With Cold Response To UCAV Query, IAF Throws Weight Behind Indian Programme

Following a totally flat response to its surprise June RFI for a fleet of UCAVs, the Indian Air Force is throwing its weight fully behind India’s indigenous UCAV programme, codenamed AURA. The highly classified programme, completely unknown until it was reported on here on Livefist (follow-up posts here and here), is currently working to define a stealth flying-wing UCAV platform. I asked a senior IAF officer recently about the RFI and how it fit in with the AURA programme. He said, “The UCAV we operate will be an Indian platform. The RFI was an exercise to query the international market to get a sense of what is available in terms of platforms and technology. But the platform we finally induct will be an Indian one.”
BAE Systems is the only company that confirmed to me that it had responded to the IAF’s RFI. The company’s India spokesperson Guy Douglas told me, “We did reply to the RFI… However, and as we stated in the RFI response, we are unlikely to be able to offer a realistic response to a UCAV RFP within the immediate timeframe. In July we unveiled Taranis, the world’s first stealthy autonomous UCAV. As Taranis is still in the prototype phase of development it would be incorrect to suggest it is available to compete for this programme. Instead we have made it clear that we are very interested in working together with the DRDO, and other agencies and companies in India to help develop an indigenous UAS capability.” Since there are no operational UCAV products anywhere on earth that fit the IAF’s stated requirements, the IAF had been expecting responses, at the very least, like BAE’s.

Dassault Aviation, which also received the RFI, decided not to respond, but is understood to have separately conveyed its openness in partnering India on the AURA programme, though this will have nothing to do with the nEUROn UCAV demonstrator programme. Companies that received the IAF’s RFI, but chose not to respond, include Boeing, Lockeed-Martin, General Atomics and EADS. Israel’s IAI and Russia’s UAC also received the RFI, but did not confirm how or if they responded.

35 thoughts on “With Cold Response To UCAV Query, IAF Throws Weight Behind Indian Programme”

  1. Again, DODO is able to convince for more money…….

    just like in US make DRDO compete with private sector TATA or Mahindra and select the best.

    now don't say TATA or Mahindra do not have expertise in designing and make the design model fly.

    They can even buy out best scientists from DRDO and dump the reservation candidate rot in DODO.

  2. How dare they do this to Incredible India?….i am not happy about this at all. Don't these people know how much money we have?

  3. 1st of all no country has developed a fully functional UCAV so far. So, it will be impractical on part of IAF to expect response to such a tech that is still in the stage of infancy. All the UCAVs are at various stages of development. India can partner with Russia, Israel (masters in this field), Germany n Britain (In case we go for EF), USA (In case we award half the MMRCA contract to Boeing F18 IR). We are already working with these countries/companies at several projects,hence collaborating in such an advanced area will be a win win proposition for all.

    Israel is anyway getting massive tech aid from USA, therefore no surprise if they r both roped in to develop the UCAV. EADS is already into several Indian defense projects and BAE is not too far. Hence, it won't be very far fetched to assume Anglo German assistance in this program. Russia can choose to be a part of this project either overtly or covertly.They are anyway major partner in almost all defense projects. This approach will bring down the cost of manufacturing and developing this system. UCAVs will require AI and other advanced software. India with it's IT strength can be of major assistance.

    We need both Mod and private sector to chip in for this project.

  4. It may be a boon in disguise for the Mod, DRDO and private sector to go in for maximum of indigenous development.

  5. Joint development and production is the best idea IMO. Thus far UCAV technology is still immature even for the British and Israelis. Outside of American programs the BAE Taranis is the only stealth UCAV programme that has gotten off the drawing board so far. Teaming up with them now will be a good way for Indian cos to gain expertise instead of playing catch-up later and importing the finished product wholesale.

  6. good to see that our money driven leaders got some kick in their backs from abroad. ultimately they turned to DRDO for UCAV development!!! If possible they could buy ICBM and nukes from abroad because it makes money.

    anon 9:36 PM, paki we have seen what TATA and Mahindra can do. they have failed to built the Pinaka properly with ToT, how the hel they will develop. a paki can't hide its identity.

  7. hi shiv,
    Tomorrow me n my friend were talking about INS Vikrant and its glory's past. Suddenly we figure out that Indian navy will be the only navy in the world who had been operated all three types of aircraft carriers by configuration. Let me explain Vikrant : Catapult Assisted Take-Off But Arrested Recovery
    INS Viraat: Short Take-Off Vertical Landing
    yet to commissioned INS Vikramaditya: Short Take-Off But Arrested Recovery .
    You could make a story on Headline today. How Indian navy will make history after commissioning Vikramaditya.


  8. Having such confidence in private sector is not good. When the last time they were asked to develop a battle tank,they came back in a surrender mode stating that it's not possbile to develop them. Today one of our private shipyard, which has links to some corrupt practices like the AGB shipyard is still not provided the Pollution control vessel to the Indian Navy. The delay will beat even the govt run shipyards. Here there is no design change, no weaponry required etc but still this is the pathetic state of a Private shipyard. So believing that private guys will bring wonders is too far stretched. They can be partners in the development process. Let them learn things first. Let them understand integration of all things so that they can be the production agency. Also let them contribute some of the parts (in which they are good at) that go into the weapon system. Even with the latest Infantry combat vehicle project given to private agencies, I have little hope that they will come up with anything substantial, because a single company will not be able to produce everything. May be we will see more import of components and screw driver tech like the ones done by OFB. So what's the use of such an initiative. Better is a group of companies getting together and providing their area of expertise in the development of the IFV. That will give us the best FIFV in the world.

  9. Another set back for the Babus!!! Another money making deal went to DRDO!!! This could bring billions to their swiss bank account. If they buy single aircraft for one billion dollar who can question them??? No one.

    All the best to DRDO.

  10. [email protected]:38,
    One of the greatest impediments,be it to the Pvt sector is the whimsical ways , shortsightedness, often callous and for the most absolute bureaucratic style of functioning of our govt/and political leadership.Every issue is approached with a babu approach of it simply being a govt file,to be pushed up and down.There is little interest in supervision,monitoring or fixing accountability.

    No private sector organization will ever invest capability,manpower and money on a project or policy that may change or worse be canceled at any time.Unless the govt gives a long term,honest ,consistent,clear and concrete policy guidelines/decisions on private sector participation in the defence sector, few private bodies will ever bother to invest in the defense sector in a big way.

  11. @Anon 2.32PM Who has asked the pvt sector to invest in the defense sector? It is the Pvt sector which is getting a hammering in the civilian mkt that want's to hedge it's interests by having a monopoly over Govt and defense sectors. Our vintage Ambassador cars are a case in point.

    1st let them be successful in the civilian mkt and then talk about entering high risk and no guaranteed return defense sector. The Govt should allow the Pvt sector to export or compete in international mkts. Let's see how they fare in the international mkt and then we will take a call whether they are competent to work in Indian defense sector.

    All the shortcomings that you hv mentioned are very much present even in pvt sector. Just checkout their after sales service and you will know what I mean. On top of it there is extreme corruption in Pvt sector hence they can't be trusted with guarding the nation's vital interests.

  12. If our private sector had the kind of government support EADS/Airbus, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, BAE, Dassault etc. get from their respective governments, or atleast what Tata got from the Gujarat gov for the Nano project, then they'd truly shine.

    It's not fair to ask them to invest huge amounts money without any guarantee that it will be repaid when you see the history of PSU favouritism like the Samyukta selection, where Tata's crores of research went down the drain because of lobbying by BEL's corrupt babus and unions to force Army to buy their inferior product.

  13. UCAV are more important than fifth generation fighter plane , and following the conclusion of MMRCA trials IAF has realized that none of the planes perfectly fit the role which the IAF have envisioned for them.And only indigenous design capabilities can fill the gap. So its time IAF and DRDO worked together and produced something that not only makes every Indian proud but even send shrills down the spines of Pukis and Chink Bastards. Government need to spend more money in field of science and Technology, then only our research Labs would be able to produce cutting edge next generation stuff.

  14. "Since there are no operational UCAV products anywhere on earth that fit the IAF's stated requirements, the IAF had been expecting responses, at the very least, like BAE's." Umm, well BAE isnt exactly an IAF favourite and need their PM to do sales pitches, but that said, seems weird that we are dreaming up configurations that havent even flown as yet. Wow, should be really blame DRDO after that for not cooking up something that doesnt really exist?

  15. [email protected] pm,
    The private sector will invest wherever there is a scope of profit and decent returns.Defence is too big a sector for anyone not to be interested.

    The Indian private sector has come a long way since the ambassador days.Companies like Mahindra and TATA are examples.Regards corruption and inefficiency,its not as if the west is inherently honest or efficient.But they do have good legal systems of redressal and there is competition.Society also is more educated and advanced.You can sue the hell out of anyone for deficient service.Corruption is a serious issue in the defence sector all over the world.In India our courts and consumer courts are still evolving.Our society too has a chalta hai attitude and afraid of long drawn out court battles.But we need not be totally pessimistic.India will evolve for the better.It is up to us to make the process as fast as possible no matter how much cynicism there is.

  16. @Gautam Inspite of all the support from Gujarat Govt. Tata Nano is bursting into flames. Can you imagine instead of protecting those inside the vehicles, the vehicle itself becomes a mobile suicide devise? I have no angst against pvt sector. But having worked in these companies and knowing them very well I wouldn't want to risk the lives of our jawans. Fact is our companies and we as a people are yet to evolve. Both Pvt and PSUs must work together with guidance from masters in respective areas. Our pvt companies need a lot of hand holding even in the civilian domestic mkt, let alone high tech uber competitive defense sector. Let us hand hold and mentor the ones that show maximum promise. Currently there are only a few handful of companies which show promise.
    I would like the govt to act as a VC and encourage talented enggs and MBAs to start their own enterprises with Govt assistance and support.Lot of these budding young entrepreneurs will give better value than these huge, highly corrupt, good for nothing pvt cos.

  17. Anon @ 11:34, for all your spite against private Cos our PSUs are far worse. But you have long since closed your eyes to that truth and are looking at them with rose-coloured glasses, probably because in some way you are employed by/associated with one. Enough one-sided bile-spewing here.

  18. @Gautam

    PSUs maybe lazy and inefficient but they deliver. Indian pvt cos hype their "efficiency" but their products and services are highly ineffective. In the heat of battle I want a weapon system that works. PSU products are far better than what our Pvt cos are able to churn out.
    When you are cornered you resort to personal attacks. This is the way women fight.

  19. @ Anon 2:38,

    You are astounding in your pettiness. Now you're resorting to sexism? Your posts reveal far more about yourself than what you're trying to argue.

    If our defence PSUs are so great and hi=tech, why is it that our armed forces look for every opportunity to avoid their products, in the end relenting only because of MoD pressure? From Arjun to Samyukta, from Tejas to Project 75I submarines?

    Whatever the PSUs have developed till was a product of monopoly, favouritism and unlimited funding from the government. You know this, yet neglect to consider or mention any facts and instead just post arbitrary pro-PSU statements that sound like CPIM propaganda speeches.

  20. Here are a few more examples about how much 'superior'(sarcasm) PSU products are to private and how the MoD babus have no need(sarcasm) to FORCE our armed forces to buy them over private offerings.

    ''Anon, make that PSUs maybe lazy ,inefficient, CORRUPT, SELFISH and MONOPOLISTIC but they deliver SUBSTANDARD PRODUCTS.''

    Oh, and save your armchair propaganda about how our armed forces have been wooed by bribes/brochures to select foreign/private sector.

  21. @Gautam

    You have said it. Our poor PSUs can't give Gori females by way of bribes to our hairy sipahis. They can't give them bribes so our Army goes and sabotages that tank during trials. Thereby ensuring steady supply of phoren sur sura and suriya.

    You really fight like a female. What r u doin in this macho site? Quit bit#hing and fight like a man.

  22. Hey Anon @ 11:34, since you love talking about how corrupt the private defence sector apparently is, here is a shining example of DRDO integrity.

    Imagine how many more people like him are working in our defence PSUs, taking advantage of their complete lack of accountability over unlimited taxpayer research funds. Come to think of it, that's probably a big reason why the GTRE has developed absolutely nothing over 50 years of existence, all the thousands of crores sunk there went straight into the scientists' pockets!

  23. BTW that GTRE official was a C-grade technical officer, which is a relatively low rank. Imagine how much looting of public funds is being done by the DRDO higher-ups year-after-year.

  24. @Gautam

    Have you heard the name "Antilla"? It is not some mystical island. It is the name of the most expensive home in the world. A cool 1 billion $+. It belongs to Mukesh Ambani, a guy who was born in a place called "kabutarkahana" which is full of run down chawls.
    Kindly advise me from where this guy got the money,to rise from the slums of Mumbai to live in the world's most expensive home??

    These petty officers have taken few lakhs but our babus, netas and baniyas ( majority of them complete illiterates) have kept so much money stashed away in Swiss banks that if it can wipe out the poverty in India. One Swiss bank officer told one of our IAS officers, that India does not need any aid as the gold and foreign currency of Indians in Swiss banks are more than enough to take care of India's economic problems. It is these [email protected] who are keeping India poor. Open your eyes if you are not one of the thieves.

    Kindly tell me how much income tax these guys pay to our exchequer?

  25. Anon @ 11:47,

    As has become a trend on this blog you are now trying to change the subject to the general, non-defence related corruption in India.

    For your information, Mukesh Ambani has never lived in a slum in his life. You are mistaking him for his father Dhirubai who was the real rags-to-riches guy.

    And our babus, netas and baniyas are corrupt? True, very true, and very sad, but are they stealing away DRDO's research funds in the name of doing reasearch and development? No, but GTRE is and HAL maybe is too. And that's what's relevant to our defence prodution.

  26. @Gautam

    It is you who has brought in the corruption topic. Wnen u r cornered again u resort to personal attacks. Nothing happens in isolation.Behind every major war the cause is pure economics.

    Fyi, Mukesh and Anil were born and grew up in their chawl in Kabutarkhana.

    There is corruption everywhere even in USA and EEC. There is corruption in PSUs and that's the reason why they have a Vigilance Dept to keep a tab on what's going on. This is precisely the reason that guy was caught and you came to know about it. Where 10000s of crores is involved, few lakhs is a paltry figure. WHereas these Pvt. Cos hv no vigilance to monitor their illegal practices as these practices happen to be a part of their business model. In these Pvt Cos corruption is institutionalized and therefore u never get to hear any cases of corruption in Pvt Cos.Only when u use their services and products you get to realize how they have cheated u.

    If one petty officer has been caught making money, it proves how strong their systems and practices are, it's not the other way.

  27. Corruption exists in private sector in the form of bribery, but embezzlement of funds will always be dealt with far more severely than in government because it affects profits.

    In contrast for the DRDO and defence PSUs there is no accountability or oversight of exactly how funds are utilized. If a project goes over-budget the increase is readily sanctioned with a blank cheque without investigating exactly how past money was spent. It was like that for GTRE which kept getting budget extensions for Kaveri from the original Rs.300cr to Rs.3000cr even despite repeated criticism from all external auditing committees.

    In private sector if a firm is awarded a contract by govt. but keeps asking to double, triple or quadruple the price again and again along with nonstop revision of delivery dates they would be fined heavily or even stripped of the contract. If a government oversight committee finds substandard or slow work being done then also this will happen.

    This is not the case for the defence PSUs because they have a monopoly and are controlled directly by MoD. So it is no great stretch of imagination that potential for corruption is infinitely more because the people involved can just missappropriate some of the infinite funds given, since the MoD will never stop funding irrespective of criticism from CAG, Vigilance Commission media or any other quarters.

    Did I make myself clear or do I have to further elaborate the same points?

  28. @Gautam

    It seems you have not properly read my earlier post. There is a vigilance dept apart from internal auditors which keep a strict vigil over expenditure of funds in PSUs. They have a tight control over how funds and they are also answerable to the parliament fyi.
    GTRE is an R&D set up where you cannot determine how much funds you will require to develop a highly advanced tech from scratch.
    Btw, the books of account of PSUs are also vetted by auditors appointed by central govt apart from internal auditors. Anyone who has faintest idea about accounting will know how difficult it is to siphon off massive amounts without active connivance of several depts which is next to impossible.
    PSUs take bribe while awarding contracts to third parties. Even here contracts are awarded thru tendering process. Employees found indulging in corruption are dismissed. Even senior union leaders hv been kicked out. Something we don't see in the Pvt Co world. I hv worked in both setups and I am amazed at the amount of checks and balances in PSUs. People are scared to take decisions as at the slightest pretext apart from vigilance inquiry you may also hv CBI after u.This means long investigation stretching over several years and therefore no chance for promotions.

  29. As with GTRE, it is the R & D programs I was referring to in various DRDO labs as well as others like HAL and BEL where funds keep getting extended irrespective of results simply due to the desire to keep the program alive. The CAG and auditors may raise questions about why so little progress has been made on the funds used but these can be answered by usual arguments like 'No prior experience' or 'start from scratch'. Only when an official is found having disproportionate assets or allegations are leveled by an outside party does criminal action take place against such persons.

  30. @Gautam,

    If you have so many auditors you can never take the system for a ride. Misuse of massive amt of funds and their misappropriation will be detected as PSU employees are supposed to declare annually any purchases or investments above Rs50,000. Any employees failing to do so and during a vigilance/income tax or CBI raid if their assets are found to be disproportionate to their income, they will be prosecuted and suitable action will be taken against them. In some cases officers have landed behind bars.
    We will require more funds and time for R&D in high tech area bcoz we are still a 3rd world country without any exposure or experience. With time we will evolve. Within 20 yrs we hv become a "superpower".Think about it.

  31. If our vigilance/auditing systems were as strong as you say corruption and misappropriation of funds wouldn't be one-twentieth as common as it is. They're neither perfect nor infallible. That's all I will add.

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