Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Monday, November 24, 2008
The above-mentioned weapons are common to the Su-30MKs of India (MKI), Malaysia (MKM) and Algeria (MKA). Indonesia's Su-30MKs and Su-30MK2s too have this specified weapons package, although Indonesia and Malaysia have yet to place orders for the R-77 BVRAAM.--Prasun K. Sengupta
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
1) In the absence of AWACS-based airborne battle management support in the within visual range air combat domain, the Su-30MKI or for that matter any other combat aircraft (like the Rafale and Eurofighter EF-2000) equipped with an infra-red search-and-track system (IRST) will undoubtedly prevail and this is most likely what happened at Mountain AFB. In fact, so vital is the IRST sensor today that even the US Navy has contracted Lockheed Martin to develop a pod-mounted IRST system for the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornets.
2) When operating in the supermanoeuvrable mode the 35-degree rate of turn per second mentioned refers to the instantaneous turn-rate, I presume. However, I've come across different figures being mentioned by RMAF Su-30MKM pilots for both the instantaneous turn rate and sustained turn rate.
3) As far as data links go, neither the Su-30MKI nor the Su-30MKM has the kind of Russia-origin airborne data links that are on board the Su-30MKK or Su-30MK2 or Su-27SMK. This is because the Su-30MKI and Su-30MKM are not required to share tactical air situation data with one another, but to exchange such data with AEW & C platforms. On the Su-30MKI the data links are of Israeli origin (from TADIRAN SpectraLink) and they will be operationalised only AFTER they are commissioned into service, which will happen only after the PHALCON AEW & C platforms are commissioned into service. This has nothing to do with OPSEC.
4) The question of dispensing chaff and flares during Ex Red Flag doesn’t arise at all since all the AAM firings (for both within visual range and beyond visual range intercepts) are simulated and are not live firings.
5) The equipment used for calibrating, monitoring and recording air combat engagements in real-time is the DACTS/ACMI system, which is also used for sortie debriefing. It is not a classified or restricted system, but it has an open architecture design which allows non-US DACTS/ACMI pods carried by participating aircraft to be data-linked in real-time. It is for this reason that the Su-30MKIs were clearly seen equipped with such underwing pods (supplied by RADA of Israel) when flying over the skies of Nevada.
6) Every contemporary on-board radar, be it for the F-16E, the F-16C/D or even the Su-30MKI, has a training mode, which is made use of during simulated air warfare exercises. One must bear in mind that the Red Flag series of exercises, while being the most realistic worldwide, are not a ‘no holds barred’ event and are held in a highly controlled environment when it comes to the participation of air forces not hailing from either NATO member-states or major non-NATO allies. In such an environment even the host air force, the USAF, is loathe to expose the full spectrum of its air dominance capabilities, particularly the crucial non-cooperative target recognition (NCTR) mode of US-origin airborne radars and the EW environment that would otherwise be created. Therefore, even the IAF had to adopt the norm of reciprocity and consequently desisted from putting to use the NCTR mode of the Su-30MKI’s NO-11M BARS radar, and decided not to equip the deployed Su-30MKIs at Nevada with EL/L-8222 jamming pods. As for the BARS’ ability to survive in an extreme EW environment and maintain its functional integrity, this is a non-issue as all electronic LRUs and components of the radar are already ‘hardened’ to prevent them from being ‘cooked’ by ultra-strong EMPs.
7) As EX Red Flag 08 was a multinational event designed to enhance the synchronisation of diverse airborne assets as part of a unified coalition-based air tasking effort, emphasis was not placed upon one-upmanship or pitting one participant’s competitive air combat skills against the other to prove one’s invincibility. For the IAF, therefore, one of the greatest lessons learnt was that it too has to, sooner rather than later, create a realistic training environment within India by virtually replicating a substantial part of the Red Flag exercise model, especially with regard to acquiring the necessary ground-based infrastructure like a fully instrumented range for dissimilar air combat and engaging in effects-based offensive knowledge-based warfare using standoff precision-guided munitions. Thus the stage is now set for the Indian Air Force (IAF) to have its own state-of-the-art, fully instrumented facility at a cost of US$80 million in the state of West Bengal, which will be used in future for staging multinational air exercises similar to the Red Flag series of exercises hosted by the US Air Force at Nellis Air Force Base. As per present plans, the IAF, like the USAF, has adopted the cluster approach under which it will equip the air bases in Kalaikunda, Hashimara and Barrackpore, and the air-to-ground ranged at Dega near Kalaikunda and at Chandipur-on-Sea. By 2011 it should be possible to put to test this gigantic state-of-the-art infrastructure in ‘no-holds barred’ exercise scenarios involving not just the Su-30MKIs and PHALCONs, but also participating assets from friendly countries like Singapore’s F-15SGs, Block 52 F-16C/Ds and G-550 AEW & C platforms, as well as France’s Rafales and the UK’s Eurofighter EF-2000s.--Prasun K. Sengupta
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Saturday, November 15, 2008
The project to develop the ADM, whose existence has yet to be publicly acknowledged by either the Ministry of Defence (MoD) or the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), officially took off in late 2006, with the Hyderabad-based Advanced Systems Laboratory (ASL) and Bangalore-based Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE) and Defence Avionics Research Establishment (DARE) being the principal DRDO-owned laboratories that are involved in the ADM’s R & D effort. Believed to have been roped in as technical consultants-cum-industrial partners are Israel Aerospace Industries & RAFAEL Armament Development Authority. Based on the IAF’s Air Staff Qualitative Requirements, the conventionally armed ADM (carrying a 300kg warhead) is required to have a range of 700km and be flight-qualified on both the Su-30MKI and the Dassault Mirage 2000TH. The tactical nuclear warhead-armed ADM will be required to have a range of 1,200km. Both variants will each be powered by a liquid-fuelled ramjet incorporating integrated accelerators. The ADM will have a maximum weight of no more than 900kg, length of 5.4 metres, diameter of 300mm, width of 0.98 metres, and cruise speed of Mach 2.2 at an altitude of 200 metres, which will increase to Mach 3 in its terminal cruise phase at an altitude of 50 metres. The conventionally armed ADM will use a tri-mode target homing system for precision-strike lethality and will comprise an imaging infra-red (IIR) seeker, a millimeter-wave radar and a semi-active laser homing device. For mid-course guidance use will be made of a ring laser gyro-based inertial navigation system coupled to a GPS receiver.--Prasun K. Sengupta
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Thursday, November 6, 2008
Monday, November 3, 2008
The LCH programme took off in early 2003 when the IAF ‘verbally’ pledged Rs3 billion to HAL for designing and developing the helicopter over a 24-month period. The 5.5-tonne, twin-engined LCH at that time was conceptualised as being optimised for all-weather observation and counter-insurgency operations at high altitudes. It will also be armed and equipped with weapons and nose-mounted mission sensors to intercept unmanned aerial vehicles, escort heliborne special operations forces, provide offensive firepower for ground operations urban terrain/built-up areas and for combat search-and-rescue operations, and undertake anti-armour operations. The airframe was to feature a narrow fuselage housing a pilot and a gunner/co-pilot in tandem configuration. The glass cockpit and windshield was required to have armour protection against 12.7mm armour-piercing rounds. Optronic sensors, including a FLIR/thermal imager and laser rangefinder/designator, were to be installed inside a nose-mounted gimballed payload assembly developed by the DRDO’s Dehra Dun-based IRDE facility. The electronic warfare suite was to include a DRDO-developed radar warning receiver, plus chaff/flare dispensers and a missile approach warning system. Things began to move in October 2006 when the MoD released initial R & D funds to HAL and authorised the IAF’s projected procurement request for 65 LCHs. As per present plans, HAL is due to roll out the first of three LCH prototypes early next year, with initial operational clearance being granted by March 2010, and full certification of airworthiness being granted by January 2011, 25 months after the LCH’s first flight.
Though the LCH is derived from the ‘Dhruv’ and will carry the same weapons package now being qualified on board the armed ‘Dhruv’ (that have been ordered by the Army for its projected Combat Aviation Brigade), the IAF has specified a top speed 25kph higher to allow it to run down and kill snooping UAVs if necessary. To make the LCH a survivable platform, HAL is following NATO’s MIL-STD-1290 crashworthiness standard, is designing its own impact absorbing landing gear and will improve on the Dhruv’s ballistic tolerance with up to 100kg of composite-/ceramics-based modular armour, whose positioning is based on an IAF study of the areas most likely to suffer bullet damage. The tandem-seat cockpits will each have twin side-by-side AMLCDs, will be NVG-compatible, will provide NBC protection to the crew, and will have a helmet-mounted targeting system co-developed by HAL and Israel’s Elbit Systems. The LCH will be capable of operating at heights of up to 6,000 metres or 18,000 feet, and will be powered by twin Ardiden 1H (1,200shp TM333-2C2 Shakti) engines co-developed by HAL and Turbomecca. The main and tail rotor blades will be of all-composite construction, with the main rotor blade tips featuring BERP-style sections for increased cruise speed.
The LCH’s armaments suite will comprise a THL-20 chin-mounted turret containing a 20mm Nexter Systems-built M-621 gun firing at a rate of 800 rounds per minute, stub-wing-mounted Forges de Zeebrugge-built LAU-FZ-231 launchers carrying 2.75-inch rockets, MBDA-built Mistral ATAM air-to-air missiles, or the DRDO-developed Nag anti-armour guided-missiles, which will have a maximum engagement range of 6km and will use a nose-mounted millimeter-wave radar for target acquisition-sum-homing. The LCH’s four-axis auto-hover and digital automatic flight control system have been developed in-house, while the Bangalore-based DARE is developing along with EADS the defensive aids suite. DARE has also developed in-house the digital mission computer and pylon interface boxes. The flight control actuator system has been co-developed by HAL and the UK-based APPH.
For the LOH requirements of the Army and IAF, HAL recently proposed a lighter LCH-derived platform powered by a single TM333-2C2 Shakti engine. The LOH will feature a roof-mounted stabilised optronic turret housing an integrated long-range observation system comprising a thermal imager, laser rangefinder and daylight TV.—Prasun K. Sengupta