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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Dream Come True For The IAF

Back in 2007, when the Indian Air Force (IAF) began work on commissioning its advanced landing grounds (ALG)—spread along the rolling valleys and hills in the mountainous and forested northwestern and northeastern regions of India, it soon realised that some of these ALGs, with modest upgradations, could also serve as peacetime locations housing dedicated intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) platforms on temporary deployments. The only item lacking at that time was the availability of high-wing STOL turboprop aircraft equipped with ISR sensors and mission management suites. Specifically, the IAF wanted a platform that could overcome the otherwise unmanageable clear air turbulence owing to mountain waves, low-level wind shear, and low clouds, and which could easily take off from and land on ALG located at altitudes of between 4,000 feet and 6,200 feet, and whose runways have a length of between 3,600 feet and 4,200 feet and a width of between 60 and 75 feet (which is half that of a normal runway), and which, unlike conventional airfields, are not equipped with stopways, overruns and undershoots.

It would now appear that the IAF’s prayers have finally been answered. For, on June 21 at the on-going Paris Air Show in Le Bourget, Airbus Military and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) decided to combine forces to jointly develop and market a new version of the Airbus Military-built C-295 platform fitted with a fourth-generation airborne early warning and control (AEW & C) system produced by ELTA Systems, a wholly owned IAI subsidiary. The primary sensor of this AEW & C platform will be a 360° rotating AESA-based multi-mode radar that will also be capable of conducting ground surveillance and real-time moving ground target indication from standoff distances. A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to this effect was signed at the Le Bourget Airshow by IAI Corp’s VP and ELTA President, Nissim Hadas, and Airbus Military CEO Domingo Ureña. The network-centric C-295 AEW & C is being designed to provide high-quality 360° surveillance for creating in real-time an integrated air, ground and maritime ‘Situation Picture’ and the electronic order of battle. A C-295 fitted with a rotodome demonstrator has been conducting flight-trials from Airbus Military’s Seville facility since June 8. Initial tests have shown that the aircraft is aerodynamically an excellent platform for this purpose. ELTA Systems and Airbus Military are now conducting engineering studies to integrate the mission suite, including the rotodome-mounted AESA radar and EADS/CASA’s seven-man FITS mission management suite, into the aircraft. In order to optimise the platform for operating in and out of ALG-type airfields, the C-295 AEW & C will come equipped with a chin-mounted FLIR. It will also house a belly-mounted radome housing a 360° rotating inverse synthetic aperture radar, which will perform ground-mapping and ground target profiling operations.

As per the IAF’s future force structure projections, at least six such platforms are required for supplementing the existing fleet of three A-50EI PHALCON AEW & C platforms. A follow-on order for two additional A-50EIs was placed by India’s Ministry of Defence with IAI last March.—Prasun K. Sengupta

Monday, June 20, 2011

Giving Realistic Options A Chance

There are several reasons why India’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) should be disinclined to approve the proposed ‘limited’ upgrade programme involving the 51 Dassault Aviation-built Mirage 2000H/TH multi-role combat aircraft in service with the Indian Air Force (IAF). Firstly, there is the issue of the techno-economic matrix, meaning whether or not the high expenditure to be incurred is justified. To understand this, one has to note that the term ‘limited’ upgrade excludes the option of re-engining the aircraft. In addition, there are to be no airframe modifications, no changes to major aircraft systems, no modification to equipment bays, limited cockpit modifications, and minimum retrofit line-modification facilities/activities. This would mean that even if the Mirage 2000H/THs are to receive a brand-new open-architecture mission/cockpit avionics suite and see their airframes being refurbished and re-lifed to stay in airworthy condition for the next 20 years, they still will not be able to remain flyable till 2038 (due to the 35-year guaranteed service-life warranty issued by Dassault Aviation) simply because the existing SNECMA Moteurs-built M53P2 turbofans would have reached the end of their certified total technical service lives (TTSL) by 2029.

This then brings us to the issue of costs. As is now known, THALES has refused to reduce its quotation of Rs96.4 billion (US$2.1 billion) for the ‘limited’ upgrade programme of the IAF’s Mirage-2000 fleet. The MoD considers this price—Rs1.96 billion ($41 million) per aircraft—unacceptably high, given that the engines will not be changed. THALES, as prime contractor has reportedly offered to deliver the first two upgraded aircraft from its facilities in France within 40 months of signing, while it will help Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) upgrade two more aircraft in India to gain familiarity. Thereafter, HAL would upgrade one aircraft every month, for 47 months. Initially, THALES had quoted $2.9 billion), which it brought down to the current level of $2.1 billion after the IAF diluted its upgrade requirements. The IAF had floated a request for proposal (RFP) for undertaking the ‘limited’ upgrade in April 2008, to which THALES had replied in July 2008. Interestingly, the IAF refused to even consider an alternative option offered by a joint team of Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and HAL under which each of the Mirage 2000H/THs can be upgraded for only Rs520 million ($11.5 million). The reason being given by the IAF: a policy decision taken almost a decade ago by the MoD to appoint only the Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM)—like Dassault Aviation and THALES in case of the Mirage 2000—as prime contractors for all aircraft upgrade programmes—be they ‘limited’ or ‘deep’ in terms of the scope of work. But if this is indeed the case, then how come the MoD had appointed HAL as the prime contractor when carrying out the Limited Upgrade Sea Harrier (LUSH) programme (codenamed Project Tiger) for 14 BAE Systems-built Sea Harrier carrier-based V/STOL combat aircraft between March 2005 and December 2009? And why was the DARIN-2 mission avionics upgrade programme for the IAF’s fleet of Jaguar IS/IM interdictor/strike aircraft carried out jointly by HAL and the DRDO in the late 1990s without appointing BAE Systems as the prime contractor? And what about the limited upgrade programme involving the IAF’s MiG-27M strike aircraft, which too was carried out jointly by HAL and the DRDO without any participation by Russia’s United Aircraft Corp? And if one is to safely assume that over the years both HAL and the DRDO have acquired the core technological competencies (thanks to the investments made in the Tejas LCA’s R & D effort) required for indigenously designing and developing open-architecture mission/cockpit avionics suites meant for both Europe-origin and Russia-origin combat aircraft, then why is HAL being prevented from being appointed as the prime contractor for the Mirage 2000 upgrade programme, especially when it is the French themselves who are now ‘advising’ the IAF to instead invest the huge sums of money (earmarked for the ‘limited’ upgrade) in the forthcoming M-MRCA procurement effort?

There is also another point to be noted: for reasons best known to them, both Dassault Aviation and THALES have, over the past decade, failed to offer a range of ‘limited’ upgrade options for the Mirage 2000—more than 600 of which have been built for nine air forces worldwide. One would like to believe that companies like Dassault Aviation, THALES and Sagem Défense Sécurité would be actively promoting their respective aircraft service life extension/avionics suite upgrade packages to countries like Brazil (with 10 ex-French Air Force Mirage 2000Cs and two Mirage-2000Bs), Egypt (16 single-seat Mirage-2000Ms and four tandem-seat Mirage-2000BMs), France (87 Mirage-2000Cs, 30 Mirage 2000Bs, 75 Mirage-2000Ns, 37 Mirage 2000-5F, and 86 Mirage-2000Ds, Greece (36 single-seat Mirage 2000EGs and four tandem-seat Mirage-2000 2000BGs and 15 Mirage 2000-5 Mk2s), India (52 Mirage-2000Hs and seven Mirage-2000THs), Peru (10 Mirage-2000Ps and two Mirage-2000DPs), Qatar (nine Mirage-2000-5EDAs and three Mirage-2000-5DDAs), Taiwan (48 Mirage-2000-5EIs and 12 Mirage-2000-5DIs), and the United Arab Emirates (22 Mirage-2000EADs, eight Mirage-2000RADs, six Mirage-2000DADs, 20 Mirage-2000-9s and 12 Mirage-2000-9Ds).  However, it is the opposite that holds true.

As far back as early 2007 both Dassault Aviation and THALES had a golden opportunity to offer a new-generation mission/cockpit avionics suite for prospective Mirage 2000 upgrade programmes when  the French Centre d'Experiences Aeriennes Militaires (CEAM, or Military Aerial Experimentation Center) and the CEV flight-test center in Cazaux, southwest France, modified a Mirage 2000 B501 to flight-qualify the combination of the THALES-built Radar à Balayage Electronique-2 (RBE-2) AESA-MMR and the Optronique Secteur Frontal (OSF) infra-red search-and-track (IRST) sensor for eventual fitment into the Rafale M-MRCA. If at that time THALES had taken a decision to develop lower-cost derivatives of both the RBE-2 and OSF as viable retrofit options (like what Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and IAI/ELTA Systems are now doing with the SABR, RACR and EL/M-2052 AESA-MMRs and what SELEX Galileo is doing with the Skyward IRST sensor) for the Mirage 2000, then THALES today would have been in an enviable position, especially in India. Since this has not happened, it makes little sense for the IAF now to opt for a mission avionics package that uses a RDY-2 X-band multifunction Doppler radar with a mechanically scanning antenna and which is devoid of an IRST sensor.

A far better option, therefore, could see the IAF selecting a package co-offered by HAL and IAI that would comprise a fully integrated but open-architecture mission avionics suite (integrated by the Bangalore-based Defence Avionics Research Establishment, or DARE) to include a new-generation mission computer; AESA-MMR; an IRST sensor; helmet-mounted display (HMD); two-way airborne data-links for communicating with friendly combat aircraft, AEW & C platforms and unmanned aerial vehicles; an integrated defensive aids suite (IDAS) that includes a combined radar/missile approach warning system, countermeasures dispenser, and an internal self-protection jammer; an air-to-air/air-to-ground software-defined radio system that harnesses the power of its distinctive automatic routing and relay capabilities to offer extended range, while offering video, voice and data simultaneously at an exceptionally high data rate; a laser designator pod; tactical reconnaissance pod; and escort jamming pod. Structurally, the aircraft’s weapons pylons could be modified to accept triple-ejector racks capable of launching precision-guided munitions (PGM) like the 125kg/250kg AASM (from the France-based Sagem Défense Sécurité subsidiary of the SAFRAN Group) laser-/GPS-/imaging infra-red sensor-equipped standoff munition, small-diameter laser-guided bombs, and CBU-105 sensor-fuzed weapons from Textron Systems. As far as the X-band AESA-based MMR goes, the EL/M-2052 would be the ideal choice, while the IRST sensor could be SELEX Galileo of Italy’s 55kg Skyward. The HMD could come from Elbit Systems. HAL could supply 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 HAL. The open-architecture IDAS, which has been under joint development by DARE and Germany-based Cassidian since 2006, would 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), and  countermeasures dispenser built by Bharat Dynamics Ltd. Contenders for supplying the pod-mounted escort jammer could include IAI/ELTA with its ELL-8251, and RAFAEL’s Skyshield. For self-protection, Elettronica of Italy’s Virgilius family of directional jammers (as part of the IDAS suite), which make use of active phased-array transmitters for jamming hostile low-band (E-G) and high-band (G-J) emitters, could be installed. For tactical strike missions, the Mirage 2000 could be equipped with the Litening-3 LDP and RecceLite tactical reconnaissance pod—both built by RAFAEL.

There is also an urgent need by the MoD to take a final call on the proposed ‘deep’ upgrade package for up to 100 MiG-27Ms, which has been under consideration since 2006. Under this proposal, HAL and the DRDO will be supplying an open-architecture mission/cockpit avionics package similar to the DARIN-3 package already developed by HAL and the DRDO for the 120 to-be-re-engined Jaguar IS interdictors. On the other hand, United Aircraft Corp along with HAL and MMPP Salyut will re-engine the MiG-27Ms with the 99-30S turbofan, which is derived from the NPO Saturn-built AL-31FP turbofan already powering the IAF’s Su-30MKIs. The 99-30S turbofan offers increased thrust (1 ton more than the existing Klimov R29B-300), is lighter by 200kg, and offers fuel savings of up to 15%.—Prasun K. Sengupta

Monday, June 13, 2011

Travails Of India’s DPSUs: The BEL Experience

Soon after he took charge as Union home minister in 2008, P. Chidambaram cleared a long-awaited proposal to procure 32,766 telescopic night vision devices (NVDs) for the paramilitary forces. Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL), a prestigious public sector undertaking, bagged the contract. BEL started supplying the NVDs in September 2010. Till March 2011, it supplied 5,000 NVDs, of which 2,000 were tested. Ten per cent of the tested pieces were found to be faulty; the promised life of a piece was 10 years. The remaining 3,000 pieces are stored at defence depots, as the ministry is wary about deploying them in the field. Apparently, BEL charged the ministry twice the market price. And, there are fears about some of the components being sourced from the grey market. Regarding the NVDs in storage, a senior paramilitary officer said, “[As they were not tested], we will not be in a position to identify defective devices and seek replacement under the one-year warranty cover from BEL.” Following complaints, the home ministry has asked the defence ministry to investigate whether proper trial procedures have been followed and whether kickbacks have been paid. The story began in December 2006, when the home ministry put out a tender for NVDs. The tender stated that the devices were to be compatible with INSAS rifles and light machine guns (LMG) used by the paramilitary forces. For a long time, the ministry was unable to find a supplier. On November 19, 2008, during a target fixation meeting with the ministry, the Ordnance Factory Board said the Ordnance Factory Dehradun was developing an NVD for 5.56mm rifles and LMGs. It offered the device for trial. On February 23, 2009, Dinesh Batra, senior deputy general manager, BEL, wrote to R.S. Sharma, then director of procurement, home ministry, that it could supply the required device. BEL claimed that it had developed a state-of-the-art NVD based on XD-4 technology, in technical collaboration with Prizmatech, a subsidiary of Star Defence Systems, Israel. The company web site claims that “Prizmatech was established as Israel Defence Force’s biggest source for night vision devices.” In early 2009, a fresh ‘request for proposal’ was issued, leading to BEL winning the contract. On June 23, 2009, a trial was conducted at the Border Security Force range in Gurgaon. The trial team consisted of officers of the BSF, Indo-Tibetan Border Police, National Security Guard and Central Reserve Police Force. BEL provided two models for trial—PR-1614 F and BEANS-0802. Ordnance Factory Dehradun also supplied two models—PNS-3X for INSAS and PNS-5.5X for LMG. Both failed the trials. BEANS-0802 failed the trial and the other one scraped through. P.C. Joshi, joint manager, Ordnance Factory Dehradun, declined to talk to THE WEEK about the trial procedure and results. Allegedly, the trial team endorsed BEL’s claims without testing the device’s magnification, operating temperature, battery life (which should be 15 hours) and resolution. But the trial team insisted that the device should have cheek-rests. But, no cheek-rests have been provided till date. The trial team had also found that the NVDs were not fitting snugly on to the assault rifles as BEL had not integrated the sights with the guns. These issues created a lot of inconvenience to the shooters. So, the trial team strongly recommended that BEL submit the NVD for a retrial after fitting a cheek-rest and solving the slotting issues. Surprisingly, despite the shortcomings, no second trial or field trial was conducted. Normally, all equipment is trial-evaluated in varying locations and climatic conditions such as summer, winter, high altitude and desert. “That never happened,” revealed an officer who was on the board. Lt-Gen. (retd) P.C. Katoch, former director-general (information systems), Indian Army, said that a device being procured after a single trial was unheard of. “It should be tested in the places where it is going to be used,” said he. “It should be subjected to battlefield conditions.” Katoch said the four important performance parameters of an NVD are its signal-to-noise ratio (SNR), resolution, modular transfer function and lifetime (see box). “SNR is by far the most important parameter for an image intensifier tube [II tube],” said Katoch. An II tube is a vacuum tube device for increasing the intensity of available light in an optical system, and it constitutes 70 per cent of the cost of the device. THE WEEK learnt that BEL’s NVDs were not tested for SNR. In August 2009, the home ministry cleared the Rs:1,000 crore deal. On January 7, 2010, S. Chattopadhyaya, inspector-general, BSF, issued a proprietary article certificate in favour of BEL stating that no other Indian firm manufactured passive night vision telescopic sights. “A proprietary article is given if a company develops three parts—casing, optics and II tubes,” said an officer who was on the trial team. “BEL developed none of these three critical objects. I am surprised how they were awarded this certificate.” The proprietary article certificate was false because the Broadcast Engineering Consultants India Limited (BECIL) and the Ordnance Factory Dehradun have supplied NVDs to paramilitary forces. In 2010, Assam Rifles had procured 2,000 night vision devices from BECIL, of which only five have developed snags. BECIL developed the NVD in collaboration with a Russian firm. The Opto Electronics Factory, under the Ordnance Factory Board, also makes night vision devices. Ordnance Factory Dehradun has supplied night vision devices to the CRPF in 2000, to Assam Rifles in 2002 and to the ITBP in 2007. On April 25, 2007, the ITBP paid only Rs:1,74,300 per piece to Ordnance Factory Dehradun, while BEL charged the home ministry Rs:3,50,000 per piece. BEL told THE WEEK that it had been supplying large numbers of binocular and monocular devices to the paramilitary forces over the past five years and that only a few devices had developed faults, which were being attended to. “Regarding supply of weapon sights for INSAS and LMG for paramilitary forces, BEL received the first order and started deliveries from September 2010,” BEL said. “Till March 2011, we have supplied close to 5,000 numbers of these night sights. These are currently under deployment and we have not received any complaints from our customers regarding supplies made up to now.” Documents accessed by THE WEEK reveal that BEL did not manufacture the NVDs. It was only sourcing them from Prizmatech in “complete knocked down condition” and assembling them. Prizmatech, in turn, was procuring the II tubes from Photonics, a French company. THE WEEK has with it a letter of intent dated January 26, 2006, reference number CV/CB/150601, signed by Cor Boet, director, Photonics, addressed to Moti Solomon, reportedly a majority shareholder of Prizmatech. The letter proves the Prizmatech-Photonics deal. Interestingly, many of the II tubes do not have the mandatory identification number. Paramilitary officials told THE WEEK that some of the II tubes could have been bought off the grey market. “If a device does not have an identification number, that simply means that it has been taken from the grey market,” said Katoch. What created suspicion about the authenticity of the II tubes was its low figure of merit (FOM), which characterises the performance of the tube. The FOM of an II tube is arrived at by multiplying the number of line pairs per millimetre with the tube’s signal-to-noise ratio. The BEL equipment’s FOM should have been around 1,000, but a senior paramilitary officer said, in field trials, it was less than 750 (see box). The officer also told THE WEEK that when the issue of the unmarked II tubes was raised, BEL temporarily stopped supply. It had reportedly promised to deliver 22,200 devices by March 2011. About the delay in delivery schedule, BEL told THE WEEK that it had not received any request for 22,200 NVDs to be provided before March 2011. The available orders were being executed as per the agreed delivery schedules, BEL said. When THE WEEK inquired with BEL about the missing cheek-rests, its reply was that cheek-rests were not needed, and therefore were not provided. “We have received a complaint about BEL’s night vision devices,” Home Secretary G.K. Pillai told THE WEEK. “We have asked the defence ministry to inquire about it because BEL works under the defence ministry. We hope to get the report from the defence ministry soon.” According to reliable sources, high on the suspicion list is R.S. Sharma, former director (procurement), home ministry (see box on page 44). “We have registered a case against him for allegedly granting undue favours to certain private firms in the procurement of 59,000 bullet-proof jackets,” said CBI spokesman R.K. Gaur. “We are also investigating his role and involvement in other procurement deals.” Another surprising element of the NVD deal was that there was no commitment from BEL and Prizmatech to provide spare parts. By the end of the trials, it was clear the device, in its current form, was not fit for service. So, the board proposed three options to the ministry. First, if BEL overcomes the shortcomings, the procurement may be made from BEL on nomination basis. Second, the NVDs may be procured through limited tender from PSUs. Third, procurement through a global tender. “The best option was to go global so that we could have chosen the best device at the best cost,” said a senior paramilitary officer. Pillai agreed to this view: “Normally, we go for a global tender. It is always good to go for a global tender because you get to know what the competitive cost of equipment is. If we do not have different prize disclosures, then we would not know whether that cost is the best cost for the weapon system.” Then why was standard procedure not followed? “We will look into the case and see what went wrong,” said Pillai. The lack of NVDs was felt acutely after the Maoist attack in Dantewada on April 6, 2010, which claimed the lives of 76 CRPF personnel. An internal inquiry report on Dantewada pointed out that the inability to spot the enemy at dawn left the troops at the mercy of well-armed Maoists. “Night vision goggles and gunsights are absolute treasures,” said Vijay Raman, former special director-general, CRPF, who was in charge of anti-Maoist operations. “The view through a passive NVD may be 40,000 to 50,000 times brighter than what the unaided eye sees. With them, you own the night. But if the device fails or creates hindrance, then the consequences will be severe. It may take a soldier’s life.” With the Indian market for NVDs projected at $1 billion, companies like Prizmatech are bullish on India. A defence ministry official said that one of the easy routes for foreign companies to enter India’s defence and domestic security market is through ‘transfer of technology’ deals, where they share technology with India. In the NVD deal, transfer of technology was allegedly the cover to win the contract. BEL told THE WEEK that initially some NVDs were supplied in fully finished form from Israel. “In the second phase, items were supplied in completely knocked-down condition. Assembly and testing was done at BEL before supply,” BEL said. For the rest, BEL did what it calls an “in-depth manufacturing of mechanical and optical components”. But the question remains: how can Prizmatech transfer technology, when the II tubes were made by Photonics? In the end, the ultimate benefactor of the deal was Prizmatech, which used BEL as a cover to sell a device they did not even manufacture! The ball is now in the defence ministry’s court. If BEL is found guilty of flouting procurement rules and procedures, will the home ministry cancel the deal? In this investigation, the defence ministry may find itself in an awkward situation as the Army has recently signed another contract with BEL for 30,634 third-generation NVDs. COVER STORY&programId=1073755753&contentId=9452197

Lt-Gen. (retd) P.C. Katoch is confident that technology will form the backbone of all future wars and conflicts, and that the man on the ground needs to be empowered with the best equipment available. Excerpts from an interview:
How important are night vision devices (NVDs) in modern warfare?
Today, most of the fighting happens at night. Whether it is war or fighting insurgency or terrorism, the soldier wants to fight at night. It enables you to surprise your enemy. Therefore, NVDs are critical for operational success. You should be able to see your enemy before he sees you and you should be able to fire at him and fire effectively. Every soldier must have an NVD.
How is the trial of an NVD done?
There should be a comprehensive trial directive. The trial for NVDs must be done in different locations under different weather conditions. It should be exposed to battlefield conditions. In the BEL case, they should have approached the Army for technical support to conduct the trials. The Army has been using NVD-fitted weapons for years.
What are the common problems with NVDs?
A common damage factor is exposure to bright light, rain, fog or even extreme humidity. These may damage NVDs. The battery is another issue. Every day, in Kashmir or in the northeast, troops are out on patrolling or search operations. At times it is not easy to recharge the battery. Then the question is whether we have sufficient batteries for the devices. When the handheld thermal imagers (HHTIs) were first imported from Israel and France, only one charger for four HHTIs was procured. That forced the infantry to improvise chargers, which may have caused damage to the equipment. The problem is that our public sector undertakings are way behind in developing NVDs. The NVDs of DRDO and BEL are not good; they are bulky and heavy.
How can we distinguish between real and fake NVDs?
Every part of the device should have an identification number. It is like a passport, it verifies your birthplace. A night vision scope has a set of optics, batteries, transformer, regulators and capacitors and an image intensifier tube. All these must have separate identification numbers. If an II tube does not have a number, it simply means it was purchased from the grey market. COVER STORY&programId=1073755753&contentId=9452198

In 2010, the Central Bureau of Investigation arrested R.S. Sharma, former director (procurement), home ministry, on charges of corruption. A 1984-batch officer of the Indian Railways Service of Mechanical Engineers, he was on deputation to the ministry. The CBI nabbed him for a scam in the procurement of 59,000 bullet-proof vests. Now, his name is at the centre of the night vision device scam, too. He is currently out on bail. The ministry had floated the tender for the vests in 2009. But as the deal ran into murky waters, it was put on hold for a year and Sharma was arrested. The immediate victims of the scam are the paramilitary forces, as they have to fight Maoists and armed insurgents without body armour. The case was a serious blow to the home ministry, as Sharma was involved in the modernisation of central police forces and in procuring and allocating weapons for them. The CBI had arrested Sharma’s alleged accomplices, too,—R.K. Gupta and wife Lavina Gupta, owners of Anjani Technoplast, an armouring firm. The charge was that Sharma favoured Anjani Technoplast’s bid for the vests, despite its product failing the trials. He is accused of leaking confidential data about the tenders and the trial process to Anjani Technoplast. The CBI has registered a case under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. The night vision device scam has also come under the radar of the agency. Allegedly, Sharma and other government officials took bribes for providing inside information that gave BEL and Prizmatech, Israel, an unfair advantage while bidding for contracts. Home Secretary G.K. Pillai told THE WEEK that Sharma had been shifted from the ministry and that the ministry was fully cooperating with the CBI investigation. Said Pillai: “We have given the matter to the CBI. They are investigating not only this [bullet-proof vest scam] deal but other deals, too, which may come up during their investigation. As of now, Sharma stands suspended and charge-sheeted.” COVER STORY&programId=1073755753&contentId=9452196

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Arudhra MPR Is EL/M-2084 MMR: Seeing Is Believing

The Arudhra medium-power radar (MPR) is after all the ELTA Systems-built EL/M-2084 MMR, whose full-scale replica was displayed at the Aero India 2011 expo in Bengaluru last February. The two sets of visuals above (Arudhra on top, followed by the EL/M-2084 shown in Bengaluru) clearly confirm that. Thus far, neither the DRDO nor BEL have claimed that the Arudhra is a product developed and made in India. Unlike airspace surveillance/air traffic management radars, the Arudhra-EL/M-2084 is an early warning/target engagement radar that will be employed by the IAF for providing early warning of inbound tactical ballistic missiles and cruise missiles (both air-launched and ground-launched). A total of 34 such MPRs have been contracted for thus far by the IAF (the orders were placed during the 2009 Paris Air Show) for installation in and around Jamnagar, Mumbai and the National Capital Region, to begin with. The EL/M-2084 MMR is also employed as  the RAZ weapon locating radar by the IDF Ground Forces, and the Indian Army is soon expected to place orders for this land-mobile system, since the DRDO-developed and BEL-built WLR, reported to be under development since late 1999, has yet to see the light of day.

The AESA-based EL/M-2084 addresses an emerging requirement to include all land-based radar functions into one operational unit. The MPR combines a weapons locator radar and an air-defence radar to detect ballistic and cruise missiles, MBRL rockets, rounds fire by field artillery howitzers and mortars, calculates the anticipated impact and launching points, and provides target data to the relevant air-defence weapons systems. The MPR is land-mobile and scalable in order to meet different performance requirements. Scaling is performed by means of an antenna of varying physical size and the amount of transmit-receive module content. The current orders from the IAF include three different versions of the MPR.

And posted below is the official press release of the MoD’s Directorate of Public Relations, which should put to rest all doubts about the origin of the Arudha MPR.

“In the background of Commanders’ Conference at Headquarters South Western Air Command (SWAC), Air Chief Marshal PV Naik PVSM VSM ADC inducted the first Medium Power Radar (MPR) named ARUDHRA at Air Force Station Naliya. CAS was accompanied by Air Marshal A K Gogoi AVSM VSM, AOC-in-C South Western Air Command. The Arudhra radar is being inducted to replace the ageing (THALES-built) TRS-2215 and (BEL-built) PSM-33 radars on the inventory of IAF. The radar is state-of-the-art technology capable of detecting targets at ranges greater than 300km and it is an important component in the IAF's plans to achieve net-centric operations. The radar would strengthen air-defence in the Saurashtra-Kutch region. The Arudhra is being inducted in a signals unit which has rich historical legacy. The unit was raised in October 1966 in Jodhpur and moved to Naliya in Jun 1988. At Naliya the unit has played a pivotal role in the air-defence of Saurashtra-Kutch region. The event was attended by a large number of Air Force officers from Air Headquarters, Headquarters South Western Air Command, including the representatives of original equipment manufacturer ELTA Systems Ltd, from Israel. IAF fighters conducted a fly past brilliantly synchronised with the induction of radar by Chief of the Air Staff”.

Also being inducted by the IAF are the THALES-built GS-100 LLTRs, following the DRDO’s failure to develop an indigenous substitute.—Prasun K. Sengupta

Thursday, June 2, 2011

PAF-PLAAF Bonhomie Scaling New Heights

The five decade-old bonhomie between the air forces of China and Pakistan witnessed another significant step forward last March when the People’s Liberation Army’s Air Force (PLAAF) for the first time ever took part in an operational air exercise—codenamed Shaheen-1—with the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) within Pakistani airspace. Two PLAAF Su-30MKK heavy multi-role combat aircraft (MRCA), accompanied by a 12-member complement of ground support crew, visited the PAF’s air bases in Rawalpindi (PAF Base Chaklala), Kamra (PAF Base Minhas) and Sargodha (PAF Base Mushaf) where a series of dissimilar air combat exercises were conducted with the PAF’s Dassault Aviation Mirage IIIP, Mirage VP and Chengdu/PAC Kamra JF-17 Thunder MRCAs, in addition to conducting mid-air refuelling sorties with the PAF’s four newly acquired IL-78MKP aerial refuelling tankers. Officially, the exercises were designed to share mutual experiences, hone professional skills and accrue maximum benefits from the expertise of the two air forces. But in reality, the air exercises are widely seen as the beginning of a formalised process of collaborating on a range of air combat training-related issues that include all-weather airborne battle management with the help of airborne early warning and control (AEW & C) platforms, and both within-visual-range and beyond-visual-range air combat doctrines and tactics.

The two visiting Su-30MKKs hailed from one of the three ‘Blue Army’ aggressor squadrons of the 8th PLAAF Flight Academy, which is the Chinese counterpart of the Indian Air Force’s (IAF) Gwalior-based Tactics & Combat Development Establishment (TACDE) and which has been modelled after the US Navy’s ‘Top Gun’ Naval Fighter Weapons School and the Naval Strike & Air Warfare Center, and the US Air Force’s 64th and 65th Aggressor squadrons at Nellis air force base in Nevada. The 8th PLAAF Flight Academy, which comes under the operational jurisdiction of the PLAAF’s Flight Test & Training Base (FT & TB) at Cangzhou air base in Hebei province, presently has three ‘Blue Army’ aggressor squadrons, each of which are equipped with four Su-27SKs and four Su-30MKKs, eight J-10A medium MRCAs, and eight J-7E light MRCAs. Commissioned in June 1987, these aggressor squadrons have been trained to act as ‘hostile bogeys’ during air combat exercises by simulating the air combat manoeuvring characteristics of US- and European-origin combat aircraft. These squadrons use enemy tactics, techniques, and procedures to give a realistic simulation of air combat (as opposed to training against one’s own forces). For the PLAAF, therefore, there is much to learn in terms of dissimilar air combat tactics from the PAF, especially since the latter has, for almost a decade, participated in multinational air exercises with NATO and non-NATO air forces in both Turkey (under the Anatolian Eagle series) and the US (the Red Flag series). For the PAF, in turn, there is much to learn from the PLAAF in terms of the latter’s expertise—acquired over the past six years—in planning and executing offensive and defensive air campaigns in which AEW & C platforms and Su-30MKKs are the major participants. The PLAAF in future will also be training the PAF to operate the four ZDK-03 AEW & C platforms which are due for delivery by China’s CETC International from later this year. The four ZDK-03s will be employed by the PAF specifically for directing and managing the air campaigns waged by the PAF’s fleet of Mirage IIIPs and Mirage VPs, JF-17 Thunder, F-7PG and (in future) FC-20 MRCAs. The four Saab 2000 AEW & C platforms, on the other hand, will be employed for directing and managing the air campaigns waged by the PAF’s fleet of Lockheed Martin-built Block 52 F-16A/B/C/D MRCAs and the Mirage IIIPs and Mirage VPs.

The PAF and PLAAF, along with companies like China’s CETC International and Pakistan’s Wah cantonment-based Advanced Engineering Research Organization (AERO), have, since 2008, been also working together on developing a rangeless dissimilar air combat training system (DACTS) and an air combat manoeuvring instrumentation (ACMI) system, both of which, by using GPS technology, allow pilots to train in any available airspace without reliance on a ground-based, tethered range. A rangeless ACMI system can support up to 100 high-activity aircraft and up to 100 simultaneous weapons-launch simulations in a single training exercise. While the IAF had acquired two sets of ‘EHUD’ rangeless DACTS/ACMI training aids worth US$42 million from Israel Aircraft Industries’ (IAI) MLM Division in the late 1990s, and followed it by acquiring a supplementary system—comprising digital video-cum-data recorders (DVDR) and ground debriefing systems (GDS)—for its Su-30MKIs from Israel’s RADA Electronic Industries Ltd, such training aids have, to date, remained elusive for both the PAF and PLAAF due to US and EU export control regulations imposed since the late 1980s. The kind of DACTS/ACMI systems now sought by China and Pakistan are presently made by companies such as DIEHL/BGT Defence GmbH of Germany (maker of the Flight Profile Recorder system), US-based DRS Defense Solutions Inc and Cubic Defense Systems, Israel’s IAI/MLM Division RADA Electronic Industries Ltd, Singapore’s Prescient Systems & Technologies (a subsidiary of Singapore’s ST Electronics), and Dong Ji Inter-Tech of South Korea. Given the unavailability of DACTS/ACMI systems being made available for export from Europe, Israel and the US, it appears highly likely that the PAF and PLAAF will eventually procure such systems from the Far East.
The rangeless DACTS/ACMI system being sought by the PAF and PLAAF will have four main elements: the ACMI pod, DVDR, real-time monitoring station (RTMS), and GDS. Designed with the same aerodynamics performance of an actual air combat missile, the ACMI pod is an exact replica of the air combat missile whose performance needs to be simulated. The homogeny includes its physical dimensions, weight, mechanical and, electrical and electromagnetic interference characteristics. The pod allows for real-time data transmission, reception and relay between the aircraft and a ground-based RTMS, as well as a GDS for combat outcome assessment and debriefing. The ACMI pod, incorporated with GPS technology, is retrofitted on to the aircraft. The flight data is captured and recorded in data cartridges that can be easily removed for after-action review at the RTMS or GDS. The combat and flight data of the air crew is relayed by the pod to the RTMS. This data is then used to monitor the training scenarios in real-time as well as to conduct post-flight debrief during the after-action reviews. Data recorded and stored by the DVDR is used to reconstruct the spatial flight patterns of all participating aircraft, superimposed on a three-dimensional representation of the mission terrain. Data among all aircraft is automatically synchronised by the GDS. When two screens are used (one for three-dimensional imagery, the other for video), both displays are synchronised as well with no user intervention. All viewing angles and directions, whether from within the cockpits or outside, are user-selectable and adjustable. The GDS is capable of conducting simultaneous, synchronised recording and playback of numerous digital channels, carrying audio and video from multiple sources. The system supports specialty features such as simulation and analysis tools for mission debriefing, and military unit data management. Utilising COTS-based PC technology, the GDS is designed for advanced squadron-level post-flight debriefing.—Prasun K. Sengupta