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.

Chinese ASBM Development: Knowns and Unknowns

BY: China Brief Volume: 9 Issue: 13

China wants to achieve the ability, or at minimum the appearance of the ability, to prevent a U.S. carrier strike group (CSG) from intervening in the event of a future Taiwan Strait crisis. China may be closer than ever to achieving this capability with land-based anti-ship homing ballistic missiles. There have been many Western reports that China is developing an anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM). Increasingly, technical and operationally-focused discussions are found in a widening array of Chinese sources, some authoritative. These factors suggest that China may be close to fielding, testing, or employing an ASBM—a weapon that no other country possesses. According to U.S. Government sources, Beijing is pursuing an ASBM based on its CSS-5/DF-21D solid propellant medium-range ballistic missile. The CSS-5’s 1,500 km+ range could hold ships at risk in a large maritime area—far beyond the Taiwan theatre into the Western Pacific [1]. Yet there remain considerable unknowns about China’s ASBM capability, which could profoundly affect U.S. deterrence, military operations and the balance of power in the Western Pacific.

Taiwan as the Catalyst

For the past several decades, the U.S. Navy has used aircraft carriers to project power around the world, including in and around the Taiwan Strait. The deployment of the USS Nimitz and Independence carrier battle groups in response to China’s 1995-1996 missile tests and military exercises in the Taiwan Strait was a move that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) could not counter. The impetus behind Chinese efforts to develop ASBMs may be to prevent similar U.S. carrier operations in the future.

Keystone of ‘Anti-Access’ Strategy?

If fielded, the ASBM would be just one of the many new platforms and weapons systems that China has been buying and building since the 1995-1996 Taiwan Strait Crisis. These systems, collectively, will allow China to assert unprecedented control over its contested maritime periphery, in part by attempting to deny U.S. forces ‘access’ to critical areas in times of crisis or conflict. They do so by matching Chinese strengths with U.S. weaknesses, thereby placing U.S. platforms on the ‘wrong end of physics.’ An ASBM, however, stands above the quiet submarines, lethal anti-ship cruise missiles, and copious sea mines that China has been adding to its arsenal in its potential strategic impact on regional allies of the United States and U.S. interests in maintaining regional peace and security.

Firstly, the development of an ASBM would draw on over half a century of Chinese experience with ballistic missiles. Secondly, it would be fired from mobile, highly concealable land-based platforms. Thirdly, it would have the range to strike targets hundreds of kilometers from China’s shores. These factors suggest that China is likely to succeed in achieving a capability that is extremely difficult to counter and could impose ‘access denial’ in strategically vital sea areas well beyond its 200-nautical-mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

U.S. Technological Influence?

The United States does not have an ASBM. It did have a distantly related capability, in the form of the Pershing II ground-to-ground theater-ballistic missile, but Washington relinquished this capability when it ratified the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty with Moscow in 1988. Interestingly, some Chinese sources state that previous advances in the now-abandoned Pershing II program inspired Chinese research and development relevant to an ASBM [2]. The Pershing II has adjustable second stage control fins for terminal maneuver. U.S. Government sources, and many Chinese sources, state that a Chinese ASBM would be based on the CSS-5. While positively identified photos of a CSS-5 outside its launch canister are not known to exist, at least one version of China’s related CSS-6/DF-15 missile has a reentry vehicle virtually identical in appearance to the Pershing II’s [3]. Based on this strong visual resemblance, it is possible that the CSS-6 employs terminal maneuvering technology similar to that of the Pershing II, and it is reasonable to assume that the CSS-5 does too. This is because the reentry vehicle that China obviously has could easily be mated with the CSS-5 booster, which might then produce an effective ASBM, assuming that its radar has the ability to track moving targets at sea.

Making an ASBM Work

Chinese schematic diagrams show an ASBM flight trajectory with mid-course and terminal guidance [4]. Second stage control fins would be critical to steering the ASBM through terminal maneuvers to evade countermeasures and home in on a moving target. This makes an ASBM different from most ballistic missiles, which have a fixed trajectory.

Yet how do Chinese experts envision the “kill chain”—the sequence of events that must occur for a missile to successfully engage and destroy or disable its target (e.g. an aircraft carrier)—beyond the five steps that they commonly list: 1) detection, 2) tracking, 3) penetration of target defenses, 4) hitting a moving target, and 5) causing sufficient damage? A single broken link would render an attack incomplete, and hence ineffective. What would work based on what is known about China’s capabilities today, and in the future?

China has also been working on a sophisticated network of ground-and-space-based sensors, including over-the-horizon (OTH) radars and electronic signals detection equipment, which can assist ASBM detection and targeting [5]. While locating an aircraft carrier has been likened to finding a needle in a haystack, this particular needle has a large radar cross section, emits radio waves, and is surrounded by airplanes. Active radar is the most likely ASBM sensor, since its signals can penetrate through clouds. Simply looking for the biggest reflection will tend to locate the largest ship as a target, and the largest ship will usually be an aircraft carrier (if the pre-launch targeting was good).

And Proving that it is Workable

Critical questions remain with respect to missile sensors, however. Does China have multiple sensors that it is currently capable of applying to ASBM detection and targeting? Even in the absence of relevant space-based intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), is there another way to cue the missile accurately enough so that the possible parameters of where the carrier could move in the missile’s brief flight time can be accounted for within the “window” of its seeker? As for the seeker, how would it work? How would it accomplish target discrimination? Is this a challenging issue? Does it hinge on the large size of a carrier? Could smaller ships also be targeted effectively?

What do Chinese experts fear could go wrong, and perhaps even render an ASBM unusable? Missile defense? Other things? Considerable Chinese research on irregular (“wavy”) ASBM/ballistic missile trajectories and penetration aids (PENAIDS) to defeat missile defense suggests that this is an area of ongoing concern.

With respect to testing, what would be the bare minimum necessary to make the PLA feel that it had some rudimentary operational capability—and hence, perhaps, some deterrence ability? Are there any testing/targeting plans? Demonstration plans? What is the target audience (domestic/foreign public vs. PLA/foreign military’s eyes only)? The U.S./Taiwan/Japanese military, public, or all of the above?

The Service in Charge

The Second Artillery, China’s strategic rocket force, already responsible for China’s land-based nuclear and conventional missiles (the latter since 1993), would likely control any ASBMs that China develops. Relatively small, technologically-focused and extremely secretive, the service is ideally suited to such a mission. It has been studying the ASBM issue for some time, having published what appears to be a conceptual feasibility study in 2003, and a major doctrinal publication the following year [6].

This still leaves critical questions of joint operations, and bureaucratic coordination, however. How are sensors prioritized and coordinated? Which organization(s) control which sensors (e.g. OTH radar), and how are they used? Is there a risk of seams between services (e.g. Second Artillery, Navy, etc.)? What about problems with bureaucratic “stovepipes,” particularly during general wartime crisis management? How to overlap areas of “uncertainty” from different sensors, and thereby accomplish data/sensor fusion? How to accomplish bureaucratic “data fusion”—a task beyond even the most competent engineers? Finally, which authorities would need to be in the decision-making loop, and what are the time-to-launch implications?

Doctrinal Guidance

How does the second artillery conceive of using ASBMs in operational scenarios? The service’s authoritative high-level handbook, Science of Second Artillery Campaigns, describes in some detail the use of ASBMs against carriers. It in no way suggests that such an approach is merely aspirational or beset with insurmountable technical difficulties. In fact, in introducing the section describing their potential employment, it states that “conventional missile strike groups” should be used as an “assassin’s mace” (silver bullet), a term commonly used to describe weapons that match Chinese strengths against an enemy’s weaknesses.

According to its handbook, the Second Artillery is thinking seriously about at least five ways to use ASBMs against U.S. CSGs, at least at the conceptual level:

• “Firepower harassment [strikes]” (huoli xirao) involve hitting carrier strike groups.

• “Frontal firepower deterrence” (qianfang huoli shezu) involves firing intimidation salvos in front of a carrier strike group “to serve as a warning.”

• “Flank firepower expulsion” (yice huoli qugan) combines interception of a carrier strike group by Chinese naval forces with intimidation salvos designed to direct it away from the areas where China feels most threatened.

• “Concentrated fire assault” (jihuo tuji) involves striking the enemy’s core carrier as with a ‘heavy hammer.’

• “Information assault” (xinxi gongji) entails attacking the carrier strike group’s command and control system electromagnetically to disable it [7].
All this does not mean that China necessarily has an ASBM capability already, but it strongly suggests that related research and development has high-level approval from China’s military and civilian leadership.

Concept of Operations?

The above document offers general insights into the Second Artillery’s conception of conventional deterrence. It adds that the Second Artillery will work with the PLAN to “execute focused naval blockades” and “achieve command of the seas.” Approaching enemy CSGs are envisioned to be the principal maritime targets, but “large vessels or large ship formations” more broadly are mentioned as well. Coordination and precision are seen as essential for “deterring and blocking enemy carrier strike groups”; such “operational activities need to be coordinated without the slightest difference in time.” Coordination with the PLAN is also emphasized in the location of sea targets, as well as with regard to the notification and demarcation of blockade areas: “the naval intelligence department should ‘relay promptly’ the information obtained by its reconnaissance about enemy ship activities to the Second Artillery campaign large formation.” In particular, “information regarding carrier battle groups … should be gathered on a real time basis.” Potential sources of “real-time target intelligence” include “military reconnaissance satellites, domestic and foreign remote sensing satellites, and established satellite reconnaissance target image information processing systems.”

Still, this leaves critical questions unanswered concerning how the PLA might envision the basing location, number, employment, and strategic effects of any ASBMs:

• Base of operations. Where would the ASBMs themselves be based? What would be the expected range from the target?
• Nature of arsenal. What would be the relative size of the ASBM inventory? Size might have implications for operational possibilities and willingness to expend ASBMs in conflict.

• Concept of operations. It is one thing to call for ASBM capabilities, but how would they be realized in practice? What would an ASBM firing doctrine look like, and what would be the objective? Target destruction or mission kill (the equivalent of ‘slashing the tires’ on carrier aircraft)? What to shoot at, and when? Would the PLA fire on a carrier if it knew the planes were off of it? Would it rely on a first strike? Would the PLA plan to fire one ASBM, several, or a large salvo? If a salvo, then some combination of saturation (many shots in the same space, to overload missile defense), precision (firing many shots in a pattern to compensate for locating error on the target and to get the CSG in the seeker window of at least one of the missiles), or both? What type of warhead: unitary, EMP, or sub-munitions? How might salvo attacks, or multi-axis attack coordination, be envisioned? Do Chinese planners think that the Second Artillery could handle the mission by itself, or would it be part of a high-low, time-on-target attack with both ASBMs and cruise missiles?
• Concept of deterrence. Deterrence would seem to be a clear purpose of any ASBM development, but what does one have to show to deter? PLA doctrinal publications mention firing ‘warning shots’ in front of carriers—how does the Second Artillery think the United States would respond? How would the United States know it was a warning shot and not just a miss? What if the United States did know and called China’s bluff? Finally, from a technical perspective, how to actually fire a warning shot and miss by an intentional margin (versus having the seeker home in on the actual target)?

From Chinese sources, it can be inferred that Chinese leaders seek not to attack the United States, but to deter it. They want to defend what they perceive to be their state’s core territorial interests and to ensure a stable environment for domestic economic development. If they develop an ASBM, they would likely hope that it could prevent U.S. projection of military power in ways that are inimical to China’s security interests, which appear to be expanding beyond the First Island Chain. Yet the strength of Chinese equities, combined with vital U.S. interests in East Asia, make ASBM development for this purpose a complex and risky proposition. Should Beijing pursue such a course to its logical conclusion—a demonstrated ASBM capability—only robust strategic dialogue could hope to alleviate the substantial tensions that are certain to ensue. Until Beijing is willing to discuss in detail its progress and intentions in this area, however, it will be essential to search for answers to the questions outlined above—not just for a select group of government bureaucrats and the leaders they advise, but also for the publics in Taiwan, Japan, and the United States, who fund military development and who must ultimately live with its consequences. Regional peace and stability, and mutual strategic trust, demand no less.

IAF upgrade: trials for multi-role combat aircraft in Aug

Summer trials for 126 medium-range, multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) for the Indian Air Force (IAF) are set to kick off in August, with the government issuing the letter of invite to six contenders.

The process of inviting the suppliers will be completed in the first week of July. The trials will begin the following month and continue till April 2010.

The six companies in contention for the $10-billion deal are European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS), which has offered the Eurofighter Typhoon; American firms Lockheed Martin (F-16 Falcon/Block 52) and Boeing Integrated Defence System (F/A-18F Super Hornet); Russian Aircraft Corp’s MiG-35; Swedish Saab’s Gripen (JAS-39) and French major, Dassault’s Rafale. The contenders have reportedly agreed to participate in the field trials on a no-cost, no-commitment basis. This means that contenders would bring their aircraft and crew, with no cost to the government.

Industry sources said the trials would take place in three phases. “The first phase is usually a familiarisation phase, where the contenders would be staying at a training base. The second phase would initially be conducted in the country under local conditions and subsequently in the country of origin for weapons,” explained sources.

However, since they are starting late, only four of the six firms would be able to complete the summer trials by October and the rest would conduct their summer trials in March-April next year, said sources. The trials would be conducted in both summer and winter in varying climactic and altitude conditions in the cold Ladakh region of north India, the desert region of Rajasthan and hot and humid south India.

The evaluation trials would be conducted by various teams composed of test pilots, engineers and maintenance crew, which will be drawn primarily from the Aircraft Systems and Testing Establishment (ASTE).

State-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) would also be involved to look at issues concerning technology transfer and industrial partnership, besides the Centre for Military Airworthiness and Certification.

While commercial negotiations are expected to begin once the IAF completes its evaluation sometime in 2010, sources hoped the trials would not be delayed further, as it would not only make the existing technology outdated, but also push up the cost of the machines.

Once the trials and commercial bids are over, two to three top contenders would be shortlisted. “The list is based on three criteria — technical and field trial requirements, cost of the aircraft and country’s strategic requirement,”…

explained sources. Under the present terms and conditions, the first aircraft deliveries will commence only four years after a contract is signed.

The MMRCA deal is part of the modernisation plan in which India would be spending about $30 billion in the next five years to replace or upgrade obsolete weaponry and fleet….

Military’s Active Denial System is First True Ray Gun

Feeling the heat? You will if you are zapped by the military’s Non-Lethal Active Denial System (ADS) slated to enter field testing this summer in Iraq.

This breakthrough looks like airport radar except the one rolled out to the media recently is mounted on a hybrid Humvee. The operator sits in the Humvee, lines up the target and fires off a 95 GHz blast from a 100 kW ultra-high-frequency radio transmitter.

The sensation at the target is akin to taking a heat blast from an opened “oven door,” according to Marine Corps. Col. Kirk Hymes. “This does not incapacitate them. This pushes them back and out of the way,” he says. As such, the unit promises to be another tool for crowd control or for protection of Navy ships.

“Navy ships have curious onlookers who try to push the envelope. But we have a tremendous responsibility to protect the men and women on that ship. When there is mixture of terrorists and tourists and they are not readily moving back, this system can be used to gently push those individuals back. It does not have a lasting effect,” he says, adding that the weapon’s development gathered momentum after the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole in 2000.

Indeed, the 1 mm radio wave penetrates the top 1/64th of an inch of skin and just down to the nerve endings. When hit, the target moves away from the beam and the sensation ceases. Each blast is four seconds and in testing with 600 volunteers and 10,000 exposures, the Air Force claims there is only one tenth of a 1 percent chance of minor injury such as a blister or rash.

Fifteen years in development, the device comes at a time when the military is serving in a multitude of non-traditional roles such as peace-keeping and humanitarian missions.

“We have instances where helicopters had a hard time landing to deliver foodstuffs. Hunger is a pretty motivating factor and if I was senior member of my tribe or clan and I’ve watched my family die from hunger, I’ll do what it takes to get those foodstuffs. How do you non-lethally get them to stand in an orderly fashion so the food can be delivered safely and proportionally and protect those who aren’t in a rush? If you can target individuals to stay back, leave the area or form and orderly line, it only takes a couple of individuals to be targeted and it says there’s something going on here,” says Col. Hymes.

At the heart of the transmitter is a water-cooled gyrotron developed by CPI Inc. based in Palo Alto, CA. The gyrotron creates the radio frequency beam. The aiming device is comprised of “relatively simple” optics, which look down the center of beam.

In addition to the Humvee-mounted unit, the Air Force has also built one containerized version, which is armored and enclosed to survive rugged environments. Each system costs about $10 million, says Hymes. Raytheon is the systems integrator.

The testing of the ADS itself has been proven and now focuses on how it can be maintained and operated in challenging environments such as Iraq’s dust and heat.

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