Friday, January 30, 2009

Spotlight On The Mi-46 Heavylift Helicopter

In the competitive bidding process now underway for supplying up to 24 new-generation heavylift helicopters, Russia's Oboronprom JSC has offered the Mi-46 heavylift helicopter. Incidentally, the heavylift helicopter requirement has been broken down into two components, under which any bidder can offer to supply six heavylift helicopters to replace the existing six Mi-26Ts, plus another 16 heavy utility helicopters (for high-altitude aerial logistics) and another four of the same model that will be configured for high-altitude combat search-and-rescue. Boeing IDS is therefore offering the CH-47F Chinook and its HH-47 CSAR version, while AgustaWestland is offering the AW-101 (12 of which will shortly be ordered by the IAF for VIP transportation), and Sikorsky has just come in with the CH-53K. Although, Boeing IDS, Sikorsky and AgustaWestland have pitched their products to meet all three vertical airlift requirements, it is likely that in the end the competing bidders for the heavylift requirement will be restricted to the Mi-46 and CH-53K, while the battle to supply heavylift utility and high-altitude CSAR helicopters will be limited to the CH-47F/HH-47, and AW-101.--Prasun K. Sengupta

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Dhruv ALH's Defensive Aids Suite

The CIDAS defensive aids suite has already selected by the Indian Air Force (IAF) for installation on board its 16 armed Dhruv ALH helicopters on order from HAL, and will also find its way on board the Light Combat Helicopter, whose first prototype will be rolled out this March. In addition, the CIDAS will also most likely be on board the to-be-upgraded Ka-28PL, Ka-31 and Sea King Mk42B helicopters and the initial 16 yet-to-be-selected shipborne ASW/ASV helicopters of the Indian Navy, and also on the 60 armed Dhruv ALHs that the Indian Army will be procuring for its projected Combat Aviation Brigade, which will also be employed for vertical envelopment operations in support of expeditionary amphibious warfare campaigns. A version of CIDAS also exists for combat aircraft and will in all probability be selected for installation on board the Su-30MKI in the near future, since the Su-30MKIs lack on-board missile approach warning systems and laser warning systems. The RMAF Su-30MKMs are already equipped with CIDAS.—Prasun K. Sengupta

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

India’s ‘Born Again’ T-90M MBT

By the year’s end, if all goes as per plan, the Indian Army will begin receiving its first T-90M main battle tank (MBT) in completely knocked-down condition from Russia’s Nizhny Tagil-based Uralvagonzavod JSC. It may be recalled that in February 2001, India bought its first batch of 310 T-90S MBTs worth US$795 million, of which 120 were delivered off-the-shelf, 90 in semi-knocked down kits (for licenced-assembly by the Ministry of Defence-owned Heavy Vehicles Factory, or HVF, in Avadi), and 100 in completely-knocked down kits. This was followed by a follow-on contract, worth $800 million, being inked on October 26, 2006, for another 330 T-90M MBTs that were to be built with locally-sourced raw materials. The third contract, worth $1.23 billion, was inked in December 2007 for 347 upgraded T-90Ms, the bulk of which will be licence-assembled by HVF. The T-90M’s final round of user-trials were successfully concluded last year and it has now been cleared for series-production.

The T-90M is a radically upgraded variant of the existing T-90S ‘Bhishma’ MBT, and is 1.5 times more capable than the T-90S. The T-90M features the ‘Kaktus’ embedded explosive reactive armour (ERA) package on its frontal hull and turret-top (the T-90S has ‘Kontakt-5’ ERA), is fitted with an enhanced environmental control system supplied by Israel’s Kinetics Ltd for providing cooled air to the fighting compartment, has additional internal volume for housing the cryogenic cooling systems for new-generation thermal imagers like the THALES-built Catherine-FC thermal imager (operating in the 8-12 micron bandwidth and housed within the Peleng-built 1G-46 gunner’s sight) and the commander’s panoramic sight (which houses the Matis-STD thermal imager that operates in the 3-5 micron bandwidth and which has also been selected for the Arjun Mk1 MBT’s panoramic sight), is fitted with an automatic gearbox, has an electro-hydraulic turret-drive-cum stabilisation system, and most importantly, has a 52-cal 2A46M-5 Rapira smoothbore main gun barrel that also comes fitted with a muzzle reference system. The T-90M’s powerplant will be the Chelyabinsk Tractor Plant-built 1,000hp V-92S2 diesel engine, while a 1kW AB-1-P28 auxiliary power unit will provide back-up electric power when the engine is idling. The gunner’s sight-cum-laser rangefinder will be the 1A43 system, which will also house the Peleng-built 1G46 day sight and the ESSA module containing the Catherine-FC thermal imager and the 9S517 missile guidance module for the Refleks anti-armour/anti-helicopter round. The digital hunter-killer fire-control system will use the 1V528-1 ballistics computer and the DVE-BS meteorological sensor. Bharat Electronics Ltd will supply the T-90M’s digitised battlespace management system and radio communications suite (licence-built models originally designed by Elbit Systems and Tadiran), while Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd will provide the fibre-optic gyro-based autonomous land navigation system.

In future, the HVF is expected to retrofit all 987 T-90 MBTs with active protection systems (APS) for which Army HQ on April 24 last year issued requests for proposals to six companies (Israel Military Industries, RAFAEL, BAE Systems, Raytheon, Rosoboronexport, Saab, and Germany’s IBD Deisenroth Engineering) for procuring 1,657 active protection systems (APS) worth $270 million. Those taking part in the Indian bid were Russia’s
Kolomna-based KBM Engineering Design Bureau with its Arena-E APS on offer, IMI of Israel with its Iron Fist suite on offer, RAFAEL’s Trophy APS, Raytheon’s Quick Kill APS, Saab’s LEDS-150 and Deisenroth Engineering’s AMAP-ADS. Eventually, the LEDS-150 was selected and its procurement contract was inked on January 27, 2009. The Land Electronic Defence System (LEDS) combines active signature management, soft-kill and hard-kill mechanisms to provide full spectrum active protection to armoured vehicles. Full hemispherical coverage is provided to detect incoming threats and alert the crew. When installed in full configuration, the LEDS-150 offers MBT-comparable protection to light and medium combat vehicles against engagement by weapons like RPG-7s, anti-tank guided-missiles, KE ammunition, mortars and artillery shells. The LEDS-150 is an active defence system and typically comprises laser warning sensors, ADC-150 active defence controller AD, a number of munition confirmation and tracking sensors, and high-speed directed launchers, which allow the combination of soft- and hard-kill countermeasure deployment capability to the platform, optional displays, and interconnecting harnesses. The hard kill feature of the LEDS-150 product is characterised by its capability to physically destroy the efficiency of the terminal ballistic capability of attacking munitions without residual penetration of the protected vehicle. The hard kill system detects and tracks a single or simultaneous threats and calculates if the attacking munition will hit the platform or not. The system determines the best inertial intercept position and provides the slew and firing commands to the launchers. The Mongoose-1 countermeasure missile is launched at a predetermined time to intercept and neutralise the detected munition off-board at a distance of between 5 metres and 15 metres from the vehicle to minimise the collateral damage to own forces.

Interestingly, the hulls and welded steel turrets of the 330 T-90Ms, along with their Rapira gun barrels, will be fabricated by HVF with locally-sourced raw materials, while an improved version of the indigenous ‘Kanchan’ modular ceramics-based composite laminate armour package will be used for substituting the Russian package, whose technology-transfer has been denied by Russia. The same also goes for the Kaktus ERA tiles and RPZ-86M anti-radar paint coating, which will be totally imported from Russia.

Presently, as things stand, Indian Army HQ is adhering to a modified MBT force structure, whose original version, as proposed in 2006, had called for a fleet of 3,780 MBTs, comprising 1,302 T-90s 2,356 T-72s and 124 Arjun Mk1s. The modified structure now calls for 2,473 higher-end MBTs, including 1,409 T-90s, 248 Arjuns, and 692 T-72M1 Combat Improved Ajeyas. The Army’s gameplan is to have 21 regiments of T-90s and 34 regiments of upgraded T-72M1s and six regiments of Arjuns by 2020.--Prasun K. Sengupta

Monday, January 19, 2009

Has India Acquired ATGMs from China’s NORINCO?

That could well be the case, if one goes by what was shown at a recently-held 'Know Your Army' exhibition held under the auspices of the Army's Jalandhar-based Cantonment. The top photo, which can be viewed in its original form at, clearly shows the NORINCO-built HongJian-8L (HJ-8L) anti-tank guided-missile (ATGM), which is also in service with the Pakistan Army as the Baktar Shikan. For comparison purposes, the third photo is the original version (from NORINCO's brochure on the HJ-8L) of the one displayed by the Indian Army poster. NORINCO’s HongJian-8L is a semi-active wire-guided ATGM with a 3.2km-range. The missile (second photo), equipped with a tandem warhead, weighs 11.2kg, while the tripod launcher, incorporating a day sight, laser rangefinder and IR goniometer, weighs 22.5kg. So, what rational explanations can be offered for such a poster being displayed by the Indian Army? Has the Army indeed acquired the HJ-8L? Consequently, was this acquisition 'inadvertently' leaked by the displayed poster? Or is it just a case of an atrocious and unforgivable error by the organisers of the exhibition (aka the Indian Army!) who 'assumed' that the HJ-8L illustration could have easily been used to show non-discerning citizens of India what an ATGM looks like, as opposed to what's really operational with the Indian Army? You be the judge. As the saying goes, the devil always lies in the detail.--Prasun K. Sengupta

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Imperative Options

In what can only be described as a massive, multi-dimensional and unified show of ‘dissuasive deterrence’ against the multi-faceted scourge of terrorism, and from which India can draw important lessons, Indonesia’s armed forces and police forces staged a no-holds barred and countrywide anti-terror drill between December 18 and 21 last month in full view of the whole world by simultaneously storming and ‘liberating’ a hijacked Presidential airliner, rescuing ‘hostages’ from a 5-star hotel (the Borobudur) and the National Stock Exchange Building in downtown Jakarta, raiding a ‘hijacked’ merchant vessel in the Malacca Straits, and conducting cordon-and-search operations in luxury resorts located in the scenic island of Bali. The national anti-terror drills were conducted by about 7,000 members of the National Police (POLRI), armed forces (TNI) and emergency-response workers in six major cities, and all these were beamed live by Indonesian TV channels, which showed helicopter-borne counter-terrorism forces landing on the roof of the Borobudur Hotel before blasting through windows to release the screaming ‘hostages’, leaving a trail of shattered glass. In another scenario at an airport in Jakarta, ‘terrorists’ seized an airliner carrying the country’s President, killing one of its Pilots and dumping his body onto the tarmac. After a 90-minute standoff, counter-terror forces overpowered the ransom-demanding ‘hijackers’. Similar drills were held in Bali, which has suffered suicide bombings in 2002 and 2005 that killed more than 220 people, many of them foreign tourists. The counter-terror forces also stormed a merchant ship in the Straits of Malacca, among the world’s busiest shipping lanes, in a bid to free hundreds of passengers seized in another mock hijacking.

For those who may not be aware, Indonesia, after Vietnam, has ASEAN’s biggest complement of special operations warfare personnel, and all of them have decades of combat experience in fighting home-grown terrorism and insurgencies. The counter-terror assault-cum-hostage rescue agencies involved in last month’s exercises included the following:
· The 2,500-strong President Security Forces (Paspampres)
· Delta 88 a 300-man POLRI unit trained and equipped entirely by the US State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service and Australia at a cost of US$24 million. Located at Mega Mendung, 50km south of Jakarta in central Java, this unit has since 2003 been raised and trained by instructors in hostage rescue, crime scene investigation and bomb disposal.
· Gegana special response unit, also known as the 840-strong 2nd Regiment of POLRI’s Mobile Brigade.
· The Indonesian Army’s Special Force Command’s (KOPASSUS) 500-strong Group 5, also known as SAT-81 Gultor, which is based in Cijantung, East Jakarta.
· The Indonesian Air Force’s 50-strong Bravo-90 Detachment, also known as Satgas Atbara (Counter-Terrorist Task Force), whose personnel are drawn from the Air Force’s Pasukan Pemukul Reaksi Cepat (Rapid Reaction Strike Force). The unit specialises in hostage-rescue missions involving hijacked aircraft.
· The Indonesian Navy’s Special Force and Operations Command’s 70-strong Jala Mangkara Detachment (DENJAKA), the 300-strong Underwater Special Unit (KOPASKA), the 700-strong Marine Corps Amphibious Reconnaissance Battalion (YONTAIFIB), and the 250-strong, Jakarta-based Kesatuan Gurita whose primary role is offshore counter-terrorism operations against merchant shipping and offshore oil installations.

The combined, nationwide counter-terror drills were significant in several respects, including:
· The exercises were the first such ones to be conducted after the deadly terrorist strikes in Mumbai, India on November 26 last year and they were strikingly similar to the scenario that had unfolded in Mumbai and involved multiple, simultaneous terror-strikes.
· The exercise planners went out of their way to both highlight and plug the very kind of ‘first response’ gaps that characterised the Indian response to the 26/11 terror strikes in Mumbai.
· The lessons learnt from the Indonesian counter-terror exercises decisively underscored the conclusion that multiple-dimension terrorist attack can be countered only by the security forces’ unified command-and-control mechanism and this in turn ensures seamless integration of the responses by various counter-terror forces. It was convincingly proven during the exercises that such an approach is far better than the ill-conceived concept of locating hubs of a single, ‘elite’ counter-terror force in several strategic and urban centres across a country--what can accurately be described as the ‘Rambo model’ of response. The latter idea presupposes that several small contingents (each numbering no more than 100 personnel) of a single counter-terror force would quickly be able to smash up any terrorist group that may have the audacity to attack. The Indonesian counter-terror exercises drove home the point that any unfolding terrorist operation can only be contained or neutralised in the first few minutes. Which means that the ‘first responders’ have to be equipped, trained and capable of, if not neutralising, then at least containing the terrorists. The reality is that, while ‘special forces’ such as the quick-response special weapons & tactics (SWAT) and hostage rescue teams (HRT) within Police or paramilitary set-ups may play a significant tactical role in counter-terrorism, the strategic success of a country’s counter-terrorism responses will depend overwhelmingly on the capacities, mandate and effectiveness of its ‘general forces’, such as the armed services.
· Lastly, the Indonesian counter-terror drills underscored the need for a hierarchical chain of command in terms of both comprehending the nature of the threats and devising ways of countering such threats by multiple internal security agencies. To this end, Indonesia is blessed with the fact that it has a Cabinet-level Coordinating Minister for Defence and Internal Security (a post now held by retired Admiral Widodo Adi Sucipto) to whom the Minister of Defence and Ministry for Internal Security report. Thus, in times of national emergencies, it is the Coordinating Minister that serves as a single-point national security adviser to the Indonesian President, and his Ministry becomes responsible for coordinating and mobilisation and operations of all counter-terror agencies of both the POLRI and TNI.

On the home front, project files prepared way back in 1997 are now being dusted off and resurrected for fast-track implementation, with the most ambitious being the setting up of a combined sea surveillance-cum SIGINT system in an arc along the coastlines of Gujarat and Maharashtra. Global tenders will shortly be floated for supplying such a system for which the principal bidders are expected to include Germany’s EADS Defence and Communications Systems and its French subsidiary SOFRELOG, the UK’s BAE Systems, Sweden’s Saab Systems, Japan’s NEC Corp, Italy’s Finmeccanica/Selex Sistemi Integrati teamed up with Bharat Electronics Ltd, Raytheon, and Indra of Spain. The contract, estimated to cost €120 million, will include the installation of a sprawling chain of remote fixed stations each equipped with sea-surveillance radars, an optronic platform (like Sagem Défense Sécurité’s VAMPIR NG), and SIGINT sensors. The sea surveillance radars to be installed will be of two types: short-range radars with a range of 15nm, and long-range radars with a range of 50nm. The stations will be connected to four command-and-control centres (two located in each state), which will integrate all the data compiled by sensor stations to create a common and unified scenario of India’s western coastline to alert the systems operators for possible threats (like drugs/arms trafficking, illegal immigration, etc) with enough time for an effective response from marine police units. The command-and-control centres will also transmit to and receive information from Coast Guard patrols. While the sea surveillance system component will be under the Coast Guard’s jurisdiction, the SIGINT component will come under the National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO). Also to be acquired are harbour surveillance and coastal maritime traffic control systems by the Ministry of Shipping.

As far as the offshore requirements (out to 12nm) of the Marine Police detachments for Gujarat and Maharashtra go, to be imported in the near future are up to 60 fast intervention craft, each of which will weigh only 26 tonnes and feature a composite hull. Such craft are designed to carry out a wide range of littoral and coastal water law enforcement and naval duties, including SAR, anti-smuggling, pollution control, anti- terrorist protection of coastal and offshore installations, general surveillance and covert surveillance, and naval special forces insertion and extraction. Depending on the engine configuration, the craft’s proven deep-V hull enables the vessel to reach speeds up to 70 Knots in calm waters and above 50 Knots in Sea State 3, allowing rapid reaction comparable to a cruising helicopter, and can be used in confined spots or bad weather conditions not suitable for helicopter operations. The vessel’s steerable twin-disc Arneson surface drive system provides extreme manoeuvrability and a very shallow draught, enhancing operations in confined waters. The all-composite hull and superstructure of such craft will be constructed in accordance with the Det Norske Veritas-type approval Certificate 416.01. The propulsion system comprises twin diesel engines, twin-disc Arneson surface drives and surface-piercing propellers. The craft will also come fitted with a multi-sensor surveillance suite, modular integrated combat system, and a stabilised 25mm naval gun that is remotely operated. The craft will have a range of more than 300 nautical miles, an endurance of two days out at sea without replenishment, and a four-man crew complement. For inshore patrols out to 3nm, the procurement of several light hovercraft units are being considered, as are V-hulled rigid-hull inflatable boats for the SWAT and HRT units that the state police forces of both Gujarat and Maharashtra are now raising.—Prasun K. Sengupta

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Fair Winds And Smooth Sailing In Calm Waters

Let us begin in the New Year with some wonderful, positive updates. We start off with the Indian Navy, whose eight Tu-142M long-range maritime reconnaissance/ASW aircraft have all been fitted with ELTA-supplied EL/M-2022(V)3 multi-mode search radars. The last two of the eight aircraft were declared operational with the new belly-mounted radars last month and as a result, these eight platforms will remain in operation until 2016 at least. Meanwhile, within the first quarter of this year the contract for acquiring eight Boeing P-8I LRMR/ASW platforms will be inked, with deliveries beginning in 2014. By June, four out of the six Sea Harrier FRS Mk51s each equipped with ELTA-supplied EL/M-2032 X-band multi-mode radars and RAFAEL-supplied Python-5 and Derby air combat missiles will be operational under Project LUSH. At the same time, by then the first six MiG-29K/KUBs along with eight pilots, 39 technicians and four ground engineers will have arrived at Dabolim. The supplementary contract for an additional 29 MiG-29K/KUBs was inked early last month and includes four MiG-29KUBs, Thus, in all the Indian Navy will have, by 2012, eight MiG-29KUBs and 37 MiG-29Ks. As for UAVs, the Navy’s sole Kochi-based UAV squadron will be supplemented in future by three additional UAV squadrons that will be equipped with the MRUAV vertical takeoff-and-landing machines that are now being co-developed by Israel Aerospace Industries and Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL). The Navy, however, remains firmly opposed to inducting the HAL-developed Dhruv ALH as a shipborne platform unless HAL overcomes certain performance deficiencies that have been described by the Navy as being ‘formidable’.

Also to be inducted into service by early 2010 will be a virtual wargaming simulator to be designed and supplied by Russia’s Kronshtadt Ltd, which will also include several naval tactical training modules. The simulation system, in its entirety, will be used for replicating expeditionary naval campaigns wages by an aircraft carrier-based battle group (CBG), which would normally comprise an aircraft carrier and up to eight escorting principal surface combatants (frigates and destroyers) as well as two diesel-electric submarines (SSK). The virtual wargaming simulator, to be sited in Mumbai (HQ of the Navy’s Western Naval Command, which also has operational control over CBGs), will be capable of replicating a composite warfighting scenario and will be able to conduct a 56-hour virtual exercise that will duplicate all the fierce intensity of naval warfare, thereby attaining an unprecedented level of reality in wargam­ing simulation. The wargaming scenario will encompass continuous wartime plan­ning and execution and will allow participants the opportunity to train at all levels. It will also promote coordination between warfare commanders, will execute joint and combined battle force opera­tions, and will familiarised warship crews with real-time joint and combined operations in both a high-tension and combat environment. To be interfaced with the vistual wargaming simulator will be a shore-based naval tactical & command trainer (NTCT) being sourced from Israel’s ELBIT Systems, including a module dedicated for the conduct of CBG-based air campaigns conducted by both fixed-wing combat aircraft and helicopters, as well as for airspace and air traffic control management within the CBG’s air defence identification zone. For warship commanders, the NTCT is widely regarded as the jewel in the crown of naval trainers, designed to facilitate advanced networked training in all naval warfare spheres. Located in a single facility, each NTCT will include more than eight cubicles each representing a single warship’s combat management system (CMS) and hundreds of computer-generated forces. The NTCT will enable training of various operator levels and skills along with the coordination of the attack team and the entire CBG. Designed as a distributed live-virtual trainer, the NTCT will also enable inter-operable training with other training systems already in use by the Navy, thereby forming a multi-echelon joint-force training network. The CMS modules will be designed to train the operators of a warship’s sensors such as radars, sonars, electronic warfare suite, optronic systems and communications suites, as well as guided-weapons ranging from surface-to-surface cruise missiles, surface-to-air missiles, torpedoes, sea mines, to close-in defence systems. For INS Vikramaditya, the Navy will procure a dedicated module (from Kronshtadt Ltd) that will include a fully replicated CMS, and air traffic control simulator, a ship-handling simulator, a propulsion system simulator, and an integrated platform management simulator. The CMS simulator will be used for effective team training in the handling of command, control and communications centres of the aircraft carrier, and it will have a dedicated module for the CBG’s air defence commander and his watchstanders, who
are responsible for the coordination of the CBG’s resources (warships and aircraft) and efforts to conduct surveillance, detection, identification, intercept, and engagement of aircraft within the operational area with the primary objective of defending the aircraft carrier (or other high-value units.

As far as new principal surface combatants go, the first Project 17 guided-missile frigate (FFG), INS Shivalik, is now expected to be commissioned in the second quarter of 2009, with the latter two be commissioned at successive intervals of eight months. The number of Project 15B guided-missile destroyers (DDG) to be built by Mazagon Docks Ltd has been increased from three to seven. Under the Maritime Capabilities Perspective Plan 2022’s indigenous construction component, the Navy will acquire two Cadet Training Ships, five more offshore patrol vessels (OPV) to add to the four already ordered from Goa Shipyard Ltd, three LPDs, seven Project 17A FFGs, six SSKs under Project 75(I), eight guided-missile corvettes under Project 28A (to add to the four Project 28 ASW vessels now being built by Garden Reach Shipbuilding & Engineering), eight GRP-hulled MCMVs, and another integrated aircraft carrier. In terms of off-the-shelf imports, Fincantieri is now negotiating the possible sale of another fleet replenishment tanker.

As for the silent service, the 10 Type 877EKM Kilo-class SSKs are all going to be refitted with new-generated integrated masts (for which a global RFI has already been issued) as has been the case with the four upgraded Class 209/Type 1500 SSKs. All operational Indian Navy SSKs are also being retrofitted with SATCOM-based thin-wire antennae and DRDO-developed Link-2 terminals, which will enable the SSKs to stay submerged and yet stay in regular contact with their respective fleet HQs and receive mission updates. Interestingly, the Navy has also developed a tactical procedure under which the SSKs, using Link-2 terminals, will now be able to communicate with warships at sea via shore-based MALE UAVs like the Heron-2 (acting as airborne repeater stations and being controlled by shipborne control centres) and this for the first time will give the Navy’s task forces the capability to carry out coordinated and simultaneous operations out in the deep seas, involving both surface combatants and submerged SSKs.—Prasun K. Sengupta