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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

LCA (Navy) Programme Detailed

The LCA (Navy) programme involves development of the NP-1 tandem-seat operational conversion trainer and NP-2 single-seat multi-role combat aircraft (to be rolled-out before the year’s end), one structural test specimen for fatigue-testing, creation of Navy-specific flight-test facilities in Bengaluru and Goa, construction of a shore-based flight-test facility or SBFT at INS Hansa in Goa (for enabling arrested landing recovery, plus takeoff from a half-metal half-concrete 14-degree ski ramp and a flight deck ranging from 195 metres to 204 metres in length, and validating the simulation model for flight performance within ship-motion limits, validating the flight controls’ strategy with all-up weight and asymmetric loading, validating the load analysis methodology), and flight-tests/flight certification for aircraft carrier-based flight operations. The SBTF will also have its integral flight-test centre equipped with line-of-sight telemetry/high-speed three-axis photogrammetric systems, systems for validating thrust measurement algorithms, systems for measuring wind-flow patterns, INS/DGPS-based trajectory measurement systems, RGS integration facility, plus a workshop.
The NP-1/2 models will also be subjected to a carrier-based flight-test regime on board INS Vikramaditya, where seaborne wind conditions winds-on-deck envelopes (especially ship motion, cross-winds and high wind-on-deck speeds) are likely to be more favourable than those around the SBTF. Integration with carrier-based support and weaponisation facilities, plus jettisioning of ventral stores, thrust data validation, and attaining hands-free and non-disorienting takeoff with supplied HUD symbology formats and high angles of attack will also be demonstrated in this phase of flight-tests. Incidentally, since the Indian Navy is involved for the very first time in its history with developing a carrier-based MRCA, it is resigned to the possibility of one of the two LCA (Navy) technology demonstrators ‘breaking up’ while in the process of subjecting the aircrafts’ main landing gears to arrested recoveries at sea. It must be noted here that the undercarriages of carrier-based aircraft collapse or break-up not due to compression, but due to suspension.

Compared to the Tejas Mk1, the LCA (Navy) Mk1 is a technology demonstrator that features a drooped nose section, strengthened airframe structure, twin leading edge vortex control surfaces (for attaining lower approach speeds), main landing gear with higher sink rate (which is presently over-designed and too strong, and requires streamlining), increased internal fuel capacity, a Navy-specific avionics suite (including the autopilot and auto-throttle) and weapons package, and an arrester hook. The definitive aircraft carrier-based MRCA, which the Navy will operationally induct into service by 2020 (and use it for the following 20 years), will be the LCA (Navy) Mk2, 46 of which will be powered by the F414-IN56 turbofan. Although the NP-1/2 will both be armed with RAFAEL-built Derby and Python-5 air combat missiles, it is envisaged that the LCA (Navy) Mk2s will be armed with the Astra/Python-5 air combat missiles combination.--Prasun K. Sengupta

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Pakistan’s Commanding Lead

While the Indian Army continues to wait in vain for even its 130mm M-46 towed howitzers to be upgraded to 155mm/45-cal standard, the Pakistan Army is quietly but swiftly replacing its 400 Type 59-1 towed howitzers (a clone of the M-46 built by China North Industries Corp, or NORINCO) with the GM-45, developed in the early 1980s by the 123 Factory, 127 Factory, and 674 Factory of China’s 5th Ministry of Machine-building and Beijing Univeristy of Science and Technology in cooperation with NORICUM (now Voest-Alpine Stahl AG) of Austria. The 155mm/45-cal GM-45, also built by NORINCO, is a conversion of the Type 59-1 (M-46) to accommodate the ordnance of the standard production NORINCO 155mm/45-cal WA-021 howitzer. The firing rate 4 rounds/minute. Recoil is variable and loading and breech operations are manual. To increase the rate of fire a flick rammer has been installed on the left side and hydraulically operated wheels have been added to each trail assembly to ease the opening and closing of the trails. The GM-45 also has a two-wheeled dolly, which is attached under the rear of the closed trails. According to NORINCO, when firing an ERFB 155mm projectile, the GM-45 has a maximum muzzle velocity of 897 metres/second. It can also fire NORINCO-built 155mm laser-guided projectiles.

With this latest acquisition, the Pakistan Army will continue to maintain its commanding lead over the Indian Army when it comes to field artillery assets and capabilities. The Pakistan Army’s field artillery enhancement efforts began in 2008 when its Chief of the Army Staff, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, visited Beijing in September 2008 and inked a contract to procure an initial 36 A-100E 300mm multi-barrel rocket launchers and two SLC-2 active phased-array weapons locating radars. This followed a round of competitive evaluations conducted by the Pakistan Army of the A-100E (built by CPMIEC of China) and the competing AR-2, another 300mm MBRL built by NORINCO. Also expected to be procured in the near future from China are approximately 190 SH-1 155mm/52-calibre motorised howitzers. The A-100E, developed by CPMIEC, comprises a 300mm 10-tube launch vehicle, reloading vehicle and command-and-control vehicles, all of which are mounted on the WS-2400 8 x 8 wheeled chassis. All 10 rockets can be fired within 60 seconds, and it can be reloaded in 20 minutes. The NORINCO-built AR-2 MBRL, on the other hand, has 12 launch tubes from which rockets armed with a wide variety of warheads are fired. The warhead options include fragmentation sub-munitions warhead, anti-tank mine scattering warhead, shaped-charge fragmentation submunitions warhead, separable HE-fragmentation warhead, fuel-air explosive warhead, and HE-fragmentation warhead.

The NORINCO-built SH-1 motorised 155mm/52-calibre howitzer underwent extensive mobility and firepower trials in December 2007 in Pakistan’s Northern Areas, and underwent similar field trials in June 2008 in the Cholistan Desert. The SH-1 can fire rocket-assisted V-LAP projectiles out to 53km, as well as laser-guided projectiles like NORINCO’s ‘Red Mud’ and KBP Instrument Design Bureau’s Krasnopol-M2. The SH-1 can also fire base-bleed 155mm rounds out to 42.5km, and its truck chassis houses a fibre-optic gyro-based north positioning-cum-navigation system, battlespace management system, autonomous orientation-cum-muzzle velocity radar, gun loader’s display-cum-ramming control box, ammunition box housing 25 rounds (of seven different types) and their modular charges, and a network-centric artillery fire direction system. A complete SH-1 Regiment comprises 24 SH-1s, four Battery Command Post vehicles, one Battalion Command Post vehicle, one road-mobile CETC-built JY-30 C-band meteorological radar, four 6 x 6 wheeled reconnaissance vehicles, and an S-band CETC-built SLC-2 artillery locating-cum-fire correction radar.
On September 9, 2008 the Pakistan Army accepted at its Nowshera-based School of Artillery the first of twelve 18-tonne T-155 Panter 155mm/52-calibre towed howitzers from Turkey’s state-owned Machines and Chemical Industry Board (MKEK), along with the Aselsan-built BAIKS-2000 field artillery battery fire direction system. The Panter was co-developed in the late 1990s by MKEK and Singapore Technologies Kinetics. For producing the 155mm family of munitions, Wah Cantonment-based Pakistan Ordnance Factories (POF) has teamed up with South Korea’s Poongsan and on April 12, 2008 Gen Kayani symbolically received the first lot of licence-assembled K-307 BB-HE and K-310 155mm BB dual purpose improvised conventional munitions (DPICM) Ammunition from POF. On the other hand, Nexter Munitions of France has provided the licence to POF for manufacturing 155mm smoke and illuminating rounds.

On the other hand, the Indian Army’s field artillery rationalisation plan, especially its M-46 upgrade component, continues to languish, despite an assertion by the then Indian Army’s Chief of the Army Staff Gen Deepak Kapoor in January 2010 that the M-46 upgrade project will be re-launched towards the end of the  11th (2007-2012) Defence Plan. This may sound extremely depressing, but there is a reason why the upgraded M-46S 155mm/45-calibre towed howitzers have gone missing from the Republic Day and Army Day parades since 2007. One may recall that in 1990, the Indian Army firmed up its plans for upgrading the M-46s and a year later the Ministry of Defence (MoD) approved the plan. In-country field trials of the upgraded prototypes were carried out in 1993, but the MoD took another five years to sanction the funds. Between 1993 and 1994, the MoD had purchased 480 M-46 130mm towed howitzers worth Rs100,000 each, of which 100 howitzers come from the Czech Republic, and 380 from Russia, to add to the 550 M-46s purchased in the 1970s. During firepower trials conducted at the Pokhran Field Range in 1997-1998, one M-46S upgraded by SOLTAM Systems (but utilising the carriage and recoil system of the original gun) to the 155mm/45-cal standard was test-fired using extended-range base-bleed ammunition out to a range of 39km. In March 2000, SOLTAM Systems won a contract (after bidding against four other contractors) worth $47,524,137 for upgrading 180 M-46s to 155mm/45-cal M-46S standard. A follow-on deal was optioned for, under which SOLTAM was required to provide kits to OFB further retrofit another 250 M-46s. On November 29, 2001 the MoD confirmed that the OFB’s Jabalpur-based Gun Carriage Factory had started receiving 180 M-46S howitzer upgrade kits from SOLTAM. However, the project was temporarily suspended by the MoD in mid-2002 because of quality problems centered on the barrels and breech blocks of the guns. In July 2003, successful user trials of a re-engineered M-46S were conducted. On paper, 430 upgraded M-46S 155mm/45-cal towed howitzers (for 20 Regiments) were to be supplied (since 2002) by the state-owned Ordnance Factories Board (OFB) under licence from Israel’s SOLTAM Systems, making the M-46S the Army’s tube artillery system with the longest reach, being able to fire ERFB-BB rounds out to 38.5km and VLAP rounds out to 42km when using bi-modular charges.

In fact, so upbeat was the OFB about this upgrade programme that it even began showcasing it at international defence expos, starting with the IDEX expo in Abu Dhabi in March 2003. The upgraded M-46S, labelled by the OFB as Metamorphosis IOB M46 FG, came fitted with a large double baffle muzzle brake and a 23-litre chamber, with the ordnance having 48 grooves and a 1-inch/20-cal rifling rate (right-hand constant twist). According to the OFB, no modifications are made to the existing breech block, while failure of self-sealing systems during combat was overcome by the use of a stub cartridge case obturator similar to the obturating system of the original M-46. Conversion lead time was said to be minimal as there was no modification to the breech block mechanism and no change in the travel lock, cradle and recoil systems of the original M-46. The only modification to the horizontal sliding breech block was a widening to allow for the insertion of larger-calibre 155mm rounds. The split-trail carriage, elevating mechanism, shield and two-wheeled limber of the original M-46 were also retained. When travelling the Metamorphosis IOB M46 FG was to be withdrawn to the rear by the standard chain mechanism located on the right side. The original two-wheeled limber was retained, and to reduce operator fatigue, a three-cylinder telescopic rammer with eight-bar nitrogen gas pressure and pneumatic circuit was fitted, as was an in-built safety mechanism.

The bad news is that the M-46S programme was terminated after only 40 howitzers were modified, this being due to a fatal barrel explosion taking place in 2005. Army HQ subsequently asked the MoD to terminate this project for good and initiate legal proceedings against SOLTAM and seek liquidated damages. Things subsequently moved at a glacial pace and it was only on February 19, 2010 that bthe MoD’s Additional Directorate General of Weapons and Equipment issued an RFI for upgunning the M-46, for which once again there were five bidders, including SOLTAM Systems and Holland-based Rotterdamsche Droogdok Maatschappij (RDM). However, till today, no RFPs have been issued for this programme, while the DRDO continues its once-failed efforts to revive its Metamorphosis IOB M46 FG proposal.—Prasun K. Sengupta

Friday, July 15, 2011

India’s Northern Border Roadways: A Shocking National Shame

Between 1972 and 2009, India’s successive ruling political establishments had become complacent as far as China was concerned and the former’s Pakistan-centric attitude caused India to develop some sort of amnesia and a sense of smugness regarding the fact that China was, is and will continue to be India’s principal adversary in the years to come. But the country’s military leadership was all along aware of China’s hectic efforts to improve road, rail and oil pipeline infrastrucrure in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) throughout the 1990s as part of a well-crafted strategy to taking a pro-active stance against India along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) whenever Beijing desired. Since Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh provides the shortest transportation route between India and Tibet, in 1980 the then Chief of the Army Staff, Gen K V Krishna Rao presented to the then Prime Minister of India, Mrs Indira Gandhi, a strategic military infrastructure development plan—codenamed Operation Falcon—which was immediately approved by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and which Beijing took notice of. Operation Falcon called for converting the patchy forward presence of the Indian Army along the LAC into a heavy forward deployment in an arc-like disposition starting from Turtok and Shyok in Ladakh all the way to the India-Tibet-Myanmar tri-junction. Arunachal Pradesh, North Sikkim and the trans-Ladakh Range were to receive special attention. The deployment was to be undertaken over a 15-year period in which the Army’s forward build-ups would keep pace with infrastructure development along with viable lines of communications. The only political term of reference given by Mrs Indira Gandhi for Operation Falcon was to ensure that in a future war with China, Tawang must not fall again as it did in 1962. Regarding the operational stance, the Indian Army HQ and its Eastern Command HQ felt that the Army’s Divisional formations should be sited in a manner based on the lessons of the 1962 Sino-India war that were learnt at great costs. Instead of going through the sterile debate of holding the Se La and Bomdi La lines in strength, the whole mass of deployed formations was to be pushed forward, with Tawang being the centre-of-gravity for the Kameng District, and Walong for the Lohit District. It was this very stance that was adopted by Army HQ in 1986 during the Sumdorong Chu crisis, and till this day it remains the operational stance. Unfortunately, between 1988, on the eve of the then Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s visit to Beijing, and 2003, when the then Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee visited Beijing and sought a resolution to the border issue through the appointment of special representatives, Operation Falcon was unceremoniously abandoned to appease China. Between 2003 and 2008, New Delhi dithered on providing the quantum of support to Operation Falcon without angering China. Ironically, as New Delhi remained comatose, Beijing made full use of these years to construct excellent border domination-specific military infrastructure all along the 4,056km-long disputed LAC. It was only in the wake of the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai that New Delhi finally woke up to the PLA’s threat. The issue debated then was given China’s track record, what mischief will it make along the LAC in case of even a limited high-intensity war between India and Pakistan in future. It was then that the Indian Army HQ finally convinced the Govt of India that Chinese military support to Pakistan would no longer remain covert. Thus, in early 2009, for the very first time in independent India, the MoD issued a written directive to the three armed services HQs authorising them to acquire capabilities for waging a two-front war against China and Pakistan. What this implied was that full political support would be extended to the three armed services to enhance their requisite capabilities.  
By 2005, after India had realised that China was 20 years ahead of her when it came to improving border transportation infrastructure, the Govt of India tasked the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) to fast-track the construction of a large number of roads. It, however, took another three years for the BRO to make any headway since it was not too sure of what was required and how to go about mobilising such resources. Execution of works for building new arterial roads at the ground-level commenced only in 2008 after the Govt of India promised to allocate higher levels of funding (US$1.086 billion for this year and set to increase by 12% per annum over the next 10 years). Presently, the BRO is executing 17 projects which are divided into task-forces that are further sub-divided into Road Construction Companies (RCC), workshops, stores, and supply and transport convoys. Its manpower strength is 37,000 as against a sanctioned strength of 42,000. The BRO is presently upgrading all existing General Staff roads into National Highway Double Lane (NHDL) specifications, while all new roads (608km of them being along the LAC) are being built to NHDL or Enhanced Class 9 standard. Initially, a three-phase plan was envisaged, which included a short-term timeline by 2012, medium-term timeline by 2017 and long-term timeline by 2022. These timelines have since been consolidated into two phases so that they are in sync with the Army HQ-based Military Operations Directorate’s long-term perspective plans (LTPP). Accordingly, LTPP-1 will be completed by 2012, while LTPP-2 will reach fruition by 2022. LTPP-1 will take the roads from the hinterland to about 30km aerial distance (or 60km ground distance) to the LAC, while LTPP-2 would connect the passes while the laterals would come up to enable inter-valley connectivity—required for switching the deployed ground forces.
The BRO has been mandated to fast-track 73 select border roads along the LAC by moving 61 of its units to Jammu & Kashmir, seven units to Himachal Pradesh, 33 units to Uttarakhand, 46 units to Arunachal Pradesh, and 21 units to Sikkim. A majority of the arterial roads are expected to be completed by 2013, with work progressing well on 39 roads for which 25% of the BRO’s annual budget has been allocated. The major impediments, however, remain obtaining clearances from the Ministry of Environment & Forestry, and wildlife conservation authorities; and the task of stabilising the mountain slopes. Thus far, 63% of work on 27 roads in Arunachal Pradesh and 12 in Ladakh have been completed. To expedite construction activity, the BRO has begun inducting crawler rock drilling equipment, and constructing pre-engineered bridges and inter-locked pre-cast concrete block pavements.

In Jammu & Kashmir, the BRO’s Chief Engineer (CE) Project VIJAYAK has been tasked to construct and maintain roads along the Srinagar-Leh axis, Kargil sector and the alternate lateral road being built in the hinterland for better connectivity. This will allow CE Project HIMANK to accelerate construction activities in eastern Ladakh from Chushul to Daulat Beg Oldie (the areas lying north and north-east of Leh), with completion envisaged by 2022. Presently, a 364km-long motorable road is being built from Leh to Daulat Beg Oldie, with 174km of the road having been completed thus far. It is scheduled for completion by 2015. In Himachal Pradesh, CE DEEPAK, which was earlier responsible for Himachal Pradesh, Punjab and Uttarakhand, is now being tasked to build the two arterial roads in this sector right up to the LAC by 2016. In Uttarakhand, CE Shivalik is hard at work to construct roads along all three valleys leading right up to the LAC. However, work activity has slowed down considerably due to the delayed clearances from the Union Ministry for Environment & Forestry and the completion date has now been targetted for 2022. In Sikkim, CE SWASTIK was reinvoked from suspended animation and is now constructing an alternate road to Gangtok and nmorthern Sikkim and also roads within northern Sikkim through both the Lachen and Lachung axis leading up to the LAC, primarily for facilitating the speedy deployment of armoured vehicles and field artillery assets to the Kerang plateau. Completion dates for these projects is 2015. To this end, all the bridges from Siliguri to Gangtok and thereafter from Gangtok to Chatten along the existing North Sikkim Highway were upgraded to Class 40 in 2008, along with temporary works to improve the turning radius. In LTPP-2, all bridges will be constructed to permanent specifications. In addition, all roads within Sikkim are being upgraded to NHDL specifications to enable smooth induction of Smerch-M and Pinaka MBRLs along with BrahMos TELs, with work being targetted for completion by 2016.
In Arunachal Pradesh, all roads are being upgraded to NHDL specifications to enable smooth induction of Smerch-M and Pinaka MBRLs along with BrahMos TELs. The bridges too are being upgraded to permanent Class 40 specifications. In addition, an alternate route to Tawang is under construction from Bhalukpong via Charduar. In the Subansari and Siyom valleys, the roadway has proceeded well past Along and should be completed by 2018, though bridge construction will be completed only by 2020. Along the Kibuthu axis, the bridge at Brahmakund was completed last year and another bridge is under construction at Digaru. Also, a rail bridge is being built at Dibrugarh across the Brahmaputra. Another bridge at Pasighat has already been completed. The National Highways 52 and 37 running along and north and south banks of the Brahmaputra are now being joined up at the extreme eastern part of Arunachal Pradesh in order to ensure additional flexibility in the switching of ground forces between the valleys and trans-Brahmaputra riverine movement. Project management of all such activities in Arunachal Pradesh is under CE VARTAK (taking charge of the western part), CE UDAYAK (central part) and CE ARUNANK (eastern part). The target is to connect all district HQs with NHDL-specification roads by 2016. A 1,554km-long trans-Arunachal Highway from Tawang to Tirap to connect all the valleys is also being implemented, as are a four-lane highway to link Itanagar with Guwahati, and 32km of railway line from Harmuti to Itanagar. The timeframe for all roads to reach the LAC is 2022. . The new roads leading to outposts such as Kibithu (7km from the LAC), Anini, Ziro, Tuting and Menchuka) have in recent years brought down the dependence on air logistics operations (conducted by the IAF’s Eastern Air Command) in the region. Currently, only around 14 out of the 100-odd designated Drop Zones (DZ) are operated. Air maintenance is undertaken with an elaborate network of ‘playing card’-sized DZs (some as small as 700 x 300 feet since there is just not enough space in the sloping higher mountain reaches), Advanced Landing Grounds (ALG) and around 250 helipads (of the 700 available). This elaborate network of DZs (some like Tawang, Tato, Bhawani and Yapik in Arunachal Pradesh are close to the LAC), ALGs, and helipads are presently the lifelines of both military personnel and the civilian population living in Arunachal Pradesh.

In Arunachal Pradesh, the Indian Army’s troops are conscious of the three tactical advantages of the opposing PLA’s Brigade-sized Border Guard Regiments. Firstly, the Chinese side has proper gravel roads right up to the LAC. The state of road connectivity on both sides of the LAC is graphically and starkly illustrated at the Bum La border meeting place. The PLA has deliberately avoided making ‘black-top’ roads since the gravel allows better water drainage during the monsoons, and it also puts pressure on India to not make any ‘black-top’ roads on her side. In any case, the PLA has the capability to easily construct a 45km-long ‘black-top’ road in 90 days. The PLA’s Construction Corps workforce is inclusive and highly disciplined. Secondly, the PLA has a psychological advantage over its Indian counterpart since it is under no pressure to maintain round-the-clock vigil. The PLA Border Guard’s force levels in forward positions are inversely proportional to those of Indian troops. For instance, in Tawang, the PLA’s 2 Border Guard Regiment, based about 40km away at Tsona Dzong is quite content with the usage of a wide variety of tactically networked remotely-controlled surveillance systems, something which the Indian Army presently lacks. Between its Regimental HQ and the defensive positions at specific and sensitive places, the Regiment has built barren flat ground patches to seve as heli-pads for ferrying in heliborne rapid-reaction forces whenever required. The Regimental HQ is also well-connected to Lhasa via an all-weather motorway as well as an oil pipeline.—Prasun K. Sengupta

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

(Updated) Musings On Military-Industrial Reforms

Is there a dire need for a serving Air Marshal from the Indian Air Force’s (IAF) HQ to become the new Chairman & Managing Director (CMD) of the Ministry of Defence-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL)? And if yes, then what good will he to do when his predecessors haven’t been able to? After all we are now being told by certain interested parties claiming to represent the ‘righteous’ point of view that “with an eye on the future and fed up with the ‘bureaucratic culture’ pervading throughout HAL, the IAF now wants to regain management control control of this DPSU. Appatently, the IAF has asked the MoD to appoint one of its three-star officers, instead of a bureaucrat, as the CMD of HAL once the present incumbent Ashok Nayak retires on October 31. MoD sources have also reportedly confirmed that IAF HQ has even proposed the name of its present Assistant Chief of Air Staff (Operations & Space), Air Vice Marshal M Matheswaran, an accomplished combat aircraft pilot now approved for the Air Marshal rank, for the post. Simultaneously, although a panel of names has also been drawn up to include Pawan Hans’ present CMD R K Tyagi, a Defence Accounts Service officer S N Mishra, who earlier was Joint Secretary (aerospace) in the MoD, and MSTC chairman S K Tripathi, among others, a concerted attempt is being made by certain spin doctors to characterize the IAF’s proposal as being ‘revolutionary’ which, on the face of it, supposedly makes a lot of sense. As HAL's biggest customer, the IAF is claimed to have every reason to be worried that most projects being handled by the DPSU have been plagued by time and cost overruns. The IAF, it seems, contends that HAL’s CMD should be someone who “understands aerospace concepts” and can “transform” HAL into a cutting-edge company, capable of delivering on time, to stem the IAF’s fast-eroding force levels, which are down to just about 32 combat aircraft squadrons from a sanctioned strength of 39.5 squadrons. Therefore, let us apply logical reasoning yet again and dissect the IAF’s alleged proposal that promises to be the single magic cure-all pill to wipe out all of HAL’s deficiencies.

Firstly, the present IAF’s Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Chief Marshal (ACM) Pradeep Vasant Naik—IF he indeed is behind such a proposal—ought to realise that by proposing such a ridiculous option he is only proposing himself to be the butt of jokes just like his colleagues now heading Navy HQ and Army HQ. Why? Simply because irrespective of whether the CMD of HAL is a three-star or four-star officer, he still will have to report to the civilian Secretary of Defence Production & Supplies (DPS) sitting at the MoD and obtain final clearances on each and every aspect of managing and administering HAL. The IAF’s proposal would have made sense ONLY had the MoD been totally integrated with the IAF HQ, and had the Secretary for DPS also been a three-star ranking officer. Consequently, small wonder that so much energy and effort is nowadays being expended on creating illusions about ‘jointness’, structural reforms, rightsizing, and inter-services cooperation when in fact the three armed services remain as divided as ever both operationally and strategically, while the MoD’s and Union Finance Ministry’s bureaucracy remains brazen, and executive branch of the Govt of India remains comatose. Such dysfunctional state of affairs has in turn adversely affected the force modernisation programmes of the armed services as well. Take the example of the HQ of the Integrated Defence Staff to the Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC). It was Navy HQ that had in the not too distant past engaged in a futile attempt to deny its own senior-most officer—Vice Admiral Shekhar Sinha--the post of the Chief of IDS (CIDS) to the COSC! Then there was the uncalled for controversy surrounding the age of the present Chief of the Army Staff.
Presently, while the HQ IDS is trying to introduce an element of discipline in the military procurement system (such as coordinating the procurement of LUH helicopters for the Army, Navy and the IAF), it can do very little since the CIDS, being a three-star officer, is junior to the four-star armed services chiefs. A brief explanation of the HQ of the IDS (known as Integrated Defence HQ or IDH) will help appreciate the procurement process better. Following the Group of Ministers’ report released in February 2001, it was agreed that as the institution of the four-star Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) would be the primary step in the structural reforms suggested for the MoD, the appointment of a three-star Vice-CDS was created within weeks. But as the post of the CDS was soon opposed by the Standing Parliamentary Committee on Defence, the appointment of the Vice-CDS became untenable (vice to whom?). Finally, the Vice-CDS’ office was renamed and the Chief of IDS to the COSC (CISC) came into being in September 2001. The CISC, who heads the IDH, now has two responsibilities: he is answerable to the MoD like any other secretary in the MoD; and on the military side he is answerable to the Chairman of the COSC. Unfortunately, there are two fundamental limitations to both these roles. For unlike the four departments of the MoD—defence, R & D, production & supplies, and finance—the IDH has not been designated as the MoD’s fifth department, and hence its activities are not coordinated by the Defence Secretary. The reason for this is that while the armed services personnel could theoretically be posted within the MoD, a civilian cannot be expected to understand and do the services personnel’s job. Consequently, the CISC essentially remains answerable only to the COSC, and has little or no reason to report to the Defence Minister. Within the COSC, the individual service chiefs remain more aligned with their service needs than with the common causes, and there is always dissonance between the purple team (comprising the IDH with officers from the three armed services) headed by the CISC, and the COSC. This shortcoming can only be overcome with the appointment of the CDS, who is equal in rank to the three service chiefs, and hence does not report to the COSC. The CDS would then become a voting member of the COSC and in that capacity he would provide single-point military advice to the Defence Minister. Therefore, had the three four-star service chiefs worked together to support the creation of the post of CDS, there would have been no need for them to individually and persistently explain to the Prime Minister’s Office and his National Security Officer (who by the way needs to have a serving three-star military officer as a Deputy National Security Adviser) the five cardinal truths about national security, and by now the DRDO would have become far more accountable since, fearing technical audits of its diverse R & D projects, it would have ended its skullduggery—once example of which is its recent proposal to indigenously develop a 155mm/45-calibre towed howitzer for the Army, while conveniently forgetting to hold consultations with the Indian Navy, which requires turret-mounted 155mm howitzers to serve as the main artillery armament for its future warship acquisitions.
Instead, the armed services HQs are as divided as ever when it comes to war-gaming the next round of all-out hostilities. While the Army today remains obsessed with India’s disputed land borders along the country’s western and northern frontiers and yearns for the day when it will be able to greatly reduce its dependence on the IAF for close air support, the IAF is thinking about fighting its own war in both tactical and strategic terms, while the Indian Navy today is too busy fulfilling its peacetime roles and is unable to articulate its relevance and contribution to the land war. To top it all, environmental concerns are being given more credence at a time when India’s Border Roads Organisation ought to expand and accelerate its border roadbuilding efforts (which China will definitely protest against). Already an emboldened Beijing now refuses to acknowledge the disputed 2,000km-long border it has with New Delhi in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir, and the PLA has deliberately obstructed infrastructure development activities in Ladakh. And how has India responded? Instead of contesting the Chinese claims, India has resorted to appeasement of Beijing (something the latter is exploiting to the hilt) by not only suspending all infrastructure development activities in eastern Ladakh, but by also resuming exchanges of military delegations with the PLA. And as if this wasn’t enough, elements within the MoD are now claiming that the quantum leap being taken forward by the IAF in terms of upgrading its tactical and strategic airlift capabilities (both fixed-wing and rotary-winged) will make up for the acute shortages in road infrastructure along the LAC.

If the present IAF CAS indeed means serious business in terms of transforming the IAF into a capabilities-based air force, then it would do a lot better for the IAF HQ to undertake a critical self-appraisal of its future force ratio not based on the number of squadrons deployed, but on the force levels required to achieve its strategic and tactical objectives. Also, instead of objecting to the longstanding requirement for a four-star Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS), the IAF HQ ought to reflect upon the urgent need for integrating its theatre-based air commands with those of the Indian Army, thereby achieving true joint warfighting capabilities in terms of both planning and operations. And lastly, it ought to dust off and implement the far-reaching proposals once conceived by a previous CAS, ACM (Ret’d) S Krishnaswamy, who as far back as 2004 had advocated the creation of an apex body like an Aerospace Commission to oversee, among other things, the transformation of the IAF’s existing Base Repair Depots (BRD) as profit centres possessing high maintenance/repair/overhaul (MRO) skills. Under such a scheme, the BRDs (Kanpur/Chakeri-based 1 BRD dealing with MRO of Russia-origin transport aircraft, Chandigarh-based 3 BRD dealing with MRO of Russia-origin helicopters and engines for transport aircraft, Kanpur/Chakeri-based 4 BRD dealing with MRO of turbofans, Coimbatore/Sulur-based 5 BRD dealing with MRO of Western-origin transport aircraft and aircraft test equipment, New Delhi/Tughlakabad-based 7 BRD dealing with MRO of SAMs, Avadi-based 8 BRD dealing with MRO of support vehicles for Russia-origin aircraft and arrester barriers, Pune/Lohegaon-based 9 BRD dealing with MRO of electrical/electronic rotables for airborne and ground equipment, Nasik-based 11 BRD dealing with MRO of Russia-origin combat aircraft, New Delhi/Nazafgarh-based 12 BRD dealing with MRO of all electronic warfare systems, New Delhi/Palam-based 13 BRD dealing with MRO of radars and communications equipment, Guwahati/Borjhar-based 14 BRD dealing with MRO of radars and communications systems, Gandhinagar-based 15 BRD for MRO of diesel gen-sets and communications hardware, and New Delhi/Palam-based 16 BRD dealing with MRO of parachutes and survival equipment) would all be consolidated under one roof, which would then be turned into a joint-sector public-listed MRO company catering to the MRO requirements of both civilian air transportation aircraft and military aircraft. In other words, the IAF’s Nagpur-based HQ Maintenance Command should be assigned the task of only operating, maintaining and controlling the 1st-, 2nd- and 3rd-level MRO activities of the IAF’s fleet of aircraft, and outsourcing the depot-level (4th-level) MRO requirements from the joint-sector MRO entity. In other words, create something like Krasny Marine Services Ltd and Rosoboronservice India Ltd, whose job it is to provide through-life product support for all Russia-origin hardware now operational with the Indian Navy by not only conducting in-country MRO activities, but also maintaining bonded warehouses with pre-stockpiled inventories of spares like the much-needed rotables and consumables. It is for this very reason that the Navy, unlike the IAF, has not faced an acute shortage of rotables and consumables (like aircraft tyres, seals, gaskets, filters, valves, tubes, pumps, hydraulics accessories, sensor tubes, transistors, lubricants, etc) concerning Russia-origin warfighting assets since 2006, while the IAF continues to face such shortages.
It should be noted here that contrary to what foreign mass-media like AW & ST and a few other misinformed or mischievous Indian media outlets have reported about the so-called poor Russian product support (alleging that this is due to unilateral price hikes, or this is Russia seen to be blackmailing or punishing India for not being lucrative procurement contracts for new-build weaponry), the reality is that the Nasik-based joint India-Russia venture called Indo Russian Aviation Ltd (IRAL), which was set up in the early 1990s by HAL, Rosoboronexport State Corp and RAC-MiG to pre-stockpile and supply the IAF with rotables and consumables for all types of Russia-origin aircraft, screwed up big time by not doing what it has been mandated to do, which in turn led to the IAF issuing a raft of global RFPs earlier this year asking for the supply of such items. It is no use blaming Russian original equipment manufacturers (OEM) simply because such OEMs are only dependent on their regional distributors (like IRAL) for receiving indents 12 months in advance for the quantum of spares required or the type of periodic MRO cycle to be implemented each year. This is how the global product-support supply-chain functions, and Russia is no exception. One can blame the OEM for not setting up regional distribution centres, but one cannot blame the OEM if a MoD-mandated, financed and controlled distributor screws up by failing to adhere to prescribed business practices. Therefore, Shri Arakkaparambil Kurian Antony, are you up to the task of implementing all that I’ve explained above in layman’s terms?--Prasun K. Sengupta  

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Choosing Between ‘Greenfield FMBT’ & Arjun Mk3

Why are the Indian Army’s Directorate of Combat Vehicles and Directorate of Mechanised Forces procrastinating over the issuance of the General Staff Qualitative Requirements (GSQR) for the Future Main Battle Tank (FMBT), more than six months after they were scheduled to hand them over to the Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO)? Why did the Army HQ’s two above-mentioned Directorates only issue a vague Preliminary Specifications Qualitative Requirements (PSQR) document in mid-2010? Why did the DRDO’s Avadi-based Combat Vehicles R & D Establishment (CVRDE) float a ‘domestic and global expression of interest’ (EoI) document on October 31, 2007 for the co-development of a 1,500hp compact high specific power output diesel engine long before it had even received the Army’s PSQR? Why has the CVRDE not yet issued EoIs for the co-development of other sub-systems for the FMBT, including an automatic transmission system and its MIL-STD-1553B databus-based vectronics suite? What does the DRDO now mean when it claims that work on developing the FMBT will begin by 2013 and all related R & D activity will reach fruition by 2020? And why has the Army HQ suddenly lost all interest in the FMBT programme after all the hype generated in early 2007 about this landmark ‘greenfield’ programme involving for the very first time as equal risk-sharing R & D partners, the CVRDE and India’s private-sector military-industrial entities? Does the Army HQ have a detailed joint capability-cum-force-planning vision for its warfighting formations?

Let’s start with the last question first. The three armed services HQ that publicly swear by ‘jointness’, all have different threat scenario perceptions. While the Indian Navy remains focused on the PLA Navy’s growing footprints in the South China Sea and Indian Ocean Region, the Indian Air Force (IAF) remains obsessed with the PLA Air Force’s strategic force projection capabilities and the Pakistan’s growing asymmetric war-waging capacities through ballistic and cruise missiles. As for the Indian Army, the principal military threat to India emanates from the disputed land borders with both China and Pakistan and now from the increased blurring of the militarily held lines, i.e. the Line of Actual Control with China and the Line of Control with Pakistan. Furthermore, till today, neither the Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC) nor the HQ Integrated Defence Staff (IDS) to the COSC have ever written a combined threat perceptions document—concerning either China or Pakistan—for consideration by either by the Cabinet Commiteee on National Security (CCNS), nor the MoD nor the office of the National Security Adviser. And why should they? After all they were never asked to do so by anyone in the executive branch of the Govt of India. It was only after the Army’s constant badgering on the ever-increasing air-land threat from the People’s Liberation Army that Defence Minister A K Antony issued the MoD’s five-yearly operational directive in February 2010, in which the MoD directed the country’s three armed services to be prepared for waging a two-front war. Consequently, the CCNS authorised the Indian Army to raise four new Infantry Divisions during the 11th (2008-2012) and 12th (2013-2017) Defence Plans.

Secondly, post-Operation Parakram, while a lot of energy has been expended by the three armed services HQs on massaging egos, self-aggrandisements and obfuscations, very little has been done in terms of combining their respective weights to push through urgently required structural reforms, especially when it involves sacrificing their own turfs. While the three armed services HQs have worked harmoniously for the Sixth Pay Commission’s redresses, they have till date been unable to squarely address the operational imperatives so crucial to the evolution of joint air-sea-land warfighting doctrines. A case in point is the Army Aviation Corps’ longstanding request for possessing fleets of heavy attack helicopters, light attack helicopters and armed aeroscout helicopters. After OP Parakram (the 10-month eyeball-to-eyeball standoff with Pakistan starting December 2001), the Army HQ, while in the process of conceptualising its future warfighting doctrines, plus the strategies and tactics required for waging ‘hyperwar’ or multi-dimensional parallel warfare, had projected a requirement for 120 heavy attack helicopters, 114 light attack helicopters and 197 armed aeroscouts, or light observation helicopters (LOH), all of which, if acquired, would have enabled the Army to radically restructure its existing armoured corps assets (comprising 61 Armoured Regiments now deployed with the Mathura-based I Corps, Ambala-based II Corps, Bhopal-based XXI Corps and the eight independent Armoured Brigades attached to the Corps-level ‘Pivot’ formations) and at the same time would have given the Army’s combined arms war-waging capabilities a dramatic boost, especially when it came to shaping the battlespace prior to commencement of the crucial break-out of its Armoured Battle Groups into enemy territory during the contact battle. This, consequently, would have not only enabled the Army to downsize its fleet of MBTs from 3,529 units to 2,400 (by placing a premium on quality over quantity), but would have also made it much easier for the armoured corps to cater for a wider range of threats than just the Pakistan Army. Instead, the reality today is that the IAF continues to zealously guard its turf, refusing to give in to logical reasoning, while the MoD refuses to adjudicate and remains comatose. Consequently, it is the IAF that will receive not only the projected 22 to-be-imported heavy attack helicopters, but also the 76 Dhruv Mk4 armed gunships, and 65 Light Combat Helicopters that will optimised for shooting down UAVs and UCAVs instead of hunting for and attacking armoured vehicles. A similar fate awaits the 197 imported light helicopters, all of which will be configured as utility variants for catering to search-and-rescue and casualty evacuation missions. In sheer frustration, therefore, the Army’s Aviation Corps has decided to relife and upgrade the bulk of its existing inventory of SA.315B Lama/Cheetah LOHs to the ‘Cheetal’ configuration by re-engining them with Turbomeca TM333-2B engines and installing lightweight AMLCD-based glass cockpit avionics, a countermeasures dispenser supplied by Bharat Dynamics Ltd, and a MILDS missile approach warning system supplied by Bharat Electronics Ltd. A contract for 60 upgraded Cheetals was recently inked with Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd for relifing the airframes, with ALPHA Design Technologies Pvt Ltd acting as avionics systems integrator.
The senseless turf war between the Army and IAF HQs has had two avoidable and highly regressive consequences. Firstly, it has severely degraded the Indian Army’s efforts to conceptualise the optimum pro-active warfighting strategy (mistakenly referred to as the non-existent Cold Start Doctrine by both Indian and foreign think-tanks) that is designed to both reduce the mobilisation time of its offensive formations and their break-out into Pakistan (within a 72-hour period) in a series of shallow thrusts going no deeper than 30km into enemy territory (therefore those who contend that very early in the war the Indian Army will make deep thrusts inside Pakistan are either being ignorant at best, or mischievous at worst). This is meant to ameliorate the Indian Army’s disadvantage of longer external lines of communications as compared with the Pakistan Army’s advantage of deploying and switching its warfighting formations along interior lines of communications. Given the fact that the next round of all-out war between the two countries will be short, swift and intense, the Indian Army believes that instead of making multiple Corps-level thrusts deep into enemy territory, the objective should be to force the Pakistan Army to commit its operational reserves into battle at the very early stages of the war, following which the Indian Army would employ superior operational art backed up by network-centric war-waging technologies to envelop and overwhelm the hostile forces by waging effects-based ‘parallel’ or ‘hyper’ war, thereby destroying the enemy’s war-waging assets in detail.
Secondly, due to the absence of any kind of firm directives emanating from the comatose MoD regarding either the higher directions for waging war or the beefing up of the Army Aviation Corps, Army HQ has not yet succeeded in articulating its pro-active strategy vis-à-vis its Pakistani counterpart. Several questions remain unanswered till today. For instance, what will be the usefulness of the three armour-heavy offensive Strike Corps and the Armoured Battle Groups, depending on the theatre of war. Should the three existing Strike Corps be placed under a new Strategic Command (as was done for the very first time between March and June 2002 at the height of OP Parakram without any prior wargaming having being conducted on such a redeployment)? What will be the quantum of close air support and battlespace air interdiction provided by the IAF (to compensate for the Army’s inferiority in field artillery) within the first 72 hours of hostilities breaking out, considering that early in the war the IAF’s air campaigns will be monopolised by air superiority and counter-base sorties? Will China activate a second front against India and if so, then how much and in what ways will Beijing militarily support Pakistan? Will this prevent the Indian Army from re-deploying a few of its Mountain Divisions from the Sino-Indian border to the western front? Apart from all these, the internal bureaucratic wrangles within Army HQ have ensured that crucial force modernisation programmes that are designed to make the pro-active warfighting strategy a reality—such as those involving new-generation force multipliers like 155mm/52-cal field artillery assets, battlespace management system (BMS), F-INSAS and the tactical communications system (TCS)—are still years away from deployment.   

Therefore, in light of all of the above, how exactly is the Indian Army expected to articulate the force restructuring-cum-modernisation plans for its armoured corps? The options, frankly speaking, are few. On one hand, the Indian Army has to take cognizance of the Pakistan Army’s plans to introduce into service in the near future the Ukraine-supplied Oplot-M MBT, up to 800 new-build up-armoured Al Khalid MBTs, and possibly the Eurocopter Tiger HAP heavy attack helicopters. On the other hand, it has to contend with the steady build-up of the People’s Liberation Army’s armoured vehicle and attack helicopter assets—comprising Type 96G MBTs and wheeled 8 x 8 tank destroyers, plus the ZW-10 heavy attack helicopters—in China’s Chengdu and Lanzhou military regions. And thirdly, it requires urgent new-build replacements for the existing 1,781 T-55 and T-72M/M1 MBTs (out of the 2,418 T-72s that were bought since 1981). While the short-term measures have included the upgrading of 692 T-72s to ‘Combat-Improved Ajeya’ standards and an on-going competition between Russia’s Rosoboronexport State Corp, ELBIT Systems of Israel, and the Raytheon/Larsen & Toubro combine to upgrade another 700-odd T-72s (with work scheduled for completion by 2018), Proceeding concurrently is the induction of T-90S MBTs and their selective upgradation. It may be recalled that in February 2001, India bought its first batch of 310 T-90S MBTs worth US$795 million, of which 120 were delivered off-the-shelf, 90 in semi-knocked down kits (for licenced-assembly by the MoD-owned Heavy Vehicles Factory, or HVF, in Avadi), and 100 in completely-knocked down kits (all these MBTs have since been retrofitted with Saab’s IDAS radar/laser warning system and LEDS-150 active protection system, or APS). This was followed by a follow-on contract, worth $800 million, being inked on October 26, 2006, for another 330 T-90M MBTs that were to be built with locally-sourced raw materials. The third contract, worth $1.23 billion, was inked in December 2007 for 347 upgraded T-90Ms, the bulk of which are now being licence-assembled by HVF. A competition is now underway between Israel Military Industries (IMI) and Saab to retrofit APS to the remaining 677 T-90S MBTs, with the Iron First system competing with the LEDS-150. Lastly, we have the 124 Arjun Mk1 MBTs now in delivery, with another 124 Mk2 variants to follow.

This then brings us to the most important question: what exactly will be the FMBT? Will it be brand-new design from scratch, or will be a further evolution of the Arjun Mk2? Evidence seems to suggest that it is the latter. For one, all the technological enhancements spelt out in the PSQRs are already available, with some of them (like APS, a 1,500hp diesel engine, and an integrated passive defensive aids suite) already incorporated in the Arjun Mk2. Secondly, the Army, choosing to be realistic this time, knows only too well that designing and developing a FMBT and its powerpack from scratch between 2013 and 2020 at a cost of Rs15 billion is an assured impossibility. However, what is achievable within this time-frame, is an Arjun Mk3 whose evolutionary path is very similar to what IMI has achieved with the Merkava family of MBTs. Consequently, the Indian Army, which has projected a need for about 1,200 FMBTs, has chosen to take the less risky route and is soon expected to specify in its GSQR the following design/performance parameters for the born-again FMBT, which will eventually be known as the Arjun Mk3:

·  The re-engineered Arjun MBT should weigh only 50 tonnes and have a three-man crew complement.
·  Its powerpack should include either a 1,500hp diesel engine equipped with an overdrive mode for facilitating acceleration from zero to full power in 2.8 seconds, or a compact multi-fuel gas turbine with FADEC. The transmission must be of the automatic continuous variable-type.
·  It should incorporate hydropneumatic active suspension.
·  The integral armour package should include modular ceramic composite armour, and NERA (thereby doing away with integrated ERA and ERA tiles in the MBT’s frontal glacis, sides and turret).
·  It should incorporate a turret-mounted autoloader.
·  Its digitised vectronics suite—comprising the hunter-killer fire-control system, radar/laser warning system, IFF transponder, APS, BMS, software-defined radio communications suite, health and usage monitoring system incorporating on-board diagnostics and maintenance log-book modes, multi-spectral decoy/camouflage generation system, and the turret traverse/stabilisation system—should be integrated with a MIL-STD-1553B digital databus. 
·  As in the Arjun Mk2, the gunner’s sight must incorporate a thermal imager operating in the 8-12 micron bandwidth, while the commander’s independent panoramic sight should house a thermal imager operating in the 3-5 micron bandwidth.
·  The principal armament of the FMBT should be a 55-calibre version of the existing 44-calibre 120mm rifled bore cannon firing HEAT, HESH and AP-FSDS rounds, and which should also be able to fire laser-guided or imaging infra-red guided anti-tank/anti-helicopter projectiles.

For the CVRDE and the ARDE, therefore, the principal developmental challenges to be met between now and 2020 lie in the areas of the weight-budgeted hull and turret, integrated vectronics suite, compact powerpack, and the higher-calibre cannon. Of these, the powerpack issue remains the most daunting. For if the existing solution for the Arjun Mk2—a fully Made-in-India Cummins 1,500hp diesel engine coupled to an ESM-500 automatic transmission—is retained for the Arjun Mk3, then accomplishing weight savings will be almost impossible (especially since the metallurgical expertise required for weight savings of the type achieved by Japan’s Type 10 MBT is non-existent in India). On the other hand, if the standing offer by the joint industrial team of GE and Honeywell to supply the new-generation LV-100 gas turbine coupled to the X-1100-3B transmission from Detroit Diesel Allison is accepted and specified by Army HQ, then the Arjun Mk3 has very good chances of not breaching the 50-tonne ‘Lakshman Rekha’. A gas turbine-based powerplant will offer higher power-to-weight ratio, high torque, multi-fuel capability, ease of maintenance, compact packaging, vibration-free operation, ease of starting, smokeless exhaust, and 33% reduction in fuel consumption.—Prasun K. Sengupta

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Who Will Supply 4 LPHs And Other Related Hardware For The Indian Navy?

Since the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 26, 2004, the landing platform dock (LPD) and the amphibious assault ship (LPH) have emerged as an instrument of soft power, with their on-board fleets of multi-purpose utility helicopters, landing craft (LCM), and air-cushion vehicles; plus their command-and-control capabilities and cavernous holds proving to be invaluable for disaster relief, small-scale policing or mass civilian evacuation operations. At the same time, the LPDs and LPHs have proven to be invaluable tools for undertaking asymmetric warfare (against pirates in the high seas), expeditionary amphibious campaigns (such as those undertaken by the Royal Navy in 1982 to retake the Falklands Islands), and low-intensity maritime operations involving vertical envelopment tactics, which the Indian Navy calls “effecting maritime manoeuvres from the sea”.

It was in the September 2004 issue of FORCE magazine that I had penned an analysis on the need for the Indian Navy to urgently begin planning for acquiring a modest fleet of no less than three LPHs for it to undertake both humanitarian relief operations within the Indian Ocean Region whenever required, as well as prepare for the prospects of undertaking power projection-based expeditionary amphibious campaigns with its own integral naval infantry assets (as opposed to the still existing flawed practice of transporting a mere mechanised battalion of the Indian Army on board large landing ship tanks (LST-L). It came as no surprise to me when my analysis was laughed upon and ridiculed in circles within Navy HQ, but suffice to say that this state of affairs lasted only for the following three months, following which Navy HQ, headed at that time by Admiral Arun Prakash, the Chief of the Naval Staff, directed the Directorate of Plans & Operations to begin preparing the NSQRs for procuring a fleet of LPHs with a great sense of urgency. However, matters did not move swiftly enough on the procurement front, despite the articulation and unveiling by Navy HQ of its doctrines for effecting maritime manoeuvres from the sea though joint amphibious warfare operations. This, however, did not deter the Navy from setting up—on June 24, 2008—its Advanced Amphibious Warfare School and Fleet Support Complex--in the enclave that will come up along the beach road on the outskirts of Kakinada, about 500km from Hyderabad, in the state of Andhra Pradesh. It is here that the Navy is quietly but progressively raising its first of three naval infantry battalions (to eventually become a Brigade-strength formation), which will be trained and equipped to undertake both amphibious and vertical envelopment air-assault operations by 2018.

On the procurement front, matters began to move only last October when the Cabinet Committee on National Security accorded approval to Navy HQ to begin drafting the request for Information (RFI) regarding the acquisition of four LPHs and related hardware under the ‘Buy and Make Indian’ clause of the Defence Procurement Policy (DPP-9). Under this clause, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) can invite proposals (based on a capability definition document) from those Indian shipbuilders from both the public sector and private sector that have the requisite financial and technical capabilities to enter into joint ventures with foreign shipbuilders and together undertake indigenous construction of the warships. In early December 2010, the Navy HQ issued its RFIs to Pipavav Defence & Offshore Engineering Company Ltd, Cochin Shipyard Ltd, Mazagon Docks Ltd, Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers Ltd, Larsen & Toubro Ltd. These shipyards were required to forward a Detailed Project Proposal outlining the roadmap for the development of design and construction of the LPHs. After the RFI responses were submitted by March 7 this year, the Detailed Project Proposal, thereafter, was examined by a Project Appraisal Committee (PAC) constituted by the MoD’s Acquisition Wing to verify the credentials of the foreign partners, together with confirming the acceptability of the respective joint ventures between the Indian shipyard and its foreign collaborator. By the end of next week the Indian shipyards shortlisted for issue of the request for Proposals (RFP) would be intimated. Thereafter, the MoD will invite responses to the RFP only from Indian Shipyards.

A detailed analysis of the already-issued RFI brings out several interesting indicators about both the overall configuration of the desired vessel and its performance/operational capabilities. For instance, the RFI has specified that the length of the vessel should be approximately 200 metres; the draught should not exceed 8 metres; the endurance at sea must be for 45 days; the diesel-electric propulsion system of should of either twin-shaft configuration (with twin rudders and fixed-pitch propellers) or shock-graded podded propulsion; the vessel must have a suitable well-deck for carrying amphibious craft like LCMs or LCACs and LCVPs on davits and should have the capability to launch these craft when underway; the vessel must be able to house combat vehicles (including main battle tanks, infantry combat vehicles and heavy trucks on one or more vehicle deck; and the vessel should be able to undertake all-weather operations involving heavylift helicopters of up to 35 tonnes MTOW. Weapon systems and mission sensors to go on board the projected four vessels will all be pre-selected (known also as customer-furnished or buyer-nominated equipment) and mentioned in the RFI. Such hardware will include the point-defence missile system (PDMS), close-in weapon system (CIWS), anti-torpedo decoy system, countermeasures dispensing system, 12.7mm heavy machine guns, and 7.62mm light machine guns. In addition, each of the four vessels will be required to have one E/F-band combined air-surface surveillance radar, one C/D band air surveillance radar, and an integrated marine navigation system employing X- and S-band navigation radars. But the RFI, in what can only be described as an act of omission, does not specify the kinds of active/passive hull-mounted panoramic sonar (low-frequency or ultra low-frequency) and minehunting sonar suites that is desired.
From the above-mentioned specifications outlined in the RFI, we can come to some probable conclusions. Firstly, the desired vessel’s dimensions clearly call for a LPH solution (with a maximum displacement of up to 21,000 tonnes), as opposed to the conventional smaller LPD or larger LHD. Secondly, the type of heavylift helicopters desired clearly limit the options (to be exercised under a separate contract involving competitive bidding) to the AgustaWestland AW-101, and Sikorsky’s S-92 Super Hawk and CH-53K Super Stallion. Thirdly, even though C/D band (old L-band) airspace surveillance radars THALES-built Smart-L (its S-1850M variant equipping South Korea’s Dokdo-class LHDs) and Selex Sistem Integrati’s Kronos-3D NV are available, the Indian Navy, by choosing to pre-select this piece of hardware, has already decided in favour of the naval variant of the EL/M-2282 AD-STAR active phased-array radar from the ELTA Systems subsidiary of Israel Aerospace Industries, which has been selected for the Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (INS Vikrant) now being fabricated by Cochin Shipyard Ltd. The same goes for the desired E/F band (old S-band) air/surface volume search radar, for which the BAE Systems-built Sampson, Lockheed Martin/Raytheon SPY-4, and THALES’ Herakles MFR-30 could have been offered. Instead, the Israel Aerospace Industries/ELTA Systems-built EL/M-2248 MF-STAR liquid-cooled active phased-array radar (which has also been selected in a four-array configuration for INS Vikrant as well as for the three Project 15A Kolkata-class guided-missile destroyers, the four projected Project 15B DDGs and seven projected Project 17A guided-missile frigates, and may well be retrofitted on to the three existing Project 15 Delhi-class DDGs in the near future) has been pre-selected. The MF-STAR, which offers superior performance in high-moisture clutter conditions like rain or fog, and is excellent for scanning and tracking within a very large volume, employs multiple beam-forming and advanced high-PRF waveforms to extract stressing, low RCS threats even in conditions of heavy jamming and dense clutter. Key performance characteristics include three-dimensional volume search, anti-ship cruise missile missile horizon search, multi-airborne target tracking, surface surveillance, helicopter detection, gunnery control and splash spotting. The MF-STAR can initiate tracks against sea-skimming anti-ship cruise missiles at ranges in excess of 25km, and out to more than 250km for a high-flying combat aircraft. It can also provide mid-course guidance for the Baral-2/8 MR-SAM/LR-SAM.

It thus seems that the Indian Navy is terribly conservative by not embracing the concept of an integrated mast housing dual-band active phased-array radars (DBR) employing distributed S-band and X-band arrays, but using an unified back-end radar electronics and operating software. When using DBRs, a warship’s combat management system receives a single stream of data, and the radar itself is able to mix and match its antennae as the situation requires. At the design tier, this approach allows fewer radar antennae, all flush-mounted with the superstructure for maximum stealth. At the tactical tier, integration at the radar-level offers faster response time, faster adaptation to new situations, and better utilisation of the warship’s power, electronics, and bandwidth. At the life-cycle maintenance tier, it allows one-step upgrades to the radar suite as a whole. The use of active phased-array, digital beam-forming radar technologies will thus help DBR-equipped warships to survive saturation attacks. The DBR’s most salient feature is the ability to allocate groups of emitters within their thousands of individual modules to perform specific tasks, in order to track and guide MR-SAMs against tens of incoming sea-skimming anti-ship cruise missiles simultaneously. In addition, DBRs have uses such as very high-power electronic jammers, and/or high-bandwidth secure communications relays. As far as integrated S-/X-band marine navigation radars go, the competition is between UK-based Kelvin Hughes and Terma of Denmark.

Another area where the Navy seems to have favoured conservatism instead of playing technological leapfrog is in the area of propulsion system. While on one hand the Navy has been extremely eager to embrace the on-board electric ‘chappati’ (Indian bread) maker, it has, for unknown reasons, decided against an all-electric propulsion system in which, instead of a propulsion shaft connecting the two, the all-electric drive will use the warship’s engines (gas turbine or diesel) to burn fossil fuels to generate electricity, which will be routed down thick cables to an-electric motor that will drive its propellers. The advantages of such propulsion systems are many, including an appreciable enlargement of the well-deck, making the vessel’s superstructure more resistant ro damage by distributing engines and generators around the vessel, and easier on-board maintenance procedures, as some of the engines can be stopped without halting the warship.

Coming now to the weapons suite, the Navy has a choice of combinations to choose from, including the SeaRAM and Phalanx Block 1B from Raytheon, Sadral from MBDA integrated with OTOBreda of Italy’s twin-barrel 30mm/82 Compact or the Goalkeeper from THALES Nederland, the combination of Phalanx Block 1B/Barak-1 from Israel Aerospace Industries, and the combined Palma PDMS/CIWS from Russia’s Tulamashzavod JSC. It is believed that the Phalanx Block 1B/Barak-1 combination is the Navy’s preferred choice. The Navy’s shipboard decoy control and launching system of choice is ELBIT Systems’ DESEAVER-MK, which is already on board the three Project 16A Brahmaputra-class and three Project 17 Shivalik-class FFGs. The combat management system and ESM/ELINT/EW suites will be procured off-the-shelf as standard fitment along with the LPHs. Although not yet specified, but depending on space availability, the selected LPH model could also house a module containing up to 12 tactical NLOS-PGMs like the ‘Prahaar’, to be employed for providing lethal and long-range indirect fire-assaults in support of friendly naval infantry forces. Also not yet stated officially is the Navy’s requirement for shipborne attack helicopters, for which the HAL-developed LCH could emerge as the logical choice.

Finally, we come to the foreign shipbuilders with their respective proposals, comprising DCNS of France with its Mistral-BPC 21,300-tonne LPH, Germany’s ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems with its 20,000-tonne MHD-200 LPH (with two separate heli-decks on two levels), Fincantieri of Italy with its  20,000-tonne Mosaic LPH design, South Korea’s Hanjin Heavy Industries & Constructions Co with its 18,800-tonne Dokdo-class LPH, The Netherlands-based Schelde Shipbuilding of the Royal Schelde Company with its 16,800-tonne Rotterdam-class LPD, Navantia of Spain with its Athlas 21,560-tonne LHD and 13,900-tonne Galicia-class LPD, and Northrop Grumman Ship Systems with its 25,000-tonne San Antonio LPD-17 design. From this list, the frontrunners are expected to be Mistral-BPC, MHD-200, Mosaic LPH, and the Dokdo-class LPH. While DCNs is believed to have joined forces with Pipavav Defence & Offshore Engineering Company Ltd, Mazagon Docks Ltd has aligned itself with Fincantieri, while Larsen & Toubro has linked up with ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems. It remains unclear whether or not GRSE and Cochin Shipyard Ltd will be invited to respond to the RFP. However, these two companies are unlikely to be left empty-handed, and are instead likely to get contracts for licence-building high-speed air-cushioned vehicles from either US-based Textron Marine and Land Systems (LCAC) or Hanjin Heavy Industries & Constructions Co (LSF-2), LCMs (with designs being offered by Navantia and Hanjin Heavy Industries & Constructions Co), or high-speed catamarans, for which France’s CNIM is likely to offer its L-CAT catamaran.

Between the expected frontrunners, the competition is expected to be fierce between the Dokdo-class LPH, Mistral-BPC and MHD-200. The Mistral-BPC has already been ordered by France (three units for €990 million) and Russia (four units for €1.12 billion). The MHD-200 is thought to cost no more than €150 million. The Mistral-BPC can carry up to 16 helicopters, four L-CAT catamarans or two air-cushion vehicles, 13 main battle tanks, around 100 other vehicles and a 450-strong infantry force. It has also facilities for the command staff required for waging a Brigade-sized expeditionary campaign, and is equipped with a 69-bed hospital. The MHD-200’s design concept is altogether different because, according to Thyssenkrupp, “the LPH needs to match container-ship technology to gray-ship thinking. For disaster relief, you need space for a big hospital--120 beds and a full trauma unit, or you need to be able to pull 2,000 people off the beach”. Another unusual feature of the MHD-200 is its stepped rear deck, which can be loaded with containerised supplies or used as an extra landing pad, with direct hangar access.

To conclude, it has indeed been an arduous process for the LPH procurement project, considering that the time elapsed between project conceptualsiation and issuance of RFPs has been five years--a task that could well have been fulfilled in less than two years had the Defence Acquisition Council been more efficient in its functioning. Add to that another four years to be taken for the contract award stage to be reached, plus another three years for launching of the first LPH, and we are then likely to see it entering service only around 2020—Prasun K. Sengupta

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

All-Weather Friendship Scales New Heights

Pakistan’s efforts to have a sea-based minimum credible nuclear deterrent vis-a-vis India took a significant step forward last May when the state-owned, Wuhan-based China State Shipbuilding Industrial Corp (CSIC) ferried the first Qing-class conventional attack submarine (SSK) to Shanghai to begin a year-long series of sea trials, which is likely to include the test-firing of three CJ-10K submarine-launched, 1,500km-range land attack cruise missiles (LACM) capable of being armed with unitary tactical nuclear warheads. Called the Qing-class SSK, it is a variant of the Type 041A Improved Yuan-class SSK, which is also due to begin its sea trials later this month. It is now believed that the contract inked between CSIC and Pakistan early last April calls for the CSIC’s Wuhan-based Wuchang Shipyard to supply six Qing-class SSKs, all of which will be equipped with a Stirling-cycle AIP system and will be able to carry up to three nuclear warhead-carrying CJ-10K LACMs each. The double-hulled Qing-class SSK, with a submerged displacement close to 3,600 tonnes, bears a close resemblance to the Russian Type 636M SSK, and features hull-retractable foreplanes and hydrodynamically streamlined sail. The first such SSK was launched in Wuhan on September 9 last year, and a total of three such SSKs are on order from China’s PLA Navy as well.

The AIP system for the Qing-class SSK was developed by the 711th Research Institute of CSIC. R & D work began in June 1996, with a 100-strong team of scientists and engineers led by Dr Jin Donghan being involved in developing the Stirling-cycle engine, while another team led Professor Ma Weiming of China’s Naval Engineering University began developing the all-electric AIP system. The two projects entered the production engineering stage in 2007, with the Shanghai Qiyao Propulsion Technology Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of the 711th Institute, becoming the principal industrial entity charged with producing the AIP system. Incidentally, the Qing-class SSK’s all-electric propulsion system is a derivative of a similar system that was developed about a decade ago for the PLA Navy’s six Type 093 Shang-class SSGNs and three Type 094 Jin-class SSBNs.

The submarine-launched CJ-10K LACM has been developed by the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp’s (CASIC) Hubei-based Ninth Academy (also known as the Sanjiang Aerospace Group, or 066 Base) on cooperation with the Third Academy’s Beijing-based  Xinghang Electromechanical Equipment Factory (159 Factory). Final assembly of the CJ-10K is undertaken by the Beijing-based Hangxing Machine Building Factory (239 Factory). The CJ-10K features an imaging infra-red optronic system for terminal homing, and it makes use of a ring laser gyro-based inertial navigation system combined with a GPS receiver to receive navigational updates from China’s ‘Beidou’ constellation of GPS navigation satellites.

In another development, during Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s four-day official visit to China beginning May 17, the decks were cleared for the Pakistan Navy to acquire for a 10-year lease period the two Jiangkai I-class Type 054 guided-missile frigates (FFG) Ma’anshan (FFG-525) and Wenzhou (FFG-526), which have been in service with the PLA Navy’s East Sea Fleet since 2005. The Type 054 Jiangkai I-class FFG, built by CSTC’s Shanghai-based Hudong-Zhonghua Shipyard and the Guangzhou-based Huangpu Shipyard, displaces around 4,300 tonnes, and comes armed with twin quadruple launchers amidships housing the YJ-83 anti-ship cruise missile (equipped with a 165kg warhead), one CPMIEC-built eight-cell Hong Qi-7 short-range SAM system designed to engage aircraft in all-weather conditions out to a range of 12km, a single-barrel 100mm main gun developed by China’s 713 Institute, four six-barrel 30mm AK-630M close-in weapon systems (CIWS), twin 18-tube countermeasures dispensers, and twin Type 87 six-tube 240mm anti-submarine rocket launchers, with 36 rockets. The FFG has a combat management system built by China Electronics Technology Group Corp (CETC), and a sensor suite that includes a Type 360S 2-D air/surface radar operating in E/F-band and having a range of 150km, one I-band MR-36A surface search radar, an I-band Type 347G radar for CIWS fire-control, an I/J-band Type 344 radar for main gun targetting, SNTI-240 SATCOM radio, HZ-100 EW suite, twin I-band RM-1290 navigation radarsm and a J-band Type 345 radar for fire-control of the Hong Qi-7 SHORADS. The FFG also comes fitted with a Russian MGK-335 fixed hull-mounted medium-frequency active/passive panoramic sonar suite. The propulsion system is of the combined diesel and diesel (CODAD) arrangement and employs four SEMT Pielstick (now MAN Diesel SA) 16 PA6V-280 STC diesel engines to give the FFG a cruise speed of 27 Knots. China imported the 16 PA6V-280 STC’s production rights in the late 1990s and is now producing the engines locally under licence at Shaanxi Diesel Factory. Each 16 PA6V-280 engine can produce a sustained power of 4,720kW (6,330hp), giving a total power of 18,880kW (25,320hp). The Jiangkai 1-class Type 054 FFG also has a helicopter deck capable of housing a Harbin Z-9EC multi-role shipborne helicopter, three of which are presently in service with the Pakistan Navy.—Prasun K. Sengupta