Monday, January 31, 2011

Indian Frigate Vindhyagiri Sunk By Merchantman

This screen grab shows the Indian Navy's anti-sub warfare frigate INS Vindhyagiri listing dangerously at the naval dockyard in Mumbai a day after it collided with a merchant ship in the Mumbai harbour approach. Shortly after these images were shot, the ships hull hit the sea bed. Tragically, the ship was to have been decommissioned soon anyway. The Indian-built Leander-class frigate is currently the oldest indigenously constructed ship in the Indian Navy, commissioned in 1981. A truly sad day.

The navy issued the following statement today: "The collision led to fire and flooding onboard INS Vindhyagiri. INS Vindhyagiri was thereafter safely berthed alongside in the Naval harbour. Ammunition on board was cleared and all efforts were made to contain the fire and flooding onboard. Concurrently, necessary measures have also been taken to prevent any spillage of oil from the ship. Other naval operations and commercial operations in Mumbai port have not been affected. No casualities have been reported."

The last Indian warship to go down in peacetime was the Tarantul-class corvette INS Prahar in 2006.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Model Tejas Mk.2 At Aero India


So we'll finally, hopefully, know what it looks like, and how different (if at all) it will be. The DRDO's curtain-raiser statement for Aero India 2011 suggests that it will be displaying models of the air force and navy TEJAS Mk.2. There has been little clarity over the real design changes likely to be incorporated in the Mk.2, so to specifically mention the Mk.2 in its list of model displays suggests that there will be something to talk about. Will it have canard foreplanes? We do know that the aft fuselage will undergo changes to house the GE-F414 turbofan, but that's pretty much all we really know. Will update this post over the next few hours with more.

Hadn't thought of using the totally unofficial fan-art image above until now. It was sent to me by someone last year, but I've misplaced their details. So if you recognise your image, please let me know so I can credit you!

[@16.02HRS/3 FEB] Image Courtesy Ranjan Saha

Friday, January 28, 2011

Nice New Vid Of C-130J For India

Will be at the IAF's Hindon air base on February 5 for the induction ceremony of India's first C-130J. We'll cover it live on Headlines Today as well. Will post details a couple of days before the event.

Will India Ever Need The F-35?

Here's some more fuel for the mildly irksome "F-35 for India" story. The Pentagon's undersecretary for acquisitions Ashton Carter has told Defensenews that India is welcome to participate in the F-35 Lightning-II programme and later acquire it. Participate? Yeah, like we don't have enough problems, Ash.

Defensenews.com also quotes Pentagon spokeswoman Cheryl Irwin as saying: "If, at some point down the road, India were interested in purchasing JSF from us, then we would engage the Indians in an open, transparent manner at that time. But this would obviously be something that the Indian government would have to decide it wanted or needed." Um, obviously is right.

Let me know what you think. I've heard some pretty good arguments for and against (mostly against, at least so far). Vote below and share your thoughts in the comments.


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

REPORT: Raptor Likely At Aero India 2011


Copyright The Indian Express

After IAF, Navy Now Wants Amphibian Aircraft

In March last year, when the Indian Air Force said it wanted six amphibious aircraft for "search and rescue missions, inter-island communication, rapid response duties and reconnaissance of islands" (see RFI here), the Indian Navy wasn't amused, seeing as it was already involved with defining such a requirement for its own air arm. A year on, the navy today said it wanted its own fleet of amphibious aircraft. It is not yet clear if this is the same procurement effort transferred to the navy or a new one entirely (implying two separate competitions for two separate fleets). More details soon.

Photo: Beriev

Monday, January 24, 2011

Indigenous Stuff At Republic Day 2011

Just got this release from DRDO about its products on display on Republic Day, January 26 as part of a float. Posting in full:

LIGHT COMBAT AIRCRAFT "TEJAS" TRAINER VERSION (mock-up, of course)

"The Tejas, India's first supersonic fighter aircraft is the smallest, lightweight, supersonic, multi-role combat aircraft, and best in its class in the world. This single-engine, compound-delta-wing, tailless aircraft is indigenously designed and developed to meet the diverse needs of the Indian Air Force. It can reach a speed of Mach 1.6. and can operate up to an altitude of 15 Km. TEJAS will serve the Indian Air force for a long time to come. Tejas is an amalgamation of contemporary concepts and technologies such as relaxed static-stability, fly-by-wire control, advanced digital cockpit, integrated digital avionics systems and advanced composite material for the airframe which makes the aircraft very agile with carefree menoeuvering capabilities. Glass cockpit and Digital Avionics make TEJAS world class.

The two seat tandem configuration Air Force Trainer is derived from the fighter version. It has been an endeavored to maintain maximum commonality amongst all the variants of Tejas, namely: Air Force Fighter, Air Force Trainer, Navy Trainer and Navy Fighter. Front fuselage of Trainer was modified to accommodate the second cockpit. Both front & rear cockpits of Trainer are configured to replicate the pilot vehicle interface (PVI) as in the fighter version. The trainer version has drooped nose for better cockpit vision and larger canopy to accommodate rear cockpit with 5° additional vision for rear pilot. It has mechanically interconnected control stick, rudder pedal and throttle. Trainers are powered by GE-F404-IN-20 engine. It had its maiden flight on 26th Nov 2009 and the handling qualities of the aircraft are excellent as per IAF pilots. This aircraft is expected to complete Initial Operational Clearance by end Dec 2011. Indian Air Force has already placed order for 8 trainers.

Tejas two seat aircraft has been designed not only as a "Type Trainer" but also as precision weapon launch platform for air-to-air, air-to-ground air-to-sea missions with effective stores management system (SMS) capable of handling a wide range of weapons and stores. It also can be equipped with variety of sensors like Multi Mode Radar (MMR), Litening Pod and Helmet Mounted Display and Sight (HMDS). Tejas Trainer has very good potential in the world market primarily as a supersonic fighter trainer and also be capable of handling precision weapons and state-of-the-art sensors. TEJAS program is spearheaded by ADA under the department of Defence R&D, with HAL as its principal partner. A large number of DRDO laboratories, CSIR, IAF, Academic Institutions, Defense Public Sector and Private Sector undertakings have participated in the program and made it a success story for Indian Aviation Industry. TEJAS is certainly the Crowning Glory for India."

NAVAL UNDERWATER WEAPON SYSTEMS

"Light Weight Torpedo TAL (Torpedo Advanced Light): Light Weight Torpedo TAL (Torpedo Advanced Light) which is useful in anti-submarine warfare operations. Capable of being launched from both ships and aircraft, this torpedo is presently under induction into service.

Heavy Weight Torpedo VARUNASTRA: The Heavyweight Torpedo VARUNASTRA, which is in the final phases of technology development, is a weapon that incorporates advanced technology for greater power, reach and lethality. Upon induction, VARUNASTRA would be a world-class underwater weapon with the country.

Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV): Also displayed is the AUTONOMOUS UNDERWATER VEHICLE (AUV), a multi-mission unmanned underwater vehicle that is highly effective for surveillance, reconnaissance, counter-intelligence and attack modes of operation.

Maareech Decoy System: Also featured is the MAAREECH decoy system, which seduces the incoming torpedo and prevents it from homing to our platforms by its advanced countermeasure capabilities."

Sunday, January 23, 2011

PHOTOS: Preview Of Strength At Republic Day #2


The last photo shows the LRDE L-STAR, part of India's AEW&C programme.

Photos Courtesy DPR Defence

PHOTOS: Preview Of Strength At Republic Day


Photos Courtesy DPR Defence

DRDO Chief's New Year Guidance

Chief of India's Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO), Dr VK Saraswat, has addressed his scientists as part of the annual "letter to the ranks" exercise. Excerpts:
  • Technology transfer and stake holding during production, remains the responsibility of DRDO and we should not assume that our part is complete with prototype development. All the Lab Directors should put in place a dedicated team to look at production issues so that this is given its due importance and project teams must work, keeping in mind the final production scenario.
  • In an attempt to enhance synergistic interaction with Services, DRDO organised a series of technical interactions on futuristic weapons and technologies with scientists and Service personnel to bring in some consensus on the requirements of tomorrow, and we hope this initiative will bear fruit.
  • Government regulations have been simplified to bring in private industry by creating a level playing field along with DPSU’s. We all know that only the best will survive in this intensely competitive world. This calls for re-engineering the process of R&D and leveraging our knowledge base, skillsets, industry support, international collaborations and support by academia to develop systems in a timely fashion.
  • Technology development under project mode should have a well-defined and targeted end. Timely development will ensure that we attain a competitive edge in the market and our products do not become irrelevant.
  • I declare 2011 as the ‘Year of Creativity and Innovation’. I would like each cluster to launch at least two new programmes and each Lab to initiate development of two new futuristic technologies to dovetail into the existing cluster programmes.
In 2007, the Ministry of Defence ordered a committee to make recommendations for a comprehensive revamp of DRDO -- in effect, to save it from itself. Last month, almost three years after it received the report, this is what the Ministry told the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence:
  • Independent Review Committee headed by Dr. P. Rama Rao had submitted its report to the Government on 5th March, 2008. The report was processed by the Committee headed by Defence Secretary to look into the responses and suggestions made by various stakeholders on the recommendations of Dr. P. Rama Rao Committee. The action on the implementation of the recommendations accepted by the Government is still under process which may take some more time. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence would be informed after implementation is completed."
Simple, huh? The government has little or no intention to revamp DRDO or make it more efficient/accountable. It has taken the MoD three years to study a report, (and this, after it refused to push through reform recommended in an earlier report by Dr Vijay Kelkar). What does that tell you? Carving an unwieldy, embarrassingly inefficient organisation into technology clusters with their own bosses serves ridiculously little apart from add another layer of red tape to an organisation that is positively crippled by it already. I'll be posting more shortly on how and why the MoD is putting off any substantive reform in DRDO. Dr Saraswat has some excellent ideas to jump start the organisation, but he risks making the same meaningless decisions of each one of his predecessors.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

VIDEO: HAL's Dhruv Marketing Film

Found this video on a CD while spring-cleaning my archives. Hadn't seen this before, so posting it. It has clips of the ill-fated navy Dhruv and a few deck recoveries.

Typhoons From Italian AF At Aero India This Year

Two Eurofighters from the Italian Air Force will be flown in for Aero India 2011 next month at the Yelahanka air force base. In 2009, the company sent Luftwaffe Typhoons. With that, the Typhoons of three of its six operators will have brought their jets to the country. In October last year, the Royal Air Force brought Typhoons for a joint exercise at the Kalaikunda air force base in East India.

Friday, January 21, 2011

[UPDATED] Indian Navy's New Fleet Tanker Deepak Commissioned


[Statement (abridged):] INS Deepak, the first of the two fleet tankers built by Italy's Fincanteri was commissioned into the Indian Navy at Naval Dockyard, Mumbai today. At the commissioning ceremony which was held on the Helicopter deck of INS Deepak, the ships Commanding Officer, Captain VK Madhusoodanan, read out the commissioning warrant which was followed by the hoisting of the National flag and the Naval Ensign for the first time and breaking of the Commissioning pennant on the ships mast. The RM unveiled the Ship's name plaque thus marking the formal induction of INS Deepak into the Indian Navy and the Western Fleet.

Designed by Fincanteri Shipyard specifically for the Indian Navy, this ship is one of the largest ships of the navy, 175 metres long, 25 metres wide and has a full load displacement of 27,500 tonnes. The ship has been designed, constructed and delivered in a record time of 27 months and is a second generation ship. The erstwhile Deepak, commissioned in Nov 1967 was decommissioned in Apr 1996 after a glorious 29 years of service in the navy. She is of double hull configuration in keeping with the latest MARPOL and SOLAS regulations. Though INS Deepak is essentially a tanker it is a thoughtfully designed and versatile platform capable of a large number of roles. In addition to its traditional role of supplying fuel to ships at sea, the ship is also capable of transporting and supplying ammunitions, materials and provisions. It is also capable of undertaking Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) operations with its modern medical health facilities.

The Deepak class Fleet tankers will be the mainstay tankers/ support ships of the Indian Navy in the first half of the 21st century. The ship has a maximum draft of 9.1 m and displacement of 27000 tons of which a large percentage (17900 tons) is the cargo carrying capacity. This includes 15250 tons of fuel, 510 tons of solid cargo (including ammunition and spares) and 6 containers. The ship has a maximum speed of 20 knots and an endurance of 10,000 Nautical miles at a speed of 16 knots. The ship is equipped with four AK-630 guns for close defence supplied by Ordnance Factory Board and high–tech fire control system supplied by Bharat Electronics Limited. In addition the ship has sophisticated electronic surveillance and communication equipment supplied by Bharat Electronics Limited. The ship is also capable of carrying an integrated helicopter flight and can stage all helicopters being used by the Indian Navy.

The ship is specially designed to function as a command platform. The sensors and other equipment fitted onboard have a large percentage of indigenously manufactured components, especially the communication and Combat Information Management System. The ship has state -of -the art aviation facilities and can operate various types of helicopters from its deck including the Seaking and the indigenously manufactured ALH. The ship presently has a crew of 15 Officers and 182 sailors.

Photos Courtesy DPR Defence / Indian Navy

TV REPORT: Indian Navy Exercises Options For 3 More Scorpene Submarines


Copyright Newsx

Ten More Years For INS Viraat?


What a ship. India's sole aircraft carrier INS Viraat could remain in service till 2020, according to the man who looks after foreign cooperation for the Navy, Rear Admiral Anil Chawla, previously skipper on the venerable warship. And this is a very real possibility now. I reported here in August last year that the navy was seriously exploring the possibility of extending the Viraat's life even further than already planned. She was supposed to down anchor for the last time at the very latest by 2013. I took the first photo above in Kochi in 2009 when the Viraat was under a comprehensive refit programme. The second picture shows a seriously clunky scale model of the Viraat that will be the centrepiece of the navy's tableau at the Republic Day parade this year. Tells you a bit about this fascinating ship. More than half a century old, and the navy still couldn't think of a better centrepiece for the whole "show of strength" carnival next week.

Indian P-8s To Hunt Subs With CAE MAD


The Indian Navy's eight P-8I maritime reconnaissance and ASW aircraft will be fitted with Canadian firm CAE's AN/ASQ-508A [.pdf] Advanced Integrated Magnetic Anomaly Detection (MAD) System. [Statement:] CAE has been awarded a subcontract by the Boeing company to provide CAE's AN/ASQ-508A Advanced Integrated Magnetic Anomaly Detection (MAD) System for eight P-8I Poseidon aircraft to be operated by the Indian Navy. The MAD system provides the capability to detect, locate, and confirm subsurface targets by identifying magnetic variations or anomalies, such as those caused by a submarine, in the Earth's magnetic field.

Indian MARCOS Get Their Tavors

After some Indian Army special units, the Indian Navy's special ops unit, the Marine Commandos, began using their new TAR-21 assault rifles this month. That's me with a Tavor at Defexpo 2008.

Monday, January 17, 2011

MORE PHOTOS: Indian Navy's New UAV Squadron INAS 343

PHOTOS: Indian Navy Commissions INAS 343 UAV Squadron At Porbandar


Photos Courtesy DPR Defence / Indian Navy

No To Israel, HAL Wants First Indian Glass Cockpit On LUH

HAL is breaking (thankfully) with tradition and wants an Indian-made glass cockpit (smart cockpit display system -- SCDS) on its in-development 3-ton Light Utility Helicopter (LUH). The move is a welcome move away from what it did with the flagship ALH Dhruv helicopter programme, where IAI was roped in to provide glass cockpits and market that version of the helicopter. HAL and Israel were in talks for a similar arrangement on the LUH as well, but the fresh tender floated today [.pdf] puts it all to rest. HAL wants Indian kit.

According to the tender document, "the Main Instrument Panel (image above) incorporates three Smart Multi Function Displays (SMFDs), and standby instruments, clock and a glare shield. The inter-seat console incorporates the avionic and system controls. An Over Head Panel between the pilots incorporates switches, Circuit Breakers, Rotor Brake control unit, cockpit light and two wander lights." The document indicates that the cockpit will be compatible with operation with Gen 3 and Gen 2++ NVGs.

HAL has invited proposals from prospective Indian firms capable of "indigenous design, development, manufacture and supply of requisite hardware based on COTS standard modules/ boards/ components or specifically developed modules /boards /components for the SCDS LRUs proposed for LUH." HAL, however, stipulates that "if required, the vendor may opt for a foreign collaborator to provide technical support under Transfer of Technology for development and manufacture."

The document also talks about the LUH's intended mission profile: "The military roles to be performed by LUH are primarily utility roles with future variants for armed roles. The utility roles include Armed Reconnaissance, Aerial photography, Scout Role in conjunction with attack helicopter, Platform for Electronic Support Measure (ESM), Electronic Counter Measures (ECM) and Electronic Counter Counter Measures (ECCM). LUH will be initially integrated with systems and equipment required for basic and military utility roles. Subsequently integration and certification of the helicopter for armed roles as well as civil/commercial variant would be taken up."

The effort could be in keeping with India's "new" defence production policy.

NDTV's Vishnu Som Flies The Gripen NG

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Will India's Gun Jinx Be Broken This Year?

Since the Bofors scam of 1986, the Indian Army has been led by three chiefs from the Regiment of Artillery -- General SF Rodrigues, S Padmanabhan and, most recently, Deepak Kapoor. Not one of them was able to break the ludicrous, politicised embargo on inducting new heavy artillery into the Army. In effect, the Army hasn't added a single howitzer to its arsenal in 25 years. It has multiple competitions running, some of them meandering for much of the last decade, but the shortpoint stays -- the army hasn't added one single piece of heavy artillery in a quarter century. Which is why, current Chief of Army Staff, General Vijay Singh's assertion two days ago that new guns would definitely enter service with the army before the year is out, is thunderingly good news.

The only gun that can conceivably enter service with the Indian Army in that timeframe is the 155-mm/39-cal BAE Systems M777 ultra-light howitzer (ULH). While India has been looking at the gun since 2008, it was in early 2010 that it officially requested a foreign military sale of 145 M777s from the US government. Looks like that's going through.

Photo ©Canadian Army

FLASH! Two Rafales Coming To Aero India 2011

This was a rumour doing the rounds for a while. Finally got an official confirmation from Dassault today. Two French Navy Rafales will make their first public Indian appearance at Aero India 2011 next month at the IAF's Yelahanka air force base outside Bangalore. Dassault will also be bringing a Falcon 7X and a Falcon 2000LX.

[@6.00PM IST] The Rafale was seen as something of an underdog in the MMRCA competition for a while, though recent reports have put it on top of the pack in the $11-billion deal for 126 fighter aircraft. Conspiciously closed to the media in India, Dassault's bird has been the least visible of the six contenders in the competition -- a deliberate strategy, it so happens. Its appearance next month outside Bangalore will be the first time the aircraft will be seen in public in India (in September 2009, the aircraft was in India for trials, and was usefully snapped at the time by a single photographer).

Dassault believes that the MMRCA competition is a professional tender, and that flaunting the aircraft (at considerable expense, of course) at an air show in India is an unnecessary exercise. It would therefore be interesting to know what's changed now. Does Dassault smell a win? Clearly the company is convinced that this is the one time that it shouldn't be conservative about displaying their contender.

There's no confirmation yet on the MiG-35, but chances are it'll be there too. So it looks like we're going to have a full line up of all six MMRCA horses in a pretty little courseline at Yelahanka. How sweet would that be.

Indian Mag Puts J-20 On Its Cover


Read the cover story here.

Saturday, January 15, 2011