Thursday, August 28, 2014

Choppers, Tanks, Artillery: Major Indian Arms Deals Likely To Be Cleared Tomorrow

PHOTO /Staff Sgt. Ryan Matson
A handful of high-value defence deals, delayed over the cusp of government change in the country, are likely to come up -- and be cleared -- by India's Defence Ministry tomorrow. The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) meets with a substantial agenda list, that includes deals for 22 Boeing Apache attacks choppers and 15 Boeing Chinook heavy rotorcraft, both deals concluded months ago, but drifting during the change of government.

Additionally, the DAC tomorrow, chaired by Defence Minister Arun Jaitley, will likely clear a chunky deal to medium refit six of the Indian Navy's remaining nine Kilo-class attack submarines with new sonars on three of those, a follow-on deal for 118 indigenous Arjun Mk.2 tanks and 40 Arjun Catapult self-propelled artillery systems.

Significantly, the meeting will also see the Indian Army make a presentation on the all-but-stuck light helicopter competition that's remained adrift for over two years now. The competition for 197 light multirole choppers for the Army and IAF is a fight between Airbus Helicopter and Kamov. Stuck after the AgustaWestland  investigations threw up evidence that an earlier iteration of the light copter competition may have been compromised, the Army is expected to present forward movement on the contract and push for an early call at the Defence Minister's level based on fresh guidelines.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Navy MiG-29Ks Taste Eastern Air Ahead Of New Squadron

Friend and colleague Shivamurthy Gurumath who was down in Visakhapatnam for the INS Kamorta commissioning on Saturday caught these MiG-29Ks at the naval air station there. Turns out a clutch of Ks from the Black Panthers squadron in Goa are ripping it over the eastern sea in preparation for the new squadron that navy intends to raise in the east. The Ks at Goa operate off the INS Vikramaditya. Most of the 37 MiG-29K and 8 MiG-29KUBs have been delivered, with the second order currently being serviced. 

With MiG infrastructure coming up at Vizag's INS Dega naval air station, new MiG-29Ks will progressively be inducted here ahead of full squadron status. The Ks at the Visakhapatnam unit will spend the next few years operating much like the existing INAS 303 jets served ahead of Vikramaditya's arrival. They'll operate from shore until the new Vikrant-class indigenous aircraft carrier enters service, though that's some way off. A report by my colleague Jugal Purohit plays out today on Headlines Today. Will post the link with video pictures of the Ks at Dega.

Friday, August 22, 2014

EXCLUSIVE: Another Peep Into India's Secret Stealth UCAV Project

Pity we don't have a closer look at what's on that screen, but that slide confirms India's secretive UCAV programme is progressing through its feasibility study phase. The photograph here is from March 21, where Dr. Biju Uthup, director of the programme (IUSAV or Indian Unmanned Strike Air Vehicle) is seen making a presentation at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Kanpur as part of the institute's series of talks where academic researchers get a chance to figure how they can contribute to national military or industrial projects.

That picture adds a layer of tantalising (but altered) detail to the images we have of the concept studies on the classified programme so far. The picture appears to be a cutaway, though a more detailed, and shape-altered one compared to these I posted two years ago that first showed how the IUSAV team at the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) was envisioning the craft.

IIT-Kanpur, incidentally, has already begun working on technologies for the IUSAV. More concept images of the IUSAV through the last four years are here, here and here. Last year, DRDO chief Dr Avinash Chander spoke out formally for the first time on the IUSAV in an interview to me.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

First Photo Of India's N-Sub 'Arihant' During Harbour Trials

Indian television station NDTV has scooped this first ever photograph of the country's first indigenous ballistic missile submarine 'Arihant' during the harbour trials in Visakhapatnam. This happens to be only the third photograph of the Arihant in existence, though many journalists (including myself) witnessed the full launch ceremony in 2009.

In August 2009, friend and colleague Sandeep Unnithan scooped the first ever photograph of the Arihant. A year later, I happened to put out the first public photograph of the Arihant here, furtively published by the government in an official document. The photograph above, scooped by NDTV, is only the third.

The Arihant's reactor went critical almost exactly a year ago, since which time the boat has been put through harbour acceptance trials. She'll move out for sea trials later this year.

Monday, August 18, 2014

India's Rustom II UAS Set For Winter Flight Debut

Found this video on a Defexpo 2014 CD that I'd missed in the clutter, showing the Rustom II MALE UAS during low speed taxi trials and engine trials at Kolar, near Bangalore sometime in the September-December 2013 timeframe. (Of course, DRDO goes back to its cringe-worthy PR roots to overlay this video with an elevator version of the Bee Gees' 'How Deep Is Your Love'.) The Rustom-II was to make its debut flight in February this year, but my sources now tell me a winter flight is more likely. Honeywell is on the programme to help refine the aerodynamics as well as advise the ADE on flight testing. Also, a hunt is still on to give the Rustom-II new diesel engines.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

1965 War Veteran? The IAF Wants You.

Good news for mil history buffs: the Indian Air Force has big plans to commemorate veterans next year for the 50th anniversary of the 1965 Indo-Pak war, a war in which the IAF, in many ways, came of age. The IAF has called for 1965 air war veterans and their families to send war photographs (accompanied by text) to the Air Force HQ on

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Indian Destroyer INS Kolkata Enters Service

Couldn't be in Mumbai for this one, sadly, but hope to soon. The first P15A destroyer entered service today, the D63 INS Kolkata. More details and pictures soon. Meanwhile, here's the navy's official statement out a at 14.43HRS:

[The] Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, commissioned INS Kolkata into the Indian Navy at a glittering ceremony held today at the Naval Dockyard, Mumbai. Kolkata is the lead ship of the indigenously designed and constructed Kolkata-class guided missile destroyers, built by Mazagon Dock Limited, Mumbai. On his arrival, the Prime Minister was receivedby Admiral RK Dhowan, Chief of the Naval Staff and accorded a 100-man Guard of Honour, before embarking the ship for the commissioning ceremony, which was conducted in accordance with the traditions of IN.

On this momentous occasion Admiral RK Dhowan welcomed the Prime Minister and expressed his gratitude on behalf of the Navy. During his address the Admiral said that commissioning of INS Kolkata is a milestonein the self-reliance programme of the Navy and stressed that indigenisation ofplatforms, weapons, sensors and equipment, through public as well as privatesectors, will continue to remain a focus area. He emphasized that the ‘Roadmapfor the Navy’s expansion and growth would continue to remain firmly anchored onSelf-reliance and Indigenisation’.

The Project 15A Kolkata class destroyers are follow-on of the legendary Project 15 ‘Delhi’ class destroyers which entered service inthe late 1990s. Conceived and designed by Indian Navy’s Directorate of Naval Design, the ships have been christened after major port cities of India viz. Kolkata, Kochi and Chennai. The keel of Kolkata was laid on 26 Sep 03 and the ship was launched on 30 Mar 06. Regarded as the most potent warship to have been constructed in India yet, this magnificent ship measures 164 meters in length and approximately 18 meters in width and hasa full load displacement of 7400 tonnes. The ship has a Combined Gas and Gas (COGAG) propulsion system, consisting of four powerful reversible gas turbines and can attain speeds in excess of 30 knots. The ship’s electric power isprovided by four gas turbine generators and one diesel alternator, which together produce 4.5 Mega-Watts of electrical power, enough to light up a small town. The ship has a complement of 30 officers and 300 sailors.

INS Kolkata incorporates new design concepts for stealth and has many firsts to her credit, including a very large indigenous combat component. The ship is packed with the most sophisticated state-of-the-art weapons and sensors including the vertically launched Long Range Surface to Air Missiles (LRSAM) coupled with the MF-STAR multi-function active phased array radar, which is fitted for the first time on an Indian Navalship. She is equipped with advanced supersonic and long range BrahMos Surfaceto Surface Missiles – a joint Indo-Russian venture. The 76 mm Super Rapid Gun Mount (SRGM) and AK 630 CIWS, both manufactured indigenously, can take on air and surface targets. The entire anti-submarine weapon and sensor suite fitted on board, consisting of Indigenous Rocket Launchers (IRL), Indigenous Twin-tube Torpedo Launchers (ITTL) and a bow-mounted New Generation HUMSA Sonar are a fine example of our indigenous efforts in the field of underwater warfare. The sensor suite includes other advanced surface and air surveillance radars and an indigenous Electronic Warfare system. A state-of-the-art Combat Management System (CMS-15A) has been integrated with the on board weapons and sensors. Theship is equipped to operate two Seaking or Chetak helicopters.

The ship can be truly classified as a ‘Network of Networks’ as it is equipped with sophisticated digital networks, such as ATM based Integrated Ship Data Network (AISDN), Auxiliary Control System (ACS), Automatic Power Management System(APMS) and Combat Management System (CMS). The AISDN is the information highway on which data from all the sensors and weapons ride. Whilst remote control and monitoring of machinery is achieved through ACS, the intricate power supply management isdone using APMS. The CMS is used to integrate information from own data sources and collate information from other platforms using indigenous data-link system,to provide maritime domain awareness.

The unique feature of this ship is the high level of indigenisation achieved with most of the systems on board sourced from within the country which has generated a sound vendor base for future ships. Some ofthe major indigenised equipment/ systems onboard INS Kolkata include Combat Management System (CMS), Auxiliary Control System (ACS), Automatic Power Management System (APMS), Foldable Hangar Doors, Helo Traversing System and bow mounted HUMSA NG system. Crew comfort is a significant feature of INS Kolkata and has been ensured through ergonomically designed accommodation and galley compartments on modular concept.

The ship derives her name from the cultural capital city of India and state capitalof Bengal – Kolkata- 'The City of Joy'. The crest of the ship depicts the 'Howrah Bridge' in the background and a leaping 'Bengal Tiger' in the foreground, both symbolic ofthe city of Kolkata, riding above blue and white ocean waves. The crew of the ship abides by the Sanskrit motto on the crest “Yudhay Sarvasannadh” which means “Always Prepared for Battle”.

The Commanding Officer, Captain Tarun Sobti, read out the Commissioning Warrant,prior to the hoisting of ‘Colours’ (the national flag and naval ensign) for thefirst time in the life of the ship. Following her commissioning, INS Kolkata will be placed under the operational and administrative control of the Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Western Naval Command. On completion of some additional sea trials of ship-borne systems, she will be assigned to the Western Fleet and would be home-ported at Mumbai.