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Monday, May 30, 2011

OSF And Skyward IRST Sensors

The above visual gives some data on the OSF infra-red search-and-track (IRST) system developed by THALES of France for the Rafale M-MRCA. It definitely has more advanced performance features than what’s offered by the OLS-30 IRST sensor developed by Russia’s Urals Optical & Mechanical Plant.

The visuals below profile the Skyward IRST sensor developed by Italy’s SELEX Galileo. A lightweight derivative of the Pirate IRST sensor found on the Eurofighter EF-2000, it is an ideal item for installation on board both the Tejas Mk1 as well as its Mk2 derivative.

The Skyward is also an ideal fully passive IFR navigation solution for those helicopters and fixed-wing transport aircraft that are optimised for all-weather special operations. Tactical transport aircraft like the C-130J-30 and An-32B, which are required to operate in and out of remote, high-altitude advanced landing grounds (ALG), will find a low-cost variant of the Skyward IRST a most valuable all-weather navigational tool, especially when operating over mountainous and jungle terrain of the type found in northeastern India.—Prasun K. Sengupta 

Virgilius AESA-Based Internal EW Suite For MiG-29UPG & Tejas Mk2

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

IRNSS And GAGAN Explained

The Indian Regional Navigational Satellite System (IRNSS) is an autonomous regional GPS-based satellite navigation system being developed by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and it would be under the total control of the Govt of India. The IRNSS’s R & D programme was approved in May 2006. Total project cost is Rs16 billion and the project is due for completion by 2012. The IRNSS will comprise a constellation of seven GPS navigation satellites placed in geostationary orbit that will provide an absolute position accuracy of better than 10 metres throughout India and within a region extending approximately 2,000km around India.

On the other hand, the GPS Aided Geo Augmented Navigation or GPS and Geo Augmented Navigation system (GAGAN) is a planned implementation of a regional satellite-based augmentation system (SBAS) by the Govt of India to improve the accuracy of a GNSS receiver by providing reference signals. The Rs7.74 billion project is being implemented in three phases since 2008 by the Airports Authority of India (AAI) with the help of ISRO. The goal is to provide GPS-based navigation cues for all phases of flight over the Indian airspace and in the adjoining regional area. It is applicable to safety-to-life operations, and meets the performance requirements of international civil aviation regulatory bodies. The final, operational phase of GAGAN is due for completion by May 2011.—Prasun K. Sengupta

Monday, May 16, 2011

Dassault Aviation’s ToT Offers For The Omnirole Rafale

Below are attached two visuals, with the first pertaining to Dassault Aviation’s definition of transfer of technologies (ToT), by far the clearest and most detailed explanation of what exactly constitutes ToT. The second visual gives a simple explanation of what Dassault Aviation claims to be its superior man-machine interface, achieved through the application of leading-edge sensor fusion technologies. This in fact reminds me of my first visit to Dassault Aviation’s facilities in Saint-Cloud way back in 1992, during which officials from both Dassault Aviation and THALES were extremely dismissive about the prospects of such technologies being applied to the Eurofighter EF-2000, citing the Rafale’s superior cockpit ergonomics versus the EF-2000’s multiplicity of AMLCD displays (which Eurofighter officials have since countered by stating that this ‘disadvantage’ is easily neutralised through the incorporation of direct voice command inputs.—Prasun K. Sengupta

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Super Su-30MKI: From Air Dominance To Air Supremacy

Come 2012 the first batch of 50 Sukhoi Su-30MKI multi-role combat aircraft (MRCA), which were delivered to the Indian Air Force (IAF) between 2001 and 2003, will be shipped back to Russia’s IRKUT Corp in Irkutsk where they will be refurbished and upgraded from into formidable air supremacy MRCAs (to be called Super Su-30MKI), and delivered back to the IAF starting 2014. The upgrades, costing Rs109.2 billion, will include the strengthening and service life-extension of the Su-30MKI airframes; and installation of uprated turbofans, new glass cockpit avionics, mission management avionics, and integrated defensive aids suites. This will be followed by another batch of 42 new-build Su-30MKIs to be subjected to identical upgrades, with deliveries of these aircraft beginning in 2015 and ending in 2018. It is expected that in future the Su-30MKMs of Malaysia and Su-30MKAs of Algeria too will be subjected to such ‘deep’ upgrade programmes.

The airframe strengthening programme for the 50 Su-30MKIs, when completed, will enable each of the 50 Su-30MKIs to carry two 290km-range underwing BrahMos supersonic multi-role (land-attack and maritime strike) cruise missiles (which itself is presently undergoing a weight reduction exercise), and also accommodate two uprated Lyulka AL-31FP turbofans. The AL-31FP, presently rated at 126kN with afterburning, will offer 20% more power when uprated by NPO Saturn—its manufacturer--and will have a total technical service life of 6,000 hours, instead of the present 2,000 hours. The uprated engine will also employ a larger diameter fan, redesigned key hot-end components and cooling system technologies to permit reduced thrust lapse rates with altitude, which in turn will permit supercruise flight regimes. Also to be incorporated into the uprated engine will be new-generation full-authority digital engine controls (FADEC) as well as all-axis thrust-vectoring nozzles (±15 degrees in the vertical plane and ±8 degrees in the horizontal plane, with deflection angle rates of up to 60 degrees per second). The digital flight-control computer too will be replaced to achieve harmonisation of the digital flight control laws associated with supercruise and all-aspect supermanoeuvrability.

The glass cockpit avionics package, developed by Russia’s Avionica MRPC and Tekhnocomplex Scientific and Production Centre, will include new-generation hands-on-throttle-and-stick (HOTAS) controls made by KB Aviaavtomatika, panoramic active-matrix liquid crystal displays, and a compact OLS infra-red search-and-track sensor developed by the Ekaterinburg-based Urals Optical & Mechanical Plant. The mission management avionics package will include dual redundant core avionics computers developed by the Defence Research & development Organisation’s (DRDO) Bangalore-based Defence Avionics Research Establishment (DARE) and built by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL). The integrated defensive aids suite, now being developed by a joint venture of DARE and Cassidian of Germany, will include the MILDS AN/AAR-60 missile approach warning system (MAWS).
The open-architecture IDAS has been under joint development by DARE and Germany-based Cassidian since 2006, and will include the AAR-60(V)2 MILDS F missile approach warning system, the EW management computer and Tarang Mk3 radar warning receiver (developed by DARE and built by Bharat Electronics Ltd), a countermeasures dispenser built by Bharat Dynamics Ltd, TsNIRTI-developed expendable active electronic decoys, a reusable fibre-optic ABRL active radar towed-decoy using suppression, deception and seduction techniques, and  an internal EW suite supplied by Elettronica of Italy (the very same Virgilius suite that is on board the MiG-29UPG). The Virgilius family of directional jammers, which are also used by the Eurofighter EF-2000, make use of active phased-array transmitters for jamming hostile low-band (E-G) and high-band (G-J) emitters, and is considered an equivalent of the AESA aperture-based jammers of THALES’ Spectra EW suite. The ABRL can be deployed manually from the cockpit, or automatically upon threat detection. It provides active interference to the terminal guidance of incoming air combat/surface-to-air missiles in order to provide for an increased miss-distance to outside lethal range. The ABRL features four rear-mounted lattice control fins to provide for decoy control and providing a certain amount of drag for enhanced stability during extreme manoeuvring. The advantages of lattice controls are that they can be folded down to facilitate carriage (in this application) inside a compact launch tube, are capable of unstalled operation at up to 50-degree angles of attack, and significantly reduce the demands placed on their actuators. In essence, they provide a great deal of lifting area despite having a very small chord, so combine outstanding effectiveness with comparatively small hinge moments. In the ABRL, the lattice fins are hinged forward into a recess in the decoy body and deploy rearwards upon decoy deployment.
The principal on-board mission management avionics components of the upgraded Su-30MKIs will be the multi-mode MIRES X-band active electronically steered-array (AESA) multi-mode radar (MMR), developed and built by the V Tikhomirov Scientific-Research Institute of Instrument Design along with Ryazan Instrument-Making Plant Federal State Unitary Enterprise, and modular L-band and S-band transmit/receive (T/R) modules that will be housed within the Su-30MKI’s forward wing and wing-root sections, as well as on the vertical tail sections. The MIRES, using the back-end elements of the Su-30MKI’s existing NO-11M ‘Bars’ PESA-based MMR, will be able to simultaneously perform up to five ‘core’ functions, comprising look-up and shoot-up; look-down and shoot-down; directional jamming of hostile data-links; real-beam ground mapping via Doppler-beam sharpening in the inverse synthetic aperture radar (ISAR) mode; and ground moving target indication. This will give the Super Su-30MKIs an unprecedented degree of all-round situational awareness and interleaving mission synchronicity (performed by the two-man crew), which will be available, for the most part, from only the F/A-18 Super Hornet’s International Roadmap variant once it becomes available from 2013 onwards.  

The MIRES radar’s GaAs-based RF components (transistors, diodes and MMICs) have been developed and made by Moscow-based NPO ‘Istok’. The wing-/tail-mounted L-band or S-band T/R modules will be employed for secondary airspace surveillance, as well as for missile approach warning and directional jamming of airborne tactical data-links associated with BVRAAMs and AEW & C platforms, thus transforming the upgraded Su-30MKI into a combined airborne early warning/tactical battlespace management platform. With operating in wavelengths of between 6 and 12 inches, L-band permits good long-range airspace search performance with modestly-sized antennae, while providing excellent weather penetration and reasonably well-behaved ground clutter environments, compared to shorter wavelength bands. The basic L-band modular AESA array design and its integration into the leading edge flap structure have already been flight-certified. The physical alignment of the array is with the leading edge of the wing, at 42 degrees for the Su-30MKI’s airframe. Each array will employ 12 antenna elements. Three quad T/R modules each drive four antenna elements, for a total of 12 elements per array, in three sub-arrays. The linear array is embedded in the leading edge of the wing flap, with the geometrical broadside direction normal to the leading edge. The leading edge skin of the flap covering the AESA is a dielectric radome, which is conformal with the flap leading-edge shape. The array geometry produces a fan-shaped main lobe, which is swept in azimuth by phase control of the 12 T/R modules, providing a two dimensional volume-search capability. The arrangement of the AESA produces a fan-shaped beam, which is swept in azimuth to cover a volume in the forward hemisphere of the aircraft. The distributed AESA arrays (X-band, L-band and an optional S-band) are nothing less than the ‘shared multifunction aperture’ model now very popular in the design of Western X-band AESA-based MMRs, including the Raytheon APG-79 and Northrop Grumman APG-80. However, the greatest advantage of such on-board distributed AESA arrays is that they will convert the Su-30MKI into a mini-AEW & C platform capable of undertaking tactical airborne battle management tasks in support of offensive air campaigns deep within hostile airspace, thereby doing away with the need for dedicated AEW & C platforms, which could then be more gainfully employed for strategic airspace surveillance-cum-management. Thus far, the IAF has projected a requirement for 50 Su-30MKIs to be configured as mini-AEW & C platforms.

Other new-generation avionics to be installed on the Super Su-30MKI will include the RAM-1701AS radio altimeter, TACAN-2901AJ and DME-2950A tactical air navigation system combined with the ANS-1100A VOL/ILS marker, CIT-4000A Mk12 IFF transponder, COM-1150A UHF standby comms radio, UHF SATCOM transceiver, and the SDR-2010 SoftNET four-channel software-defined radio (working in VHF/UHF and L-band for voice and data communications), and the Bheem-EU brake control/engine/electrical monitoring system, all of which have been developed in-house by the Hyderabad-based Strategic Electronics R & D Centre of Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL). The digital air data computers and flight data recorders and their automated test benches will be supplied by Bengaluru-based SLN Technologies Pvt Ltd.

For air dominance operations the upgraded Su-30MKI will be armed with two types of new-generation air combat missiles from Vympel JSC: the RVV-MD within-visual-range missile, and the RVV-SD beyond-visual-range missile. The RVV-MD’s maximum range is 40km (the existing R-73E has 30km range) and comes equipped with a two-colour imaging infra-red sensor that has +/-60-degree off-boresight tracking capability. The manoeuvre controls are aero- and gas-dynamical. The maximum angle-of-attack is significantly higher than that of the R-73E, and can hit targets that are manoeuvring at 12 G. The RVV-SD has a maximum range of 110km and engage targets flying at an altitude of 25km. Equipped with both laser-based and contact fuzes, the RVV-SD has a 22.5kg warhead, mass of 190kg, length of 3.71 metres, diameter of 0.2 metres, and wingspan of 0.42 metres. It too can engage targets manoeuvring at 12G. The guidance system is inertial for the middle course, with radio-correction and a jam-resistant active radar for the terminal phase.

Like the existing Su-30MKIs, the upgraded models too will be equipped with COBHAM's 754 buddy-buddy refuelling pod (20 units have already been delivered to the IAF to date), Elbit Systems’ Condor 2 LOROP pod, IAI/ELTA’s ELM-2060P ISAR pod, and RAFAEL’s Litening-3 laser designator pod. To date, India has ordered a total of 272 Su-30MKIs, with deliveries continuing till 2018. Thus far, about 120 Su-30MKIs have been delivered to the IAF. These are presently deployed with the Lohegaon, Pune-based No2 ‘Winged Arrows’ Sqn, No20 ‘Lightnings’ Sqn, No30 ‘Rhinos’ Sqn and No31 ‘Lions’ Sqn; Bareilly-based No24 ‘Hunting Hawks’ Sqn; Tezpur-based No8 ‘Pursoots’ Sqn; and No102 ‘Trisonics’ Sqn at Chabua.—Prasun K. Sengupta

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

J-20 ‘Mighty Dragon’ Optimised For Air Dominance

Within 24 hours of India and Russia inking a preliminary design contract (PDC) for the joint development of the twin-engined, tandem-seat 17.2-tonne Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (now called Perspective Multi-role Fighter), China’s Chengdu Aircraft Industries Corp (CAC) on December 22 last year rolled out the first (No2001) of two flying prototypes of its fifth-generation single-seat J-20 ‘Mighty Dragon’ 23-tonne air dominance multi-role combat aircraft. Subsequently, high-speed taxi trials of this prototype got underway, and its maiden flight, lasting 20 minutes, took place on January 11 at 12.50pm. Under development since 1998, the JXX, to be known as the Jian J-20 once it enters service by 2017, has been jointly designed by the CAC’s Chengdu Aircraft Design Institute No611 and Shenyang Aircraft Corp’s 601 Institute. The Shenyang Aero-Engine Research Institute, or Institute 606, was tasked in 1998 with developing the JXX’s 18,350kg-thrust (180kN) Woshan WS-15/Qinling-2 turbofan and its thrust-vectoring nozzles. J-20 No2001, though, is powered by twin WS-10G Taihang turbofans (each rated at 135kN and equipped with FADEC controls), since the WS-15 will not be available until 2012. The WS-10G has been developed by Guizhou-based Honglin Group (AVIC's Factory No143). The J-20 is next scheduled to go from Chengdu to the China Flight Test Establishment (CFTE) at Yanliang, which is located northeast of Xian in central China’s Shaanxi province. There, the two J-20 prototypes will undergo several phases of flight-tests and systems integration refinements, a process which will last until 2014. Following this, the first batch of up to eight CAC-built limited series production J-20s will be deployed first to the PLAAF’s Dingxin air base, located in north-central China near the Shuangchengzi missile test range, for weapons qualification trials, and then to the PLAAF-owned Flight Test & Training Centre (FTTC) at Cangzhou air base south of Beijing, where service induction procedures will be tried, applied and finalised. Following this, the PLAAF is expected, by late 2017, to form a J-20 operational conversion unit at Jiugucheng air base with up to 16 J-20s.
The existence of the J-20 was first announced in a November 2009 interview on Chinese CCTV by Lt Gen He Weirong, deputy commander of the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF). He had then said that a ‘fourth-generation’ combat aircraft would be flown in late 2010 and become operational between 2017 and 2019. Work on fabricating the first of two J-20 flying prototypes got underway in late 2007 at CAC’s No132 Aircraft Plant and a year later a full-scale mock-up was available for airframe fatigue-testing purpose. The J-20 has been designed to have a 0.05 square-metre radar cross-section (head-on), and its airframe features a large dihedral canard-delta wing configuration, with a pair of outward/rearward canted all-moving combined vertical/horizontal tails and similarly large, outward canted ventral fins/strakes which, if all-moving like the tails, will make for some quite advanced capability options in the areas of controllability and manoeuvrability. The flat body sides are aligned with the canted tails, the wing-body junction is clean, and there is a sharp chine line around the forward fuselage. The stealth shaping is without doubt considerably better than that seen in the two Sukhoi OKB-designed T-50 PAK-FA multi-role combat aircraft (MRCA) prototypes, and even more so, than that seen in the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF). The design appears to be largely built around the stealth shaping design rules employed in the Lockheed Martin F/A-22A Raptor. Takeoff weight is estimated to be 80,000lb without any weapons payload. The fuselage length is 21.5 metres, wingspan is 13.8 metres, height is 5 metres, and the weapon’s bay’s length is 6.52 metres. The chined nose section and frameless canopy bear a close resemblance to those of the F/A-22A, as do the trapezoidal edge aligned engine inlets, though they appear to be larger and employ a diverterless supersonic inlet design, obviously intended to reduce inlet edge signature. The J-20’s wing-fuselage join, critical for beam and all-aspect stealth, is both in shaping and angle very similar to that of the F/A-22A, and clearly superior to those on the T-50 PAK-FA and F-35 JSF. The flat lower fuselage and planform alignment is optimal for all aspect wideband stealth, and closely emulates the F/A-22A’s design. The nose and main undercarriage doors employ X-band optimised edge-serration technology similar to that on board the F-117A Nighthawk and F/A-22A. The main landing gears retract into body-side bays, indicating the likely presence side weapon bays ahead of them. The ground clearance is appreciably higher, which would facilitate loading precision-guided air-to-surface munitions. Features at the rear of the aircraft—including underwing actuator fairings, aft fuselage tailbooms, fins/strakes, axisymmetrical engine exhausts and the ventral fins—appear less compatible with stealth. The airframe configuration and aft fuselage shape is compatible with both thrust vector control (TVC) nozzle design, or a non-TVC rectangular nozzle designed for controlled infra-red emission patterns and radio-frequency stealth. The airframe configuration is compatible with ventral and side opening internal weapon bays, and large enough to match or exceed, by some degree, the internal weapons payload of the F/A-22A. Internal fuel capacity is also likely to be high, given the fuselage configuration and large internal volume of the big delta wing. This indicates an intent to provide a sustained supersonic cruise capability. There is also provision for an aerial refueling probe portside below the cockpit canopy.

Guided-weapons to be carried internally by the J-20 on four separate weapons bays include up to eight 16km-range PL-10 within-visual-range air combat missiles or 100km-range PL-21 ramjet-powered beyond-visual-range air combat missiles (jointly developed by CPMIEC and Leihua Electronic Technology Research Institute), along with the FT family of GPS-guided small-diameter bombs, especially the FT-6, which comes equipped with twin glide wings. The PL-21 will incorporate an on-board two-way data link to expand the missile’s engagement envelope and support the increased HOBS capability. It will allow a third party, such as another combat aircraft or an AEW & C platform, to take control of the missile, allowing the firing aircraft to break away directly after launch. Two-way data links have the potential to increase weapon effectiveness during long-range engagements, since they could allow the missile to pass information on target characteristics and target behaviour to the launch platform as the engagement proceeds. Both the PL-10 and PL-21 will house a sub-millimetre wave-imaging fuze operating at frequencies above 200GHz to detect and classify the target aircraft and select the aimpoint for the ‘mass-focussed’ warhead to make sure more fragments hit their mark.

The integrated avionics suite will be of the open architecture-type and use the MIL-STD-1553B databus. The suite will incorporate features like automated data fusion, emission control and low-probability-of-intercept data links to build an operational picture for the pilot without giving away the aircraft’s own location. Elements of the suite will include an active phased-array multi-mode radar now being developed by the China Electronics Technology Group Corp’s (CETC) Nanjing Research Institute for Electronic Technology (NRIET, also known as the No14 Research Institute); retractable Hongguang-2 imaging infra-red search-and-track sensor (that includes a HgCdTe focal array with imaging infra-red capability) with 75km-range developed by Sichuan Changhong Electric Appliance Corp; Xian-based Cigong Group’s holographic heads-up display and helmet-mounted display (the latter being a copy of the ZSh-7APN Sura-K HMD designed by the Arsenal Central Design Bureau State Enterprise of Ukraine); optronic missile approach warning-cum-countermeasures dispensing system developed by the Luoyang Optical-Electronic Technology Development Centre; and a quadruplex fly-by-wire flight control system, integrated communications suite, defensive aids sub-systems, low probability of intercept IFF transponder, TACAN, and an all-glass cockpit, all developed by the Suzhou-based AVIC Radar and Avionics Equipment Research Institute and the China Leihua Electronic Technology Institute (CLETRI, also known as the 607th Institute). The J-20’s all-glass cockpit will feature twin ruggedised 8-inch by 20-inch panoramic active-matrix liquid crystal displays (PAMLCD) with both intuitive touch-screen and direct voice input usage, plus four smaller AMLCDs. The PAMLCD is an open system architecture-compatible dual redundant display that presents crisp, clear high-fidelity graphics and video overlays with a revolutionary infra-red touch screen human machine interface. A substantial portion of the J-20’s avionics LRUs were developed in cooperation with Ukraine’s Special Radio Device Design Bureau, Topaz Company, the Donetsk National Technical University, and SKB RTU. The internally-mounted directional jamming system, using active phased-array T/R modules, is being jointly developed by Southwest China Research Institute of Electronic Equipment, and the No51 Research Institute, which is also known as the Shanghai Research Institute of Microwave Equipment (SRIME). The same consortium is also developing the J-20’s ADF and VOL/ILS receivers.— Prasun K. Sengupta

Sunday, May 8, 2011

GRSE Bags Order From MoD for LPV Destined For Mauritius

The Indian Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) Kolkata-based Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers (GRSE) has been awarded a contract by the MoD to build a single 75-metre long, 1,150-tonne littoral patrol vessel (LPV) which will be gifted by India to Mauritius/ The LPV, whose design is derived from the Indian Navy’s (IN) Project 25A Kora-class guided-missile corvette, will not be equipped with any guided-missiles, be it for air defence or for anti-ship strike. This latest order from the MoD is widely seen as an attempt to help GRSE survive financially until it bags the order to build three Project 17A guided-missile frigates (FFG) for the IN. The Project 17A FFG’s construction programme is already four years behind schedule, with even the FFG’s baseline design not being selected yet. The MoD has thus far only decreed that the first four Project 17A FFGs will be built by Mumbai-based Mazagon Docks Ltd (MDL), with the follow-on three FFGs being built by GRSE. What is also confirmed is that these FFGs will all be equipped with the IAI/ELTA-built EL/M-2248 MF-STAR multifunction radar and Barak-2 MR-SAMs. While MDL has teamed up with Fincantieri of Italy to propose a design derived from the Italian Navy’s Andrea Doria guided-missile destroyer, GRSE has joined forces with France’s DCNS to propose a design derived from the Fremm-class FFG. GRSE is also proposing to the MoD that the Mistral-class LPD from DCNS be selected and ordered (three units) for the IN. If this were to happen, then GRSE is expected to build them under licence. For reasons best known to the MoD, India’s private-sector shipyards are being prevented from bidding for contracts related to the construction of principal surface combatants like guided-missile destroyers, FFGs, guided-missile corvettes and LPDs, even though their price quotes are far lower than those submitted by the MoD-owned shipyards.

Thus far, GRSE has delivered the 125.6-metre long, 4,000-tonne Project 16A Brahmaputra-class FFG (three built for the IN); 91.11-metre long, 1,350-tonne Project 25A Kora-class guided-missile corvette (four built); 91.11-metre long, 1,350-tonne Project 25 Khukri-class guided-missile corvette (two built); 124.80-metre long, 5,665-tonne LST-L (five built); 46-metre long, 260-tonne Trinket-class FPV (four built); 48.01-metre long, 288-tonne waterjet propelled FAC (seven built); 21.85-metre long Griffon 8000TD hovercraft (eight licence-assembled for the Indian Coast Guard, another eight being licence-assembled); ten 48.9-metre-long, 325-tonne Car Nicobar-class FACs for the Navy; and four 46-metre, 260-tonne Bangaram-class FPVs for the Navy). It is presently delivering fifty-eight 12-tonne High Speed FRP Interceptor Craft and 30 5.4-tonne high-speed FRP Interceptor Craft for the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, plus four 110-metre long, 2,500-tonne Project 28 ASW corvettes (each for Rs7 billion).

In another development, GRSE has successfully re-engined the first of three 57-metre long 589-tonne Project 1241.2 Molniya-2 ASW corvettes (INS Abhay, INS Ajay and INS Akshay) of the IN. Sea trials of the re-engined INS Abhay have been successfully completed, with work involving the replacement of Russia-made M504 radial engines with high-power-to-weight MTU-1163 engines. Work is now underway to procure through competitive tendering three sets of ultra-low-frequency towed-array sonar suites (from either ATLAS Elektronik of Germany or US-based L-3 Communications/Ocean Systems) for installation on board these three ASW corvettes.Prasun K. Sengupta

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Full-Spectrum Hawk-Eyes

Ideally, the Indian Air Force (IAF) would like to procure a total of eight A-50EI PHALCON airborne early warning & control (AEW & C) systems using the Ilyushin IL-76MF airframe, the longstanding spat between Uzbekistan’s Tashkent Aircraft Production Organisation (TAPO) and Russia’s Rosoboronexport State Corp over the intended re-location of the IL-76’s final assembly line at Aviastar-SP’s facility in Ulyanovsk inside Russia has now virtually eliminated all chances of additional IL-76TD airframes being ordered for the IAF in the near future. Consequently, although the IAF had negotiated and finalised a follow-on US$1.7 billion contract to acquire another three A-50EI PHALCONs by November 2008, contract signature could not take place due to the TAPO-Rosoboronexport spat. Recently, however, officials from both Rosoboronexport State Corp and Ilyushin Finance Corp gave firm assurance to the IAF that a new-generation successor to the IL-76MF, called IL-476, featuring a fully-digital fly-by-wire flight control system, glass cockpit avionics and PS-90A-76 turbofans, will be available from 2012. Consequently, the follow-on order for three A-50EI PHALCONs is now expected to be re-negotiated with both Rosoboronexport and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI).

Presently based at the IAF’s Agra Air Force Station as part of a newly raised No50 Squadron, alongside No78 Squadron, which presently operates six IL-78MKI aerial refuelling tankers, the IAF’s two A-50EI PHALCONs arrived in India on May 25, 2009 and March 25, 2010, respectively. The third platform is due to arrive in Agra later this month. For the past 23 months, the two A-50E/PHALCONs have been utilised by the IAF for perfecting the concepts of airborne battlespace management involving far larger airborne aircraft packages—up to 36 at a time and involving air dominance combat aircraft like the Su-30MKIs as well as dedicated air interdiction assets like the Jaguar IS and MiG-27M. It was in November 2003 that India inked a $1.5 billion contract with Rosoboronexport and IAI for the first three AEW & C platforms. While TAPO built the IL-76MF airframes, Russia’s Beriev Taganrog Aviation Scientific and Engineering Complex (TANTK) was responsible for customising the airframe structurally, while IAI is supplying and installing the mission sensor and mission management suites.

The A-50E/PHALCON’s 400km-range EL/M-2075 active electronically-scanned array (AESA) radar (comprising three antenna arrays mounted in a triangular manner) is contained within a radome above the fuselage. The electronically-steered beam provides 360-degree coverage around the aircraft and it carries up to 10 mission management personnel for airspace surveillance and airborne battlespace management. BARCO of Belgium has supplied the 20-inch AMLCDs for the mission management suit, with Tadiran SpectraLINK supplying the secure digital data links. In a future network-centric warfare scenario, the IAF envisages the deployment of its A-50E/PHALCONs as theatre-based airborne command-and-control posts undertaking strategic airspace surveillance-cum airspace management tasks, and directing the smaller ISTAR platforms (manned and unmanned) to coordinate and direct the IAF’s sector-based offensive/defensive operations that will include the 24-hour surveillance of friendly airspace as well as that above the friendly ground forces’ forward and deep battle areas; denial of both the strategic and tactical airspace to hostile combat aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), thus ensuring total knowledge-based air dominance; dramatically improving the situational awareness of friendly airpower assets, and coordinating the conduct of offensive, effects-based deep strike and battlefield air interdiction sorties by IAF combat aircraft.

In addition to the A-50EI PHALCONs, the IAF is also going for smaller and indigenous AEW & C solutions. Financial sanction worth Rs18 billion for this R & D venture was given in October 2004. In a path-breaking development, Brazil’s Embraer and India’s Defence Research & development Organisation (DRDO) along with the DRDO’s DRDO’s Bangalore-based Centre for Airborne Systems (CABS), had on July 3, 2008 inked a $210 million agreement to jointly develop an AEW & CS platform for the IAF. Under this deal, Embraer has modified the first of three its EMB-145 regional jet aircraft to carry dual S-band AESA-based antenna units--developed by the CABS--on the aircraft’s fuselage. On February 21 Embraer rolled out the first AEW & CS platform in green condition. The aircraft has since started undergoing intensive ground- and flight-tests. The ferry flight to India is scheduled for the second quarter of this year, following which installation of the DRDO-developed on-board mission management suite will commence. The full-fledged AEW & CS will be flight-tested in India by the IAF from 2012, with Cassidian of Germany providing systems integration consultancy. Service entry is expected by 2016. The IAF has projected a requirement for 14 such AEW & C platforms.

When equipped with a roof-mounted in-flight refuelling probe, the AEW & CS will have an eight-hour endurance that will include three hours for transit and six hours of on-station operational deployment. Thus, two such platforms will be able to conduct operational sorties over a given sector in four duty-cycles of six hours each, which will give each platform an individual time-on-ground of 3.5 hours between each deployment, while keeping one additional AEW & CS platform on standby at all times. Assuming 75% serviceability, a minimum of four such platforms will be required for round-the-clock operations in one sector/theatre. The AEW & CS’ roof-mounted S-band AESA-based radar will operate within the 2GHz to 4GHz bandwidth. The AESA radar will provide 270-degree airspace surveillance coverage and have an instrumental range of 450km and detection range of 350km in a dense hostile electronic warfare environment. The mission sensor suite will also include an L-band IFF transponder. Inside the AEW & CS will be five tandem-mounted multifunction display/processor consoles that will make up the Central Tactical System (CTS) for providing tactical data management solutions via tactical aids, cues, alerts and bookkeeping functions. The platform will also have a communications suite comprising dual HF and five sets of V/UHF radios (developed by the DRDO’s Bangalore-based Defence Avionics Research Establishment, or DARE) for enabling the exchange of tactical data with friendly land, sea and air forces as well as communicating with civilian ATC networks. A roof-mounted Ku-band SATCOM-based data link and twin fuselage-mounted data-links will provide automatic clear or secure communications channels. The data link will be used for relaying information such as tracking cues, contact range, bearing, velocity, altitude and intercept vectors to friendly airborne combat aircraft, while the IAF’s ground-based regional Air Defence Control Centres (ADCC) will be networked with the AEW & C platform via the Ground Interface Segment (EGIS) that will provide two-way exchange of data between the airborne AEW & CS platform and ground-based sector operations centres (SOC). For self-protection, the AEW & CS will have on board a fully integrated defensive aids suite (housed within two outward protruding fuselage sections) that is now being co-developed by DARE and Cassidian, and which will include multi-spectral optronic sensors and an ESM suite, designed for the protection of aircraft against infra-red/laser-guided MANPADS). This will in turn be fully integrated with wingtip-mounted lightweight chaff/flare countermeasures dispensing systems.

The Indian Navy, meanwhile, has zeroed in on two possible contenders—Boeing’s B.737-based AEW & CS and IAI’s G-550 CAEW & CS—for fulfilling its requirement for four shore-based AEW & C platforms. The B.737-based AEW & CS is based on Boeing’s B.737-700IGW airframe and was originally developed to meet the Royal Australian Air Force's requirement for such platforms under Project Wedgetail. The aircraft uses the Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems' multi-role electronically-scanned array (MESA) radar, which is located on a dorsal fin on top of the fuselage. To date, this AEW & CS has been ordered by Australia (six units), South Korea (four units) and Turkey (six units). IAI’s Gulfstream G-550-based conformal airborne early warning and control system (CAEW & CS), on the other hand, is currently in service with the air forces of Israel and Singapore, and comes equipped with the ELTA-built EL/W-2085 system, and uses dual-band (L and S) AESA antennae at the nose and tail, with large slab-sided arrays on the fuselage sides. Together, these give 360° airspace coverage without the complication and drag of a rotodome above the fuselage. Each CAEW & CS carries six operators, and also has ESM antennae under the tail and wingtips, and above the nose, with a SATCOM array atop the vertical tail. Radar, ESM and COMINT data is collected and fused to give a fully correlated and synthetic air situation picture. The aircraft’s structural, aerodynamic and power modifications, including two additional generators and a low-drag liquid cooling system, are all installed on the aircraft by Gulfstream Aerospace prior to delivery to ELTA, and the mission sensors/management suite is then installed in country by IAI’s Bedek Aviation Group. The CAEW & CS offers an unrefuelled mission endurance of nine hours when operating at an altitude of 41,000 feet (12,500 metres) and 185km (100nm) away from its parent air base.—Prasun K. Sengupta

Monday, May 2, 2011

Plugging Air-Defence Gaps With Ground-Based AAA

Following a 25-year R & D effort costing 10 billion (US$200 million), series-production of the 25km-range Akash Mk1 extended short range air defence missile system (E-SHORADS) is now being ramped up to meet the increasing demands of both the Indian Air Force (IAF)—its launch customer, and the Indian Army. Now being inducted into service, the Akash Mk1’s air force variant will first be employed for base air defence (thereby replacing the existing S-125M Pechoras), and will later on be deployed for providing ground-based air defence of some 500 vulnerable areas and vulnerable points dotting the country. The first IAF order for two squadrons, valued at 12.21 billion, was placed in May 2009 and comprised 250 missile rounds, 36 wheeled launchers (built by TATA Power’s Strategic Electronics Division), nine battery command centres, nine Rajendra L-band passive phased-array target engagement radars, and nine S-band Rohini 3-D central acquisition radars. The second order from the IAF, valued at 42.79 billion ($925 million) came in November 2009 for an additional two squadrons of the E-SHORADS, which included 750 missile rounds. This was followed in January 2010 by the third order, this time for six squadrons. Prime contractor for the IAF-specific Akash Mk1 E-SHORADS is the Ministry of Defence-owned Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL), with Hyderabad-based Bharat Dynamics Ltd being the principal sub-contractor. The Indian Army too is expected to soon place an order for up to nine Regiments of Akash Mk1, valued at 125 billion ($2.8 billion), approval for which was obtained in June 2010 from the MoD’s the Defence Acquisitions Council (DAC). The Union Cabinet Committee on National Security on March 17 cleared the induction of an initial two Akash Mk1 Regiments valued at 14.18 billion, each with six Batteries.

When inducted into service by the Army, the Akash Mk1 will replace the existing 27-year-old NIIP 2K12 Kub/Kvadrat medium-range surface-to-air missile (MR-SAM) systems. The Army-specific variant of the Akash Mk1’s missile launcher and the Rajendra PESA radar will all make use of the hull of a T-72M main battle tank in order to achieve superior cross-country mobility. Akash Mk1’s beam-riding SACLOS-guided missile round has a launch weight of 720kg, length of 5.8 metres, and a diameter of 35cm. It can engage aircraft flying 25km away and at altitudes up to 18km. The Rajendra radar can detect 100 targets and track 64 of them, while simultaneously engaging eight of them at the same time. A typical Akash Mk1 Regiment can provide air defence missile coverage of 2,000 square km. The fully-automated Akash Mk1 has an 88% kill probability within a specified kill zone and has even intercepted a target with a 0.02 square-metre radar cross-section (a fighter has a 2 square-metre RCS. The Defence R & D Organisation (DRDO) is now developing the Akash’s Mk2 variant, which will commence its flight-test regime next year. Designed as a MR-SAM, Akash Mk2 will also have faster reaction time and a range of 37km.

Running in parallel are efforts by both the IAF and the Army to replace their existing inventories of OSA-AKM and ZRK-BD Strella-10M SHORADS with RAFAEL of Israel’s Spyder-SR system. The IAF refers to the Spyder-SR as a low-level quick-reaction missile (LLQRM), while the Army calls it a quick-reaction surface-to-air missile (QR-SAM). The MoD’s DAC approved the IAF’s requirement in July 2008, and a $293 million contract for the supply of an initial 18 launchers (making up one squadron) was signed in December 2008. Deliveries began early last month and will be concluded by August 2012. The Army received the green light to procure an initial four regiments of the Spyder-SR in August 2009, and the $900 million contract was inked later that year. The Spyder-SR is the culmination of joint R & D efforts undertaken by RAFAEL and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). It is a short-range (15km range), low-level (from 20 metres through to 9,000 metres altitude) integrated, all-weather air-defence system that makes use of the ground-launched Python 5 imaging infra-red guided and Derby radar-guided missiles, which complement each other in their target detection, tracking and pursuit profile . Both missiles are equipped with lock-on before launch (LOBL) and lock-on after launch (LOAL) modes for faster response time and improved engagement flexibility. A Spyder-SR battery includes up to six missile launch vehicles (each equipped with four missile launchers), missile reloaders and a command-and-control Unit that also accommodates the IAI/ELTA Systems-built EL/M-2106NG ATAR 3-D surveillance radar and two operating consoles. The radar can simultaneously track and engage up to 60 targets at a range beyond 35km (depending on the terrain). The command-and-control unit interfaces with the missile launch vehicles via wireless data-link (for up to as distance of 100km) to enable optimal unit dispersion for effective area coverage, mutual protection and survivability. The system's high cross-country mobility offers quick deployment and operational agility. The Spyder-SR also has VHF/HF communications networks for internal squadron-level communication and to upper-tier commands. Once the operator decides to launch a missile, an automatic procedure begins. The command-and-control centre assigns the target to the appropriate launch vehicle and the selected missile will start to search for the target. If the target is within acquisition range the missile will be launched in LOBL mode. If the target is beyond seeker acquisition range the missile will be launched in LOAL mode. The seeker searches for the target and when it acquires the target it begins the terminal homing phase. Both LOAL and LOBL modes are available for the Derby and Python 5. Destruction of the target is achieved either by the warhead blasting upon impact or by proximity fuze.
Also underway are efforts to upgrade and enhance the firepower of the Army’s Corps of Air Defence Artillery by upgrading the fire-control system of 48 ZSU-23-4 Schilka self-propelled air-defence guns (this work being done by BEL teamed up with IAI/ELTA). Once this is achieved, the Schilkas will complement the thirty-six 2S6 Tunguska-M1 gun/missile-equipped self-propelled air-defence guns, 12 of which were acquired in 1993, followed by 24 more worth $400 million in 2006. At the same time, both the Army and IAF have zeroed in on the Rheinmetall Defence-built Skyranger 35mm gun, which can be mounted on lightweight wheeled or tracked armored vehicles. For the IAF, the Skyranger turret will be mounted on a TATA Motors-built 8 x 8 high-mobility vehicle, while the Army variant will comprise the Skyranger turret being integrated with the hull of a BMP-2 infantry combat vehicle. The unmanned turret comes equipped with a 35mm revolver gun, which has a dual feeding system to give the operator the choice of two types of ammunition. This air-defence system is optimised to fire AHEAD (advanced hit efficiency and destruction) self-programming ammunition, which release a cloud of sub-projectiles just ahead of the target, thereby greatly increasing the probability of a kill. A typical engagement sequence consists of 24 rounds with 4km effective range. The Skyranger is also effective against ground targets and can be used as a direct fire-support weapon. For this, use is made of frangible armour-piercing discarding sabot (FAPDS) rounds with an effective range of 5km at a firing rate of 1,000 rounds per minute. It is also capable of firing mini-bursts or single shots. A total of 220 rounds are carried within the turret for the gun. The turret also has an optronic tracking sensor suite that includes an infra-red camera, TV camera, and laser rangefinder. Other components of the Skyranger include a command post vehicle fitted with a reconnaissance radar and command-and-control system, which provides battle management capabilities. Up to 2,000 units of the Skyranger will be acquired by both the Army and IAF.—Prasun K. Sengupta