Monday, 18 February 2013

India may consider going back to Russia to acquire a new VVIP chopper fleet

Russia may end up the big winner if India’s cancellation of the Rs.3,760-crore helicopter contract with AgustaWestland goes through.

Top air force sources said India would consider going back to Russia to acquire a new VVIP fleet to replace its ageing Russian-made Mi-8 choppers of 1970s vintage, due to be phased out next year. A fresh global tender may not be floated as this could delay the process by seven to eight years, as reported by HT on Saturday.

All military purchases have to be made through competitive bidding. However, switching to a new vendor, Russia in this case, would not require tendering as this would be considered a “follow-on” order since India has already booked 80 Mi-17 V5 choppers. More than 20 of these have already been inducted.

“The air force can’t afford to wait another seven years. The Mi-8s, modified for VVIP use in India, were upgraded in 2009-10 to keep them flying till 2014. We have no choice but to turn to the Russians if we are to maintain a VVIP fleet in the current scenario,” a source said.

India ordered 80 Mi-17 V5 helicopters from Russia in 2008 for $1.4 billion ( Rs.7,700 crore). The follow-on clause was invoked to buy 59 more choppers for $1 billion ( Rs. 5,500 crore). That order could be expanded.

“The Mi-17 V5s can be upgraded in India for VVIP requirements as was done with the Mi-8s,” the source said.

The air force has been operating the Mi-17 platform since 1986.

The contract with AgustaWestland, a subsidiary of Italian defence group Finmeccanica, for 12 choppers was signed in February 2010 and three choppers have been delivered.

But allegations that the firm paid more than Rs. 375 crore in kickbacks have prompted the government in the last few days to initiate action to cancel the deal and announce a CBI probe.

This is a big setback to the IAF since the proposal to replace the Mi-8s — considered unsafe beyond 2,000 metres — was made a good 14 years ago.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

CBI hasn’t cracked any defence scandal in last 30 years

With a legacy of an extremely poor track record in probing defence scandals, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has a golden opportunity to redeem its image with the VVIP helicopter scandal.
Over the last three decades, the CBI has registered and probed several defence scandals. But a clinical examination would show that the federal investigator has failed to crack almost all of these cases. In fact, it has closed some of these cases even without filing a chargesheet.

The only case in which the agency was able to significantly establish at least a part of the cash trail was in the Bofors scandal, but even in that case there were no convictions. In fact, flip-flops by the CBI were very stark through the entire investigation, drawing allegations of political manipulations. In February 2007, when Ottavio Quattrocchi, the key accused in the scandal, was arrested in Argentina, the CBI put up a half-hearted effort and India failed to extradite him.

The HDW scandal, in which the German company inadvertently admitted to the Indian embassy in Germany that it paid 7% commission to agents, was closed by the CBI without a chargesheet. The CBI and income tax authorities had raided former navy chief Admiral S M Nanda, who led the Navy during the Bangladesh liberation war in 1971, among others.

After tapes by the Tehelka magazine emerged, the CBI filed several FIRs in 2006-07 and also later. The most famous was the Barak missile scandal, in which the FIR had named among others former defence minister George Fernandes and former navy chief Admiral Sushil Kumar.
Admiral Kumar used RTI to later prove that some of the claims of the CBI in its FIR were patently false. It turned out that the CBI relied heavily on information provided by some DRDO scientists.
In the FIR filed in 2007 into the upgunning of artillery guns, the CBI had accused the Israeli firm Soltam of paying bribes to, among others, arms dealer Sudhir Choudhrie. The agency filed a closure report in 2010 saying the payments received by Choudhrie’s firm MITCO from Soltam was for “electric and non-electric stainless steel kitchen utensils”.

The CBI has recently filed a chargesheet against Abshishek Verma and his wife Anca Neacsu for violation of the Official Secrets Act. However, its investigation against Verma for receiving half a million dollars from Rheinmetall to assist it in getting out of blacklisting is still under investigation.
The CBI has also recently chargesheeted Suresh Nanda and others, but in a separate bribery case.
The CBI failure to nail arms-dealers, especially in tracking down movement of kickbacks, is the biggest problem. It is a fact that arms deal kickbacks are moved through tax havens, where real owners of firms and beneficiaries hide behind several layers of secrecy.

No case filed as no Indian involved yet, says CBI

The CBI sources on Saturday claimed that they have not registered a case in the AgustaWestland deal scam yet because they have not been given a complaint against any Indian, in the primary complaint given by the defence ministry three days ago. As bizarre as it may sound, the agency wants allegations or complaints against an Indian citizen or an Indian agency/company in the matter.
Meanwhile, a joint team of the CBI and the ministry of defence (MoD) is likely to leave for Italy on Sunday to probe the alleged kickbacks in the Rs 3,600 crore VVIP helicopter deal. CBI sources said the team will meet Italian prosecutors to ascertain the details of the case. The sources said two members of CBI comprising a DIG-level officer and a law officer besides officers from MoD will be a part of the team.

The decision by the CBI came as it virtually drew a blank from the MoD in getting some official inputs regarding to alleged kickbacks in the case, official sources said. The CBI was handed over a letter from the MoD seeking a probe by it in the case which has triggered a storm in the country. Attached with the letter were some Indian and Italian press clippings, which the CBI said could not form the basis for registering a case.

The CBI had sought the help of the Indian mission in Rome which too has not been able to provide any authenticated court documents to the agency, sources said.

Monday, 11 February 2013

BrahMos Cruise Missile Not Bound By MTCR, Range Can Be Extended Beyond 300

Clarified the 'Father of BrahMos' Missile, Dr. Sivathanu Pillai.

His statement,

"See, it is a joint venture and Russia is a signatory to the MTCR. So, we have to honour our partnership. So the whole design was adopted for 300 kilometres, but it does not stop you to do a flight of your own, when it is deployed to go for more range. The Cruise Missiles, they do not find a place in the MTCR. If you see the MTCR, its all on the Ballistic Missiles or Weapons of Mass Destruction [WMD]. Here we are not Nuclear. There are no Nuclear payload. It s a high precision, tactical missile. So, always the opportunity is there. It can be done."

It, IMHO, is a wasted effort trying to speculate possible development of a 300+ km Indo-Russian BrahMos, considering that there exists a completely indigenous programme to develop a long-range Land-Attack Cruise Missile [LACM], Nirbhay, whose maiden test is scheduled to occur this month. It is much more conceivable for the Nirbhay project to fork, or evolve into a supersonic variant of this long-range missile. There very much exists a case for a land-launched Cruise Missile of ~300 km range, especially for deployment on the country's western borders. Faster it traverses the distance, better. Hence a Hypersonic version of the missile, the Brahmos II.

Coming back to Dr. Pillai's statement, it is important to note that while speaking of extended range, he cleverly mentions, "when it is deployed". He is quite clearly implying after the missile, being a non-nuclear system, for tactical aims, is in the possession of the Armed Forces. BrahMos came into being through a bilateral agreement between two civilian organisations - India's Defence Research and Development Organisation [DRDO] & Russia's NPO Mashinostroyeniya. Moreover there exists no provision for post-sales inspection of the goods once sold. Thus any changes made, subsequently, to the missile would be the sole responsibility of the military. Such development would give the joint venture sufficient room to argue that they broke no laws, since the missiles had been handed to the end-user in compliant configurations. Assuming its 298 km range is defined while it travels through its most optimum trajectory, the fact that the missile can be made to go further, if deemed necessary, had been acknowledged earlier. The point of debate was on whose watch - not of its developer's though, as Dr. Pillai clarified.

As for Dr. Pillai's contention that Cruise Missiles do not come under the ambit of MTCR, I'm still digging around trying to figure out when their guidelines started explicitly mentioning Cruise Missiles, since the regime was indeed originally aimed at restricting transfer of long-range Ballistic Missiles. If you have the answer, do get in touch. Lacking conclusive data, I'm speculating it was sometime after 1993, when the BrahMos was mooted. So conception of a 300+ km Cruise Missile, then, should not have violated MTCR. Moreover, this issue is moot given India's dual Cruise Missile program, that should discount development of the BrahMos into something that would violate the broadest definitions of the MTCR. Cruise Missiles, as mentioned in current documents,

"Complete unmanned aerial vehicle systems (including cruise missile systems, target drones and reconnaissance drones) capable of delivering at least a 500 kg "payload" to a "range" of at least 300 km."

The MTCR itself, being a voluntary grouping, has not been immune to periodic violations by its signatories. Interesting how the French+British made their deal with UAE to supply Storm Shadow Cruise Missiles appear conforming to the MTCR1. By a similar argument, then, one can define the BrahMos as a 29 kilometres range system. It was only at its 2002 plenary session, where signatories defined how a missile's range was to be calculated - by "using the most fuel-efficient flight profile (e.g. cruise speed and altitude)". Even after this, when its a matter of commercial interests, it still hasn't stopped signatories from thumbing the control regime in its nose. As to why the Indo-Russian consortium is unlikely to follow suite, I see no strategic imperatives for them to draw adverse attention to this venture. The BrahMos development is quite well-placed to fulfil specific requirements, even while it honours MTCR. For your other requirements, you have the Nirbhay.
Do watch his talk. Uses the BrahMos as a case-study to explain the evolution of a concept into a product - mind to market, he calls it. Someone must do a CGI showing IAF Flankers launching the BrahMos - while talking of integrating the missile to the Su-30MKI, his footage shows a BrahMos-armed Russian Su-34, an aircraft type not serving with the IAF. An underwater pontoon-launched test of the BrahMos is scheduled for 2013, he mentions in one of his slides. This would lead to its eventual integration with a submarine. Interesting.



"Although indigenous development or modification of LACMs by a Third World state is the most likely means by which such a state could obtain a cruise missile capability, acquisition of complete LACM systems from an MTCR member has become a worrisome possibility. The case of the Black Shaheen LACM epitomizes this threatening trend.

The UAE was able to do exactly that when it announced the purchase of the Black Shaheen variant of the Apache LACM in 1998 from the Anglo-French consortium Matra-BAe-Dynamics (MBD). Despite diplomatic protests from the United States and lengthy discussions in MTCR plenary meetings, the first of an undisclosed number of Black Shaheens was to be delivered to the UAE in 2003 or 2004. This questionable sale stems from the ambiguities surrounding determining the 300 km/500 kg threshold established by the MTCR. Britain and France calculated the range of the Black Shaheen at sea level, where the range of the missile is 300 km when carrying a 450 kg warhead. The United States calculated the range of the Black Shaheen using a flight profile at an altitude above sea level and determined that the missile clearly violated the 300 km/500 kg threshold level set by Category I of the...."


IAF's Iron Fist will shock and awe


Some live display of India's growing military might is in the offing as the Indian Air Force combat jets will off-load bombs in the Rajasthan desert demonstrating its "shock and awe" capabilities while the defence scientists will attempt two new missiles versions in the coming days.

Supersonic cruise missile BrahMos will be fired from underwater and sub-sonic Nirbhay with strategic capability will be tested for the first time this month.

In the IAF's exercise Iron Fist, which will begin on February 15, fire power demonstration will be held in the Pokhran range close to the Indo-Pakistan border.

Bombs will be dropped day and night by all the variants of fighters in the inventory ranging from the Jaguars to Mirage-2000s and the formidable Su-30 MKIs.

While the IAF will be concentrating its energies in the west, defence scientists have planned an underwater launch of BrahMos cruise missile near the eastern coast.

The missile is meant to be integrated with the navy's new submarines that will be built under project 75 India which, incidentally, hasn't taken off. The missile has been installed on frontline warships.

The DRDO scientists said the first trial of sub-sonic cruise missile Nirbhay will be conducted later this month.

The medium range cruise missile is tipped to have advanced technology with a special loitering feature and capability to fly extremely low to avoid radar detection. Sources said the loitering feature meant that the missile will wait for its target after being fired.

Earlier this week, DRDO chief V.K. Saraswat had claimed that work has started on the key strategic missile Agni VI, capable of carrying multiple warheads.

A long range underwater launched ballistic missile K-4 is also learnt to be in the advanced stages.

Details of some ToT's that are being negotiated in India's MMRCA program

Transfer Of Some Critical Technology Being Negotiated For As Part Of India's MMRCA Contract
The upwards of $10 billion USD deal with France for the acquisition of the Rafale fighter aircraft would involve local assembly, manufacturing offsets & Transfer of Technology [ToT].

This screenshot of the presentation slide, used by HAL's Chairman, during his talk at the Aero India 2013 International Seminar shows some of the critical technologies & sub-systems for which India is negotiating with France to be included as part of its Rafale acquisition.

In its mind, India would want France to hand over all the technologies used, with no restrictions on where it applies them subsequently. Realistically, it would start off with a position, whereby some hardware sub-systems could come directly from France, some that would be assembled in the country, sourcing the components & raw materials from original vendors, while some in which France would have to part with sufficient information for India to be in a position to make those components/sub-systems completely independent of French involvement, save for its certification - ToT. This position would be challenged by the French who'd be willing to offer less, asking for more. This back and forth would continue till they reach a mutually agreeable position, upon which the contract would be signed. Even after receiving the ToT, contractual obligation would dictate whether the same tech or manufacturing process could be applied in other projects - the case in point being the ToT received for growing Single Crystal Blades [SCB] used in the twin AL-31FP Turbofan engines powering the IAF's Sukhoi Su-30 MKIs1. While SCBs are being made for the Flanker engines, the Kaveri has not been able to reap the benefits.

With respect to the MMRCA contract too, as understood from the Chairman's response to a query, he does not seem very hopeful about France permitting spin-off use of any ToT for other Indian projects - contractual agreement is yet to be signed. Whatever may be the case, the fact remains that MMRCA agreement would bring in technologies and capabilities, however may its extent, that are currently absent within the country. It is therefore up to its new end-users to figure how best to leverage it to leapfrog and make up for lost time, and not let it become a 1:1 affair.

HAL-UAC Multirole Transport Aircraft Schematics