Saturday, March 31, 2012

In Vizag For Induction Of Indian Navy's New Akula-II

This is going to be one hell of a week: I'll be in Visakhapatnam on April 4 for the commissioning into service of INS Chakra, the Akula-II nuclear attack submarine the Indian Navy has taken on lease from Russia for ten years.

My friend and India Today network colleague Sandeep Unnithan has scooped this photo and a bunch of others of the erstwhile K-152 Nerpa after it was handed over to the Indian Navy. Will post photos and videos from the commissioning from Visakhapatnam.

Photo / ©India Today

DEFEXPO: Animation Of India's HELINA ATGM In Action

Found this animation of India's HELINA air-launched ATGM on a panel display at DRDO's Defexpo pavilion. Couldn't get a copy, so I shot it. Posted photos of the HELINA launcher assembly yesterday.

Animation / DRDO

BrahMos Considers All-New AShM For MiG-29K & MMRCA

BrahMos Corp. is looking to develop a new anti-ship missile with a smaller diameter and lighter weight than the present BrahMos supersonic cruise missile. The proposal, tentatively called BrahMos-3, is aimed at putting together a  potent anti-ship/anti-surface missile for the Indian Navy's MiG-29K and IAF MMRCA.

Revealing plans for the BrahMos-3 today at Defexpo, BrahMos CEO Dr A. Sivathanu Pillai said the first test-firing of a BrahMos from a modified Su-30MKI (modifications by HAL) would take place by early next year.

The BrahMos-2, a concept scramjet-based hypersonic version of the missile has begun development, and the programme aims at a first test in five years, Dr Pillai says. The long-awaited underwater-launched version of the BrahMos is expected to undergo its first test within 2012, and is understood to be ready in all respects.

The BrahMos recently conducted two successful tests of the army land attack variant of the missile, in which it performed supersonic steep dives in both tests.

Image / BrahMos

Friday, March 30, 2012

The Hell Is This Aircraft At HAL's Defexpo Pavilion?

Stubby AMCA? Random fantasy? Scoped this above an avionics display at HAL's stall at Defexpo. Will hold my breath and ask.

DEFEXPO: India's Air-launched ATGM HELINA Close Up



These are the first pictures of the HELINA air launched anti-tank guided missile launcher close-up. For some reason on a turn-table at Defexpo.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

DEFEXPO: India's MUNTRA Unmanned Tracked Ground Vehicle





Photos / Shiv Aroor

No Progress On Rafale Until Inquiry Complete

Indian Defence Minister A.K. Antony confirmed today that an inquiry was still on into the selection of the Rafale as L1 in the MMRCA competition (following a recent complaint by an MP), and that forward movement -- at least six more stages of scrutiny and process until contract signature -- would be held off until the inquiry is complete. Meanwhile, HAL seems pretty set on license building the Rafale :) That's their production vision up there I scoped at their pavillion at DefExpo 2012. More photos and stuff later tonight.

FIRST LOOK: India's Unmanned Tracked Ground Vehicle - MUNTRA

Plug: Another Award For Reporting In Libya

Happy to announce that Headlines Today deputy editor Gaurav C. Sawant  and I won our second award for reporting in Libya in March 2011. We won the News Television (NT) Award for best current affairs report home/international. We won our first award in August last year.

Photo / Tavleen Singh

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

PHOTO: BrahMos Block III Tested With New Algorithm, Steep Dive

BrahMos Statement: Around 1130 hrs today, BrahMos Block III version with advanced guidance algorithm was flight tested from ITR Balasore. The missile flew through the designated 290 kms distance at Mach 2.8 and achieved high precision with steep dive once again. The Network of telemetry stations and down range ships confirmed that the missile followed the pre designated flight path. Dr. A Sivathanu Pillail, CEO of BrahMos, confirmed that it was a text book launch achieving 100% results. The missile was completely integrated at the BrahMos Integration Complex at Hyderabad.

Photo / BrahMos

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Complaint Against Rafale & The Govt's Response

Here's Indian Member of Parliament M.V. Mysura Reddy's complaint to the Defence Minister about the selection of the Dassault Rafale in India's MMRCA competition. What follows is the Defence Minister's response a couple of days later declaring that the points raised in the complaint will be investigated. Thanks to my friend Sandeep Unnithan for sharing these letters -- he reported on the complaint in the last edition of INDIA TODAY magazine.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Kargil Hero Pilot Perumal Remembered

I received this tribute to Group Captain Perumal Alagaraja, who was decorated for flying operations in the 1999 Kargil War. The officer passed away in January this year of a heart attack. This is by the officer's friend, Radharamanan:

Group Capt Perumal Alagaraja passed away on the 7th of Jan. He retired from the IAF and was a Kingfisher Airlines pilot. A good friend of mine. He died of a heart failure. He was awarded the Shaurya Chakra for gallantry in the Kargil war. A very unassuming chap with humble beginnings, his father was a flower shop owner in the town of Rajapalayam in Tamil Nadu. He passed through Sainik School Amaravati near Coimbatore. After NDA and flight school he was posted to the 106 Recce sqdn where he spent his entire air force career . He also did a stint in staff college Wellington and was posted to Air HQ Delhi. He was one of the senior most experienced pilots on the Canberra. He used to recollect his experiences in the Kargil war.

Then Squadron Leader Alagaraja Perumal was on the second run of a photo reconnaissance mission flying very close to the LoC at Batalik on May 21, when a stinger missile hit the jet pipe of his Canberra's starboard engine. Perumal managed to return to Srinagar after a courageous 45-minute flight. For the first time in IAF history, a missile-hit plane managed a safe return.

He also told me he had the gyros of the stinger missile that hit his engine and apparently it had got stuck in wing after the explosion. He described to me in detail the day he got hit by a missile .After hearing a loud bang, the Canberra started shuddering and realized that he had been hit, this was confirmed by a MiG-29 that was flying CAP nearby. He was given the choice to bail out by the base but chose to stay with the aircraft. After he checked all the vital parameters he found he could control the aircraft. His Instrument panel was out. So guided by a another aircraft he made a safe landing in Srinagar AFB. Baliing out of a Canberra is a tricky business as they don’t have ejection seats .The crew have to strap on their parachutes ie the pilot and navigator and exit via a hatch! I really don’t know how the crew can do that with an out of control aircraft! He would love explaining the reach of the Canberra and that it was a classic that few other aircraft could match.

He was QFI as well and used to tell me how he encouraged his students that if they had the passion they could excel and it was not necessary to be from a well off family to become a pilot in the airforce, He would have been one of the few officers who sent money home to his parents, as generally one is given to believe that a majority of pilots hail from upper middleclass backgrounds.

Fly to your maker my friend and R.I.P.

Photo of officer with Canberra / Bharat-Rakshak

Friday, March 23, 2012

Blacklisted By India, Rheinmetall AD Rejects Allegations

Just received this statement from Rheinmetall Air Defence AG, one of six companies recently blacklisted by the Indian government from doing any business with the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB):


Rheinmetall Air Defence AG of Switzerland (RAD) objects to the decision of the Indian Ministry of Defence announced on 5 March 2012 to exclude it from doing business with India’s Ordnance Factory Board (OFB). This decision was based on allegations against RAD which the company categorically rejects as false and as entirely without merit. The Indian authorities have yet to inform RAD of the details of these allegations. Transparency with regard to investigations would enable RAD to put forward conclusive evidence that will refute all claims made against it. RAD is keen to cooperate with India’s authorities and to assist in any investigation related to the company. RAD insists that its employees have invariably behaved in a correct, law-abiding manner. The company has made this clear to the Indian authorities in meetings, in which RAD underpinned its position with comprehensive documentation. Just as they are in every other country in the world, RAD employees in India are subject to the company’s stringent compliance regulations and have adhered to them. A mutually beneficial, trustful relationship with Indian government authorities and armed forces continues to be very important for the company. RAD will therefore do everything in its power to prove these allegations wrong. In the meanwhile, RAD remains committed to a close dialogue with the Indian authorities.

Indian SAM-3s Smash Pak F-16s. In Film.


This animation by Anurag Rana depicting PAF F-16s being intercepted by Indian SAM-3 Pechoras is part of a larger upcoming film by Wing Commander R.S. Chauhan.

Animation / Anurag Rana

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

It's Official: Kaveri Will Power India's UCAV

Two bits of information from the government landed today confirming that India's in-development Kaveri turbofan is being officially looked at, in modified form, to power the country's secret stealth UCAV, codenamed AURA, a programme that was first revealed here on Livefist.

First, Indian defence minister A.K. Antony told Parliament today, "Kaveri spin-off engine can be used as propulsion system for Indian Unmanned Strike Air Vehicle (USAV)." (Never a shortage of acronyms in Indian defence projects).

A few hours later, a few kilometres away at the headquarters of the Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO), as part of an annual awards ceremony, scientist Vikram Singh of the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) received the Young Scientist Award for his "valuable contribution in design of a controllable flying wing UCAV configuration for KAVERI Engine."

Art / Anurag Rana

Monday, March 19, 2012

Indian Govt Pumps $75-mil For In-House Howitzer Line

The Indian government has made the following statement in Parliament today:

The government had secured the right of transfer of technology during the purchase of Bofors guns. Though all the technological documents as per the ToT contract were received by OFB from M/s AB Bofors, the Transfer of Technology was not carried forward as the dealings with the technology provider, (M/s AB Bofors) were suspended. Further, no indent was placed by Army on OFB for manufacture and supply of complete gun system. Capital expenditure of Rs.376.55 crore has been sanctioned by the Government in March, 2012 for creation/augmentation of Large Calibre Weapon manufacturing capacity in Ordnance Factories.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Another Image Of The Rustom-H

Found this on some documentation at a recent exhibition. This is the Rustom-H MALE UAV currently in the works.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

India Honours Its Brave

1. Lt. Sushil Khajuria awarded Kirti Chakra (posthumous) received by his mother. 2. Maj Abhishek Chakrabarty awarded Shaurya Chakra 3. Maj Dushyant singh Shakhawat awarded Shaurya Chakra 4. Naik Smer Singh 18th Battalion RR awarded Shaurya Chakra (Posthumous) received by his wife 5. Rifleman Tej Bhadur Gurung awarded Shaurya Chakra 6,7. Group photograph of the awardees.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Images From Indo-US Army Exercise Yudh Abhyas

Army Statement: Exercise YUDH ABHYAS is part of an ongoing series of joint exercises between the Indian and United States Armies since 2005, agreed upon under the New Framework of India-US Defence Relationship. Commencing at the platoon level, the exercise has graduated to a command post (CPX) and field training exercise (FTX).

The seventh edition of Yudh Abhyas is currently underway since 05 March 12 in two locations under the South Western Command. The US Army contingent is from the US Army Pacific (USARPAC), part of their Pacific Command (PACOM). The Command Post Exercise has an engineer brigade headquarters with its planners from both sides, while the Field Training Exercise comprises troops of 2nd Squadron 14th US Cavalry Regiment from 25th Infantry Division, Hawaii, along with a platoon of Strykers, and a similar sized Indian Army contingent of mechanized infantry. The event is all the more interesting as a number of key surveillance, communications and Improvised Explosive Devices detection and neutralisation technologies, available with both sides have been fielded in the exercise.

On 13 March 12, the two sides executed a joint cordon and search drill to neutralise suspected insurgents, in a specially constructed training area at the ranges in an abandoned village. The FTX, codenamed  DESERT LARK, saw the Indian and US troops establish a cordon using their combat  vehicles at night and then conduct dismounted searches by day to flush out insurgents as  also use the third dimension (helicopters) as part of the drill.

The CPX (SARVADA SAVIOURS) at Bathinda focussed on the challenges faced by Sappers in the domain of countering threats of  Improvised Explosive Devices,  infrastructure development in strife torn regions and  inaccessible areas and execution of rescue and relief operations during natural calamities or  disasters. The exercise provided an excellent opportunity to both sides to understand functioning of Engineer Brigades with special emphasis on operations under United Nations mandate in troubled areas.

DESERT LARK and SARVADA SAVIOURS was witnessed by an Indian and  US Army delegation, headed by Lt Gen Gyan Bhushan, GOC-in-C South Western Command and  Lt Gen Francis "Frank" Wiercinski, commander of the US Army Pacific, as also the co-chair of the Executive Steering  Group (ESG) for Indo-US army training events and exchanges. In addition, a number of senior members of the Indian Army also witnessed the drills and interacted with the troops participating in the exercise, both at Mahajan and Bathinda.

Friday, March 09, 2012

FIRST PHOTOS: LCA Tejas LSP-7 Flies











DRDO Statement: Tejas Limited Series Production - 7 (LSP-7) aircraft took-off for its maiden flight from HAL airport at 4:27 pm on 9th March 2012. This test flight is significant for the program, as LSP -7 build-standard is close to the initial operational clearance (IOC) standard. Accordingly LSP -7 aircraft, along with LSP - 8 will be offered to the Indian Air Force for user evaluation trials (UET). The flight was also significant considering the fact that for the first time “Production Test Schedule” was used for the first flight of an LSP aircraft in this program. This is also the first time that maiden flight of the aircraft was not accompanied by the customary ‘chase’ aircraft, which is an indicator to the level of confidence in the machine. The flight lasted 28 minutes with Gp Capt KK Venugopal at the controls in the cockpit and Wg Cdr Kabadwal of the National Flight Test Centre (NFTC) as Test Director in the telemetry. During the test flight, performance of the aircraft systems including Multi-mode Radar (MMR), Helmet Mounted Display System (HMDS), Auto-pilot and Instrument Landing System (ILS) was satisfactory, providing a moment of pride for all the stake holders which include ADA, HAL, IAF, CEMILAC, DG AQA, ADE and NAL among others.

Finally, LCA Tejas LSP-7 Flies

Just in: The seventh limited series production airframe (LSP-7) of the LCA Tejas has taken its first flight today at Bangalore. Stay tuned for updates, photos and videos.

16 Months Later, New Tejas Airframe Ready To Fly

Photo Courtesy M Anantha Krishnan
No new Tejas airframe has flown since November 2010 flight of the LSP-5 (the LSP-6 is a special airframe to achieve envelope expansion). Now, with final ground tests nearing completion, the airframe is finally ready for its first flight. The LSP-7 and LSP-8 have been earmarked for user trials by the Indian Air Force, and will be the final two limited series production aircraft. They will be followed by series production (SP-1, 2 etc) aircraft.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Indian Army Says Ex-General An Arms Agent For Tatra, Vectra

Pinaka & Smerch MBRL systems on Tatra trucks | Photo: Shiv Aroor
Has the Indian Army inadvertently exposed malfeasance by two defence firms, without actually intending to do so? Well it certainly seems like it. Let me take you through this step by step.

On March 2, INDIA TODAY, India's largest weekly news magazine fronted a story about a bug scare in Defence Minister's A.K. Antony's office. We at Headlines Today picked up the story and put it on air. The story was denied almost instantly by the Army and MoD, but was followed up by virtually every news organisation, channel and wire agency. The story made a mention of  suspicions that "off-the-air" interceptors had been employed by the Army to snoop on communications in the national capital, completely in violation of the law. On March 4, The Indian Express led with the story. A day later, the Army issued another denial, this time more comprehensive. My head still hurts when I read the denial, so I'll put it up here, in full, for you to see. Trust me, read it fully:
The Story on Maligning the Army is a fabricated fiction and people responsible are some disgruntled officers, retired and serving, whose sole aim is to create a mistrust between the Army and the Ministry of Defence (MoD). The Military Intelligence has the mandate to routinely debug the offices of senior functionaries of the MoD and the Army. In a routine check, some abnormality was noticed in the Raksha Mantri’s office, which was brought to the notice of the Defence Secretary. Further checks carried out revealed that the voltage drop noticed was due to malfunctioning of the instrument. The Army does not carry out “Of the Air Monitoring” but seeks the assistance of the IB, if it finds the need. The Monitoring equipment is in the possession of the Signal Intelligence and is deployed along the borders and in Counter Insurgency areas. This equipment is under the control of the Director General Defence Intelligence Agency(DG DIA) and not under the Military Intelligence. The present story has been put out by Lt Gen (retd) Tejinder Singh, who was the Ex DGDIA and who has been earlier questioned on the purchase of the “Of the air Monitoring System”, without sanction by the technically empowered committee. This officer has also been an allottee in Adarsh Housing Society in Mumbai and has also offered bribe on behalf of Tatra and Vectra Limited, which supplies vehicles to BEML. The Officer along with some disgruntled serving officers of the military intelligence, against whom disciplinary and administrative actions is in the pipeline has worked out this fictitious story. The Army strongly denies this and take strong exception to such salacious and malafide stories, coming out as news.
Now BEML produces a variety of Czech vehicle-maker Tatra's trucks under license and has done so for long (many of the Army's weapon systems, including the Pinaka and Smerch MBRL pictured above, are based on Tatra vehicles). More recently, on Feb 26, BEML and Kamaz Vectra signed an MoA agreeing to cooperate in the manufacture of commercial vehicles for civil and defence applications. The statement by the Army above officially states that a retired officer from its ranks, Lt Gen Tejinder Singh (former DG Defence Intelligence Agency) "offered bribe" for Tatra and Vectra, presumably to push contracts. Now unless I'm very much out on a limb here, the Army has indicated the presence of an arms agent pushing contracts for Tatra and Vectra in the country. Whether those bribes were accepted is irrelevant at least at this stage. The act of offering a bribe -- the very act of being an agent in India -- for a defence contract is illegal, and has always attracted harsh punitive action. The statement above isn't a scurrilous, anonymous letter -- it is an official statement from the Army HQ. I can't wait to see what Tatra and Vectra think of this. Hoo boy.

Monday, March 05, 2012

India Blacklists 6 Defence Firms

MoD Statement: The Ministry of Defence today decided to debar six firms- M/s Singapore Technologies Kinetics Ltd. (STK), M/s Israel Military Industries Ltd. (IMI), M/s Rheinmetall Air Defence (RAD), Zurich, M/s Corporation Defence, Russia (CDR), M/s TS Kisan & Co. Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi and M/s RK Machine Tools Ltd., Ludhiana – from further business dealings with the Ordnance Factory Board, Department of Defence Production, MoD, for a period of ten years.

The firms were recommended for blacklisting by the CBI on the basis of evidence collected against them. These firms were issued notice to show cause as to why action against them should not be taken consequent to the filing of the chargesheet in the case related to illegal gratification against former Director General of Ordnance Factories Shri Sudipto Ghosh and others.  The decision to debar was taken today after taking into consideration their replies.

IAF Mirage Crashes, 2nd in 2 Weeks

Photo: Aerospace Safety Magazine
An IAF Mirage 2000TH trainer crashed about 60-km South-East of Jaipur in Western India today. This is the second Mirage to go down since another Mirage 2000TH crashed in Bhind, MP on Feb 24. The pilots in today's crash -- Squadron Leader Raj and Flight Lieutenant Kanav ejected safely. The IAF Mirage fleet won't fly for the next few days as routine procedures are conducted to check them out.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Indian Army Activates 2nd BrahMos Unit, Conducts Test

Photo / DPR Defence

Pilots Who Bailed From Mirage Recovering Well

Air Mshl Anil Chopra & Wg Cdr Ram Kumar
Got this nice picture of Air Marshal Anil Chopra (Air Officer - Personnel) and Wing Commander Ram Kumar (CO, 1 Squadron Tigers) at Delhi's R&R hospital where they are recovering well after they ejected from a Mirage 2000 on Feb 25 over Bhind. Air Marshal Chopra, the seniormost Indian pilot to punch out from a jet suffered injuries to his arm and knee but is recovering well. Here's wishing both pilots a speedy recovery and return to action. Godspeed.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Lt Gen Bikram Singh Is India's Next Army Chief

Lt Gen Bikram Singh | Photo by Sitanshu Kar
Putting to rest a measure of intrigue within the ranks, the media and even the establishment over who would command the Army next, India's Eastern Army Commander, Lt Gen Bikram Singh has been designated as the next Chief of Army Staff, in the rank of General, with effect from the afternoon of 31 May 2012. He will succeed the incumbent chief General VK Singh who retires from service, shortly after losing an unprecedented campaign against the civilian establishment over his date of borth. There had been plenty of speculation that the current Chief was unhappy with a "succession line" that had allegedly been set before his time that lined up Lt Gen Bikram Singh as Chief after him -- which is precisely how things have turned out.

Lt Gen Bikram Singh was commissioned into the Sikh Light Infantry Regiment on 31 March 1972. He has served in a variety of command and staff appointments, including commanding a Corps under the Northern Command. The General had served as Deputy Force Commander of a multi-nation UN Peace Keeping Mission in Congo. He had also served as UN Observer in Nicaragua and El Salvador during the early 90s.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

2 Indian Weapons Enter Service On March 3

TAL model at Aero India 2011 / Photo: Shiv Aroor
Akash SAM during user trials / Photo: DRDO
It's a big day for the Indian weapons programme on March 3 with two major systems to be handed over to users. In a formal ceremony in Hyderabad, Defence Minister A.K. Antony will ceremonially entrust to the IAF its first Akash medium-range surface to air missile units, while the Indian Navy will get its first Advanced Light Torpedoes (TAL), both systems developed indigenously by the DRDO.

Indian, Indonesian Troops Conduct Joint Jungle Warfare Drill


Army Statement: Training together to counter the scourge of insurgency in various contemporary scenarios including jungle warfare, the operational part of the first-ever platoon-level joint training exercise – EX GARUDA SHAKTI – of the armies of India and Indonesia, concluded successfully today at the Indian Army's elite Counter Insurgency and Jungle Warfare School (CIJWS), Vairengte in Mizoram. Chakravyuh, a three-day outdoor validation exercise tested the week-long training, imparted at various CI modules and at the plethora of firing ranges in the guerrilla warfare school, ended with the busting of a simulated insurgent hide-out in the Lushai Hills, in the early hours of Thursday, after a grueling night-long march.

The Indonesian National Army (Tentara Nasional Indonesia-Angkatan Darat, TNI-AD, in short) troops led by Lt Col Gatot Heru Puana of KOSTRAD (Indonesian Army's Strategic Reserve Command) belonging to the 13th Infantry Brigade comprised of five officers, six Non-Commissioned Officers and 14 Privates. Troops from the 19th Madras Infantry Battalion, of 21 Mountain Division under Eastern Command, currently deployed in CI operations in the northeast sector, comprised the Indian side. For proper assimilation of the nuances in CIJW operations of the Indonesian troops, all training and attack drills were coordinated by having two mixed platoons (comprising around 30 soldiers each) of KOSTRAD soldiers and the Indian Infantry troops, overseen by senior military observers.

Photos / DPR Defence