Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Indo-French Maitri Programme: Don't repeat BrahMos botch-ups

The Indo-French missile programme Maitri, basically a face-saving bailout of the completely botched Trishul (Dr Prahalada was candid about this when he spoke to me at DefExpo this year), is a good idea. It's fully in line with DRDO's new policy of prudent project management, inviting foreign technology where Indian technology -- or time constraints for the armed forces -- is restrictive. This week, a group of Indian journalists visiting Paris were told by MBDA, the French partner to DRDL in the programme, that the two agencies would "co-produce surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) on the lines of the Indo-Russian Brahmos missile". I posted the Maitri news here in May last year.

I'm just a little iffy about this whole comparison with the BrahMos business model. Because, to be fair, no matter how much everyone thinks the BrahMos model embodies all that is robust and prudent about military co-development, it has come to also be a manifestation of manipulation, diplomatic treachery, fundamental oversight and bold arrogance by the Russians. The BrahMos goofs have emboldened Russia in many ways to cock a snook at India in multiple programmes now -- the Gorshkov aircraft carrier , the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) and, as recently reported by Ajai Shukla, the engine NPO-Saturn has built for HAL's intermediate jet trainer (IJT Sitara) as well.

So here's a prescription of sorts, of what the governors of the Maitri programme should ensure so that they don't have to wring their hands five years from now, and bereave stepping into all-too-familiar BrahMos-style landmines, lacunae, fine-print and pitfalls.

For starters, let's not pretend the French are doing us any favours. They've got this juicy pie because Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) is stupendously corrupt, and the government has only begun to recognise that (it's anyone's guess, however, about who's raking it in on the follow on Phalcon deal!). So a testament to this should be confirmation from the French about how many of the Maitri systems they themselves will induct. The Russians were clever to hide -- and the Indians were stupid to miss -- this crucial point out in the BrahMos agreement. As a result, now Russia throws constitutional restrictions against inducting non-Russian equipment in India's face, while BrahMos Aerospace licks its wounds not quite knowing what to do.

Second, get a clear-cut export policy during the programme, so that when the missile is ready, it isn't tangled up in ridiculous red-tape about who we can and cannot export arms to. The BrahMos is still tethered to the ground because the MoD hasn't issued clear directives on who it can or cannot export to.

Third, ensure that unlike the BrahMos programme, the Maitri does not allow the French to shortchange us on technology. India needs the French for seeker and guidance systems, since the Trishul's three-beam guidance system simply could not be perfected. So make sure right from the start that they don't throw up their hands mid-stream. Creating infrastructure for ramjet technology (in the BrahMos) I admit would take a lot of doing -- but India has the infrastructure to absorb electronics and missile software development infrastructure.

The Hindu quotes MBDA CEO Antoine Bouvier, as saying, "The decision to field the MBDL-BDL-DRDO Maitri missile was not easy. We could have responded with products here. But want to give priority to our long-term vision. The intention is to offer systems produced entirely in India rather than those that are partly made.” -- that's sweet, noble, hogwash our DRDO folks shouldn't get sentimental about, as they routinely do.

The short-point. The BrahMos programme was a partial success. We've got to take all the bitter lessons we've learnt from BrahMos, and ensure that Maitri is a true success.

18 comments:

Nitesh said...

Mr. Shiv

russia not inducting Brahmos is an old issue, get over it.

Check this link first
http://www.ptinews.com/pti/ptisite.nsf/0/CFD4C2E8A627708F6525746F00322230?OpenDocument

Shiv Aroor said...

something to get over indeed, nitesh. and trust anyone to be all misty-eyed and happy that the russians have "agreed" to install brahmos on a stupid frigate. lovely. let's party.

Nitesh said...

so why you it is not getting inducted at all. If you have seen the link that it is getting inducted, now you say that the frigate is stupid. Kindly check the news, it says that 290km is too less a range for there qualitative requirement.

Shiv Aroor said...

nitesh: here's the lowdown, in case you didn't know. first of all, no decision has been taken to fit the gorshkov-class frigate with the brahmos. they've said they will explore the possibility (condescending in itself). secondly, the Russian military's 2006-2016 perspective plan specifically de-prioritises brahmos as a programme for the russian military. and thirdly, you missed the very point i was making -- the indians failed to gauge post-development russian interest in the missile when the agreement was signed, which is precisely why DRDO now rues the fact that russia not only refuses to induct the brahmos (let's not kid ourselves.. russia could buy a lot of them if it wanted to), but pushes its own missiles to compete with the brahmos in world markets. so that's the reality, whether you think its "old news" or not. and this wasn't a news piece, it was commentary. and incidentally, russia said nothing about the brahmos not meeting its requiredments when the agreement was signed. the agreement simply said the brahmos would be developed for india, russia and mutually agreed friendly export countries.

Jaydev said...

nitesh, dont b such a dick. Russia took us to cleaners on Brahmos. The whole point of indigenous development is ToT for further research. If they don't give us the fucking ram jet engine/seeker technology what good is it. I think we should persist with full indigenous development and use espionage and buying out experienced foreign scientists to get things done. That's what French,Israelis and Chinese do..not to mention Pakis who stole nukes from europe..so should we. At the end of the day..we havnt got any reward for being a good boy. To hell with intellectual property.

Anonymous said...

Nice one Jaydev.. Punishment for breaking the law is only for individuals. When countries do it, it is patriotism - preservation of national interests!!

China should be our role model here. So much denial from west, still they have grown as a threat on US radars!

Anonymous said...

well put. the brahmos program is most definitely an albatross around our necks.

Anonymous said...

What's an albatross??

Anonymous said...

this shiv aroor look like an american agent who is out to decry barahmos develpement on flimsy ground that Indao russian barahomos is one of the success story of DRDo and there could be many more had the angloamerican agents like aroor and toilet paper of India and trator manmohan singh had not destablized Indian defence preparedness.

WillWorkForFood said...

Sigh, some things never change.

Point out the obvious flaws in any Indian government program, and you are instantly branded an "american agent"

Mihir said...

Good piece, Shiv! The maitri is a business deal, pure and simple. It would do us well if we treated it as one.

Anonymous said...

Failing with the Trishul is not a good excuse to give up on three beam technology, especially now that we know that the Russians are going to screw us over. Try again!, nothing comes easy! Scrap all deals with the Russians! Bye-bye T-90, Gorshkov, Su31-MKI... okay I know that's impractical... :-) but that thought should be running in the back of our minds.

Anonymous said...

agree with last anon. we should make plans to totally ditch the russians and get on with our own stuff. leave them in the lurch and record the look on their faces. nothing would give me more pleasure than to see that,.

gagan said...

anon@9.03pm- albatross around neck is a metaphor from The Ancient Mariner by the romantic poet Samuel T Coleridge. It refers to a burden borne by the wearer of the albatross, though it refers to a burden of a certain moral order as well, tinged with guilt and a sense of impending doom as a consequence.

Jaydev said...

i think one of the main reason we keep russians in good spirits is to block strategic cheap arms to pakis and chinis.
if we fuck russians from behind, they will sell a couple of sukois to pakis with good radars and AWACS killer missiles and we are dead meat. Similarly scorpene deal is sort of bribe to the french to stop them from selling more advanced stuff to pakis...i think that kinda lang is in the agreement. Although this is not the overwhelming concern its definitely on the back of our peoples' mind. Anyway who else will give us n-subs and under-water launch technology or TVC engine fighters..
we hav to play losers for some more time. until then i guess we have to swallow insults by burying our pride..such is dangerous geo-strategic equations stacked against us..

Anonymous said...

dont u remember how russia helped us in 1971 war?
russia had threatened 2 nuke USA if the us navy even fires a shot at the indian navy.

Anonymous said...

This isn't 1971. Grow up. Russia was never a friend, and they most certainly aren't one at the present. Neither is USA for that matter.

Stop looking for "friends" and lovers like some cheap romeo, and fukin grow up as a nation already.

Anonymous said...

Latest report is that the Russians will arm their new frigates with Brahmos