By the first week of next March, the Indian Navy (IN) is expected to receive all responses to the RfP issued on August 7, which calls for the supply of 56 armed light twin-engined multi-role helicopters between 2016 and 2023. The RfPs, which have already been received by Eurocopter SA, Bell Helicopter Textron, Boeing, AgustaWestland and Rosoboronexport State Corp/OBORONPROM, are most likely to result in the shortlisting of two contenders—in all probability the Bell 429 and AW-109P—following which final selection based on the lowest bidder (L-1) will be made. As of now, the Bell 429, MD-900 Explorer, A-109Power and AS.555 Fennec are the contenders. The winning design (which I believe will be the Bell 429) will be required to have a MTOW of 4.5 tonnes, be armed with 70mm unguided air-to-surface rockets, twin lightweight torpedoes and a pintle-mounted 12.7mm machine gun, be equipped with night vision-compatible glass cockpit avionics and a chin-mounted FLIR turret, along with a nose-mounted search radar and an emergency floatation system. Also to be acquired will be three simulators (of which one will be a full-flight unit) and 28 spare engines. Of the 56 light twin-engined multi-role helicopters, 46 will be of the armed-type, while the remaining 10 will be utilised for flying training purposes. The 46 units will be deployed on board the IN’s planned five 2,500-tonne AOPVs now being built by Pipavav Defence & Offshore Engineering Co Ltd, four NOPVs built by Goa Shipyard Ltd (GSL), and the 16 stealthy 400-tonne shallow water ASW patrol vessels of a foreign design (being proposed by Thyseenkrupp Marine Systems, DCNS and Rosoboronexport State Corp), which are likely to be built by both GSL and Hindustan Shipyard Ltd. The stealthy shallow-water ASW patrol vessels will each be equipped with two twin-tube heavyweight torpedo launchers, hull-mounted panoramic sonar, stern-mounted active/passive towed-array sonar, and a VSHORADS-based point air-defence system like MBDA’s SADRAL.
In another development, in response to a restricted RfP which my company, TRIDENT AVIATION SERVICES, had floated a while ago (calling for innovative solutions for a helicopter aircrew’s night-vision enhancement systems suitable for Mi-17V-5-type helicopters), Italy-based SELEX Galileo Ltd, a Finmeccanica company, has come up with the VIGIL-X airborne enhanced situational awareness system, whose brochure is displayed below. Needless to say, such a system will be a highly useful night-navigation tool worldwide for those medium-lift helicopters that are engaged in flights over high-altitude mountainous terrain, or for shipborne MRHs when flying over the high seas.
Meanwhile, shipment of a new batch of 50 JF-17 Thunder MRCAs began three days ago to the Kamra-based Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) for final assembly. The PAF’s IL-78MKPs were spotted at Chengdu three days ago for loading the CAC-built JF-17s in semi-knocked-down condition and ferry-flying them to PAC Kamra. My appreciation is that the nine-member suicide squad of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) was trying to target the four IL-78MKPs that are involved in airlifting the JF-17s from Chengdu.
But most astonishing is the fact that 50% of Pakistanis do not consider the 30 million Pakistani Shias to be Muslims, this according to a recent opinion survey poll conducted the US-based Pew Research Center. If this is indeed the case, then this would mean that the founding father of Pakistan—Quaid-e-Azam Mohd Ali Jinnah—himself a Shia, isn’t a Muslim anymore! (see: http://dawn.com/2012/08/15/who-gets-to-be-a-muslim-in-pakistan/). Is Pakistan therefore now well past the incipient stages of an on-going civil war?
Lastly, fellow bloggers may be interested in watching a video (see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fGweDRqj1iU) produced by the US-based Georgetown University for a recent arms control seminar, which showcases the more-than 3,000 miles of underground tunnels built so far by the PLA’s 2nd Artillery Corps for the peacetime storage of its vast arsenal of rocket-propelled artillery assets. And it appears increasingly likely that India too is following suit by initiating the construction of 18 horse shoe-shaped 8.82km-long hardened weapons storage facilities in Jammu & Kashmir (under the 13,400-feet Rohtang Pass on the Manali-Sarchu-Leh axis that is due for completion by February 2015, followed by similar facilities in Zozi-La, Z-Morh, Razdhan Pass, Khardung-La and Sadhana Pass), Sikkim (at Theng and Rangpo) and Arunachal Pradesh (at the Balipara-Charduar-Tawang axis). Site-selection of the first seven such hardened underground facilities has already been completed. It is these facilities will house the 550km-range BrahMos-1 Block-3 supersonic NLOS-BSMs and the projected 150km-range Prahaar NLOS-BSMs.