Friday, January 30, 2009

Boeing presentation to IAF comparing Chinook with Mi-26


Boeing's presentation to the Indian Air Force comparing the CH-47 Chinook with the helicopter that the IAF currently uses, the Russian Mi-26 -- also the largest chopper around. The IAF wants 12-16 heavy lift copters. And soon. The other contenders are the Sikorsky CH-53 Super Stallion and Mil's Mi-26.

Additional info by Prasun K Sengupta here.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Russia's "explosive" Peter the Great docks in India

The flagship of Russia's Northern Fleet, the nuclear-powered heavy missile cruiser Pyotr Veliky docked in Mormugao today. The magnificent, if troubled, warship will participate in an anti-piracy drill with the Indian Navy in the Gulf of Aden shortly. The ship took ten years to build because (that's right) the Russians didn't have the moolah to finish her once metal cutting had begun. Of course you won't see Karat and Co., or feverishly excited activists hit the streets in protest (a la Nimitz) against the Russian ship entering Indian waters, even though, by the admission of the Russian Navy chief himself five years ago, the Pyotr Veliky was junk and could blow up any second.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Meeting the original Top Gun!

Today has been a fabulous day! A bunch of us journalists were invited to interact with Admiral Robert F Willard, Commander of the US Pacific Fleet who is on an official visit to India. An accomplished F-14 pilot who has pretty much had all the dream appointments of any US Naval aviator, the Admiral has a special bond with Hollywood.

Admiral Willard, it is little known, was the aerial coordinator for the 1986 film Top Gun, and flew every one of the fictitious enemy MiG-28 (a Northrop F-5 painted black) and A-4 Skyhawk sorties depicted the film's enthralling merge/dogfight sequences. So he was basically flew all the flights flown by the nameless black-helmeted MiG-28 pilot and the instructor Jester's sorties in the A-4.

"A great memory for me and my family, who got to watch the volleyball scene we shot. Especially for me, to have flown in it. So my claim to fame is, I'm the guy in the black helmet. And that helmet, still sits under glass in my office in Pearl Harbour," he told me when I asked him about the memories.

Admiral Willard was XO at the Naval Fighter Weapons School Top Gun at the time. Great man. When I asked him about the unlikelihood of merge/dogfight combat in modern aerial warfare, he had cheeky smile and said, "No matter how far technology of aerial warfare goes, I like to think the dogfight is still a reality, at least in concept."

Monday, January 26, 2009

R-Day "Military Might"

IAF Phalcon catwalks on Rajpath!

This tacky (and wasteful) mock-up of a Phalcon AWACS rolled past the crowds as part of the Republic Day parade this morning. The IAF usually has the best display -- obviously, the fly-past -- on any R-Day parade, but this time they did themselves in with this seriously distasteful aircraft model, only slightly better than one of those awful state tableaux. Also noticed that the MiG-29s were not part of this year's fly-past. Hope the birds are doing ok.

2009 Ashok Chakra awardees

SHRI R P DIENGDOH MEGHALAYA POLICE (POSTHUMOUS)

ASSISTANT COMMANDANT SHRI PRAMOD KUMAR SATAPATHY TRAINING-IN-CHARGE OF THE SPECIAL OPERATION GROUP ORISSA STATE ARMED POLICE (POSTHUMOUS)

IC-45618 COLONEL JOJAN THOMAS JAT REGIMENT / 45 RASHTRIYA RIFLES (POSTHUMOUS)

SHRI MOHAN CHAND SHARMA INSPECTOR, DELHI POLICE (POSTHUMOUS)

13621503 HAVILDAR BAHADUR SINGH BOHRA10TH BATTALION THE PARACHUTE REGIMENT (SPECIAL FORCES) (POSTHUMOUS)

SHRI HEMANT KAMLAKAR KARKARE JOINT COMMISSIONER OF POLICE, MAHARASHTRA (POSTHUMOUS)

SHRI TUKARAM GOPAL OMBALE ASSISTANT SUB-INSPECTOR OF POLICE, MAHARASHTRA (POSTHUMOUS)

SHRI ASHOK MARUTRAO KAMTE ADDITIONAL COMMISSIONER OF POLICE, MAHARASHTRA (POSTHUMOUS)

SHRI VIJAY SHAHADEV SALASKAR INSPECTOR, ANTI EXTORTION CELL OF CRIME BRANCH, MAHARASHTRA (POSTHUMOUS)

IC-58660 MAJOR SANDEEP UNNIKRISHNAN BIHAR REGIMENT / 51 SPECIAL ACTION GROUP (POSTHUMOUS)

4073611 HAVILDAR GAJENDER SINGH PARACHUTE REGIMENT / 51 SPECIAL ACTION GROUP (POSTHUMOUS)

LiveFist salutes all gallantry award winners today.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Photos: Inside the P-8I factory

I took these photos inside Boeing's magnificent P-8 factory in Renton, near Seattle last year. The eight Indian P-8Is will be built in this very factory on this very line.

All Photos ©Shiv Aroor / LiveFist

Friday, January 23, 2009

Please change the INS Shikra crest!

Commenters brought it up in the post about the commissioning of INS Shikra, and it's something I noticed then as well, though I didn't really have the time to blog about it. All I can say is that it's a damn shame the Navy hasn't bothered to commission some faithful artwork for something as important as the crest of the newly commissioned base.

The
INS Shikra crest is not just inappropriate (considering that the Bald Eagle is the national bird and globally recognised symbol/metaphor of the United States), but irresponsible and careless to the extreme. The Shikra (see photo) is a small bird from the hawk family (we saw plenty of these during bird-walks in boarding school in the early 1990s in South India -- feisty little killers). The Bald Eagle is found only in North America. The Shikra is found largely in South Asia, particularly India.

It would be easy to dismiss this as someone's error, or oversight. But then stop and think. An error in the creation of something as enduring and permanent as an official crest? Choosing any old bird of prey and passing it off as a bird as singular as the Shikra is irresponsible and tacky to the extreme. I really wish the Navy would take it under consideration to have a re-look at the Shikra crest.

And it's not as though the Navy doesn't have crests of relatively obscure or little known animals. For example, the Navy's Kilo
INS Sindhuvijay has a crest that faithfully depicts the decidedly unfamiliar Cuvier's Beaked Whale, and the Class 209 INS Shankul's crest depicts a Skate, which could easily have been made a manta or any of the other familiar rays.

This isn't nitpicking. A crest is a form of military heraldry that carries a great degree of identity and pride. And if that's based on an error, well, you know I mean.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Photos: Tejas completes 1,000 test-flights

The break-down of the 1,000 flights is TD1-233, TD2-294,PV1-182,PV2-105,PV3-116,LSP1-31,LSP2-33. 

Photos Courtesy DRDO/HAL

Photos: Affiliation ceremony of INS Trishul with Jat Regiment


Lieutenant General BS Nagal of the Jat Regiment, and Rear Admiral SPS Cheema, Flag Officer Commanding Western Fleet, exchanging the Charter of Affiliation.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Navy gets first chopper base


In May 2006, me and two other correspondents took off in a Navy Chetak off INS Viraat out at sea, circuited low over the ocean and landed at the helo landing area of INS Kunjali. This particular stretch is now being carved out into a new, exclusive helicopter base, the Navy's first.

The Indian Navy will be commissioning this helicopter base, titled INS Shikra on January 22. A commissioning ceremony is planned at Mumbai to usher in the first helicopter base. The air station, will be commissioned by the Chief of the Naval Staff (CNS) and Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC), Admiral Sureesh Mehta. Captain Philipose G Pynumootil is the first Commanding Officer of INS Shikra and will read out the Commissioning Warrant.

The air station, which first commenced air operation in 1964 with setting up of a small Helicopter Maintenance Unit (HMU), today provides maintenance and flying support to a diverse range of helicopters operating from naval ships at Mumbai. Operations from here include SeaKing, Kamov-28, Kamov-31 and Chetak helicopters. The station also provides Air Traffic Control services to all civil and military helicopters operating in South Mumbai.

The air station will support ship-borne helicopters of the Western Fleet and their maintenance and training requirements. In addition, the proximity of the air station to Mumbai High and Saurashtra region on the West Coast, makes it the preferred site to provide effective air support for protection and security of national assets at short notice.

Shikra, after which the Air Station is being named, is a small aggressive raptor with short broad wings and tall tail adapted for manoeuvrability, agility and speed. The crest of the air station depicts a bolt of lightning in the talons of a Shikra, symbolising the strike power of the aircraft. The red and grey body depicts spirit of the men of "blood and steel" who man the unit and constantly strive for excellence.

LiveFist wishes the new base godspeed.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

IAF wants American firms back in attack copter competition

The Ministry of Defence may extend conditions that will facilitate American firms Boeing and Bell back into the 22 attack helicopter competition for the Indian Air Force (IAF) which was floated in June last year. In September last year, both countries unilaterally bailed out from the competition after they decided that they could not meet deadlines for the submission of technical bids.

Sources say that the IAF is attempting to convince the government to create a situation where the two American firms can be back in the competition -- the IAF is keen that the Boeing AH-64D Apache Longbow and Bell AH-1 Super Cobra are is part of the competition, considering they represent what they think is among the latest and best in attack chopper development. The IAF's recommendation is currently under consideration by the MoD.

The contenders officially in the fray for now are the AgustaWestland AW129 Mangusta, Eurocopter Tiger, Kamov Ka-50 Black Shark and the Mil Mi-28 Havoc.