This deal was in the making for the last two years. And before you jump to any ill-conceived assumptions, NO, the ‘Make in India’ plan involving the Kamov Ks-226T helicopter (powered by twin Turbomeca Arrius 2G1 engines) WILL NOT be used as either militarised LUHs or RSHs by India’s armed forces. Instead, as Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin explained yesterday after the annual summit-level talks between President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, these Made-In-India Ka-226Ts “can be used for search-and-rescue (SAR) operations in mountainous areas”, meaning that these helicopters, to be owned and operated by state-owned Pawan Hans Helicopters Ltd, will be used primarily by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) and National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA). The BRO requires the services of about 120 such helicopters for providing both SAR and CASEVAC facilities for various local and foreign civil/heavy engineering companies that have either been or will be contracted for building all-weather roads and highways all along the Sino-Indian Line of Actual Control, especially in Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Ladakh.
It may be recalled that Russian Helicopters JSC, a subsidiary of Oboronprom State Corp, and India’s Elcom Systems, part of the Sun Group Investment conglomerate, had signed an agreement on February 5, 2013 to create a Greenfield industrial facilities, in India for building Russia-developed helicopters, starting with the Ka-226T light twin. In the next following months this agreement will be operationalised and the Ka-226Ts built under licence by Elcom Systems will not only be procured by Pawan Hans, but will also be sold to customers in Bhutan, Nepal and Myanmar.
Another ground-breaking announcement on December 11 concerned India’s intention to become a full-fledged member of the Eurasian Economic Union by creating a north-south free trade corridor--a point that was briefly touched upon by China’s President Xi Jinping during his maiden official visit to India last September, when he spoke of the critical need for both China and India to align and synchronise their developmental strategies. While Russia, India and China (under the RIC grouping) have been interacting trilaterally since 1996 and have been holding annual trilateral meetings of the foreign ministers of the three countries), plans began taking concrete shape after Xi Jinping’s ascension to power in China. Xi, who has initiated China’s ‘Look West’ geo-economic policy, is also the architect of an ambitious plan to build a wide network of new ‘silk roads’ on land and seas to enhance global connectivity. China last year invited India to join President Xi’s pet project that would revive the ancient trade route and benefit the region. From a historical point of view, India is the converging point of Maritime Silk road (MSR) and the ancient ‘Silk Road’ on land. For morethan 2,000 years India had very close exchanges with China through the passage of the ‘South Silk Road’ and China therefore believes that India has a vital role to play in making the ‘New Silk Road Economic Belt’ a reality.
And this is where the RIC grouping’s most prestigious trilateral project comes into the picture: Russia and India have been negotiating to build a US$30 billion oil pipeline, which would be the world’s most expensive due to its proposed route through the rugged terrain along Xinjiang and Aksai Chin. The so-called ‘Silk Road Pipeline’ will link Russia’s Altai Mountain region to China’s Xinjiang province and northern India. While Russia exports 70% of its crude oil, compared to 30% of its gas production, and its oil revenues are nearly seven times its gas revenues, India is the third-largest crude oil importer in the world after the US and China, as she relies on imports from the Middle East, and she is projected to become the world’s largest oil importer by 2020. China’s and India’s economies have been among the world’s fastest-growing for the past two decades, and like China, India’s energy consumption has more than doubled since 1990. Unsurprisingly, India is aiming to secure additional energy imports and to diversify its energy supply. India’s then Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and President Putin had issued a joint statement from Moscow on October 21, 2013, which had then confirmed that the two countries were collaborating “to study the possibility of direct ground transportation of hydrocarbons”. The statement reaffirmed a joint commitment made earlier in 2010. In 2012, the foreign ministers of Russia, India and China agreed to enhance energy cooperation among the two countries, and at the end of 2013, India’s state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) confirmed its interest in the pipeline from Russia, calling it “appropriate”. Talks about the pipeline's construction are expected to conclude by the middle of next year, with a completion date of 2020.
IAF Formally Inducts BrahMos-1 Block-3 Into Service
The Indian Air Force (IAF) on December 9, 2014 formally inducted the BrahMos-1 Block-3 ground-launched supersonic ‘top-attack’ cruise missile into service, thus becoming the third Indian armed service to procure the BrahMos-1 after the Indian Navy (BrahMos-1 Block-1) in 2005 and the Indian Army (BrahMos-1 Block-2) in 2007. The Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee and Chief of Air Staff of the IAF, Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha, symbolically accepted the first ‘BRAHMOS Technical Position’ (the IAF-specific mobile autonomous launcher) at the New Delhi-based HQ of BrahMos Aerospace.
Glimpses Of IDEAS-2014 Expo In Karachi
Strangely, PAC Kamra has yet to display a scale-model of either the JF-17 with its full load of air-to-ground PGMs, or of the tandem-seat JFT-17, which was showcased by AVIC last month at Zhuhai (below).
Meet The Maldives’ New ‘All-Weather Friend’
Defending Vietnam’s Offshore Islands In The Spratlys With IMI-Built EXTRA MBRLs & Orbiter-2 Mini-UAS
Revisiting The SHORADS Versus MR-SAM Debate In Malaysia
In 2002, when the Govt of Malaysia had decided to equip the Malaysian Army’s air-defence artillery group (Grup Artlleri Pertahanan Udara, or GAPU) with VSHORADS/MANPADS and SHORADS, contracts were inked on April 15, 2002 for 15 MBDA-made 9km-range Jernas SHORADS systems (inclusive of missiles and Blindfire/Dagger fire-control radars) worth US$315.48 million, IGLA-1 9K310 VSHORADS/MANPADS with Dzighit launchers supplied by Russia’s Rosoboronexport State Corp (for GAPU and the Royal Malaysian Air Force, or RMAF) worth US$48 million, plus 100 Anza Mk1 (QW-1) VSHORADS/MANPADS worth US$21.3 million from Pakistan for the Army’s 10 Brigade (Para). This was subsequently followed by the procurement of FN-6 VSHORADS/MANPADS (64 missiles, instead of the 160 required for a Battery) on September 19, 2008 for GAPU, and several Anza Mk2 (QW-2) VSHORADS/MANPADS for 10 Brigade (Para). The THALES Starburst VSHORADS/MANPADS systems acquired in the early 1990s for the RMAF and the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) have since been decommissioned.
Rewinding back to 2002, when the GAPU had evaluated up to seven different types of SHORADS, the ones deemed most ideal at that time were MBDA’s Aspide 2000 and CPMIEC of China’s LY-60D. However, the then Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, in his all-knowing wisdom, preferred to award the procurement contract to MBDA for the Jernas. Fast-forward to 2007, when, in order to establish a hierarchical, layered and in-depth national air defence system, the Malaysian Armed Forces (MAF) projected a requirement for a minimum of 20 Batteries of enhanced short-range air defence systems (E-SHORADS) for the Army, three Batteries (or one Regiment) of medium-range surface-to-air missiles (MR-SAM) for the RMAF, an additional 200 very short-range SAMs (VSHORADS) for the Army, six gapfiller radars for the RMAF, and a similar number of low-probability-of-intercept (LPI) tactical air defence radars, plus four passive surveillance systems (PSS) for the Army, all to be procured during the 9th Malaysia Plan (2006-2010) and the following 10th Malaysia Plan (2011-1015). While the RMAF and Royal RMN were in favour of acquiring the MR-SAMs, the Army, understandably, wanted additional VSHORADS/MANPADS and SHORADS. However, all such plans got disrupted due to the global financial meltdown of 2008.
Fast-forward to today, when both radar-guided SHORADS and E-SHORADS are being increasingly overshadowed by new-generation vertically-launched MR-SAMs. For instance, in Europe, the MBDA-developed Aster-15/Aster-30 vertically-launched MR-SAM/LR-SAM combination is in use, while for cruise missile defence (CMD), the vertically-launched VL-Mica is available. In Germany, the IRIS family of vertically-launched MR-SAMs are being procured, with the latter (IRIS-T) using an IIR seeker for CMD, while the radar-guided MR-SAM version is optimised for intercepting hostile airborne combat aircraft. In Russia, no new-generation radar-guided SHORADS has been developed since the 1990s and instead, only the vertically-launched S-350E Vityaz MR-SAM has been developed. Similarly, in South Korea, the Cheongung (Iron Hawk) vertically-launched MR-SAM co-developed by a consortium of entities that included Russia’s Almaz Design Bureau, the ADD, LIG-Nex1, Samsung-THALES and Doosan DST, is now in series-production, replacing earlier-generation MR-SAMs and SHORADS of US-origin. In India, the country’s three armed services have decided to do away with radar-guided SHORADS altogether and instead procure the Barak-2 vertically-launched MR-SAM. For CMD, India is on the lookout for IIR seeker-using SHORADS to meet its SL-QRM and QR-SAM requirements. Similarly in Singapore, the SAF has not sought any replacements for its Rapier radar-guided SHORADS, and has instead procured the SpyDer-SR from Israel for CMD. The fire-and-forget SpyDer-SR uses Python-5 missiles equipped with IIR seekers.
Since the new-generation MR-SAMs are vertically-launched, they are capable of high lateral acceleration, going up to as much as 80 G. This in turn enables such MR-SAMs to effectively engage both low-flying airborne targets as well as high-flying airborne targets. It is for this very reason that even China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) had decided in the previous decade not to induct the LY-60D SHORADS into service in large numbers, and instead await the development of the LY-80 MR-SAM (produced by China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp, or CASC, and marketed by Aerospace Long-March International Import and Export Co Ltd, or ALIT). Consequently, the PLA today has only 1 Regiment of the HQ-64/LY-60D operational with the People’s Liberation Army Air Force’s (PLAAF) Chengdu-based 11 Anti-Air Artillery Brigade (Unit 95607). The interception altitude of the LY-60D is 30 metres-12,000 metres (15 metres–15,000 metres for LY-80) and slant range 1,000 metres–18,000 metres (extended to 20,000 metres recently), as against 3,500 metres–40,000 metres and extendable to 70,000 metres for the LY-80. As an oblique launched system the LY-60D has its limitations compared to a vertically launched system. Its maximum overload after launch is 7 G, compared to 30 G maximum overload available after launch for the LY-80.
Despite such overwhelming evidence in favour of MR-SAMs, it appears that a turf war between GAPU and RMAF HQ has now erupted, resulting in GAPU insisting, rather strangely, on the procurement of additional SHORADS, and in particular the LY-60D, which had been rejected way back in 2002 by the GAPU and by China itself in 2004! Upon digging deeper, it appears that two persons—Maj-Gen Husin bin Md Tahak, a former Head of GAPU, and Brig Gen (Reservist) Tan Sri Liew Yun Fah,a Sabah-based timber trader who is now a Vice President of Parti Gerakan Rakyat Malaysia (a political party)—are the co-marketeers in Malaysia of the obsolete LY-60D. While both these persons were unsuccessful in their marketing efforts during the tenure of Dato’ Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid bin Hamidi as Minister for Defence (between April 10, 2009 and May 16, 2013), the duo are now confident about striking it rich during the tenure of the present Malaysian Defence Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Hishammuddin bin Tun Hussein. While Maj-Gen (Ret’d) Datuk Husin is a former classmate of Dato’ Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi (presently Malaysia’s Minister for Home Affairs) and had secured the LY-60D’s sales and marketing agency for Malaysia from CPMIEC on Dato’ Seri Dr Zahid’s recommendation, his marketing efforts were unsuccessful during Dato’ Seri Dr Zahid’s tenure as Defence Minister. Maj-Gen (Ret’d) Datuk Husin has—since Datuk Seri Panglima Hishamuddin’s tenure at MINDEF—joined forces with Tan Sri Liew. In fact, Brig Gen (Reservist) Tan has, since early this year, been introducing himself both in Malaysia and abroad as an adviser to Datuk Seri Panglima Hishammuddin, and has repeatedly claimed both in China and Malaysia that the latter will do whatever the former proposes!
One can only hope that such caricatures do not succeed in enhancing the size of their respective bank accounts at the expense of both the MAF and the Defence Minister’s personal integrity and public probity.