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Thursday, March 8, 2018

India-Seychelles Agreement On Creation Of Logistics Facility On Assomption Island, & Sabotaging Military Hardware Procurements Through ‘Investigative Journalism’

Those ‘desi patrakaars’ who have since the 1980s prided themselves as being ‘investigative journalists’ have a rather bizarre excuse for hurling accusations which goes like this: “we can neither produce any conclusive material evidence of corruption/wrongdoing, nor can we conclusively establish the motive/intent behind such purported acts, but we will still continue to make baseless allegations until perpetuity”. Be it the procurement of the Bofors FH-77B towed 155mm/39-cal howitzers, or the HDW Class 209/Type 1500 diesel-electric submarines, or the AgustaWestland AW-101 VVIP transportation helicopters, all such decisions have been labelled as being ‘tainted’ with establishing the motive for indulging in the alleged crimes, meaning what exactly prompted a foreign original equipment manufacturer (OEM) to pay bribes to India’s civilian/military decision-makers when it was a foregone conclusion that the selected products of these OEMs were the best available that were being offered to India’s armed forces. After all, a prima facie case can be made if third-class or second-class weapon systems were selected for procurement. But when the best-there-is is selected for procurement, where exactly is the need for the buyer to ask for bribes or for the seller to offer bribes?
We are once again seeing some of these ‘desi patrakaars’, in partnership with some foreign media houses, indulge in an almost-identical charade in the name of ‘investigative journalism’, with the target this time being air-defence artillery cannons. And here is what is being peddled:

The target this time is the Switzerland-based Rheinmetall Air Defence AG (RAD), formerly known as Oerlikon-Contraves, whose military-industrial partnership with the MoD-owned Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL) dates back to the 1970s when about 200 Super Fledermaus fire-control systems of the former were licence-built for the Indian Army.
By mid-2005, all three armed services of India had a requirement for a new-generation anti-aircraft cannon, for which the Rheinmetall Oerlikon-Contraves 35mm x 228 KDG revolver cannon emerged as the best available option. It is a gas operated cannon with a link-less feed system. It combines a high firepower with precise accuracy. The cannon is completely remote-controlled, the integrated fibr-optic sensor system supports the fully digital control of the cannon. Its naval version is the Millennium Gun or Rheinmetall GDM-008—a close-in weapon system designed by RAD for mounting on warships and using AHEAD ammunition. There also exists a turret-mounted version of this cannon—called LANCE—that can be mounted on both tracked infantry combat vehicles (ICV) and wheeled armoured personnel carriers (APC).
While the Indian Army requires close to 2,000 35mm x 228 KDG cannons worth US$1.7 billion to replace its existing Bofors L-70 cannons, the Indian Air Force requires about 430 of them worth about $400 million for close-in base air-defence. The Indian Army also requires about 500 Lance turrets (developed by Germany’s Rheinmetall DeTec) for its Kestrel 8 x 8 APCs, which are to be manufactured by TATA Motors Ltd. By early 2010 the 35mm x 228 KDG, the GDM-008 and the Lance had officially emerged as clear favourites for the MoD’s HQ Integrated defence Staff (IDS) for an obvious reason:  all three products had an exceptionally high degree of commonality and could therefore be series-produced in India by the MoD-owned Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) at extremely cost-effective rates with a high quantum (more than 75%) of indigenised sub-systems and components—an option which no other global competitor had to offer at that time.
In fact, so confident was TATA Motors then that it even showcased scale-models of its future tracked ICV concept and the Kestrel APC at the DEFEXPO 2012 expo in Pragati Maidan in Delhi, with both scaled-models being shown equipped with the Lance turret. Also shown was a TATA Motors 8 x 8 HMV with 35mm x 228 KDG revolver cannon. The accompanying fire-control system was to be the DRDO-developed Atulya.
However, tragedy struck on March 5, 2012 when the MoD announced that RAD was henceforth barred from doing business with India’s OFB (the gazetted order from the MoD had mentioned that RAD was  barred from further business dealings with the MoD for a period of 10 years w.e.f. 11.4.2012). Thus, RAD was  placed on a MoD blacklist, the reason for this being a CBI investigation into allegations of corruption levelled against the then Director General of the OFB, Sudipta Ghosh. And although the trial against Ghosh and his associates is still underway, RAD has still not been charged with any crime in this case. 
In fact, RAD has challenged its blacklisting in the Delhi High Court. That trial, too, is still underway and unless the trial court rules in RAD’s favour, or the MOD pro-actively decides to remove RAD from its blacklist, RAD will continue to be shunned by the MoD despite the absence of any criminal charges bein g registered against this OEM, i.e. a truly Indian definition of ‘ease-of-doing-business in-country’!
Incidentally, for base air-defence the Pakistan Air Force in the previous decade had already acquired the 35mm x 228 KDG revolver cannon and a related fire-control system, which together is known as the Skyshield-35 system.

Monday, February 26, 2018

No-Brainer Shipbuilding Schemes, Plus DSAR-SRVs Ready For Delivery, But DSVs To Be Available Only In 2021

The Indian Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) decision to procure two Project 1135.6 Batch-3 guided-missile frigates (FFG) off-the-shelf from Kaliningrad-based Shipyard YANTAR JSC (a subsidiary of Russia’s United Shipbuilding Corp), with another two to be licence-built by the MoD-owned Goa Shipyard Ltd (GSL), is a total no-brainer on both industrial and commercial grounds, as is as spectacularly outrageous as an earlier botched scheme early this decade to acquire two LPHs off-the-shelf from a foreign shipyard, followed by two identical LPHs each being licence-built by a private-sector shipyard and an MoD-owned shipyard!
The two Project 1135.6 Batch-3 FFGs, each costing US$775 million, which will be delivered by Russia in 2021 and 2022, are the Admiral Istomin and Admiral Kornilov, both of which were launched in November 2017 at Kaliningrad. Their construction was halted in the wake of the Russia’s annexation of Crimea in April 2016 after which Ukrainian gas turbine-builder Zorya-Mashproyekt refused to deliver further М7Н1 marine propulsion suites (each comprising two UGT-16000/DT-59 and two UGT-6000/DS-71 marine industrial gas turbines) to Russia. Now, India will procure the two М7Н1 marine propulsion suites from Zorya-Mashproyekt and will then trans-ship them as customer-furnished equipment to Shipyard YANTAR JSC for installation on-board the Admiral Istomin and Admiral Kornilov.
These two FFGs will be similar in configuration to the three Project 1135.6 Batch-2 FFGs that the Indian Navy had procured directly from United Shipbuilding Corp between April 2012 and June 2013. The only significant difference will be the incorporation of VL-cells for the 9M317ME SHTIL MR-SAMs.
GSL will take at least eight years to deliver the two Project 1135.6 Batch-3 FFGs, since it has never built any FFG to date and therefore faces severe human resource constraints. Matters would be much better if GSL were first to adopt the ‘crawl. walk and then run’ approach by teaming up with Shipyard YANTAR JSC for undertaking the approaching scheduled mid-life refits of the three Project 1135.6 Batch-1 FFGs that were delivered between June 2003 and April 2004. This would then transform GSL as the only Indian shipbuilder capable of servicing and refitting all ten Project 1135.6 FFGs.
The ideal solution for boosting up the Indian Navy’s warship strength on a fast-track basis would have been to procure not three, but six indigenously designed Project 17 and seven Project 17A FFGs from the MoD-owned Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Ltd, nine Project 1135.6 Batch-1/2/3 FFGs off-the-shelf from Russia, six next-generation missile vessels (NGMV) and 16 shallow water ASW vessels from the MoD-owned Cochin Shipyard Ltd under the ‘Buy (Indian)/Buy and Make (Indian)’ category, with the MoD-owned Garden Reach Shipbuilding & Engineering Ltd (GRSE) being contracted for building the seven next-generation corvettes (NGC) of imported design, whose deliveries are are required to commence in 2023.

While the SW-ASW vessels will each have a length of 70 metres, breadth of 10 metres, draught of 3 metres, maximum speed of 25 Knots and a crew complement of 60, the six NGMVs will have 80-metre hulls and a maximum speed in excess of 35 Knots. For the NGC requirement, the St. Petersburg-based Northern Shipyard (Severnaya Verf), a subsidiary of United Shipbuilding Corp, has offered a version of its Project 20385 guided-missile corvette, which has a displacement of 2,500 tonnes, a length of 106 metres, width of 13 metres, a speed of up to 27 Knots, a cruising range of 3,500nm, an endurance of 15 days, and a crew complement of 99.
Meanwhile, UK-based James Fisher Defence (JFD) on February 23, 2018 successfully completed building of the first of two new innovative third-generation submarine rescue systems (DSAR-SRV) for the Indian Navy, which are due for delivery next month. Both DSAR-SRVs incorporate an innovative new system design and tightly integrated components to ensure time-to-first-rescue (TTFR)—the time measured between system deployment and commencement of the rescue—is minimised. In the event of an accident, this maximises the chances of a successful rescue, which is crucial in protecting the lives of submariners.
Under the £193 million contract awarded in March 2016, JFD is providing two complete fly-away submarine rescue systems to the Indian Navy, including the two DSAR-SRVs, two Launch and Recovery Systems (LARS) equipment, Transfer Under Pressure (TUP) systems, and all logistics and support equipment required to operate the DSAR-SRVs. The full, certified systems will arrive in India in June 2018. The DSAR-SRV is capable of diving to deeper depths with a crew of three and up to 17 rescuees, while the medical hyperbaric complex can treat and decompress up to 90 personnel at any one time. The LARS has been designed to handle the SRV in conditions up to and including sea state 6, while two self-contained generators are capable of providing a fully redundant electrical supply to the entire system.
Earlier this month, JFD had completed the first stage of harbour acceptance trials of its first DSAR-SRV at Glasgow’s King George V dock. As part of this process, the DSAR-SRV was comprehensively tested in a variety of conditions. The DSAR-SRV’s hull previously underwent factory acceptance tests in December 2017 at the JFD-owned National Hyperbaric Centre in Aberdeen. These tests included thorough pressurised testing on the system’s pressure hulls and command module—all of which were completed successfully. Upon completion of the harbour acceptance trials, the DSAR-SRV was integrated with the rest of the rescue system at a site in Glasgow, including the offshore handling system, intervention suite and 90-person decompression facilities.
Last December JFD had commenced a training programme for a team of 72 Indian Navy personnel on its DSAR-SRV. This training ensures that, in the event of a real emergency, the crew is prepared to mobilise quickly and efficiently to successfully effect a rescue with minimal TTFR. Training was provided at a specialist facility, The Underwater Centre in Fort William, with the first phase involving Indian Navy officers and sailors that lasted for five weeks. This initial phase covered chamber operation, ROV training and familiarisation, and in-water submersible training. After this initial period, JFD continued training on the operation of submersibles, culminating in cross-training on the Indian Navy’s two DSAR-SRVs, following their sea acceptance trials (SAT. In order to enhance the training experience for the Indian Navy, JFD also teamed up with U-Boat Worx, which provided its Super Yacht Sub 3, a three-person submersible, to allow the trainees to become familiar with submersible operations, ahead of more in-depth rescue submersible training.
However, the two DSAR-SRVs—one meant for each of the Indian Navy’s two operational fleet commands—will not become operational until their host vessels, the 3,000-tonne diving support vessels (DSV), become available by 2021. The Navy’s sole submarine tender, the USSR-origin INS Amba (A-54), was decommissioned way back in July 2006. In September last year, the MoD-owned, Vizag-based Hindustan Shipyard (HSL) emerged as the lowest bidder for building the two DSVs, each of which costs Rs.1,010 crores (US$156 million). The first DSV is due for delivery within three years of contract signature (concluded last December), while the second one will be delivered within 12 months of the delivery of the first vessel. HSL had won the contract for supplying the two FSVs through a competitive bidding process. HSL beat Larsen & Toubro, which quoted Rs.1,584 crores—the highest bid, while the MoD-owned Goa Shipyard Ltd’s bid price was Rs.1,086 crores and that of the MoD-owned Cochin Shipyard Ltd was Rs.1,188 crores.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

China's Offshore Military Outposts In South China Sea, Reclaimed From Reefs & Shoals between December 2013 & January 2017

For ferrying a wide variety of industrial equipment meant for installation on such reclaimed islands, state-owned CSIC has built customised cargo freighters equipped with heravy-duty cranes.
PLAN Flotilla In IOR
The PLAN flotilla presently in the IOR has been on station there since October 2017 and comprises four vessels, all from the South Sea Fleet: Type 052D DDG Changsha 173, Type 054A FFG Yuncheng 571,   Type 071 LPD Jinggang Shan 999, and the Type 903A replenishment tanker Luomahu 964.