Total Pageviews

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

PAF Gearing Up For Its Four ZDK-03 AEW & CS

As far as force modernisation of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) goes, 2010 was an extremely good year. The roll-out ceremony of first Shaanxi ZDK-03 ‘Karakoram Eagle’ airborne early warning and control (AEW & C) aircraft designed specifically by CETC for the PAF was held in Hanzhong, Shaanxi, on November 13 last year. The ceremony, which was attended by the PAF’s Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Rao Qamar Suleman, coincided with President Asif Ali Zardari's visit to China--his sixth since assuming the position in 2008. It may be recalled that the PAF had inked a US$278 million contract in December 2008 with CETC for the joint development of four ZDK-03s, which are due for delivery in the first quarter of next year. In a parallel procurement effort, the PAF has also become the first customer for the Saab 2000 AEW & C platform. The Skr6.9 billion order for these four platforms was placed in June 2006 under Project Horizon, but the contract was renegotiated in May 2007 and its value was reduced by Skr1.35 billion. The first aircraft was delivered on December 8, 2009, with the second following on April 24 April last year. Also being delivered are up to six ground receiving stations. Saab will provide an integrated logistics system (ILS) for these four aircraft for a 35-year period. It is believed that the PAF has procured the four Saab 2000 AEW & C platforms with Saudi financial assistance and in return the PAF will train the Royal Saudi Air Force to operate the latter’s three Saab 2000 AEW & C platforms, which were ordered last June under a $680 million contract.

The four ZDK-03s will be employed by the PAF specifically for directing and managing the air campaigns waged by the PAF’s fleet of Mirage IIIPs and Mirage VPs, JF-17 Thunder, F-7PG and (in future) FC-20 MRCAs. The four Saab 2000 AEW & C platforms, on the other hand, will be employed for directing and managing the air campaigns waged by the PAF’s fleet of Lockheed Martin-built Block 52 F-16A/B/C/D MRCAs and the Mirage IIIPs and Mirage VPs.—Prasun K. Sengupta

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Ambitious Upgrade Plans For IAF Jaguars

At about the same time as the mid-life upgrade of the Indian Air Force’s (IAF) first 50 Su-30MKIs commences, a parallel service life-extension programme (SLEP) involving the IAF’s 120 existing SEPECAT/HAL-built Jaguar IS/IM interdictor/maritime strike aircraft will get underway at Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd’s (HAL) Bangalore-based facilities. This follows a fatigue analysis done by the IAF, which has estimated that the Jaguars could remain operational for another 25 years--till 2030. As part of the SLEP, the Jaguars will be re-engined and re-equipped with a fourth-generation combined cockpit/mission avionics suite along with a related defensive aids suite, all of which will result in the twin-engined Jaguar IS being reborn as a formidable all-weather platform with enhanced technical service life, enhanced weapons carriage capability (especially precision-guided munitions, or PGM), and also a platform capable of undertaking dedicated suppression of enemy air defence (SEAD) missions.

It was in January 2009 that IAF HQ set up a high-level systems evaluation committee whose first task was be to identify a suitable turbofan for the re-engining component of the massive upgrade-cum-SLEP. The engine evaluation-sum-selection process was overseen by K V L Rao, the former Project Director (propulsion systems) of the Defence Research & Development Organisation’s (DRDO) Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), which is leading the R & D efforts of the Tejas Mk1 and projected Mk2 light combat aircraft (LCA). Bidding for supplying up to 280 turbofans (including 40 spare engines) are UK-based Rolls-Royce and US-based Honeywell Aerospace, with the competitive evaluation process being expected to reach its conclusion by next month. Honeywell is offering its F125IN, a 43.8kN thrust (with afterburning) turbofan, while Rolls-Royce, whose Adour Mk811 (rated at 32.5kN thrust with afterburning) presently powers the Jaguars, has proposed its Adour Mk821 turbofan. Honeywell Aerospace, which first showcased the F125IN at the Aero India 2009 expo in Bangalore, claims that its proposed solution boasts “improved pilot safety, lower maintenance costs and outstanding reliability”, and will result in more than Rs70 billion (US$1.5 billion) in reduced life-cycle costs. The company also proudly labels the F125IN as being a moduler ‘drop-fit’ design that requires no airframe structural modifications, and it had demonstrated this to the IAF in May 2009.

Honeywell Aerospace has also since claimed that the Rolls-Royce/Turbomeca Adour Mk821 will be 83.9kg (185lb) heavier than the current Adour Mk811 engines. The proven and mass-produced F125IN, in comparison, is 267.6kg (590lb) lighter, while offering between 17% and 40% higher thrust, thereby offering the Jaguar a 2-tonne (4,400lb) payload increase. In addition, Honeywell Aerospace asserts that F125IN-powered Jaguars will see a 23% reduction in takeoff distance, faster climb to 6,090 metres (20,000 feet) without utilising afterburners, and 36% extended range due to improved specific fuel consumption and reduced usage of afterburners. Also, the F125IN has been claimed to improve combat survivability by incorporating an auto restart feature while airborne. In contrast, claims Honeywell, the Adour turbofans need to be manually restarted. A dual full authority digital engine control (FADEC) capability with automatic back-up operating modes (like continuous diagnostics/engine monitoring system, and fault detection logic) dramatically reduces pilot workload, according to Honeywell Aerospace. The proven thrust retention of the F125IN (more than 98% after being overhauled) together with future growth potential easily appears to overshadow the Adour Mk821, whose original design is 50 years old, has no margin for growth, asserts Honeywell Aerospace.

Rolls-Royce, on the other hand, claims that its Mk821, which is built on the proven technology of the preceeding Adour engines, offers the lowest-risk re-engining route to the twin benefits of greater thrust and lower life-cycle costs. According to the aero-engine manufacturer, choosing the Mk821 will also offer a high degree of commonality with the Adour Mk951 turbofan that currently powers the BAE Systems/HAL Hawk Mk132 lead-in fighter trainers now in delivery to the IAF. Rolls-Royce too demonstrated the successfull installation and ground-testing of an Adour Mk821 in an ex-Royal Air Force Jaguar at Cosford, UK, in 2009, which was witnessed by an IAF officias. During these tests the Adour Mk821 ran at full reheat and reportedly passed all performance targets set down by the IAF. Rolls-Royce says usage of the ‘drop-fit’ Adour Mk821 will result in 30% reduced life-cycle costs, resulting in life-cycle cost savings to the IAF of more than $2 billion. Thrust ratings over the Jaguar’s existing Adour Mk811 are increased by 20%. The Adour Mk821 also retains 90% commonality with the Adour Mk951 (rated at 6,500lb thrust and featuring 4,000 hours time-between-overhauls and dual FADEC) of the IAF’s Hawk Mk132s, which will result in minimal Adour Mk821-related ground crew training time and reduced acquisitions of new ground engineering hardware.

As far as the to-be-upgraded Jaguar IS’ cockpit/mission avionics go, HAL in February 2009 had revealed a prototype DARIN-3 navigation-and-attack suite, which includes an all-glass cockpit, HOTAS controls, core avionics computer, new-generation stores management system and digital map generator, wide-angle HUD, and an integrated defensive aids suite (IDAS) now being co-developed by the DRDO’s Defence Avionics Research Establishment (DARE) and Cassidian (formerly EADS Defence Electronics). The IDAS will include a radar/laser warning receiver, full multi-spectral detection-capable missile approach warning system, EW jammer pod, and possibly a fibre-optic towed-decoy. Once a threat has been detected, located, and identified by the on-board radar warning receiver, a jamming signal will be generated by the towed-decoy by using a techniques generator based on digital-RF-memory (DRFM) components, which will produce a full range of noise and deception signals between 4.5GHz and 18GHz. The RF signal will then be converted into modulated laser pulses and transmitted down the 100 metre-long fibre-optic cable to the decoy, which will contain a transmitter. For engaging in all-weather precision strikes as part of effects-based air operations, the upgraded Jaguar IS will likely be equipped with two pod-mounted sensors: the 196kg EL/M-20600 radar targetting pod (RTP) from Israel Aerospace Industries’ (IAI) ELTA Systems Division, and RAFAEL Advanced Defence Systems’ Litening-3SU laser designator pod. The former integrates synthetic aperture radar (SAR) imaging, ground moving target indication (GMTI) and precision target tracking into a single sensor. The RTP thus provides high-quality radar images of ground targets and terrain from standoff ranges, even through clouds, rain, fog, battlefield smoke and man-made camouflage, thus also catering for immediate post-strike bomb damage assessment (BDA). Also being considered for integration is the RAFAEL-built RecceLite pod.

For undertaking SEAD missions, the upgraded Jaguar IS will be equipped with twin wide-band jammers and up to four high-speed anti-radiation missiles of an as yet undetermined type. Four integrated EW escort jammers-cum-decoy systems are on offer to the IAF from Raytheon, BAE Systems, IAI/ELTA and RAFAEL. Raytheon’s ALQ-184(V)9 comes along with is a scab-fit unit of four ALE-50 expendable towed-decoys that are added to the aft end of the pod. The ALE-50 comprises a launch controller, launcher and towed-decoy. The decoy protects the host aircraft against radar-guided missiles by providing a more attractive target and seducing them away from the aircraft. Technique coordination between the two systems is managed by an advanced correlation processor (ACP). The ACP makes the decision between the ALQ-184(V)9’s and ALE-50’s threat responses in order to employ the most effective counter to the threat. Raytheon is now developing an infra-red (IR) towed-decoy to expand the capability of both ALE-50 and ALQ-184(V)9 to provide equally effective protection against both RF and IR threats. To provide space for the ALE-50 launch controller and four-decoy launcher, the current low-band controller is modernised and made field programmable by conversion of twelve 1970s vintage circuit cards into two 1990s technology circuit cards. The two-card low-band modification improves MTBF to the degree that the addition of ALE-50 LRUs are completely offset and the resultant ALQ-184(V)9’s MTBF is better than the basic pod. BAE Systems, on the other hand, is offering the reusuable ALE-55 fibre-optic towed-decoy along with the ALQ-184(V)9.

IAI/ELTA’s EL/L-8251 jamming pod offers automatic functionality (with minimal pilot intervention), wide spatial coverage, additional internal power (via an integral ram-air turbine), an advanced receiver channel that provides a high degree of time/frequency selectivity to facilitate effective functionality in dense emitter environments, high threat detection sensitivity, quick and reliable threat identification and accurate direction-finding, an advanced exciter that supports fast response times, simultaneous jamming of multiple threats (using independent directional outputs), a wide array of travelling wave tube or solid-state amplifier multi-beam array transmitters that provide highly directional outputs with augmented effective radiated power, an easy-to-programme fast-loading user-defined file generator, full mission event data recording (for operational and maintenance purposes), a mission debriefing capability that makes use of a personal computer-based mission event replay tool, and an integral built-in test capability. RAFAEL’s Sky Shield escort EW jammer comes equipped with solid-state multi-beam array transmitters and digital receivers required for jamming many threats, while simultaneously transmitting sophisticated jamming signals against different threats and in different directions. RAFAEL’s X-Guard active towed-decoy lures the attacking air combat/surface-to-air missiles away from the protected platform by creating an attractive false target signal which diverts the homing missile from the platform. The X-Guard is designed to defeat advanced tracking techniques, including monopulse and look-on receive-only (LORO) techniques. The decoy is retrievable and can be deployed several times during a mission.

A wide range of PGMs are presently being evaluated by the IAF for the upgraded Jaguar IS, including the AASM from SAGEM (belonging to France’s SAFRAN Group), Raytheon’s JSOW, MBDA’s Diamond Back, Israel Military Industries’ (IMI) modular standoff vehicle (MSOV) and Delilah multi-role cruise missile, and Raytheon’s Paveway 4 and IAI’s Griffin-3 laser-guided bombs. Raytheon, meanwhile, is integrating its munitions control unit (MCU) on an IAF Jaguar IS testbed. The MCU is a plug-and-play system that enables integration of modern weapons on legacy aircraft with minimal modifications to aircraft wiring and no changes to the flight and stores management software. Once the MCU is integrated on an aircraft, aircrews can employ both existing standofff PGMs and air combat missiles while using the aircraft’s existing weapons management system. Raytheon began integrating its MCU on the Jaguar IS in the second quarter of 2009 and plans to finish the work in less than 24 months. For self-protection, a wide range of within visual range air combat missiles are available to the IAF, these including RAFAEL’s Python 5 (already on board the Jaguar IM), Raytheon’s AIM-9X, DIEHL/BGT’s Iris-T, and MBDA’s AIM-132 ASRAAM. Of these, though, only MBDA together with its partners Elbit Systems (supplier of the Dash V helmet-mounted sight) and Cobham (provider of the Jaguar overwing missile launcher, or JOWL) has to date succeeded in integrating the AIM-132 ASRAAM with the Jaguar IS.—Prasun K. Sengupta

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Arjun Mk2 MBT Emerges

For all intents and purposes, the Arjun Mk2 main battle tank (MBT)—currently under development since mid-2007--will be more expensive and have a higher imported content than its predecessor, the Arjun Mk1. But in terms of mobility, protection and firepower, the Mk2 variant will come closest to what Indian Army HQ wants: an MBT with highly enhanced crew protection and maximum survivability in high-intensity, fire-saturated combat environments. To achieve this, the Defence Research and Development Organisation’s (DRDO) Avadi-based Combat Vehicles Research and Development Establishment (CVRDE) has roped in both Israel Military Industries (IMI) and Elbit Systems of Israel, with the former being responsible for improving the existing Arjun Mk1’s design plus mobility and fuel consumption, redesigning and modifying the various components of the MBT’s hull and turret, and providing consultancy for improving production-line processes. Elbit Systems, on the other hand, will enhance the MBT’s firepower and its accuracy, and provide survivability systems and air-conditioning hardware. The existing Arjun Mk1 MBT, which was formally inducted into the Army’s 75 Armoured Regiment on March 12, comes powered by a MTU 838Ka-501 diesel engine (rated at 1,400hp) coupled to a RENK RK-304A transmission, and can achieve a maximum speed of 70kph (43mph) and a cross-country speed of 40kph (25mph). A total of 124 Mk1 variants are on order, and will be followed by 124 Mk2 variants, which were ordered by Army HQ on May 17 last year. The Arjun Mk2 will incorporate a total of 93 upgrades, including 13 major improvements. Rollout of the first prototype will take place by this June, and by 2013, the first 30 production-standard Arjun Mk2s will roll out from the Avadi-based, Ministry of Defence-owned Heavy Vehicles Factory (HVF).

Work on developing the Arjun Mk2 began in the second half of 2007 soon after joint R & D contracts were inked between the CVRDE and the consortium of IMI and Elbit Systems. On October 31 that year, the CVRDE floated domestic and global expressions of interest for the co-development of a 1,500hp compact high specific power output diesel engine incorporating a state-of-the-art direct fuel injection system, digital electronic controls, turbo-charging, charge air cooling, safety controls and a pressurised multi-stage air-cleaning system; and for a hydro-kinetic automatic transmission with four forward and two reverse gears. Respondents to the CVRDE included Finland-based Wartsila (offering its V8X-1500 1,500hp hyperbar diesel engine coupled with either SESM of France’s ESM-500 transmission or US-based Detroit Diesel Allison’s X-1100-3B transmission), US-based General Dynamics Land Systems offering the EuroPowerPack comprising MTU of Germany's MT-883 engine along with RENK's HSWL-295TM transmission, UK-based Perkins proposing its CV12 Condor diesel engine coupled to the ESM-500 transmission, and US-based Cummins offering a customised QSK-38 liquid-cooled, direct-injection engine coupled to the ESM-500. In late 2009, a combination of the QSK-38/ESM-500 powerpack was selected as the winner, following which Cummins India began customising this powerpack design. The ESM-500 automatic transmission, with five forward and two reverse gears, contains a planetary gearbox with shifting, steering and braking systems. It is also equipped with a hydrodynamic steering system, which allows different turning radii depending on engine speed and selected gear. The braking system contains of two stages. As a parking brake and for a speed of up to 35kph air cooled disk brakes are used. At higher speeds a retarder is used. In addition, the transmission is equipped with a power takeoff for the cooling fans of the powerpack. Also, a hydrokinetic retarder can slow the MBT down at a decelleration rate of 7 metres/square second (0.7g), which can be very useful at the last moment before it could be hit. Supplementing this powerpack will be an indigenously developed auxiliary power unit (APU), which will provide power when the MBT is on ‘silent watch’ for battery recharging and night observation, with full systems operating while the main engine is shut down.

For ensuring MBT survivability, the Defence Metallurgical Research Laboratory (DMRL)—located in Kanchanabagh, Hyderabad—has developed a Mk2 variant of its Kanchan modular armour, which was made by sandwiching composite panels (ceramic, alumina, fibre-glass and nickel-alloy) between rolled homogenous armour (RHA) plates to defeat APFDS or HEAT rounds. At the same time, the DRDO’s Pune-based Composites Research Centre (CRC) and the Research and Development Establishment, Engineers [R & D E(E)], have developed multi-layered multi-functional fibre-reinforced polymer (FRP) composite hull/turret sub-structures at much lower weights in comparison with metallic counterparts. More than 40 per cent weight savings over steel hull structures have been achieved. Also developed for the Arjun Mk2 is co-cured composites integral armour (CIA), which comprises ceramic tiles and rubber sandwiched between two FRP composites layers. While the outer FRP composite layer acts as a cover and provides confinement, the ceramic layer provides primary protection against ballistic impact, and the inner FRP composite layer acts as the structural part as well as secondary energy absorbing mechanism. The rubber layer isolates stiff and brittle ceramic tiles from structural member.

The CVRDE, with IMI’s help, has also redesigned the Arjun Mk1’s turret to incorporate modular sloped armour fittings, and has developed a slat-armour package to protect the MBT against anti-tank rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) attacks. It functions by placing a rigid barrier around the vehicle, which causes the shaped-charge warhead to explode at a relatively safe distance. For protecting the Arjun Mk2 against tandem-charge RPGs and guided anti-tank missiles, the CVRDE and IMI have co-developed a lightweight non-energetic reactive armour (NERA) package, comprising tiles in which two metal plates sandwich an inert liner, such as rubber. When struck by a shaped-charge’s metal jet, some of the impact energy is dissipated into the inert liner layer, and the resulting high-pressure causes a localised bending or bulging of the plates in the area of the impact. As the plates bulge, the point of jet impact shifts with the plate-bulging, increasing the effective thickness of the armour.

For ensuring fool-proof protection against new-generation anti-armour guided-missiles, the Arjun Mk2 will incorporate both multi-threat warning sensors and an active protection system (APS). The former, supplied by Elbit Systems, comprises four E-LWS sensors that can detect, categorise and pinpoint laser sources, including rangefinders, designators, beam-riders, and infra-red illuminators. E-LWS also enables direction indication for all threats, as well as audio and visual warnings. It is immune to reflection, gunfire, lightning, fire and self-electro-optical operations. The Iron Fist APS, being supplied by IMI, uses two fixed radar sensors to detect potential threats and measures distance and trajectory for providing the APS’ fire-control system (FCS) with data for calculation of engagement plans. The FCS uses two ELTA Systems-built conformal, distributed radars and an infra-red sensor called Tandir, developed by Elbit Systems. When a threat is identified as imminent, an explosive projectile interceptor is launched toward it from either of the two twin-tube rotating launchers housing fin-stabilised launch cannisters. The interceptor, shaped similar to a small mortar bomb, is designed to defeat the threat even when flying in very close proximity. Iron Fist can handle multiple targets simultaneously with different intercept methods, including multiple countermeasures fired at two simultaneous threats at the same sector. Unlike other systems, the Iron Fist uses only the blast effect to defeat the threat, crushing the soft components of a shaped-charge or deflecting and destabilising the guided-missile or kinetic rod in their flight. The interceptor is made of combustible materila, and is fully consumed in the explosion. Without the risk of shrapnel, the Iron Fist APS thus provides an effective, close-in protection for MBTs operating in dense, urban environment. Finally, a mobile camouflage system has been developed and integrated into the Arjun Mk2 in collaboration with Sweden’s Barracuda Camouflage Ltd to reduce the vehicle’s signature against all known sensors and smart munitions.

For enhancing structural survivability and firing accuracy, the Arjun Mk2 will do away with the existing electro-hydraulic turret control system (which is susceptible to impact damage and can cause a fire hazard) and will instead use a totally electronic modular electric gun and turret drive stabilisation (EGTDS) system supplied by Elbit Systems. The EGTDS uses azimuth/elevation motor drives with extremely rapid response time, low-voltage power, stabilised modes of operation, and manual back-up drives in both elevation and traverse. A motor drive-control unit transforms the power supply into two 3-phase systems. These supply and control the servo motors for alignment, stabilisation and slave mode of the turret/wea­pon according to the input signals of the sensors, control handles and active sight. The system assures increased safety since it eliminates the need for the hazardous, highly flammable hydraulic fluids. In addition, it offers smooth tracking at all speeds for very heavy turrets and guns and at extreme turret gun positions, while low power consumption leads to low infra-red signature as well as low-noise levels.

The Arjun Mk2 will also incorporate a brand-new Elbit-designed Commander’s panoramic sight (CAPS)--a dual axis stabilised line-of-sight, remote-operated, periscopic system for independent target acquisition, battlefield surveillance and main gun firing in a ‘hunter-killer’ auto-track mode. The CAPS will use a SAGEM-built Matis-STD thermal imager that operates in the 3-5 micron bandwidth, while the gunner’s sight will employ a THALES-built Catherine-FC thermal imager (operating in the 8-12 micron bandwidth. The Arjun Mk2’s turret will also housed an integrated battle management system (BMS) designed by Elbit Systems (and licence-built by Bharat Electronics Ltd), which provides rapid communications networking between the tactical tank commander and his subordinate units. It will enable the tank commander to plan missions, navigate, and continuously update situational awareness. The system will also record data for operational debriefing by using a digital data recorder, which will record and restore sight images and observation data collected during missions. This data can be shared with other elements, using the same network with the BMS, to report enemy targets. Such a concept is rapidly becoming an essential part of the digitised land forces integrated battlefield concept, combining MBTs, anti-armour teams, and attack helicopters in combined arms operations.

The Arjun Mk2’s loader will be able to load the 120mm rifled-bore main gun from a fully automated, fire-proof magazine, which will accommodate up to 10 ready rounds and deliver up to four types of ammunition types to the loader. In  addition to APFSDS and HESH rounds, the Arjun Mk2 will make use of IMI-built APAM munitions designed to neutralise—especially in urban built-up terrain--tank-killer squads lurking with lethal anti-tank weapons. The APAM uses the proven concept of anti-personnel munitions based on controlled fragmentation. It deploys sub-munition shrapnel at defined intervals, covering a wide lethal area against soft targets. Each fragment is shaped to have enough kinetic energy to penetrate conventional body armour, or other materials. Also going on board the Arjun Mk2 is the laser-guided LAHAT anti-armour/anti-helicopter round, whose Israel Aerospace Industries-built target designator will be integrated with the MBT’s fire-control system. The tandem warhead-equipped LAHAT has a range of 8km when launched from a ground platform, and up to 13km, when deployed from high elevation. The missile has a 0.7 metre CEP when hitting its target at an angle of 30 degrees. Using the semi-active laser homing guidance method, LAHAT can be designated by the MBT’s gunner or through external designation from ground, mobile, or airborne observers. Firing the round requires minimal exposure in the firing position, and can be directed through the CAPS by only maintaining line--of-sight during missile flight. The missile’s trajectory can be preselected for either top attack (against MBT) or direct attack (against helicopter) engagement.

For improving crew comfort, the Arjun Mk2 will incorporate an Elbit Systems-supplied individual crew and equipment cooling system (ICECS), while will provide cooled and dried air from a special air conditioner to air-cooled overalls or vests. The air will naturally cool the upper torso of each crewman. Also being acquired from Elbit through a transfer-of-technology agreement for the MBT crew are regular/fire-resistant air-cooled overalls, NBC protected air-cooled overalls, and air-cooled compact vests. As for tank tracks, the Arjun Mk2 will, just like the Mk1, make use of Germany-based Diehl Remscheid’s DST 570V tracks, whose basic components, like the track links, sprocket wheels, guide wheels, running rollers, support rollers, running pads, traction aids, connectors, bolts, mono block-body with integral centre guide, rubberised track pads, and grouser, are all being licence-built by Larsen & Toubro.

Canada-based CAE’s Bengaluru-based CAE India Pvt Ltd subsidiary is presently designing a comprehensive suite of Arjun Mk2 MBT training systems to enhance its combat effectiveness by offering systematic training in a real-time environment through advanced simulation techniques. Earlier, in 2009 CAE India Pvt Ltd had delivered the initial suite of Arjun Mk1 training systems to efficiently and cost-effectively train the driver, gunner and commander. CAE’s suite of Arjun Mk1 training systems currently offers standalone training for the driver and gunner; turret-level training for the gunner and commander; integrated MBT-level training for the gunner, commander and driver; and troop-level training by networking Arjun Mk1 simulators to rehearse troop tactics, movement and joint operations. The Arjun Mk1’s driver trainer provides ab-initio driving and procedural training to individual drivers. Mounted on a six degree-of-freedom (DoF) motion platform, the driver trainer emulates the MBT’s interior cabin with all driver station controls. CAE is also developing a desktop-based Arjun classroom trainer for procedural and familiarisation training. CAE has also developed a comprehensive suite of Arjun Mk1 gunnery training devices to train personnel as they develop gunnery skills and rehearse for target identification, tracking, lasing, and firing drills. CAE’s suite of gunnery trainers includes two separate types and levels of training devices. The desktop gunnery procedures trainer, also called the Agastya simulator, supports initial training in handling the gunner station and firing procedures. The trainee uses MBT-specific controls just like in the actual MBT for familiarisation and procedural training. The turret simulator replicates the interior of the gunner’ and commander’ stations of the MBT. Mounted on a six-DoF motion platform, the turret simulator features a 220-degree by 40-degree open-hatch visual display to provide trainees with the high-fidelity visual cues required for gunnery training.

All Arjun Mk1 training systems can be networked to provide initial and continuation training to the commanders, gunners and drivers at the individual-, crew-, and troop-levels. Along with developing individual skills, the driver and turret simulators create a team environment to support the development of crew teamwork, coordination and tactical skills, decision-making and planning, and crew communications. Through effective training and rehearsal of these skills, the crew can thus improve its proficiency in working as a team and as part of an entire troop during combat operations. The MBT training systems include CAE’s Medallion-6000 visual system with a detailed and realistic external environment view of actual MBT operations, sound simulation system that produces sounds heard during MBT operations and in synchronisation with the motion and visual cues in the training device, simulation host system for software management and software sub-systems that simulate MBT behaviour in real-time operations, content rich geo-specific databases, instructor stations to conduct training exercises and offer evaluation solutions, interface electronic units (IEU) that provide links between MBT crew controls and simulation software, and networking to connect the Arjun Mk1 driving and turret simulators. The training systems provide instructors with an intuitive, easy-to-use interface that enables the set-up of lesson parameters and trainee exercises, monitoring of the progress of the exercise, and full exercise control. The instructor can select the scenario (including target designation), insert malfunctions, and record and replay the exercise. Furthermore, the instructor is able to access the same views as the trainee, such as control of own and enemy tracks. Gunner’s training exercises can be conducted both in plains and desert terrain to include bore sighting, calibration, static tank to static target, static tank to moving target, moving tank to static target, moving tank to moving target, and moving tank to moving target firing practices. The Arjun Mk1 training systems can also be fitted in air-conditioned ISO containers that can be easily transported to different training locations or in-theatre. They can also be modified with minimum adjustments for use with any infantry combat vehicle (ICV) gun, self-propelled artillery , present day tank guns and normal field artillery. The DRDO, meanwhile, has developed a software package called Visualisation with Enhanced Digital Elevation Model and Soil Profile Analysis for MBT Arjun Simulator (VEDSAR) to simulate the MBT’s performance in different kinds of terrain. It uses data from ISRO’s Cartosat-1A remote-sensing satellite, and is helping in building a new project named Vehicular Interaction with Soil for Trafficability Assessment and Route-decision Aid (VISTAR), which will provide the Army with information on the shortest possible distance between two points, and the kind of obstacles present on the terrain.—Prasun K. Sengupta

Monday, April 18, 2011

Pakistan Buys UCAVs, SSKs, FAC-Ms From China

Islamabad and Beijing inked two new military procurements contracts during the December 17-19 visit to Islamabad of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao last year, which included the purchase of 20 CH-3 unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAV) and FT-5 small-diameter bombs for the Pakistan Army’s Aviation Corps, and the first two of up to six Type 022 Hobei-class catamarans for the Pakistan Navy (PN). The CH-3 is a medium-altitude long endurance (MALE) unmanned platform developed by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp (CASC). It comes equipped with a belly-mounted turret housing optronic sensors, and twin wing-mounted hardpoints for carrying two 75kg FT-5s. The CASC claims that the CH-3 is capable of battlefield reconnaissance, fire adjustment, data relay, intelligence collection, ground-strike missions and electronic warfare missions. The MALE-UCAV has a cruising speed of 220kph, 12-hour maximum endurance, and a 200km communications radius. The FT-5 small-diameter bomb contains a 35kg (77lb) warhead, and has a circular error probability of 15 metres, or less than 50 feet. Its effective glide range is up to 5km (3.1 miles) when launched from the CH-3 UAV. The other members of the FT family--the 500kg (1,100lb) FT-1, 500kg FT-2 with gliding fins, and 250kg (550lb) FT-3 bombs--are all GPS-guided and have already been ordered for the Pakistan Air Force’s JF-17 Thunder multi-role combat aircraft.

Meanwhile, determined to maintain its qualitative superiority in undersea warfare over its Indian counterpart, the Pakistan Navy (PN) has embarked on an ambitious force modernisation programme in partnership with DCNS of France and the China State Shipbuilding Industrial Corp (CSIC). Presently, the Karachi-based state-owned Pakistan Navy Dockyard, with DCNS’ assistance, is cutting open the pressure hull of the PN’s first of two double-hulled Agosta 90B diesel-electric submarines (SSK)—the 2,083-tonne PNS Khalid—so that it can accommodate a module containing the DCNS-supplied Module d’Energie Sous-Marine Autonome (MESMA) air-independent propulsion (AIP) system. Installation work is due for completion by the year’s end, following which the PN’s second Agosta 90B SSK—PNS Saad, will be subjected to an identical refit next year. The PNS Khalid was commissioned into service on 21 December 21, 1999, while PNS Saad--the first Agosta 90B SSK to be licence-assembled at the Pakistan Navy Dockyard under a Transfer of Technology (ToT) agreement with DCNS, was commissioned on December 13, 2003. The third Agosta 90B SSK--PNS Hamza--was commissioned on September 26, 2008 and it was fitted from the outset with a MESMA module, thereby becoming the first SSK in South Asia to be equipped with an operational AIP system.
With CSIC, the PN early last month inked a contract under which the CSIC’s Wuhan-based Wuchang Shipyard will supply six Type 041A Improved Yuan-class SSKs, all of which will be equipped with a Stirling-cycle AIP system. The double-hulled Type 041A 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 at Wuhan Shipyard on September 9 last year, and a total of three such SSKs are on order from China’s PLA Navy. This development effectively puts an end to the PN’s three-year-old efforts to procure new-generation SSKs worth US$1.2 billion from either France or Germany. It may be recalled that France had in July 2006 cleared DCNS to offer three single-hulled Marlin-class SSKs to Pakistan, but matters did not proceed further as the PN had been insisting that the to-be-acquired SSKs be modified to fire Boeing-built RGM-84A Harpoon ant-ship cruise missiles (the three existing Agosta 90B and two 1,043-tonne Agosta 70 SSKs of the PN are presently configured to fire only the MBDA-built SM-39 Exocet anti-ship missile). Subsequently, from 2008 onwards the PN zeroed in on the single-hulled Class 214 SSK built by Germany’s Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft (HDW), but the balance tilted in favour of CSIC early this year when Beijing offered the Improved Yuan SSK, something that the PN’s Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Noman Basheer and Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari have since wholeheartedly embraced. However, in an effort to mollify the French, a high-level PN delegation visited France on April 27 last year to begin contract negotiations with DCNS concerning the upgrading of the PN’s two existing Agosta 70 SSKs. This contract was inked last June, and includes the installation of SUBTICS combat management systems on the two SSKs.

The AIP system for the Type 041A Improved Yuan 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 Type 041A 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.—Prasun K. Sengupta

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

M-MRCA Competition: The Final Faceoff

The Indian Air Force (IAF) earlier this month completed Phase 6 of the eight-phase process of acquiring some 220 medium multi-role combat aircraft (M-MRCA) and related product/training hardware worth an estimated US$15 billion when it submitted its comprehensive technical evaluation report of the six M-MRCA contenders to India’s Ministry of Defence (MoD). All that is now left to be done is completion of the price evaluation report—inclusive of the direct/indirect industrial offsets offers proposed by the manufacturers of all six M-MRCA contenders—by a joint team comprising members from the IAF, the MoD and the Union Ministry of Finance, following which the Cabinet Committee on National Security (CCNS) and the Defence Acquisitions Council (DAC) will make the formal selection of the winner by this September. While the initial contract will be for procuring 126 M-MRCAs, there will definitely be a follow-on contract inked by 2016 for procuring an additional 94 M-MRCAs. This would mean that all 220 M-MRCAs will be delivered between the 2013-2024 period, and would remain in service till 2050 at least.

Contrary to popular belief, the IAF’s technical evaluations committee (TEC) has not devised any kind of pecking order for the various M-MRCA contenders. Instead, based on the universal practice of impartially analysing the merits and demerits of each offer—characteristic of a competitive bidding process—the TEC has concluded that only two of the six contenders—Boeing Defense & Aerospace Group’s tandem-seat F/A-18IN Super Hornet and Dassault Aviation’s tandem-seat Rafale B—come closest to meeting or exceeding the IAF’s operational requirements. These are followed by single-engined F-16IN from Lockheed Martin, Eurofighter GmBH’s EF-2000, and the JAS-39 Gripen IN from Saab Aircraft BV. The MiG-35 from Russia’s United Aircraft Corp was never a serious contender as it exists only on paper till this day. So what were the parameters that have tilted the balance in favour of the F/A-18IN and Rafale? And what will be the parameters that will play the decisive roles in favour of the winning bid?

The answers to these questions lie in the the 211-page global Request for Proposal (RFP) for the procurement of an initial 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) was floated for the Indian Air Force (IAF) on August 28, 2007. A careful reading of the RFP’s introductory section itself reveals what exactly the IAF desires from an operational perspective. The key criteria listed in the section mandated that:
1) The M-MRCA on offer has to be a fully functional and mature system, with all its listed capabilities already in operational service and not requiring any further fine-tuning or R & D work.
2) The M-MRCA on offer has to deliver a payload capacity that is much greater than that of the envisaged Tejas Mk2 MRCA, but no more than what the Su-30MKI is already certified to carry.
3) The M-MRCA on offer has to come equipped with an infra-red search-and-track system optimised for air superiority operations, as well as a fully certified active phased-array multi-mode radar (AESA-MMR) capable of waging all-weather and network-centric knowledge-based air-to-air and air-to-surface warfare, and must come armed with standoff precision-guided munitions for both land-attack and maritime strike. But most importantly, the AESA-MMR must have a ground moving target indication-cum-tracking (GMTI/T) mode simultaneously interlaced with the airspace track-while-scan (TWS) mode. 
4) The M-MRCA on offer must have sufficient future growth capability to ensure that during its envisaged 40-year service life, it can be subjected to at least two major upgrade programmes aimed at enhancing the aircraft’s operational performance parameters.
5) For ensuring total operational sovereignty over the M-MRCA on offer, the aircraft must be accompanied by a through-life product support package that includes the establishment of all four levels of maintenance within India through the creation of a dedicated IAF base repair depot, plus through private sector/public sector product support joint ventures in which the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) of foreign origin (for the airframe, avionics, instrumentation, engine and accessories) and its Indian counterpart will be the principal business stakeholders, this being in consonance with the MoD’s direct industrial offsets guidelines (amounting to 50% of the total contract value) that are laid down by the MoD’s Defence Procurement Policy.
6) The M-MRCA on offer must be accompanied by the availability and delivery of fully certified training aids that should include the following:
A) Full-flight (or full-motion) simulator (FFS), which recreates sounds, motion, visual scenes, instrument presentations and all other systems in order to create a realistic flight training environment. The pilot will be able to train for landing, takeoff, weapons delivery, night flight, formation flight and cockpit familiarisation in normal, adverse and emergency situations. The handling characteristics of the FFS represent actual aircraft characteristics based on available flight data and input from experienced pilots.
B) Flight training device (FTD), which can be used to off-load some of the training tasks from the FFS. The FTD is a fixed-base trainer that typically does not include a visual system, but uses the same flight management and control systems as a FFS, making it the ideal for instrument familiarisation and other standard flight operations.
C) Cockpit procedures trainer (CPT), which assists pilots in learning the layout of the cockpit, the location of switches, lights, circuit breakers, instruments, and other functions. The CPT increases efficiency in the FFS and the actual aircraft by having the aircrew already familiarised with their surroundings.
D) Part-task trainer (PTT), which is a training device that is designed to train a member of the aircrew or maintenance staff on a particular task associated with the aircraft. PTTs exist for a range of tasks including: avionics systems, systems familiarisation, weapons delivery, aerial refuelling, and a variety of complex tasks specific to a particular aircraft.
E) Integrated procedures trainer (IPT), which can be used for mission rehearsals or to teach and practice any in-flight or on-ground procedures in a crew cockpit environment. It is a high-fidelity, low-cost training solution based on the same software used on the FFS. The IPT uses touch-screen monitors to display the cockpit and captures pilot inputs. The pilots can thus maintain their qualification on certain tasks without having to fly the FFS or the real aircraft. In addition to procedures training, especially for cockpit emergencies, the addition of a visual and tactical environment can give pilots the ability to practice the mission before operational deployment using the mission rehearsal station. This unit can be set-up and dismantled in one or two hours and handled and transported easily without the use of special tools or equipment.
F) Computer-based training tools required for all four levels of maintenance. 
7) Lastly, the M-MRCA on offer has to be delivered—through both off-the-shelf purchases as well as through in-country licenced-assembly—at a rate of no less than 20 aircraft per annum so that the IAF’s objective of fielding 42 combat squadrons is realised by 2022.

From the above, some distinct inferences can be drawn. Firstly, the IAF’s mandatory ruling about a readily available M-MRCA equipped with a fully functional AESA-MMR at the time of contract award serves to indicate that only the F/A-18IN Super Hornet, F-16IN Super Viper and the Rafale B can be considered as serious contenders out of the original list of six. Secondly, although not stated in writing, the IAF’s recent articulation of envisaged ‘Super’ Su-30MKI mid-life upgrade programme and its insistence on acquiring an AESA-MMR-equipped, twin-engined tandem-seat Fifth-Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) are all indicative of the IAF’s as-yet unstated preference for procuring tandem-seat, twin-engined, AESA-MMR-equipped M-MRCAs that will be notches above the envisaged single-engined/single-seat Tejas Mk2 MRCA  and will, at the same time, complement the awesome air dominance capabilities to be offered by the ‘Super’ Su-30MKI. Consequently, out goes the F-16IN Super Viper, leaving only the F/A-18IN Super Hornet and Rafale B in the fray. Which consequently brings us to the final faceoff and choosing the best option from both operational and military-industrial perspectives through  a higher decision-making process which--given the scale of the deal--would also build strategic partnerships of the kind that must remain valid till at least 2050, if not beyond that.

If we are to believe that history has a tendency of repeating itself, then the final results of the IAF’s on-going M-MRCA faceoff will most likely be a repeat of what happened in South Korea on April 19, 2002 (when Seoul selected Boeing’s F-15K over the Rafale) and in Singapore on September 6, 2005 (when the Rafale was rejected in favour of the F-15SG). But let us rewind a little and go back to the face-to-face showdown between the F/A-18IN Super Hornet and Rafale during the Aero India exhibition in Bengaluru last February. On the eve of the expo—on February 8—Boeing seemingly drove the final nail on the Rafale’s coffin by unveilling for the very first time its super-ace trump card—the ‘Super Hornet International Roadmap’ option for the IAF, which will be available from 2013. If the IAF were to exercise this option, then the F/A-18IN would come equipped with an enclosed weapons pod that is intended to significantly lower the aircraft’s radar cross section, a large (11-inch by 19-inch) one-piece, touch-screen panoramic active-matrix liquid-crystal display, or PAMLCD (to improve the fused presentation of the integrated sensor suite), twin conformal fuel tanks straddling the upper fuselage to confer an additional 10% range (by carrying an additional 3,000lb of fuel), a greater payload capacity (over the existing 17,750lb or 8,050kg of weapons in 11 stations) that will overshoot the Rafale’s existing capacity of 9,500kg or 21,000lb spread over 14 stations), an internal nose-mounted IRST sensor, a spherical missile and laser warning system that will be housed above and below the aircraft, and an enhanced performance engine (EPE) version of the existing 98kN-thrust F414-GE-400 turbofan that would provide a 20% increase in thrust. Boeing has even gone to the extent of pledging that the ‘Super Hornet International Roadmap’ variant will be superseded in 2024 by a sixth-generation variant, tentatively known as the next-generation air dominance (NGAD) fighter.

The Rafale’s latest tranche 4 variant, on the other hand (as we now know from the data released by Dassault and the French Armee de l’Air in connection with the on-going M-MRCA competitions in Brazil and the United Arab Emirates), suffers from certain fundamental shortcomings when compared with the ‘Super Hornet International Roadmap’ variant. For instance, the THALES-built Radar à Balayage Electronique-2 (RBE-2) AESA-MMR—having an antenna array equipped with 1,001 transmit/receive modules, having a detection range of 180km, and performing TWS of up to 40 airborne targets—does not, as yet, have a ground moving target indication-cum-tracking (GMTI/T) mode simultaneously interlaced with the airspace TWS mode. In addition, its synthetic aperture radar mapping mode is still under development. Also, the growth variant of Snecma Moteurs’ M88 turbofan—the M88-3—which will be rated at 90kN (20,000lb) with afterburner (a 20% increase over the original M88-2) and a higher time-between-overhauls (from the present 800 hours)—is unlikely to be available in the near future. Furthermore, it is highly unlikely that Dassault Aviation will be able to ramp up its production capacity from the present-day 1.7 aircraft per month to more than 20 without a significant hike in production costs (only 294 Rafales have been ordered to date). Consequently, the per-unit cost for an exportable tranche 4 Rafale (minus its weapons package, flying training tools and product-support equipment) will exceed the present-day figure of €54 million (US$78 million) by as much as 50%. Against this, the ‘Super Hornet International Roadmap’ variant of the F/A-18IN is estimated to cost about $60 million or even less, since the Super Hornet’s production line in St Louis, Missouri, has been steadily churning out some 30 units per annum (to meet the total production order for 515 F/A-18E/Fs and 114 EA-18Gs for the US Navy, plus 24 F/A-18Fs for the Royal Australian Air Force). The only silver lining in the Rafale’s favour is the availability of two 1,150 litre detachable conformal fuel tanks (CFT), which can be mounted on the upper surface of wing/fuselage blend, causing less drag than traditional underwing fuel tanks, and freeing underwing stations for carrying armaments. CFTs bring the Rafale’s maximal external fuel load to 10,800 litres.

In the final analysis, therefore, it should not come as a surprise if the MoD declares Boeing’s F/A-18IN Super Hornet bid as the preferred choice on both technical and cost grounds. If this were to happen, then all that is left for Dassault Aviation to do (as it once did on September 6, 2005) is identify and disclose the two main reasons for the MoD’s decision: the weakness of the US dollar, which it should describe as a definite handicap for the economic competitiveness of the French offer, and the negotiating influence of “America’s military-industrial power and technological might”.

From a historical perspective, Dassault Aviation’s fortunes in India began to dip since the early 1980s when earlier ‘verbal’ commitments from the MoD and IAF HQ were not converted into reality. For instance, the IAF’s well thought-out plan for inducting close to 180 single-engined Mirage 2000H/TH MRCAs along with up to 60 twin-engined Mirage 4000s were brushed aside throughout the 1980s in favour of a USSR-supplied fleet of MiG-23MFs, MiG-23BNs, MiG-27Ms and MiG-29B-12s. This grievous setback, coupled with the loss of a Saudi order for the Mirage 4000 (whose R & D was privately financed by Dassault Aviation), imposed an enormous financial burden on the French aircraft manufacturer throughout the 1990s, which in turn has since affected the Rafale’s series-production rate, and has also prevented Dassault Aviation from investing in financially viable mid-life upgrade packages for those Mirage 2000s that are presently in service with the air forces of Egypt, Greece, India and Peru (this is the subject-matter of a standalone analysis, which will be detailed in the very near future). Secondly, unlike its US-based counterparts, French aerospace OEMs have, since the 1990s, failed to grasp the enormous marketing advantages offered by way of industrial synergies when it comes to export-driven marketing strategies. For instance, for marketing the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet on a global scale, OEMs like Boeing Defense & Aerospace, GE Aero Engines, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman formed an integrated consortium as far back as 2001 and to all prospective export customers, it is this unified military-industrial consortium that has given technical presentations and conducted in-country product demonstrations, and most importantly, has also successfully implemented multi-party and multi-disciplinary direct/indirect industrial offsets obligations. In stark contrast, the Rafale’s marketing campaign has been conducted to date solely by Dassault Aviation, with other French OEMs like THALES, Sagem Défense Sécurité and Snecma Moteurs being left alone to promote their sub-systems and components on board the Rafale through their own individual ways and means. If one were to add to such woes the unsustainable nature of the French welfare state, one will understand why, despite having a product like the Rafale, which incorporates cutting-edge technologies, Dassault Aviation has consistently suffered from marketing reverses in Algeria, Australia, Morocco, Oman, Singapore, South Korea, the UAE and will soon, in all probability, in Brazil, Finland, India, Kuwait and Switzerland as well.

Last but not the least, US-based OEMs like Boeing Defense & Aerospace, GE Aero Engines, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, L-3 Communications, Lockheed Martin and CAE have already bagged several lucrative contracts from the MoD and are now well on their way toward implementing their multi-disciplinary direct/indirect industrial offsets obligations with more than 60 selected India-based industrial entities (inclusive of both DPSUs and private-sector companies). Some of these already-bagged contracts include that for eight Boeing P-8I long-range maritime reconnaissance/ASW aircraft worth $2.1 billion (with another four units due to be ordered soon), the supply of an initial six Lockheed Martin-built built C-130J-30 Super Hercules transport aircraft worth $0.9 billion (with a follow-on contract for another six units now being negotiated), the purchase of 24 Boeing AGM-84 Harpoon Block II air-launched anti-ship cruise missiles worth $170 million, and the order for an initial 99 F414-GE-INS6 turbofans (plus options for another 49) worth an estimated $750 million for powering the projected Tejas Mk2. Add to this the expected orders—all for the consortium comprising Boeing Defense & Aerospace, GE Aero Engines, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman—in future for an initial 25 CH-47F Chinook heavylift helicopters, an initial 22 units (against a projected requirement for 40) of AH-64D Longbow Apache attack helicopters worth $550 million, and the procurement of ten C-17A Globemaster III strategic transport aircraft worth $5.8 billion, and one will be able to see the big picture—an enormous American pie which, within India, will be shared over the next 25 years (though multi-disciplinary direct/indirect industrial offsets contracts) with the bulk of India’s existing aerospace and military-industrial entities.  

A final word about the famous remark made by the IAF’s Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Pradeep Vasant Naik on February 10, on how the M-MRCA competitors could interpret the MoD’s selection of the winning bid. He had remarked that “if other competitors [who lose out in the race] put spokes in, then the timelines would get pushed back”. Going by historical precedent, he was, in all likelihood referring the incident on April 19, 2002, when Dassault Aviation filed a court injunction in Seoul (against Seoul’s decision to order the F-15K instead of the Rafale), disputing the selection process, which it claimed to be biased in favour of US interests.—Prasun K. Sengupta

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Contradicting Verdicts & The DPP Mess

At the Offshore Patrol Vessels Asia-Pacific 2011 expo in Singapore, which was held between April 5 and 7, it emerged that a spate of incidents and legal litigations over the past one year has served to make a total mockery of the Indian Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) defence procurement procedures and defence production procedures, with grave implications for not only the force modernisation plans for the Indian armed forces, but also for the emerging military-industrial entities in the private sector. A few major examples given below will suffice to illustrate the prevailing sordid state of affairs.  

Example 1
In the aftermath of the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai, the MoD had released a global tender for the procurement of 36 high-speed interceptor boats worth Rs9.7 billion, with the boats having aluminium-alloy hull construction and equipped with waterjet propulsion. Subsequent to the competitive bidding process, Larsen & Toubro (L & T) emerged as the lowest bidder (L-1) and was therefore selected on March 22, 2010 to build these 36 vessels. L & T had offered to build the vessels at a unit cost of Rs666.8 million, while the state-owned Cochin Shipyard Ltd (CSL) had offered a quote of Rs698.9 million, followed by Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers with Rs761 million, Goa Shipyard Ltd with Rs941.7 million, and Hindustan Shipyard Ltd with Rs1,094.1 million. Designed by L & T’s Marine & Ship Design Division, the interceptor boats were to have performed surveillance, search-and-rescue, anti-smuggling and anti-poaching operations along India’s coastline. The boats were planned to be constructed at both L & T’s existing shipyard at Hazira and at its new shipyard coming up at Katupalli near Ennore. Each of the vessels were to be powered by Caterpillar Marine Power Systems’ marine propulsion engines and MJP waterjets, with deliveries beginning within 18 months of contract award. However, before the contract was to be signed, CSL, which had lost the bid (and was ranked L-2 in the bidding process), challenged L & T’s selection as the preferred bidder, claiming that L & T's price quote had utilised the ERV exchange rate variation mechanism (which as per DPP guidelines, is allowed for the MoD-owned defence public sector undertakings, but not for the private sector). This meant that while the L-1 bidder had offered a fixed-price quote for the work and materials/components to be sourced within India,  the quote for imported components was variable and therefore if the US$ appreciated, then the hike in prices of the imported components would have to be borne by the MoD, and not be absorbed by the L-1 bidder. CSL's bid, on the other hand, did not incorporate the ERV exchange rate variation mechanism and was therefore a fixed-cost offer. CSL also claimed that since the tender document had specified that the contract be awarded to an experienced shipbuilder with a proven track-record, the MoD’s selection process was flawed and as a consequence, L & T should not be declared as the preferred bidder. The MoD consequently referred this issue to the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), which concurred with CSL's point-of-view and ruled that L & T's bid was improper. Eventually, after CSL prevailed over the MoD and was awarded the contract, L & T went to the High Court and the Supreme Court to challenge the MoD’s decision, and lost the case. As a result of this verdict, it would now appear that the methodology applied by the MoD to accord the status of L-1 to any bidder is suspect and can be manipulated with ease in a competitive bidding environment.

Example 2
After 26/11, the Cabinet Committee on National Security (CCNS) and the Defence Acquisitions Council (DAC) had approved the acquisition of 13 offshore patrol vessels (OPV) for the Indian Coast Guard Service (ICGS) in two batches of seven and six, respectively. Each of the OPVs was to have a length of 100 metres, crew complement of 100, and a displacement of 2,000 tonnes. The global tender for this procurement exercise was subsequently released, following which it emerged that Bharati Shipyard Ltd’s offer was accorded L-1 status, with L & T being L-2 and Pipavav Shipyard Limited (PSL) coming in at L-3. However, the state-owned Indian shipyards once again contested this ranking order by claiming that none of these private-sector shipyards had any experience in designing and fabricating OPVs, as a result of which the MoD ordered a re-tendering exercise, with the latest global tender being issued last week.  

Example 3
After 26/11, when the Indian Navy’s requirement for five advanced OPVs (AOPV) was approved by the CCNS and DAC, a global tender was released on March 31, 2010. Seven contenders responded with tender bids and on June 7 the same year, PSL was selected as the preferred bidder. On that day, Nikhil Gandhi, Group Chairman of SKIL Infrastructure, the original promoters of PSL, said: We have been declared as the lowest bidder (L-1) by the MoD for the contract to build OPVs for the Navy. This will be our maiden foray into building ships for the defence sector”. PSL’s bid, costing Rs26 billion, had proposed the construction of five 110-metre, 2,500-tonne displacement AOPVs designed by Russia’s St Petersburg-based Severnoye Design Bureau. Subsequently, the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) issued the licence for warship-building to PSL in November 2010 at a rate of five warships per year. PSL, which harbours ambitious plans for building principal surface combatants like aircraft carriers and landing platform docks (LPD) for the Indian Navy in the not-too-distant future, has since gone ahead and reportedly appointed several retired Vice Admirals and senior bureaucrats who had served with the MoD’s Dept of Defence Production & Supplies as advisers and consultants, and last February, signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with US-based Northrop Grumman Overseas Service Corp, under which the latter will support PSL with warship design and construction expertise. Yet, despite all this, contract award by the MoD to PSL remains elusive till this day, and going by the trend set by the earlier two examples, it now appears likely that a re-tendering exercise will be ordered by the MoD.

Example 4
In stark contrast to its biased decision-making procedures and processes adopted for procuring vessels for the Navy and ICGS, the MoD, following a global competitive bidding process, on March 16 this year inked a Rs10.94 billion contract with TATA Power’s Strategic Electronics Division (TATA Power SED) under which the navigational aids of an initial 30 IAF air bases and one naval air base will be replaced within a 42-month period as part of Phase-1 of the IAF’s and Indian Navy’s joint Modernisation of Airfield Infrastructure (MAFI) programme. Work will involve the installation of runway lighting systems, Cat 2A instrument landing systems, distance measuring equipment, and Doppler very-high-frequency omni-range navigation systems. Also being acquired are six standby mobile airfield lighting systems, one mobile air traffic control tower, and one joint air traffic control and reporting centre (JATCRC) simulator. Under Phase-2 of this programme, yet to be tendered out, an additional 28 IAF air bases and four naval air bases will be subjected to a similar upgradation exercise. The global tender for MAFI’s Phase-1 was released on January 4, 2008 and all vendor selection-cum-ranking procedures had been concluded between August and October 2009. What makes this contract award inexplicable is the fact that TATA Power SED had, by October 2009, been chosen as the winner primarily due to its L-1 bid status, despite its total lack of track-record in terms of executing such projects. It was no surprise therefore that Selex Sistemi Integrati, a member of Italy’s Finmeccanica Group and a competing bidder, decided to take advantage of the precedents set earlier by the MoD (in case of the selection processes highlighted in the above three examples) and filed a petition with the Delhi High Court in which it questioned the MoD’s selection process and highlighted TATA Power SED’s lack of a track-record in executing such projects. The petition was, however, rejected by the court on November 24, 2010.

Incidentally, Selex Sistemi Integrati, teamed up with the MoD-owned Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL), is already engaged in upgrading the JATCRCs located at IAF air bases in Adampur, Agra, Ambala, Bagdogra, Bareilly, Bhatinda, Bhuj, Bidar, Chabua, Chandigarh, Gorakhpur, Gwalior, Halwara, Hasimara, Hindon, Jaisalmer, Jamnagar, Jodhpur, Jorhat, Kalaikunda, Nal, Naliya, Pathankot, Pune, Sirsa, Suratgarh, Tezpur, Uttarlai, Yelahanka and Zopuitlang in Lunglei district in southern Mizoram. The IAF has already ordered to date—under a Rs2.937 billion (€52 million) contract—13 S-band ATCR-33S primary surveillance radars and another 13 S-band Sir-S secondary surveillance radars and their related automated air traffic management systems, and 52 related CDS-2000 display consoles from Selex Sistemi Integrati, all of which were delivered by late 2009. BEL began receiving these radars in 2008 for final assembly, and will it also be responsible for through-life product support of these radars. Earlier, BEL had assembled four similar radars and supplied them to the Airports Authority of India (AAI), which in turn had installed them at the new greenfield airports in Bengaluru and Hyderabad. The radars of both airports (which were ordered in March 2006) have already been integrated with a JATCRC. The AAI intends to install additional ATCR-33S and Sir-S in nine other civilian airports, almost all in southern India. The industrial partnership between Selex Sistemi Integrati and BEL dates back to 1972.—Prasun K. Sengupta