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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

‘Desi’ Yellow Journalism At Its Very Best

Thus far, at least two ‘desi’ journalists seem to have insinuated that if the Government of India pushes through a certain procurement contract for a particular piece of hardware (in this case the 12 AgustaWestland AW-101 helicopters for VVIP transportation worth Rs3,546.17 crore or 560 million Euros) with efficiency and alacrity, then there’s something definitely unusual and fishy about this whole exercise, since these two ‘desi’ journalists are obviously of the view that such procurement exercises (i.e. the efficiency and alacrity with which the Govt of India pushed through the purchase of the AW-101s) are unusual simply because  such  “efficiency and alacrity” are “totally lacking in the purchase of anything for the armed forces”. In addition, it has been alleged by one of these two ‘desi’ journalists (see: & that the AW-101 fails ‘to make the cut’ by not complying with the Air Staff Qualitative Requirements (ASQR), especially the 40 mandatory parameters laid down by the Indian Air Force (IAF). Specifically, it has been alleged that: the AW-101 does not come equipped with a missile approach warning system (MAWS); the AW-101 does not come with a product warranty, which should be either three years or 900 flight-hours; and that the selected VVIP transportation helicopter ought to have flown in altitudes above 17,000 feet in order to transport VVIPs out to India’s remote areas. Needless to say, all such allegations are manifestly false and deeply mischievous, as the following data will reveal.
Requests for Proposals (RFP) or global tenders were floated December 2006 by India’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) to seven helicopter manufacturers, and all responses had been submitted by February 2007. Following this, the H-92 Super Hawk from US-based Sikorsky Aircraft Corp and the AW-101 from Anglo-Italian AgustaWestland Helicopters were shortlisted. However, both the H-92 and AW-101 had performance parameter deviations, with AgustaWestland having one deviation short than Sikorsky Aircraft. The IAF had specified that the helicopters on offer be at least twin-engined and fitted with a SATCOM-based communications suite; have glass cockpits and digital flight controls; come equipped with automatic flight management systems and a rear-entry ramp; incorporate additional ballistics hardening of the airframe; come fitted with a main-cum-tail rotor de-icing system using heated blades; have an integral emergency flotation system plus twin wide sliding cargo doors; be equipped with wire-strike and lightning-strike protection systems; have an on-board health and usage monitoring system (HUMS) to facilitate predictive maintenance practices; mount a new-generation on-board defensive aids suite comprising radar/laser warning receivers-cum-missile approach warning systems, chaff/flare countermeasures dispensers, plus mountings for accommodating miniaturised directional infra-red/laser jammers at a future date; and feature a high tail-boom since it would allow the VVIP’s motorised vehicles to come right next to the rear-ramp and not expose' the protected persons to a threat from anyone in the vicinity.
Although the IAF conducted on-site flight-trials of both the H-92 and AW-101 between January 14 and 19, 2008, it was only in December 2009 that the Cabinet Committee on National Security (CCS) approved the procurement of 12 AW-101s from AgustaWestland. Subsequently, a contract was signed by the MoD and AgustaWestland Ltd on February 8, 2010. The contract included an extensive five-year logistics support service and initial aircrew and technician training (see: Out of these 12 AW-101s, eight will be configured for VVIP transportation and the remaining four helicopters will be the non-VVIP version for usage by the Special Protection Group’s Counter-Sniper Group and Counter-Assault Group. The first six AW-101s will be delivered in the latter half of this year, and all deliveries would be completed by 2013.

Let us now address and disprove in detail the allegations and insinuations that were listed out in the very beginning. Firstly, there’s the allegation/insinuation of this deal being pushed through with remarkable “efficiency and alacrity”. This is a blatant lie, pure and simple. The entire AW-101 procurement exercise—starting with the issuance of RFPs right up to contract signature—lasted 38 months. Compare this with the procurement exercise, initiated in late 1982, for procuring the refurbished aircraft carrier INS Viraat, 20 AgustaWestland-built Sea King Mk42B helicopters, 25 BAE Systems-built Sea Harrier FRS Mk51 and five T Mk60 V/STOL combat aircraft, which took only NINE MONTHS to negotiate, finalise and ink—a record that remains unparalleled till this day and is worth emulating.

Secondly, regarding the MAWS, it needs to be stated that while sensors associated with any helicopter’s integrated defensive aids suite (IDAS)—such as radar/laser warning receivers and countermeasures dispensers suite are regarded as standard fit, items like MAWS, DIRCM and active continuous wave/pulse jammers are not and are therefore either supplied as customer-furnished equipment to the helicopter manufacturer for on-board installation, or are retrofitted in-country by the helicopter operator at an approved MRO facility. In the AW-101’s case the IDAS includes a combined radar/laser warning receiver package that includes the Tarang Mk3 (developed by the DRDO’s Bengaluru-based Defence Avionics Research Establishment—DARE—and built by Bharat Electronics Ltd) and a laser warning receiver from SaabTech of Sweden, the AAR-60(V)2 MILDS-F MAWS from Germany-based Cassidian, and chaff/flare countermeasures dispensers from Vinten of UK. The photo below shows the installation areas of the AW-101’s combined radar/laser warning receiver and MAWS.
In fact, this very IDAS suite has also been selected for installation on the Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd-built Dhruv Mk4 (Rudra) helicopter gunship and the Light Combat Helicopter (LCH), and will also be retrofitted in-country on to a third of the 139 Mi-17V-5 armed utility helicopters now being delivered to the IAF by Russia’s Tatarstan-based Kazan Helicopter Plant. These retrofitted Mi-17V-5s will also be equipped with ELBIT Systems-built C-MUSIC missile countermeasures turrets (see photo below for the installation area).
Thirdly, regarding the so-called product warranty, which should be either three years or 900 flight-hours, this is in fact the guaranteed product-support package (since product warranty for any type of aircraft never exceeds a period of 18 months) that AgustaWestland has generously extended up to a five-year period through AirWorks Pvt Ltd, its India-based MRO facility. Fourthly, regarding the service ceiling issue, the AW-101 is capable of going up to 15,000 feet ASL, while the H-92 can attain 14,000 feet, and the Mi-17V-5 19,690 feet. However, in reality, the AW-101s will never be required to fly above 10,000 feet simply because no India-born VVIP worth his/her salt will ever bother to spend two successive weeks for mandatory accilimitising in the event of he/she wanting to visit high-altitude areas located between 10,000 feet and 20,000 feet. This is because anyone wanting to go to such altitudes for the very first time needs to gradually acclimatise above the height of 10,000 feet by spending six days for Stage 1 at 10,000 feet, followed by four days for Stage 2 at 12,000 feet and four days for Stage 3 at 15,000 feet.

Lastly, a word about the Mi-17V-5, which has been touted as being a cheaper alternative to the AW-101. It needs to be noted that firstly, all members of the Mi-8 and Mi-17 families make use of only a single-channel hydraulics-control system under which the hydraulic actuators of all four control circuits are mounted in a single hydraulic package on the main gearbox, together with other parts of hydraulic system. In all Western (and HAL-built) twin-engined helicopters, however, such an arrangement is viewed as unacceptable from a flight safety point-of-view, and they therefore use a dual-channel hydraulics-control system. Secondly, by January 2008, there wasn’t even a single Mi-17 anywhere equipped with an IDAS. For it was only in December 2007 that the US Defense Department inked a contract worth US$322-million for 22 Ulan-Ude Aviation Plant-built Mi-17s (meant for Iraq) under the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) system, under which these Mi-17s were to be fitted with Honeywell-supplied cockpit avionics/instrumentation, FLIR Systems’ AN/AAQ-22 Star Safire FLIR pod, identification-friend-or-foe system with encryption, AAR-60(V)2 MILDS-F MAWS, and VHF/UHF/HF radios. While US-based ARINC Inc is the prime contractor and systems integrator, the Mi-17s were supplied by Ulan-Ude Aviation Plant to Air Freight Aviation, a Russian company based in the United Arab Emirates that undertakes all retrofit work under ARINC Inc’s supervision. Therefore, early disqualification of the Mi-17 for the IAF’s VVIP transportation helicopter requirement was a foregone conclusion as far back as early 2010.Prasun K. Sengupta

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

PLA’s New ‘Airborne’ Accretions

China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), which in December 2010 commissioned its first three of nine Ka-31 shipborne airborne early warning (AEW) helicopters into service, is now gearing up to receive its first home-grown Z-8JA shipborne AEW helicopters. The Ka-31s were ordered in 2006 from Russia’s Kumertau Aviation Production Enterprise JSC as part of an order for 18 helicopters, which included nine shipborne Ka-28PL anti-submarine warfare helicopters as well. Earlier, in 1998, the PLAN had ordered its first eight Ka-28PLs. Present plans call for the Ka-31s and Z-8JAs to be deployed on board the PLAN’s two existing Type 052C Luyang 2-class guided-missile destroyers (DDG 170 Lanzhou and DDG 171 Haikou) that are each armed with eight 300km-range YJ-62 (C-602) anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCM), on the four additional Type 052C DDGs now under construction, and on the PLAN’s four Type 071 Yuzhao-class landing platform docks (LPD). The Ka-31, which is also capable of providing over-the-horizon targetting cues for ASCMs, comes equipped with an E-801M solid-state early warning radar capable to detecting and tracking up to 20 targets simultaneously at the distance up to 150km (for airborne aircraft) and up to 285km (warships). The Z-8JA helicopter, on the other hand, is a home-grown product, with Jingdezhen-based Changhe Aircraft Industry Group (CAIG) building the helicopter and CETC supplying the X-band KLC-7 AEW radar suite, which can also function as a synthetic aperture radar for maritime surveillance. The Z-8JA, equipped with a two-man glass cockpit and a mission management system manned by a two-man crew, is powered by three WZ-6 engines each rated at 1,512hp (1,128kW), has an internal fuel capacity of 3,900 litres, has a service ceiling of 3.1km, and a mission endurance of four hours.
Meanwhile, the commercial arm of China’s People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF)—China United Airlines—is presently negotiating the procurement of 18 pre-owned Ilyushin IL-76MD transport aircraft from private Russian aircraft owners (there are an estimated 106 IL-76MDs in service with several Russia-based aviation companies), and deliveries are due to begin by this April and be completed by June 2012. The PLAAF has fast-tracked the procurement of these 18 IL-76MDs so that these aircraft are all available for regional emergencies/contingencies that call for either the swift evacuation of Chinese citizens abroad, or evacuation of Chinese infrastructure property from foreign soil. It is believed that the PLAAF is bracing for the breakout of hostilities in the Middle East, especially in Syria or Iran.
It may be recalled that the PLAAF has since 1991 acquired 20 IL-76MDs from Russia (B-4030 through to B-4049) and four IL-76MDs (30071, 30072, 30073, and 30074) from Uzbekistan’s Tashkent Aviation Production Association (TAPO). While the 19 remaining Russia-origin IL-76MDs are presently operational with China United Airlines and are actually operated by the PLAAF’s 13th Air Division based at Wuhan in Hubei Province, and the 34th Air Division based at Nanyuan air base in Beijing, the four TAPO-delivered IL-76MDs were converted between October 1999 and 2006 into airborne early warning and control (AEW & C) platforms, called Kong Jing-2000 (KJ-2000). The first KJ-2000 technology demonstrator (converted from an existing IL-76MD transport owned by China United Airlines) made its maiden flight at the China Flight Test Establishment (CFTE) in Yanliang, Shaanxi Province. Following this, four KJ-2000 AEW & C platforms were acquired and all four are now operated by the PLAAF’s 26th Air Division based in the eastern Zhejiang province near the Taiwan Strait.
In September 2005, China and Russia’s Rosoboronexport State Corp had inked an agreement worth US$1.5 billion under which TAPO was to have supplied the PLAAF with 16 IL-76MD transports, with Russia’s Ulyanovsk-based Aviastar-SP supplying the remaining 18 IL-76MDs and four IL-78MKK aerial refuelling tankers. This deal, however, has been frozen since March 2006 due to TAPO’s inability to execute the order. Consequently, Russia took all responsibility for fulfilling the PLAAF’s order, and the first IL-76MD to be built by Aviastar-SP is due for delivery by the end of this year.  
In another development, Indonesia will soon ink an agreement with China for procuring C-705 anti-ship cruise missiles. A total of 40 C-705s will be procured for the 20 guided-missile fast-attack craft (FAC-M) now being built by Indonesia’s PT Palindo Marine Industri (PMI), based in Batam, off Singapore. The first such KCR-40 FAC-M--KRI Clurit 641—was launched on April 26, 2011 by Indonesia’s Defence Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro. This FAC-M, which was built with the help of graduates from the Surabaya Institute of Technology, is equipped with a THALES-supplied Sensor Weapon Control (SEWACO) combat management system, a CETC-built target acquisition/engagement radar for the C-705, plus a 30mm cannon and two 12.7mm heavy machine guns. The FAC-M is 44 metres long, 8 metres wide and 3.4 metres high, can develop a maximum speed of 30 Knots. Each KCR-40 FAC-M will house two stern-mounted inclined C-705 launchers. The KRI Clurit was named after a Madurese dagger. Clurit has a form of a question mark believed to reflect the character of Madurese people who will never be satisfied with what they have and their tenacity.—Prasun K Sengupta

Saturday, February 11, 2012

How China Will Fight Future Border Wars

Should a limited but high-intensity border conflict break out between China and India over the next five years, how exactly will the battles be fought? And where? The most likely answers to these two questions came from none other than Beijing’s People’s Daily Online, which on November 15 last year, while commenting on the Indian Army’s China-centric future force modernisation-cum-expansion plans due for implementation in the 12th Defence Plan, stated: “In an era when precision-guided weapons are developing rapidly, everyone with common sense knows that concentrated troops could be eliminated easily”. Translated for the layman, it means that A) the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) will realise its tactical objectives on the ground by resorting to massed fire-assaults delivered by a numerically superior deployed force comprising tactical non-line-of-sight battlefield support missiles (NLOS-BSM) and long-range multi-barrel rocket launchers (MBRL) capable of firing rockets equipped with sensor-fuzed munitions (SGM), and B) such rocket artillery-based weapons would be employed in tactical areas that are ideally suited for deployment of such weapons, i.e. the flat, locational deserts around eastern Ladakh and the foothills opposite Uttarakhand State. And it is exactly in these areas that, for the second year in a row, the PLA Army and the PLA Air Force (PLAAF) last year conducted Brigade-level live-fire exercises on the foot of the snowcapped mountains on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau at an altitude of more than 5,000 metres. Though the exercises, dubbed as Integrated Joint Operations (IJO), were conducted under the command of the Tibet Military District, which comes under the Chengdu Military Region (MR), a few select field artillery and armoured formations belonging to the Lanzhou MR also took part in the combined arms exercises, which got underway last July and lasted till last October.
Weapon systems deployed by the PLA for the very first time in the exercises included the NORINCO-built 300mm PHL-05 MBRLs, Type 90 122mm MBRLs, PLZ-07 122mm tracked self-propelled howitzers, Type 95 PGZ-95 self-propelled air-defence artillery systems, Type 96G main battle tanks, Type 86G tracked infantry combat vehicles, Type 704 weapons locating radars, FN-6 MANPADS, and Mi-17V-5 assault helicopters capable of transporting special operations detachments. PLAAF elements deployed this time at Shigatse air base between last August and November included six Su-27SKs and Su-30MK2s and three J-10 combat aircraft. Shigatse is now being upgraded into Tibet’s first all-weather air base capable of sustaining high-intensity offensive air sorties, and is now protected by the HQ-12/KS-1A MR-SAM air defence system and a combination of FN-6 MANPADS and SmartHunter low-probability-og-intercept radars. And in another first for the PLAAF, a detachment of four J-10 MRCAs from the Chengdu Military Region began a two week-long deployment at Shigatse starting January 21, during which tactical airspace dominance exercises were conducted in coordination with the PLAAF’s ground-based airspace surveillance radar stations deployed within the Tibet Military District.
Also deployed for exercises were the PLA Army’s NLOS-BSMs, which have been stockpiled in both Xinjiang and Aksai Chin. To date, 13 tunnels dug into the mountains have been built at Xiadulla, 98km from the Karakoram mountain pass between Ladakh and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, while another similar NLOS-BSM storage facility is located at Qizil Jilga, 40km off the LAC in eastern Ladakh near the Western Tibet highway. It is believed that the NLOS-BSMs located in these areas will be employed against the Indian Air Force’s existing air bases and Advanced Landing Grounds in both Jammu & Kashmir and Uttarakhand.
NLOS-BSMs for the PLA Army have been developed two state-owned entities: China National Precision Machinery Import & Export Corp (CPMIEC), and Aerospace Long-March International Trade Co Ltd (ALIT). The latter’s latest product is the P-20, which has been exported to Pakistan, where it known as the Hatf-9/Nasr. Capable of striking targets between 70km and 270km, the all-weather capable M-20, with a Mach 3 cruise speed, comes armed with both a 200kg unitary high-explosive (HE) blast-fragmentation warhead for engaging high-value and time-sensitive targets, as well as a sub-kiloton yield tactical nuclear warhead. Two P-20s housed inside cannisters are mounted on an 8 x 8 transporter/erector/launcher (TEL). For navigation purposes, use is made of a ring laser gyro-based inertial navigation system (RLG-INS) coupled to a GPS receiver (for receiving high-accuracy navigational updates in secure PY-code from China’s ‘Beidou’ constellation of GPS satellites), and an infra-red sensor for terminal homing that gives the missile a CEP of less than 10 metres. CPMIEC’s 2-tonne B-611M missile is designed to attack supply lines, warehouses, ballistic/cruise missile launch sites, SAM batteries, command-and-control centres, air bases, road/railway transportation hubs, and area targets in urban surroundings. Armed with a 480kg HE warhead, the B-611M has 280km range. Up to two cannister-mounted B-611Ms can be carried by a wheeled TEL. Another NLOS-BSM from CPMIEC is the P-12, which made its public debut in November 2006. Up to two P-12s are carried in an enclosed compartment mounted on a 6 x 6 TEL. The P-12 has a range of 150km, and it comes armed with either a 300kg HE blast fragmentation warhead, or a cluster warhead containing 19 anti-armour sub-munitions. Both the B-611M and P-12 have a CEP of about 2 metres when using a RLG-INS coupled to a GPS receiver, plus an optronic sensor for terminal homing. CPMIEC’s latest NLOS-BSM offering is the vertically-launched joint attack rocket & missile (JARM) system, which can fire both the 280km-range BP-12A and the 200km-range SY-400 from a common launch platform. The JARM, which made its public debut in November 2010, makes use of combined GPS-RLG-INS navigation systems to achieve a CEP of 3 metres  A typical JARM Battery comprises ten 8 x 8 TELs housing either 80 SY-400s or 20 BP-12As, or a combination of both.
These NLOS-BSMs and MBRL rockets armed with SFMs are all equipped with micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) developed by China’s Kotel Micro Technique Co Ltd. The set of components manufactured include up to three SAK01-03 acceleration switches that interactively operate with one another and provide pressure and acceleration data that are then fed into the flight-guidance system, FKZD-01 vibration sensor, and the INS-M100 MEMS, operating at an RS422 bit-rate, measuring only 120mm x 120mm x 120mm, and using GPS data for its targetting system. This same company also supplies optronic terminal guidance sensors for the Fei Teng (FT)-1 and FT-3 precision-guided bombs developed by the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT), and for the Leishi (LS)-6 extended-range glide bomb and the (Leiting) LT-2 laser-guided bomb developed by the Luoyang Optical-Electronic Technology Development Centre (LOEC). In addition to such components, China’s NLOS-BSMs also reportedly make use of MEMS-based guidance equipment supplied by Norwegian electronics manufacturer, Sensonor. One such piece of hardware, the STIM202 Butterfly gyro, is a 55-gram miniature module that replaces previous-generation fibre-optic, ring-laser and mechanical gyros. The STIM202 is based on single-crystal silicon technology, can be configured in one-, two- or three-axis capability, and offers 24-bit resolution plus an RS422 bit-rate. The STIM202 is so small and light that the designers of a missile system can use two of the modules to provide the weapon’s on-board guidance module with back-up redundancy, which was never a possibility with previous-generation guidance components.
In addition to deploying NLOS-BSMs and MBRLs in greater numbers, the PLA Army is also increasing the deployed strength of its main battle tanks (MBT) and infantry combat vehicles (ICV) that are attached to select formations within the PLA’s Chengdu and Lanzhou Military Regions (MR). In early March last year, the 1st Tank Battalion of the 348th Mechanised Infantry Regiment of the 37th Motor Infantry Division of the 13th Group Army in Chengdu commissioned the Type 96G MBT into its ORBAT, marking it the third Type 96G MBT-equipped unit in the western mountainous region opposite northeastern India.  The first two units are the 149th Mechanised Infantry Division and the 52nd Mountain Brigade, all presently based in southeastern Tibet. Earlier, on March 17, 2010 the PLA had for the first time in its history deployed MBTs in the Tibet (Xizang) Military District, these too being Type 96G MBTs, accompanied by Type 86G ICVs (improved Turret), which are with the 12th Armoured Division of the 21st Group Army under the Lanzhou MR. The Type 96G MBT, built by NORINCO’s First Inner Mongolia Machinery Factory, weighs 42.8 tonnes, has a three-man crew complement, is armed with 125mm smoothbore cannon, comes powered by a 1,000hp diesel engine, has a power-to-weight ratio of 21hp/tonne, and has a range of 600km. The Type 86G ICV with a 30mm 2A72 automatic cannon has a three-man crew, is amphibious, is powered by a 6V150 4-stroke water-cooled diesel engine with a standard power of 292hp, carries 40 rounds (20 HEAT and 20 HE) in the turret, and has an infra-red searchlight, periscopes, and sights for night operations. A rail launcher for the NORINCO-built 3.6km-range HJ-73 wire-guided ATGM is located above the gun.
The Chengdu MR comprises the Chongqing-based 13 Group Army (GA), Kunming-based 14 GA, and the Tibet Military District. 13 GA comprises 2 Army Aviation Regiment in Chengdu (flying Mi-171s, Mi-17V-5s, S-70C-2 Black Hawks, &  Z-9Was), 37 Motorised Infantry Division, 149 Highland Mechanised Infantry Division at Emei in Sichuan, one Artillery Brigade, one Armoured Brigade, one AAA Brigade, one Special Operations Group (‘Falcons of Southwest’), a Combat Engineering Regiment, a Signals Regiment, and one EW Regiment. 14 GA comprises 40 Motorised Infantry Division and its 18 Artillery Regiment, 31 Mechanised Infantry Division and its 4 Artillery Brigade, one Armoured Brigade, one NBC Defence Regiment, and the People’s Armed Police’s 38 & 41 Division. The Tibet Military District commands formations like the 52 Mountain Brigade, 53 Mountain Brigade, 54 Mountain Brigade, a Signals Regiment, plus the 9 Border Defence Regiment, 10 Border Defence Regiment, 11 Border Defence Regiment and 12 Border Defence Regiment, all spread over the Military Sub-Districts of Shannan, Shigatse and Nyingchi. The Yunnan Military District commands and controls the 9, 10, 11 and 12 Border Defence Regiments. PLAAF elements falling under the Chengdu MR include the Chongqing-based 33 Fighter Division (95661 Unit) with its 97, 98 (Su-27SKs & UBKs at Chongqing-Baishiyi AB) and 99 Air Regiments; Mengzi-based 44 Fighter Division with its 130, 131 (based in Luliang with J-10) & 132 Air Regiments, and the Lhasa Command Post (39177 Unit).
The Lanzhou MR comprises two Group Armies (Baoji-based 21 GA and Lintong-based 47 GA), plus two People’s Armed Police (PAP) formations--7 Division and 63 Division—deployed throughout Xinjiang, Qinghai, Gansu and Shaanxi, and lastly, formations of the Xinjiang Military District. 21 GA comprises the 61 Infantry Division, 12 Armoured Division (84701 Unit at Jiuquan in Gansu), 19 Artillery Brigade, an AAA Brigade, one Special Operations Group (‘Tigers of the Night), a Signals Regiment, an EW Regiment, a Combat Engineering Regiment, and a NBC Defence Regiment. 47 GA comprises the 55 Mountain Infantry Brigade, 56 Mountain Infantry Brigade, 139 Mechanised Infantry Brigade, one Armoured Brigade, one Artillery Brigade, one AAA Brigade, one Signals Regiment, and a Combat Engineering Regiment. The Xinjiang Military District controls formations like 4 Highland Motorised Infantry Division (and its 52 & 53 Mountain Infantry Brigades), 6 Highland Mechanised Infantry Division, 8 Infantry Division, 11 Highland Motorised Infantry Division in the trans-Karakoram Tract, 1 Independent Regiment, 2 Independent Regiment, 2 Artillery Brigade, one AAA Brigade, 3 Helicopter Regiment, and 9 Engineer Regiment. PLAAF elements falling under the Lanzhou MR include the Yinchuan AB-based 6 Fighter Division with 16 (Su-27SKs and Su-27UBKs), 17, 18 & 139 Air Regiments; Wulumuqi AB-based 37 Fighter Division comprising 109 (J-8Fs at Changji), 110 (Urumqi South) & 111 (with J-11s at Korla-Xinhiang) Air Regiments; and Wugong AB-based 36 Bomber Division with its 106, 107 (Lintong) and 108 (Wugong) Air Regiments, and the 93942 AAA Missile Brigade.—Prasun K. Sengupta

Friday, February 3, 2012

Is ‘Nirbhay’ the N-Capable ALCM Being Co-Developed With Israel’s RAFAEL?

It would indeed appear to be the case, if one is to believe the CEMILAC posters (shown above) highlighting the systems and weapons integration efforts now underway with the Su-30MKI. And equally unlikely is the prospect of an air-launched variant of a strategic, 1,000+km ground-launched cruise missile being developed, unless such an air-launched cruise missile is similar in size and performance parameters to PGMs like the Taurus KEPD-350 or SCALP/Storm Shadow. But even then, such a PGM would hardly qualify to be labelled as a ‘strategic’ weapon. Therefore, if indeed there is a ‘strategic’ (i.e. nuclear-armed) supersonic ALCM—powered by liquid-fuelled ramjets—being developed since late 2008 by the DRDO’s Advanced Systems Laboratory with RAFAEL’s assistance, and if it is meant to be launched by the Su-30MKI, then one could perhaps infer that ‘Nirbhay’ could after all be the ‘strategic, nuclear-armed, supersonic ALCM (instead of being a subsonic 1,000+km-range ground-launched cruise  missile), which was first referred to as the nuclear-capable air-delivered munition (ADM) in the Draft Nuclear Doctrine prepared by India’s National Security Advisory Board in late 1998. And as the chart below of the DRDO indicates, this supersonic ALCM--due for service induction by 2015--could also be modified to serve as either a ground-launched tactical cruise missile, or even a long-range maritime strike PGM.
In conclusion, it could also be that the term ‘Nirbhay’ has been deliberately accorded to two separate R & D projects for obvious reasons, just as the there are two projects sharing the name ‘Arudhra’, these being the on-going procurement of ELTA Systems-built EL/M-2084 MMRs and the other relating to the DRDO’s efforts to develop a transportable medium-power radar of indigenous design—Prasun K. Sengupta