Monday, March 23, 2015

Rafale Vs. Su-30MKI - The New Indian Dogfight

Intensifying since the turn of the new year, you couldn't possibly have missed the roar of AL-31s in all talk of India's turbulent final dash for a Rafale jet deal. It's unmissable. The fact that the Su-30 MKI was pushed into the M-MRCA conversation by none other than India's defence minister ensured the notion strengthened quickly, unscathed by intrigue and rumours. And then, it exploded.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Next: Rafale Vs. Su-30MKI - The New Indian Dogfight

It's unmissable. The intensifying sense over the last two months that the Su-30 MKI has swooped into M-MRCA airspace. From the politics of it, to the powerplay smack dab in the middle of final negotiations, from the journalism drumming up the new face-off to diplomatic leverage and the criticality of the Indian Air Force's own situation during an increasingly fluid phase of its largest ever procurement. A comprehensive Livefist report that draws on all of these aspects to provide a clear sense of the state of play, and what's turning out to be one of the most interesting phases an eight year procurement effort.

Friday, March 06, 2015

Indian Air Force Unveils Own Stand-Off Weapons Concepts

A 150-km range stand-off glide weapon and 288-km range light-weight cruise missile. These two mysterious items surfaced at Aero India last month. I'd been meaning to post about them, but decided to first get more information. They're both internal concepts by a group of IAF officers (serving and retired) for stand-off weapons that the service has been looking for for years. What stands out is just how specific the 'performance' parameters of the cruise missile and glide bomb really are. The IAF confirmed to Livefist that neither of the two items on display was part of active development activity, but that the concepts had been showcased as an indication of the kinds of design activities its internal teams are engaged in. The two models were fabricated at an IAF depot. The information on the boards suggest these are concepts with reasonably serious tactical capabilities, especially in terms of their stand-off range. More on these soon.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Indian Light Combat Copter Goes Through Cold Tests

Cold weather trials of India's Light Combat Helicopter were carried out at Air Force Station, Leh early last month. “The trials covered engine starts with internal batteries after overnight cold soak at 3 km altitude and 4.1 km altitude”, HAL chairman T. Suvarna Raju has said in a statement. The engine starts were satisfactory in the temperature of minus 18 degree C at 4.1 km, the flights were also carried out to assess high altitude performance and low speed handling, the statement said.
The LCH prototype, TD2 was ferried from Bangalore to Leh and the flight trials were carried out involving customer pilots from Air Force and Army and with the participation of representatives from RCMA (H/c) and DGAQA (H/c).

“Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) Technology Demonstrator TD-3 made its maiden flight in November last year and the TD-4 is likely to fly soon. The IOC is expected in the later part of this year and to achieve this we are concentrating on building more prototypes and increase the number of flights to reduce the lead-time for IOC”, Raju said.

U.S. To Re-Enter Indian Light Copter Contest

India's third attempt at procuring 197 light reconnaissance/surveillance helicopters (RSH) for the Indian Army and IAF kicks off this month, and if two attempts across the last decade haven't thrown up enough dust, indications are that this third effort is all set to be even more interesting.

The two finalists in the last abortive attempt, Airbus Helicopters with the AS550 C3 Fennec and Kamov with the Ka-226T2 Sergei will both compete through respective build partners in India (the latter has a seemingly separate proposal to build the Sergei and Mi-17 V-5s in India.)

U.S. firm Bell Helicopter, which competed in the original effort (that began in 2003) has signalled that it will be re-entering the competition this year through local partners. Livefist learns that Bell Helicopter and an Indian partner will field the Bell 407GT in the new RSH contest.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

India To Exercise Options For 38 More Pilatus Trainers

The Indian Ministry of Defence has just approved the Indian Air Force's move to exercise options on its original basic trainer deal (for 75 aircraft) with Pilatus Aircraft and will shortly sign up for 38 more. Of a total of 181 basic trainers the IAF has said it needs, the original Pilatus PC-7 Mk.2 order takes care of 75 aircraft.

The remaining 106 aircraft were to be HAL's in-development HTT-40 propeller trainer that's all set to take-off for the first time this month. With the IAF approved to exercise options on 38 more PC-7s, HAL's platform will meet the remaining requirement: 68 aircraft. Indications are, however, that that number will be cranked up to make the project more viable in the near term.

An IAF-HAL-MoD committee is being set up to monitor the HTT-40 programme. The HTT-40 prototype is all set for its first flight in June.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Now Only A Question Of How Dassault Underwrites HAL-built Rafales

The Indian government is understood to have made it clear that it is no longer a question of whether Dassault Aviation will underwrite the 108 Rafales that HAL proposes to license-build in Bengaluru (a top MoD official indicated to Livefist that the RFP was explicit about this), but a question of how it will do so. Yesterday's hour-long deliberations at the MoD involved discussions on possible options. In very limited conversations with all sides, the following threads become apparent:
  • Dassault and HAL will need to hammer down licensee/licensor modalities that will pave the way for a possibly complex matrix of agreements on the central issue of liability. It's clear now. It is this set of agreements that will provide a solution to the guarantee issue. The question is how long it would take to do this.
  • Second, the extent of inspection and post-manufacture testing of equipment at HAL that would be the minimum required for Dassault to underwrite HAL-built jets.
  • Whether there are any financial implications to additional understandings between HAL and Dassault for the process of underwriting jets produced on the former's production line in Bengaluru. Also, financial implications of the transfer of liability as a result of any additional agreements between HAL and Dassault.
  • Both sides appear committed to finding a solution before Prime Minister Modi's visit to Paris in April, but is that a realistic time-frame? Sources suggest HAL and Dassault have already held extensive discussions on the liability issue and should be in a position to move quickly.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Life Or Death For Indo-Russian Multirole Transport Aircraft

Tucked away in a corner of HAL's generously spaced pavilion at Aero India 2015 is a non-descript little stall with a couple of tables, a few chairs, two small aircraft models and little else. This is immediately strange, given how in-your-face the HAL-UAC Multirole Transport Aircraft (MTA) programme usually is at shows (enough that HAL has proudly showed it off at the land forces show DefExpo too). As it happens, the low profile reflects the headwind that the MTA currently faces.