Thursday, November 7, 2013

A Question for Praveen Swami, Which The Hindu Won't Let me Ask?

Heron UAV of IN.

In an op-ed titled The looming debate over drones in The Hindu, Praven Swami makes a case that attacking terrorists and their supporters with drones, as the US does, is unethical.

I posted the following comment on the op-ed, but The Hindu refused to carry it.

"After a very rational discussion, the author, almost quixotically, invokes the imperatives of due process and criminal justice in dealing with terrorists and those abetting terrorism.

'That might be acceptable in war — but it is not in fighting insurgencies against citizens.'

Terrorism is war, a war of the worst kind, where the aggressor targets innocents, without provocation or warning.

The US has declared a war on terrorism and its use of drones to surgically strike the enemy and those abetting the enemy is justified.

Criminal justice has no place in war.

A country has the right to declare war when a conflict that endangers its existence cannot be resolved through talks. If India declares war on terrorism, its use of drones would be justified.

If a man is holding a gun to my head, I would want the police to shoot him dead with the first bullet. In similar circumstances, would the author prefer the man holding the gun be given a chance to explain his conduct in court?"

I like to ask simple question... because they are difficult to evade.

BTW, Praveen Swami appears unaware of the fact that India currently doesn't have armed UAV's with which to attack terrorists. But then journalists have to write something...

SR-72: Learn What Powers the Game Changing Concept

SR-72 Concept. Photo Credit: Lockheed Martin
Lockheed recently announced plans to develop the SR-72, an unmanned aircraft capable of cruising at Mach 6. The SR-72 is being projected as a successor to the SR-71 manned spy plane and is referred to as Son of the Blackbird by the latest issue of AW&ST. Conceptually, the two aircraft are similar but modern technology would probably make the SR-72 far more lethal than its predecessor.

The SR-71 Blackbird was developed in the 1960s by Lockheed's Skunk Works division and served with the U.S. Air Force from 1964 to 1998. A total of 32 aircraft were built of which 12 were lost in accidents. No SR-71 was downed by enemy action as the aircraft would easily outrun any attacking enemy missile.

The SR-71 cruised at Mach 3.2 using it's unique Pratt & Whitney J58-P4 engine, a turbojet ramjet hybrid. The engine encapsulated a conventional turbojet within a ramjet, with the turbojet producing most of the power at speeds upto Mach 2.8 and the ramjet doing most of the thrusting thereafter.

The engine featured a two stage compressor, with some of the air from the first stage compressor being directed to the afterburner and the rest being routed to the afterburner through the a second stage compressor and turbine.

At low speeds most of the first stage compressor air would be directed to flow through the second stage compressor and turbine and the J58-P4 would function largely like a conventional jet. At high speeds the shock cone of the engine and first stage would compress and heat the airflow to an extent where routing it through the turbojet would be unsafe, as it would result in excessive heat generation and melting of the turbine blades. Therefore, most of the first stage compressor air would be routed directly to the afterburner effectively turning the J58-P4 into a ramjet; only a small amount of air would flow through the turbojet portion.

The J58-P4 engine could produce a static thrust of 32,500 lbf (145 kN) and cruise efficiently at speeds around Mach 3.2.

The maximum speed of the SR-71 was restricted to Mach 3.2 because the aircraft's compressor inlet temperature couldn't exceed 800 °F (427 °C).

Engineers at Lockheed Martin's Skunk Works lab in Palmdale, California, claim to have solved the problem, but haven't revealed details of their solution.

Following the SR-71's retirement in 1998 technology has advanced and studies have shown that inlets speeds of Mach 6 should now be possible.

Ramjet Gives Way to Scramjet in SR-72

Ramjets support higher cruise speeds because they have no moving parts - there is no fear of turbine blades melting! However, ramjets are limited to speeds a little above Mach 3 since the airflow within them is subsonic. In order to facilitate cruise at Mach 6 a ramjet would need to support supersonic flow within its combustion chamber. Such engines are referred to as scramjets.

Lockheed's Skunk Works has been working with Aerojet Rocketdyne for several years to develop a method to integrate an off-the-shelf turbine with a supersonic combustion ramjet air breathing jet engine to power the SR-72 from standstill to Mach 6.

Skunk Works aircraft earlier partnered with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to develop the the rocket-launched Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2 (HTV-2). The HTV-2 achieved flight speeds of Mach 20, or 13,000 mph, with a surface temperature of 3500°F and the project helped collect data on three technical challenges of hypersonic flight: aerodynamics; aerothermal effects; and guidance, navigation and control. The SR-72’s design incorporates lessons learned from the HTV-2.

The SR-72 would be capable of reaching any point on the globe within an hour and penetrating all conceivable enemy defenses. The ability would prove game changing, perhaps more so than stealth.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Strategic Rail Projects - An Update

Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh
Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh. Photo Credit: Vijainder K Thakur

India is developing the following 14 Strategic railway lines as part of its efforts to strengthen the infrastructure along the LAC and LOC. The projects are located in Jammu and Kashmir, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab and Rajasthan.

Murkongselek-Pasighat-Tezu-Parasuramkund-Rupai (Assam, Arunachal Pradesh)
Missamari-Tawang (Arunachal Pradesh)
North Lakhimpur-Along-Silapathar (Assam)
Patti-Ferozpur (Punjab)
Jodhpur-Jaisalmer (Doubling) (Rajasthan)
Pathankot-Leh (Punjab)
Tanakpur-Bageshwar (Uttrakhand)
Jammu-Akhnoor-Poonch (J&K)
Dehradun-Uttarkashi (Uttrakhand)
Rishikesh-Karanprayag-Chamoli (Uttrakhand)
Anupgarh-Chattargarh-Motigarh-Bikaner (Rajasthan)
Tanakpur-Jauljibi (Uttrakhand)
Jodhpur-Agolai-Shergarh-Phalsund (Rajasthan)
Srinagar-Kargil-Leh (J & K)

Graphic Courtesy: Business Standard
The 378-km long Missamari-Tawang link is one of the most strategically important projects, which is expected to cost about Rs 19, 108 crore.

Out of the 14 planned railway lines, survey has been completed for 12, PTI reported on October 27, 2013.

Cost of four lines is yet to be estimated.

Work has started on two lines: the 160-km Hrishikesh-Karnaprayag-Chamoli line and the 30-km stretch of the Murkongselek-Pasighat segment (North Frontier Railways).

Rail Vikas Nigam Limited (RVNL) has submitted details of the Hrishikesh-Karnaprayag-Chamoli railway line alignment to the state government and Railway Board for approval and is awaiting environmental clearances for the initial 12-km stretch of the track.

Graphic Courtesy Business Standard

The 30 km Murkongselek-Pasighat segment is over flat terrain; the challenge lies ahead from Tezu to Rupaithe.

The four lines planned in Uttarakhand traverse difficult terrain.

Some of these lines were planned a hundred years ago. Projects are stalled by lack of funds and the absence of a cost-sharing agreement between the various ministries involved.
Reference: Strategic Rail Projects

Friday, November 1, 2013

Canard by Bharat Karnad?

Rafale at Aero India 2013

The Op-Ed - Stop wasteful military deals - The New Indian Express - by the venerable Bharat Karnad, painting the IAF in bad light, is riddled with so many grievous errors that I am compelled to respond. 

The following are some examples of statements by Karnad that need to be corrected.

"[IAF] bought PC-7s for $1.5 billion, an amount the Chinese Air Force spent to secure the entire production line from Russia of the latest, most advanced, Tu-22M3M strategic bomber!"

China has an industrial base to support production of Tu-22M3M. India doesn't. China perceives a need for a supersonic bomber to counter the US. India doesn't.

"This Pilatus purchase, moreover, was approved by defence minister A K Antony at a time when Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), Bangalore, had its new HJT-44 turboprop trainer up and ready. Brazening out such mindless splurges, Air Chief Marshal N A K Browne advised closure of the HJT-44 line to enable purchase of more PC-7s!"

The HJT-44 exists as a mock-up only - It is not "up and ready." The IAF was compelled to acquire the Pilatus because HAL couldn't make the HPT-32 safe to fly even decades after the IAF accepted it. As a Flying Instructor at the Air Force Academy, I have had the misfortune of attending funerals of Army and Air Force officers and IAF cadets killed as a result of HPT-32 accidents. (I saw as many wailing wives and mothers at funerals during my short stay at the Academy, than I did during my entire career as a fighter pilot.)

HAL is struggling with the development of the HJT-36, Sitara, which the IAF is in desperate need of. My guess is that the IAF would eventually be forced to buy an intermediate trainer from abroad because HAL will fail to deliver. With all due respect to Bharat Karnad, I think his attack on the IAF Chief is quixotic and very unfortunate. (He got paid for the article in which he took a wild potshot at the IAF Chief.)

"IAF has at most tolerated licence-manufactured foreign fighter planes but sought stubbornly to kill off indigenous combat aircraft projects. In the past, it buried the Marut Mk-II, the low-level strike variant designed in the 1970s by the highly talented Dr Raj Mahindra, who won his spurs under Kurt Tank, designer of the Focke-Wulfe fighter-bombers for the Nazi Luftwaffe and of the original HF-24 at HAL, buying the Jaguar from the UK instead. History repeats itself."

The Marut Mk-II was a dream, not a project. The HF-24 Marut powered by two Orpheus 703 engines, which I flew extensively, was an underpowered fighter incapable of holding its own in a dogfight against any Pakistani fighter. The IAF inducted the fighter into service in the belief that a more suitable engine for the aircraft would be eventually procured. When India failed in its attempts to get a better engine, the IAF heartily supported an HAL project to develop a reheated version of the Orpheus 703. Alas! The reheated version of the 703 fell way short of the ASR thrust goals. The project ended when a senior IAF test pilot on deputation to HAL was killed in an accident while testing the reheated engine.

"French and Israeli pilots who have unofficially flown the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) have gone gaga over its flying attributes."

IAF test pilots have heartily endorsed the flying characteristics of the Tejas. Why talk about French and Israeli pilots, unless the intent is to falsely project the IAF as being against Tejas? The truth is that the IAF, through the MOD, has been pressurizing ADA and HAL to deliver on the promise of the Tejas. The IAF desperately needs the aircraft as MiG-21 replacement. No one in the IAF doubts the fine capabilities of Tejas. What the IAF cannot do is retire its MiG-21 fleet, put its frontline pilots currently flying the MiG-21s on deskjobs, and wait for HAL to deliver the Tejas on its own sweet schedule. How difficult is that to understand?

"The larger, heavier, longer range Mark-II variant of the near all-composite Tejas, in fact, fills the bill of “MMRCA”. An LCA version of Tejas has already been flown weighted down with ballast to mimic the Mk-II plan-form. The fact that the Mk-II variant was coming along well, besides, was known to the IAF-MoD (ministry of defense) combo. So, how come the tender for MMRCA was not terminated midway?"

The LCA Mk-2 is a light weight fighter that does not meet MMRCA ASRs. Mk-2 is the light weight fighter that the IAF wanted to begin with when it backed the LCA project, not the Tejas. The IAF is inducting the Tejas after granting many critical concessions on the ASRs to encourage indigenous design and development of fighter aircraft.

"But the LCA has been prevented from entering squadron service after it obtained the Initial Operational Clearance (IOC)-1 last year, because of their insistence that IOC-2 and subsequent clearances be done by HAL rather than permitting the clearances to be obtained by the designated Tejas squadron, flying the aircraft, at the Sulur base in Tamil Nadu. The latter procedure will allow our fighter pilots to test the plane’s flight envelope and performance, and to provide feedback to designers — normal practice of advanced air forces inducting a new locally-produced aircraft."

The Tejas is in service with the IAF. It's being extensively flown by the ASTE, an IAF establishment. IAF squadron pilots are not trained to conduct IOC; they are trained for war fighting. ASTE is the IAF organization earmarked to assist HAL with IOC and FOC on an aircraft.

Finally, MMRCA is  Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft not "multi-role, medium range combat aircraft" as Karnad states in his op-ed.

While Mr Bharat Karnad is entitled to his opinion, it would be nice if the opinion is based on facts.