Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Moscow Comes Calling


When Russian President Dmitry Medvedev comes calling on his maiden official visit to India on December 5, expect a changed, more realistic and sober engagement posture devoid of any arrogance coming from the delegation that he will be leading. For the Russia that had been testing India’s patience for the past two years, especially with regard to Russians demands for re-negotiation of the multi-billion contract for supplying the 44,570-tonne aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya, is not the same Russia that exists today. For the past five months, Russia’s problems in both the domestic and foreign fronts have only increased. Consider the following:

· Russia’s five-day limited border conflict with Georgia last August only served to highlight the block obsolescence of the former’s military might and only accelerated NATO’s determination to push further eastwards via Ukraine and Georgia, thereby completing the strategic encirclement of Russia.

· The aftershocks resulting from the global liquidity crunch has seen several Russian financial institutions crash like a pack of cards. The country’s benchmark RTS stock market index dropped by 70% since last May and the Kremlin is now grappling with its worst financial crisis in a decade, helped no less by the falling global crude oil prices, a massively overheated domestic economy, the steadily falling value of the Rouble, and double-digit inflation (13 per cent).

· The Kremlin’s decision to start an aggressive foreign policy has not been accompanied by a corresponding, aggressive foreign trade policy. Instead, its recent decision to decline joining the World Trade Organisation is widely being seen as a serious blunder.

· Growing fears of government interference in business and perpetuation of the system of unaccountable redistribution of national financial resources among private oligarchic empires close to the Kremlin have resulted in foreign institutional financial investors exiting Russia in droves, thereby raising the prospects of a severe downturn and a long-term crisis in the country’s financial sector.

· The quantum of Russian weapons exports to its traditional customers has been steadily decreasing for the past three years, especially when it comes to China, India, Iran and Malaysia. Though alternate markets have been sought and penetrated in Indonesia and Venezuela, the future outlook for Russian weapons exports remains bleak, especially if Russia is seen as an unreliable military-industrial partner that wants to re-negotiate already signed-and-sealed contracts of the type inked for INS Vikramaditya.

· Lastly, both President Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin are widely believed to be advocating solutions from opposite ends and which also seemingly contradict each other. While Medvedev favours widespread economic reforms and feels the need to add more substance to his anti-corruption initiatives, Putin is widely believed to be intolerant of dissent from his junior partner, since any crack in the monolithic system of power could trigger an avalanche of desertions and revelations that would demonstrate that rampant corruption is not a mere defect in his course of expanding state control over the economy, but its core substance. Putin’s approval ratings still remain high, but the social contract of ‘Putinism’, according to which the population enjoys the fruits of petro-prosperity while ignoring the shameless thievery of the ruling elite, is now all set to expire.

The peculiar two-headed form of leadership was designed by the over-confident ‘Tsar Vladimir’ for presiding over a permanent party of distributing tonnes of easy money, but it cannot function anymore in the situation of escalating squabbles between elite clans and gathering social discontent. Cutting President Medvedev down to size may have been easy, but now Putin has to decide how much longer he can postpone the hard tasks of managing rather than explaining away the crisis that has transformed his pet projects into toxic assets.It is against this backdrop that President Medvedev is coming to India and all indications are that a far more realistic appraisal of the future state of bilateral military-industrial cooperation will be visible. While Putin reportedly favours a Euro-centric foreign policy and accords greater priority to re-claiming Russia’s influences in its near-abroad—especially in Central Asia and China (the Kremlin’s recent approval for exporting the Su-35M and Su-33M, both armed with Yakhont supersonic multi-role cruise missiles, has to be seen in this context)—Medvedev, being a technocrat, favours a more broad-based approach that focuses more intensely on South and Southeast Asia, and the African continent. For the Indian Navy, Medvedev is known to favour a mutually beneficial solution to the INS Vikramaditya’s quagmire, under which a far-more amenable and financially viable supplementary contract will be inked between India’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) and Rosoboronexport State Corp to expedite the aircraft carrier’s refit and upgrade. In return, the Russian shipyards will be accorded preferred vendor status for supplying a substantial number of pre-fabricated modules for the two 37,500-tonne Indigenous Aircraft Carriers (IAC), the first of which is now being fabricated at Cochin Shipyard Ltd (CSL). Also up for grabs for the Russian shipbuilding industry are two major projects: one, for the co-design and joint fabrication of five guided-missile destroyers under Project 15B (for which the Project 22350 DDG is being offered); and the co-design and joint fabrication of seven guided-missile frigates under Project 17A, for which Moscow is offering the Project 1167 FFG.-- Prasun K. Sengupta

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

Project 1167 looks SWEET!!!

Prasun, but why joint design / fabrication when there's a complete render already?

and why cant we make our own frig and destroyer along lines of shivalik and kolkata?

and lastly what happened to you so long!!??

Prasun K Sengupta said...

My apologies for the prolonged absence as I was finishinbg the show reports for Airshow China, Pakistan's IDEAS 2008 and Indonesia's Indo-Defence 2008.
The tender out for Project 17A FFG calls for the selected OEM/Shipyard to work together with the Naval Design Bureau to incorporate into the hull the Navy-specified systems like propulsion package, mission sensors, weapon systems, integrated platform management systems, etc. Of course Indian shipyards can fabricate frigates and destroyers but as yet no one in India can truly build new-generation warships using the latest CAD and production techniques that drastically reduce the man-hours of full fabrication work. It is such expertise that has to be imported and hence the need for selecting a strategic industrial partner, which I believe is a two-cornered competition between France's ARMARIS and Italy's Fincantieri. Russia comes in as No3.

Max said...

@Prasun

Why do you think India, having acquired the capability to produce its own PWR based on the VM-5 does not have the foresight to build a nuclear powered aircraft carrier using it? I don't think building a nuclear carrier can be harder than building a nuclear submarine. Now that we design support and a functional reactor design, why can't we just go ahead?

Conventional aircraft carriers are not potent enough given that we are looking towards being a dominant force in the Indian ocean. France's Charles d' Gaulle has around the same displacement as the P71 Vikrant under construction in Cochin, which shows size is not a constraint.

Prasun K Sengupta said...

Max, the issue is not about having the ability of or being unable to build nuclear-powered aircraft carriers. Its all about the concept of naval operations revolving around aircraft carrier-based battle groups. The US Navy deploys such battle groups for six months at a stretch during both peacetime and in times of hostilities. The French Navy too deploys in a similar pattern. However, when it comes to the Indian Navy, its concept calls for a tactical deployment of at most, a month. The Indian Navy therefore has not yet committed to a strategic deployment of carrier battle groups for extended periods and it is for this reason that the thought of the Indian Navy having nuclear-powered aircraft carriers sounds like an overkill. Within the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) there are no envisaged out-of-area contingencies by the Indian Navy that call for the deployment of nuclear-powered carrier-based battle groups. At most, what's called for is the deployment of battle groups centered around LPDs or LHDs accompanied by two destroyers and four frigates, at most. For extended anti-piracy patrols a combination of one LPD with four on-board medium-lift helicopters and two frigates and a replenishment tanker will suffice.

Anonymous said...

Prasun K Sengupta said...
My apologies for the prolonged absence as I was finishinbg the show reports for Airshow China, Pakistan's IDEAS 2008 and Indonesia's Indo-Defence 2008.

Hi did you got a look at their missiles??? what are your views on that???

what about cruise missiles are they like C-602???? or they are from south africa????

Prasun K Sengupta said...

China's 300km-range C-602 and its 110km-range derivative, the C-705, are not of South African origin. These missiles, like the DH-10A/Babur land attack cruise missile, are exact replicas of the Korshun cruise missile that was developed by Ukraine and first displayed in the mid-1990s furing a Dubai Air Show. The Korshun is now, strangely, no longer being marketed by Ukraine, thereby indicating that it has already sold the missile's design/production rights to China and Pakistan, and probably Iran.

Max said...

@Prasun

You wrote...

However, when it comes to the Indian Navy, its concept calls for a tactical deployment of at most, a month

Exactly. This is what I mean by small thinking.

Anyway can't a nuclear carrier adhere to the concept of tactical deployment? It can. It can adhere to both the concept of tactical deployment and strategic deployment when it's needed. WOn't that be better?

Prasun K Sengupta said...

Max, like I said before, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier will be an overkill and it is far better to operate instead a fleet of three aircraft carriers of the type being acquired from Russia or the indigenous IAC. Within the IOR there is no necessity for keeping all three such aircraft carriers afloat in distant waters all the time. Ensuring that two aircraft carriers are in seaworthy condition at any given time will be more than enough. But what is far more important to acquire and maintain in constant readiness are LPDs, at least three of which are required most urgently. Each such LPD can easily accommodate 6 medium-lift helicopters on board as well as three hovercraft like the LCAC. Given the steady proliferation of low-intensity threats (whether from piracy or seaborne terrorism) what the Navy urgently requires is the capability to deploy at least a Battalion of naval infantry forces for undertaking amphibious operations (including vertical envelopment). Now, the Navy has already said it requires three such LPDs but that will happen only between 2013 and 2017, which to me is a bit too late. And I will even go to the extent of advocating that the Navy too, like the IAF, acquire LPD-based Light Combat helicopters (at least 16) to enable the projected naval infantry forces to undertake offensive amphibious operations.

Sontu said...

Thanks Prasun,

I think both of these images are graphical illustrations only.

1. First 22350 Goroshkov class frigate is under construction at Severnoya VRF and is expected to join RUN by around 2011.

2. I undersntand that Russia proposed Project 22350 for project 17 A FFG (Follow on to 6 Talwar class ships).instead of as you said 22350 is offered for 15 B DDG project!!
Could you please clarify this ?

4.There are some blogs who says 22350 is being designed/constructed for two type of class, one is 4000+ tons and other is 8000 tons ? Do you have any update on this ?

5. Never seen any thing on Project 1167 FFG..do you have any more data on this project ?

6. Looks like a duel barrel gun is planned for both of these warships..what gun exactly is this one.. a derivative of A-190E ?

Thanks,

Prasun K Sengupta said...

To Sontu: The Project 22350 vessel has evolved into two distinct designs: one is a destroyer (to succeed the Udaloy-class) and the other a cruiser (to replace the Slava-class). The one that is now under construction at St Petersburg is the destroyer. Its stretched variant will be a cruiser. The destroyer variant is the one being proposed for Project 15B of the Indian Navy and both the Project 1167 FFG's and Project 22350 DDG's detailed designs were first unveilled at the IMDS 2007 expo in St Petersburg last year.
The Russian company Arsenal, like France's Nexter Systems and the UK's BAE Systems, is now developing a twin-barrelled 155mm/52-calibre main gun for future warships as well as ERGM-like long-range guided projectiles. For the Project 15B DDG such guns have already been specified.

Max said...

It would be good if India could build a cruiser; something along the lines of the Kirov. It will be a good asset for power projection.

Prasun K Sengupta said...

My dear Max, the emphasis is no longer on extra-large platforms, and the side that prevails and superior is the one that has the dominant network-centric warfighting systems in place. A Battle Group comprising one aircraft carrier, two LPDs and three frigates each equipped with the NRUAV and SATCOM VSATs, twin barrelled 155mm/52-cal guns, up to 32 vertically-launched BrahMos and 64 vertically-launched SAMs like the Barak-8, and 2 medium-lift multi-role helicopters can do a lot more damage than three Project 17 FFGs, three Project 15 Delhi-class DDGs and one aircraft carrier combined. Not only can such FFGs hold out on their own not only in naval warfare, but can also make decisive contributions to the AirLand battles. The Indian Navy calls this 'Effecting Maritime Manoeuvres from the Sea'.

Sontu said...

Thanks Prasun,

Could you please clarify..

1. It looks like both of these two has Russian equivallent of US AN/SPY 1/ UK SAMPSON type PESA/AESA Array Antenna for 360' Air and Surface Search and Long range SAM cuing.What exact name of this one and what's the spec..do you have any update ?

2. Would like to know about Project 1167? and it's likely sensors and armamaments etc.

Thanks,

Prasun K Sengupta said...

Sontu, the Project 1167 FFG is being proposed as an open-architecture system in terms of mission sensors and weapons suites, and as a modular system in terms of construction. The Russians in this case have tried to ape the design and construction patterns of the renowned and proven German MEKO family of principal surface combatants. Therefore, expect to have on board the EL/M-2248 MF-STAR AESA radar along with vertically-launched Barak-8s (up to 48 rounds), BrahMos ASCMs (up to 24 rounds), Barak-1 CIWS (up to 32 rounds, two new Phoenix automated gun mounts (which is the Kashtan minus the missiles and using optronic fire-control systems instead of radar). The main gun will definitely be a single-barrel 155mm/52-cal system from Arsenal. Propulsion system will be using a CODAG concept of Russian origin (although it will be ideal if the Kaveri's marine industrial gas turbine coupled with Wartsila diesels were selected). Also on board will be twin triple-torpedo tube launchers, plus a helicopter deck accommodating twin hangars, and a stern-mounted towed-array sonar suite.

Sontu said...

Thanks a lot Prasun,for details and clarifications.

Any update on any future Naval Phased Array Radar(like AN/SPY or SAMPSON or MF-STAR)kind of development and deployement beings planned by Russia ?
It looks like 22380 Goroshkov will have one? Is that one is new HURRICANE system ?

Please clarify.

Thanks,

Sontu said...

Please read 22380 as 22350 inmy above post comment.
Regret inconvinience,

Thanks,

Prasun K Sengupta said...

Sontu, the INS Vikramaditya will not have the HURRICANE APAR system on board, as of now. Very, very interestingly, the re-negotiation of the contract for completing the fabrication of INS Vikramaditya calls for early delivery of the vessel, which means the coast is now clear for the Navy to actively consider and insist upon the installation on board of the EL/M-2248 MF-STAR and Barak-8 combination (which will also be standard fit on the Integrated Aircraft Carrier). In addition, the Kashtan will be out and Barak-1 will be in. It is still early days but I'm told Navy HQ is now moving swiftly ahead to clear the decks for installing non-Russia origin hardware on board INS Vikramaditya. So watch this space keenly for further updates.