Sunday, April 29, 2012

Crucial Arjun Mk.2 User Trials From June 1

Image Courtesy Ajai Shukla / Broadsword
On May 10, the improved Arjun Mk.2 main battle tank prototype is all set to roll into the Pokhran field firing range in Rajasthan for a week of firing trials. Formal user trials with the Indian Army are scheduled to commence on June 1. Much rides on the results of these trials, and expectations are high. At the very least, an indent -- or conditional intention to buy memorandum -- for 124 Mk.2 tanks depends on the tank performing on expected lines during these (and potentially, future rounds of) trials.

The Arjun Mk.2 trials come just weeks after Russia displayed an improved version of the T-90 tank at Defexpo 2012, and the timing is no coincidence. Russia has made it all but officially clear that the T-90 is superior in all respects to the Arjun, though this was hardly borne out in comparative trials between the Russian tank and an Arjun Mk.1 in 2010 (the DRDO says the Russian tank was uniformly drubbed). It isn't difficult to see, however, that the Arjun's loss is the T-90's gain, and vice versa. It is at this juncture and this atmosphere that the Arjun Mk.2 trials are set to commence, and for these reasons that they will be watched closely by stakeholders. Also:

* If the Arjun Mk.2 is not a success, the overall Arjun programme will be a dead loss, since the programme needs a minimum supply order, overall, of 500 tanks to amortize project costs.

* The T-90 license build programme hasn't been without problems, and years after the production line came up, there remain issues.

* The Arjun Mk.2 is crucial in every respect to the Army's faith and confidence in the FMBT that it wants from the DRDO.

The heavier Arjun Mk.2 incorporates some 93 improvements on the Mk.1 tank, 124 of which are already in operational service in two tank regiments in the Army.

Personally, nothing would be more satisfying than to see the Arjun Mk.2 meet all requirements. It is truly sad that India has to continue to cookie-cut Russian tanks at great cost, especially at a time when the paradigm of the land battle is in a process of deep transformation anyway.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Grounded For 50 Days, Air Power Becomes A Mirage

The IAF Mirage 2000 fleet has begun interim flying operations since this piece by Headlines Today deputy editor Gaurav C. Sawant and I in INDIA TODAY magazine went to press. Defence Minister A.K. Antony also told Parliament this week that the two Mirage crashes in February and March this year were because of technical defects.

Copyright / India Today

Indian Missile Shield Ready: DRDO Chief


India's two-layered anti-missile shield is ready for induction, and deployment for defence of the national capital, DRDO chief V.K. Saraswat has said in a television interview to The Indian Express editor-in-chief Shekhar Gupta. The system, which comprises an exo-atmospheric interceptor PAD and endo-atmospheric interceptor AAD (in photo) has often been put on-par with the Patriot PAC-3 by the DRDO leadership.

The DRDO began testing its anti-missile system in November 2006 with an unannounced test (I remember being in Egypt at the time, and reading about it online from a cyber cafe in Aswan).

See also:
Schematics of India's layered missile defence system

Friday, April 27, 2012

Celebrations After LCA Navy First Flight

Cmde Jaideep Maolankar & Wg Cdr M Prabhu after the debut flight

Dr VK Saraswat shakes Cmde Maolankar's hand

ADA chief PS Subrahmanyam

LCA Navy project director Cmde CD Balaji is 4th from right


























































MoD Statement: The indigenously built Light Combat Aircraft Tejas LCA Navy NP1 today made its maiden flight in Bangalore when Commodore JA Maolankar, Test Pilot and Wg Cdr Prabhu, Flight Test Engineer completed a 22 minutes flight.  During the flight the aircraft was put through various manoeuvers including low speed handling and even undertook a close formation flying at slow speed with another aircraft.

Earlier the LCA Navy NP1 had completed various intensive Ground testing regimen including Low Speed Taxi Trials (LSD), High Speed Taxi Trials (HSD), Ground Vibration Test (GVT), Structural Coupling Test (SCT) and extensive system integration tests with power plant using State-of-the-Art facilities at Bangalore HAL airport.

With this India has crossed a major milestone in Design, Development, Manufacturing and Testing of a “four plus” generation Carrier Borne Fly-by-Wire STOBAR aircraft.

LCA Navy aircraft is the first attempt in the country to provide a complete marine force multiplier that will give unique battle punch to the Naval Aviation Arm of the 21st Century to fulfil national dream of a blue water Navy. LCA Navy is the second STOBAR (Ski Take Off But Arrested Recovery) Carrier Borne aircraft in the world, after the Russian deck based aircraft. However, this will be the only Carrier borne Fighter aircraft in the Light category.

Along with Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) who are the Principal Partners with Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) in association with more than 100 agencies ranging from users, DRDO, CEMILAC, DGAQA, CSIR, PSUs, Private Industrial Sector and academia, spread all over India including Indian Navy and Indian Air Force are involved in the Programme. The key responsibility of LCA Navy design, build, integration and testing is with various Divisions of HAL. ADE has played a lead role in Design and Development of the Integrated Flight Control System in unison with NAL, Bangalore for Testing and Integration of Flight Control Laws to ensure safe functionalities for various phases of flight. AMAGB has been designed and manufactured by CVRDE, Chennai up-to the certification level. NSTL, Visakhapatnam and RCI, Hyderabad has rendered critical support for shock testing of LRUs. Significant Private Industry partnership with ASL (DRDO), Hyderabad for high energy Carbon-Carbon brake pads, and CADES for LEVCON and stub wing design, as examples, has helped maturing of Private Sector of the country. This Project will give us self reliance capability in a true sense and also help in taking up more Naval Aircraft Projects in future. Productionisation of indigenously developed Hydraulic system and Fuel system Line Replacement Units (LRUs) have been assigned to GTTC, Bangalore (Government Tool Room and Training Centre) and CTTC (Centre Tool Room and Training Centre), Bhubaneswar respectively. Above all this, constant support, regular participation, keen observation and continuous guidance from CEMILAC and DGAQA have ensured stringent certification and quality requirements are met on the aircraft.

The Design of first indigenous Naval aircraft imposed huge technological challenges to the Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) to meet the peculiar requirements of Naval aircraft; starting from saline and humid environment of operation, restricted availability of deck run for launch and recovery and high operating load conditions. Basic design changes required to suit the carrier operations are strengthening of aircraft structure and Landing Gear, Arrester Hook, improved engine, enhanced aerodynamic performance and incorporation of special metal/material. A host of other systems like the Leading Edge Vortex Control (LEVCON) surface fitted at the front end of the aircraft wing operated by a concealed rotary actuator with aerodynamic profiling to ensure low landing speed, good controllability and better vision for the pilot. The feature of launch and recovery onboard Carrier at high sink rate of 7.1 rn/sec, flareless landing with engine to full throttle till arrested by deck cable impose five times of loading on Main Landing Gear as compared to the IAF version. Also such axial load calls for re-certification of all Line Replacement Units (LRUs), components and associated systems of naval version to ensure fail safe operation repeatedly.

ADA has set a world class Telemetry and Monitoring facility at the National Flight Test Centre (NFTC) to enable conduct of flight test activities at Bangalore. Intuitive on-line monitoring and control of the aircraft are carried out by the Test Director and various System designers. To facilitate proving the aircraft for carrier borne applications, a Shore Based Test Facility (SBTF) is being set up at the Naval Air Station, Goa replicating an aircraft carrier with a ski-jump for launch and arresting gear for deck recovery. Take off area is ready, with landing readiness scheduled for end of 2012. This test facility readiness is as per schedule.

The Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Nirmal Verma in a communication to the Scientific Adviser to the Raksha Mantri, said, “… I express my appreciation and congratulations to all members of the ADA, HAL and DRDO teams for the first successful limited test flight of the LCA (Navy) aircraft… We must ensure that today’s accomplishment leads to the timely fructification of the operational requirements for carrier borne operations….

EXCLUSIVE PHOTOS: LCA Navy On Her Debut Flight Today

Photos / Sanjay Simha

MORE PHOTOS: LCA Navy Lifts Off

Official Statement: The maiden flight of the naval variant of the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) was carried out successfully today at HAL Airport, Bangalore. The first prototype of the LCA Naval variant NP-1, took to the skies at 1210 PM, today. The flight which lasted for about 20 minutes within the designated flight envelope had carried out the planned tests successfully. The test flight was carried out with landing gear extended as a routine practice during the maiden flight. With this successful flight test, the LCA development programme has crossed another major milestone.

The LCA (NP-1) was piloted by Cmde J.A Maolankar, Chief Test Pilot and co-piloted by Wg Cdr M Prabhu, Flight Test Engineer of NFTC. The event was witnessed by a host of top dignitaries including Dr. V.K Saraswat, Scientific Advisor & DG(DRDO), Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne, PVSM AVSM VM ADC, Deputy Chief of Naval Staff Vice Admiral Satish Soni, AVSM, NM, Commandant Air Force Training Command Air Marshal Rajinder Singh, AVSM, VM, Chairman HAL Shri R.K Tyagi, DS & Programme Director (CA) & Director ADA Shri PS Subramanyan, Project Director of LCA Navy, Cmde (Retd) C. D Balaji and Dr. K Tamilmani of CEMILAC.

The development plan of the Naval version envisages building of 2 prototypes, a two seat trainer (NP-1) and a single seat fighter (NP-2), as technology demonstrators to carry out carrier suitability certification and weapons integration. HAL is the major partner to ADA, for the Design & Development of the Light Combat Aircraft. In the Naval variant, the responsibilities of HAL include Design of General Systems viz. Fuel System, Environmental Control System, Hydraulics, Electrical, Communication System , Landing Gear, Arrestor Hook, LEVCON Modification. HAL is also responsible for manufacturing of prototypes, system Integration & installation, Ground Testing and the Integrated Flight Control System Test facility. The additional features that the naval version would have when compared to the other version of LCA are the LEVCON (Leading Edge Vortex Control Surface) to reduce the forward speed of the aircraft during carrier landing, Telescopic Landing Gear with high sink rate, Arrester Hook for deck recovery and fuel dump system for emergency deck recovery. The aircraft is specifically designed for take off from a 14 degree ramp on the aircraft carrier deck and use the Arrester Hook System to facilitate landing within the deck length of 90 meters.

FIRST PHOTOS: LCA Navy Makes Debut Flight




Photos / Headlines Today

BREAKING: LCA Navy Takes Off!

Sadly, I couldn't be there, but I had a friend hold his phone to the air at Bangalore's HAL airport as the LCA Navy prototype roared into the air a few moments ago on its long-delayed debut flight! (I'd posted last morning about the flight.)

The NP-1 twin seat trainer prototype took off at 12.10pm on a 20 minute flight. The aircraft was piloted by Commodore Jaideep Avinash Maolankar, Chief Test Pilot with the NFTC, and co-piloted by Wing Commander M. Prabhu, flight test engineer (FTE). Both pilots report that the first flight was a success and that the aircraft responded as expected.

Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal N.A.K. Browne, Deputy Chief of Naval Staff Vice Admiral Satish Soni and DRDO chief Dr V.K. Saraswat were among those who witnessed the first flight.

The platform has had several technical hurdles that the team has worked hard to sort out. Stay tuned for updates and photos. As always, you heard it first on Livefist :) Godspeed and all the very best to the LCA Navy team, led by Commodore (Retd) C.D. Balaji.

The Making Of INS Teg

The brochure released by the Navy on the occasion of INS Teg's induction today at St Petersburg.

Indian Navy Commissions Stealth Frigate 'Teg' Today



The Indian Navy commissions the first of its follow-on Talwar-class (modified Krivak-II) stealth frigates Teg today (April 27) at Yantar shipyard in St Petersburg. The Commissioning CO is Capt Rakesh Kumar Dahiya. Shano Varuna.

Photos / Indian Navy

Thursday, April 26, 2012

India's LCA-Navy Takes Off Tomorrow. Hopefully.

There have been way too many last minute aborts for this to sound certain in any way, but the LCA Navy is scheduled to finally make its first flight tomorrow at 10AM in Bangalore. The team, led by Commodore (Retd) C.D. Balaji is ready to put the aircraft into the air.

Approximately 18 months behind schedule, the maritime fighter programme has been beset with technological hurdles that the team has toiled to overcome. In February, the Defence Acquisition Council approved the manufacture of eight limited series production (LSP) LCA Navy platforms for the Indian Navy. The Navy, which supported the programme financially and otherwise, recently sounded pretty irritated with the delays.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

India Orders Probe Into AW101 Copter Deal, Warns Of Consequences

AW 101 in IAF VVIP livery | Image/AgustaWestland
This statement just came from the Indian MoD:Defence Minister AK Antony today directed his ministry officials to get a fresh report from the Indian Embassy in Rome following a media report alleging malpractices in the procurement of 12 helicopters for the VVIP Communication Squadrons of the Indian Air Force from Ms. Agusta Westland. There were media reports also in February 2012 about investigations undertaken by Italian authorities into alleged unethical dealings by M/s Finmeccanica Italy.  Following this, information was sought by MoD from the Indian Embassy in Rome. The Indian Embassy reported that Italian authorities were conducting preliminary investigations on allegations of financial malpractices occurring within Finmeccanica and its subsidiaries in general.  There was no specific probe being conducted on India-related transactions. There is no clear indication at this stage whether the India related deal would be probed on the strength of preliminary investigations.

It may be recalled that the contract for the procurement of the helicopters contains the standard provisions against use of undue influence and employment of agents and payment of agency commission.  A Pre-Contract Integrity Pact has also been signed between Agusta Westland and MoD.

Any such complaint or allegation received will be investigated and the contractual provisions invoked, in case any wrong doiThe Defence Minister Shri AK Antony today directed his ministry officials to get a fresh report from the Indian Embassy in Rome following a media report alleging malpractices in the procurement of 12 helicopters for the VVIP Communication Squadrons of the Indian Air Force from Ms. AgustaWestland.

There were media reports also in February 2012 about investigations undertaken by Italian authorities into alleged unethical dealings by M/s Finmeccanica Italy.  Following this, information was sought by MoD from the Indian Embassy in Rome. The Indian Embassy reported that Italian authorities were conducting preliminary investigations on allegations of financial malpractices occurring within Finmeccanica and its subsidiaries in general.  There was no specific probe being conducted on India-related transactions. There is no clear indication at this stage whether the India related deal would be probed on the strength of preliminary investigations.

It may be recalled that the contract for the procurement of the helicopters contains the standard provisions against use of undue influence and employment of agents and payment of agency commission.  A Pre-Contract Integrity Pact has also been signed between AgustaWestland and MoD. Any such complaint or allegation received will be investigated and the contractual provisions invoked, in case any wrong doing is established, in addition to action that may be required under law.ng is established, in addition to action that may be required under law.
 

Italy Investigates Pay-offs In Indian VVIP Copter Deal

Photo / AgustaWestland (via Prasun K Sengupta)
Two months after it emerged that India's VVIP helicopter deal with AgustaWestland was being investigated for possible kick-backs -- and a month after the Indian defence minister clarified to Parliament that there was no specific probe into India-related transactions, the Italian press now reports that Italy is indeed investigating the possibility that AgustaWestland paid 51-million in kickbacks to swing the $700-million Indian deal in 2010 for 12 AW-101 executive transport helicopters. The helicopters, incidentally, begin delivery in October this year.

Finmeccannica yesterday issued this detailed statement in response to the press reports:

AgustaWestland has not committed any form of irregularity, nor has any type of commission been paid to any type of broker, either during the (military) tender for supply of AW101 helicopters to the Defence Ministry, or during the (civilian) tender for possible supply of helicopters to the police forces.• AgustaWestland has thus complied in full with the laws of India which prohibit the use of brokers for military supplies. A recent investigation by the Defence Ministry ascertained this, and confirmed that the tender for AW101 helicopters was absolutely regular.• On the contrary, Indian Law does not preclude the use of brokers for civil supplies. However, this contract has never taken concrete form, because the tender never took place. AgustaWestland as a result has neither sold any helicopters to the police forces, nor paid any type of commission.• The agency contract relating to the possible sale of helicopters to the police forces was drawn up in full compliance with Italian, Indian and international laws. Contracts of this type represent a standard and common practice at international level, and in this type of business.• There is no connection - either direct or indirect - between the programme relating to the AW101 helicopters for the Indian Air Force and that of the police force: the reference sectors are different, the stakeholders are different, the procedures are different, and the products are different.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

India's UCAV To Fly In 2015, Says DRDO. High Hopes?

Artist's impression / Anurag Rana
India's concept AURA stealth UCAV could complete prototyping by end 2013, make its first flight in 2015 and enter service in 2017, a senior DRDO scientist has told The Indian Express. Now, either that's a pang of breathtaking optimism, or the DRDO is actually working it. To put it gently, timelines have never been the DRDO's strongest suit, and the target indicated suggests that the AURA (officially only called Unmanned Strike Air Vehicle - USAV, and first revealed here on Livefist) will fly well before India's Tejas Mk.2 and AMCA manned fighter jets. To be sure, very little is actually known about the AURA/USAV apart from the fact that it is being developed as a flying-wing stealth design, and is expected to be powered by a modified version of the Snecma/Kaveri turbofan engine. Most current circumstances indicate that it is highly unlikely that a 2015 first flight is possible, though the secret nature of the programme may just suggest things we don't know yet. I'll say this: I'd be the happiest person on earth if I get to eat my words, but I won't be holding my breath just yet.

8 Hopefuls For Indian Navy MRMR Competition

Modified Boeing P-8 | (Photo/Boeing)

Lockheed-Martin C-130J 'Sea Hercules' | (Image/L-M via Stratpost)

Dassault Aviation Falcon 900 MPA (Image/Dassault)

Alenia-Aeronautica ATR-72MP (Photo/ATR)

EADS CASA C-295 MP (Photo/EADS Airbus)

Embraer P-99/ERJ 145 MP (Photo/Embraer)

Saab 2000 MP | More here. (Photo/Saab)

Bombardier-IAI-ELTA Q400 Multi Mission Aircraft (Photo/IAI)

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Images From Indo-US Naval Exercise Malabar

Destroyer INS Ranvir passes USS Carl Vinson with F-18 Hornet

Corvette INS Kulish passes destroyer USS Hasley

Indian and US warships in a passage formation

Indian frigate INS Satpura passes USS Carl Vinson 

Destroyer INS Ranvijay with USS Carl Vinson

Fleet tanker INS Shakti with USS Carl Vinson














Friday, April 20, 2012

India's Long-Range Cruise Missile Test In August, Says DRDO

The Nirbhay DOESN'T look like this! Only an impression.
Tata 12x12 vehicle on which Nirbhay will be based. | Photo by Shiv Aroor
India's Tomahawk-like long range cruise missile Nirbhay is expected to be test-fired for the first time in July-August this year, according to the Dr V.G. Sekaran, director of the Advanced Systems Lab (ASL) at DRDO.

This will be, without a doubt, the most significant weapon test since, perhaps, the Agni-III. The Nirbhay, shrouded in secrecy for long, is understood to be a two-stage high subsonic cruise missile with loitering capabilities. Sources suggest that apart from the engine (apparently supplied by NPO Saturn), the rest of the system is fully indigenous.

Indian private sector giant Tata revealed recently that it was building the vehicle [PDF] that will be the carrier/launcher  for the Nirbhay system. The Nirbhay will be based on the "indigenous high mobility, all-terrain and all-wheel drive Tata LPTA 5252-12 X12 vehicle", developed in partnership with DRDO.

IAF Wants 9 New COMJAM/SIGINT Aircraft

IAI AISIS and Shavit special mission jets | Photo: Gulfstream/IAI
The Indian Air Force has floated a brand new requirement to support the acquisition of nine aircraft for survey, target towing, COMJAM and Airborne SIGINT.

According to the request for information  [PDF] sent out to global vendors, "Seven aircraft should be suitably integrated by the OEM and certified for the survey, target Towing and COMJAM roles including dropping of flares, passenger and cargo roles. Two aircraft should be certified to perform the SIGINT role. The basic platform for all the nine aircraft is to be the same platform and is to comply with FAA/JAAR or equivalent standards. The role equipment and role performance is to comply with related  Mil STD/ equivalent stipulations."

Israel's IAI has pitched the AISIS special mission aircraft to the IAF over the last few years. Companies likely to be looking at the requirement include Northrop-Grumman, Boeing, L-3 and Raytheon.