Thursday, July 9, 2009

Underwater ejection - Only Indian Navy submarines have integral rescue sphere

(Source - Indian Express)

What would the crew of the Indian Navy's Type 1500 Shishumar class submarines do if they were faced with the disaster that has befallen the Russian Oscar class nuclear submarine The 40-member crew would file into the forward section of the submarine, seal both its hatches and activate an escape lever. A part of the forward section would disengage itself from the stricken submarine and float to the surface. The crew would then be picked up by a ship on the surface. All this in under an hour. A little known fact, but the navy's four Shishumar class submarines are the only ones in world with an integrated escape sphere - the undersea equivalent of the US President's escape capsule on board Air Force One.

The rescue sphere is a tribute to the farsightedness of the Indian Naval brass in the early 1980s who asked the German designers to make it an integral part of the four submarines that were being purchased from HDW in Germany. The reasons lay more in economics. ``It was insisted upon by Naval Headquarters since we had no submarine rescue facility of our own,'' said Commander S Bhatla, a retired naval officer who worked for 10 years on the indigenous submarine building programme. The first two Type 1500 submarines Shishumar and Shankush were built in Germany by HDW in 1986 and the Shalki and the Shankul built at the Mazagon Dock Ltd, Mumbai in 1992 and 1994. The `crew rescue sphere' designed by the German Ingenieur Kontor Lloyd (IKL) design bureau in Germany can accommodate all 40 officers and crew of the IN's Type 1500 submarine. The sphere which is part of the central bulkhead divides the hull into two watertight sections and is accessible from two ends of the submarine. It has an oxygen supply for eight hours and can withstand pressures nearly as great as the submarine's maximum diving depth of around 260 metres. The Kursk is presently stranded on the seabed at roughly half this depth.

"Tt's very cramped in the sphere, but it has food and water and allows the crew to survive for upto eight hours without fresh air", says Commander Bhatla, who tested the sphere several times in the Arabian Sea in the early 1990s. However, this facility is limited to only the four HDW submarines in the IN's fleet. Naval officials admit that rescue facilities for the ten Russian Kilo class submarines are minimal. There is presently only one diving support ship in the fleet, the INS Nireekshak. The ship is equipped with two Deep Submergence Recovery Vessels (DSRVs) capable of taking 12 men to 300 metres. It is not known if this unique integral rescue sphere will be part of the design of the two indigenous Project 75 submarines, to be built at the Mazagon Docks by the end of this decade. The Project 75 is an indigenous versions of the HDW submarines.

There have been only two serious accidents involving the IN's submarines in over three decades of its submarine operations. The first occurred in the late 1960s when one of the newly acquired Soviet Foxtrot class submarines collided with a warship. The second was in 1989 when another Foxtrot class submarine accidentally surfaced beneath a warship. There were fortunately no casualties and the vessels involved got away with structural damage. After the loss of the US nuclear submarine USS Thresher in 1963 which went down with all its crew, several navies developed DSRVs following the US Navy lead. The US Navy currently has two DSRVs which can operate at a maximum diving depth of 1500 metres and can bring 24 men to the surface at one time. More importantly, these DSRV are air-mobile in Lockheed C-141 Starlifter transport aircraft and can be delivered to the scene of the accident by a special mounting on another submarine or by a special surface rescue ship. The Russian navy lost a significant part of its underwater rescue capability a few years ago when it scrapped two of its huge `India' class DSRV submarines.

Copyright © Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

India Inc makes strategic moves on defence deals

Just 10 days ago, the Tata group signed an agreement with US-based Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation to manufacture its S-92 helicopter cabins in India. The cabins for the four-bladed helicopter, meant for both military and civilian markets, are expected to roll out from a green-field facility in Hyderabad by late 2010.

On May 5, Larsen & Toubro (L&T) announced a joint venture with European defence electronics major EADS to manufacture high-end defence electronics products. The venture is expected to start by March next year and L&T is expecting to get Rs 2,500 crore worth of business within five years.

Just 10 days later, in a first for an Indian military aircraft programme, L&T, Godrej & Boyce and Tata Advanced Systems put in bids to develop and build an unmanned aerial vehicle, or drone, used in surveillance operations. The medium-altitude, long-endurance aircraft, named Rustom, will be designed to fly at least 250 km at a stretch.

A month before that, Mahindra & Mahindra inaugurated a state-of-the-art, six-acre plant in Faridabad to make specific military manufacturing applications, including armoured vehicles.

Sensing a booming opportunity, India Inc is making rapid strategic moves on the defence business. Rolta India chief Kamal K Singh said the defence business was growing at a stunning compounded annual rate of 40 to 50 per cent and most Indian companies were working on cutting-edge technology.

Rolta, which has been in the defence business for over two decades, renewed its agreement with IntergraphCorp in April this year for engineering and geospatially-enabled software. It also has a venture with the $30-billion Thales of France to build equipment for military intelligence.

One major reason why Indian companies have been in a hurry to step up their footprint in defence is the “offset clause”, under which all foreign companies that get a defence contract of above Rs 300 crore from the Indian government will have to bring back 30 per cent of the contract value into the country, either by way of purchases or as investments in the sector. That means a huge opportunity just waiting to be tapped.

Here’s why. Chales Pybus, head (defence advisory) at KPMG, said the Indian government was expected to issue over Rs 150,000 crore worth of defence orders in the next five years. At 30 per cent offset, that’s a plough-back of over Rs 50,000 crore into the Indian defence industry. It’s something India Inc can hardly ignore.

That explains the flurry of moves by companies like the Tata group, L&T, Godrej & Boyce, Mahindra & Mahindra, Walchandnagar Industries, Punj Lloyd and the like.

The array of joint ventures signed is mind-boggling. Apart from Sikorsky, Tata Advanced Systems has also formed joint ventures with Israel Aerospace Industries for building unmanned aerial vehicles, missiles, radar systems. The group also builds components for Hindustan Aeronautics, DRDO and the Indian Space Research Organisation.

Mahindra Defence Systems has a joint venture with Lockheed Martin to jointly develop simulators for the Indian defence sector and with BAE Systems for building heavy artillery. Another major in the fray, Godrej & Boyce, supplies the Vikas engines for India’s rockets.

L&T makes military vessels for the Navy and has built a radar system with Bharat Electronics for the Army in addition to being involved in other aerospace projects. The company’s defence division already makes ancillary equipment for ships, such as propulsion steering gears and shafts and is now planning to build ships for the Indian Navy.

There’s more. Infrastructure major Punj Lloyd has joined hands with Singapore Technologies Kinetics (STK) to manufacture land defence systems — essentially weapons, including howitzers, mortars and small arms — and has announced a greenfield project near Gwalior, with an initial investment of Rs 200 crore. The Hero Group has also announced a Rs 500 crore, 292-acre defence and aviation special economic zone (SEZ) in Madhya Pradesh.

One of the major benefits of the offset clause is that foreign companies have no option but to forge partnerships with Indian companies to make the country part of its global supply chain. Take US major Boeing. Last year, the company entered into an agreement with TAL Manufacturing Solutions, a wholly owned subsidiary of Tata Motors, to make structural components for the latter’s 787 Dreamliner. Boeing has signed up with another 37 Indian companies too.

Lockheed Martin, one of the world’s largest defence companies, is also aiming for deals with India worth $15 billion in the next five years and wants to develop defence technology with Indian companies.

Companies looking to be part of the Indian expansion include US aircraft parts maker Rockwell Collins Inc, which plans to quadruple its staff in India by 2012. Lockheed Martin and BAE Systems are also forming multiple partnerships in India.

But the ambitions of some Indian companies have gone much beyond these partnerships. M V Kotwal, director and senior executive vice president (heavy engineering), L&T, said Indian players was competent enough to build large systems and sub-systems. “But the government should make sure the participation of Indian industry goes much beyond parts sourcing only,” he said.

That’s threatening to become a chorus and India Inc cites the support provided by the US government that enabled Boeing and Lockheed Martin to compete for military plane projects. The F-16 is built by Lockheed, while Boeing builds the F-18.

Companies said the delay on the part of the government to allow greater entry of private companies in defence had already done enough damage. For example, L&T and Tata Power Strategic Electronics Division had partnered with Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) to develop the prototype of a multi-barrel rocket launcher, Pinaka, for the Indian Army about 20 years ago. But business scope materialised only in 2002 when the government opened up defence equipment production to private sector companies. It took four more years for the two companies to get orders for Pinaka.

Kuljeet Singh, head-defence advisory, Ernst & Young, said “The offset clause was working out well for Indian companies in acquiring orders or signing for technologies. But for more growth, research and development (R&D) and manufacturing should be outsourced to private players. And, in turn, the companies should acquire or develop proprietary technology.”

To be fair, the government is taking some more initiatives as well to facilitate this. For example, it has revived the Raksha Udyog Ratna (RUR) scheme that was put in cold storage because of opposition from the Left. Tata Motors, L&T, Tata Power, M&M, Godrej, Bharat Forge, Infosys, Wipro and Tata Consultancy Services are among the 12 companies that have been cleared by a defence ministry committee.

Once awarded RUR status, these companies will be treated on a par with defence public sector enterprises. RUR-status companies will also be allowed to access foreign technologies and build main systems for the defence department, besides getting substantial government financial investment (up to 80 per cent) for design, development and manufacture of defence products, including fighter aircraft, tanks and warships.

US aircraft reveals clumsiness of Indian babudom


THREE SPYKAR armoured vehicles, large stock of reactive armour, precision-controlled missiles, BGM-71 anti-tank guided missile launchers, helicopter ancillaries, M-242 chain gun ammunition and several aircraft spare parts were among the ‘onboard list’ of an AN-124 heavy transport aircraft, which was forced to land at Mumbai International Airport last weekend, escorted by IAF aircrafts. Believe it or not, there were no weapons!

The Ukraine-made plane was operated by Volga-Dnepr Airlines of Russia and has been flying over the Arabian Sea regularly. It had often been over the Indian flight region under the ‘call sign’ VDA 4466, usually used by civilian flights. The plane took off from Diego Garcia military base of the US to Kandahar in Afghanistan. It must be obvious to even a novice that it flew supplies for Operation Enduring Freedom, the ongoing ‘war on terror’ fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan. Such supplies are supposed to receive emergency passage as “Rush Urgent” – like ambulances on roads – unless a regime wants to deliberately disrupt the operation.

According to The Hindu, one of the very few Indian newspapers with a reputation for authenticity in news, Indian Air Force (IAF) spokesperson Tarun Kumar Singha said that inspection of the cargo showed that the aircraft “was carrying three armoured recovery vehicles and medical equipment. There were no weapons on board!” The ‘revelation’ of no weapons onboard was obviously an attempt to save face after a shaming goof up caused by stifling bureaucratic attitudes plaguing India.

The wet-leased aircraft was had a total of 18 passengers including the crew and pilots. It is not known if some of them were paratroopers to be dropped in the field. It became a victim of clumsiness due to bureaucratic arrogance rampant in India’s callous officialdom. The cargo and personnel intended for the Front were held up for 24 hours. Babus of Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and IAF were messing up its schedule, finding fault with each other’s paperwork.

Airlines are required to submit flight plans to the various Air Traffic Controllers whose services the aircraft will use and to the defence authorities of the countries whose airspace it will fly. This cannot obviously be done days or even several hours before takeoff and can be finalized only a couple of hours earlier. In India, DGCA issues a ‘YA’ number to the plane. The Military Liaison Unit (MLU) issues an ‘ADC’ number for the identification of the plane when it is to use defence airspace. The MEA needs to issue this Air Operations Routing (AOR) authority to fly over Indian airspace for the MLU to process the plan. According to archaic and clumsy paperwork prescribed for military aircraft, the request has to be routed through MEA, Intelligence Bureau (IB) and then to IAF. The aircraft would have to disclose details of the cargo being carried. According to a pen-pushing babu, “We would have to decide whether to allow the flight into our airspace!” even if it is not to land in India. Such nonsensical and dreary procedures involving paperwork shunting between several tables can take days.

This type of delay kills the very purpose of airlifting at great expense for the sake of swift movement. Why the Russian operator obtained a civilian call sign, avoiding an AOR must be clear to any highway user in India. Such bureaucratic systems in place in India’s road network forces transport operators to fatten pockets of appropriate officials to avoid their trucks getting detained for hours and days. It is due to the failure to curtail archaic paperwork and what is dubbed as ‘babugiri’ that the reforms process loses its pace in India making it one of the most corrupt nations.

Do u agree tat India is on its own way to Indegenous weaponization??