ARMY INDUCTS K9 VAJRA AND M777 HOWITZER
Two new artillery guns were inducted into the Indian Army on 9 November 2018, marking the first new acquisition since the Bofors were acquired more than three decades ago. Speaking on the occasion at Deolali, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said, “It is after 30 years that we are procuring such guns. Under the new government since 2014, procurement of Army equipment has been expedited. Under the PM’s guidance, negotiations were started and within four years we inducted these guns and many more will be inducted in the future.”
The 155 mm/39 calibre M777 A-2 ultra-light howitzers (ULH), is manufactured by BAE systems and has a maximum range of 30 km. A total of 145 guns are being procured by India as part of a G-to- G deal between the Indian and US governments signed earlier this year. While 25 guns will come in a fly-away condition, the rest will be assembled in India by the BAE Systems in partnership with Mahindra Defence. The munitions for the guns will be manufactured in India.
Nik Khanna, managing director India, BAE Systems said, “With the M777 program, BAE Systems has made the first step of our substantive Make-in-India commitment, which includes our pledge to develop a network of Indian suppliers for our global supply chain and deepen our relationship with industry in India”.
The Mahindra team finalised these weapons by replicating the proven manufacturing processes to the highest of quality specifications, including modifications specifically tailored for the Indian Artillery, such as a unique camouflage paint scheme. A total of seven regiments of artillery will be equipped with the M 777 with the first regiment being equipped by October 2018.
The K9 Vajra -T 155mm/ 52 Cal. Tracked
Self-Propelled Howitzer is a variant of K9 Thunder which is in use in many armies including the Korean Army. A total of 100 K9 Vajra will be inducted at a cost of Rs 4,366 crore, the process being completed by November 2020. As per a defence ministry spokesperson, the first batch of 10 guns will be delivered in November 2018. These will be manufactured in South Korea. The remaining guns will be manufactured in India by L&T’s Strategic Systems Complex in Talegaon near Pune, with South Korea’s Hanwha Tech Win (HTW). L&T is also constructing a production line for K9 VAJRA-T at Hazira in Gujarat. 40 guns will be delivered by November 2019 and the remaining 50 guns by November 2020. The first regiment equipped with the Vajra will be completed by July 2019. The guns will have over 50 per cent indigenous components.
The K9 Vajra-T, with a range of 28-38 km, is capable of burst firing three rounds in 30 seconds, intense firing of 15 rounds in three minutes and sustained firing of 60 rounds in 60 minutes. It is a variant of the South Korean K9 Thunder.
MEHAR BABA PRIZE COMPETITION FOR UAS SWARM
In order to promote and enthuse participation of the sharpest technical minds and untapped innovative potential in emerging new technological domains, today IAF is launching aIn order to promote and enthuse participation of the sharpest technical minds and untapped innovative potential in emerging new technological domains, today IAF is launching acompetition to develop and design drones to operate as a swarm and convey relief material to stranded citizens in a disaster hit region.
This competition is named the “Mehar Baba Prize” competition, in honour of one of IAF’s highly decorated officer in World War II, Air Cmde (Baba) Mehar Singh, DSO, MVC.
The competition is thrown open to all Indian citizens, academic institutions and entities. IAF would give Rs 10 lakh prize to the winner, Rs 10 crore to each selected team towards development, followed by a sizeable co-production order of Rs 100 crore. Further details are available on the website of the IAF. Hopefully, this should see great participation and lead towards innovative solutions.
Bio Jet Fuel
The Indian Air Force is sponsoring the development and use of bio-jet fuel with Indian Institute of Petroleum (CSIR), Dehradun for use in its aircraft. The developed technology is undergoing certification trials with HAL, 3BRD, DGAQA and Centre for Military Airworthiness and Certification (CEMILAC). The use of bio fuel would not just reduce the import bill, it would also augment the farmers income by ensuring guaranteed off-take of the non-edible oil seeds produce. IAF intends to fly an An-32 on bio-jet fuel blended ATF on 26 January 2019 in a phased manner. This will also position India as the hub for bio-jet fuel catering to international flight operations.
The IAF is spearheading an effort to expand the footprint of bio-jet fuel production plants in the country. In this effort, cooperation with Ministries of Petroleum & Natural Gas, Agriculture, Rural Development, Tribal Affairs and Departments of Atomic Energy and Science and Technology would be completely indigenous and this thrust would result in creating more than five lakh jobs in the next three years. It would result in reenergising the circular rural economy.
INDIAN NAVY: EXPANSION PLANS
To cater to increased Chinese naval activity in the Indian Ocean, the Government of India has approved an expansion and upgrade plan for the Navy. Over the next ten years, the Navy is set to acquire 56 new ships, to include submarines, mine sweepers and fleet ships. Some of these will be replacements for the ships presently held by the Indian Navy while the rest will be an addition to the naval fleet. The above is in addition to the 32 ships and submarines under construction or under contract to be built in private and public shipyards in India. Of the 56 new ships, there are six submarines that are being contracted. These are in addition to the Kalvari-class submarines that are being built by Mazagon Dock Limited (MDL), in collaboration with French company DCNS. Kalvari is the Indian Navy’s first indigenous Scorpene-class stealth submarine, the first of which is undergoing sea trials. Six of these submarines are being built under the much-delayed Project 75.
The expansion of naval power is but a natural fallout to the fact that the Indian Navy is being increasingly seen as being a net security provider in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). Speaking on the eve of Naval Day, the CNS, Admiral Sunil Lamba said the attention of the entire world is focused on the IOR and that India is committed to keeping the area clean of all traditional and non- traditional threats in the Indian Ocean.
The navy has envisioned a fleet strength of 200 ships by 2050 from its present strength of 132 vessels. To augment its Frigates fleet, the MoD signed a USD 950 million deal with Russia to purchase two Admiral Grigorovich frigates which will be built in Russia’s Baltic Coast Yantar Shipyard, as reported by Janes on October 29. An additional two ships will be built in Goa Shipyard for which negotiations over price and transfer of technology are being carried out. As per India’s MoD, the deal includes transfer of technology and the frigates will be outfitted with the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile system. These frigates are armed with A- 190 100mm artillery guns, strike missile and air defence systems, including Kalibr and Shtil complexes and torpedo tubes. They can perform against surface ships and submarines as well as air targets and will likely be delivered in 2016.
The plans for acquisition include the construction of a third aircraft carrier, now on paper called the Indigenous Aircraft Carrier II (IAC II). The proposal for IAC II has been sent to the government and is envisaged to be a 65,000-tonne carrier. Among the types of ships that the Indian Navy urgently needs are Mine Counter-Measure Vessels (MCMVs), the last of which is to be decommissioned within months. Such vessels are tasked to clear entry and exit routes to ports of potential sabotage by adversaries. Now what remains to be seen is whether the Indian defence establishment can stick to the above timelines.