the order being split between two shipyards, one survey training vessel and two diving support vessels will also be issued in the coming months.

The Indian Navy’s preferred choice of inducting ships and submarines has always been through the indigenous route. Today, of the 46 ships and submarines presently on order, 43 are from Indian shipyards. The intended induction programme is structured to continue at a pace such that over the next five years we expect to induct ships and submarines at an average rate of 5 platforms per year provided the yards deliver as per contracted timelines. At the same time it would be amiss if I did not emphasize the need for our public and private sector shipyards to scale up their capabilities to deliver state-of-the-art warships that meet our future needs in time frames that match global standards. To offer a perspective, the global average for building a ship similar to a Delhi Class is about 36 months, that too with a stringent cap on man days. These are the standards that our shipyards must emulate so as to contain costs of ship building. This would result in higher productivity and capacity utilisation. The provisions of the Defence Procurement Procedures to ‘Buy and Make Indian’ must be adopted to synergize capabilities and implement leapfrogging technologies. The Navy’s forthcoming LPD programme is a unique opportunity in this context.

There are three ships are under construction in Russia. These include two more ships of the follow-on Talwar class, being built at Yantar Shipyard in Kalingrad, with one scheduled for induction later this year and the other next year. The third ship, of course, is the Vikramaditya, which is currently undergoing sea trials. On the 28th of last month the aviation trials involving the operations of the Mig 29 K from the deck of that ship commenced. Machinery trials are also well underway. As you may appreciate, there is hectic work underway here in India, to receive the ship with all the infrastructure support that would be required to be provided to the aircraft carrier.

On the aviation front too, progress has been a source of satisfaction. The Navy’s aviation assets are being modernised and augmented in consonance with the long term vision of the Navy. In order to maintain effective vigil and surveillance in our area of interest, eight of the world’s most advanced, state-of-the-art P-8I Poseidon, long-range maritime patrol aircraft are due to be inducted commencing early 2013. In addition, eight Medium Range Maritime Reconnaissance (MRMR) aircraft are also planned for induction. Procurement of additional Unmanned Aerial Vehicles is being progressed to further augment our surveillance and reconnaissance capability at sea.

I have already mentioned about the most significant aviation acquisition over the past three years - the carrier borne MiG-29K fighters. These aircraft will significantly enhance the Indian Navy’s strike capability. The first batch has already been inducted and delivery of aircraft from the follow-on contract will commence later this year.

The rotary wing assets of the Navy are also being upgraded to induct state-of-the-art weapons, sensors and avionics. These include upgradation of the Kamov 28 and Seaking 42B. The new inductions amongst the helicopters include the Multi-role Helicopters (MRH) for fleet ships. In addition, the Naval Utility Helicopter is also planned for induction by 2016 and the Request for Proposal should get issued any time now.

In sum, the modernization of the Indian Navy is firmly on track. This has been possible as the Navy has ensured 100% outgo of its capital budget over the past three years, and today our Capital to Revenue ratio stands at a very healthy ratio of 68:32.

Indian Boomer Arihant For Sea Trials Soon

India's first indigenous nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine Arihant will commence sea trials "in the coming months", Navy chief Admiral Nirmal Verma said today. "We're pretty close to putting her to sea. In submarine design, there's an element of unpredictablity. It's a hugely complex exercise. Sometimes, unexpected problems do come up. But I can say that in the next few months, she'll be ready for sea trials," he said. Separately, late last month, the Prime Minister gave away awards for indigenous technological excellence, which included one to DRDL scientist A.K. Chakrabarti for his "outstanding contributions in the successful development of the first Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile System (SLBM) for the nuclear powered platform ‘ARIHANT’."

Photo / DPR Defence

New Look Indian Marine Commandos

Another great picture of the Indian Navy's Marine Commandos in their slick new kit. Scoped this picture at Navy chief Admiral Nirmal Verma's farewell press conference today. My network colleague and friend, Gautam Datt, defence correspondent at Mail Today, recently did this piece about the new look, first revealed at the commissioning of India's new stealth frigate INS Sahyadri last month. The Navy says the new look, under tests until recently, is now officially being introduced in phases.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

First Indian C-17 Comes Together

The first Indian Air Force C-17 Globemaster III, which came together in a 'major join' ceremony today at Longbeach, California, will make its first flight in December this year. Was a fun event -- Indian Embassy, senior Indian Air Force and local politicians noisily drove ceremonial rivets into the aircraft to consecrate the 'major join' milestone.

Ambassador N. Parthasarathi, Consul General of India, San Francisco said, “This momentous occasion, where we see India’s first C-17 take shape, further strengthens our growing relationship. As India strives to become a global reservoir of highly skilled and technologically sophisticated manpower, we will witness an escalating technology transfer, collaborative joint research and development, and co-production of defense items between our two countries.”

The guy I enjoyed listening to more was Congressman Dana Rohrabacher who subjected Pakistan to a tonguelashing, saying the Indian C-17 deal represented a step towards a joint fight against 'radical Islam' and Pakistan's support of it (I've got his brief speech on video, and will upload it shortly). It stirred things up a bit in what was otherwise a light, formal affair :), also attended by India's Air Attache Air Commodore Sanjay Nimesh.

The first of the ten Indian C-17s will be delivered to India in May-June 2013. All ten aircraft will be delivered by the end of 2014 and will be based out of Hindan Air Force Station on Delhi's outskirts. The C-17 contract, worth $4.116-billion, does not have a formal options clause, though the IAF is contemplating contracting for 6-10 more aircraft once deliveries begin next year. For Boeing's only big military airplane facility, it's a precarious situation. The C-17 line will proceed to shut down by the end of 2014, which gives the IAF a fairly brief window to decide on follow-on orders. The IAF C-17 factors only a few small changes to the one being supplied to the USAF -- these, presumably, are communications and CISMOA-protected equipment.

A batch of 20 IAF pilots and 10 loadmasters are currently undergoing contractual training at Altus, Oklahoma with the USAF.

VIDEO: First Indian C-17 Comes Together