Monday, November 24, 2008

Su-30MKI's Russia-Origin Weapons Package

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

Su-30MKIs at EX Red Flag 08: Clearing The Air

A couple of observations regarding Vishnu Som's reportage on EX Red Flag 08 at LIVEFIST:

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

Saab 2000 AEW & C Detailed

The above eight attachments detail the capabilities of the Saab 2000 AEW & C platform. The first such platform will become operational with the Pakistan Air Force in late 2009, followed by three more in 2010. All four ex-Air France Saab 2000s will be refurbished prior to being converted into AEW & C platforms. Also to be delivered are up to six ground receiving stations. Saab will provide an integrated logistics system (ILS) for these four aircraft for a 35-year period.--Prasun K. Sengupta

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Type 214 SSKs For Pakistan Navy

The top photo shows Pakistan’s Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, Gen Tariq Majid, during his visit to Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft GmbH (HDW), Marine System Production Facility at Kiel city, Germany, on November 13, 2008. The Type 214 SSK selected by Pakistan is derived from the Type 212 SSK, four of which have begun entering service with the German Navy and were built by HDW and Thyssen Nordseewerke GmbH (TNSW) of Enden, both members of the GSC. The two Type 212s ordered by the Italian Navy are being licence-built by Fincantieri. The Greek Navy has ordered four Type 214 SSKs, while South Korea has ordered three Type 214 SSKs that are being licence-built by Hyundai Heavy Industries. The Type 214, three of which will be acquired by the Pakistan Navy, has an increased diving depth of more than 400 metres (more than 1,400 feet), compared to the Scorpene’s 300 metres. Its hull length is 65 metres and displacement is 1,700 tonnes. Built of austenitic steel (HY-80 and HY-100), the SSK’s buoyancy reserve is in excess of 10%. Four of its eight torpedo launch tubes (equipped with a water ram expulsion system) are capable of firing anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCM). Heavyweight torpedoes used by the Type 214 SSK include the Whitehead Alenia Sistemi Subaquei-built Black Shark or STN Atlas’ DM2A4 dual purpose, wire-guided heavy torpedo. Propulsion is provided by two MTU-built 16V396 diesel-electric engines (2,000 kW) serving a 600-900V propulsion battery with a fully integrated auxiliary AIP system based on two PEM (polymer electrolyte membrane) 120kW fuel-cell modules. The propulsion motor is a Siemens Permasyn (Type FR6439-3900KW) low-speed permanently excited electric motor driving a low-noise, skewback 7-blade propeller. Using the AIP system on submerged patrol and intercept missions enables the Type 214 SSK to remain submerged for up to 13 days at a speed of 4 Knots. Submerged sprint speeds of between 16 and 20+ Knots are possible for periods of a few hours several times during a 50-day mission. At a speed of 6 Knots the mission range is almost 12,000nm, while the maximum endurance is 84 days. By 2011, the first 1,980-tonne Type 214 submarine will be delivered to the Pakistan Navy. All three of them will each have on board a diesel propulsion system, with an AIP system using Siemens' polymer electrolyte module (PEM) hydrogen fuel cells. The submarines will be armed with Black Shark heavyweight torpedoes, which is already operational with the Pakistan Navy’s existing three ARMARIS-built Agosta 90B submarines and has also been ordered by Malaysia and India for their Scorpene submarines. The Type 214’s CMS will be ATLAS Elektronik’s ISUS-90. BAE Systems will provide the Link 11 tactical data link.--Prasun K. Sengupta

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The ADM Detailed

Back in February 1998 when India decided to co-develop with Russia the 290km-range supersonic BrahMos multi-role cruise missiles (MRCM), Pakistan decided to counter the BrahMos with two distinct types of cruise missiles—the 700km-range land- and sea-launched Babur/Hatf-7 (a scaled-down variant of China’s 1,500km-range DH-10A subsonic cruise missile), and the 350km-range air-launched Ra’ad/Hatf-8 air-launched cruise missile whose design, engineering development and series production tools and processes were reportedly acquired off-the-shelf from South Africa’s Denel Aerospace. Ten years later, while the Babur and Ra’ad have already entered operational service with all three armed services of Pakistan, in India’s case, only the land-launched and ship-launched variants of BrahMos has been inducted into service by the Indian Army and Navy (the latter did so in mid-2005), while the air-launched variant will be service-qualified only by 2009 and that too by the Navy (on board its eight Tu-142M Mod 4 maritime surveillance/ASW aircraft), not by the Indian Air Force (IAF). It is believed that the India-Russia joint venture BrahMos Aerospace Ltd is now no longer pursuing the prospect of qualifying the BrahMos on the IAF’s Su-30MKI air dominance combat aircraft. In a way, this portends well for the IAF as its operational requirements never called for acquiring BrahMos-type MRCMs (it already has standoff precision-guided munitions like the Kh-59MK and Popeye guided air-to-surface missiles and Harpy loitering anti-radar drones), but has instead, since late 1998, called for the acquisition of a family of multi-role supersonic ‘air-delivered munitions’ (ADM) with ranges of between 700km and 1,200km and capable of being armed with both conventional blast-fragmentation warheads as well as 300kT tactical nuclear warheads. The IAF’s reasons for acquiring the ADMs and not the BrahMos are primarily two-fold: the BrahMos’s target engagement envelope is limited to 290km and it can armed with only non-nuclear warheads due to Russia’s adherence to MTCR guidelines; and weight-cum- payload carriage limitations that have resulted in the BrahMos having the potential to be flight-qualified only on board the Su-30MKI.

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

Nirbhay UAV Detailed

Under a fast-track project that forms an integral part of India’s efforts to develop a credible cruise missile defence system, the Defence Research & Development Organisation’s (DRDO) ADE and ASL laboratories are co-developing an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) called Nirbhay (fearless) that will be both air-launched and ship-launched. Believed to have been launched in late 2005, the project calls for the UAV to be developed as both a high-speed target drone capable of simulating the flight profiles of land-attack/anti-ship cruise missiles like China’s DH-10A and Pakistan’s Babur, as well as sea-skimming anti-ship missiles like the A/RGM-84A Harpoon and C-802A, both of which are operational with the Pakistan Navy. In addition, a ground-launched conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) variant of the Nirbhay is also envisaged—this being a high-speed, medium-altitude vehicle equipped with a 130kg payload for standoff, theatre-level reconnaissance—in response to a specific air staff requirement of the Indian Air Force (IAF).

To be powered by a NPO Saturn-supplied 36MT turbofan rated at 400kg thrust, the Nirbhay’s target drone variant will be capable of cruising at a speed of Mach 0.92 at medium altitudes (10,000 feet) and 1,100kph at sea level, have a flight endurance of two hours, will sea-skim at 10 metres above sea level, will be able to pull up to 6.5 G, be equipped with a 130kg payload (of up to 24 different types such as towed radar/infra-red reflector/augmentation devices, EW jammers and hit-scorer avionics), and will have a digital flight management system that will enable the drone to undertake various flight manoeuvres like snaking, pop-up and a 40-degree dive. The ship-launched variant of Nirbhay will be equipped with twin solid-propellant boosters that will be ejected once the drone is airborne, while for the IAF, it will be configured for launch from an IL-76MD transport aircraft. For recovery purposes, both variants of the drone will be equipped with parachutes and inflatable air-bags. The drone will have a maximum takeoff weight of 650kg (minus the twin boosters), overall length of 5.5 metres, wingspan of 2.5 metres, and a fuselage diameter of 0.40 metres. The Nirbhay’s theatre reconnaissance CTOL-UAV variant for the IAF will be equipped with an X-band inverse synthetic aperture radar (most likely the EL/M-20600 from ELTA Systems of Israel), a wideband two-way data link, and a ring laser gyro-based inertial navigation system coupled to a GPS receiver. Maiden flight of the drone’s first prototype is scheduled for early 2009, while its CTOL-UAV variant is expected to fly later the same year. Present plans call for procuring up to 80 drones and 30 UAVs. Series production of the Nirbhay will be undertaken by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd, while the 36MT turbofans will be procured off-the-shelf from NPO Saturn. In October 2006, NPO Saturn had inked a US$100 million contract with the DRDO under which the latter will deliver, starting this December, a total of 200 36MT turbofans through to 2010.--Prasun K. Sengupta

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Arjun Mk1 MBT: Surviving & Winning

The above illustration graphically illustrates how exactly the Arjun Mk1 MBT will be employed in a future armoured campaign, as visualised by the Indian Army's Directorate General of Mechanised Forces. It is in such a scenario that the Arjun Mk1 MBT will be subjected to competitive firepower and mobility trials against the T-90S MBT early next year. As the Arjun Mk1 comes equipped with a battlespace management system (BMS) and the T-90S does not, the former will have a decisive edge against the T-90S when it comes to enhanced situational awareness, as the Arjun Mk1 will be able to get real-time SITREPS on enemy dispositions and movements from the Army's Corps-level BMS (which in turn derive their real-time inputs from UAVs) and be able to engage in decisive manoeuvre warfare of the type not possible at the moment with either the T-90S or the T-72M1 Combat Improved Ajeya MBTs. No wonder the Indian Army is coy about subjecting the Arjun Mk1 MBT and T-90S to competitive performance trials. It's that simple--Prasun K. Sengupta

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Airshow China 2008: First Impressions

The on-going aerospace expo in Zhuhai from November 4 to 8 will be remembered for the sheer new types of UAVs, UCAVs and air defence systems—all indigenous—that have been unveiled by China’s gigantic military-industrial complex. No less than three new types of MALE UAVs and an equal number of MALE/HALE UCAVs were showcased at the expo. The most interesting exhibits—however—the indigenous J-10A medium multi-role combat aircraft now in series-production at Chengdu Aircraft Corp’s (CAC) facilities in Chengdu; and scale-models displayed by Russia’s Rosoboronexport State Corp/Sukhoi Aircraft Corp of the Su-35MKK and Su-33MKK heavy multi-role combat aircraft that are due to be acquired by the PLA Air Force and the PLA Navy in the near future. Present plans of the PLA Air Force call for the acquisition of 38 Su-35MKKs whose primary armaments package will include Novator’s KS-172 long-range air combat missile as well as the Yakhont multi-role supersonic cruise missile from NPO Mashinostroineyie. Interestingly, the Yakhonts will be upgraded will an all-digital navigation-and-guidance system developed by Russia’s JSC Konstern Avionika. Therefore, it is now a distinct possibility that the Yakhont-equipped Su-35MKKs will become operational much earlier than the BrahMos-equipped Su-30MKI. The Yakhonts will also be on board the Su-33MKKs, eight of which are on the verge of being ordered by the PLA Navy. These aircraft will also be armed with the 220km-range C-705 subsonic anti-ship cruise missile, which was unveiled by CPMIEC at Airshow China 2008 and which bears a close resemblance to the Novator-built 3M14E Club. The Su-33MKKs will be based at a newly upgraded air base in Inner Mongolia, where a land-based ski-ramp was recently commissioned by the PLA Navy for imparting flying training to the Su-33MKK aircrew.

The J-10A, two of which are giving daily flying displays, will be joined by a tandem-seat J-10B at Chengdu after the conclusion of the expo and these three aircraft will be evaluated by a seven-member team of test-pilots and ground crew hailing from the Pakistan Air Force (PAF), which has already confirmed its intention to procure an initial 34 J-10As and four J-10Bs. The PAF will designate this aircraft-type as the FC-20. The J-10As showcased at Zhuhai are equipped with a comprehensive defensive aids-suite comprising radar warning receivers, missile approach warning system, an internal EW jammer, as well as a SATCOM system used for both communications as well as navigation. In fact, the on-going deployment of the ‘Beidou’ regional constellation of GPS navigation satellites by China has resulted in both the PLA Navy and PLA Air Force beginning to induct in large numbers a variety of GPS-guided precision-guided munitions, including the FT-3 and FT-5 small diameter bombs, LT-3 PGM, and LS-3 glide bomb. Needless to say, such PGMs will also be specified by the PAF for its FC-20s.—Prasun K. Sengupta

Monday, November 3, 2008

Weaponised Dhruv ALH, LCH & LOH

Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), which has been associated with the tedious and long-drawn process of designing, developing and series-producing the ‘Dhruv’ advanced light helicopter (seven of which have been ordered by Ecuador’s Army), believes that the ‘Dhruv’ 5-tonne multi-role light medium twin-engined design does not represent a zero-sum game, that it is possible to wrap a slim, tandem-seat fuselage around the existing powerplant, transmission and rotor systems of this proven helicopter and derive two distinct derivatives: a light combat helicopter (LCH) optimised for high-altitude warfare; and an armed aeroscout capable of operating in the plains (for operating in tandem with fast-moving mechanised and armoured formations) and over jungle terrain in support of special operations forces and also taking part in combat search-and-rescue operations. Yet, as of now, only the IAF has committed to placing limited firm orders for the LCH, while Army HQ has refused to even examine the LCH’s obvious potential as an armed light observation helicopter (LOH), preferring instead to separately procure single-engined LOHs of an altogether new design of foreign origin. As things now stand, both the IAF and the Army have projected a requirement for 187 LOHs of which the majority will go to the Army. All these will be delivered during the 11th (2007-2012) and 12th (2012-2017) Defence Plans.

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