Friday, July 03, 2015

Airbus-Mahindra Announce JV For Indian Helo Goldmine

Big development in the goldmine that is India's military helicopter requirement landscape. Airbus Helicopters and India's Mahindra Defence have announced a joint venture that will fight for the many big Indian helicopter competitions. As with most such things these days, it looks to align itself with PM Narendra Modi's 'Make in India' campaign.

"Both companies will now get into discussions to finalize the formation of the joint venture which will act as the prime contractor for India’s military helicopter tenders including the Reconnaissance and Surveillance Helicopter, the Naval Utility Helicopter and the Naval Multirole Helicopter procurement programs. The resulting joint venture aims to become the first private Indian helicopter manufacturer under the ‘Make in India’ initiative. This will create hundreds of high-tech jobs locally and lead to a flow of cutting edge technologies to India should it be selected in the governmental helicopter tenders," a joint statement said.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Scam That Wasn't? @IndiaToday's Broadcast On The #VVIPChopperGate Twist




The Scam That Wasn't? Here go the full broadcasts of INDIA TODAY report last evening on the final Italian court judgement in (inter-alia) the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper scam case. Among other things, the judgement fully exonerates ex-IAF chief Air Chief Marshal (Retd) S.P. Tyagi. He was in our studios last night. Videos of the two broadcasts above.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Heartbreaking Anguish Of 3 Missing Coast Guard Pilots' Wives

It's been over a week since Indian Coast Guard Dornier Do-228 airframe number CG791 went missing off India's east coast on a routine night patrol mission. A big and sustained search operation with air, surface and sub-surface assets has continued in the Bay of Bengal ever since. Three days ago, the Indian Navy and Coast Guard spotted an oil slick and detected a weak but intermittent signal from beneath the surface -- believed to be the aircraft's emergency locator ping. An Indian Navy Kilo (INS Sindhudhvaj) continues to sonar-sweep the seabed to zero in on what could be the wreck.

I spoke this morning to Deepa Lakshmi, the wife of one of the missing crew members, Subash Suresh, a day after she tweeted to the Indian PM asking for his personal attention in the effort. She told me she was fully satisfied with the information that was being shared with her by the Indian Coast Guard and Navy, but 'shattered and anxious', she could think of nothing else but to reach out to the PM. I don't think anyone can imagine what Deepa, Sushma (wife of pilot Sai Vidyasagar) and Amruta (wife of co-pilot Manoj Soni) are going through.

Deepa spoke to my India Today colleague Shreesha Reddy today. She said, "The brain understands that a lot of things are happening, but the heart is making us do all this, the tweets and messages. We have complete faith in the government of India and the Coastguard. If the PM can put in a word, perhaps things will move faster. There is nothing that has happened to us to lose hope that we have lost our boy. He is going to come back to us. He is there somewhere, but don't know where he is. Though it is emotional, we are very confident and have not lost hope on anything."

According to the last formal update from the Indian Coast Guard yesterday, "Intense search for missing ICG aircraft continues relentlessly by Coast Guard and Naval ships and aircraft for the seventh consecutive day. The submarine operations continued for detection of acoustic signal from the Sonar Locator Beacon (SLB)  of the missing aircraft. Feeble /sporadic signals received are being reconfirmed by probe equipment of National Institute of Oceanography (NIOT) embarked onboard ICG Ship. A total of eight ships and aircraft of the ICG and IN continue to search in the most probable area. Aerial search is also being continued with the deployment of ICG and IN aircraft.  A total of 136 hours have been flown so far by the ICG and IN aircraft towards search.  Research vessel 'Sagarnidhi' arrived at 1000 hrs today and undertaking subsurface search and seabed profiling for ascertaining the position of missing aircraft."

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Russia's Armata T-14 Main Battle Tank: A Preliminary Assessment


The Russian platform represents a radically new approach to armoured vehicle design. But can it restore Russia’s traditional supremacy in this domain? MIHIR SHAH reports.

Tank enthusiasts around the world are all too familiar with the tale of the Wehrmacht’s surprise encounters with hitherto unknown Soviet tanks at the beginning of Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. German generals, until then utterly confident of the supremacy of their armoured vehicles, were shocked not only at the superiority of Soviet tanks, but also by the sheer number of these vehicles that the Red Army had fielded in complete secrecy.

The T-34 tank, in particular, was so successful that the Germans even attempted to build themselves a copy in the form of the Panther medium tank. But for all the technical prowess of German engineers, it fell short of the mark. By the time the war ended, the T-34 had come to be widely regarded as the best tank in the world. Its combination of armour, firepower, mobility, and ease of production put it in a different league from contemporaries like the German Panzer IV and the American M4 Sherman.

For the next four decades, Soviet armoured vehicles in general, and tanks in particular, enjoyed a significant degree of technical superiority over those fielded by adversary nations. It was not until the final stages of the Cold War that a new generation of Western heavy tank designs started to chip away at that advantage before finally gaining an upper hand.

Russian engineers have since toyed with several ideas to arrest that decline, from deep upgrades of existing designs (like the T-90MS) to completely new concepts like the T-95 and Black Eagle. However, the funding shortfalls that have plagued the Russian military-industrial complex since the break-up of the Soviet Union have not seen any of these concepts progress beyond the prototype stage. All the while, a series of continual upgrades to NATO tanks have seen these vehicles extend their already sizeable advantage over their Russian counterparts. For Russia to regain her historical lead over the competition (to meet her own military requirements as well as to target the lucrative export market), the country’s ground forces need to be equipped with an all-new tank. A tank that could not only attain parity with its competitors, but also introduce enough of an overmatch in the base design to stay ahead of those competitors as it goes through successive upgrades over the years.

The Uralvagonzavod Corporation’s T-14 main battle tank (MBT), based on the Armata universal combat platform and unveiled on the Victory Day parade on May 9, may just be that design. The tank features cutting edge technologies: an unmanned turret, active defences, an isolated crew capsule in the hull, and remotely fired weaponry. In order to determine whether these features confer it with the edge needed to restore Russian dominance in this field, it would be useful to examine those features within the context of the shortcomings that affect the platforms currently in service.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Big Bang: India Clears 3 Big Deals With Russia, Europe & the US

Big raft of decisions just pushed through the chute at the Indian MoD, leading with an expected decision to clear a single-vendor bid by the Tata-Airbus consortium to supply 16 C295 transports in flyaway condition and 40 off a new Indian production line. A historic step in many ways. Once done and dusted, as you've read here on Livefist, it'll be the first time aircraft are built for the military by a private firm. Or any firm, really, other than HAL.

Lots of other deals cleared today by the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), the apex MoD body before final political signatures. A surprise win today was for Russia's Kamov: a surprise only that it came so soon. The company will set up a local line to build 200 Ka-226T Sergei light helicopters for the Indian Air Force and Army.

Most significantly for the Army, the government has cleared the manufacture of 145 BAE Systems M777 ultra-light howitzers in India through a private Indian production agency, likely to be among L&T, Tata or Mahindra Defence. Boom. A deal back from the dead.

Other deals cleared this evening include a go ahead for procurement of 38 additional Swiss-made Pilatus PC-7 Mk.2 basic trainer aircraft, the procurement of communication terminals for Advanced Landing Grounds (ALGs) of the IAF. Interestingly, the IAF has also been given approvals to obtain two 7-year-old wide body airliners from state-owned Air India for its VVIP communication squadron. 

For the Indian Navy, the MoD has cleared the raising of six  regiments of the BrahMos missile for the three Delhi-class destroyers and first three Talwar-class frigates. Preparatory studies for the construction of India’s second indigenously made aircraft carrier given the go ahead.