NEW DELHI: The Indian Air Force (IAF) purchase of 126 Rafale fighters has made global headlines, and the Indo-Russian Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) could be another jaw-dropper. But Indian military aviation could see an even more prominent growth area in helicopters, where the defence services are poised to induct well over 1,000 rotary wing aircraft in the coming decade, the majority of them developed and built in the country.
Already on the anvil for the army, IAF, navy and coast guard are the following:
The IAF is inducting 139 Russian Mi-17 V-5 medium lift helicopters, for an estimated $2.4 billion. The workhorse Mi-17, which transports 26 soldiers in combat gear, or four tonnes of supplies to high altitude posts, has been in IAF service for decades, but the new-model V-5 is a vastly superior machine, with new engines, rotor blades and avionics. An IAF order for 80 Mi-17s is already being delivered, which is likely to be followed by an order for 59 more.
Fifteen American CH-47 Chinook heavy lift helicopters will be bought to replace the IAF’s Russian Mi-26 helicopters, of which just three to four remain serviceable. The Chinook, built by Boeing, has seen extensive combat, most recently inIraqandAfghanistan. The IAF has evaluated the helicopter and is pleased with its avionics and power, which allows it to accurately deliver 50 fully-equipped soldiers, or a payload of 12.7 tonnes, on to the roof of a house or the edge of a cliff.
The IAF has also completed trials for the purchase of 22 medium attack helicopters, and homed on to Boeing’s AH-64 Apache. Attack helicopters, which operate from close behind the forward troops, provide immediate fire support — cannons, rockets and anti-tank missiles — to soldiers that encounter the enemy, providing them a battle-winning advantage. Unlike most other countries,Indiahas chosen not to use attack helicopters in counter-insurgency operations for fear of collateral damage.
The IAF and army have also placed a Rs 7,000-crore order for 159 Dhruv Mark III utility helicopters. These have been designed and built by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), which builds 36 Dhruvs each year. There is an estimated need for more than 350 Dhruvs for the Army, IAF, coast guard and paramilitary forces.
The Navy is buying an additional 50 light, twin-engine helicopters, most probably from AgustaWestland. The Dhruv does not meet its needs since its composite rotors cannot be folded up for stowing the helicopter in a warship’s tight confines.
In addition, the navy is procuring another 91 medium, multi-role helicopters to replace its vintage Sea King fleet, which flies from larger frigates and destroyers. A global tender is out for 16 helicopters, to which another 75 have been added.
Riding on the Dhruv’s success is HAL’s Rudra, a heavily armed version of the Dhruv, which carries a cannon, rocket pods, anti-tank missiles and a full suite of electronic warfare (EW) equipment. The army and the air force will buy 76 Rudras.
HAL is also developing the Light Combat Helicopter, of which 179 are on order (IAF 65; army 114). This 5.5-tonne light armed helicopter features the Shakti engine, the Dhruv’s dynamic components (main rotor, tail rotor, and the gearbox), and the weapons suite that is being developed on the Rudra. The LCH will be a high altitude virtuoso: taking off from Himalayan altitudes of 10,000 feet, firing guns and rockets up to 16,300 feet, and launching missiles at UAVs flying at over 21,000 feet.
The military’s other bulk requirement is for 384 light utility helicopters, or LUH’s, to replace the army and IAF’s obsolescent Cheetahs and Chetaks. This has been divided into two streams: 197 LuHs are being bought off-the-shelf through a global tender; and 187 LuHs are being developed and built inIndiaby HAL. To ensure timely delivery, the Ministry of Defence has specified target dates for HAL’s development milestones: building of a mock-up; the design freeze; the first flight; Initial Operational Clearance, and so on. Each time HAL misses a milestone, its order reduces from 187.
Unlike IAF’s fixed wing aircraft acquisition plan that focuses on foreign buys, its rotary wing plan leans towards indigenisation. This after a strategic assessment in the mid-1990s, when Ashok Baweja was HAL’s chairman, that indigenisation could be realistically pursued in the less challenging rotary wing field than in the cutting-edge realm of fighter aircraft.
This policy drew strength from the technological breakthroughs of the Dhruv helicopter and the Turbomeca-HAL Shakti engine. Both these were optimised for high altitude operations up to 20,000 feet, a unique feature in the army’s operating environment.
P Soundara Rajan, HAL’s helicopter chief, says the Bangalore-based division will ramp up turnover from the current 10 per cent of HAL’s turnover to 25 per cent a decade from now. Having taken 40 years to build its first 700 helicopters, which were basic second-generation machines, HAL aims at building another 700 fourth-generation within the next 15-20 years.
HUGE ARMS DEALS AS US ‘PIVOTS TOWARDS ASIA’, BUT WHAT ABOUT PAK, SAYS INDIA
US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta landed in the capital on Tuesday, a visit which comes asWashingtonlooks to increase its military presence in the Pacific as part of President Barack Obama’s “pivot towardsAsia” policy.
TheUSdefence secretary called on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh ahead of meeting his counterpart A.K Antony on Wednesday.
Panetta and the PM are said to have discussed ways to strengthen military relations besides the current security situation in the region. TheUSdefence secretary is all set to have a detailed discussion withAntonyat a delegation-level meeting on Wednesday. The two will exchange notes on new strategic vision and push the sale of military hardware.
While discussion on the regional situation would be an important part of the dialogue, more is happening on the acquisition front asIndialooks to buy a large amount of equipment from theUS. At the moment,Indiaseems to be interested only in signing a defence deal and is not willing to take the military relations with theUSto a new level by signing what have been termed as the foundational agreements.
TheUShas been insisting thatIndiashould enter into pacts such as the Logistics Support Agreement (LSA), Communication Interoperability and Security Memorandum Agreement (CISMOA) and Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-Spatial Cooperation.
TheUSclaims this would take defence cooperation to a new level butIndiahas found these pacts to be intrusive.New Delhiis also uncomfortable about the fact that its Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) continues to be debarred from accessing dual-use items.
The differences have not deterred the two sides from doing some big business on arms deals.Indiais looking to buy 22 Apache Longbow attack helicopters from theUSat an estimated cost of $1.4 billion (`7,000 crore approx.). The contract is in the final stages. The army hopes to get 155mm M777 towed howitzers by the end of this year.
Indiahas already signed a big contract for the purchase of 10 C-17 Globemaster- III super heavy transporter and six more C-130 J Super Hercules special forces aircraft. The IAF has already acquired six C-130 J Super Hercules. The navy will soon get eight P-8I long range maritime reconnaissance aircraft and discussions are underway for buying four more of these aircraft.
The India-leg of Panetta’s significant Asia trip comes at a time when theUSis re-defining its military policy for the region which has necessitated some clarifications. Three days ago,Antonywas inSingaporewhere Panetta had unveiled what theUSshift would mean in terms of deployment of military assets on the ground. TheUSdefence secretary told his audience about the plan to tilt 50-50 split of forces between theAtlanticand the Pacific region in favour of the latter.
Indiahas also taken note of the shifting US focus on the Pacific but at the moment, is more concerned about the developments in its immediate neighbourhood. The withdrawal of the US-led Nato troops fromAfghanistanby 2014 has been botheringNew Delhias it will have direct implications on the security of the region. Sources said theUSdefence secretary comes with the message of seeking a more active role forIndiainAfghanistanin the wake of the withdrawal of NATO forces.
Pakistanis opposed toIndiagaining a foothold in its backyard. TheUSacknowledges the problem but its own relations withIslamabadare passing through a critical phase.
The Indo-US strategic dialogue to be held inWashingtonon June 13 will focus on key areas like counterterrorism, cyber security and counterfeit currency. The third round of dialogue reflects close cooperation between the two sides on security issues. TheUSis set to offer assistance in tackling transnational crimes and funding of illicit activities.Indiastands to gain substantially from the cooperation but is seeking more cooperation, particularly on pushingIslamabadto take action against Hafiz Saeed.
US CURBS ON JAVELIN MISSILE SALE CLOUD INDO-US RELATIONSHIP
A dangerous flashpoint in US-India relations faces visiting USSecretary of Defense,LeonPanetta, who faces tough questions from Indian officials on Tuesday. The US State Department has slashedIndia’s request for Javelin anti-tank missiles, offering instead a smaller quantity thatWashingtonsources say is “less than half of whatIndiahas requested for.”
Indian MoD officials are furious that Washington, an avowed strategic partner, has pared downIndia’s requirement of Javelin missiles, even while arguing that defence sales are a cornerstone of the US-Indian strategic relationship.
“This (US reduced offer) is a deal killer.Washingtonwill not dictate the quantity of weaponry we need. This will severely damage the prospects of US vendors in future arms contracts,” a South Block official told Business Standard.
This unexpected rebuff stems from the US Department of Political-Military Affairs, a State Department office that examines the political fallout of proposedUSarms sales. Pol-Mil Affairs, as this department is called, often nixes or curtails arms sales because they might “destabilize the regional military balance.”
Neither the US Embassy inNew Delhi, nor the Ministry of External Affairs, is prepared to reveal the reason provided byWashingtonfor slashing the Indian request. The MEA and the MoD have not responded to requests for comments.
US Embassy spokesperson, Peter Vrooman, said, “We don’t discuss individual sales. Secretary Panetta looks forward to having an exchange with the Government of India on a broad range of issues.”
Andrew Shapiro, the Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs, had told Business Standard, in an exclusive interaction during his visit toNew Delhion 17th April, thatWashingtonhad cleared the transfer of technology for manufacturing the Javelin missile inIndia. Given that readiness to transfer high-end technology, the curbs placed byWashingtonon the missile numbers remains inexplicable.
The FGM-148 Javelin, built by US companies Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, is one of two anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs) that the Indian Army is evaluating for its 350-odd infantry battalions. The other is the Spike, built by Israeli company, Rafael. These are both shoulder-launched, “fire-and-forget” ATGMs, which means that they autonomously track their targets after they are fired by a two-man crew.
Both missiles are scheduled to come toIndiafor user evaluation trials later this year. However, the Javelin has already impressed the Indian Army. During joint exercises with the US Army, Indian missile crews have fired ten Javelin missiles. All ten hit their targets.
TheUSindustry, which has heavy stakes in a successful Javelin sale toIndia, is sharply critical of the State Department for curtailing the Indian request. “Offering a reduced number of missiles will almost certainly kill the Javelin deal; in fact it seems to almost be designed to be so. It seems as if Hillary Clinton herself remains unconvinced about theIndiarelationship and is trying to set a different tone,” complains an industry member.
A keyUSfrustration in the defence relationship has beenNew Delhi’s refusal to sign three defence cooperation agreements thatWashingtonhas pressed for: a Communications Interoperability and Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA); a Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-spatial Cooperation (BECA); and a Logistics Support Agreement (LSA).New Delhibelieves that signing these agreements would put it overtly in theUScamp, diluting its “multi-aligned” foreign policy that emphasises strong relations with multiple foreign powers.
There are also growing frustrations inWashingtonoverIndia’s resistance to allowing US “end-user” inspections of weaponry sold to Indian security forces.New Delhiregards end-user monitoring as a violation of sovereignty.
INDIA, JAPAN TO HOLD FIRST BILATERAL NAVAL EXERCISE OFF TOKYO
NEW DELHI: In a first,IndiaandJapanwill hold a bilateral naval exercise off the coast ofTokyostarting June 9.
Four Indian warships including the INS Rana, INS Shakti and INS Shivalik are inTokyoharbour to commemorate 60 years of establishment of diplomatic relations between two countries and while coming from there, they will hold basic bilateral exercises with Japanese self-defence force, Navy officials said here.
The two-day-exercise will be held after the Indian warships start exitingTokyoafter a four-day port call.
Japanhad in 2007 taken part in Malabar series of naval drills involving Indian and US warships in thePacific Ocean.
The decision to hold the bilateral exercise was taken during the 6th India–Japan Strategic Dialogue held in April between External Affairs Minister S M Krishna and his Japanese counterpart Koichiro Gemba.
The two countries have also decided to enhance cooperation in anti-piracy operations off the coast ofSomaliain theGulf of Adenand launch a maritime dialogue mechanism.
The warships of the two navies have started coordinated patrolling in theGulf of Adento be able to escort a larger number of cargo vessels passing through the troubled waters there.
INDIA & PAKISTAN EXPANDING NUCLEAR ARSENAL
Eight of the world’s nuclear powers together possessed nearly 19,000 atomic weapons withIndiaandPakistanexpanding their capacities to produce fissile material for military purposes, a prominent Swedish think tank claimed today.
The world seems to be heading towards peace as the total military spending marginally increased by 0.3 percent in 2011-2012. The facts came to light in the yearbook of Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
The yearbook stated some interesting facts related to military spending of nations of the world. As per the book, eight of the world possessed nearly 19,000 atomic weapons.
IndiaandPakistanhave expanded their capacity to produce fissile material for military purpose.
The world military spending failed to rise for the first time since 1998 in a major shift from the international stand. The military expenditure in 2011 was essentially flat at USD 1.73 trillion.
“IndiaandPakistancontinue to develop new systems capable of delivering nuclear weapons and are expanding their capacities to produce fissile material for military purposes,” it said.
“The eight nuclear states theUS,Russia, theUK,France,China,India,PakistanandIsraeltogether possess a total of approximately 19,000 nuclear weapons, as compared with 20,530 at the beginning of 2011,” it pointed out.
The decrease in the total number of warheads is mainly due to Russia and the US further reducing their inventories of strategic nuclear weapons under the terms of the Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (New START) as well as retiring ageing and obsolescent weapons, the think tank pointed out.
The main contributor to this downward trend is US andRussia. Both the countries have further reduced their inventories of strategic nuclear weapons under the terms of the Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (New START) as well as retiring ageing and obsolescent weapons, the think tank pointed out.
At the same time, all five legally recognised nuclear weapon statesChina,France,Russia, theUKand theUSare either deploying new nuclear weapon delivery systems or have announced programmes to do so, it added.
They appear determined to retain their nuclear arsenals indefinitely.
While the eight nuclear states possessed approximately 4400 operational nuclear weapons at the start of 2012, nearly 2000 of these are kept in a state of high operational alert, the SIPRI report cautioned.
The SIPRI yearbook 2012 assesses the current state of international security, armaments and disarmament.
SIPRI is an independent international institute dedicated to research into conflict, armaments, arms control and disarmament.
US DEFENCE SECRETARY LEON PANETTA ARRIVES IN NEW DELHI ON TWO-DAY VISIT
NEW DELHI:USdefence secretary Leon Panetta landed inNew Delhiaround 1.30pm on Tuesday for a two-day visit to bolster bilateral strategic and defence cooperation as well as discussChina’s growing assertiveness, especially in the contentiousSouth China Sea, and the volatile Af-Pak region.
During his visit, Panetta will call on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday afternoon, a day ahead of his delegation-level talks with defence minister A K Antony and national security advisor Shivshankar Menon on regional and global security issues.
With bothAntonyand Panetta having recently expressed concern atChina’s growing military budget and aggressive behaviour in South China Sea, the two countries will share their assessment ofBeijing’s long-term intentions.
Indiaand US will also focus on stepping up military-to-military ties as well as firming up the arms deals in the pipeline.
The US may have lost out in the almost $20 billion MMRCA (medium multi-role combat aircraft) project to supply 126 fighters to IAF but it has notched up military sales worth over $8 billion to India over the last decade, as reported by TOI earlier.
Indiais now also close to inking the $647 million contract for the acquisition of 145 M-777 ultra-light howitzers from theUSin a direct government-to-government deal under the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) programme.
Another deal being finalized is the $1.4-billion contract to acquire 22 missile-armed helicopters, the AH-64D Apache Longbow gunships manufactured by Boeing.
The earlier big-ticket deals inked include the $4.1 billion for 10 C-17 Globemaster-III strategic airlift aircraft, $2.1 billion for eight P-8I maritime patrol aircraft and $962 million for six C-130J ‘Super Hercules’ planes. Negotiations are now being held for acquiring six more C-130J as well as four more P-8I aircraft.
India, however, still remains unconvinced about the need to ink the three foundational military pacts being pushed by theUSfor the last several years now. These are the Logistics Support Agreement (LSA), Communication Interoperability and Security Memorandum Agreement (CISMOA) and Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-Spatial Cooperation (BECA).