Following my sustained awareness campaign that no one else in India had bothered to undertake against the spectacularly outrageous public posture of India’s Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar concerning the legally untenable blanket-blacklisting of Italy’s Leonardo Finmeccanica conglomerate (see: http://trishul-trident.blogspot.in/2016/06/thats-airpower-for-you-2.htm), the Indian Prime Minister’s Office has now decisively intervened and overruled the blanket-blacklisting norm and has thus cleared the decks for the commencing the long-overdue ‘deep-upgrade and service life-extension’ of the IN’s AgustaWestland Sea King Mk.42B and Kamov Ka-28PL shipborne ASW helicopters.
The Indian Navy (IN) had begun the process of undertaking the ‘deep-upgrade and service life-extension’ of its Sea King Mk.42Bs and Kamov Ka-28PLs in 2008, and responses to its RFPs were opened in October 2012. It then emerged that Russia’s Rosoboronexport State Corp, representing Russian Helicopters’ Bashkiria-based Kumertau Aviation Production Enterprise (located between the Volga River and Ural Mountains) had won the bid after teaming up with Leonardo Finmeccanica subsidiaries Selex Galileo and Selex ES. Along with Rosoboronexport, Selex Galileo had submitted an industrial participation proposal for the mid-life upgrade of 10 Ka-28PLs, only four of which remain flightworthy as of now. Selex Galileo had proposed to install the ATOS-LW combat management system, along with Selex ES’ Osprey AESA-MMR, which is a low probability of intercept (LPI) radar with high gain and low sidelobes. Field evaluation trials (FET) of the Ka-28PL with ATOS-LW system were concluded successfully. Selex Galileo was also selected—following exhaustive and thorough evaluations on a global scale being conducted by the IN—to supply the Osprey for 14 Sea King Mk42Bs (only six of which are flightworthy as of now), which were to be upgraded as multi-role platforms for use as both over-the-horizon target acquisition and airborne early warning.
Now, instead of directly procuring the hardware from Leonardo Finmeccanica’s Selex Galileo and Selex ES subsidiaries and supplying them to Kumertau Aviation Production Enterprise as customer-furnished equipment (CFE), the IN has appointed Rosoboronexport State Corp as the sole prime contractor for executing the contract, meaning Rosoboronexport State Corp will directly procure all the mission sensors and mission management systems from Selex Galileo and Selex ES and also do all systems installation/work work. A similar arrangement is now being worked out between Lockheed Martin (which as the owner of Sikorsky Helicopters is also the IPR holder of all Sikrosky-designed helicopters of the Sea King family) and the Ministry of Defence, under which Lockheed Martin will procure the required hardware from Selex Galileo and Selex ES for systems integration, following which it will undertake systems installation in India in cooperation with Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL).
Leonardo-Finmeccanica’s UK-based Selex ES subsidiary has developed the X-band Osprey, an AESA-MMR that electronically scans 360 degrees without using a “spinning” slotted-array antenna. It is the world’s first lightweight e-scan system with no moving parts. The Osprey’s programmable signals processor (PSP) also incorporates algorithms from the Vixen air-to-air and PicoSAR air-to-ground AESA-based radars. It is easier to mount, having air-cooling and no pressurised waveguides.
On the Norwegian AW-101, three antennae are separately located in the nose and on either side of the helicopter. Space requirements are minimal, and with no need for a belly-mounted radome, the helicopter’s ground clearance is maximised for challenging rescue landings on rough terrain. The antenna distribution is via a multi-array interface, while the radar’s other two black boxes are the receiver/exciter and the PSP. Two- and four-antenna configurations are also possible. Each antenna weighs 11.3kg and contains 256 Gallium Arsenide transmit/receive modules. Each antenna provides 120-degree coverage. The radar feeds are handled by a centralised set of processing boxes, which can manage up to four radar panels (although only three are needed to provide 360-degree coverage). Besides the functional and performance improvements offered by AESA technology, perhaps the key advantage of Osprey is that its arrays can be mounted higher on an aircraft's fuselage than traditional mechanically-scanned radars.
This is particularly advantageous for use on helicopters where mechanical radars normally have to be mounted on the underside of the fuselage in order to be able to rotate to provide 360-degree coverage. This puts the radar in harm’s way in case of a hard landing and also puts major size limitations on the size of the array due to ground clearance restrictions. Using multiple fixed arrays sidesteps this issue, while the lack of moving parts greatly improves reliability and dramatically reduces maintenance requirements.
In another significant development, the MoD by mid-June had been convinced by Rosoboronexport State Corp that the total life-cycle costs of a fleet of 12 IL-78MKI-90 aerial refuelling tankers and 18 upgraded and refurbished IL-76MD-90 transport aircraft will be far less than those of 10 Airbus A330-220 multi-role tanker transports (MRTT), in addition to ensuring quicker deliveries.
Consequently, the MoD has now scrapped plans for procuring the 10 A330-220 MRTTs, and instead, by this October is expected to ink a contract with Rosoboronexport under which the IAF’s existing six IL-78MKI aerial refuelling tankers will be upgraded and refurbished to IL-78MKI-90 MRTT standard, another six of the IAF’s existing IL-76MD transport aircraft will be converted into IL-78MKI-90 MRTTs, while the remaining 18 IL-76MDs will be upgraded to IL-76MD-90 standard.
The upgrade component will include re-engining with PS-90A turbofans, and incorporation of glass cockpit avionics.
The entire upgrade/refurbishment work will be undertaken by CJSC ‘Aviastar-SP (Ulyanovsk Aviation Industrial Complex), located on the left bank of Volga River in Russia’s Ulyanovsk region.
Airborne Battlefield Reconnaissance Assets Of PLA Deployed From TAR
The PLAAF earlier this month began using one of its SAR-equipped Tu-154M platform to monitor developments in the demilitarised area in Barahoti pastures in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand. The PLA Army on the other hand used a Z-9EC helicopter equipped with a gimballed optronic sensor for intruding into Indian airspace in the same area.
PLA Rapid Intervention Craft At
Since many of you have heard about them, but have never seen them, below is a collage of these RICs, whose photos were taken in 2014 during a routine tactical recon mission.