Saturday, October 26, 2013

OFB Developed Bofors 155 mm / 45 caliber Gun Bursts During Trials

A Bofors 155mm/39 caliber gun in action during Kargil Ops.
On October 25, 2013 Defense News reported that the barrel of a prototype Bofors 155 mm / 45 caliber howitzer burst during summer trials. A MOD source told the website that the failure was investigated by an internal committee, which concluded that neither the barrel nor its Indian-made ammunition was at fault.

Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) has developed the 155mm / 45 caliber gun by upgrading the 155 mm / 39 caliber Bofors gun inducted into the Army in late 1980s. Using drawings supplied by Bofors as part of the TOT package, OFB lengthened the barrel of the gun (increasing caliber from 39 to 45), so that it could achieve a range of 40 km. In additions, OFB improved the mechanical and electronic suites of the gun.

The Defense Acquisition Council in October 2011 asked Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) to manufacture two prototypes of upgraded 155mm/45 calibre Howitzer Gun and offer them for trials by Jun 2013. [via PIB]

On March 7, 2013, the TOI reported that the MOD has placed a letter of intent with the OFB for 114 howitzers.

Following the setback, which has halted the trial process, BAE Systems, which acquired Bofor's howitzer unit, has reportedly offered to help OFB upgrade the gun.

Ironically, the barrel explosion followed a series of trial successes.
On April 29, 2013, the Minister of State for Defense told parliament that the OFB has carried out several internal firings of their in house developed 155mm x 45 caliber Artillery Gun and it has met the planned objectives. However, User Test Fire is yet to be carried out.

Successful Trials at PXE Balasore

On December 28, 2012, the TOI reported that field trials of the two prototype guns were successfully conducted at the Proof and Experimental Establishment (PXE) testing range in Balasore, Odisha on December 19, 20 and 23 respectively.

GM, Gun carriage factory (GCF), S P Yadav, told the newspaper that the performance of both the prototype guns had been as expected; they had successfully hit targets 38-40 kilometers away.

The trials were witnessed by Lt Gen Anjan Mukherji, DG Artillery as well as experts from DRDO.

The PXE range is equipped for accurate ballistic measurements and DRDO has compiled the data from the trials.

GCF carried out initial internal trials of the guns in May in Pokharan, which proved to be satisfactory.

Next the guns were tested at Central Proof Establishment (CPE) at Itarsi on November 30, December 5 and 6. 

At CPE, the firing was confined to the arrester butt on zero degree elevation. 

After the CPE firing the guns were subjected to a series of tests to ensure their structural integrity hadn't been compromised. It was determined that all components and assemblies had borne the firing firing stress without any damage.

Friday, October 18, 2013

India Unhappy with FGFA Research & Design Workshare

PMF / FGFA model on display at Aero India 2013. Photo Credit: Vijainder K Thakur

On October 18, 2013, The Economic Times reported that the IAF is unhappy that India, despite bankrolling 50% of the development cost of the FGFA, is being allocated just 15% of the research and development work for the aircraft by Russia.

The IAF expressed its disappointment at a CII event on energizing aerospace sector in India.

"We have a major opportunity in the FGFA program. At the moment it is not very much in favor of Indian development. We are flagging it through the Government. It should be much more focused towards indigenous development capability," IAF Deputy Chief Air Marshal S Sukumar said here.

The Raksha Mantri is expected to take up the issue during his visit to Russia starting November 15, 2013.

India and Russia are currently negotiating the Research and Development work share of the FGFA program. The negotiations are expected to take another year!

What is difficult to understand is how can India realistically expect a larger work share. The PMF / FGFA is based on the PAK-FA / T-50, an aircraft that is expected to start state acceptance trials in early 2014.

The FGFA will feature the same airframe, engines and main systems as the T-50, but differ in its avionics and weapon suite. Clearly, the residual R&D work is limited. What is it that India wants to research and develop?

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

GTRE Pushes Ahead with Kaveri as USAV Power Plant

Kaveri engine at Aero India 2011. Photo © Copyright: Vijainder K Thakur
GTRE has submitted a revised proposal to the GOI to warp development of Kaveri engine.

DRDO Director General (Aero) K. Tamilmani and Director, Gas Turbine Research Establishment (GTRE) C.P. Ramanarayanan told The Hindu in October 2013 that GTRE will resolve the five issues that came up during airborne testing of the Kaveri engine in 2011 using an IL-76 testbed at Gromov Flight Research Institute (GFRI), Russia

Next year, the tweaked engine would be fitted first on an IL-76 testbed and then a MiG-29 fighter for trials and eventual certification.

“When we do that, we will have the first indigenous engine with proven and certified performance for exploitation,” Dr. Ramanarayanan said.

GTRE had earlier planned to obtain certification using an LCA testbed. (The LCA PV-1 was built to support the Kaveri engine.)

GTRE has sought sanction from MoD for developing the "dry thrust only" versions of the Kaveri engines. The money will be utilized to build two prototypes and send them to Russia for flight testing.

Dr. Ramnarayanan had earlier told the press, “We will take 48 months from the date we get clearance from the government, for completing 50 hours of testing the Kaveri on the Tejas LCA. During the last 12 months, we will actually fly the Tejas with the Kaveri.”

The testing will now presumably be done on a MiG-29.

According to Dr. Ramanarayanan, in future India would endeavor to build aircraft around a proven engine, a model followed worldwide.

During testing at the Gramov Flight Test Center, the Kaveri had demonstrated a dry thrust of 49.2 KN against a designed 51KN. With reheat the thrust deficit was substantial; 70.4 KN against the designed 81 KN.

Due to the thrust deficit with reheat, Kaveri was dropped as a prospective LCA powerplant.

Since Kaveri's dry thrust performance comes close the design values, DRDO has taken a decision to develop Kaveri as a UCAV powerplant.

UCAVs use un-reheated engines to minimize their heat and noise signatures. Also, the thrust requirement for the USAV is more modest.

DRDO has embarked on the development of a UCAV matching the capabilities of the X-47B and nEuron. The Indian analog is called Unmanned Strike Air Vehicle (USAV).

The USAV cannot use an imported engine on account of the MTCR regime which prohibits sale to another country of technology that maybe used in a missile or unmanned vehicle exceeding 300 km in range.

Removing the reheat from the Kaveri would lighten the engine considerably.

"Since the USAV will weigh less than 10 tonnes, the Kaveri’s 50 KN will suffice. And, with the afterburner removed, we would significantly reduce the weight of the Kaveri," a top DRDO scientist told the Business Standard earlier this year.

Along the way, GTRE will need to tweak the Kaveri dry for use on low RCS aircraft. Typically, stealth aircraft powerplants use shaped intakes to prevent enemy radar from reflecting off their compressor blades. Also, the engines are designed to operate with shaped exhausts to reduce stern radar and heat signature 

In addition to the Kaveri, GTRE is co-developing a powerplant for the AMCA with a foreign vendor to be selected through open tendering.

Meanwhile, HAL is independently developing aircraft engines for use on drones, helicopters and trainer aircraft by 2018.

Details about the Kaveri project are at Kaveri Jet Engine - IDP Sentinel.
You can read more about the India USAV a Unmanned Strike Air Vehicle (USAV) / AURA UCAV