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T-90 Tanks To Be Upgraded By DRDO Locally

T-90 Tanks To Be Upgraded By DRDO Locally

defNEW DELHI — The Indian Army will upgrade more than 600 Russian-built T-90 tanks by adding new features and replacing their thermal imaging sights, navigation systems and fire control systems at a cost of more than $250 million.

 

The Indian Ministry of Defence formally approved the Army’s three-year-old proposal for the T-90 upgrade Feb. 24, and the tender for the upgrade will be sent only to domestic defense companies, an MoD source said.

 

The upgraded T-90 tanks will have air-conditioning systems, which will be developed by India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). The tanks’ existing armor protection systems, navigation gear, thermal imaging sights and fire control systems will be replaced.

 

India contracted to acquire 310 T-90s from Russia in 2001, 190 of which were license-produced at the Avadi-based, state-owned ordnance factory. Another contract was signed in 2007 for the licensed production of 330 tanks. The lack of an air conditioning system in these tanks caused damage to their thermal imaging systems when operating in hot climates, an Army official said.

 

The Army plans to procure a total of 1,657 T-90s by 2020, which will include 1,000 tanks produced indigenously under full transfer of technology from Russia, with all parts made in India.

 

“DRDO had earlier attempted to mount air conditioning systems on the tanks, but were stopped by Russia, citing intellectual property rights,” said Arun Sehgal, a retired Army brigadier general and defense analyst.

 

“The Russians were then asked to fit the air conditioning systems in the T-90 tanks, but the attempt was unsuccessful,” Sehgal said. The intellectual property rights issue has since been resolved between India and Russia.

 

Another Army official said, “The thermal imaging system of the T-90 tanks were faulty from the initial stage.”

 

Rahul Bhonsle, another retired Indian Army brigadier general and defense analyst, said, “A major part of the proposed upgrade will include providing an enhanced fire control potential because in the comparative trials between the Arjun and T-90 tanks last year, the Arjun had demonstrated a superior sighting system than the Russian tank.”

 

The Army carried out comparative trials between the heavier homemade Arjun and the lighter Russian-built T-90 in the deserts of Rajasthan last year, with the aim of assessing the Arjun’s combat worthiness.

 

Both the Arjun and T-90 are being produced at the Avadi factory. Production of the Mark-1 model of the Arjun has begun with 124 tanks ordered. The first Mark-2 models, of which 124 also are ordered, are expected by early 2016.

 

The indigenous production of about 1,000 additional T-90s has been contracted, but production has not yet begun.

 

“The Russians have not provided full-scale [intellectual property rights] and are withholding some critical designs; thus, full-scale indigenization has been held up in Avadi,” Bhonsle said.

 

A Russian diplomat, however, said Russia is supplying all necessary technology, and that the responsibility for production delays rests with the Avadi factory.

 

An official of the Ordnance Factory Board, which administers the Avadi factory, said the Russians have supplied only 40 percent of the technology and nearly none since 2008.

(Source: Defence News, March 11, 2014)

 

DISSECTING A DOGFIGHT: SUKHOI VS USAF AT RED FLAG 2008

 

It was the first time the legendary Russian Sukhoi-30 Flanker flew in American airspace, and it kicked up a controversy. In August 2008 India sent its top of the line Su-30MKI fighter to participate in Exercise Red Flag at Nellis Air Force Base near Las Vegas. Known for its complex war gaming, Red Flag involves simulated air combat and coordination between friendly air forces. In 2008 the participants included the French and South Korean air forces.

 

The IAF contingent – comprising six Flankers, two Illyushin IL-78MKI tankers and one IL-76MD transport – initially arrived at MountainHomeAFB in Idaho on July 17. The fighter pilots of No. 20 Lighting Squadron from Pune underwent a three-week familiarisation with training rules, and flew missions against the 18th Aggressor Squadron from Eilson AFB, Alaska, and the resident 366th Fighter Wing.

 

Combat Begins : The IAF moved to Nellis AFB on August 9. “To observers’ dismay, and no doubt to that of the US intelligence community, the IAF flew with a number of handicaps,” writes Dave Fulghum of Aviation Week.

 

The Su-30MKI’s powerful Russian-made NIIP-BARS radar was operating only in the training mode which limited the sensor’s

range and spectrum of capabilities. The self-imposed radar restrictions prevented US snoops from “mapping” the high-tech radar. But other restrictions were dictated by the hosts, Fulghum writes.

 

The Indians were barred from using data-links, chaff and flares. When they were targeted by surface to air missiles, they were shot down. There was no data picture in the cockpit to help IAF pilots’ situational awareness so the work load on the aircrews was high. Also, the IAF’s most powerful air-to-air missile, the R-77, was not simulated in the exercises.

 

Rogue Video : Although the results of such exercises are rarely made public, the USAF jumped the gun. Just as it leaked the results of Cope India 2004, in November 2008 a video surfaced of a US Air Force officer talking in a generally condescending manner about the IAF. In particular five things that Col Terence Fornof said stick out:

1. The IAF has problems with its Russian jet engines

2. Indian pilots were prone to fratricide – shooting down friendly aircraft

3. The IAF required 60-second intervals between takeoffs, compared with half that for other air forces

4. The American F-15 can defeat the Su-30MKI, the most advanced fighter in the Su-30 series

5. IAF not keen on 1 vs 1 dogfights with the USAF.

 

Low blow : Speaking about the encounter between the Su-30MKI and the F-15Cs, Fornof said: “The (IAF pilots) were amazed, matter of fact they were floored to the point after the first three days, they didn’t want any more 1 vs 1 stuff. Let’s move on to something else (laughs). Funny ’cause in India, they wanted only 1 to 1 – ’cause they were winning at that.”

 

About the engines, he said: “Firstly, the Tumansky engines are very susceptible to FOD (foreign object damage). Now the reason that’s a big deal is because they asked for a one-minute spacing between take offs. At Red Flag with nearly 50-60 aircraft supposed to take off, if you have one person who will wait one minute between each take off to launch these six aircraft… yeah…. right, they can go find some other place to fly.”

 

And he added: “They were very concerned about FOD and how Russian engines are not nearly as reliable as American (ones).”

 

Playing to the gallery : Col Fornof is an F-15 pilot and the Director of the Requirements and Testing office at the United StatesAirForceWarfareCenter, Nellis AFB. The video was of a private briefing days after Red Flag 2008 to a group called the Daedalians – a group of retired American military pilots.

 

While it is true the colonel was involved with Red Flag 2008, Vayu Aerospace Review says his comments should not be taken too seriously because there is a possibility he was playing to the gallery. “His comments are noteworthy since he is an operational pilot with the USAF but he certainly cannot cover the entire exercise and has no inside knowledge of the way IAF ‘fought’.”

 

In fact, Col Fornof is mistaken on several counts. For instance, the Su-30MKI does not have a Tumansky engine but rather an NPO-Saturn power plant. He is wrong again about the MiG-21 Bison having Israeli radar when in fact it has a Russian scanner. He’s wrong on most counts and in fact economical with the truth in some places.

 

From the frontlines : Among the observers who had front row seats to the dogfights was senior Indian journalist Vishnu Som. According to him, contrary to the picture painted by Fornof, the IAF and its Sukhois more than made a mark during their stint in the United States. “For starters not a single Su-30MKI fighter was shot down in close air combat missions at MountainHomeAFB. In fact, none of the Sukhois were even close to being shot down in the 10-odd one on one sorties which were planned for the first two days of the exercises at Mountain Home. These one on one engagements featured USAF jets such as the F-15 and F-16 in close air engagements against the Su-30MKI. The majority of the kills claimed in these engagements were granted to the IAF with the remainder of these being no-results.”

 

Som adds by the time the exercises at Mountain Home had matured the IAF had graduated to large formation exercises which featured dozens of jets in the sky. In one of these exercises, the blue forces, of which the IAF was a part, shot down more than 21 of the enemy jets. Most of these `kills’ have been credited to the IAF.

 

Bad PR : Pushpindar Singh Chopra, editor, Vayu Aerospace Review, believes the Americans downplayed the Sukhoi’s capability because the alternative would be to acknowledge the IAF had spooked the USAF yet again.

 

“Mission achievement rate was in excess of 90 per cent,” he says. “The drop out/mission success rates of all others, inclusive of the USAF, were significantly lower. This is of major significance considering the fact that IAF was sustaining operations 20,000 km away from home base while the USAF was at home.”

 

In fact, the Sukhois flew some 850 hours during the deployment, which is equivalent to four months of flying in India.

 

Fratricide Bogey : Chopra says while the IAF did shoot down some friendlies and that was assessed and attributed to the IAF not being networked. However, what Col Fornof did not bring out were the two essential reasons for this.

 

“Firstly, this occurred mainly when the AWACS was not available (unserviceable) and controlling was done by ground control. More significantly it happened during extremely poor controlling by their operators, this fact being acknowledged during debriefs and the controllers being admonished accordingly.”

 

What Col Fornof left out was the F-15C and other USAF fighters had the same number of fratricides as the IAF. “Considering they are well networked, yet their pilots shot down the same number of friendlies. This was not only a major concern but also turned out to be a major source of embarrassment as the USAF had everything – Link 16, IFF Mode 4 etc and the IAF had nothing.”

 

Gone in 60 Seconds : The IAF insisted on a 60-second interval for a very valid reason. When a jet takes off, the resulting turbulence can kick up foreign objects from the runway, which may get sucked into the engines of the aircraft taking off behind it. Now, the Su-30MKI engines are serviced in Russia. What the Russians do when a damaged engine arrives from India is they send a brand new ‘courtesy’ engine as replacement while the old one is being repaired or serviced, in order not to impact the IAF’s readiness.

 

While at Nellis, the IAF had absolutely no way of getting a new engine had a Sukhoi engine got damaged. Plus, the Russians would have been decidedly cagey about shipping one of their top-of-the line power plants to an American address.

 

Flanker vs Eagle : According to Col Fornof, beating the Su-30 is not a problem for an F-15 pilot. “We’ve been fighting the (F-22) Raptor, so we’ve been going oh dude, this is easy. So as we’re fighting him, all of a sudden you’d see the ass end kick down, going post stall – but now he starts falling from the sky. The F-15 wouldn’t even have to pull up. slight pull up on the stick, engage guns, come down and drill his brains out.”

 

If only real combat was that easy. The colonel wrongly assessed the Sukhoi’s rate of turn at 22-23 degrees but he also made the startling revelation that the Raptor’s was 28 degrees. Did he unwittingly reveal classified information? At any rate, the Sukhoi’s rate of turn – with thrust vectoring – is considerably superior at 35 degrees.

 

It is acknowledged in aviation circles the Flanker is a class above the F-15. In Fornof’s own view a well-flown F-15 can trouble an F-22; so a properly flown Flanker can potentially kill a Raptor in a knife fight.

 

As Col Fornof himself said about the IAF, “They were extremely professional – they never flew out of the airspace which we were very concerned about. They had zero training rule violations. And that in itself was incredible. We were very impressed and thanked them so much because they were very very professional.”

 

The best outcome of Red Flag 2008 was that it was a unique experience for Indian pilots who were keen to observe the USAF’s Net-Centric Warfare operations. “You cannot survive today for long against a good adversary without NCW capability,” said then IAF vice chief Air Marshal P.V. Naik.

 

As for the Americans, they also got a chance to get rides on the Flanker, “a thrilling opportunity especially for the local pilots” according to the military aviation website, Milavia.

(Source: Russia & India Report, March 11, 2014)

 

GAGAN AVIONICS SYSTEM TO SAVE $10-M FUEL PER ANNUM

 

NEW DELHI: The GPS-Aided Geo Augmented Navigation (GAGAN) system could save fuel worth $10 million annually if implemented by the airlines in India, civil aviation secretary Ashok Lavasa has said.

 

The system is being developed jointly by the Indian Space Research Organisation, US-based Raytheon Company and Airports Authority of India.

 

“The GAGAN which has achieved certification level Required Navigation Performance (RNP) 0.1, through its enhanced navigation capability will improve air travel for all parties – airlines, passengers and air traffic authorities,” said Brian Hickey, director, Raytheon Navigation and Landing Systems. “In addition to enhancing air traffic safety, the system will result in increased efficiencies and lower costs for Indian aviation.”

 

Lavasa said, “Realising maximum benefits from GNSS (global navigation satellite system) based services in en-route and terminal airspace would virtually require all aircraft to be equipped with GNSS avionics.”

(Source: The Financial Express, March 11, 2014)

 

DASSAULT TO PRESENT FALCON BUSINESS JETS IN HYDERABAD

 

HYDERABAD: Dassault Aviation will present its Falcon fleet of large-cabin, long-range business jets at India Aviation 2014, scheduled for March 12-16 in Hyderabad. Dassault Falcon is responsible for selling and supporting Falcon business jets throughout the world. It is part of Dassault Aviation, a leading aerospace company, with presence in over 70 countries across five continents.

 

Dassault’s 5,950 nm/11,000- km-range Falcon 7X trijet, the first business jet certified with a fully-digital flight control system, will be featured in India Aviation 2014, said a release from the company. Dassault is the Indian market leader for large-cabin, long-range aircraft, with 22 planes currently in service and several more on order. Most of the new aircraft orders are for the longest range Falcon models, capable of flying non-stop to LondonCityAirport from anywhere in India.

 

The Falcon 2000 twinjet is also popular among Indian customers. Two newly-introduced versions, the 3,350 nm/6,200 km 2000S and the 4,000 nm/7,000 km 2000LXS, will offer takeoff and landing performance unparalleled among wide body jets, comparable to much smaller midsize and super midsize models.

 

Dassault also anticipates a warm reception in India for its brand new 5,200 nm/9,630-km Falcon 5X, which will offer the largest cabin cross-section for any business jet and the lowest ownership and operating costs in its class. Initial Indian orders for the large body twinjet are expected this year. The 5X is expected to make its first flight in the first quarter of next year, with certification planned at the end of 2016.

 

“We see improving signs for the Indian market, which has been slow recently” remarked Gilles Gautier, vice-president, sales for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. “India has a real need for expanding business aviation, and we remain bullish on future market prospects,” he said.

 

Because of their exceptional efficiency and flexibility, Falcons are very popular with Indian operators, particularly in the corporate and charter markets. Their unparalleled operating economy, the ability to combine short- and long-haul flights, and the capacity to fly out of short and hard-to-reach airstrips with full range performance — even at high altitudes and high temperature conditions — make them perfect for local conditions. Lower operating expenses and traditionally higher resale value give Falcon ownership cost a real competitive advantage.

(Source: The Financial Express, March 11, 2014)

 

TIME HAS COME FOR PRIVATE PLAYERS TO PRODUCE ARMS: DRDO CHIEF

 

CHENNAI: With increased need for domestic production of arms and ammunition, the government should pro-actively take a call on involving private manufacturers in production of defence equipment, Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) director general Avinash Chander has said.

 

Noting that manufacture of ammunition by private companies is a burning question that the government should address in the coming period, the DRDO chief said it would require some kind of policy drive and legislation changes. “Today, explosives are totally handled under government control. But, I think time has come and we have to look for changes in the policy,” added.

 

Talking on the sidelines of an event at Combat Vehicles Research and Development Establishment (CVRDE) in Avadi near Chennai on Monday, he said that the DRDO was looking to induct about Rs one or two lakh crore worth of products manufactured domestically in the next 8 to 10 years.

 

“Our major thrust area will be ammunition and we are going to create Rs 50,000 cr market for ammunition alone. We want to create more indigenous ammunition and armour to be fired from the tank. We are also going to test the artillery shells this year and after the final user evaluation test, it can be inducted,” he added.

 

On threat from Chinese equipments, which India purchases mainly due to the lowest tender buying process, Chander said that even the US has identified the threat of Chinese communication equipments and added that the issue could be addressed only by having our own indigenous capabilities.

 

Noting that cyber warfare has become a real concern to all of them, Chander said that the attacks could be of multiple dimensions. “Malwares getting into the system and corrupting it. Disruption of our communication channels especially at critical times and attack on our economic and installations which are networked,” he added.

 

He also added the country was looking to create a cocoon of security over imported items to prevent cyber peddling and also focus more on domestic production of electronic items including routers and switches. A cyber command centre was also being planned at the national level, according to the DRDO chief.

 

He said that yet another challenge comes from social media. “Social media can create different perceptions in a short time. We have seen that during the Arab revolution. It is very important to control such inherent threats. The government will address it with a very strong movement in the form of a cyber command centre,” he added.

(Source: Deccan Chronicle, March 11, 2014)

 

HOW ISRO GOT AN INDIGENOUS CRYOGENIC ENGINE

 

NEW DELHI: Mission director K. Sivan kept his fingers firmly crossed in the mission control room at the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota on the morning of 5 January as the moment drew closer for the launch of the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle, or GSLV-D5.

 

The rocket, powered by India’s indigenous cryogenic engine, had been tested and reviewed numerous times in the four months since its aborted launch on 19 August due to a crack in the fuel tank. After the 5 January launch, every step that the rocket cleared made Sivan a happier man. But he also became more anxious—after all, of the seven GSLV launches earlier, five had failed. It was only when the satellite GSAT-14 onboard the GSLV-D5 was inserted into a precise orbit that Sivan relaxed. “It was like the rebirth of GSLV,” he said.

 

The GSLV programme was started by Isro in response to India’s mounting communications needs. By 1987, the government had approved the development of the second generation INSAT-2 series of satellites, weighing more than 2 tonnes. Isro wanted to develop a 2.5-tonne class of satellites and put them into a geostationary transfer orbit at 36,000km from Earth’s surface.

 

Isro also wanted to make a vehicle that would be bigger, lighter and more efficient than its workhorse Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV). There were three fuels options: earth storable, semi-cryogenic, and cryogenic.

 

Cryogenic engines, which use liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen as fuel and give the most thrust, are usually prepared for the “upper stages”—the last stage of the rocket—because this stage provides 50% of the velocity of 10.2km per second needed at the point of injection of a satellite. In 1986, at a cost of Rs.12 crore, Isro scientists began developing a one-tonne cryogenic engine to try and understand how to handle liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. At the same time, a design team was formed at Isro’s Liquid Propulsion Centre at Mahendragiri in Tamil Nadu to come up with the design of a seven-tonne turbo-fed engine. Although this development boosted the confidence of Isro engineers, Isro knew that it couldn’t wait much longer to develop the indigenous engine.

 

It was then that Isro thought of procuring cryogenic engines from other countries. After rejecting offers from the US and France for both the sale of engines and transfer of technology, India approved an offer by the Soviet Union’s Glavkosmos space agency in 1990. India sent eight scientists to Moscow to work with Soviet scientists. They worked there for 15 months, but did not have access to everything.

 

“The Russians were very secretive about everything, even though they had signed the technology transfer agreement. Discussions were limited, and the Indian scientists were never allowed to walk the labs freely; they needed clearance to move around the lab,” said B.N. Suresh, former director, Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre in Thiruvananthapuram. “Hence they couldn’t learn very much.”

 

Then, 15 months after the deal was signed, the US raised objections citing a violation of the international Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). The West feared that cryogenic technology could be used by India to develop intercontinental ballistic missiles, which is rejected by Indian scientists.

 

Eventually, in 1993, Glavkosmos backed out of the deal and revoked the transfer of cryotechnology agreement. Under a renegotiated deal, Russia decided to provide four fully functional engines and two mock-ups. It also agreed to supply three more cryogenic engines at a cost of $9 million.

 

At this point, the Space Commission, which formulates and implements the Indian space programme, approved a Rs.280 crore project to develop an Indian cryogenic engine, the C12.

 

“We had to get back our people who were already working with the Russian scientists. Then we had to start on our own. They had made some sorts of drawings and designs and they were already working on the engines and fabrication processes with the Russian scientists,” said U.R. Rao, former chairman at Isro. “But still, many things cannot be on paper since there are various processes we go through to make every step as accurate as possible.”

 

Preparations were made for the first developmental flight of the GSLV-D1 with a procured Russian cryogenic third stage, planned for early 2001. A cryogenic upper stage (CUS) project had also speeded up the design and development of an indigenous engine to replace the Russian one.

 

“A lot of theoretical studies were conducted under E.V.S. Namboodiry, a propulsion expert who was in charge of studying the cryogenic engine with a team of experts. Something like 18 reports came out regarding cryogenic engine. But theories cannot give you a stage,” said Suresh.

 

Isro scientists had to become adept in areas such as materials technology, powder metallurgy, welding technology and fabrication technology.

 

Even as scientists gained experience from GSLV launches with a Russian cryogenic upper stage engine, they worked feverishly on the indigenous version. In 2009, Isro concentrated on developing infrastructure like the propellant casting facility for solid boosters. That year, Isro reached a landmark when the indigenous cryogenic engine was tested at the Mahendragiri and cleared for a full flight.

 

But the launch of the flight—the first with an indigenous engine—the GSLV-D3 in April 2010, with a GSAT-4 satellite on board, failed.

 

The rocket deviated from its path and the vehicle was seen “tumbling” down by Isro scientists. “The thing with rocket launches is that there is not much difference between success and failure. We succeeded (in 2014), but a tiny glitch and we could have ended up in the Bay of Bengal,” said R.V. Perumal, former director of the GSLV project.

 

The failure, a major disappointment to the nation, was caused by the fact that the cryogenic upper stage could not sustain ignition because the fuel booster turbo pump stopped working 293 seconds into the flight. The second developmental launch of the GSLV D-3 in December 2010 ended in an explosion due to a technical snag in the first stage.

 

“After the first failure (in 2010), the problem was that we could not recreate the cause of the failure, so it was hard to correct the problem,” said Sivan. “So we listed out possible failures, all feasible reasons for the stopping of fuel booster pump, and took corrective actions for all of them.”

 

“Even though we would test the engine and the ignition sequence on the ground, the conditions on the flight would be much different,” said Sivan. For Isro, it now became necessary to create those conditions for testing. A high altitude test facility was built in Mahendragiri in 2012 to demonstrate successful ignition for simulated flight conditions. And after testing the system in those conditions, Isro modified the ignition sequence.

 

Still, in August 2013, a GSLV-D5 launch was aborted at the eleventh hour after a leak was detected in the fuel booster pump. After decades of dogged engineering pursuit, this was an easier problem to solve for Isro.

 

“When we went ahead with the flight after testing the engine in every possible condition, we were confident of success. We had arrived,” said Sivan.

(Source: Mint, March 11, 2014)

 

THE CRISIS OF INDIA’S DEFENCE PREPAREDNESS

 

Much has been written on the economic mismanagement by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government over the last ten years. But as the country gets ready for an epic electoral battle, the gross negligence of India’s defence preparedness under its longest serving defence minister is a far more worrying trend. A defence minister is not just another minister sitting in a dandy office in Delhi. His duties are onerous: He is the chief manager of the country’s present and future preparedness to ward-off attacks from a combination of state and non-state actors. A.K. Antony has been found wanting on both counts.

 

Accidents at Indian Navy establishments is now almost a weekly occurrence. On Saturday, a civilian worker was killed in an accident in an under-construction nuclear submarine at a shipbuilding site in Visakhapatnam. The accident happened a day after a Navy commander died aboard INS Kolkata. He died because the fire suppression systems on board the warship malfunctioned and he inhaled a large amount of carbon dioxide. About ten days before this, two people were killed and seven injured aboard INS Sindhuratna after a fire in the submarine.

 

In August 2013, INS Sindhurakshak, another submarine, sank at Mumbai’s naval dockyard, killing all 18 crew members on board.

 

The Indian Navy has suffered several such incidents in the last year, raising serious questions about the safety of its ships and submarines.

 

From any perspective these incidents are alarming. The Indian Navy has a long tradition of building, operating and maintaining a diversity of naval craft and equipment. Is it possible that in a single year, this branch of the armed forces has become so sloppy that accidents have become routine? Or are there other reasons behind this epidemic of accidents? As defence minister, Antony should have been awake to both possibilities and taken some interest in getting to the bottom of the matter. All he did was order some enquiries and left the matter at that.

 

This attitude befits a bureaucrat and not a political leader responsible for India’s defence. When the Sindhuratna accident happened, the chief of Naval Staff, Admiral D.K. Joshi, resigned. The government accepted his resignation in a haste. But if the Navy chief accepted his responsibility, why couldn’t the political leadership do that?

 

The ministry of defence is one ministry where systems and procedures are in place for virtually everything—from accidents to the purchase of equipment. In that case, what is the role of the minister? What leadership does he provide?

 

Meanwhile, the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the Army are grappling with their own problems, with major acquisition programmes being put on hold. Here Antony’s intervention, negative as it is, is more evident.

 

The IAF made a demand for 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) in 2001. Eleven years later, it was announced that France’s Dassault Rafale had won the bid. At more than Rs.60,000 crore, this was one of the biggest defence deals to be signed by India. However, in February, Antony announced that the ministry had no money left to sign the deal this year.

 

Similarly, the Army announced plans to acquire 145 M777 howitzers in 2010; the defence ministry in February deferred a decision on the purchase. India has not bought artillery guns since the Bofors deal in 1986.

 

There are two repercussions of these delays:

 

1) The costs of these deals are skyrocketing. There are reports that by January 2014, the cost of the Rafale deal had escalated by 100%. The cost of the howitzer deal has gone up by 75%.

 

2) The greater the delay, the more obsolete such equipment becomes even as the country’s adversaries modernize their military. Last week, China announced it is increasing military spending by 12.2%. At nearly $132 billion, the Chinese budget is $100 billion more than India’s $36 billion.

 

The defence ministry in any country is one of the most important departments of the government. Its decisions and policies have to be framed not only keeping current realities in mind but also keeping ever changing, long-term dynamics in the country’s neighbourhood and the world in perspective.

 

Countries across the world have evolved different institutions to cope with these challenges. In the US, for example, there is close coordination between military authorities, the political leadership and academia to plan future priorities. Day-to-day management of military and politico-military affairs engages the civilian leadership deeply.

 

As India grows economically, its military abilities have to grow hand-in-hand, if only to safeguard its economic interests.

 

Antony’s keenness to keep his image clean by ensuring that corrupt practices don’t creep into big tender defence purchases has come at a cost. His preferred solution has been to blacklist a large number of defence contractors. This has served no one: there will be “honesty” in the ministry now for the simple reason that there are no purchases being made.

 

It would have been an achievement if he had streamlined defence purchases without corrupt practices creeping in.

 

If the travails of our armed forces are any indication, Antony’s quest for probity has come at a heavy cost for India.

(Source: Mint, March 11, 2014)

 

 

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