Total Pageviews

Friday, April 2, 2021

Creating & Disseminating False Narratives

Creating and disseminating false narratives for the sake of according false fame/glorification has become a fashionable pastime for some ‘desi patrakaars’, with this being the latest instance:

Manohar Parrikar’s biggest contribution was to break the Rafale logjam. For six years, India had been unable to decide on how to buy the French-made combat jets because of the faulty procedure adopted by the MoD under the then Defence Minister A K Antony. It is to Parrikar’s credit that he decided to think differently on a knotty issue and suggested a way out to the Prime Minister. It was Parrikar’s sharp insights into finance and international systems that stood out when India—at his suggestion—decided to procure the Rafales from France. However, certain aspects related to licenced-manufacture of 108 aircraft in India with HAL as the lead production agency (LPA) could not be finalised. Major differences occurred on the aspect of man-hours that would be required to produce the aircraft from kits in India, and who would take the responsibility for the entire lot of 126 aircraft. While Dassault Aviation maintained that 31 million man-hours that it had proposed should be sufficient to licence-build 108 Rafales in India, HAL was asking for a mark-up of these man-hours by 2.7 times. This point became the bone of contention between the government and the French manufacturer. Moreover, in the understanding of the MoD, the company that had emerged as the winner in the bid— Dassault Aviation—would have to sign a single contract with the Indian government. The French company would then need to have back-to-back contract(s) with HAL and other Indian production agencies. Dassault Aviation would also be responsible for the delivery of the entire fleet of 126 aircraft to IAF. The single point responsibility for this contract rested with Dassault Aviation because the RFP (Request for Proposal) was issued to them. However, Dassault Aviation did not fulfil the commitment given in the first meeting and an impasse ensued on the responsibility of delivery of 108 aircraft to be manufactured in India. Another hurdle came up on the point of work share of HAL. Dassault Aviation was asked to submit a ‘responsibility matrix’, clearly defining the role and responsibility of Dassault Aviation and HAL. The matrix was to facilitate a back-to- back contract of Dassault Aviation with HAL. The CNC was, however, not able to move the negotiations forward since the interpretation of two fundamental aspects of the case by the French company was not in line with the terms of the original terms in the tender. The first aspect related to treating Dassault Aviation as the ‘seller’ of 126 aircraft, including 108 to be manufactured in India and the corresponding contractual obligations and liabilities. The second point was about the man-hours for the aircraft to be manufactured in India. The UPA government, under the overly cautious A K Antony, instead of imposing a deadline for the French manufacturer to comply with the terms of the RFP, dragged its feet and allowed Dassault Aviation to get away with obfuscation. On November 10, 2014, meanwhile, Parrikar took over as Defence Minister. While being briefed about the major pending projects and contracts, he realised that the MMRCA contract wasn’t going anywhere. He still wanted to give the French sufficient time to comply with the terms of the tender. In December 2014, the French Defence Minister came visiting and as expected, raised the issue of conclusion of contract negotiations in the MMRCA case with Parrikar who told him that conclusion of the contract was held up on account of the vendor not confirming compliance to the terms of the RFP. This was followed up by a formal letter from Parrikar to the French Defence Minister stating that it would be really useful for Dassault Aviation to confirm compliance to the terms of the RFP and the terms of the bid submitted by them at the earliest. It was further mentioned in the letter that the negotiations could be carried forward and concluded thereafter if Dassault Aviation could be asked to depute a fully empowered representative to discuss non-stop with the CNC. Another discussion with the delegation of Dassault Aviation was held on February 12, 2015. A clarification was sought from Dassault Aviation towards confirmation of compliance to the terms of the RFP and terms of the bid submitted by them specifically. The two crucial points, i.e. (i) the consolidated man-hours based on which Dassault Aviation had been declared L–1 would be the same man hours required for licence-manufacturing the 108 Rafales in India, and (ii) Dassault Aviation as the seller under the contract for 126 aircraft for the IAF would undertake necessary contractual obligations as per the RFP requirements. The representatives of Dassault Aviation reiterated their stand on both issues and stated that while Dassault Aviation would be responsible only for delivery of 18 aircraft in a flyaway condition, they would not take ownership for the 108 aircraft to be manufactured by HAL as the LPA. On the issue regarding man-hours, the Dassault Aviation representative stated that the company’s stand had always been consistent that the man-hours indicated in their proposal correspond to the related tasks performed in French industrial condition. He also mentioned that only HAL being the LPA could talk about the factor of multiplication to be applied to these man-hours to convert the same to the man hours-required for the licenced- production of 108 aircraft in India. Clearly, Dassault Aviation was using the loophole in the original terms of the tender to get away with shirking its responsibility towards the quality of the 108 Rafales to be manufactured in India. Exasperated at the obduracy shown by the French company, the MoD issued an ultimatum on March 20, 2015 asking it to fulfill the commitment and confirmation on the two aspects mentioned above, ‘failing which the MoD may be constrained to withdraw the RFP issued’. However, Dassault Aviation, in its response dated March 24, 2015, did not commit on the two aspects mentioned above. Instead, the French company stated that the estimate of consolidated man-hours given by them was to be used by HAL to prepare its own quotation with respect to the completion of its (HAL’s) tasks under the MMRCA. The MoD realised that applying a factor of 2.7 on the man-hours quoted by both Dassault Aviation and Eurofighter GmbH (the company that quoted the second lowest price), the Total Cost of Acquisition (TCA), as on November 2011, would undergo a material change to the extent that Dassault Aviation would have no longer remained L–1 vendor and would have become L–2 vendor. Parrikar realised that another prolonged competition would have taken enormous time and effort. So he took the matter to the Prime Minister and briefed him about the necessity of procuring the selected MMRCA. Under the circumstances, there was no alternative but to withdraw the original tender, Parrikar told Modi since the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) guidelines provided that negotiations could not be held with the competitor who had come second in the competition (L–2 vendor in officialese). The only way, the Defence Minister suggested, was to scrap the tender and buy a minimum number of Rafales off-the-shelf to fill a critical gap in the IAF’s inventory. The Prime Minister agreed and decided to talk to the French President about such a possibility during his upcoming visit to Paris in April 2015. The Cabinet Committee on Security also gave its approval to the new proposal before Modi left for Paris, on April 9, 2015. Eventually, Prime Minister Modi announced in Paris that India would purchase 36 Rafales off-the-shelf.


A deliberate attempt has been made through the above-quoted narrative to portray the foreign OEMs as being guilty of obfuscation and obduracy, while the Indians tend to, as expected, emerge as the undisputed ‘Vishwagurus’. But the reality is the exact opposite. Now, here are the facts/realities that emerge when a key question is asked:

1) Why was HAL asking for a mark-up of the industrial man-hours by 2.7 times (83.7 million as opposed to the 31 million man-hours quoted by Dassault Aviation)? The common-sensical answer is that HAL would have taken close to 15 years to attain the mandated skills proficiency of its skilled human resources in case of licence-building the 108 fourth-generation Rafales, and that too after sending almost 200 of its supervisory and technical staff to France for being type-certified over a period of 18 months. All this in turn would have greatly stretched the production-rate of HAL-built Rafales—which is exactly what has transpired with regard to mastering the industrial processes and protocols required for building fourth-generation MRCAs like the Tejas Mk.1 and Mk.1A variants.

2) Consequently, what emerges from this is that licence-building any fourth-generation MRCA (leave alone fifth-generation MRCAs) was a no-brainer from the outset and therefore this option should have been discarded back in 2007 itself. In fact, no country in the world that has procured fourth-generation or fifth-generation MRCAs (be it the Rafale, the EF-2000 Typhoon or the F-35 JSF) to date has insisting on licence-producing them. Hence, in India’s case, the only practical procurement option was the off-the-shelf acquisition of Rafales from Dassault Aviation.

3) The off-the-shelf procurement option also becomes imperative if the end-user (Indian Air Force) insists on guaranteed serviceability and performance-based logistics support of/for the Rafale fleet from Dassault Aviation. For instance, in the case of the IAF’s procurement of Su-30MKI H-MRCAs, their licenced-production by HAL saw to it that that the Russia-based OEM (IRKUT Corp) accepted product liability for only the first 50 Su-30MKIs that were delivered off-the-shelf by the OEM. For the rest, Russia was under no obligation to extend any support (like crash investigations) in the event of a HAL-built Su-30MKI being lost under catastrophic circumstances. This has since resulted in enormous handicaps for the Indian Air Force since Russia was never required to share the source-codes of its two key operating software packagesGOST R 52070–2003, the Russian equivalent of MIL-STD-1553B digital databus; and the GOST R 58247-2018, equivalent of the MIL-STD-1760A electrical systems interface database. Consequently, if any enhancements of the Su-30MKI’s mission avionics suite is required to be carried out by the IAF, then such work will have to be carried out by Russia’s Zhukovsky-based FSUE State Scientific Research Institute of Aviation Systems (GosNIIAS) as the systems integrator, and by the Zhukovsky-based JSC V V Tikhomirov Scientific Research Institute of Instrument Design NIIP, the OEM for the RLSU-30MK NO-11M Bars PESA-MMR.

4) The reasons why licence-producing the Rafales was a no-brainer from the outset also becomes evident to anyone applying sound common-sense to understand why the much-touted plans for HAL licence-producing the fifth-generation Prospective Multi-Role Fighter (PMF) variant of the Sukhoi Su-57 never took off. While it was agreed in early 2007 by Russia and India to jointly study and develop the PMF, Russia on August 8, 2007 had already proclaimed that the R & D programme’s development stage was complete and later in 2009, the Su-57’s design was officially approved (meaning FROZEN, with no further deep iterations). Despite this, in September 2010, India and Russia agreed on a preliminary co-design contract and in December 2010, a Memorandum of Understanding (the MoU) for the preliminary design of the PMF was inked by HAL, Rosoboronexport State Corp and United Aircraft Corp JSC. Under this MoU, the PMF was to have incorporated of 43 modifications of the Su-57’s design. HAL negotiated a 25% design and development workshare The IAF was to procure 166 single-seat and 48 twin-seat PMFs. But in May 2012, India’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced a two-year delay in the project and by October 2012, India had cut the total purchase size from 214 to 144 PMFs. India's initial investment had by then grown from the estimated $5 billion to $6 billion, and the estimated total programme cost had grown to $30 billion. So, despite India contributing 15% of the R & D work, India was faced with bearing half the cost of the R & D effort. In September 2016, the two countries announced a detailed work-share agreement for joint production. In May 2017, another announcement came out regarding a ‘milestone’ agreement to finalise the PMF’s detailed design, but by June that year, Russia was insisting that HAL forego the PMF’s entire licenced-production effort in order to ensure speedier deliveries (within 36 months after contract signature, instead of the earlier agreed-upon 92 months). In addition, just like in the Su-30MKI’s case, Russia refused to share the source-codes for any of the PMF’s on-board operating software. Consequently, the Indian Air Force on September 2, 2017 officially declared its reluctance to proceed any further with the PMF project, and by February 2018 the PMF project was given a quiet and permanent burial.

Conclusion: One does not need to be an IIT Graduate or a ‘Vishwaguru’ to figure out common-sensical outcomes and end-states. Instead, making decisions by cultivating respect for the laws of physics and mathematics produces far more cost-effective and value-added outcomes. But Alas! This was not to be yet again between 2012 and 2018 as the late Shri Parrikar and his fellow colleagues in the then Union Cabinet embarked upon yet another futile exercise, i.e. undertaking to expose/unmask the still elusive RAAZDAARS (custodians of secrets) who could spill the beans about the alleged scam involving the procurement of 12 AgustaWestland AW-101 VVIP transportation helicopters for the Indian Air Force.

(to be concluded)

Monday, March 15, 2021

Mapping The PLAGF's Field Deployments In Eastern Ladakh

Updated GoogleEarth imagery has nolw revealed the scales of field deployment of the PLAGF Ground Forces’ two warfighting formations now deployed in eastern Ladakh—the South Xinjiang Military District’s Kashgar-based 6 Highland Mechanised Infantry Division and the  Aksu-based 4 Highland Motorised Infantry Division.

The highest concentration of forces has been in the area east of Chushul astride the Spanggur Gap, i.e. the area between the south bank of Panggong Tso Lake and the Spanggur Tso Lake. However, such a concentration over such a small area also becomes highly vulnerable to fire-assaults and effect-based operations by offensive firepower. Consequently, such a deployment by the PLAGF defies all military logic and therefore was unlikely to be pushed into combat of any kind.

Coming next is the concentration of forces in the Depsang Plains east of Burtse and the DBO ALG. And following that comes the Gogra-Hot Springs area, and then Demchok.

Meanwhile, the updated GoogleEarth imagery of Ngari-Gunsa Airport shows the on-going construction of up to 16 storm-shelters for housing MRCAs.

Also uploaded is the image of a bridge constructed by the BRO in the middle of last year for facilitating the entrance of India’s ground forces into the Galwan River-Valley.

Depsang Plains Dispositions As Of March 2021

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Maritime ISR Outposts Taking Shape

As per an agreement inked between Mauritius and India on March 11, 2015, the latter had committed to funding the construction of an airport capable of accommodating twin-engined jetliners as well as LRMR/ASW platforms like the Indian Navy’s P-8I. As of now, construction of the runway is nearing completion, along with an apron capable of housing two P-8Is (on periodic deployments) at a time.

A similar agreement had been inked on June 26, 2018 between Seychelles and India under which a similar facility was to be built at the former’s Assumption Island. However, construction has yet to begin.

Such far-flung facilities are required to keep tabs over the underwater trenches where hostile SSBNs will likely be deployed for launching SLBMs against Indian targets in the western, central and southern hinterlands.

In February 2018 India secured access to the Port of Duqm in Oman for military use and logistical support by/for the Indian Navy. This was one of the key takeaways of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s two-day visit to Oman, where he met the then Sultan of Oman, the late Sayyid Qaboos bin Said Al Said. An annexure to the Memorandum of Understanding on Military Cooperation was then signed between the two countries.

Following this, the services of Duqm Port and its dry-dock have been available for maintenance of Indian Navy warships. In September 2017, the Indian Navy sent a Class 209/Type-1500 SSK to this port along with the Project 15 DDG INS Mumbai, plus two P-8Is to the nearby Duqm Airport.

The MoU on Military Cooperation was signed in 2005 and renewed in 2016. This has provided the general framework to strengthen bilateral military cooperation ties. On the other hand, the MoU on cooperation in maritime security between Coast Guards of the two countries, signed in May 2016, has provided a firm foundation for deepening institutional interactions.

Also, the ongoing UAE-financed airport construction activities at Yemen’s Perim Island in the Bab El Mandeb Strait, and at Socotra Island to the east, have the potential of turning these navigational choke-points into strategic SIGINT stations that can be assessed by the Indian Navy.

Another potential chain of ISR outposts can be created in the Comoros group of islands.

But the most critical cooperation of a trilateral nature (involving the US, India and Oman) has been in the arena of undersea warfare.

This involves the setting up of a US-funded and owned SOSUS network of seabed-based hydrophone arrays that begins from Diego Garcia and stretches northward via Seychelles all the way up to Oman’s Masirah island, and from there to coastal Porbandar in Gujarat, terminating at an onshore forward operating base (FOB)—INS Sardar Patel—which was commissioned on May 9, 2015 in Porbandar.

Supplementing this FOB is another upgraded FOB at Mandvi, plus a storage-cum-launch complex for BrahMos-1 supersonic multi-role cruise missiles at the Indian Air Force’s Naliya AFS.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

From Arjun Mk.1 to Mk.1A to Mk.2: An Evolving MBT Family

The 124 Arjun Mk.1s were delivered to the Indian Army between 2004 and 2012 at a rate of 15 MBTs per annum and each MBT had 63% imported content.

They will be upgraded in phases that will include the incorporation of 14 major upgrades (that are on the Mk.1A variant), plus the installation of multi-aperture and multi-spectral real-time panoramic imaging systems designed to increase 360-degree situational awareness. Arjun Mk.1 weighs 62 tonnes when equipped with a track-width mine plough (TWMP) and has a power-to-weight ratio of 22.4hp/tonne, while the Mk.1A, with 59% imported content, weighs 68 tonnes when fitted with TWMPs, and has a power-to-weight ratio of 20.5hp/tonne.

The Arjun Mk.1A MBT, under development since 2010, features 71 improvements (14 of them being major upgrades) over the Mk.1 variant. User-trials commenced in 2012. The 118 Arjun Mk.1As to be ordered before the end of 2021 will be valued at Rs.8,400 crore, with first deliveries (of five MBTs) taking place within 30 months after contract signature. In addition, orders for support-vehicles like Arjun BLTs and Arjun ARRVs will also be ordered.

Since the prevalence of a nuclear overhang prevents either India or Pakistan from engaging in offensive mechanised manoeuvre warfare inside each other’s territory all along the International Boundary (IB), manoeuvre warfare conducted by both Arjun Mk.1 and Mk.1A MBTs during the next round of military hostilities will be confined to those areas that straddle the Working Boundary (WB) in Jammu, and the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir.

To this end, the Integrated Battle Groups (IBG) employing such MBTs will also contain Sarvatra multi-span bridging systems (when operating within the riverine terrain of both the Chicken’s Neck area and the Chhamb-Jaurian-Akhnoor sector of operations) and Rudra WSI helicopter-gunships that will be tasked with the provision of immediate air-support.

The Arjun’s Mk.2 variant will be ordered as its seven pre-production units have already commenced developmental mobility-cum-firepower trials. The Mk.2s will each be built with High Nitrogen Steel (HNS), which will reduce their weight from 67.5 tonnes to 62 tonnes.

The earlier imported COAPS panoramic sight (below) on the Mk.1A variant has now been replaced with an indigenously developed panoramic device (above).

In addition, the powerpack will include a 1,500hp Cummins diesel engine. Consequently, the Mk.2’s power-to-weight ratio will increase from the existing 18hp/tonne to a healthy 25hp/tonne, thereby providing excellent mobility parameters over all kinds of terrain at all altitudes. The cannon will be a smoothbore 120mm one, fed by an autoloader. Hence, up to 250 Arjun Mk2s will be ordered in future. The 464 T-90S MBTs to be licence-built at HVF Avadi too will have an uprated 1,300hp diesel engine from Russia, which too will increase the power-to-weight ratio of the T-90S to 25hp/tonne.

The 37-tonne T-72Ms (Ob’yekt 172M-E4) are each powered by a V46-6 780hp diesel engine that offer a power-to-weight ratio of 20hp/tonne. The 41.5-tonne T-72CIA has a power-to-weight ratio of 18hp/tonne. T-72U’s power-to-weight ratio will go up to 21.7hp/tonne when equipped with the turbocharged 1,000hp V46-6 engine.

The 46-tonne T-90S (Ob’yekt 188S) are each powered by a 1,000hp V-92S2 diesel engine that deliver a power-to-weight ratio of 21.5hp/tonne. A85-3AX-diesel engine capable of producing up to 1,500hp (although it is presently down-rated at 1,350hp) is likely to be ordered from Russia’s Chelyabinsk Tractor Plant, located about 350km south of Nizhny Tagil. This in turn will result in the T-90S’ power-to-weight ratio being hiked to 24 hp/tonne.

The Pakistan Army’s 47-tonne Al Khalid MBT is powered by a 1,200hp 6TD-2 diesel engine that delivers a power-to-weight ratio is 25hp/tonne. The 46-tonne Ob’yekt 478BE T-80UD MBTs, each powered by a 1,000hp 6TD-1 diesel engine, has a power-to-weight ratio is 21.7hp/tonne. The 42.7-tonne Al Zarrar, powered by a 730hp diesel engine, has a power-to-weight ratio is 17.1hp/tonne. The 41.5-tonne Type 85IIAP comes powered by a 730hp diesel engine that offers a power-to-weight ratio is 17.8hp/tonne. The 36.7-tonne Type 69IIAP, powered by a 580hp diesel engine, has a power-to-weight ratio is 15.8hp/tonne.

The PLA Army’s 42.8-tonne Type 96A MBTs are each powered by a 800hp engine that deliver a power-to-weight ratio of 18.7hp/tonne, while the 52-tonne Type 96Bs are each powered by a 1,100hp engine that deliver a power-to-weight ratio of 25hp/tonne.