Monday, September 30, 2013

Nag ATGM: No Man Portable, Mast Mounted, Tactical Aircraft Versions Planned

Nag ATGM at Aero India 2011. Photo Credit: Vijainder K Thakur

The TOI reported on September 24, 2013 that DRDO is developing a mast mounted ground launched version of the Nag ATGM with increased range of 7 km and lock on after launch capability. The TOI report didn't specify where the mast would be mounted - presumably, on the NAMICA vehicle - but said the launch pad would be hydraulically raised to a height of 5 m to enable the missile to acquire its targets up to a distance of 7-8km.

The TOI report also said that DRDO was developing

  1. A man portable version of the missile on request from the IA
  2. An air-launched, 10-km range variant of the missile for launch from tactical interdiction aircraft like the upgraded Jaguar IS. The version would feature a nose-mounted mill metric-wave active radar seeker.

DRDO has now clarified to Thumkar that the TOI report is erroneous.

According to DRDO Director of Public Interface Ravi Kumar Gupta, while DRDO is working on continually improving the Nag missile there is just one variant of the missile currently under development - Helina.

BMD Phase 1 PDV Endo-Atmospheric Interceptor Test in Late November

AAD-05 interceptor during 7th BMD test on February 10, 2012.
DRDO plans the debut test of its new Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) Phase 1 exo-atmospheric interceptor PDV missile in the last week of November, according to The Hindu.

During the test, the new PDV interceptor will attempt a hit-to-kill destruction of a target missile launched from a Navy ship, with interception taking place between 125-140 km altitude.

The BMD Phase 1 system is capable of engaging missiles with a range of 2,000 km. In the past, DRDO has used Prithvi missiles launched on a trajectory simulating a 2,000 km range missile as targets. For the upcoming test, DRDO will use a newly developed target missile.

The solid fueled two stage PDV missile replaces the solid and liquid fueled two stage Prithvi Air Defense (PAD) missile as the endo atmospheric interceptor in BMD Phase 1. The PAD was tested twice - against a Dhanush missile launched from INS Rajput on March 6, 2006 at an altitude of 80 km and against a Prithvi missile on November 27, 2006 at an altitude of 48 km.

DRDO has tested the BMD system a total of seven times since March 6, 2006, not counting an aborted test. The first two tests involved the PAD missile and the subsequent 5 tests, the AAD. The AAD missile was last tested on February 10, 2012.

PDV Capabilities

The PDV is capable of intercepting enemy missiles at altitudes upto 150 km. It features an innovative system to allow the missile to maneuver outside the earth's atmosphere, a dual (active radar and IR?) seeker and a gimbaled directional warhead which can rotate 360 degrees to explode towards the incoming missile in order to destroy it.

Because it is directional, the 30 kg warhead is able to generate an impact equivalent to a 150 kg omni-directional warhead.

At the time of interception, the PDV and the enemy warhead would both be travelling towards each other at 1500 m per second. One of the challenges in exo-atmospheric interception is discriminating the warhead from its separated rocket motor and possibly decoys.

The PDV missile is being developed to be the mainstay of the BMD system.

PDV Test Delays

The first trial of the missile was initially scheduled for late June or early July 2010. On February 14, 2012, DRDO Chief VK Saraswat said the missile would be tested by the end of 2012.

In May 2013, DRDO Chief VK Saraswat told The Hindu that the next test of the BMD would take place in July 2013. It would involve a PDV missile and demonstrate an interception at an altitude of 100-150 km.

BMD Phase 2

Meanwhile, DRDO is continuing to develop Phase 2 of its BMD system which will be capable of engaging missiles with range greater than than 5,000 km.

The Phase 2 system will match the capability of the THAAD or Terminal High Altitude Area Defence missiles deployed by the United States as part of its missile shield beginning this year. THAAD missiles can intercept ballistic missiles over 200 km away and track targets at ranges in excess of 1,000 km.

The Phase 2 system will require longer range radars (Detection range of 1,500 km as opposed to 600 km for Phase 1 radars), and new hypersonic interceptor missiles flying at Mach 6-7 (As opposed to Mach 4-5 for Phase 1 missiles) with agility and the capability to discriminate against ballistic missile defense counter measures.

DRDO says it has completed design of the Phase 2 interceptor missiles - AD-1 endo-atmospheric interceptor and AD-2 exo-atmospheric interceptor - and trials would be held next year.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

What Happened in Samba? Cross Border Terrorism or Pak Army Special Ops?


Lt Gen HS Panag, former Northern Army Commander, Lt Gen JS Bajwa, who recently retired as DG Infantry, and Pravin Sawhney, Editor, Force magazine, share their thoughts on the brazen cross border attack from Pakistan in Samba. What is India up against? Cross Border Terrorism or Pak Army Special Ops? Proxy War or Sub Inertia Conventional War?

And our continued lack or response to such provocations - is it the Arjun Syndrome or Just Funk?

Let's first review the facts.

On September 26, three heavily armed men attacked the Hiranagar police station in Kathua district of J&K at around 6:45 AM and gunned down five police personnel. They then commandeered a truck on the national highway, shot dead the helper, and forced the driver to take them to the Army area in Samba district, where they attacked a 16 Cavalry camp in Mesar area and shot dead the second in command of the regiment, Lt. Col. Bikramjit, and two soldiers. The commanding officer of the regiment and three other soldiers were injured in the shootout.

A fierce gun battle ensued between the attackers and the army personal, which ended with all the three attackers being killed.

Following the attack, the Home Minister of India confirmed to the press that the attackers came from Pakistan. They are reported to have sneaked into the Indian territory from across the International Border (IB), which runs close to Hira Nagar police station.

The TOI announced the gunning down of the attackers with the headline - Army operation over in J&K's Samba, all three terrorists gunned down.

You may have noticed that I have not used the word terrorists to describe the three attackers from Pakistan, because I am not sure 'terrorists' is the right word to describe them.

According to Wikipedia, terrorism commonly refers to those violent acts which are intended to create fear amongst people. The Samba attack was not intended to create fear amongst Indian people, it was intended to kill Indian uniformed personnel in the border area. A job that is normally assigned to soldiers.

Terrorists are not trained by governments in clearly identifiable camps. Soldiers are. Terrorists don't attack across the international borders, soldiers do.

The Wikipedia defines a soldier is one who fights as part of an organized land-based armed force. To my mind, the three attackers fit the Wikipedia definition of a soldier.

So, were the three men who attacked Hiranagar police station and the 16 Cavalry camp in Mesar area killing 9 uniformed personnel and one civilian terrorists or soldiers?

Remember, soldiers can be part of the regular army with well laid out terms of service, or they can be irregulars with nebulous terms of service.

Was the Samba attack a terrorist attack, or a Pakistani special operation executed by Pakistani army irregulars?

The press, the politicians, even retired soldiers have all referred to the incident as a terrorist attack.

Is it possible we are referring to the three attackers as terrorists because the consequence of referring to them honestly as Pakistani irregulars on special ops would only bring shame on us because we would not be able to explain to ourselves and the world why we are not retaliating across the border from where those irregulars came?

Is Pakistan taking advantage of a weak political leadership in India - focused on its own survival and, by its own doing, bereft of sound military advice - erode Indian sovereignty in J&K.

If so, those in power need to realize that India's accommodation of increasing Pak provocations make it like the frog who dies because water temp rises to a boil slowly.

I know I share my doubts with many other concerned citizens of the country - young and old. To clear the misgivings I consulted two experts who have devoted their lives to military affairs.

  1. Lt Gen HS Panag, former Northern Army Commander, a no nonsense soldier with a sharp intellect, a hard taskmaster, and  a just leader with Teflon clean image.
  2. Lt Gen JS Bajwa, who recently retired as DG Infantry and is the author of two books on PLA, with the latest titled Modernisation of the Chinese PLA: From Massed Militia to Force Projection
  3. Pravin Sawhney, Editor, Force, India's leading defense magazine

My questions to them were

  1. What is India faced with in J&K - Cross Border Terrorism or Cross Border Special Ops?
  2. Has Pakistan upped the ante with a sub inertia conventional war in addition to its on going proxy war? (A conventional war finely calibrated to remain below a threshold that would compel a weak political leadership to react.)
  3. Is the lack of response from India the Arjun syndrome (We are family) or bureaucratic and political funk from the rotting system?

Both the experts opined that India was dealing with terroriism, not Pak special operations.

Pravin Sawhney

Pravin Sawhney said:

"I believe they were terrorists who were provided intelligence, weapons and training by the Pakistan Army.

"They would not have sent their Special Forces so deep inside Jammu because if any of them had been caught alive, it would have had serious implications. Pakistan Army is the only army in the world which has perfected the capability to fight simultaneously at two levels with regular and irregular forces. This started with the 1999 Kargil war."

It is interesting that the Force editor refers to the terrorists as being part of Pakistan's Army's irregular forces.

Lt Gen JS Bajwa

The depth and logic of General Bajwa's response was awe inspiring and enlightening. I think everyone concerned about the strife in Jammu and Kashmir needs to pontificate on it.

Explaining why he feels the three attackers were terrorists, the General said:

"There is an input received to suggest that the 'attackers' sought the location of the Army School. So that does put them in the amorphous genre of 'terrorist'. The aim of the terrorist is to target the civil unarmed population to put pressure on the Civil Govt. Targeting the Army/Police also results in hardships for the civil pop since more restrictions/arrests/searches etc are the fallout. Consequently the population sides with the 'terrorists' and make governance impossible and all sorts of international agencies pounce in and sit in judgement - unless the govt has the will to remain firm.

"The selection of a target and timing are a factor which needs constant analysis from non-stop intelligence inputs. There is a serious weakness here. Intelligence agencies keep giving general information periodically, especially on the occasion of national events such as Republic Day and Independence Day.  That's not "intelligence", that's just an alert to be on guard all over."

General Bajwa then explained why India should not be drawn into a conventional war based on provocations such as the one in Samba.

"The Armed forces being drawn into a conventional war has to translate the achievement of the political end state into achievable military objectives. The Pak Army may suffer a serious military defeat and even lose territory, but is that going to wipe out the terrorist groups? Non-State actors that they are, will bounce back reinvigorated."

As to options available to India to counter the attacks, General Bajwa says:

"Armed UAV's like the 'Predator' are one essential acquisition synergised with IW to harass them persistently.

"The country has other elements on National Power - Diplomacy! Where is the military hardware originating from? Why is that not brought out in international forums as a major flank of action? If weapons are manufactured locally target these persistently. Targeting only the end product of the 'terrorist factory' will be a never ending process."

And perhaps the most profound of General Bajwa's thoughts for restoring peace in J&K - mount a truth offensive!

"As I learned in Punjab, the tide turned against the terrorists the day people realized that these persons have only a personal agenda and any claim to an ideology or 'cause' were a facade, the information about terrorist movement and whereabouts began pouring in which altered the situation dramatically in just six months."

Lt  Gen HS Panag

Lt Gen HS Panag, lived up to his reputation with brevity that outdid a long discourse.

"Pakistani terrorists are as capable of special operations as any special forces. Also, their operations are meticulously planned by the ISI / Pak Army," he said.

"So how does it matter who the Samba attackers were?" he asks?

How Well Are Pak Terrorists Equipped?

A point that each of the three experts made is that Pak terrorists are very well equipped and trained and their operations meticulously planned.

So what exactly do the 'terrorists' carry on a cross border raid?

 Lt Gen JS Bajwa explains

"Terrorist operations are backed with a well oiled machinery running on the other side with planning and executive control. Communication nodes ensure the terrorists are in contact with their control centers throughout. These fellows are on suicide mission alright, but their operations are not limited like those of suicide bombers.

A terrorist is more-or-less armed and equipped in a standard way So it is clear that

  1. One AK-47/56/74 rifle.
  2. One filled magazine with 30 rounds 7.62mm ammunition. At times a second loaded magazine is taped with the other for quick change.
  3. 4/5 filled mags in the harness on his chest which also acts as Bullet Proof Jacket.
  4.  Four hand grenades.
  5. At times a senior cadre member carries an additional weapon in the form of a 7.62mm Chinese pistol.
  6. Mob phone.
  7. GPS.
  8. Photocopy of Pak restricted maps of the area.
  9. At times THUARIA satellite communication set.
  10. Dry fruits.
  11. Some medicines and first aid kit."

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Indian Navy's Participation in RIMPAC 2014: Another Message to China?

India Navy P-81 can be expected to participate in RIMPAC-2014
India will participate in the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2014 naval exercise, which will be hosted by U.S. Pacific Command. The biennial exercise takes place every even numbered year.

In the past India has been invited to the exercise as an observer. Other countries invited as observers include China, Ecuador, India, Mexico, the Philippines, and Russia.

Observer nations participate in the exercise without contributing ships and have the option to become participants any time in the future. Russia switched from being an observer nation to a participant in the 2012 RIMPAC exercise.

Another first time RIMPAC 2012 participant was Philippines, which likely embraced the exercise as a message to China; the two countries are locked in a territorial dispute. India's decision to participate could also be prompted by China's aggressive posture along the LAC.

The US Navy contingent to the exercise comprises of a carrier strike group, submarines (US has only nuclear powered subs) and aircraft.

It's likely that the Indian Navy will contribute its P-8I aircraft to the exercise, besides a man of war or two. The exercise should give the IN aircraft and ships a good opportunity to tune their sensors to  Pacific water keeping in mind the likelihood of future face-offs in the area with PLAN.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Bum La Pass, Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh

The author at Bumla Pass in November 2012. Photo Credit: Vijainder K Thakur
by Vijainder K Thakur

Bum La Pass, on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) between India and China, is about three hour, but just 35 km drive from Tawang over a very rough road.

The area is under Army control; to visit it, you need to get a pass from the DC's office in Tawang, and have it  stamped  at the Brigade Major's office opposite Tawang War Memorial after 5 PM.

The road from Tawang to Bum La Pass. Photo Credit: Google Maps

The Journey

The road from Tawang to Bum La Pass starts with a steep climb upto the ridge line and then goes past some very scenic lakes.

Heart Lake, Tawang District. Photo Credit: Vijainder K Thakur.

Heart Lake: Located at 13,000 ft this heart shaped lake is on top of the first ridge line.
P.T. Tso (Lake): Located at 13,300 ft, 13 km from Tawang,  the lake has a built up pedestrian pathway going around it with five shelters to sit and enjoy the scenery. You can rent camping tents for an overnight stay. The lake is managed by the state, not the military.

 P.T. Tso (Lake): Located at 13,300 ft and 13 km from Tawang,  the lake has a built up pedestrian pathway going around it with five shelters to sit and enjoy the scenery. You can rent camping tents for an overnight stay! Photo Credit: Vijainder K Thakur.

P.T. Tso (Lake): Located at 13,300 ft and 13 km from Tawang,  the lake has a built up pedestrian pathway going around it with five shelters to sit and enjoy the scenery. You can rent camping tents for an overnight stay!
Nagu La Lake is about 4 km ahead of P.T. Tso  at 13,360 ft. Photo Credit: Vijainder K Thakur.

Unidentified Lake on the route. Photo Credit: Vijainder K Thakur

Another unidentified lake short of Bumla Pass. Photo Credit: Vijainder K Thakur

 Three kms ahead  of Nagu La is a Y-Junction with one road leading to Sangetsar Lake and the other to Bum La pass.

Klemta, 8 km short of Bum La, serves as the base camp for the army posts along the border.

Bum La Pass & It's Military Significance

Bum La pass (LatLong: 27.72122,91.822701) is at 15,200 ft. A Stop sign marks the LAC (Top photo) which is U shaped in the sector..

Bumla Pass. Photo Credit: Vijainder K Thakur

No awards for guessing the name of the  Shivling shaped peak on the left in the photo at the top. Yes, it's Shivling Peak! And it  marks the northern extent of the LAC on the left looking towards China (West). Similarly, the LAC extends north on the right (East) along a ridge line.

Tawang is the focal point of the Chinese claim on Arunachal Pradesh, yet Bum La pass is one of the most peaceful sectors along the LAC.

Around 130 km to the East of Bum La Pass along the LAC, the PLA and the Indian Army are in an eyeball to eyeball confrontation with the fingers always resting on the triggers of loaded automatics.

The Indian Army is positioned right on the LAC in this sector manning positions in terrain and weather that are treacherous.

The Chinese side of the LAC is manned by border guards, not PLA regulars. The Chinese border guards live more comfortably than Indian Army personnel, in camps that are well recessed from the LAC in less hostile terrain and linked to Tibetean heartland with metalled highways.
Though the PLA doesn't man the LAC, but monitors it continuously. A PLA radar and electronic monitoring post enclosed in a white radome is visible slightly to the right of my shoulder.

A Chinese radar and electronics eves dropping unit across the LAC at Bum La pass. Photo Copyright ©: Vijainder K Thakur

The Indian Army maintains vigil against intrusions through optical sensors.

A heap of stones on the Bum La pass crossing  symbolizes Indian - Chinese friendship and visitors to the LAC add a stone to the heap in symbolic support of India - China friendship.

Also there is a rock with a signboard that says - Rock of Peace, and the flags of the two nations.

India - China Friendship heap of stones and rock. Photo Copyright ©: Vijainder K Thakur
Behind the heap of stones, but not visible in the picture abov, on the Chinese side of the LAC the ground has been leveled and a small stage built for cultural performances -  by Indian Army on August 15 and the PLA on October 1-  to mark the respective independence days of the two nations.

Army personnel positioned at the Bum La Pass border check point readily brief visitors on the pass.

The Indian Army is very supportive of visitors and extends the same warmth to them as it does to the people of Arunachal Pradesh.

The people of Arunachal Pradesh admire the Indian Army and celebrate Indian Republic & Independence days with more fervor than perhaps any other state. The Army is proud of the support that it enjoys with the people of the state.

You could say the Indian Army's rapport with the people of Arunachal Prades is as much a deterrent to Chinese military adventure as the Indian Army's strength.

Indian Army - PLA Conference hall at Bum La Pass, Tawang District, Arunachal Pradesh

This is where delegations from the Indian Army and PLA meet twice a year to maintain peace on the border.

Conference and banquet hall for PLA and Indian Army brass at Bum La pass. Photo Copyright ©: Vijainder K Thakur

On the left is the conference hall, and on the right is the banquet area.

The Chinese side hosts Border Personnel Meetings (BPMs) in February and June, and the Indian side on August 15 and October 20.

Of the four meetings, two are formal with an agenda and the remaining two celebratory to mark the Chinese Spring Festival and India's Independence Day.

PLA personnel bring traditional Chinese hats and nuts to the conference as gifts for Indian soldiers, and covet liquor and cigarettes in return. Old Monk is the sought after liquor. The Indian Army obliges.

Return to Tawang

The weather can change dramatically and suddenly in high altitude areas like Bum La pass around afternoon. All visitors are advised to clear the area and head back to Tawang by 11 PM.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Brahmos-M Planned Induction in 2017

Brahmos-A Mockup under the belly of a Su-30MKI at Aero India 2011. Photo Credit: Vijainder K Thakur
On September 26, 2013, Dr. Sivathanu Pillai, CEO and MD of the BrahMos Aerospace Limited, told Itar-Tass that the company is currently working on the detail design and initial configuration of a smaller variant of the Brahmos which will be called BrahMos-M; development of the missile is yet to start.

According to Dr. Pillai, since the project "is in its initial stage, it is difficult to tell when the rocket may be phased into service."

"Nevertheless, we expect that it will be adopted in the range of 2017," Dr. Pillai added.

Dr. Pillai first announced the new Brahmos version in New Delhi on March 12, 2011.

Tass reported on February 20, 2013 that the new missile would be 6 m in length and weigh 1.5 tons. It's range would be the same as Brahmos - 290 km.

The new missile would be capable of launch from standard sized submarine torpedo tube, like the submarine launched version of the Exocet missile to be fitted on Type 75 Scorpene submarines currently under production at Mazagaon Docks in Mumbai.

The smaller size and lighter weight of the Brahmos-M will also make it suitable for carriage by smaller aircraft, such as the Indian Navy's MiG-29K and the under-development FGFA.

The Su-30 MKI Super 30 variant, which is the only IAF aircraft capable of carrying the underdevelopment Brahmos-A ALCM, will be able to carry three Brahmos-M missiles instead of a one Brahmos-A.

New Ramjet Engine

Brahmos-3 will be an altogether new missile that will use technologies developed for Brahmos.

Since Brahmos-M needs to be considerably smaller, it will require a completely new, smaller sized ramjet engine.

Brahmos Aerospace has already started work on the new engine, which will be developed in Russia. (Brahmos engines continue to be manufactured in Russia, though eventually manufacture will shift to India.)

Pilatus PC-7 MkII Training at Air Force Academy Ahead of Schedule

Pilatus PC-Mk-II at Aero India 2013. Photo Credit: Vijainder K Thakur

The first Pilots' course to be trained on the Pilatus PC-7 MkII commenced at the Air Force Academy at Dundigal, Hyderabad on July 8, 2013 with 14 PC-7 Mk IIs. Additional aircraft are being flown in every month under the accelerated delivery schedule.

The course is ahead of schedule, with the fleet, which now comprises 18 aircraft, having logged 3000 flight hours and nearly 5600 landings by the end of August.

Usually, because of the monsoons, the course that starts in July is behind schedule during the initial 2-3 months.

All 75 aircraft expected to be delivered by mid-2015.

Since the grounding of the HPT-32 following a crash on July 28, 2009, basic flying training was being imparted using the jet engined Kiran Mk-1 basic trainers. Pilatus PC-7 MkII is powered by a turboprop engine.

The course started with more than 80 cadets, only some of whom are being trained using the Pilatus PC-7.

The Pilatus was formally inducted into the IAF on May 31, 2013, at a ceremony at the Air Force Academy (AFA) at Dundigal, Hyderabad  by the Raksha Rajya Mantri.

The first batch of PC-7 Mk II arrived at the Academy in February 2013 as a part of accelerated induction plan.

By the end of 2014, all elementary flying training will be done on the PC-7 Mk-II and Kiran aircraft would be used exclusively for Stage II training of cadets.

For additional details on the IAF's Pilatus acquisition please visit the link below.

Pilatus PC-7 Mk II Basic Trainer for IAF - IDP Sentinel

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Brahmos Saga: Co-production, License Production, Assembly - Same to Same!

ALCM variant of Brahmos (scale model) displayed at DefExpo 2012. Photo Credit: Vijainder K Thakur
In a recent blog post, I had lamented that the much hyped co-development of Brahmos was nothing more than a new spin on  the 50 year old license manufacture model that just hadn't worked for India. The co-production spin makes buying weapons from abroad more palatable to Indian citizens and lawmakers, but results in very little or no transfer of technology.

Statements made Brahmos Aerospace CMD A Sivthanu Pillai at NAMEXPO in Kochi on September 24, 2013, reiterate my point.

Claiming that the Indo-Russian joint venture Brahmos Aerospace Ltd. will roll out a fully indigenous BrahMos in three years, he told reporters:

"We currently use fully indigenous steel for the missile. Now we are trying to undertake the integration of parts also at BrahMos.

"Efforts to make the missile engine at BrahMos will also be realized in three years. However, the explosive components of the missiles will be sourced from outside as we cannot handle explosives in our unit."

Nine years after Brahmos was first tested in India in late 2004, the country has still not imbibed the technology to locally manufacture the missile in India!

The Brahmos missile is currently being assembled at the Brahmos Integration Complex (BIC) in Hyderabad. The BIC integrates components sourced from various manufacturers in Russia and India.

The missile is not being used by Russian armed forces and there are no manufacturing facilities in Russia.

The ramjet engine of the missile is currently being produced at a plant in the Orenburg province of Russia.

Brahmos Aerospace is setting up a new plant to  produce Brahmos engines at the Brahmos Aerospace Thiruvananthapuram Limited (BATL) complex in Kerala, India.

A new plant is needed because soon Brahmos production volumes are expected to exceed the manufacturing capabilities of the Orenburg plant.

Other critical components of the missile are also being made in Russia. Its seeker, for example, and the warhead as acknowledged by Pillai.

Going by BrahMos Aerospace's past record, its unlikely India the joint venture will be producting the ramjet engine within the country in three years, even using a lot of imported components.

Meanwhile, the Navy and the IAF are already clamoring for a downsized version of the missile that can be launched from submarine torpedo tubes and medium category fighter aircraft. Brahmos Aerospace says its working on a such a version - Brahmos 3 - but little progress has been made.

I am skeptical there will be a Brahmos 3 in the next 10 years. As to the hypersonic Brahmos 2, I doubt it will be a reality in the next 15 years. The truth is Russia is planning to develop a hypersonic cruise missile with Indian funding, which Brahmos Aerospace will claim to have developed.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Advantages of MMW Seeker Over IR Seeker in an ATGM

Nag ATGM at Aero India 2011. Photo Credit: Vijainder K Thakur

DRDO plans to fit a MMW (Millimeter Wave) seeker on the Helina missile, which it successfully tested in Pokharan on Sunday, September 22, 2013.

Currently, the missile features a IR cum Image Co-relation seeker.

What's the big deal about a MMW seeker? Here is an attempt to answer the question.

1. MMW seekers are more suited to battlefield environment as they perform better in fog, mist, dust and smoke, but not rain. IR seeker capabilities get moderately degraded with weather (fog, mist) and more severely by battlefield obscurants such as dust and smoke.

2. MMW seekers are capable of doppler detection of moving targets.

3. MMW seekers allow for low drag nose shape of missile warheads.

4. MMW seekers are capable of providing range and range rate information for accurate triggering of proximity fuse.

For additional details about the Nag ATGM, please visit the link below.

IDP Sentinel - Nag / Helina ATGM

Helina Air Launched ATGM Successfully Tested

Nag ATGM at DefExpo 2006. Photo Credit: Vijainder K Thakur

The Helina ATGM was successfully tested at Pokharan range against a target 7 km away on Sunday, September 22, 2013. The missile was fired from a launch pad simulating a low flying helicopter.

The test was the second live firing of the complete Helina system.

First fight test of the 7-km range missile was carried out in early 2012. The missile successfully demonstrated its lock-on-after-launch capability during the test but failed to hit the target because of some problem with the actuators.

Helina is the helicopter launched version of the Nag missile.

Unlike the shorter range Nag, which acquires a target lock before launch, Helina features a "lock-on after launch" capability.

Helina missiles will arm the weaponized version of Dhruv ALH which will carry 8 missiles in 2 quadruple launchers mounted on either side, linked to a nose-mounted stabilized thermal sight and a laser range-finder package.

You can read more about the Helina ATGM and its land based version Nag at the link below.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Japan to Develop Radar Capable of Detecting Stealth Aircraft

Sukhoi T-50 Stealth Fighter

Japan has initiated a $3.7 billion project to develop a radar that can detect contemporary stealth fighters within 10 years according to a news report.

Japan estimates that China would be in a position to deploy around 200 J-20 stealth fighters by 2025. Similarly, the Russian T-50 would be extensively deployed. Japan's relations with both the countries are strained over territorial disputes.

Japan has opted for a "defensive defense" posture to counter the stealth capabilities of the two aircraft by building a radar that is capable of "vigilant monitoring."

Current radar technology can detect stealth aircraft using longer wavelengths, but cannot track them accurately for missile engagement, since the longer radar wavelength makes it difficult to pinpoint the position of the aircraft.

So what is "vigilant monitorying?" A Google translation artifact? An innocent non technical statement? Or new technology that uses smart realtime extrapolation to pinpoint a stealth target?

Thursday, September 19, 2013

EMALS, Joint Production of Javelin - Why Am I Not Thrilled with the US Offers

A Su-30MKI with a Brahmos missile under its fuselage at Aero India
The US has offered to co-produce with India an Electro Magnetic Aircraft Launch System for use on the second indigenous carrier.

US Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter offered EMALS technology to India during his visit to the country from September 16-18, 2013.

"The US is developing and fielding that system and is offering the technology to India which has an aircraft carrier and is considering making more," Carter told the press.

He also said that the US has offered to jointly develop a new version of the US Javelin anti-tank guided missile (ATGM). He indicated that US bureaucratic processes had been amended to allow a new version of the system to be jointly developed.

India is currently not counted amongst US military allies; consequently past defense deals involving transfer of military technology have invariably stalled.

According to Indian press reports the US has put forward a total of five weapon system co-production offers - the other three being the MH-60 Romeo multi-role helicopter, the M-45 127 mm rapid-fire naval gun and a delivery system for scatterable mines.

Alluding to the joint production by India and Russia of the Brahmos missile, Carter said, "That is exactly the same kind of thing where two industry teams are involved in the whole product life cycle; where the product is both co-produced and developed."

During his visit, Carter met the Indian National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon, Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh, and Defense Secretary Radha Krishna Mathur, reiterating to each that the US and India are destined to be partners on the world stage due to their shared common values and outlooks on a wide range of issues. Amongst other things they discussed steps the United States and India are taking to streamline their respective administrative processes and make bilateral defense trade more responsive and effective.

Deputy Secretary Carter visited Hindan Air Force Station, where he was briefed by IAF pilots on India's co-produced C-130J's (A lot of India specific equipment has been fitted on the aircraft) and recently procured C-17's. He also hosted a meeting of senior representatives from the U.S. and Indian defense industries focused on additional steps the United States can take to remove barriers to bilateral defense.

Perhaps there is a lot to cheer about Deputy Secretary Carter's visit to India and the generous US offers to co-develop weapon systems urgently needed by us, but I have my reservations. I am skeptical that the proposed joint manufacture will help India acquire the capability to produce its own weapon systems in the future. I doubt that is the US intent. I am skeptical that joint manufacture will lower costs. I think it will increase costs. I think the US is offering joint manufacture just as a mechanism to bypass technology transfer regimes.

The problem with developing advanced technology is you need advanced technology to develop it! Let me explain. Any new technology that we develop, cannot be very far advanced from the technology that we have already mastered. In other words, you need an advanced industrial base to make advanced weapon systems.

With our limited resources, creating an advanced industrial base for weapon manufacture is a challenge. The challenge gets insurmountable when you try to develop just about every weapon that your scientists read about in defense journals and you attempt to do so in the public sector. The correct approach is to focus on areas where you have already succeeded and become world leaders, and along the way, in a carefully calibrated manner, expand your focus.

Joint production is about joint ownership, not technology sharing. The Brahmos is a good example of what to expect from joint development, and even a better example of what not to expect.

Nine years after Brahmos was first tested in late 2004, India has still not imbibed the technology to locally manufacture its ramjet engine and radar seeker; the two critical components are still being made in Russia.

The Navy and the IAF want Brahmos to be downsized using modern materials and electronics, in order to make the missile compatible for launch from submarine torpedo tubes and medium category fighter aircraft. Currently, to launch the missile from a submarine, the boat needs to be fitted with a special section equipped with vertical launch tubes, a modification that costs millions of dollars and adversely affects the performance of the sub. Similarly, air launch of the missile requires heavy and expensive modifications to the Su-30MKI.

For a weapon system to be cost effective, it should be compatible with a wide range of launch platforms and require nothing more than a software update to the platform's weapon system. Brahmos isn't such a weapon system.

The Brahmos joint production model is really a spin on the license manufacture model that just didn't work for India. A joint production spin makes buying weapons from abroad more palatable to Indian citizens and lawmakers!

In the late 90s, India invested $240 million to complete two decades of the SS-NX-26 (Yakhont) missile's development and contributed its inertial navigation system for the Yakhont derivative Brahmos. Since then, Brahmos Aerospace hasn't done anything spectacular that suggests a technological leap. Just as HAL didn't do anything spectacular after license producing several MiG variants and Jaguars. Ironically, Indian defense scientists justify the 30 years and still counting development time for the LCA on the ground that we had to start from scratch!

It's not surprising that Brahmos Aerospace is busy plugging new platforms for the missile rather than improved version of it. Left to itself, the public sector company will not be able to manufacture a single Brahmos. That is the truth about the much touted Brahmos joint production.

DRDO Chief Dr. Avinash Chander frankly admits that license manufacture doesn't help imbibe technology and India must learn from the Chinese model of reverse engineering.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Agni-V's Impressive CEP Revealed

India's Agni-V has a CEP that is impressive for a missile with more than 5,000 km range and DRDO scientists are striving to reduce it further.

Agni-V second test on September 15, 2013. Photo Credit: DRDO

Following the second test of the missile on September 15, 2013, DRDO Chief Avinash Chander told the press that the current CEP of the Agni-V is 100m, and DRDO scientists hope to reduce it to 10-15m!

Let's see how the 5,000 km plus Agni-Vs CEP compares with the CEPs of other contemporary ICBMs.

The US Midgetman with a range of 11,000 km has a CEP of 90m. Russia's Bulava with a range of 10,000 km has a CEP of 200m. The CEP of Chinese ICBMs like DF-41 and DF-31A is not know.

Second Test Range 


It's interesting that DRDO's press release on Agni-Vs second test made no mention of the range to which the missile was tested.

The missile was targeted to its maximum range of 5,000 km during its maiden test on April 19, 2012. Following the test, DRDO scientists had said that in subsequent tests the missile's would be targeted to its 'minimum' and 'middle' ranges.

So was the second test a 'minimum' or 'middle' range test?

Additional Tests 


According to DRDO Chief Avinash Chander, at least three to four additional successful flight tests would be needed before the missile could be inducted into service.

Some of these tests would be conducted as user trials.

Both the tests so far have been conducted in the presence Strategic Force personnel.


According to the DRDO press release, which you can peruse at the link below, the second test has paved "the way for initiation of productionisation and subsequent induction."

Canister Launch

The press release and Dr. Chander both say the next launch will be from a canister.

Please visit the link below for more information on the Agni-V project

Agni-5 LRBM