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Monday, October 24, 2011

CCNS Approves & Fast-Tracks ‘Modified’ Project 17A FFG Programme

In what can only be described as joyous ‘Deepavali-eve’ tidings for the Indian Navy (IN), the Govt of India’s Cabinet Committee on National Security (CCNS) earlier last week finally approved the Ministry of Defence’s proposal for kick-starting the Project 17A guided-missile frigate’s (FFG) design-cum-construction programme, which is already running four years behind schedule. Consequently, the MoD-owned and Mumbai-based Mazagon Docks Ltd (MDL), teamed with Fincantieri, has at long-last, received both the green light and the much-required funds required for commencing work on the Project 17A FFG programme, which now calls for the Project 17A FFG to be an advanced derivative of the existing 5,600-tonne Project 17 Shivalik-class FFG, and NOT a brand-new warship design outsourced from abroad. While MDL will be the lead yard for both detailed design and construction of the first four Project 17A FFGs, Kolkata-based Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers will build the remaining three FFGs. It is estimated that the first Project 17A FFG will be launched five years (within 60 months, or by 2017) after its keel-laying ceremony (to be held in the latter half of next year), followed by the remaining six FFGs being delivered every successive year through to 2022.
The CCNS decision, which is likely to cause dismay to foreign shipbuilders like Fincantieri of Italy, France’s Direction des Constructions Navales (DCNS), Germany’s ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems, Russia’s Severnoye Design Bureau/Admiralty Shipyards, Spain’s Navantia, the UK’s BAE Systems, and South Korea’s Hyundai Heavy Industries, is likely to result in the Project 17 FFG’s design being modified to accommodate new-generation weapon systems like the Barak-2 MR-SAM/EL/M-2248 MF-STAR combination (see: instead of the Cashmere area air defence system comprising the 24 rounds of 40km-range 9M317M Shtil-1 MR-SAMs, 3S-90 missile launcher, four MR-90 Orekh target illuminators, and the Salyut FSUE-built E-band MR-760 Fregat M2EM 3-D radar; plus BrahMos vertically-launched supersonic multi-role cruise missiles instead of the the eight Novator-built 3M54E Klub-N supersonic 220km-range anti-ship cruise missiles. The crew complement will likely be reduced from the existing 257 (including 35 officers) to about 110 by introducing high levels of automation, which will translate into a savings of around 20% in operational costs and higher operational availability of the warships. The Project 17A FFG’s superstructure will also make extensive use of composites similar to what’s now being done on board the latter two of the four Project 28 Kamorta-class ASW corvettes now under fabrication by GRSE.
The decision to fast-track the project 17A FFG construction programme comes close on the heels of a major upgrade undertaken by MDL of its integrated shipbuilding processes for FFGs, which will become idle once the third and last Project 17 FFG—INS Sahyadri—is commissioned into service early next year. Therefore, in order to make optimum utilisation of its warship-building capacities and capabilities, the MoD, in an unusual show of pragmatism, had last month decided to fast-track the indigenous warship construction roadmap.

Thus far, MDL’s infrastructure modernisation plans have moved ahead in four areas: installation of a 300-tonne Goliath crane, construction of a new modular workshop for FFGs, and fabrication of a wet-basin for the outfitting of FFGs and DDGs. All three of these will be ready for usage by early next year and will make MDL the first MoD-owned DPSU to undertake integrated shipbuilding concurrently for two lines of warships and two lines of submarines: the seven Project 17A FFGs, the four 6,800-tonne Project 15B guided-missile destroyers (DDG), and the six Scorpene SSKs and the yet-to-be-ordered Project 75I SSKs. In addition to all this, MDL has also built two more modular workshops—one for warship-building (the four Project 15B DDGs) and the other for submarine construction—at the Alcock Yard, which is adjacent to MDL’s main yard. Consequently, by late next year, MDL will have two dedicated submarine construction facilities—one at its East Yard and the other at the Alcock Yard, both of which will be used for the accelerated delivery of the six Scorpene SSKs on order. As things now stand, the first Scorpene will be launched by August 2015, with the sixth being launched by September 2018.
MDL has also become India’s first shipbuilder to commission a virtual reality lab, enabling its naval architects and engineers to virtually walk through the compartments being digitally designed for a warship. This will from now on obviate the need for constructing mock-ups that are time-consuming, and will also contribute greatly towards faster warship deliveries. MDL has also requested the MoD to approve its strategic industrial partnership with Gujarat-based Pipavav Defence & Offshore Engineering Co Ltd, so that it can enlist the latter’s services as a sub-contractor for fabricating sub-sections of a warship’s superstructure, thereby further reducing the time taken for hull fabrication. MDL will thus play the mentor’s role for the emerging private-sector shipyards and teach the latter the intricacies of detailed designing, fabrication, outfitting, systems and weapons integration, tests and trials, and finally, warship delivery.
As for GRSE, its principal strategic industrial partner is likely to be DCNS (which till mentor GRSE in areas such as virtual digital designing and integrated shipbuilding), while the principal fabrication sub-contractor is likely to be either the MoD-owned and Vizag-based DPSU Hindustan Shiptard Ltd (HSL), or Larsen & Toubro’s brand-new shipyard at Kattupalli in Tamil Nadu, which has been set up jointly with Tamil Nadu Industrial Development Corp and is expected to be fully commissioned early next year.
So what is the future of the IN’s Project 75I submarine procurement programme? After all, by late 2012, MDL would have completed hull fabrication for the sixth Scorpene, after which its outfitting will start, leaving MDL’s two SSK hull fabrication workshops bereft of any further activity. Even if the RFPs are issued by the MoD before the year’s end (which appears highly unlikely), it will take at least another three years to arrive at the contract signature stage. Then there’s the issue of according priority to the procurement of four LPHs, for which two MoD-owned DPSUs—MDL and HSL—each teamed up with a private-sector shipbuilders, are likely to be selected for building them. In light of all this, it won’t be surprising at all if circumstances conspire together to force the MoD to exercise the only financially viable and least risky option left for arresting the decline of the IN’s SSK fleet strength by the latter half of this decade—ordering a follow-on batch of four Scorpene SSKs from DCNS via MDL—Prasun K. Sengupta

Friday, October 21, 2011

Update On The Latest IAF MiG-29 Crash

Based on the two-way communications intercepts received by IAF HQ by this evening, this is what probably happened on the night of October 18 over the Chokhang mountains of the Lahaul and Spiti valleys, which have ranges and peaks located between 13,000 and 18,000 feet ASL. At dusk, two MiG-29s based at Adampur AFS and belonging to the 8 Wing (which comprises 47 ‘Black Archers’ Sqn and 223 ‘Tridents’ Sqn) took off on a night-flying composite CAP sortie, along with a Su-30MKI from Leh AFS that was flying top cover. Between the Lahaul and Spiti valleys the MiG-29 flight leader got disoriented and lost his way and it boiled down to the flight’s No2--Sqn Ldr Dharmendra Singh Tomar--to help his flight leader find his way back to Adampur AFS. In the process of doing so, Sqn Ldr Tomar asked the ATC centre at Adampur AFS permission for descending to a lower altitude than originally authorised. Reportedly a few seconds after such authorisation was obtained, the aircrew of the Su-30MKI, which was cruising at an appreciably higher altitude but was in visual contact with the two MiG-29s, witnessed a bright explosive flash along one of the mountain ranges. As of now, at total of 15 MiG-29s, including at least one twin-seater, have been lost or written off in accidents.

Could such a mishap have been avoided? Most definitely no, especially for aircraft like the IAF’s MiG-29s whose cockpit avionics/instrumentation is not NVG-compatible. Had the IAF’s MiG-29UPGs been flying a similar sortie, then its pilots would have had the benefit of employing helmet-mounted night-vision goggles, which allows for the combination of both a direct visual and an intensified image to be presented to the pilot’s eyes. The two images are combined in a 1:1 relationship and complement each other. The benefits of the system have been extensively proven since the late 1980s in low-level night-attack flying trials, which used a fully integrated NVG-compatible cockpit and forward looking infra-red (FLIR) generated head-up display imagery, together with a head-down multifunction display. The HUD display is seen through a direct visual path, and it is not degraded by unnecessary image intensification as it would be with conventional NVG systems. Additionally, the direct vision path through the optical combiner arrangement makes monitoring of cockpit displays and instruments considerably easier while the ability to scan either side of the combiners enhances peripheral vision and ensures better spatial awareness. The direct vision path also removes problems normally associated with light to dark transitions as the intensified image becomes progressively more noticeable as the direct visual image fades. Such helmet-mounted NVGs are compact and rugged, and the restrictions on head mobility imposed by the depth of conventional NVG systems is avoided. While the system incorporates a single-handed quick-release mechanism for the helmet interface, it can be configured to include an automatic separation system on ejection and designed growth will enable it to accept the latest image intensifier technology as it becomes available. The IAF must therefore ensure that its pilots flying night sorties (using combat aircraft that have NVG-compatible cockpits) over forbidding high-altitude terrain should in future be equipped with at least such helmet-mounted NVGs, or even the new-generation helmet-mounted displays like the ones available from BAE Systems, ELBIT Systems and THALES, which have built-in night-vision sensors and operating modes.

For its existing fleet of An-32B tactical transports, which will be logging the bulk of the night-flying sorties to and fro the ALGs, there is an urgent need to equip such IAF-operated aircraft with enhanced flight vision avionics (EFVA) of the type presently on board the C-130J-20 Super Hercules transports and to be available on the C-17A Globemaster III. Such EFVAs are readily available from:
BAE Systems

Lastly, transitioning from a day schedule to a night one is not an easy feat for the human body, as it takes the body approximately a week to adjust fully to a night schedule. There is also the increased fatigue associated with this transition. Another factor is the increased demand on human sensory faculties since normal visual cues are not available. Finally, there is the need to prepare the aircrew mentally for a night mission. Lastly, cockpit resource management is critical at night, especially for a two-man aircrew team.Prasun K. Sengupta

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Highlights From UV Asia 2011

The two-day UV India 2011 seminar-cum-expo, which got underway on October 13 at the Manekshaw Centre in New Delhi, provided the perfect venue for gaining insights into UAV-related activities and future force modernisation plans of India’s three armed services. Interestingly, this time around, the number of trade visitors hailing from the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) such as the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), Border Security Force (BSF), National Security Guards, and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) far outnumbered those hailing from the three armed services, and the maximum number of procurement-related queries too came from such CAPFs. What follows below is a run-down of the highlights of the seminar and expo.
·  The DRDO is promising to deliver to the Indian Army an all-singing-and-dancing version of the Rustom-1 MALE-UAV—equipped with a belly-mounted optronic payload--by 2014. Also to be delivered by then will be a version of the Nishant tactical UAV equipped with a belly-mounted optronic payload and a wheeled undercarriage. The DRDO is focussing all its UAV-related R & D efforts on the Rustom-1, and those for the Rustom-2 MALE-UAV are not being accorded any importance at this stage.
·  The NTRO is steadily expanding its inventory of UAVs, with several Searcher Mk2 MALE-UAVs (equipped with optronic payloads) already operational as of now. Future plans call for the procurement of several Hermes-90 tactical UAVs.
·  A customised version of the hand-launched Skylark-1LE—jointly developed by HAL and ELBIT Systems—has now been certified for operating at an altitude of 18,600 feet ASL, and first deliveries will be made to both the Indian Army and the ITBP. CAPFs like the CRPF and BSF too are expected to place large orders for both the Skylark-1LE and Hermes-90 UAVs.
·  The Indian Navy’s fleet of Heron-1 MALE-UAVs come equipped with three types of ELTA Systems-built mission payloads: the EL/M-2022U maritime search radar and MSOP optronic turret, plus a communications system capable of acting as a repeater station for relaying imagery-related data over-the-horizon to another Heron-1 UAV which, in turn, relays such data to a principal surface combatant deployed in the high seas. The Heron-1s of the Indian Army and Indian Air Force, on the other hand, come equipped with the MSOP optronic turret and the EL/M-2055D SAR/GMTI sensor. Israel Aerospace Industries’ (IAI) two subsidiaries--ELTA Systems and MALAT Division—have now developed the EL/M-2054 SAR/GMTI payload for all-weather, air-to-surface Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) applications. It features modular, open architecture and can be easily configured into smaller tactical UAVs like the Nishant’s wheeled variant.
·  The Indian Navy has officially rejected the shipborne NRUAV project, which was first proposed in 2005 by HAL and IAI. Instead, the operational requirement has now been elevated to that for a shipborne UCAV, following which attention is being paid to the Northrop Grumman-built Fire Scout vertical takeoff and landing system.
·   Even though there are several private-sector SMEs that have developed mini-UAVs for use by central- and state-level law enforcement agencies, such solutions cannot be inducted into service since the Union Home Ministry, the MoD and the Ministry of Civil Aviation (all non-armed forces UAV users are mandatorily required to secure operating airspace clearances from this ministry) have yet to sit down together to evolve a clear-cut policy regarding their procurement and usage. Needless to say, the above-mentioned ministries are always hell-bent on being biased in favour of only those solutions that are put forth by the DPSUs (like HAL and BEL). This in turn has pissed off several CAPFs since they require such tactical UAVs in not only far larger numbers than those for the armed forces, but also as soon as possible from any available source.—Prasun K. Sengupta

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Why Is This DRDO Official In Moscow?

About 11 months ago I had posed several questions about both the future of India’s sea-based survivable nuclear deterrence posture and capabilities, as well as about the projected Agni-5 ICBM. These were:

1) How exactly will the most survivable element of India's strategic nuclear triad (starting with the ‘Arihant’ SSBN and its on-board complement of either twelve 10-tonne, 10-metre long K-15 750km-range SLBMs or four 3,500km-range K-4 SLBMs) provide credible deterrence when the SLBMs have a range of no more than 5,000km? Why is the DRDO unable to develop an SLBM with a range of 8,000km, as mandated in the so-called ‘classified’ report prepared by Admiral (Ret’d) Arun Prakash in 2006 for the then National Security Adviser M K Narayanan?

2) How will the 10-metre long, 1.3-metre wide and 20-tonne K-4 and its follow-on 12-metre long variant boasting of a 5,000km-range be made to fit into the 10-metre diameter pressure hull of the ‘Arihant’ SSBN?

3) Will both the Agni-5 ICBM and K-4 SLBM use a three-stage rocket propulsion system and if so, will its first two stages use solid propellants while the third stage uses liquid propellants for high manoeuvrability?

4) How could the Defence Research & Development Organistion’s (DRDO) Advanced Systems Laboratory (ASL) have developed and flight-tested (eight times) the submarine-launched K-15 (known as PJ-08) within a four-year period starting 2004, when it has taken the ASL about six years to develop far less complex land-launched ballistic missiles like the 2,500km-range Agni-2 and 3,500km-range Agni-3, and is likely to take nine years to develop the 5,000km-range and 22-metre long Agni-5 ICBM (whose R & D processes began in 2007)?

5) Who will validate the results of the combination of the K-15/K-4 SLBMs and the ‘Arihant’ SSBN in terms of vessel stability/buoyancy and personnel safety? The DRDO or the Russian ‘consultants’ attached to the both the ATV Project Office and Sagarika Project Office?

6) What are the technical glitches being experienced with the ‘Arihant’ SSBN? Do they concern the on-board pressurised-water nuclear reactor and is that the reason why the n-reactor has not yet received its consignment of n-fuel rods? Or is it is a design problem since the n-reactor design provided by Russia was originally meant for a nuclear ice-breaker, and not for a SSBN? Is the Dept of Atomic Energy (DAE) therefore now facing some previously unforeseen but fundamental design/containment problems?

7) Will the DAE and DRDO be able to develop completely new MIRV-based n-warheads for the SLBM, since existing unitary warhead designs meant for the Agni-1/2/3 family of ballistic missiles will be totally unsuitable for the K-4 SLBM as well as the MIRV-equipped Agni-5?

8) Consequently, won't the MIRV-based n-warheads require additional testing--aka Shatki-3 series of tests?

9) Lastly, will India’s ruling political elite have the guts to authorise a standalone, ready-to-fire nuclear arsenal to proceed on operational patrols in peacetime and wartime into the deep waters of the Indian Ocean at a time when it insists on keeping the land-based ballistic missiles’ n-warheads and their plutonium-based cores under the DRDO’s and DAE’s custody, and not with the Strategic Forces Command, which is left with only an inventory of warhead-less ballistic missiles?
It now seems that the veil of secrecy surrounding on-going R & D projects involving the K-4 SLBM and the Agni-5 ICBM is slowly being lifted in a deliberate and well-calibrated manner by both Russia and India, although significant firewalls—mandated by Russia—still remain in place. First, there was the first publicised (and the eighth) test-firing of the K-15 ‘Shaurya’ cannistered SLBM from a land-based missile silo on November 12, 2008. This was followed by the launch ceremony of the ‘Arihant’ SSBN on July 26, 2009, following which India and Russia on signed an agreement to share high-precision Py-code signals obtained from Russia’s GLONASS constellation of GPS navigation satellites. The latest revelation came on October 4, 2011 in the form of a Ministry of Defence (MoD) press release that not only gave details about the to-be-held 11th Meeting of the India-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission on Military Technical Cooperation(IRIGC-MTC) in Moscow on the same day, but also disclosed the names of top officials representing the Indian side which, in addition to Defence Minister Arackaparambil Kurien Antony, included Defence Secretary Shashikant Sharma; Secretary Defence Production Shekhar Aggarwal; Lt Gen M S Buttar; Air Marshal R K Sharma; Vice Admiral N N Kumar; Director-General Acquisition Vivek Rae; Chairman & Managing Director of Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd, Ashok Nayak; and most notably, the DRDO’s Chief Controller for Missiles & Strategic Systems & ASL Director, Dr Avinash Chander—the official who is directing and supervising the R & D efforts of the K-4 SLBM and Agni-5 ICBM.   
While the likes of Dr Avinash Chander and his boss, Dr Vijay Kumar Saraswat have over the past five years spoken extensively in public forums about the indigenous R & D efforts initiated by the ASL for the Agni family of ballistic missiles, both of them have never uttered a word about any kind of progress on the K-4 SLBM front—strongly indicating that the information-denial firewalls mandated by Russia applied not only to the in-country fabrication of the ‘Arihant’ SSBN and its two larger follow-on variants (each of which will be a scaled-down version of the Project 667BDR SSBN designed by St Petersburg-based Rubin Central Design Bureau for Marine Engineering, and will carry eight SLBMs), but also to the Russian ‘mentoring’ of the K-4 SLBM’s R & D efforts. That may well explain why, on one hand, Dr Avinash Chander first disclosed to the BUSINESS STANDARD newspaper in October 2009 that the ASL was indeed working on multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles, or MIRV for the Agni-5 (he had said: “We have made major progress on the MIRVs in the last two years”), while on the other, Dr Saraswat had emphatically stated in March 2010 that the DRDO was NOT developing any kind of MIRV-based warheads for any missile. And neither of them have so far said anything about the K-4 SLBM being armed with MIRV-based warheads.  
But here’s what can be inferred from various bits of official revelations/disclosures since the late 1990s. Firstly, it was the creation of the BrahMos Aerospace Ltd joint venture in February 1998 between the DRDO and Russia’s NPO Mashinostroyenia that paved the way for ASL to develop—with Russia’s mentoring—a range of avionics and vectronics required for developing both land-launched ballistic missiles and SLBMs. These include the ring-laser gyro-based inertial navigation system (RLG-INS), along with its miniaturised GLONASS GPS receiver incorporating a 12-channel selective availability anti-spoofing module receiver and using digital RS-422/485 databus interfaces, the inertial measurement unit (IMU) utilising an RS-485 digital databus interface, and the on-board digital computer (which have since been built by the DRDO’s RCI). For the road-mobile transporter-erector-launchers, RCI has built a lightweight land navigation system called FINGS (for providing position and north-pointing information) that makes use of three fibre-optic gyroscopes (weighing less than 1kg), three micro-machined silicon accelerometers and a microprocessor. The system senses acceleration and rotation about three orthogonal axes and outputs temperature compensated incremental angles and incremental velocities. Russia’s JSC Concern Granit-Electron continues to supply the BrahMos Block-2 supersonic land-attack cruise missile’s synthetic aperture radar (SAR), which makes use of scene correlation and navigation (SCAN) algorithm for locating and zeroeing in on the target in top-attack mode. Source codes provided by JSC Concern Granit-Electron to BrahMos Aerospace has enabled the latter to upload SAR imagery (obtained from either overhead reconnaissance satellites like the TecSAR or from EL/M-2060P recce pod) of the target on to the missile’s fire-control system. Also provided by Russia (via NPO Mashinostroyenia) is the technology for fabricating hermitically sealed cannisters made of maraging steel, which can ‘cold-launch’ missiles weighing up to  50-tonnes (like the Agni-5).
 Secondly, while the ASL has successfully developed all-composite weight-saving solid rockets for both the K-4 and Agni-5 (and the DRDO/HEMRL’s in-house Advanced Centre for Energetic Materials or ACEM was commissioned on June 30 this year at Nasik for producing composite propellants for solid rocket motors), when it comes to the hypersonic MIRV warheads and their terminal guidance sensors for both missiles, there exists no other option for ASL but to import them off-the-shelf, or—depending on Russian generosity and its willingness to be economical with its commitment to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty—fabricate them in-country but with Russian mentoring. When it comes to delivery of the MIRVs, accuracy is crucial, because doubling the accuracy decreases the needed warhead energy by a factor of four for radiation damage and by a factor of eight for blast damage. Another area that for sure requires Russian R & D inputs is in the area of 16 x 16 wheeled mobile autonomous launchers capable of housing the cannistered Agni-5. Consequently, if we are to believe that the Dr Saraswat-led DRDO will stick to its promise of conducting the maiden test-firing of the Agni-5 by this December (16 months behind schedule, if one goes by what Dr Avinash Chander had promised on February 10, 2010), then this visit by Dr Avinash Chander to Moscow as part of RM A K Antony’s official entourage could be nothing but a stock-taking exercise aimed at expediting the Agni-5’s joint R & D efforts.—Prasun K. Sengupta

Monday, October 3, 2011

Legacies Of French Weapons Exports In Asia

Summer has turned to autumn in London, the chill is in the air, and the Guards in Buckingham Palace have swapped their bright red summer outfits for grey winter greatcoats. Weather never stops the tourists from coming to London though and they will still be thronging Buckingham and the busy streets of London. But on Friday, September 30, 2011 at one of the lecture theatres of the BPP Law School in Red Lion Street, a short walk from Holborn station, a more serious gathering took place. The Solicitors International Human Rights Group (SIHRG) and SUARAM had organised a briefing and fund-raising event on the Malaysian Scorpene SSK procurement case. Speakers included Joseph Breham of SHERPA, the French non-profit organisation that has taken up the case, and Cynthia Gabriel of SUARAM. Approximately 300 to 500 participants were expected, many of them Malaysians residing in London. Hovering over all, larger now in death than in life, is the shadow of Altantuya Shaariiibuu, the Mongolian who was brutally, mercilessly, murdered in the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur. Those who thought they could shut her up by killing her have been proven very wrong. She will continue to haunt them until she gets the justice she deserves. Two police officials from the Royal Malaysia Police have been convicted for killing her, but they lack a motive. Until those with the obvious motive to silence her are arrested and convicted, no matter who or howsoever high they sit, there will be no closure in this case. Why has the Royal Malaysia Police not continued with its investigations until those who gave the order are found? Why has the Attorney-General (AG) of Malaysia not returned the investigation papers and demanded a complete investigation? If Abdul Razak Baginda, who had helped MINDEF Malaysia negotiate the Scorpene SSK procurement contract, is not guilty of giving the order to kill, then who is? As long as these questions are not answered, then the justice system in Malaysia cannot be said to be working and it cannot be considered to be a country of laws, the ideal espoused by John Adams. Inextricably linked with the whole Scorpene procurement scandal is current Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib Razak. He was the Defence Minister when MINDEF bought the Scorpene SSKs, which when they arrived were reportedly malfunctioning and unable to dive. Abdul Razak Baginda, whom I’ve known personally since mid-1993, was reportedly his aide. The Royal Malaysia Police personnel who were convicted of Altantuya’s murder were part of Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib’s security detail. Circumstantial it may be, but hardly the kind of shadow that a Prime Minister would want hanging over him. Also the odds for such a coincidence must be mind-boggling. Yet Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib has persistently refused to submit himself to inquiry. In the US, India or in any European country he would have had to resign and accept examination, but not so in Malaysia. There, Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib instead chose to swear upon the Holy Koran that he never knew Altantuya, in curious alternative to a judicial enquiry. Malaysia owes justice to Altantuya and her family, a justice that the country has yet to deliver. She should be alive and with her family in the grassland steppes of Mongolia; and not a pile of ashes in Malaysia. The attempt to blow up her body with C-4 shows that the idea was for her to ‘disappear’, never to be heard from again. The event of September 30 need not have been held in distant London. It should have been held in Malaysia. But the last SHERPA lawyer to visit Malaysia, William Bourdon, was unceremoniously deported by the Malaysian government. So Joseph Breham had to go to London. And perhaps there is something in that, as it was an English poet, Chaucer, who first wrote that, “murder will out”.

Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) was forced to file a complaint with the French authorities in Paris, frustrated by the Malaysian government’s blackout of key details on the price tag for the two Scorpene submarines ordered from ARMARIS (the joint venture between DCNI and THALES) in 2002. SUARAM is also working with Transparency International France to move a strong civil society campaign on such deals as they disadvantaged innocent taxpayers. It hopes that the French authorities will be able to shed light on whether there was any corruption in the Malaysian acquisition of the two Scorpene SSKs and a Agosta 70B training submarine. Malaysia is not the first Asian country where DCNS with the help of some top French leaders have bribed their way to a deal. However, in Malaysia, the initiative to recover taxpayers’ money has come from an NGO and not the government, where as in Taiwan, India and Pakistan, the respective federal administrations are the prime movers. Nonetheless, as in a similar case in Taiwan, the key to Malaysia’s purchase may hinge on a contractual clause that makes vendors liable to repay all bribes, plus associated interest and legal fees. Those familiar with international arms agreements believe this standard anti-corruption clause may be in the contracts governing the submarine sales to Malaysia, India and Pakistan.
Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense (MND) confirmed on July 12, 2011 that it had received the disbursement of more than US$875 million from France's THALES Group that complied with court orders to return the retro-commissions in relation to Taiwan's procurement of six La Fayette-class guided-missile frigates in the early 1990s. The MND said that the total payment also included legal fees, interest and other expenses arising from the deal with the French conglomerate which supplied the ROC Navy with six La Fayette-class frigates in 1991. The International Court of Arbitration under the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) had ruled in April 2010 that THALES Group had violated a clause in the La Fayette-class FFG purchase contract with Taiwan that articulately barred the payment of any commissions. THALES Group finalised the eventual decision to make the payment to Taiwan on a ruling of the Paris Court of Appeal on June 9, 2010. The court rejected the petition filed by the company to set aside the award handed down on May 3, 2010 in the arbitration against the Republic of China.
So far, MINDEF Malaysia has refused to disclose if such an anti-corruption clause exists in the deals. Even if the French authorities find sufficient grounds to take DCNS and their own leaders to court for corruption, at the Malaysian end, there is doubt that MINDEF Malaysia will push for the recovery of the huge amounts lost to Malaysian taxpayers. “We have to move a step at a time. The French investigations are ongoing and the probe could take another 2 to 3 months. The DCNS office being raided pertaining specifically to the Malaysian case was considered unusual by Parisian standards and has raised the eyebrows of many French media and corruption watchdogs. And that is why we had quite a bit of media attention when we were there,” said Cynthia Gabriel, SUARAM’s Executive Director. In 2002, Malaysia’s then Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had mooted the Scorpene SSK procurement programme in the Federal Cabinet, while Dato’ Sri Najib as Defence Minister had seconded the Scorpenes’ purchase. Even at that time, this proposal worried financial analysts because of the added burden to an already soaring national debt. But it was not until after 2006, after news broke that a beautiful Mongolian translator had been murdered in Malaysia and her body blown up with C-4 explosives that the scandal really unravelled. Highly embarrassing details emerged that until now the Govt of Malaysia has refused to acknowledge or to probe. These include high-level government tampering of immigration records to hide the entry of the 28-year old Altantuya Shaariibuu into Malaysia, the use of restricted military-grade explosives in her killing, the involvement of Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib's special aides Musa Safri and Nasir Safar, and the awarding of a side-deal worth €114 million to an obscure firm controlled by his friend Abdul Razak Baginda, who after his release, immediately decamped for Oxford University and apparently hasn’t set foot in Malaysia since. A private eye P Balasubramaniam (who has been residing in Chennai for the past two years in self-imposed exile) hired by Baginda to keep Altantuya from bothering him has since alleged that she was trying to collect her US$500,000 share of the commission for the Scorpenes’ purchase. Bala also linked the PM, his wife Datin Sri Rosmah Mansor and Baginda to her murder and the submarine procurement contract. Two former special bodyguards of Malaysian Prime Minister’s family have been found guilty and sentenced to hang for murdering Altantuya, but they only met her on the night of her death and two key questions were shunned by the judge in their trial--what was their motive and was there someone who ordered them to kill her?
L’Affaire Karachi:  The Incident Sarkozy Would Prefer to Forget
The Karachi bus attack occurred on May 8, 2002 when a suicide bomber stopped next to a bus containing French naval engineers from DCNI and local contract workers and blew both himself and the bus up. The explosion resulted in the deaths of 11 engineers and 2 Pakistanis. The engineers were in Pakistan to help the Pakistan Navy to finalise the design details for three Agosta 90B-class submarines that Pakistan had ordered. Both Pakistan and France were quick to pin the blame for the attack on al-Qaeda but as time went by it became apparent that the bombing was not orchestrated by al-Qaeda but most probably by Pakistani intelligence and military interests in retaliation for the French government’s decision to stop the payment of outstanding and occult commissions worth over $30 million to Pakistani officials who had helped France to land the submarine contract. That contract inked on September 21, 1994 involved the sale of three Agosta 90B SSKs. The deal was worth about $950 million and several very prominent and still active politicians were involved in it. The French Budget Minister at the time--the person responsible for overseeing the financial side of arms contracts--was no other than Nicolas Sarkozy, who had been appointed by Prime Minister Edouard Balladur. Balladur subsequently ran for President and was beaten by his arch-enemy Jacques Chirac in 1995. Chirac was aware of rumours that Balladur may have illegally received $2 million in kickbacks that were funnelled back to France to pay for his failed campaign and he got his revenge on Balladur by ordering covert inquiries into the rumours. More crucially, he also put an immediate stop to the commission payments to Pakistan. That decision is now widely believed to have led to Pakistani outrage, which resulted in the bombing as an act of revenge.
Although now outlawed by an international agreement, the paying of bribes in 1994 was legal and widespread to secure global arms sale agreements. In this case they were paid to high-ranking local intermediaries, and were staggered over a period of time. Chirac’s order to cancel the outstanding payments on the Agosta 90B deal has been confirmed in testimony by his then Defence Minister, Charles Millon, along with other witnesses. Millon said that Chirac was keen to purge immoral behaviour. The former French Defence Minister said he had an ‘intimate conviction’, following a review of the contract, that some of the vast sums of money set aside for bribes were actually re-routed back to France, via intermediaries and offshore structures. Unlike the payment of bribes to local intermediaries, which was then legal, it was illegal for bribe money to return to third parties in France. The mid-1990s were the final years of socialist President Francois Mitterand's long period in office (which comprised two terms, from 1981-1995). The Centre-Right opposition led by Jacques Chirac, head of the Gaullist Rassemblement pour la République (RPR) party, won the parliamentary elections in 1993. President Mitterrand was thus forced to have a government and Prime Minister from the political right. Chirac put forward his friend and ally Edouard Balladur as Prime Minister, allowing Chirac to concentrate on his campaign for the presidential elections in 1995. However, Balladur soon acquired presidential ambitions of his own and broke his agreement not to run against Chirac. This caused a bitter political split between the chiraquiens--Dominique de Villepin and Alain Juppe among them--and balladuriens, who included Nicolas Sarkozy. Balladur’s immediate problem was that he had no source of party funding to run his campaign; The RPR backed Chirac, not him. So he and his allies--who included thye then Defence Minister François Léotard as well as Budget Minister and government spokesman Sarkozy--had to search for alternative funds. On April 26, 1995 after Balladur was eliminated in the first of the election’s two rounds, FF10.25 million (about €1.5 million) were deposited into his campaign account in Paris in large denomination notes. One theory is that the money came from so-called ‘special funds’ that French Prime Ministers had access to at his time. These were significant chests of cash that were handed around ministries to be handed out as ministers and prime ministers so wished. The second theory--central to the Karachi affair--is that the money came from the retro-commissions linked to the sale of three Agosta 90B SSKs to Pakistan. During the 1990s, when the submarine sale was concluded, it was still legal for French firms to pay commissions--in reality bribes--to foreign dignitaries and decision-makers to persuade their countries to buy military equipment from France rather than another country. They could even be offset against taxes. This was widespread throughout Europe, and not limited to France. An OECD agreement among member-states in 2000 finally outlawed the practice. However, in 1994, it was already illegal for any of those commissions (i.e. paid to bribe local officials) to be channelled back into France. These are what are known as retro-commissions. In 1992, before Balladur became Prime Minister, France was negotiating to sell Pakistan the three Agosta 90B SSKs. By the summer of 1994, the deal was all but signed for a total value of €826 million (the value negotiated then in French Francs) or Rs101.5 billion, with commissions to Pakistan stipulated at 6.25% of the value of the total (€51.6 million or Rs6.5 billion), when at the last minute, the Balladur government brought in two Lebanese businessmen, Ziad Takieddin and Abdul Rehman El Assir (the latter reportedly a friend of both Asif Ali Zardari and the Pakistan Navy’s Chief of the Naval Staff at the time of the signing of the contract, Admiral Mansur-ul Haq), into the deal. The commissions were then upped by another 4% or €33 million, even though other commissions had already been authorised under the deal. The allegation is that these monies were channelled through ‘shell’ companies, at least one of which is said to have been set up under the direct supervision of then Budget Minister Nicolas Sarkozy. And that they were then used to fund Balladur’s election campaign. Takieddine describes Sarkozy as a ‘friend’.
Admiral Mansur-ul Haq and businessman Amir Lodhi were the two principal Pakistani intermediaries (prior to the entry of Takieddin and El Assir) in the Agosta 90B SSK contract. Admiral Haq has been identified as being the intermediary for the military end of the deal (the money reportedly destined to finance jihadi groups in Kashmir and the tribal regions of FATA, as well as to support ISI operations in Afghanistan), while Lodhi was reportedly acting for the Benazir Bhutto-Asif Zardari end of it. Irfan Qadir, the Prosecutor General for Pakistan’s National Accountability Bureau (NAB), has been quoted as saying that although the commissions were split between the two, Admiral Haq took the blame for Lodhi too.
Prior to the Karachi bus attack on May 8, 2002 a Pakistani employee of DCNI was mugged in Karachi in January 2002 and his mobile phone and briefcase containing details on DCNI employees in Pakistan were stolen. Two days later, a magnetic bomb was found under the car of a French diplomat in charge of Afghan affairs in Islamabad. The bomb was not only timed to go off 18 hours later, but was of such low intensity as to cause minimal damage--a warning in other words. Another incident cited as evidence of al-Qaeda not being involved is that the Pakistani head of a company (Ali Engineering Works) working with DCNI escaped to Baltimore after the attack because of threats from the ISI. However, the most convincing argument is on the basis of three confidential reports compiled as part of the DCNI’s own internal investigations into the attack. In fact, a great deal of the information, especially with respect to the details of the Agosta 90B contract and the names and roles of the intermediaries, is derived from these reports. The third report, dated September 2003, which was subsequently suppressed, is the most explicit in its conclusion that the attack was an act of revenge by the Pakistani ISI for non-payment of commissions. The report bases its conclusions on the fact that although the Saudi government did use its influence with Pakistan to mitigate the impact of the lost commissions, by 2002 there had been a change in Pakistani ground realities. Most pertinently, the Musharraf-led government, under pressure from the US, had started to crack down on various jihadi groups, thereby angering their sympathisers. The report suggests that these new realities, combined with the cancellation of the commissions and the fact that Admiral Mansur-ul Haq had been forced by NAB to return the illegally acquired money (leaving him without any funds to pass on), led the ISI to activate jihadi groups to attack the engineers.
In French political circles, almost immediately. Chirac’s camp knew that his rival Balladur had no party political funding and there were rumours that the latter’s campaign money came via arms deal commissions. In 1995, the newly-elected President Chirac ordered the examination of arms deal commission payments authorised when Balladur was Prime Minister. Chirac ordered that the payments be immediately halted in those where retro-commissions were found or believed to be involved. He also took the precaution to request the Saudi government to intercede with the Pakistani establishment and smooth matters over. Chirac’s camp has presented this as an attempt to clean up public life. However, Chirac’s own track record suggests probity was far from the top of his agenda. What has been widely suggested in the media and by a number of politicians, but unproven, is that it was a bid to cut off the funds of the man who had betrayed him and who could otherwise continue to represent a political threat. There is the opinion of the French Constitutional Council’s own investigators about the dubious provenance of the FF10.25 million that Balladur’s campaign received in cash. If the money did not come from campaign rallies, where did it come from? In January 2010, Luxembourg Police said that some of the funds that had passed through a shell company in the Duchy in 1995 came back into France to finance French political campaigns.
The main investigation into the Karachi bombing murders is led by French judge Marc Trevedic. His is a murder investigation, for under French law the deaths of French nationals abroad can be investigated--and those charged eventually tried--in France. The relatives of the engineers are civil parties to the case. His line of inquiry is that the bomb attack was a reprisal for the scrapping by Jacques Chirac’s government of retro-commissions linked to the Agosta 90B SSK sale. He has ruled out, for lack of evidence, the previously officially-supported theory that it was carried out by al-Qaeda, even though it claimed responsibility for it. The two men sentenced to death in Pakistan for the atrocity have since been acquitted. Importantly, and fuelling suspicions of a cover-up, Trévidic has been refused access to official French documents on the grounds that they are classified as secret for national defence interests. He has also been denied access to transcriptions of the hearings of a parliamentary enquiry into the Karachi bombing in a move organised by the Chairman of the Assembly’s Defence Commission, Guy Teissier, an MP from Sarkozy’s ruling UMP party.
A second inquiry is being led by French judge Renaud Van Ruymbeke. He is investigating the financial background, and specifically whether retro-commissions from the Agosta 90B deal served to fund a political cause. His investigation was launched in spite of opposition from the prosecution authorities in Paris. The prosecution authorities ultimately answer to political masters. As part of the judiciary the investigative judges--also called examining magistrates--are independent. The prosecutor’s office launched an appeal to have Van Ruymbeke’s case quashed on grounds of legal technicalities. According to a January 2010 report by Luxembourg Police, the creation of a Luxembourg company called Heine in late 1994 was supervised and approved ‘directly’ by Sarkozy, who was then Budget Minister. This ‘shell’ company is said to have been used to channel commissions from the Agosta 90B deal. Between 2004 and 2006 the former boss of this company, Jean-Marie Boivin, tried to blackmail the then French government, demanding €8 million in return for silence over what he knew about the retro-commission payments. One of the letters was sent to Sarkozy. Boivin also went to see Sarkozy’s former law firm partner. Boivin claims that on October 26, 2006 he received a visit from two former intelligence agency officials, and was physically threatened. Boivin says they were sent by Nicolas Sarkozy, then the Interior Minister. This was just months before Sarkozy stood in and won the 2007 presidential elections. As President, Sarkozy has promised to help the Karachi victims’ families find justice. But they complain bitterly of the obstacles preventing the investigation from advancing properly, notably the official refusals to hand over information to the judge. Sarkozy has dismissed the allegations about his involvement as ‘preposterous and a fairytale’.
The Karachi scandal could haunt Nicolas Sarkozy for the rest of his presidency. This in turn could have a knock-on effect on his likelihood of getting re-elected as President in 2012. If Sarkozy were found to be implicated in illegal party funding then he could not be prosecuted while in office, because of presidential immunity. But the prosecution of anyone close to Sarkozy over the affair would be politically damaging, not to say politically fatal for him. The Karachi affair has also re-opened political wounds on the right between the balladuriens and the chiraquiens. However, whether the engineers’ families will ever learn the whole truth about the retro-commissions and exactly why they were murdered in May 2002 remains open to doubt.—Prasun K. Sengupta