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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

RISAT-1 Poised For Liftoff…..At Last!

Later today, the ISRO-developed 1,858kg Risat-1 (radar imaging satellite) will be placed in a sun-synchronous orbit at an altitude of 608km altitude. Equipped with a SAR, the satellite, orifinally due for launch in 2009, will operate in any of the five modes, including coarse resolution (50-metre), wide swath (240km), narrow swath (10km) and high resolution spotlight (2-metre).

Below are the other ISRO-launched remote-sensing satellites to date that have been or are also being used for strategic weapons targetting purposes.

Friday, April 20, 2012

L & T’s Re-Engineered NAMICA Troop Commander Vehicle versus NORINCO’s GT-6 ATGM TEL

The photo above is from DEFEXPO 2012 and shows the NAMICA troop commander’s vehicle equipped with a raisable mast-mounted panoramic optronic suite for target acquisition. Contrast this with the photos below of the GT-6 TEL from NORINCO, which can fire up to eight AKD-10 laser-guided ATGMs.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Weekend Musings

If all goes as per plans, then India’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) should be able to ink the contract for the Dassault Aviation Rafale M-MRCA and related hardware by December 15, 2012, thereby enabling the present CAS of the IAF, ACM Norman Anil Kumar Browne, to present the M-MRCA contract to the IAF as a return gift on his birthday. Presently, the MoD’s Contracts Negotiations Committee (CNC) led by Ranjan Ghosh—Joint Secretary (Air) at the MoD—is fine-tuning five main components of the contract:

1) The acquisition cost of the 126 Rafales, including the initial 18 Rafales in flyable condition, inclusive of 12 single-seaters and six tandem-seaters; the 108 Rafales to be licence-built in India that includes 74 single-seaters and 34 tanden-seaters of which 11 will be built from semi-knocked down (SKD) kits, 31 will be built from completely knocked down (CKD) kits, and 66 made from indigenously manufactured kits (IMK).    

2) The acquisition and establishment costs of creating intermediate-level and depot-level maintenance, repair and overhaul facilities for the Rafale fleet.

3) Acquisition costs for ‘unilateral upgrade’ capabilities for the Rafale fleet, which will enable the IAF to carry out in-country mid-life upgrades of the Rafale’s open-architecture avionics suite and weapon management systems, primarily with the help of operational source codes provided by Dassault Aviation and THALES Avionics for both the mission avionics suite and the fly-by-wire flight control system. It must be pointed out here that this is for the first time ever that the IAF will be the recipient for such source codes for not only the Rafale, but also for the upgraded Mirage 2000H/TH fleet, since even for the Su-30MKIs, Russia’s Rosoboronexport State Corp has refused to share the source codes with the IAF.

4) Acquisition costs for the weapons package, inclusive of beyond-visual-range air combat missiles, CALCMs, anti-ship cruise missiles, anti-radiation missiles and standoff PGMs, all to be supplied by MBDA and SAGEM.  

5) Acquisition costs for two Rafale-specific full-motion tactical simulators, two fixed-base cockpit procedures trainers, two avionics part-task trainers, one aircraft systems maintenance simulator, one navigation-and-attack system maintenance simulator, and one engine maintenance simulator.

When the first 18 Rafales begin arriving 36 months after contract signature, they will be home-based at Ambala AFS.

Also being negotiated concurrently by the CNC with Dassault Aviation, THALES Avionics and SNECMA Moteurs are the terms and conditions and the cost of the direct/indirect industrial offsets, representing 50% of the total contract value and to be implemented over a period of 13 years (the time taken to licence-build the 108 Rafales). The direct offsets have been sub-divided into three levels, with the first level dealing with major assemblies and systems integration, the second level dealing with sub-assemblies and components, and the third level—constituting the biggest chunk in terms of both financial value and work effort—comprising the rotables and consumables like lubricants, washers, filters, connectors, adapters, cables and wiring harnesses, brake-pads, drag chutes, landing gear tyres, and weapons ejector racks.   

The transfer-of-technology (ToT) component of the total quantum of direct industrial offsets has been sub-divided into five distinct categories:

1) Transfer of production engineering and manufacturing documentation by the French OEMs to their Indian counterparts for fabrication, assembly and testing of those items associated with the CKD kits and IMKs. For this category, the French OEMs are contractually required to give 60% ToT.

2) 60% ToT for items produced by the French OEMs’ authorised Indian sub-contractors based on engineering documentation provided by the OEMs to their Indian counterparts.  

3) ‘Built-to-specs’ ToT to the extent of 25% that includes the development and production of items on the basis of ‘procurement specifications’ sub-contracted by the OEM to various authorised Indian vendors.

4) 25% ToT for ‘bought-out items’ procured as ‘fully furnished items’ from the standard item parts catalogues of the OEMs.

5) Not beyond 15% ToT for proprietary items such as components for the RBE-2 AESA-MMR, fly-by-wire flight control system, and modules for the M88 turbofan.
 (to be concluded)

Saturday, April 7, 2012

More DEFEXPO 2012 Highlights

The above two illustrations show the Raytheon-built gunner’s sight being proposed by Larsen & Toubro for the T-72M1 MBT upgrade. This same sight is also on offer by L & T as a panoramic target acquisition system for the NAMICA troop commander’s vehicle. This sight will be mounted on a hydraulic mast on the NAMICA.  
The above two photos show the Prahaar NLOS-BSM mounted on a TATRA vehicle. This poster was on display only on March 29, 2012 and was removed the very same day and was replaced by the poster (shown below), although the full-scale model of the Prahaar was shown mounted atop a TATA-built TEL. Sure beats me why someone would pull off such a caper.
Shown below is the DRDO developed and BEL-built VARUNA shipborne passive surveillance system.
Below is a scale-model of the BEL-upgraded ZSU-23-4 Schilka, seen carrying two Python-5 VSHORADS missiles.  
The eight-metre long L-STAR S-band active phased-array radar shown below (whose 6-metre long derivative will go on board the EMB-145 AEW & CS) is presently being used for developing new algorithms that will enable this type of radar to undertake interleaved airspace surveillance and maritime surveillance tasks. At the same time, this radar has already demonstrated its ability to operate in a dedicated ground moving target designation mode. According to the CABS officials who briefed me about the L-STAR’s future growth plans, future projections call for a wide-bodied aircraft like the B.737NG or A320 to be equipped with, on one hand  a fuselage-mounted AESA antenna capable of interleaved airspace surveillance and maritime surveillance; and a belly-mounted AESA antenna for air-to-ground battlespace surveillance inclusive of real-time  ground moving target designation. Additionally, by using SATCOM-based data-links, such platforms will also be able to act as airborne control stations for MALE-UAVs, thereby doing away with the need for two-way ground-based line-of-sight ground control stations for such MALE-UAVs. 
The poster below shows the terminal radar sensor for the supersonic ALCM/ASCM (Nirbhay?) being developed by the DRDO’s ASL. Needless to say, this very sensor is also very likely to be on board the Prahaar NLOS-BSM.
The illustration below clearly demonstrates how legacy communications systems like AREN compare with the new-generation software-driven TCS that the Indian Army is in need of.  
CASSIDIAN teamed up with ALPHA Technologies Pvt Ltd (which likes to describe itself as a BEL but in the private-sector, and has gainfully employed all the experienced scientists and engineers from BEL who have reached mandatory retirement age) is offering the MAWS and Ariel active towed-decoy for the Super Su-30MKI.
Below is a neat piece of kit from IAI for special operations forces and paratroopers.
RAFAEL’s booth displayed (below) the Derby and Python-5 missiles that make up the SpyDer-SR SHORADS, and the 10km-range Tamir missiles used by the Iron Dome air-defence system.
Below is Mahindra Defence’s sole exhibit showing its involvement with the FICV project. Rather disappointing when compared with what TATA had showcased.
Finally, for all those interested in EW and ELINT/SIGINT, the illustrations below will come in handy.
Never a dull moment during DEFEXPO 2012, wouldn't you all agree?

Monday, April 2, 2012

DEFEXPO 2012 Highlights

Posted below is a photo of the full-scale model of the X-band active radar seeker for the PAD exo-atmospheric interceptor vehicle developed by the DRDO. The more advanced PDV interceptor vehicle's R & D process has not yet ended since it was decided back in 2010 to develop a dual-mode terminal seeker for the PDV by employing sensor-fusion techniques. Consequently, the PDV interceptor will be equipped with both the active radar seeker, plus an imaging infra-red seeker that is already being developed for the AAD-1/2 endo-atmospheric interceptors.   
Posted below is the first available artist's conception of the naval AOPV that is now being built by Pipavav Shipyards for the Indian navy. This AOPV was designed by Russia's Severnoye Design Bureau. 
Posted below are images of BEML's involvement with the Arjun MBT programme.
Details of IMI's involvement with the Arjun MBT programme are posted below. Apart from the Iron Fist APS, IMI is also supplying the WAVE-300 RCWS.
The good news is that it is almost a done deal for the Indian Navy to procure up to six Shin Maywa-built SS-3 amphibians for maritime patrol and search-and-rescue. This deal enjoys the political blessings from both India and Japan, and is most likely to be fast-tracked.
As for the P-75I submarine construction project, just as I had expected and speculated earlier, the Indian Navy is far more interested in acquiring up to nine SSNs instead of a second type of SSK of imported design. To this end, the only candidate left on the plate is the Barracuda SSN from DCNS, which was showcased at the expo as well. Meanwhile, for acquiring replacements for its existing nine Type 877EKM Kilo-class SSKs, a follow-on batch of four Scorpenes will be ordered to add to the six already on order. In a related development, the Indian Navy has undertaken an exhaustive evaluation of all AIP suite contenders and has concluded that the Stirling AIP pack from Kockums AB (now owned by Germany's Thyssenkrupp Marine Systems, or TMS) is the best and most cost-effectove solution, especially since fuel cell-based AIP suites will require the creation of extensive shore-based support infrastructure facilities (at all three existing submarine bases and two new projected ones), this indeed being a cost-prohibitive proposition. Therefore, the first SSKs to be equipped with Stirling AIP packs will be the four existing Class 209/Type 1500 SSKs and the four to-be-ordered Scorpenes.

By the way, here’s what really happened with the original Scorpene contracting process. The story goes back to the period of the NDA government between 2001 and 2004, when the requirement for a SSK like the Scorpene first arose. At that time, a Rajya Sabha MP was reportedly acting as the go-between and consultant and had allegedly received some commissions in order to facilitate the Scorpene’s choice. However, when the UPA-1 government came into power, it wanted a bigger share of the commissions pie (reportedly running up to US$1.5 billion), for which the services of Abhishek Verma were allegedly sought and obtained. At that time, it was perceived and reported by some ‘desi’ journalists that due to a contracting blunder, stemming from the MoD’s propagation of a myth that significant parts of the Scorpene SSK were to be built from Indian OEM-built components, the acquisition costs of the Scorpene were to be far higher than originally envisaged. But this was not the case at all. For all along, the idea was to acquire the Scorpenes at an inflated price-level, so that elements within the UPA-1 government too would become financial beneficiaries from follow-on commissions. Therefore, under an elaborate scheme, when the contract for the Scorpenes was inked in October 2005, the contractual value was based on REM pricing values, as opposed to being a fixed-price contract. To implement this, the MoD  deliberately created a special category called Mazagon Procured Materials, or MPM, agsinst the advice of the Indian Navy. Of the total project cost of Rs18,798 crores, some Rs4,700 crores (700 million Euros) were set aside for MDL to contract directly for Scorpene-related materials. But the impression created--by giving MDL a budget for locally procuring materials and systems from multiple vendors--was false, since at Naval HQ, everyone from the Directorate of Warship Building & Construction to the Directorate of Materials knew that no India-based OEM at that time was capable of supplying such materials and components and consequently, everyone in Naval HQ knew that the bulk of the MPM budget (representing the fixed-price component of the Scorpene contract) would ultimately (by 2007) have to go straight to both DCNS and THALES and it was from there that the commissions were reportedly paid to elements of the UPA-1 government. This then clearly explains why the MoD originally preferred the REM pricing route over the fixed-price contract—an ingenious scam aimed at obtaining a greater share of commissions years after the original procurement contract for the SSks had been inked! And our ‘desi’ journalists along with the CAG and CVC are still groping in the dark and have yet to make such an elementary and logical discovery!!!
By the way, two of the DRDO's low-frequency sonar development projects involving the Nagan active/passive towed-array sonar and the Mihir dunking sonar have been terminated and instead, the MoD has authorised BEL to team up with L-3 Ocean Systems to offer the LFATS ultra low-frequency active/passive towed-array sonar (which was shown at the BEL pavilion) and the HELRAS ultra low-frequency active/passive dunking sonar (shown at the L-3 booth). This is indeed very good news.
For field artillery modernisation programmes, foreign OEMs have resorted to a novel way of bypassing all kinds of blacklistings: do not take the lead; rather, team up with an Indian OEM to offer solutions so that only the Indian OEM's name figures. Consequently, Bharat Forge, owned by the Kalyani Group, has teamed up with SOLTAM Systems (owned by ELBIT Systems) to offer the 100% Made-in-India M-46 155mm/45-cal towed howitzer. The Kalyani Group has also acquired the entire howitzer manufacturing plant of Austria-based NORICUM (formerly known as Voest Alpine), which had developed the GHN-45 155mm/45-cal howitzer and had subsequently exported the GHN-45 to Thailand, and had also developed a composite upgrade kit with the help of the late Dr Gerald Bull aimed at upgrading China's NORINCO-built M-46 clones to 155mm/45-cal standard. This highly successful programme, done in partnership with NORINCO, was last year introduced for Pakistan's NORINCO-built M-46 clones as well. Punj Lloyd has similarly teamed up with Serbia's Yugoimport SPDR to offer a similar package for the M-46 upgrade. All indications are that the Indian Army's stalled M-46 upgrade programme will be restarted, with both the Kalyani Group and Punj Lloyd being the two principal contenders. The Larsen & Toubro/Nexter Systems proposal is just a paper design, while those from the Kalyani Group and Punj Lloyd are already proven solutions.  

TATA Power SED & TATA Motors have teamed up with DENEL Land Systems to offer a motorised 155mm/52-cal howitzer and I'm told this system is most likely to be sold in the very near future to Indonesia. L & T has teamed up with NEXTER Systems to offer the Caesar 155mm/52-cal howitzer in various versions: a motorised version, as well as a M-46 upgrade proposal that makes use of the M-46's existing gun cradles. But this towed howitzer will be a 52-cal system.  It is believed that motorised howitzers will eventuallty prevail over the tracked SPH proposition (being promoted by both BEML and a partnership of L & T and South Korea's Samsung Techwin), and up to 1,800 155mm/52-cal motorised howitzers could eventually be acquired.

In a related development, in response to a global RFP issued in August 2008 by Army HQ for upgradation of an initial 100 of the existing 360 155mm/39-calibre FH-77Bs, the Jabalpur-based GCF has proposed a modification package under which a new-design 155mm/45-cal barrel (which was originally developed for the OFB’s in-house developed M-46 Metamorphosis variant), breach mechanism, muzzle-break, loading trough, recoil system, and elevating and traversing cylinders will be developed and offered for series-production. The competing proposal has come from the $21.25 million joint venture between Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd and BAE Systems (which was created in December 2009 as a land systems-focussed, joint venture defence company, based in Faridabad, with the company’s equity split being 74% Mahindra and 26% BAE Systems), which has proposed its FH-77B05L52 package that includes BEL-built components, along with a ToT offer that will enable GCF to receive via ToT all drawings and production-engineering data required for locally producing the 155mm/52-cal barrel, breach mechanism, muzzle-break, loading trough, recoil system along with the elevating and traversing cylinders, with the redesigned gun-trails and gun-carriages being built by the Mahindra-BAE Systems JV at Faridabad and being supplied to GCF for final assembly and systems integration. India’s Minister of State for Defence M M Pallam Raju confirmed on March 1, 2012 that the Indian Army has already placed orders for an initial 100 new-build FH-77B05L52s with OFB, for which the Mahindra-BAE Systems JV at Faridabad will supply the gun barrels and gun cradles, both of which were shown at DEFEXPO 2012. Consequently, what is eventuially likely to happen is that while the Indian Army will in future receive 100 FH-77Bs featuring 45-cal barrels, while the remaining 260 FH-77Bs will be upgraded to FH-77B05L52 standard, and another 400 new-build FH-77B05L52s will be supplied by GCF with the help of the Mahindra-BAE Systems JV.
TATA has designed with the help of Rheinmetal DeTec both a tracked FICV as well as a wheeled AIFV.
For the Arjun Mk1A and Arjun Mk2 MBTs, ELBIT Systems' solutions on offer in the above poster. TATA Power SED has developed the new digital hunter-killer FCS for both the Arjun and T-90S MBTs, while OIP of Belgium (a subsidiary of SAGEM of France) will be supplying the Arjun's new-design panoramic commander's sight, which can also handle fire-control functions for the LAHAT ATGM.

The poster below depicts what kind of ammunition Israel's IMI is supplying for the Arjun Mk1/Mk1A, T-72CIA and T-90S MBTs.
And here's what Ukraine is proposing for the Arjun MBT.
As expected, DCNS was showcasing its Barracuda SSN (above), while ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (which also owns Kockums AB) displayed a conceptual derivative of the VISBY corvette as a prospective replacement for the Indian Navy's existing Veer-class and P-25/P-25A-class corvettes.
MDL for the very first time showed both the accurate silhouettes of both the Project 15B DDG and Project 17A FFG. Note that just like the Project 15B DDG, the Project 17A FFG hosts the EL/M-2248 MF-STAR radar, and both will also have bow-mounted panoramic sonars, as opposed to hull-mounted sonars. For these two projects, MDL has already appointed Fincantieri of Italy as its 'technology provider' under which both new-design warships will be designed. While MDL will build the first four Project 17A FFGs, GRSE will supply the remaining three FFGs.
For the Prahaar NLOS-BSM, the TEL is now coming from TATA Motors, and not from BEML/TATRA. Posted below are posters pertaining to the Agni family of 'strategic' ballistic missiles.
My prayers for storm/sun shelters for aircraft like the Su-30MKI have at last been answered, as a private company in India has at last come up with innovative solutions that are now in great demand from the IAF for the Su-30MKI, MiG-29UPG and Mi-17V-5, to begin with.
Lastly, the DRDO for the very first time showed off its DISHA passive surveillance system, developed originally as part of the Samyukta project. However, the IAF has now placed orders for DISHA, while the naval variant is called VARUNA. Do take note of the increased signals acquisition sensitivities of the new ESM sensors, which have now increased by a factor of two (or 200%) over what was originally available for the Samyukta. 

INS Kamorta will commence her wet-basin trials next March, while INS Kavaratti will be launched this May. INS Kolkata is ready for her wet-basin trials at MDL, but this will get underway only this September, as the Indian Navy has not yet finalised the DDG's crew complement, this being due to the fact that the Navy is presently facing shortages of skilled and trained manpower.

Below are posters concerning the integrated EW system being jointly proposed by TATA and L & T. The sub-systems are all imported from Germany (Rohde & Schwarz) and the UK (Ultra Electronics).
Posted below are two rather interesting exhibits.
Plenty more to follow later. Only God therefore knows why some folks have described this DEFEXPO as being the dullest ever!!!