Wednesday, 17 December 2014

India's Heaviest Launch Vehicle GSLV Mk.III with Unmanned Crew Module

ISRO's most powerful launcher ever, GSLV Mk-III rolls out from the Vehicle Assembly Building to the launch pad for its Experimental Flight slated later in this month.
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Integration of the passive C25 Cryogenic Upper Stage with L110 liquid Core Stage in Progress at Vehicle Assembly Building

The passive C25 Cryogenic Upper Stage being hoisted at Vehicle Assembly Building

The partially integrated vehicle with S200 Strap-ons and L110 Core Stage outside the Vehicle Assembly Building

L110 Liquid Core Stage being prepared at Stage Preparation Facility

The core second stage of GSLV-Mk III, with 110 tonnes of liquid propellants, just before it was flagged off on Friday from the Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre (LPSC), Mahendragiri, Tamil Nadu.

The two S200 Strap-ons during the integration of the vehicle

Original GSLV Mk.III Mockup (Old Pic - 2012)

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Monday, 8 December 2014

Work-Share, Design Sorted, Final FGFA, MTA Agreements & A Mini BrahMos On The Table During Putin's Visit Next Week

After a preliminary agreement between India and Russia were signed in 2010, a final agreement on the fifth generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) was expected to be signed in July-August 2012, but got delayed as the Indian Air Force (IAF) did not approve the FGFA's single-seat design and also the work-share of 18%-82%, but now Russia has reportedly agreed on the 25%-75% work share between India & Russia, therefore the agreement is likely to be signed during Russian President V Putin's visit to India on December 10-11th. Also Russia has agreed on the two-seat demand of the IAF on the FGFA. The FGFA will have the BrahMos and the Indian-made Astra missiles.

The 200 FGFAs will be built at a cost of $30 billion.

Other agreements on the table are the MTA and BrahMos export.

The MTA, which will eventually replace the An-32, was signed in 2007, but negligible Indian participation in it has delayed the signing of the final agreement, also coupled with design, development and work-share problems, much like FGFA. The $600 million project for 205 planes(both for cargo & troop transportation)  - 100 for the Russian Air Force, 45 for IAF and 60 more for exporting to friendly countries, was expected to fly by 2015, but has been delayed.

The international market for MTA is estimated at 390 planes. Under the agreement, thirty percent of the annual production of planes could be exported to third countries. 

A BrahMos mini-missile agreement is expected to be signed during Putin's visit.The new missile  will be half of the present missile in length, will have a speed of 3.5 mach, will be able to carry a payload of 300, upto a range of 290 kms, and can be integrated on submarines and the FGFA, and will be inducted into service in 2017. A tripartite agreement between DRDO, NPOM lab and BrahMos is expected to be signed during Putin's visit.

Monday, 1 December 2014

BEL Completes Akash Air Defence System Firing Trials Successfully

Firing trials of the Akash Air Defence System, designed and developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and manufactured by Navratna defence PSU Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL), were conducted successfully at the Integrated Test Range, Balasore, Odisha, from November 17 to 22, 2014.

The Akash Air Defence system has been designed to defend and protect the nation’s assets from penetrating  aerial attacks. The Akash missile can fly at supersonic speed. 

At the latest firing trials, the systems were tested successfully under extreme flight condition of near boundary low altitude, far boundary high altitude and multi-target, multi-missile scenario. The flight trials were carried out on unmanned aerial target Banshee jet and para-flares. The targets were repeatedly destroyed by the Akash Missile System. This is the last in the series of flight trials carried out on the production version of the Akash Air Defence System for the Indian Air Force to validate complete intercept envelope of the Air Defence System.

The firing exercise was conducted under the able leadership of Outstanding Scientist, Mr G Chandramouli, Project Director, Akash, DRDL, and senior officers of the Indian Air Force. BEL’s team of engineers participated and steered the critical flight exercises. 
The Akash Missile System is an all-weather, point / area air defence weapon system for defending vulnerable areas / points against medium range targets penetrating from low, medium and high altitudes.

BEL is involved in the manufacture and integration of highly complex and sophisticated Ground Radars for Surveillance and tracking and control centers for the Akash Air Defence System. The missile guidance and air defence functions such as classification, threat evaluation, prioritization and missile launch are automated with manual over-ride. 

The Akash missile utilizes an integral rocket-ramjet propulsion system to provide thrust till intercept. A digital onboard computer enables automated mission sequencing and the embedded digital autopilot ensures flight stability and missile maneuvering. The onboard command guidance unit receives coded digital information from the Radar which is used for steering the missile towards the target. 

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

'Defence Deals To Be Transparent, Faster' - New Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar's First Day In Office

Shri Manohar Parrikar holding a meeting with the senior officials of the Ministry and Armed Forces after taking charge as new Defence Minister, in New Delhi on November 10, 2014. The Minister of State for Defence, Rao Inderjit Singh, the Defence Secretary, Shri R.K. Mathur, the Secretary (Defence Production), Shri G Mohan Kumar, the Secretary Ex-Servicemen Welfare, Shri Prabhudayal Meena, the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha, the Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral R.K. Dhowan and the Chief of Army Staff, General Dalbir Singh are also seen. 
Shri Manohar Parrikar interacting with the media after taking charge as new Defence Minister, in New Delhi on November 10, 2014. The DG (Media & Communication), Ministry of Defence, Shri Sitanshu Kar is also seen

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Why India needs to rethink the Rafale deal

Why India needs to rethink the Rafale deal

Fighter planes fall into two categories – the hunters and the hunted. The French are pitching their Rafale as the dogfight duke that is the crème de la crème of jet fighters. But the Russian side disagrees. Alexander Kadakin, Russia's ambassador in India, says Chinese-made Sukhoi-27s would be able to swat the Rafales like “mosquitoes on an August night.”
At this point it’s pointless to deliver the verdict on which aircraft is superior. The Rafale is a largely unknown commodity in aviation circles. Like most French fighters, it is most likely an unassuming, unspectacular but honest aircraft.
But what Kadakin left unsaid is ominous. First up, he said the hundreds of Su-27 Flankers supplied by Moscow to Beijing are much less advanced than the Flankers in India’s inventory. Now forget the Su-27 for a while and let’s talk about the two squadrons of the latest Su-35 Super Flanker that Russia has cleared for sale to China. This new iteration is a huge advancement over the already potent Su-27. If the aircraft's stupendous performance at the 2014 Paris Air Show is any indication then the Rafale is likely to fare even worse against the Su-35.
Costing dogfight
To be sure, the most significant aspect of the Rafale deal is the cost. Originally pegged at $10 billion, the size of the deal has climbed to a stratospheric $30 billion. So instead of bolstering the country’s air power, the Rafale is threatening to blow a gaping hole in India’s overstretched defence budget.
India may the third largest economy on the planet but in the backdrop of numerous projects requiring bucket loads of cash, New Delhi can’t afford to splurge on weapons, especially when alternatives are available for far less.
The IAF’s requirement of 126 aircraft can be quickly met – at a fraction of the cost of the Rafale – by inducting more numbers of the technologically superior Su-30s, which the IAF described as its “air dominance fighter,” and which is being produced at Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL).
Each Indian made Su-30 costs approximately $75 million per unit. So if the IAF goes for 126 of them, the total cost will come to under $10 billion, which coincidentally is the originally envisaged amount. Plus, the Sukhois will provide more bang for the buck. “These aircraft will be the high end of India’s air power, and can be expected to remain in the force past 2030, and are competitive with or superior to top-end European fighters and American F-15 variants,” says Defense Industry Daily.
Another option is to buy more of the – even more cheaper – MiG-29, which is the mainstay of India’s interceptor force, and which had shattered the morale of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) during the 1999 Kargil War.
With the $20 billion or so saved, India can import leading edge aviation technology – from France, Russia, Germany or even the US to beef up its military aviation. With manufacturing declining in the US and Europe and thousands of defence sector jobs facing the axe, western engineers would be more than happy to work in India.
There is a precedent in this area. After 1991 when elite Soviet weapons engineers and scientists found their jobs gone, many of them found work at Chinese and South Korean companies – both military and civilian. Russian scientists and engineers ended up transforming the defence sector in both these Asian countries.
India too needs to tread the same path. Hiring unemployed or underemployed European defence sector workers would cut the development time frame of Indian defence projects. In fact, even Pakistan has a tenuous Russian connection. An administrator of Pakistan’s Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission from 1967 to 1970 was Polish aeronautical engineer air commodore Wladyslaw Turowicz. Born in Siberia, the Pole made significant contributions to Pakistan’s missile programme as an aeronautical engineer.
That brings up the third option. India’s homemade Tejas light combat aircraft (LCA) is being fielded in limited numbers, and further development can easily make it a world class fighter. India can then produce scores of LCAs costing around $40 million – for the IAF. For decades, China has adopted this policy of having hundreds of obsolete aircraft because “quantity has a quality all its own”.
Sending LCAs swarming into Pakistani air space would completely overwhelm that country’s defences. In effect, the Tejas fleet would kick the door in, allowing the Sukhois to pulverise targets with the supersonic BrahMos cruise missiles.
The LCA could even become the military equivalent of India’s $2000 TATA Nano car, for which there was a waiting list in Sri Lanka. Similarly, the LCA could be the ideal export aircraft to small countries with limited budgets. Aircraft such as the Su-30, MiG-29 and F-18 are too expensive and too big for the use of such nations. India could be the first to market a no-frills fighter.
Why Rafale?
When the MMRCA tender was floated over a decade ago, it seemed like a good idea. One, it was aimed at lowering India’s overwhelming dependence on Russia for advanced weapons.
Secondly, India wanted to acquire a medium aircraft that would fill the gap between the low-end LCA and the premium Sukhois.
The third reason was to shore up the IAF's depleting fighter fleet. The IAF’s sanctioned strength is 39.5 squadrons (an IAF combat squadron consists of 18 aircraft in service with another 3-4 in maintenance) but its current fleet is down to 34 squadrons. The air force says it requires 44 squadrons to meet a full-scale war with Pakistan, while also maintaining "a dissuasive posture" against China.
Earlier this year, the IAF told a Parliamentary standing committee on defence that a "collusive threat" from China and Pakistan would be difficult for it to handle. This was played up by the media, which failed to see the fine print: the IAF admitted (in the same statement) China may not pose “a collusive threat” if hostilities were to break out between India and Pakistan.
Indeed, why would the Chinese team up with a rapidly balkanizing Pakistan and attack a fellow BRICS member? It is not only counterintuitive but also a ridiculous idea.
As for the threat from Pakistan, it is really a joke. The arrival of the MiG-29 and the Sukhoi-30 in the 1990s has given the IAF a fearsome qualitative advantage over the PAF. This edge was demonstrated during the 1999 Kargil War. While a number of IAF aircraft took part in that campaign, it was the cover provided by the MiG-29 that spooked – and demoralised – the PAF pilots.
Says Strategy Page in a report dated May 20, 2005: “While PAF fighters did fly Combat Air Patrols (CAP) during the conflict, they stayed well within Pakistani air space. On occasions, IAF MiG-29s armed with the deadly R-77 BVR air-to-air missiles were able to lock on to PAF F-16s, forcing the latter to disengage.”
So scared were the Pakistani pilots of the Indian MiGs that the “PAF simply refused to play any part” in the war.
In the report “Airpower at 18,000 feet: IAF in the Kargil War” published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in 2012, Benjamin Lambeth says the Pakistani F-16s “typically maintained a safe distance of 10 to 20 miles on the Pakistani side of the LoC”.
Qualitatively, the IAF is on an upward curve. In fact, in an interview to the media in 2012, former air force chief N.A.K. Browne gave the lie to the claim that the IAF was becoming weaker. According to Browne, the IAF is replacing older MiG-21s with Su-30s. He said once older aircraft are replaced with brand new Sukhois the IAF will have “far greater capability than even what we have today”.
If India and France sort out the numerous issues dogging the MMRCA deal and a contract is signed this year, then the first 18 Rafales will arrive from France in 2016. If all goes smoothly, the rest of the 102 aircraft could start rolling off HAL’s assembly lines by 2018.
But here’s the rub: around 2020 Sukhoi’s stealth fighter, the PAK-FA, in which India is a junior partner, will be ready to join the IAF. Why India is committing itself to a stopgap aircraft is mysterious.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Indian Army commanders to meet to discuss Afghanistan

Outgoing army chief General Bikram Singh will take stock of impact drawdown of Allied forces from Afghanistan and possible measures to counter threat arising from that country with his top commanders during Army Commanders Conference, scheduled to begin from next Monday in New Delhi.

Defence minister AK Antony, who has the distinction of being the longest-serving defence minister of the country, will also address the top commanders for the last time in UPA-II government.
According to army, the security as well as intelligence agencies are keeping a close watch on the developments in trouble-torn fragile Afghanistan. And especially after pullout of US led allied forces from there by the end of 2014.

"Various operational and strategic issues will be discussed during the five-day-long conference. Developments in neighboring countries especially Afghanistan will also be part of the discussion,"said an officer.

Keeping in view of drawdown of US-led forces from Afghanistan in 2014, Indian Army is also providing training to Afghanistan National Army (ANA). According to to army, Army is targeting to train about 1100 Afghan troops by the end of 2014, as compared to 574 personnel training in last year. Though New Delhi has not decided on the request of Afghanistan government to provide them lethal weapons, but they are considering an option send first batch of Indian experts and officers to Afghanistan to give training to ANA in their backyard and their home conditions. Training in their locations and terrain would given them an edge as compared to training here in Indian conditions.

Five day Army Commanders Conference, beginning from April 21, will also discuss security situation in Jammu and Kashmir and the issue of incursions by Chinese troops in Indian territory.

The issue of incursion by the Chinese troops along the Line of Actual Control is expected to come up for discussion, Army officials said.

The Indian side will also discuss the issues to be raised by the Director General of Military Operations (DGMO) during the delegation-level parleys with his Chinese counterpart starting April 23.

The LAC has seen several incidents of face-offs between Indian and Chinese troops and the two sides have signed a border pact recently to avoid the possibility of a flare-up between their troops while carrying out patrolling.

Meanwhile, the meeting is also expected to take up the security situation in Jammu and Kashmir and the expected rise in infiltration and activities by terrorists in the coming months.

India to pay Russia for arms, ammo it sells to Afghanistan

Ahead of NATO troops downsizing their presence in Afghanistan, India has firmed up a far-reaching deal with Russia to supply arms to the troubled country under which New Delhi will pay for the military equipment that will be sourced from Moscow.
The deal, which had been under intense negotiations for the past few months, was clinched after a high-level Indian team made a quiet trip to Moscow in February and stitched up the loose ends even as Russia was bracing for the challenge in Ukraine.
The first order under this deal, sources said, is already being executed.
India, through the strategic partnership with Afghanistan, is committed to provide arms and ammunition to strengthen the Afghan National Army. The arrangement with Moscow allows New Delhi to fulfill this commitment, an issue on which Kabul has been sending reminders including detailed lists of its requirements.
The issue was debated at length on various occasions in the Cabinet Committee on Security, which eventually arrived at two conclusions — that India will have no troop presence in Afghanistan; and that India will not provide small arms even though some are manufactured domestically.
The logic behind the second decision was to avoid a situation where any India-marked small arms make their way into Kashmir or to the hinterland through terrorist outfits.
While Russia may separately supply its own range of Kalashnikovs, the Indian financing will largely focus on artillery guns, air support in the form of choppers and even armoured vehicles, including tanks.
A range of non-lethal items could also make it to the list depending on the nature of the requirement. Also part of the arrangement is an exercise to refit some old Russian-made equipment lying with Afghanistan for years, sources said, adding that a survey of such equipment has been carried out.
As of now, the ANA is a predominantly infantry force as the US, sources said, limited its access to long-range guns largely due to Pakistani concerns. But over the past of couple of years, Afghanistan has been pressuring countries such as India and Russia to properly equip the ANA if it has to repel Taliban offensives on its own.
On the training front, the Indian position remains the same. While trying to meet Afghan demands for more seats here, the government is still against setting up any facility in Afghanistan and posting instructors there. Sources pointed out that any such move may also invite strong Pakistani protests.
Besides, India has also held preliminary conversations with China on jointly improving the connectivity infrastructure in Afghanistan’s mining belt so that the resources can be better exploited. Both countries already have interests in specific mining projects and are looking to expand their presence, which would aid Afghanistan’s economy.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

India, Japan meeting on amphibious aircraft deal in Tokyo

India will discuss procurement of the Japanese US-2 amphibious aircraft during the working-level meeting between the two sides in Tokyo on Wednesday.

The meeting comes soon after Japan removed its self-imposed ban on exporting defence equipment to other countries.

India and Japan have been discussing the sale of these aircraft for quite some time now but the talks were held up as Japan was expressing unwillingness to sell defence equipment along with the planes, defence officials said here.

The first meeting of the Joint Working Group was held in December in India on the proposed sale of the amphibious aircraft required by the Navy to look after its island territories in Andaman and Nicobar and Lakshadweep.

As per Japan's new policy on defence equipment sale, it will prohibit the export of weapons to countries involved in conflicts. 

Vikrant sold to ship-breaker for Rs. 63.2 crore

The Navy last week sold the iconic INS Vikrant to a ship-breaking company here for Rs. 63.2 crore. The decommissioned aircraft carrier, which played a major role in the 1971 war and was retired in 1997, is now the property of IB Commercial Private Ltd.

INS Vikrant (formerly HMS Hercules) was purchased by India from the United Kingdom in 1957. It was operated from 1961 to 1997. (The other INS Vikrant is an Indian-built aircraft carrier which was launched in 2013.)

“As soon as we learnt that the ship was being auctioned, we bid for it. It is a prominent ship and we will move it out of the Mumbai harbour in the next 15 days,” manager Teslim Pavaskar told The Hindu on Tuesday.

The company plans to scrap it at the Darukhana ship-breaking yard here. Under the sale contract, the company should tow the ship out of the harbour in a month’s time.
A Defence Ministry source said the deal was in the nation’s interest. “The option of converting Vikrantinto a museum was not economically viable as it would have cost us around Rs. 500 crore.”

Other sources also said it was not fit enough to be converted into a museum. “The fire-fighting system on the vessel was damaged. Also, it had got rusted and had sustained structural damage,” another source said.

“The berthing-space constraints at the harbour will ease a bit with Vikrant being moved out. Around 700 feet of space will be liberated and this will facilitate navigation of naval vessels in the channel.”

In December 2013, a public interest litigation petition was filed in the Bombay High Court to preserve the ship and convert it into a museum.

But the Defence Ministry replied it was not feasible to convert the ship into a maritime museum. The court then dismissed the petition, and the Ministry set up an advisory board to sell the ship to the highest bidder.

Keywords: INS Vikrant dismantling, HMS Hercules, 1971 war

Vikrant sold to ship-breaker for Rs. 63.2 crore - The Hindu