TEJAS: CAN HAL DELIVER?
In a report on the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), the IAF has listed several deficiencies and is pushing to procure single engine fighter jets. The Tejas LCA, when compared to Saab’s JAS-39 Gripen and Lockheed Martin’s F-16, does not compare favourably in terms of endurance capability, payload carrying capacity and on maintenance requirements. The Tejas’s endurance at 59 minutes and payload carrying capability at about three tons falls far short of the Gripen which has an endurance of three hours and payload of six tons and the F16 which has an endurance of four hours and payload of seven tons. In terms of servicing, the Tejas LCA requires 20 hours of serving for every hour of flying against six hours for the Gripen and 3.5 hours for the F-16. In addition, the service life of the Tejas LCA is also half that of the 40 years found in both the Gripen and F-16.
A CAG report of May 2015 also highlighted the technical problems with the Tejas LCA, such as inadequate electronic warfare capabilities, problems with the on board radar system, and reduced internal-fuel capacity. These are proposed to be addressed in the upgraded Mark I-A variant of the LCA, which will be fitted with an advanced AESA radar system, a new electronic warfare sensor suite and beyond- visual-range (BVR) air-to-air missile. As of now, the IAF intends to induct a total of 123 Tejas Mark-IA aircraft. The purchase of a first batch of 83 Mark-IA LCAs had been approved in November 2016 and the IAF is slated to receive 40 Tejas Mark-I aircraft by early 2018.
The Indian government has also been pushing HAL to ramp up production capacity from eight to 16 aircraft per year. However, there are concerns that HAL will not be able to meet its production targets which is a cause of concern for the IAF. This has led the IAF to issue a Request for Information (RFI) to the US Lockheed Martin for F 16 and to Swedish Saab for Gripen for acquiring 114 single engine combat aircraft. The Air Chief, Air Chief Marshal B.S. Dhanoa, has stated that he expected the capabilities of the aircraft being offered now to be better than those in the 2007 Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) contest.
The procurement is envisaged under the Fighter Aircraft Segment of the Strategic Partnership Model (Chapter VII) of the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP). Under this, IAF will acquire 18 aircraft in flyaway condition and the remaining 96 will be progressively manufactured under the Prime Minister’s Make in India programme. Lockheed Martin has tied up on its own with Tata Advanced Systems Ltd (TASL) and so has Saab with the Adani Group. After either or both are selected on technical parameters in flight trials, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) will approve the winner on the basis of commercial terms and how much Transfer of Technology (ToT) in sophisticated equipment accrues to India.
Speaking on the subject, Air Marshal R. Nambiar, Deputy Chief of Air Staff was of the view that after the two companies respond to the RFI, the flight trials should take about a year, the contract should be signed shortly thereafter, and the process should wrap up with deliveries of the first lot of flyaway aircraft in less than five years as of now. The process for setting up a factory for the selected aircraft could begin soon after the winner is announced, and just as the winner completes the delivery of the flyaway aircraft, its production in India should also begin simultaneously. With the induction of LCAs (40 plus 83), Rafale (36), remaining Su 30 MKIs (32), and possibly 36 more Rafales, the number of combat squadrons would rise again. With the induction of either F 16 or Gripen, the IAF would get to its proposed strength of 42 squadrons.
INS KILTAN COMMISSIONED
The indigenously built anti-submarine warfare stealth corvette INS Kiltan was commissioned by Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman at the Eastern Naval Command in Visakhapatnam on 18 October 2017. INS Kiltan derives its name from one of the islands in Aminidivi group of the Lakshadweep and Minicoy group of islands. With a displacement of 3,500 tonnes, the ship spans 109 metres in length and 14 metres at the beam and is propelled by four diesel engines to achieve a speed of over 25 knots.
Designed by the Indian Navy’s in-house organisation, Directorate of Naval Design, it was built by Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers (GRSE) in Kolkata and is the third of the four Kamorta-class corvettes — a class of anti-submarine warfare corvettes currently in service with the Indian Navy — being built under Project 28.
INS Kiltan is the latest indigenous warship after Shivalik Class, Kolkata Class and sister ships INS Kamorta and INS Kadmatt and has many firsts to its credit. It is the first major warship to have undertaken sea trials of all major weapons and sensors as a pilot project and is the first major warship to have a superstructure of carbon fibre composite material resulting in improved stealth features, lower top weight and maintenance costs. In the future, it would also be installed with short-range SAM system and carry an integral ASW helicopter. The ship hosts a predominantly indigenous cutting – edge weapons and sensors suite which includes heavyweight torpedoes, ASW rockets, 76 mm calibre Medium Range gun and two multi-barrel 30 mm guns as close-in-weapon system (CIWS) with dedicated fire control systems, missile decoy rockets (Chaff), advanced Electronic Support Measure system, most advanced bow-mounted sonar and air surveillance radar Revathi.
Speaking on the occasion, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said, “INS Kiltan strengthens our defence system and will be a shining armour in our ‘Make in India’ programme as it is totally built here”. The event was also attended by Naval Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba, Flag Officer Commanding-in – Chief of Eastern Naval Command H S Bisht and other senior officers of the Command.
ARMY ISSUES RFI FOR UAVs
With an eye on ramping up surveillance capabilities, the Indian Army is looking to purchase 60 specialised unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) that can stay in the air for 10 hours at a stretch, transmitting live images and videos to ground-based controllers. These will be useful in tracking movements along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China, strengthening surveillance along the Line of Control (LoC) with Pakistan, in counter-terrorism grid and key operational areas of Corps mandated in plains and deserts.
The Army has issued a request for information (RFI) for the UAV which is to be developed and manufactured locally. The bidding is restricted to Indian companies only and the induction is planned for within two years of signing the contract. The project will be based on proven or matured technologies where fundamental research is not required. The intended use is for day and night aerial surveillance of a large area over a sustained period. The UAV should be able to fly up to 20,000 feet, broadly covering all areas along the Himalayas, within a radius of 200 km from the ground station for minimum 10 hours. The UAV must have electro-optical and infra red (IR) capacities with the ability to listen in to communications. It must also have a synthetic aperture radar (SAR) for imagery during adverse weather conditions and a maritime patrol radar (MPR).
NAVY FOILS PIRACY BID
The Indian Navy rescued an Indian Merchant ship on 6 October in the Gulf of Aden. After getting an SOS from the Indian cargo ship MV Jag Amar, the Naval warship INS Trishul was pressed into the rescue mission. That evening, the Navy tweeted “AntiPiracyOps INS Trishul thwarts piracy attempt on Indian ship MV Jag Amar at 1230h this noon in Gulf of Aden @DefenceMinIndia”. Marine Commando’s (MARCOS), boarded the bulk carrier after a five-hour-long operation and rescued all the 26 crew members, all of whom were Indian. The MARCOS recovered one AK magazine, 27 rounds, ladders and grapnels along with the suspected skiff used by the pirates.
The Indian Navy, which has been deploying its warships in the piracy prone Gulf of Aden since 2008 has carried out many successful operations in the past, saving life and property of Indians and other nationalities.In the last six months, this is the third piracy attempt foiled by Indian Navy in the Gulf of Aden, a key shipping route near the southern tip of the Red Sea between Somalia and Yemen.
CHINA INDUCTS NEW BATTLE TANK
China has inducted its much-publicised light battle tank, introduced in Tibet during the height of the Doklam standoff with India. Developed by the China North Industries Group Corp, the country’s biggest maker of land armaments, the light tank, whose weight ranges from 25 to 35 metric tonnes, is equipped with a hydropneumatic suspension system that ensures good manoeuvrability and survivability in mountainous regions. Its main weapon is a 105-mm gun that is able to fire both shells and guided missiles. The tank reportedly has the capability to fight even at very low temperatures.
The light tank whose name and details are yet to be revealed was deployed for the first time into well publicised exercises of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in the Tibet plateau in June as part of the pressure tactics against India during the 73-day Doklam standoff which ended on August 28. Chinese military spokesman Colonel Wu Qian said the tank undertook trial on the Tibetan plateau and was also displayed at a military parade held on July 30. A photo of the tank on snowy ground has been displayed at an exposition in the Beijing Exhibition Centre to showcase achievements made by China over the past five years, the Daily report said.
The tank appears to have a powerful engine which makes it functional in the limited Oxygen areas of the high altitudes. The tanks fire control and ammunition systems also have been apparently specially designed for high altitudes. While the tank falls into the light-duty category, its combat capability is strong, considering its firepower, mobility, defensive features and information capacity.
EXERCISE MITRA SHAKTI
The fifth India-Sri Lanka Joint Training ‘Exercise-Mitra Shakti 2017’ came to a successful conclusion on Thursday, 26 October at the Aundh Military Camp in Pune. The 14-day long joint training exercise (13-26, October) between India and Sri Lanka Army to build Military to Military co-operation and interoperability with special emphasis on use of modern communication, reconnaissance and weapon technologies. The Exercise also focused on counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism operations.
During the last day of the Exercise, a joint operational team of both Armies conducted a mock drill to counter a terror attack in a semi-urban environment. The mock drill included the insertion of troops, sky jumps from helicopters using ropes and destruction of a terrorist hideout, understanding transnational terrorism, developing interoperability and conduct of a joint tactical operation controlled by a Joint Command Post, etc. Troops participating were the First Mahar Regiment of the Indian Army and the Sri Lanka Sinha Regiment (SLSR) of the Sri Lankan Army. The Brigade Commander of the Pune-based 330 Infantry Brigade, Brigadier Alok Chandra in his concluding remarks said the availability of high-technology weapons and equipment with the trans-national terrorist organisations has increased the intensity of the challenge of terrorism and therefore, the joint capabilities have to be accordingly developed by countries fighting the menace. His counterpart from Sri Lanka, Brigadier Ajith Pallawela, in his concluding remarks noted that during the joint training Exercise, both contingents live together, share, and learn, experiences from each other. “In this way, both armies not only improve techniques and tactics, but also enhance mutual trust and build up a profound friendship,” he said.
The training exercise is considered an important effort in India’s response to China’s growing influence in South Asia and the Indian Ocean region, according to the Express News Service.
ARMY OPENS LIFE LINE FOR THREE BORDER VILLAGES
Further enhancing the positive relations between the Army and the civil administration, the Army has completed the demining work of proposed PMGSY road stretch from village Majdas to Badgam on 13 Oct 2017. The demining & clearance of vintage mine field of 1965 era took 84 days to complete, wherein 15 army personnel participated & 504 man hours of work was done. In pursuance of the task, a total stretch of 433 x 5 sqm of area has been demined in which 71 mines were recovered & subsequently destroyed. The demining along the stretch has paved the way for connecting the border vill of Khunda, Badgam & Haral by road under PMGSY thereby, bringing development and prosperity in the region. In a formal event held on 14 Oct 2017, the road was handed over to civil administration by the Army. Locals of all the nearby villages were also present to mark the occasion of success & development.
BRAHMOS CRUISE MISSILE
On 22 November, India successfully test fired the aerial version of the Brahmos supersonic cruise missile for the first time from a Sukhoi-30 MKI combat jet, significantly bolstering the country’s aerial prowess. With this, the IAF has the capability to launch the Brahmos — the world’s fastest supersonic cruise missile with a strike range of about 290 km, from land, sea and air, completing the tactical cruise missile triad for the country. In the test carried out, the missile launched from the Sukhoi-30 MKI, hit a sea-based target in the Bay of Bengal. The land and warship versions of the missile have already been inducted into the armed forces. The successful maiden test firing of Brahmos Air Launched Cruise Missile (ALCM) from Su-30MKI will significantly bolster the IAF’s air combat operations capability from stand-off ranges. The Defence Minister, Ms Nirmala Sitharaman congratulated the "Team Brahmos" and the scientists at DRDO for the “historic achievement”.