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TATA, MAHINDRA, RELIANCE VIE FOR $1.5 BILLION NAVAL HELICOPTER ORDER

NEW DELHI: Several top Indian companies including TATA, Mahindra and Anil Ambani-led Reliance Group are vying for the nearly US $1.5 billion Naval Utility Helicopters Programme under the ‘Make in India’ initiative. Defence sources said more than eight domestic firms have responded to the ‘Request for Information (RFI)’ issued by the government in October last year and the Defence Ministry is currently studying them.

 

The last date for reply to the RFI for over 100 helicopters was February 28, the sources said, adding Indian companies have tied up with foreign firms for the deal which was initially supposed to have gone to international players.

 

The Modi government had in August last year scrapped the tender and put the acquisition under the ‘Buy and Make Indian’ category, allowing the Indian industry to make the helicopters under a joint venture with a foreign manufacturer.

 

RFI responders included Punj Llyod, Bharat Forge, Mahindra Aerospace, Reliance Defence and Aerospace, Tata Advanced Systems and the state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), the sources said.

 

European major Airbus is in talks with several Indian firms including TATA, Mahindra and Reliance. The sources maintained that it was yet to firm up a partnership and that talks were on. Besides Airbus, interested foreign players include Agusta Westland, Bell Helicopters and Sikorsky.

 

State-run HAL could tie up with the Russians for Kamov 226 helicopters. This helicopter was offered by the Russians during its President Vladamir Putin’s visit late last year.

 

The Naval headquarters has invited the interested Indian companies, along with representatives from Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), for presentations starting March 16.

 

Industry sources said the “main challenge” is to ensure that OEMs have clearly defined partnerships with the Indian companies so that the programme execution meets the DPP (Defence Procurement Procedure) guidelines. “With some of the OEMs still working with multiple Indian partners, there seems to be an urgent requirement for focused approach,” an official with a private firm said.

(Source: The Financial Express, March 19, 2015)

 

DEFENCE SECTOR OPENING UP TO STARTUP TECHNOLOGY

 

PUNE: Conservative and security sensitive outfits like the Indian Defence are opening up to explore startup technology today.

 

While startup Threye has partnered with the Indian Air Force (IAF) to build mobile games to make youth excited about the IAF, startup Inforich is helping the Indian Navy with technical documentation. Similarly, Mobiliya is collaborating with the Indian Army to provide them with tamper-proof secure mobile phones.

 

“It was a bit of luck that we were able to get the tender with the Indian Air Force,” says Sidhant Rahi, VP business development of Threye, who along with co-founders Anurag Rana and Sameer Joshi started the company two years ago. Threye has developed `Guardians of the Sky’, an air combat mobile game for the IAF.

 

Both Rana and Joshi are avid aviation enthusiasts.”We were developing our own game called Morning Glory, which deals with military operations, around the same time that the Air Force released a tender seeking to build a mobile game to excite the youth about the field.Though it was a long shot, we won the tender,” says Rahi.

 

He adds that while the defence sector is opening up to startup technology, the slow moving pace in government bodies, and the revenue structure is a hindrance for startups. The game released in two phases is nearing two million downloads today.

 

Inforich is working with its client L&T to enable technical documentation for the Indian Navy on the arrival of all its ships to port. “There is a process of inspection and checks carried out on each ship of the navy on arrival at any port in India. This process, earlier carried out manually, was not just laborious to execute, but also to transfer the details to another port,” says Nishant Nambiar, founder of Inforich, which also works in the area of healthcare.

(Source: The Economic Times, March 19, 2015)

 

INDO-FRANCE NAVAL EXERCISE ‘VARUNA’ TO BEGIN NEXT MONTH

 

India and France will hold a 10 day naval exercise ‘Varuna’ next month that will see the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle with naval version of Rafale aircraft in action.

 

The exercise to be held in the Western coast will begin on April 23 and continue till May 3. Defence sources said the French will also bring in two destroyers and one support ship, part of the Charles de Gaulle task force.

 

India will also deploy its aircraft carrier INS Vikrant along with other ships and aircraft.

 

The annually held Varuna naval exercise is an integral part of France?India strategic relationship and consists of naval cooperation drills between the French and the Indian Navy.

 

This year’s exercise will focus on theatre-level Indo-French military cooperation in aero-naval and anti-submarine warfare.

(Source: Niticentral, March 19, 2015)

 

INDIAN AIR FORCE TO USE RUSSIAN-INDIAN MISSILE BY 2016

 

LANGKAWI: The Indian Air Force plans to start mounting BrahMos cruise missiles on its aircraft in 2016, BrahMos Aerospace CEO Sudhir Mishra told RIA Novosti Wednesday.

 

The short-range supersonic missile was jointly developed by Russia and India and has been in use by the Indian Navy since 2005.

 

“The missile is scheduled to be adopted in 2016, ten more tests will be carried out by the end of the year,” Mishra said.

 

He added that the next test flight is due in May with the aircraft carrying the missile launcher. This will be followed by flights with the equipped missiles and, eventually, test firing them.

 

India is Russia’s biggest arms trade partner, with more than 70 percent of India’s military equipment coming from Russia or the former Soviet Union, according to Russia’s state arms exporter.

 

The two countries are taking part in the major Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition (LIMA’15), currently underway in Malaysia.

(Source: Sputnik News, March 19, 2015)

 

INDIA EYES DEFENCE INDUSTRY TO BOOST ECONOMY

 

Indian business leaders and military industry-watchers welcomed the government’s plan to invest in domestic defence, saying the effort would both improve national security and strengthen the economy.

 

This follows the announcement by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the 10th Aero India Show in Bangalore last month that India would seek to reduce its 60% of defence imports, also saving billions of dollars.

 

With an effective strategy that attracts domestic and international investors, India’s military industry will become the heart of the “Make in India” programme and create thousands of new jobs, Modi said at the event.

 

“A strong Indian defence industry will not only make India more secure. It will also make India more prosperous,” said Modi. “We have the reputation as the largest importer of defence equipment in the world … this is one area where we would not like to be number one.”

 

Military analyst Mohammed Ahmedullah said India was in dire need of a strong defence industry and making it so should be the government’s priority.

 

“India will gain self-reliance by manufacturing defence equipment, armed forces are desperately looking for indigenous machinery, weapons and aircrafts as they do not want to be dependent on any other nation, particularly at the time of direct threat from the enemy,” Ahmedullah told Khabar South Asia.

 

Prime Minister Modi disclosed at the Bangalore event that even with a 20% to 25% reduction in imports, India could create 120,000 new domestic high-skilled jobs.

 

“There will be a clear preference for equipment manufactured in India,” he said, adding the goal was to increase domestic procurement in the sector from 40% to 70% in the next five years.

 

Rohit Mahajan, chief executive officer of HP Patel Group, said the emergence of a strong defence manufacturing industry in India will open additional new export opportunities.

 

“India should start manufacturing all the [defence] equipment domestically with the help of foreign and local investors which will certainly strengthen the economy,” Mahajan told Khabar. “India would also be able to export the product at attractive prices.”

 

Ameya Sathaye, editor-in-chief of Diplomacyindia.com, told Khabar that investing in the defence industry would provide new employment opportunities.

 

If managed properly, the industry will create many more domestic economic opportunities, Mahajan added.

(Source: Khabar South Asia, March 19, 2015)

 

AERO INDIA 2015 SHOWCASES INDIA-US PARTNERSHIP

 

JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii — From Feb. 18 through 22, more than 95 U.S. military personnel and Defense Department civilians were among the thousands assembled from around the globe to participate in Aero India 2015, the region’s largest tradeshow.

 

“The tradeshow allowed the U.S. to strengthen its ties with India while furthering military-to-military relationships,” said Maj. Gen. Kevin Pottinger, the mobilization assistant to the Pacific Air Forces commander and lead U.S. Pacific Command representative at Aero India 15.

 

This year’s tradeshow featured the largest and most significant cross-section of U.S. military aircraft and equipment since its inception in 1996, totaling seven aircraft. Support included the U.S. Air Force’s F-16 Fighting Falcon and C-17 Globemaster III demonstration teams and F-15D Eagle and KC-135 Stratotanker static displays. The U.S. Navy also supported the event with a P-8A Poseidon static, while the U.S. Army Special Forces led multiple combined personnel jumps during the event.

 

During Aero India, PACAF’s F-16 demonstration team, stationed at Misawa Air Base, Japan, electrified over 200,000 spectators in nine separate aerial demonstrations, showcasing the capabilities of one of the U.S. Air Force’s leading fighters. In addition, the C-17, stationed at Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam, Hawaii, took to the skies and impressed all with its exceptional large-aircraft climb, turn and short-field landing capabilities.

 

An Aero India favorite was the combined U.S. Army and Indian Special Forces free fall jumps from a PACAF C-17, which was the first time the two units jumped together. The jumps demonstrated U.S.-Indian interoperability and provided a unique training opportunity for more than 40 special forces personnel.

 

“Aero India was a great opportunity to expand U.S. ties with our Indian counterparts,” said Col. Keith Gibson, the U.S. forces air boss for those participating in the event. “We are honored to be here to demonstrate our partnership with India and remain committed to strengthening our military relationships.”

 

Military members were available to explain aircraft capabilities, highlight the diversity of U.S. military missions, and share their varying experiences with enthusiastic foreign military personnel and visitors to the air show. Notable visitors included the Ambassador to India Richard Verma and Vice Adm. Joseph Rixey, the director of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency.

 

“This airshow came at a critical juncture to the U.S.-India relationship. President (Barack) Obama’s January visit to New Delhi and Secretary (Frank) Kendall’s robust engagement to energize the Defense Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) reflect India’s growth as an important and capable strategic partner with like-minded objectives for regional growth and stability,” an official spokesperson said. “The U.S. was the largest foreign contingent at the show, with 64 companies represented, eight senior leaders and seven of the 11 foreign aircraft. It was clear to those on hand that the Indo-U.S. relationship is an important pillar in our Pacific rebalance strategy.”

(Source: US Air Force News, March 19, 2015)

 

SUKHOI’S SERVICEABILITY TO IMPROVE BY YEAR-END: PARRIKAR

 

The serviceability rate of multi-role fighter aircraft Sukhoi is likely to improve to 75 per cent by this year end from the current level of 56-57 per cent, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said today.

 

“We have been trying to improve the serviceability of Sukhois. It has improved by seven per cent in last 8-9 months to reach to 56-57 per cent,” he said in Rajya Sabha, exuding hope that it would go up to 75 per cent by the year end.

 

A total of 35 incidents of engine failures in air or other engine-related problems have occured between January, 2013 and December last year.

 

To a question, Parrikar said the Russian Original Equipment Manufacturer had introduced a number of measures to contain and eliminate technical issues that have led to engine troubles in flight.

 

“OEM has offered nine modifications or technological improvements for implementation in the production of new aero engines and during overhaul of engines,” he said.

 

Parrikar said the Indian Air Force has also finalised long-term repair agreements with Russian OEMs to improve availability of aircraft for operational use. “25 new engines with modified technology have been procured from Russia,” he said.

 

Replying to another question, Parrikar said two new ordnance factories at Nalanda in Bihar and Korwa in Uttar Pradesh were being set up and a total investment of Rs 1,216 crore has already been made on the two projects.

(Source: Business Standard, March 19, 2015)

 

DEFENCE MINISTER MANOHAR PARRIKAR TO VISIT JAPAN THIS MONTH

 

NEW DELHI:  Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar will go on his maiden foreign visit to Japan later this month as part of India’s effort to step up its defence diplomacy.

 

Mr Parrikar will undertake a two-day trip starting from March 30, the first foreign visit by an Indian Defence Minister since November 2013.

 

“A number of requests have come from various countries and a visit by Indian Defence Minister was due for a very long time. Parrikar is going as part of defence diplomacy to strengthen our bonds ” defence sources said.

 

The last visit was undertaken by then Defence Minister AK Antony in November 2013, when he visited Russia.

 

Analysts point out that Mr Parrikar’s choice of Japan for his first international visit is of strategic importance.

 

China, Japan’s neighbour, has been perturbed by increasing India-Japanese ties besides increasing American interest in the region.

 

The thrust of Mr Parrikar’s visit will be increasing defence cooperation and pushing the government’s Make in India initiative.

 

Interestingly, the government is yet to take a final decision on a major defence deal for acquiring 12 amphibious aircraft-US2 from Japan.

 

The Defence Acquisition Committee, headed by Mr Parrikar, had sought additional information on the deal and hence, a final decision was not taken.

 

While a number of foreign defence ministers have visited India since the Modi Government took over, no trip has been organised by the Indian side so far.

 

While interim Defence Minister Arun Jaitley was scheduled to visit US last year, his visit was put off due to health issues.

 

Mr Parrikar is likely to undertake a number of visits soon.

(Source: NDTV, March 19, 2015)

 

ASTRA TEST-FIRED SUCCESSFULLY AGAINST SIMULATED TARGET

 

The indigenously developed Beyond Visual Range (BVR) air-to-air missile, Astra, was successfully launched from Sukhoi-30 fighter aircraft to hit a simulated target at the Integrated Test Range, Chandipur in Odisha on Wednesday.

 

The missile was tested to prove the manoeuvring capability against a simulated target and also to validate various subsystems. All the subsystems like propulsion, navigation, guidance as also the smooth separation of the missile from the aircraft were proved, according to Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) sources.

 

The all-weather, state-of-the-art missile developed by DRDO can engage and destroy enemy aircraft at supersonic speed (1.2 Mach to 1.4 Mach) in head-on (up to 80 km) and tail-chase (up to 20 km) modes.

 

The 3.8 metre tall Astra is the smallest of the DRDO-developed missiles and can be launched from different altitudes. It can reach up to 110 km when fired from an altitude of 15 km, 44 km when launched from an altitude of eight km and 21 km when fired from sea level.

(Source: The Hindu, March 19, 2015)

 

GOING NUCLEAR AT SEA

 

Almost six years ago, in Visakhapatnam, Gursharan Kaur, wife of then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, cracked a coconut on the hull of India’s first nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine (SSBN). Subsequently named the INS Arihant or “destroyer of enemies”, the vessel was the result of decades of efforts by India’s nuclear scientists.

 

For many years, bureaucratic languor, technical challenges and chronic difficulties in nuclear reactor miniaturisation appeared to ensure that progress would be painstakingly slow. Indeed, at one stage, it became unclear whether the project would see the light of day.

 

In August 2013, when the Arihant’s nuclear reactor finally went critical, the event was thus widely hailed, both in India and abroad, as a major technological and symbolic milestone. Currently undergoing sea trials, the Arihant is destined to be the first vessel in a flotilla of up to five indigenously produced SSBNs, and it has been reported that a sister vessel, the INS Aridhaman, is nearing completion.

 

Since the Pokhran-II series of nuclear tests in 1998, the Indian government has repeatedly iterated its desire to attain a credible minimum nuclear deterrent, structured around what nuclear strategists refer to as a triad, that is, a mixture of aircraft, land-based mobile missiles and naval assets. India’s nuclear doctrine states that it is a no-first-use power, and it is in this light that one must view the importance attached to the sea-based leg of its nuclear deterrent.

 

Indeed, the survivability and overall resiliency of India’s nuclear arsenal has become a growing concern for military planners in New Delhi, particularly as Beijing continues to make rapid advances in missile, space and cyber technology. Nuclear submarines, provided they are sufficiently quiet, are still considered to be the most survivable of nuclear platforms, due to their mobility and discretion. Placing nuclear assets underwater puts them at a safer distance from a crippling first strike. The development of the Arihant and its successors therefore constitutes the next logical step in Delhi’s quest for an assured retaliatory capability.

 

It is important to note, however, that while the launch of India’s first indigenous SSBN constitutes a great accomplishment, it is also only the first step in what promises to be a long and onerous process. India’s naval nuclear journey has only just begun.

 

Going forward, the Indian navy will face three sets of nuclear challenges. The first set is in the technological domain, as the navy struggles to acquire the capability for continuous at-sea deterrence.

 

The second set of difficulties will need to be addressed within the navy itself, as its officers begin to grapple with the importance of their service’s new nuclear role. Finally, Indian naval planners will also have to contend with their Pakistani counterparts’ development of what can best be described as a “naval nuclear force-in-being”.

 

When the Arihant is finally commissioned, it will be fitted with 12 Sagarika K-15 submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs). The Sagarika, however, only has a strike radius of about 750 to 800 km, which many analysts rightly consider inadequate. Indeed, with such a short range, the Arihant could not reach Islamabad, let alone China’s strategic centres. The DRDO is currently working on two longer-range SLBMs: the 3,500-km range K-4, which recently underwent a successful test launch from an underwater pontoon, and the 5,000-km range K-5, which is still in the design phase. According to sources, the Arihant is fitted with four universal tube launchers, which can each carry either three K-15 missiles or one K-4 missile.

 

Observers have raised questions, however, over the compatibility of the K-4’s height with the submarine’s 10.4-m hull. If the length of the K-4 cannot be shortened, the Arihant may need to be retrofitted with a hydrodynamic outer development, or “bump.” Even if the DRDO’s engineers do succeed in squeezing the K-4 aboard, the missile’s range remains somewhat unsatisfactory. It would require India’s nuclear submariners to operate on the northeastern fringes of the Bay of Bengal in order to effectively target China’s major metropolises, rather than within the more sanitised waters abutting India’s eastern seaboard.

 

The K-5 is rumoured to stand at a height of about 12 m, which rules out its deployment aboard the Arihant. The second major technological limitation is that of the Arihant’s nuclear reactor. Reportedly based on first- or second-generation Soviet technology, the 83-megawatt pressurised water reactor has a short refuelling cycle, thus limiting the length of the Arihant’s deterrent patrols.

 

In short, in order to enjoy an effective sea-based deterrent with regard to China, India will need to deploy larger SSBNs with greater missile carriage capacity and more powerful nuclear reactors. The fourth planned submarine in the series is projected to possess such characteristics, but it may take more than a decade for it to be successfully developed and launched, and even longer for it to be commissioned. While India’s submarine fleet has been taking shape, Delhi has also conducted a series of test firings, starting in 2000, of Dhanush-class short-range ballistic missiles from surface ships.

 

For the time being, however, it appears that the Dhanush programme is merely a stopgap measure until the SSBN fleet comes into full fruition.

 

Second, history has shown that all newly nuclear navies face some difficult tradeoffs. As India’s SSBN fleet gradually grows in size and importance, the challenge will be to ensure that the navy’s new nuclear role develops alongside, rather than to the detriment of, its conventional missions.

 

As in all nuclear navies, a debate will no doubt unfold within the service as to how many resources and platforms should be devoted to the ballistic missile submarine fleet’s protection. Tough decisions may need to be made, particularly if India’s underwater environment becomes more contested. India’s nuclear command and control procedures will also almost certainly undergo a revision, as the SLBMs will be canisterised and ready for launch, rather than de-mated.

 

Finally, India’s naval and nuclear planners will also have to contend with the progressive materialisation of a nuclearised Pakistani navy — albeit one with much less orthodox characteristics and undergirded by a very different nuclear posture. Indeed, Islamabad aims to eventually disperse nuclear-tipped cruise missiles across a variety of naval platforms, ranging from surface ships in the short term to conventional diesel-electric submarines in the long term. Unlike India, Pakistan’s naval nuclear ambitions are fuelled primarily by the sense of a growing conventional imbalance in the maritime domain. By nuclearising — or by appearing to nuclearise — a large portion of their fleet architecture,

 

Pakistani military planners hope to neuter India’s growing naval power, inject ambiguity and acquire escalation dominance in the event of a limited conflict at sea. Since Independence, Indian naval officers have been accustomed to operating within a purely conventional maritime setting. Dealing with such a prospective adversary will no doubt necessitate a fundamental rethinking of the navy’s operational concepts. Perhaps more importantly, it will also require an effort on the part of both countries to further institutionalise the maritime component of their relations so as to ensure that in future, isolated incidents don’t spiral out of control.

 

The writer, a nonresident fellow in the South Asia Programme at the Atlantic Council, is author of the report ‘Murky Waters: Naval Nuclear Dynamics in the Indian Ocean’.

(Source: The Hindu, March 19, 2015)

 

LAST BATCH OF IAF’S AN 32 PLANES STILL STUCK IN UKRAINE DUE TO CONFLICT

 

In a direct hit to India of a far-away conflict that is threatening Russia’s relations with the western world, a batch of Indian Air Force military transport aircraft are stuck in Ukraine due to the ongoing border conflict and internal strife.

 

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has revealed that the last batch of Indian Air Force AN 32 transport aircraft that had been sent to Ukraine as part of a larger $400 million deal to modernise the fleet and extend its service life are now stuck because of the conflict.

 

The defence minister has said that officials are working on getting the aircraft back from the crisis-torn nation and that he is hopeful that things would be sorted out shortly. The Soviet-origin AN 32 aircraft are the transport workhorse of the Indian Air Force and are vital to maintaining and supplying troops located in the Eastern and Northern borders.

 

As per a 2009 contract with Ukraine’s state-owned Ukrspetsexport Corp, India was to send 40 aircraft for upgrade over four years, starting 2011.

 

At least 30 of these have been returned. Another 65 of the aircraft were to be upgraded with Ukrainian help at an Indian facility in Kanpur. The upgrade would extend the service life of the transporters from 25 years to 40 years.

 

While several batches of the aircraft have been refurbished and flown back to India since 2011, Parrikar’s statement indicates that the last batch of 5-10 aircraft that were to be completed by March 2014 are now stuck with efforts on the retrieve them.

 

The conflict with Russia has severely affected Ukraine’s industry as large parts of the nation that provided equipment are now under rebel hands. Parrikar said efforts are on to find alternate sources for Ukrainian spares with efforts on to find suppliers in Israel and France.

 

Also, flying of military aircraft has been restricted in Ukraine after the shooting town of Malaysian Airlines MH 17 last year.

(Source: The Economic Times, March 19, 2015)

 

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