Monday, December 22, 2014

Russia Ready for 50% Work Split in FGFA Development, But IAF Beware What You Wish For!

PMF/FGFA scale model at Aero India 2013

Russian Embassy officials have told The Hindu that an agreement on the FGFA is likely as early as January 2015.

Russia is reportedly open to equal work share on the project but has stated that “Russia has problems with the Indian demand. If India has the ability to provide certain design know-how and technologies we are open for equal work. But this may not be so as seen with the case of Light Combat Program (LCA) and the aircraft under development is a Fifth Generation program.”

The Russians contention is true and we need to swallow our pride and mull over it!

The Indian press has been harsh on the Russian for their reluctance to concede a 50% work-share split in the development of the PMF/FGFA variant of the T-50.

As I pointed out in an earlier blog post, under the FGFA project, India and Russia plan to jointly develop a version of the Russian T-50 stealth fighter customized for IAF requirements. The Indian version, referred to as Perspective Multi-role Fighter (PMF), would use the same airframe, engines and main systems as the T-50, but differ in its avionics and weapon suite.

Development of the PMF version of the T-50 is expected to cost $11 billion with India and Russia contributing $5.5 billion each.

In plain English, the PMF would be customized version of the T-50, just as the Su-30MKI is a customized version of the basic Su-30 design.

The IAF intends to use PMF as its front line stealth fighter. The Russians want the PMF to be the export variant of the T-50. Both countries have high stakes in the project, not to mention $5.5 billion dollar each investments.

Neither side would want the stealth characteristics of the T-50 to be compromised by PMF modification, as would happen by adding a second pilot seat or enlarging weapon bays to accommodate any India specific weapons. Both sides would want the PMF developed in quick time. Both sides would want to ensure that software tweaks required for the PMF variant are implemented quickly without breaking existing T-50 code. Most importantly perhaps, both sides would want project costs to remain locked at the projected $11 billion.

Its a no brainer that Russian experts would give the IAF what it wants faster and more cost effectively than HAL. Why then the pedantry of a 50-50 work split?

As to the need for TOT, why not link the PMF contract to Russian assistance in developing the AMCA. ADA is kidding no one by projecting that it can develop the AMCA on its own in a time frame that guarantees the aircraft's relevance, something that it couldn't do with the LCA!

IDP Sentinel members can read more about the FGFA project at the link below.

Perspective Multi-role Fighter (PMF) / FGFA (IDP Sentinel)

Reconnaissance and Surveillance Helicopters (RSH) RFI Response Date Extension Makes Ka-226 Front Runner

Photo Courtesy Russian Helicopters

India and Russia agreed in principle to assemble around 400 Kamov-226T helicopters a year in India,during Russian President Vladamir Pution's visit to India on December 11, 2014.

At a joint media interaction with President Putin, PM Modi said, "I am pleased that Russia has offered to fully manufacture in India one of its most advanced helicopters. It includes the possibility of exports from India. It can be used for both military and civilian use. We will follow up on this quickly." [via PTI]

The Kamov-226 was a contender in the July 2008 RFP for 197 military Light Utility Helicopters (LUH) to replace the existing fleet of Chetak and Cheetah helicopters in the three service. The RFP has since been scrapped.

Procurement has been re-initiated through a MoD RFI dated September 29, 2014 aimed at identifying probable INDIAN VENDORS (including an Indian company forming joint venture/ establishing production arrangement with OEM) who can provide Reconnaissance and Surveillance (RSH) Helicopters for use by the Indian Army (IA) and Indian Air Force (IAF), followed by licensed production / indigenous manufacture in the country.

The Kamov-226 is likely to become the leading contender for the RSH helicopter if India and Russia can quickly settle on the terms of joint manufacture.

It may be noted that the last date of acceptance of response against the RFI was initially November 11, 2014, but was later extended through a corrigendum to December 23, 2014. A second corrigendum extended the last date to February 17, 2015!

The Hindu on December 22, 2014 reported citing an unnamed source that no partner has been identified from the Indian side for partnering with Russia on the Kamov-226 project.

“Hindustan Aeronautics Limited is a major player but private sector is also part of the negotiations” sources told The Hindu.

MQ-4C Triton Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) UAS Deal Likely During Obama Visit

Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) UAS first flight on May 22, 2013. Photo Credit: Northrop Grumman

The Hindu reported on December 22, 2014 that an agreement on the Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) UAS deal is likely during U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to India as the chief guest for Republic Day 2015.

In October 2010, India floated a Request for Information for a high-altitude, long-endurance UAS for use by the Indian Navy.

Northrop Grumman responded to the RFI pitching its MQ-4C Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) unmanned aircraft system.

During DefExpo 2012 (March 29 to April 1), a Northrop Grumman official told Flightglobal that India would need six to eight BAMS to ensure continuous coverage of its coastline.

This number would allow India to keep a BAMS airborne all day, every day for 365 days a year.

The official pointed out that BAMS can network with Boeing P-8I Neptune LRMR aircraft acquired by the Indian Navy.

Northrop displayed a model of the MQ-4C at Aero India 2011

A potential stumbling block in the deal has been the international Missile Technology Control Regime, although India is not a signatory.

IDP Sentinel members can read more about the project at the link below.

Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) Triton (IDP Sentinel)

Sunday, December 21, 2014

LCA Navy Maiden Ski Jump Details & Analysis

LCA Navy NP1 moments before lift off during maiden ski-jump take-off at SBTF at INS Hansa in Goa on December 20, 2014.

LCA Navy's maiden ski jump take-off at SBTF at INS Hansa on December 20, 2014 was a milestone event, not because it happened (Ski jump take-off are as old as the Harriers!), but because it happened in hands-off automated take-off mode!

Yes, LCA Navy feature hands-off take-off using ski-jump to ensure smooth transition to stable flight, and hands-off landing with steady AOA, autothrottle approach, flareless touchdown, and arrester hook engagement. During take-off and landing the pilot is required to only give steering inputs to stay on the center line.

According to a DRDO press release on the test flight, Naval Prototype 1 (NP-1) - piloted by Commodore Jaideep Maolankar, the Chief Test Pilot of National Flight Test Center - had a perfect flight with results matching the predicted ones to the letter. The flight validated the hands-off take-off algorithm of the Flight Control Software (FCS).

NP-1 attempted the ski-jump after a 300-m roll in clean configuration presumably with full internal fuel.

A safe take-off required 150 knot at a climb rate of 6.4 degrees. But, the aircraft achieved higher acceleration with a climb rate of around 11 degrees.

In the tests ahead, NP1 will progressively reduce the length of its take-off roll and increase payload. INS Vikramaditya, which could one day base LCA Navy, has a total deck length of 273-m. The maximum take off length available is between 160-180 metres.

The ultimate goal for the LCA Navy program is to demonstrate a full load take-off with 90-m roll.

Five more ski-jump take-offs are planned in the current series of tests.

"Based on the test points achieved, we will schedule the next leg of trials," DRDO Director-General (Aero) Dr K Tamilmani told

According to Tamilmani, NP-1 will start arrester hook landing trials within 6-8 months.

It's pertinent to remember that LCA Navy is in Phase-1 of its development, which involves using a LCA Mk-1 modified to take off using a ski jump and perform arrested landing. Phase 1 is a technology development and demonstration phase.

In Phase 2, LCA Navy will be certified for carrier operations using aircraft built in the Tejas Mk2 configuration, powered by GE-414-INS6 engine with a max thrust of 22,000 lbs.

Only Phase 2 aircraft will participate in carrier operation certification, with Phase 1 aircraft being reserved exclusively for SBTF operations.

IDP Sentinel Members can read more about the LCA Navy project at the link below.

LCA Navy (IDP Sentinel)

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Is IAF Intransigence Scuttling the FGFA and MTA Projects?

Scale model of PMF/FGFA at Aero India 2013

According to press reports, the IAF is playing hardball with Russia over the FGFA and MTA projects.

India's HAL and Russia's United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) signed a preliminary contract for the development of a FGFA for the IAF on December 21, 2010 during the visit by Russian of President Dmitry Medvedev to India. Four years later, the two countries are still struggling to finalize the contract.

According to the TOI, the final R&D and design contract for the FGFA has been held up because the IAF wants iron-clad assurances on the stealth capabilities, engine performance, sensors and weapons fit of the aircraft.

To the uninitiated, IAF demands may sound reasonable, but I have serious reservations. Before I elaborate on the reservations I would like state that the opinions I express below are are based entirely on what has been reported in the press. I have now inside knowledge.


Under the FGFA project, India and Russia plan to jointly develop a version of the Russian T-50 stealth fighter customized for IAF requirements. The Indian version, referred to as Perspective Multi-role Fighter (PMF), would use the same airframe, engines and main systems as the T-50, but differ in its avionics and weapon suite. Russia plans to use the jointly-developed PMF fighter as an export version of T-50. The fighter is expected to enter IAF service by 2022.

Development of the PMF version of the T-50 is expected to cost $11 billion with India and Russia contributing $5.5 billion each.

It is pertinent to reiterate that the PMF would be customized version of the T-50, just as the Su-30MKI is a highly customized version of the basic Su-30 design.

Flight tests of the T-50 started in January 2010. State testing of the aircraft started in May, 2014. Deliveries of the aircraft to the Russian Air Force are scheduled to start in 2016, They could commence even earlier if state testing doesn't throw up any surprises.

Currently the T-50 is powered by two NPO Saturn AL-41F1 (Product 117) engines. Product 117 is an upgraded version of AL-41F1S engine developed for Su-35.

Eventually, the T-50 would be powered by the Product 30 engine, which would be 30% lighter and feature higher thrust and 30% lower life-cycle costs than the Product 117 engine.

Considering that the T-50 hasn't completed its development life cycle, hasn't been tested with its planned weapon fit, and its final engine is in early stages of development, is it reasonable for the IAF to seek iron-clad assurances on the aircraft's performance from Russia?

All that the Russians could practically agree to at this stage is that the PMF would be developed from the final version of the T-50.

If that doesn't satisfy the IAF, it may well be best to wait for the induction of the T-50 into the Russian Air Force in 2016. The IAF can then test fly the aircraft and if satisfied sign the final contract to develop the PMF. Such an approach would delay PMF induction even further.
Scale Model of the MTA on display at DefExpo 2014


Coming to the MTA - according to the TOI, one of the reasons why the MTA project has ground to a halt is because the aircraft will not meet IAF' high-altitude performance requirements.

When did the IAF discover these shortfalls? Weren't the specs agreed upon when the preliminary agreement was signed in November 2007!

There could be two reasons for high altitude performance shortfalls - Inadequate engine performance or an airframe design that is optimized for different flight envelope.

It's customary to design a military aircraft around proven engines and technology available in the country, The MTA, a joint project, would have to be developed around an engine available either in India or Russia. India is decades away from developing a fuel efficient high bypass turbofan that could power the MTA, but Russia has developed several such engines.

Agreeably, Russian turbofans have lower fuel efficiency and higher life cycle costs than western engines. As such, India would want the MTA designed around a western engine, but the Russians maybe averse to powering a military transport they intend to use with western engine, particularly after western sanctions were imposed upon the country consequent to the Ukrainian crises.

If differing engine preferences are the problem, India needs to accommodate Russian sensitivities, or risk losing support of its most reliable and trusted military partner.

It's possible that engines aren't the problem. Instead, differences have emerged between India and Russia over the flight envelope for which the aircraft is to be optimized. That could only have happened if the aircraft was not carefully speced by the IAF before India and Russia signed a preliminary agreement to develop the aircraft. Or perhaps, the IAF has now changed the speces?

Going by the information available in the public domain there appears to be an IAF overreach in play. If so, MoD must oversee and question IAF procurement planning to ensure the service remains in tune with national interests.

IDP Sentinel memebers can read more about the PMF/FGFA and MTA projects at the links below.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Beating the Stealth Threat: IAF's Quest for Passive Surveillance System

Shenyang J-31 (F60) at the 2014 Zhuhai Air Show.jpg
"Shenyang J-31 (F60) at the 2014 Zhuhai Air Show" by wc - Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

China is developing two stealth fighters - the J-20, an analog of the US F-22 Raptor for use by the PLAAF and PLAN; and the J-31, a US F-35 analog, for export customers.

The J-20 first flew in January 2011 and is expected to enter service sometimes after 2018. The J-31 first flew in October 2012 and was showcased during the recent Zhuhai Airshow indicating that its development is on track.

Putting it bluntly, it is likely that the J-31 could enter PAF service by 2020!

As things stand, IAF air defense systems would not be able to track and engage PLAAF J-20 fighters; they could enter and exit Indian airspace with impunity!

PAF J-31s would be somewhat easier to track, but our fighters would not be able to track and engage them in head on mode using their radars.

To make matters worse, the Putin visit is over with nary a word on the FGFA. The AMCA is tottering at the edge of oblivion with ADA still struggling to firm up the design of LCA Mk-2! (ADA won't have time to seriously take on the AMCA for another 10 years!) Under the circumstances, the future must look grim to IAF planners.

Time is running out. In order to meet the looming threat, the IAF has to do things more substantive then release a new version of their 3D combat game. Yeah, I know I am being mean. I am just venting, because guess what? It turns out that the IAF is indeed ahead of the curve.

Passive Surveillance System

The IAF on December 2, 2014 released a RFI for development of a Passive Surveillance System (PSS) - a ground based system to be deployed in field areas for generation of 3D Air Situation Picture (ASP), by detecting and processing chance RF spectrum emissions and EM reflections of other transmissions in the vicinity of airborne platforms.

Here are the deets excerpted from the RFI.


The PSS will intercept, process, analyze and generate all types of Radar transmissions across the complete band of Radar Operation Radio Frequency bands (30 MHz to 18 GHz).

It will provide location and dynamic tracking of airborne, surface (ground and marine), mobile and fixed targets. The system would be capable of detection, location, identification and tracking of active and passive targets within its area of coverage. The system will comprise of a cluster of sensor stations all reporting their detections simultaneously to the Master Receiving and Processing Centre which will process the information for detection of targets and formation of tracks. The system should be highly mobile, vehicle mounted with very less deployment time.

The PSS system will comprise the following two systems

  1. Passive Coherent Location Based Surveillance System to detect presence of targets using reflected RF emissions available in the environment. 
  2. Elint Based Surveillance System to detect, track, locate, correlate and identify intercepted RF emissions of the airborne platform in the area of deployment and process this information for generation of 3D Air situation picture.

Air situation picture generated in both the systems would be integrated to form a comprehensive air situation picture. The output is to be in user defined format for integration in command and control system of IAF.
Passive Coherent Location Based Surveillance System
The system would consist of a network of receivers and a master station and will generate its own 3D air situation picture without any active transmission of its own.

System capabilities required include:-

  1. Detection of 2 sq-m RCS target at more than 300 Km of range.
  2. Detection of targets from low level to very high altitude. 
  3. Estimating target coordinates in space namely range, azimuth, height and Doppler. 
  4. 360-deg azimuth coverage. 
  5. Radar Finger Printing (RFPS) through correlation and identification of emitter with data library.
  6. Remote operations including switching ON/OFF and operations of BITE, from an ops shelter located upto a distance of min 5 kms from system through OFC /radio link/ Satcom. 

Deployment Considerations.

  1. The system should be vehicle mounted and capable of deployed in all types of terrain including mountainous region.
  2. Deployment of the system should be quick and mechanized requiring minimum manual intervention. 
  3. The system should be self sufficient to meet camouflaging requirements(internal camouflage).

Elint Based Surveillance System

Elint based passive system should comprise of multiple sensor stations and a control station. The system is to be capable of generating a real time 3D air situation picture based on intercepted data of airborne emitters. The system should have very high DF accuracy in terms of degree RMS for various frequency ranges.

Required system capabilities include

  1. Large surveillance area coverage around its deployment
  2. Capability to intercept signals from all types of radars (pulse, pulse Doppler, CW), TACAN/DME interrogator, SIF/IFF interrogator and transponder, jammers, Data link and any other electromagnetic pulse and CW emitters on airborne platform.
  3. Very wide instantaneous Band Width (BW)
  4. High Probability of Intercept (POI)
  5. 360-deg instantaneous Azimuth coverage


A passive air surveillance system like the one contemplated by the IAF isn't a complete solution to the emerging stealth threat, but it's an essential first step.

The PSS would give the IAF an ability to detect the presence of stealth aircraft, but not track and engage them using SAMs.

A well executed PSS would allow IAF fighters to be vectored to the general area of intruding stealth fighters. allowing them to use their EO for further detection, tracking and engagement of enemy stealth fighters. 

Let's be clear, its early days for counter stealth technology.


If IAF's PSS plans are news to you, its because you aren't a IDP Sentinel members. The RFI details were published on IDP Sentinel nearly a week ago!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

INS Vikramaditya Post Warranty Support

INS Vikramaditya

The warranty period for Russian built INS Vikramaditya expired on November 16, 2014.

MoD has signed a post warranty support contract for the aircraft carrier with Rosoboronexport, United Shipbuilding Corporation (USC) and Shipyard Sevmash.

Under the contract, a group of 23 specialists from Sevmash in Severodvinsk, Russia will be permanently stationed  at Karwar to address day-to-day issues, such as supplies of spare parts and equipment requiring maintenance or repairs. Also, the shipyard will make arrangements for the annual overhaul together with a maintenance group from Russia.

Other than providing maintenance support and spare parts for the ship, Sevmash will also maintain onshore facilities in four shipyards in India.

In January 2014, India proposed to Russia's Sevmash an extension of INS Vikramaditya's warranty period from the current 20 years to 40.

“Our Indian partners have proposed to conduct all service work on the ship together with Sevmash,” Sevmash said.

IDP Sentinel members can read more at the link below

INS Vikramaditya - IDP Sentinel

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

FGFA License Production Preferable, Hints Russian Official?

FGFA scale model at Aero India 2013.

An official of Russia's UAC, the group that owns Sukhoi, hinted that license production of FGFA maybe a better option for India than co-production. He cited the success of the Su-30MKI program.

UAC's Mikhail Pogosyan told Russian news agency TASS on Tuesday that no timeline could be projected for finalization of the FGFA contract between India and Russia because of differences.

"There are several issues related to the organization of the work, the terms, the cost and technical details. This requires certain time and the corresponding coordination procedure at the level of governments of both countries,” Pogosyan said.

He then referred to the licensed production of the Su-30MKI in India and said, “In general, the program of licensed production of the aircraft develops successfully.”

It could be the translation. Or it could be a hint!.

Anyway, as is the case with Brahmos, labeling FGFA as co-development is a farce. It's unreasonable for India to expect Russia to part with stealth technology for just $5.5 billion. Paying them more would not help either.

What would really help is stepping up funding for the AMCA!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Aero India 2015: Diehl Defense to Exhibit IRIS-T Short Range Air-to-Air Missile

By M.begenat (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons
Germany's Diehl Defense has announced that it will exhibit its IRIS-T short-range air-to-air missile at Aero India 2015 in Bengaluru from February 18-22.

Germany decided to develop the IRIS-T when following reunification in 1990 it realized that the Vympel R-73 missiles (NATO reporting name: AA-11 Archer) on its MiG-29s was far more capable than earlier realized. The R-73 seeker was better at detecting and tracking targets than the seeker on the latest variant of the AIM-9 sidewinder. Also, the R-73 was  more maneuverable than its American analogue.

The IRIS-T is claimed to have higher ECM-resistance and flare suppression than contemporary dogfight missiles; its superior target discrimination facilitates head-on firing at a range 5 to 8 times greater than the AIM-9L. The IRIS-T's ability to turn at  rate as high as 60 deg/sec withstanindg 60 g allows it to engage targets in the rear quarter.

IRIS-T can successfully engage flying targets at a distance of up to 25 kilometers, reaches a speed exceeding Mach 3, weighs nearly 90 kg. It is 2.94 m long and has a body diameter of 12.7 cm.

IRIS-T has been jointly developed by Germany (46%), Italy (19%), Sweden (18%), Greece (13%), Canada and Norway (combined 4%).

Late in 2013, there were reports that the IAF was in negotiations with Dassault to make the Rafale compatible with the R-73 missile, of which the IAF had ordered a large stock. The Diehl pitch for IRIS-T would leverage the existing compatibility between IRIS-T and Rafale.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

IAF: Boldly Securing India's Future

IAF Su-30MKI and IL-78 tanker

Parts of the following article appeared in the October 2014 issue of Geopolitics marking Air Force Day.

Air Force is a technology driven service, much more so than the Navy or the Army. The last century saw rapid advances in military aviation technology, and the current century is seeing the trend continue.

Since independence, the IAF has continually adapted to technological breakthroughs  - jet propulsion, supersonic flight, airborne radars, electronic warfare, Precision Guided Munition (PGM), thrust vectoring, phased array multifunction radars, AESA radars, Network centric warfare, Optical Sensors, Stealth and UAVs.

The IAF has absorbed and embraced these technologies and re-oriented its tactics to use them.

Opinion is divided on how effectively and rapidly the IAF coped with past technological changes. Admittedly, there was a phase (mid sixties to early eighties) when the IAF appeared to go into slumber. It remained isolated from western Air Forces, despite being modeled after them. It didn't interact with the Soviet Air Force, despite the close geopolitical alignment of India and the Soviet Union because it shared very little with the Soviet Air Force other than aircraft and air combat weapon systems.

The IAF's isolation ended with the acquisition of the Jaguars in the early 1980s, and the Mirage-2000 later in the decade.

The 1991 unraveling of the Soviet Union proved to be a turning point for the IAF. A mixed blessing, the breakup disrupted supply of spares for the IAF's Soviet origin weapons, but the end of the Cold War and consequent thawing of Indo-US relations allowed India to source its weapons from Israel, a close US ally.

India found itself in a unique position - A country that could source its weapons from the best arms manufacturers in the world -  from Russia, a time tested friend; from the US, a natural ally; and from Israel, a friend with bonds deeply rooted in history.

The IAF took full advantage of India's unique positioning, perhaps more so than the Army and the Navy, blending Russian engineering with western electronics to come up with cost effective and potent marvels such as the Su-30MKI.

The service started exercising with friendly countries across the spectrum - USA, UK, France, South Africa, Singapore - to imbibe best practices and improve interoperability. The IAF's recent exercise with the Russian Air Force - AviaIndra-2014-  illustrates how far the IAF has travelled.

The 1998 Pokhran nuclear tests and the resultant cooling of India's relations with the US forced the IAF to remain heavily dependent on Russia for its aircraft and missile requirements. However the setback in Indo-US relations proved short lived.

Over the past 15 years, large scale induction of Su-30MKIs, upgrades to the IAF's MiG-21, MiG-27 and MiG-29 fleets; introduction of net centric warfare through AFNET and data links; induction of force multipliers like tankers and AWACS aircraft; and regular exercise with foreign air forces have added considerably to the IAF's punch. Acquisition of the MMRCA, planned upgrades to the IAF's Mirage 2000 and Jaguar fleets, and modernization of airfield infrastructure (MAFI) would continue the trend.

The IAF still has a long way to go in areas such as ISR, UAS and UCAVs. Also, more challenging technological advances in military aviation are around the corner - Cooperative engagements, Optionally manned fighters, and hypersonic flight, to name a few.

Resting on the oars, is not an option for the artistes of the sky! The IAF needs to press on with its new found nimbleness in adapting to changes.

The service is now uniquely positioned to become the world's leading air force - an effective deterrent for our adversaries.

The proverbial elephant in the room is financial constraint. China's GDP is three times larger than ours, a sobering handicap around which the IAF must draw its future plans.

A close look at IAF's re-equipping plans over the the next 20 years proves to be reassuring - with Rafale, Tejas LCA, LCA Mk-2, FGFA, and AMCA fighters; Phalcon AWACS, EMB-145 AEW&C and Airbus A330 MRTTS force multipliers; and additional C-17s and C-130J transports in the pipeline.

Too much perhaps has been written about the status of the Rafale project, so we will focus on the less talked about future fighter acquisitions.

Tejas LCA at Aero India

Tejas LCA

The Tejas LCA Mk-1 is just months away from FOC and induction into the IAF.

In November 2001, while sanctioning Full Scale Engineering Development (FSED) of the aircraft, MoD stipulated December 2008 as project completion date. The date has since been revised to March 2015.

(An 8 year long delay in a 7 year long project is difficult to condone, but it must be kept in mind that the LCA was initially sanctioned as a technology demonstrator project and its two prototypes were not built to production standards. They were built to be serviced by ADA engineers; as a result, many components were not fitted to be line replaceable. Post FSED sanction, the aircraft needed much internal re engineering to facilitate flight line servicing by IAF personnel. HAL was to progressively bring the Tejas to production standards while building the 8 Limited Service Production aircraft, but senior IAF officers connected with the project say that early LSP aircraft were no different from the prototype!)

The IAF has placed orders on HAL for 40 Series Production (SP) aircraft to equip two squadrons. The first SP aircraft is close to delivery; another two are scheduled to be delivered before the year end.

Priced around $30 million, the Tejas is a very cost effective solution to the IAF's need for a lightweight air defense fighter with a credible strike capability; much easier to fly and far more lethal than the MiG-21 Bis / MiG-21 Bison aircraft that it's set to replace in the IAF.

HAL plans to initially produce eight aircraft per year and later ramp up production to 16. It has signed Long Time Business Agreements (LTBAs) of 3-5 years with its sub-vendors to keep prices low, assuring vendors of production orders for up to 40-50 aircraft at a time.

If HAL production of Tejas SP aircraft meets IAF's quality expectations, and the aircraft lives up to its promise in squadron service, the IAF would likely place additional orders for Tejas, especially in view of the delay in the LCA Mk-2 project.

Despite the current IAF order for just 40, HAL has plans to meet a requirement of 200 Tejas LCA aircraft in the next decade!

Though a cost effective fighter, the Tejas LCA powered by the  GE-F404-IN20 engine, doesn't measure up to IAF Qualitative Requirements, because durIng its development lifecycle, the aircraft ended up being nearly 1.5 ton heavier than its designed weight.

It was initially hoped that the weight gain would be compensated by fitting the more powerful GTRE developed Kaveri engine. However, in September 2008, it was conceded that the Kaveri wouldn't be ready in time.

LCA Mk-2

The decision to develop the LCA Mk-2 was taken when it became evident to the IAF while testing LSP Tejas LCAs that the aircraft performance was short on certain key Air Staff Requirements including

  1. Power to Weight Ratio
  2. Sustained Turn Rate
  3. Maximum speeds at low altitudes
  4. AOA range
  5. Weapon delivery profiles

Performance shortfall like sustained turn rate and maximum low level speed could only be remedied through the use of a more powerful engine, so it was decided to develop a new variant of the aircraft powered by the more powerful GE-F414-INS6 engine.

LCA Mk-2 at Aero India 2011

Minor modifications are being made to the LCA Tejas Mk1 airframe to accommodate the slightly lengthier engine. The fuselage is being extended by 500mm. (The stretching of fuselage would eliminate the need for the dead weight lead plates fitted on the LCA Mk-1 in order to ensure stability of the aircraft.)

Besides a more powerful engine, LCA Mk-2 will feature

  1. Structural Weight Reduction
  2. Aerodynamic Improvements
  3. Upgraded Flight Control Computer
  4. Electronic Warfare Suite
  5. Upgraded Avionics
  6. Retractable probe for inflight refueling
  7. On board oxygen generation system
  8. Increased fuel capacity.

In a sense, the LCA Mk-2 is the aircraft that the IAF really wanted, not the Tejas LCA.

Project Progress

Preliminary design of the LCA Mk-2 by HAL and ADA was to be completed by March 2014;  detailed design was to start immediately thereafter. There is no confirmation that this has happened.

ADA-HAL are designing LCA Mk-2 using DFMA (Design for Manufacturing and Assembly) methodology, which ensures that aircraft components are designed for easy manufacture, without adversely impacting the ease with which they can be fitted on the aircraft. The first time use of DFMA methodology in designing an aircraft would ensure better quality and quick ramp up of serial production after IOC.

LCA Mk.2 was to make its first flight in 2014, with full-rate production to follow two years later. However, it is now evident that first flight is more than two years away.

Despite the delay, if the LCA Mk-2 project delivers on its promise, it would prove to be a turning point in the evolution of the IAF. With air-to-air refueling, it would add significantly to the IAF's strike punch, besides boosting the IAF's air defense capability.

Perspective Multi-role Fighter (PMF) / FGFA

India and Russia plan to jointly develop a version of the Russian T-50 aircraft customized for IAF requirements. The Indian version would use the T-50's airframe, engines and main systems, but differ in its avionics and weapon suite. The FGFA would use more composite and electronics developed in collaboration with Israel.

Russia is planning to use the jointly-developed 5G fighter as an export variant of the T-50. The fighter is expected to enter IAF service by 2020.

India's HAL and Russia's Rosoboronexport and Sukhoi signed a contract worth $295 million for Preliminary Design (PD) of the FGFA in December 2010.

Under the PD contract, Indian engineers underwent 20 courses to familiarize themselves with the aircraft. The training was completed in July, 2011.

FGFA Scale Model at Aero India 2013

The Russians provided Indian professionals with the original data and the software to create a single working environment. A group of Indian experts worked in Russia in January October 2012, and a group of Russian specialists in India.

By April 2013, HAL and Sukhoi had finalized the design and technical specs of the aircraft and agreed on a work share for the research and development (R&D) phase.

A contract for the aircraft's full-scale development, worth $11 billion,  is expected to be signed during President Putin's scheduled visit to India in December 2014.

The IAF was to evaluate the T-50 before signing a full scale development contract with Russia. At the time of going to the press, it's not clear if this evaluation has taken place.

In September 2014, it was reported that the IAF isn't satisfied with the AL-41F1 (Product 117) engines that currently power the T-50, as also the aircraft's stealth features and weapons carriage system.

Moscow-based Salut and NPO Saturn are building a brand new stealthy powerplant for the T-50, which is not a derivative of the AL-41F1 (Product 117) engine currently fitted on the aircraft. Called Product 30, the new engine will be 30% lighter and feature 30% lower life-cycle cost.

Apparently, the R&D contract drawn up the the Russian partners doesn't cover fitting of the Product 30 engine.

Additionally, there are differences between the two partners over the operational capability of the Tikhomirov-NIIP N036 Byelka AESA radar of the aircraft  and the IAF is concerned about the overall development cost, maintainability and safety features of the aircraft.

Difference between India and Russia at this stage of the program are not surprising, and certainly not alarming. The in-fashion 'joint production' labelling in reality clothes what is essentially a buyer seller relationship and  buyers-sellers squabbles over the price and usefulness of a new product are only to be expected!

Meanwhile in Russia, state testing of the T-50 started in May 2014 and deliveries of the aircraft to the Russian Air Force are scheduled to start in 2016.

In other words, once the FGFA development contract is inked, its success would be assured with timely deliveries, as was the case with the Su-30MKI program.

During Aero India 2013, the then CAS told journalists that the first prototype of the aircraft would arrive in India in 2015, the second in 2017, and the third in 2018.

India plans to acquire 214 aircraft by the end of 2030., but could well end up buying over 400.
Neutralizing the PLAAF Stealth Threat with FGFA

China is developing two stealth fighters - J-20 and J-31. Like the US F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Lightening-2, the J-20 and J-31 are designed to evade detection by ground based radars.

China also has VHF AESA ground based radars that can detect Low Observable (LO) aircraft like the US Raptor and Lightening-2.

Unlike the US and Chinese LO aircraft, the T-50 isn't designed and equipped as much to evade detection by ground based radar, as to detect the Raptor earlier and engage it in close combat to assert its superior maneuverability.

The T-50 / FGFA would have a similar advantage over the two Chinese stealth fighters.

The IAF has done well in choosing the T-50/FGFA over the F-35 Lightening-2. The FGFA would make a worthy successor to the venerable Su-30MKI and secure the future of our country till the middle of this century.


The Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) is conceived to be a 20-ton category fifth generation LO fighter featuring super maneuverability, super cruise, and sensor fusion.

The project is currently in the design phase. Feasibility study was completed by end of FY 2011.

The AMCA is being designed as an affordable fighter with swing role capability to meet the requirements of the IAF post 2020. It would carry 5 tons of weapons and be able to release them at supersonic speeds.

As a 20-ton fighter with a 1,000km range, the AMCA will cover the gap between the 10-ton, 500km range Tejas LCA, and the 30-ton, 1,500km range FGFA.

AMCA Scale Model at Aero India 2013

A single seat fighter, the AMCA would replace IAF's MiG-29 and Mirage-2000 aircraft. A two seat version would be developed, but primarily as a trainer, since an additional cockpit compromises LO of a stealth fighter. (The Radar Cross Section of a fighter can be optimized for either single or twin seat configuration, with a single seater likely to be the stealthier design.)

ADA is hopeful that it will be able to incorporate some sixth generation fighter features.

Some of the new technologies that ADA wishes to incorporate in the AMCA include a FBW control system with photonic interface to reduce the length of wires (fly-by-light).

Sixth Generation features include improved range, persistence, situational awareness, human-system integration and weapon fit to counter enemy anti-access/area-denial measures such as electronic attack, passive detection, cyber attack and directed energy weapons.

Stealth Characteristics

The AMCA design is optimized for reduced signature, not maximized stealth. The aircraft is not shaped for all aspect stealth, like the US Raptor (F-22) or the Chinese Chengdu J-20. Instead, shaping is optimized to  minimize frontal Radar Cross Section (RCS), as is the case with the T-50/FGFA.

The AMCA will feature "serpentine-shaped" air intakes, internal weapons bays, and advanced radomes to increase stealth. Radar-absorbing composites and paints will supplement the design.

AMCA blends stealth with maneuverability, while keeping costs affordable.

AMCA Powerplant

The aircraft will be powered by a new engine that the GTRE plans to develop with the help of one or more foreign consultants, Snecma being one of them.

Like the Lightening-2, Rafale and Eurofighter, AMCA will achieve supermaneuverability by using a powerful engine. However, if the IAF prefers thrust vectoring based supermaneuverability, ADA will tweak the aircraft design accordingly.

Friday, November 7, 2014

IAF's Avro Replacement Program: Tata Advanced Systems (TASL) Details Joint Bid with Airbus for C295

Spanish Air Force C295. Photo Courtesy Airbus Industries.
November 7, 2014 - Tata Advanced Systems (TASL) in a press release today confirmed that it has teamed up with Airbus Defense and Space to plug the Airbus C295 as Avro replacement for the IAF.

Airbus Defense and Space is a division of Airbus Group responsible for defense and aerospace products and services.

The MoD on May 8, 2013 sent out requests for proposal (RFPs) to eight leading aircraft manufacturers for the supply of 56 transport aircraft to replace the IAF's aging Avro fleet, at an estimated cost of Rs 13,000 crore. As stipulated by the MoD RFP, Airbus Defense and Space has offered to supply the first 16 aircraft in ‘fly-away’ condition from its own final assembly line. The subsequent 40 aircraft would be manufactured and assembled by Tata Advanced Systems in India as exclusive Indian Production Agency (IPA) for Airbus.

Airbus says in the press release

"We firmly believe that, in the C295, we have clearly the best aircraft to replace the IAF Avro fleet and, in Tata Advanced Systems, we have secured the cream of the Indian private aerospace sector as our partner for this project.

"The C295 is a superbly reliable and tough aircraft with outstanding economics which is proven in the most difficult operating conditions all over the world. It has already been ordered by 19 countries, many of which have placed repeat orders. And just this year it has dominated the market with orders for no fewer than 20 aircraft from five countries."

The Business Standard reported on November 1, 2014 that only Airbus Defense and Space, and Tata Advanced Systems Ltd (TASL) consortium has submitted a bid the Medium Transport (Avro Replacement) Aircraft tender that closed on October 28, 2014. As such, MoD is likely to issue a fresh RFP since single tender procurement would require special sanction under the DPP.

Tata - Ruag Tie Up

It maybe recalled that on June 30, 2014 TASL and Switzerland's RUAG Aviation signed an agreement to set up a manufacturing unit in Hyderabad to make fuselages and wings for Dornier 228 New Generation (NG) aircraft. Speaking on the occasion TASL Chairman, S Ramadorai, said, "Our vision is to work with RUAG in having a full aircraft, equipped with all systems, flying out from a Tata Final Assembly. This will be of significant importance to the Indian armed forces in their desire to produce products locally.”

Do 228 NG is an improved version of the venerable Dornier Do 228  which has been in production since 1981. (HAL license manufactured the Do 228 at HAL Kanpur from 1983 onwards.)

If TASL's joint bid with Airbus for the Avro replacement program succeeds, TASL would become a credible supplier of civil transport aircraft for the Indian and Global markets with two aircraft types under production. Move over HAL!

C295 AEW Variant

Airbus C295

The Airbus Military C295 can carry up to nine tonnes of payload or up to 71 personnel, at a maximum cruise speed of 260 kt / 480 kph. The aircraft is capable of short take-off & landing (STOL) from unprepared, soft and rough airstrips and features good low level flight characteristics.

Powered by two Pratt & Whitney Canada PW127G turboprop engines, it features good maneuverability, good hot and high performance, low fuel consumption, and nearly eleven hours endurance.

The C295 can be equipped as a air-to-air refueling tanker, AEW platform or a missile launch platform.

First delivered in 2001, the C295 was developed from the CN235.

IDP Sentinel members can read a lot more about the Avro replacement project at the link below.

Medium Transport Aircraft to Replace Avro-748s (IDP Sentinel)

Monday, November 3, 2014

Trials of DRDO Developed AIP Plug for the 4th & 5th Project 75 Scorpenes to Start in Feb 2015

Scorpene Sub

November 3, 2014: The fifth and sixth Project 75 Scorpene submarines to be built at Mazagon docks will feature DRDO developed Air Independent Propulsion (AIP), which will be ready for sea trials by February 2015

Without AIP, a Scorpene sub can stay underwater for a maximum of four days; thereafter it needs to surface and re-charge its batteries using diesel gensets. French firm DCNS, which developed the Scorpene, has its own 300-t, second generation AIP plug that can allow the boat to stay under water for as much as three weeks,  but the Indian Navy has opted to go with a DRDO developed AIP which has been proven on a land-based prototype.

DRDO DG (Naval Systems & Materials), V. Bhujanga Rao told The Hindu that the French MESMA AIP being offered for the Scorpenes is an old system with a steam turbine.

According to Rao, the DRDO AIP could later be reconfigured for the submarines to be acquired under Project 75I .

Earlier, the Indian Navy asked MDL to equip the fifth and sixth boats with Air Independent Propulsion by fitting an additional section.

The four Scorpenes launched earlier could be retrofitted under an upgrade program.

Philippe Berger, former submariner and submarines operational marketing manager of DCNS, told Indian journalists in October 2014 that DRDO will be fully responsible for its AIP plug.

"Our scheme is limited to integrating safely the DRDO-developed AIP plug to the submarine. We are working on designing the hull section in detail for this,” Mr. Berger told Indian journalists at the DCNS facility, which houses the “fully tested operational-scale fuel cell AIP.”

IDP Sentinel members can read more about Indian Navy's Project 75 Scorpene subs at the link below

Project 75 Scorpene Submarines (IDP Sentinel)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Indian Army Releases RFI for Comprehensive Upgrade of BMP-2/2K

BMP-2 Sarath ICVs at RD 2014

On October 21, 2014  Indian Army released a Request for Information (RfI) from vendors willing to undertake Comprehensive Upgrade of BMP-2/2K, covering Mobility, Fire Power and Survivability. The upgrade will be applied to approximately 2,600 vehicles comprising existing inventory as well as ICVs to be produced in the future.

Foreign vendors are free to compete directly for the procurement.

Firms bidding for the upgrade contract would be required to upgrade one BMP-2/2K for trials on “No Cost No Commitment” basis.

Upgrade proposals would be evaluated by a Technical Evaluation Committee (TEC) to ensure compliance with RFP. The equipment of all TEC cleared vendors would be put through a trial evaluation in India. A staff evaluation would be carried out by SHQ to analyse the result of field evaluation and shortlist the equipment for introduction into service.

Qualitative Requirements (QRs) for Upgrade

The upgrade must not compromise the existing amphibious capability of BMP 2/2K, or their ability to operate in varied climatic and terrain conditions varying from extreme hot desert conditions to extremely cold high altitude regions.

Any increase in weight of the APC due to the upgrade must be compensated by a more powerful engine that fits into the existing engine compartment. There should be no reduction in internal space.

The upgrade is expected to span the following major systems of the ICV:

Engine, Transmission, Gear and suspension system, Cooling system, Weapons system and ammunition, Gunner Sighting (Day and Night), Commander Sighting, Fire Control System (FCS), Anti Tank Guided Missile (ATGM), Level of protection and Maintainability,

The Indian Government had earlier announced that the Indian Army would be upgrading it's entire fleet of approximately 1,900 Infantry Combat Vehicles (ICVs) comprising BMP-2/2K to BMP-2M standard to enhance the fleet's firepower and lethality.

Upgraded ICVs will be fitted with the latest generation Fire Control System, Twin Anti Tank Guided Missile (ATGM) Launchers, 30 mm Automatic Grenade Launchers and Commander's Thermal Imaging Panoramic sights.

In addition, they will feature better observation and surveillance, night-fighting capability and fire control.

They will be powered by a new 380 HP engine to enhance the ICVs’ cross-country mobility, flotation and gradient negotiating capability. Existing BMP-2s which equip the Indian Army’s Mechanized Infantry regiments are powered by 285 HP Russian-origin UTD-20 285 engine, which limits their versatility.

ICVs are used for breaching enemy defenses and transporting troops behind enemy lines while keeping them safe from small arm fire.

IDP Sentinel members can read details about existing offers from competing vendors for upgrade of BMP-2 at the link below.

Infantry Combat Vehicle (ICV) Modernisation (IDP Sentinel)

Saturday, October 18, 2014

HAL, DRDO to Partner in Rustom UAV Project

Rustom-2 MALE UAV at DefExpo-2014

HAL will partner with DRDO in the Rustom-1 and Rustom-2 projects as part of HAL's new focus on UAVs DRDO Chief Chief Avinash Chander told Unmanned magazine in a recent interview.

Earlier in June, 2014, HAL Chief Dr. RK Tyagi announced in a press release that HAL will take-up more activities in Unmanned Air Vehicle (UAV) and Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle (UCAV) business segments.

DRDO Chief Avinash Chander gave the following additional insight into DRDO's efforts at meeting growing UAV requirements of the nation, particularly its armed forces.

  • DRDO is developing a supersonic target drone as a follow-up to Lakshya-2.
  • The Navy has projected a requirement for a 10-t class RUAV. DRDO is developing technology for the RUAV but is yet undecided on whether to convert an existing unmanned platform (like Chetak) to a RUAV, or develop a RUAV from scratch.
  • DRDO is actively working on a solar powered ISR UAV capable of remaining aloft for weeks at a time. It's also developing technology for a solar powered ISR airship capable of remaining on station at an altitude of 50-60 km for months at a stretch.
  • In the future, DRDO plans to pursue development of UAV swarms which theoretically are more resilient and adaptive in performing their tasks.

It maybe noted that HAL is also independently working on a RUAV project in partnership with Israel. The project involves converting a Chetak helicopter into an unmanned air vehicle. The Indian Navy has projected an initial requirement for 8 such helicopters. The order size may eventually grow to 40 aircraft.

The unmanned Chetak uses a flight control system developed by IAI using a Bell Helicopter 206.

The Malat unmanned air systems (UAS) division of IAI is working with HAL on the project under a wider cooperation agreement.

Here is the DRDO Chief's interview with Unammned magazine.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

IAF Operational Failures in Retrospect

Article from the latest issue of Geopolitics
The following is the text of an article written by me in the latest Air Force Day issue of Geopolitics. I felt compelled to share it with my blog readers, because of the (somewhat controversial?) subject matter. I have written one more article in the issue. 

I write regularly for the magazine; perhaps this article will motivate you to occasionally pick a copy from the news stand!

Indian Air Warriors, serving and veterans, are fiercely proud of the Indian Air Force (IAF), and the nation is proud and indebted to the IAF for the selfless service of its personnel.

Operationally, the IAF has an unblemished record, having successfully defended Indian airspace through five post independence wars. Hundreds of IAF personnel have laid down their lives over the years, during operations and while training for operations.

Yet, as many senior IAF officers would readily admit in private, the IAF's operational record hasn't been outstanding. The record has been profusely criticized and questioned in internet debates, though its rare to see a critical discourse in the mainline press. Institutions like the IAF - much like our parents, teachers, and leaders - rise in our esteem even as they fumble and falter in their endeavors - because their cause is noble!

Was the IAF well equipped and trained for the wars in 1965, 1971 and 1999? Was the IAF's performance exemplary during these conflicts? An honest answer to both the questions would have to be - No.

Based on 20 years service in the IAF as a fighter pilot, close tracking of IAF affairs since then and discussions with IAF veterans, I am inclined to believe that the IAF's operational record was non stellar on account of

  • A defensive tactical mindset that led to force imbalance.
  • Lack of Long Term Vision
  • Aversion to steering its projects with HAL and DRDO

Past government and IAF leaders collectively share the blame for what went wrong.

Past Force Imbalance

Like any other air force, the IAF is equipped for both offense and defense. Ideally, the IAF should be able to prevent enemy aircraft from intruding into our airspace, while being able to strike targets within enemy territory at will. Currently, the IAF's MiG-21 variants, MiG-29, Mirage 2000 and Su-30MKI fighters protect our skies, while MiG-27, Jaguar, Su-30MKI and Mirage strike fighters give us the ability to strike the enemy. (Note that aircraft such as Su-30MKI and Mirage-2000 are capable of both AD as well as strike.)

The right mix of AD and strike aircraft (force balance) is dictated by threat perception and war aims.

Post independence, the IAF did very well in acquiring a balanced force with a mix of bombers, fighter bombers and fighters. The IAF acquired B-24 Liberator heavy bombers by refurbishing US WW-2 aircraft abandoned in India. It bought Vampire fighters and fighter bombers from England, becoming the first Asian country to operate jet fighters.

The IAF shaped into a small but effective strike and air defense.

A decade later, in 1957, the IAF started inducting Dassault Mystere IVA, Hawker Hunter and English Electric Canberra, maintaining balance in its strike and defense capability.

The Canberra, which could carry 10,000-lb bomb load in internal bay, providing the IAF the ability to hit the enemy hard.

IAF acquisitions started to become disorientated and aircraft centric, instead of mission centric, in the early 60s. Pure interceptors, like the Folland Gnat and MiG-21 were acquired in large numbers, adding greatly to the inventory but not to the IAF's punch.

The 1965 war caught the IAF in the midst of rapid expansion triggered by the mauling of the Indian Army at the hands of the PLA in 1962. New aircraft were in the process of being inducted and pilot training was being rushed. The IAF was ill prepared for the war and suffered very heavy aircraft losses in the east and didn't do too well in the west.

The late sixties saw the IAF's strike capability diminish as Mystere squadrons started to be phased out. The Marut HF-24 fighter bomber project made fitful progress. An attempt to fill the gap with the Su-7 fighter bombers acquired from Russia proved misguided because the aircraft had a limited bomb load, and and even more limited range!

In the autumn of 1968, the IAF comprised 23 fighter squadrons and three tactical bomber squadrons. Eleven of the 23 fighter squadrons were equipped with MiG-21s and Gnats, both pure interceptors with very limited ranges that made them incapable of performing escort role. The remaining fighter squadrons were equipped with Hunter, Mystere and Marut strike aircraft with limited weapon loads and ranges.

Lacking long range escort fighters and aerial refueling capability, the IAF could not use its Canberra fleet effectively. Their role was confined to sneak night attacks and photo reconnaissance.

Bottom line: Despite possessing an impressive number of combat fighter and bomber squadrons, the IAF failed to deter the PAF's pre-emptive strike on Indian air bases on December 3, 1971. And when the war did break out, the IAF couldn't go out and hit the enemy hard. It confined its operations largely to supporting the Indian Army.

True, the focus of the 1971 war was on liberating Bangladesh, but the IAF's defensive posture following the PAF's pre-emptive strike stemmed more from limitations of its force balance than policy dictated restrain. The Navy, for example, went out and boldly struck Karachi harbor with missile boats in a fine display of purpose and innovation.

From the late sixties to the late eighties, the IAF's force structure got increasingly skewed with more and more MiG-21 variants being inducted. Four Jaguar squadrons acquired in the early eighties were inadequate replacement for the Canberras and Hunters that were bowing out of service.

In the early eighties, the number of MiG-21 variant squadrons in the IAF exceeded 20. Some MiG-21 squadrons were assigned strike role despite the very limited punch of the aircraft.

The IAF's enfeeblement was dramatic, yet no one in the MoD or IAF leadership seemed to notice.

There emerged a complete disconnect between the threat faced by the nation and the IAF's force structure.

The IAF equipped and trained itself to fight in the west even though it was clear that any hostilities would take place in the North along the LOC or LAC.

IAF Jaguars were too underpowered to operate effectively in the mountain valleys along the LAC and LOC. MiG-21 variants lacked the range, weapon load and precision attack capability to effectively engage targets in the harsh mountainous terrain.

The dangerous drift in the IAF's force structure was checked with the induction Mirage-2000s, and to a lesser extent MiG-29s. The inductions proved fortuitous when Kargil happened in 1999. The IAF was shockingly unprepared for the war, much more so than in the earlier wars! There was no reason why that should have been the case!

The Mirage-2000 was the only IAF aircraft that gave a good account of itself during Kargil, and that too after hurried and very expensive acquisition of Precision Guided Munitions (PGMs) from abroad.

What if Kargil hadn't happened? Instead the PLA had made a deep incursion into Arunachal Pradesh? The incursion would have caught the IAF as helpless as it was in 1962, and it's conceivable that by now China would have been inaugurating a rail link between Lhasa and Tawang!

Making Amends

Post Kargil, with the steady accretion of the Su-30MKI fleet,  the IAF started to acquire  a more offensive posture that could deter determined adversaries like Pakistan and China. It will take another decade for the transformation to be complete; in terms of equipment and in terms of mindset.

Why did the IAF not stick with the balanced posture that it started with? Why did it assume such a defensive posture?

There was never a sourcing issue.The country was under no political compulsion to procure its weapons from the Soviet Union, now Russia. Despite periodic strains in Indo-US relations, India always had access to French and British weapons. The IAF could have sourced Mirage-III and Mirage-V fighters from France; Tornados from the UK.

It could even have procured Su-24 Fencer or Tu-22 Blinder from Russia. Both aircraft have impressive weapon loads and the ability to carry stand-off missiles.

I think the answer lies in limited budgets and a quest for numbers over quality.

Ironically, one of the lessons that the IAF had drawn from an analysis of its subpar performance in the 1965 war was the need for quality over quantity. It totally forgot the lesson.
Lack of Long Term Vision

Post independence, the IAF fought four wars in quick success - Kashmir 1947, China 1962, Pakistan 1965, Pakistan 1971 - with no breather to formulate a long term vision.

In the years that followed, successive governments tightly embraced a defensive posture, focused on head butting defense of India's territorial integrity in Kashmir, Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh. The posture defied the lessons of military history - that there is no perfect defense. Bar Lev line, Maginot line and Chittorgarh fort were all breached by enemy grit and determination.

 A defensive posture doesn't deter an enemy as much as it tempts him. An adversary is better dissuaded by a military posture laden with unpredictable consequences for any breach of peace!

In terms of air power, such a posture would have to be based on a formidable strike force combined with long range and endurance AD fighters. Fighters that can defend our skies by remaining airborne for hours, not minutes; and escort our hard hitting strike aircraft deep into enemy territory!

As a result of its defensive posture, IAF aircraft procurements in the decades that followed the 1971 war led to an enfeeblement of its strike capability. The IAF regressed into a tactical air force equipped for just homeland defense and Close Air Support (CAS) of Army operations. Inevitably, the Army and the Navy started to encroach on IAF turf using the logic that the Army would be better able to support ground operations if it controlled CAS assets.

The Indian Navy eased the IAF out of the maritime reconnaissance (MR) role (In the 1960s the IAF operated a squadron of ex-Air India L. 1049G Super Constellations for maritime reconnaissance.) and even suggested that it was better equipped than the IAF for AD of its ports!

Most glaringly, the IAF equipped and trained in total disregard of its responsibility to support Army operations along the LOC and LAC. As a result, Kargil happened.

Aircraft Centric

Since its inception, the IAF has remained an aircraft centric force, while the west has moved on to a weapon and sensor centric planning. The US Navy isn't worried that its F/A-18E/F Super Hornet aircraft would get clobbered by a Su-30M in WVR combat. It looks upon the Super Hornet as a system, not just an aircraft. A system with the range, sensors and weapons to

  1. Penetrate heavily defended airspace by jamming and spoofing enemy radars using its powerful AESA radar.
  2. Identify and attack a Su-30M well before the Su-30M can see it.
  3. Perform a precision attacks against ground target, even moving, from stand-off ranges.

(The Super Hornet is optimized for transonic operations, not WVR combat. It can hit a Su-30M and make a safe getaway staying well out of harm's way throughout the engagement.)

The US Navy considers the Super Hornet the finest long range precision attack platform that is capable of defending itself against any ground or aerial threat. It's a simple, clear and effective vision!

The IAF, which is largely trained for WVR combat and equipped with unguided bombs and unguided rocket, is horrified by the Super Hornet's high wing loading and limited reserve of power. The aircraft's sensors and AESA are of little use without BVR missiles and stand-off PGM.

The limitations of IAF's aircraft centric approach were evident during the Kargil war in 1999. IAF Mirages were capable of operating at high altitudes and delivering laser guided bombs, but the service had not invested in the bombs or the supporting equipment!

Taking Ownership of IAF Projects

A serious shortcoming of the IAF in the past has been the failure to take ownership of its projects with HAL and DRDO.

The IAF did involve itself with both the organizations during their early years. It deputed senior officers to head projects and sit on management boards. Four IAF Chiefs - Aspy Merwan Engineer (1960-1964), Pratap Chandra Lal (1969-1973), Om Prakash Mehra (1973-1976) and Lakshman Mohan Katre (1984-1985) - served with the HAL on deputation before reaching the top. Many senior IAF officers took up senior management assignment in these organization post retirement.

However, the IAF's involvement failed to yield results. HAL and DRDO performance remained as good or bad under IAF leadership as under civil leadership; IAF officers' attempts to push Air Force projects were frustrated by the laid back work culture in these organizations, unionism, and proclivity to inflate claims and fudge figures.

Air warriors across the spectrum were dismayed by HAL/DRDO product shortcomings and poor quality Shoddy HAL workmanship resulted in many accidents and heart wrenching loss of lives.

The IAF's involvement steadily waned to an extent where the service was only deputing junior level pilots and engineers, to test fly aircraft and provide operational inputs for systems under development. The feedback provided by the junior level officer at the end of their deputations to HAL and DRDO was ignored by the IAF as being inconsequential.

The indifference didn't come from any policy change, it was just something that happened.

MoD's apathy allowed the estrangement to grow to an extent where IAF leadership started to look upon HAL as an evil that it had to live with.

It's moot whether the IAF could have handled its relationship with HAL and DROD differently. The bottom line is: The estrangement hurt the IAF and so the IAF shouldn't have let it happen.

One wonders what a vigorous HAL-IAF and DRDO-IAF partnerships could have yielded? Perhaps

  • Laser guided kits for bombs well before the Kargil war?
  • A landing assist system for MiG-21 variants that could have saved hundreds of aircraft and scores of lives lost during landing accidents? (Remember the autothrottle on the SAAB Viggen, an aircraft of similar vintage.)
  • A super-stall prevention system for MiG-21 variant that could have further reduced accidents?
  • A terrain avoidance radar for Jaguar?
  • Modifications of Canberra as tanker?

Looking Ahead

An institution like the Indian Air Force is akin to a citadel that can remain strong despite decades of neglect. However, despite standing strong, a neglected citadel does lose its sheen and glory over the years; a loss that can be very difficult to reverse.

What is encouraging is that the IAF has left its past behind with recent changes in its operational posture, credit for which must go to IAF leaders post the 1999 Kargil war.

Recent acquisitions - Su-30MKIs, Aerial Refuelers, AWACS - and planned procurements  - MMRCA, Tejas LCA, LCA Mk-1, FGFA - will correct the force imbalance. And the IAF is acquiring a long term vision and starting to take ownership of its projects with HAL and DRDO.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Army Tenders for BMP-1 ICV Reengining with Indigenous 400+ HP Automatic Transmission Powerpack

BMP-1 Graphic via Wikipedia
The Indian Army has invited proposals for re-engining its BMP-1 ICVs with an indigenous 400+ HP automatic transmission powerpack.

BMP-1 ICVs are currently powered by the 285 HP UTD-20 engine, which at times is found to be inadequate for cross country mobility, floatation and gradient negotiations.

The laden weight of ICV BMP-I is 13(+2%) Ton and the Army wants the new Powerpack to improve mobility, acceleration and gradient negotiation capability of the ICV without compromising vehicle's floatation capability.

The proposed Powerpack should fit within the existing power pack compartment of BMP-1 without disturbing the ICV's centre of gravity or impairing any of its functional or operational characteristics including floatation. Even the existing final drive location is to be maintained.

The 400+ HP indigenous engine should be diesel fueled, water/liquid cooled, turbo-charged, with at least two PTOs, electronically controlled and should be light
weight for enhanced power to weight ratio. It should be more fuel efficient and should offer extended service intervals. Fuel, lubricants and coolant used should be of the type for which indigenous equivalents are available and preferably of the same grades as those being used by other tracked vehicles in the mechanized forces of the Indian Army. Peak torque of the engine should be over 1200 Nm at 1300-1600 rpm. The engine should incorporate latest technologies with expected life of the engine (MTBO) exceeding 1200 hrs.

Fitted with the new Powerpack, the ICV should be be able to achieve max speed of 65-kph on hard level ground, max mission mode max speed of 20-kph and min speed of 5-kph for 8 hrs. It should be able to negotiate gradients of 35-deg in soft sand/ loose sand/ hard level ground/ marsh land.

Increment in the weight of BMP-I due to integration of the upgraded Powerpack should not exceed 500 kg. It must be ensured that amphibious capability of the BMP-I is not compromised due to the additional weight.

The transmission should be fully automatic and modular in design for easy installation and maintenance. It should preferably have 3 or 4 forward and at least one reverse range (ratio). The steering should be infinitely variable & regenerative type without use of brakes and clutches with pivot turn and dead Engine steering capability. It should have manual over ride facility. Parameter requirements are as under:-

A cruise range of 550-km is required

Infantry Modernization Projects - IDP Sentinel Members Only

Naval Utility Helicopter (NUH) Procurement Moved Under Buy and Make (Indian) Category

Eruocopter  AS565 MB Naval Panther, a military variant of the Dauphin, is a likely contender for the IN's Naval Utility Helicopter project. Photo Credit: Eurocopter
MoD on October 8, 2014 released a RFI for procuring more than 100 Naval Utility Helicopters (NUH) under Buy and Make (Indian) category of the Defense Procurement Policy.

The NUHs will replace the ageing Chetak helicopters in service with the IN and be used for

  1. Search and Rescue.
  2. Medical Evacuation (MEDEVAC).
  3. Communication Duties.
  4. Anti-Piracy and Anti-terrorism.
  5. Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR).
  6. Limited Maritime Reconnaissance and Targeting.

The NUH would be procured along with Full Mission Simulators and other associated support equipment.

It may be recalled that on August 7, 2012  MoD had invited tenders 56 Naval Utility Helicopters to replace its fleet of ageing Chetak helicopters.

The RFP was issued to several major helicopter, firms including AgustaWestland, Bell Helicopter, Eurocopter and Russian Helicopters.

Two companies responded to the RFP - Eurocopter AS565 MB Naval Panther, a military variant of the popular Dauphin, and the AgustaWestland AW139.

The earlier procurement has now been halted, with the MoD opting for a fresh round of tendering under the category of 'Buy & Make (Indian)' as stipulated at Para 4(c) and 25 (a) of Chapter I of DPP-2013.

The Buy and Make (India) category involves initial off the shelf purchase from an Indian vendor (including an Indian company forming joint venture/ establishing production arrangement with OEM), followed by licensed production/ indigenous manufacture in the country.

Items supplied off the shelf under the category may not have any indigenous components, but locally manufactured systems are required to have minimum 30% indigenous content on cost basis to begin with,  and eventually 50% indigenous content. (Indigenous content in the total of (i) Basic Cost of Equipment; (ii) Cost of Manufacturers’ Recommended List of Spares; and (iii) Cost of Special Maintenance Tools and Special Test Equipment must be at least 50% of the total contract value. (Reference parts 1(a), 1(c) and 1(d) of “Commercial Offer”, Appendix G to Schedule I of DPP 2013)

Qualitative Requirements

The NUH is required to be twin-engined  with wheeled landing gear and folding rotor blades. It should be capable of operating from ship and ashore and be able to carry weapons in support of its maritime surveillance and targeting capability.

Earlier, HAL expressed its inability to bid against the requirement citing challenges in modifying its Dhruv to feature folding rotor blades.

Recent Navy RFIs (IDP Sentinel Members Only)

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

DRDO Developing Gagan DGPS Based Automatic Take Off and Landing (ATOL) System

Rustom-1 MALE at DefExpo-2012

DRDO plans to carry out flight trials of a DGPS based Automatic Take Off and Landing  (ATOL) System.

Differential Global Positioning System (DGPS) is an enhancement to Global Positioning System that improves GPS location accuracy from the 15-meter nominal to an incredible 10 cm in a well implemented system!

The DRDO developed ATOL system would use Gagan DGPS developed by ISRO and DGCA which is now operational countrywide.

DRDO has equipped a Rutan Long Ez Manned Aircraft (YN7501) with Accord Technologies NexNav GPS-SBAS receiver and a GPS receiver with antenna for the trials which would be conducted at HAL Airport and Kolar Runway.

The Rustom-1 MALE developed by DRDO is basically an unmanned version of the Rutan Long Ez, a home built aircraft with a canard layout designed by Burt Rutan's Rutan Aircraft Factory.

Rustom-1 MALE has roughly the same performance as the Israeli Searcher UAV which is widely used by the Indian Army (IA) and the Indian Air Force (IAF). The IA has told DRDO that it will place orders for Rustom-1 only if the UAV is equipped with an ATOL system, as take-off and landing using an external pilot are accident prone.

DRDO's Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE) has initiated procurement of the Cassidian MDR-NES (MLDRF) for fitment on the Rustom-1 to facilitate automated flare-out and landings. The GAGAN DGPS based system will facilitate taxying, take-off and alignment with the runway center line during approach.

ADE has sought vendor assistance in conducting the flight trials spanning around 10 hours through a recently released RFI. The selected vendor will conduct and manage the manned flights so that ADE can focus on the ATOL system performance.

Additional Reading

PLA's Chumar Incursion Ends, But Is All Well Along LAC?

IA-PLA Border Meeting Point
A 20-day stand-off between Indian Army (IA) and PLA toops ended amicably on September 30, 2014.

Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a press release, "On Sept. 30, the frontier defense troops of the two countries completed simultaneous withdrawal according to the steps formulated by the two sides and restored peace and tranquility in the area."

The press release added that the two sides will continue to communicate on issues relating to maintaining peace and tranquility of the border areas through the China-India border consultation and coordination mechanism, In diplomatic parlance, the press release said there are contentious issues still to be resolved, but through talks, not troop deployments.

India's External Affairs Ministry confirmed on Tuesday, September 30, 2014 that both sides "carried out disengagement and redeployment of border troops" on September 26 and 27. The troops were back in positions that they occupied on on September 1, 2014.

“The two sides have also agreed that a meeting of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs (WMCC) will be convened in India on October 16-17 to discuss various issues pertaining to the maintenance of peace and tranquility in the border areas,” the statement said.

Confounding enough, the stand-off, perhaps the most contentious so far, occurred during Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to India on September 16 through September 18, 2014.

There were actually two stand-offs - in the Chumar and Demchok sectors. The Chumar stand-off was the more serious one, involving hundreds of troops from both sides.

Going by TOI reporting, which was more insightful than reporting by other news outlets, PLA troops entered Indian controlled territory in Chumar on September 10, 2014 after Indian soldiers prevented PLA troops equipped with cranes, bulldozers and other equipment from building a road right up to Chepzi on the LAC.

During flag meetings called to resolve the incursion, PLA commanders said that their troops would withdraw only if Indian troops pulled down a tin shed bunker that they had constructed in what was disputed territory.

The Demchok sector incursion occurred five days before the Chumar faceoff, when Chinese nomads pitched their tents nearly 500-m deep into Indian territory around Ninglung Nullah, to prevent Indian workers from building a water irrigation channel under the NREGA scheme.

A detailed push-by-push / day-by-day account of the Chumar incursion is appended below.

On September 25, 2014 Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj announced that she had met the Chinese foreign minister on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session and the two countries have reached an agreement to withdraw their troops by September 30 to positions that they occupied on September 1. She did not state what else was agreed to during the meeting.

Going by a TOI report, it was India which blinked by agreeing to dismantle the contentious tin shed bunker and agreeing not to build more as a quid-pro-qua for PLA withdrawal.

The TOI report is corroborated by the following circumstantial evidence.

The agreement between the foreign ministers of the two countries entailed restoration of the status as it existed on September 1. Why? According to the Indian press PLA incursion in Chumar started on September 10 and in Demchok around 5 days earlier.

A logical explanation is that there were transgression even before. Why else would the two sides agree to restore status quo ante as on September 1?

Did the earlier transgression(s) involve Indian troops constructing tin sheds / bunkers in disputed territory?

Was the PLA incursion provoked? In Chumar by construction of tin sheds? In Demchok, perhaps by the building of a canal in close proximity of the LAC? After all, an irrigation canal in close proximity of the border does have military significance.

Why does the Army repeatedly build bunkers or cover them with tin sheds?

Yes, I can appreciate that our patrolling troops need every bit of warmth during their overnight rest, but then the structures are construed by the PLA as violation of the agreement not to build any infrastructure in disputed territory. How do patrolling PLA troops manage to survive the chilly nights without shelters?

Surely, this is a matter that can be resolved through discussion or circumvented through better equipment.

If the bunkers / tin sheds constructed by the IA are not in disputed territory, why does the IA repeatedly agree to dismantle them?

I don't know the answers, but I do consider the questions legitimate?

Chumar Incursion: Push by Push Account

(Based on press reports)

On September 10, 2014 Indian soldiers prevented PLA troops equipped with cranes, bulldozers and other equipment from building a road right up to Chepzi on the LAC in the Chumar sector. [via TOI]

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Around 300 Chinese troops entered Indian territory where they were confronted by a group of around 100 soldiers from the Army and the ITBP.  China is constructing a road close to the LAC in the sector and the Indian Army has objected to the constructions since it's perceived to be within Indian territory.

Under an agreement between the two sides, any country indulging in defense construction has to inform the other side.

Initially, it was believed that the PLA was engineering a face off to divert attention of India from the road construction work being undertaken on their side.

Monday, September 15, 2014

A Brigadier level flag meeting at Spanggur Gap failed to resolve the crisis. It was decided to hold a follow-up meeting on Wednesday.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Some of the Chinese troops returned on Tuesday and it was generally expected that the others would also retreat to their side of the perceived LAC.

Two flag meetings were held, but they failed to resolve the imbroglio.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

India and China held two Brigadier level flag meetings at the border personnel meeting point in Chushul to discuss the situation. The flag meetings were inconclusive. The intrusion of Chinese civilians in the Demchok area was also discussed during the meetings.

Fresh Incursion

As many as 100 PLA soldiers arrived from a hillock of Chumar area even as the flag meeting were on, bringing the total number of PLA troops within Indian territory to 350.

The fresh intrusions took place just a few hours ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping's arrival in India on a state visit.

India also rushed some more troops in the area and both sides indulged in repeated banner drill.
Modi Raises Issue with Xi Jinping

In Ahmedabad, Prime Minister Modi reportedly raised the incursion issue with President Xi, who told the Indian leader that the PLA would withdraw within 24 hours. [via TOI]

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Chinese officials accompanying President Xi Jinping told Indian officials on Thursday that PLA troops would withdraw. [source TOI]

Chinese troops started withdrawing from Indian territory in the Chumar area from 9:45pm on Thursday. Indian Army which was present in large number in the area also started simultaneously reducing their presence. 

The Indian Army continued to maintain vigil because after withdrawing from Indian territory PLA troops camped just across the LAC.  [source TOI]
Friday, September 19, 2014

NDTV reported that Chinese troops had started to withdraw on Friday after President Modi took up the incursion with President Xi for the second time on Friday during a restricted level meeting between the two delegations that lasted 3 hours. 

Hours after withdrawing, about 35 PLA soldiers reportedly crossed into Indian territory again and stationed themselves on a hillock. Meanwhile, the 300 PLA soldiers who had withdrawn remained close to LAC. [source PTI]

TOI journalist Rajat Pandit tweeted late Friday that there had been no PLA withdrawal. A print report datelined Saturday said that despite President Xi's assurances, there had been no withdrawal by the PLA. 

The report quoted MoD sources as saying, there was "no change in the ground situation" till Friday evening at Chumar, where around 1,000 soldiers from each side are holding five to six "tactical positions" spread along a 2.5-km front in sub-zero temperatures at an altitude of around 14,500-ft.

"The PLA troops have weaker tactical positions which are difficult to sustain in the sector. They may withdraw after posturing for another day or two to save face. If they do, we will also thin out our troops in the sector to restore status quo ante. Till then, our soldiers will stand firm," said a source.

PLA and Indian troop are positioned between 200-m to 800-m at different points and there is no threat of the situation spiraling out of control. 

A PLA lieutenant inadvertently strayed into Indian positions during the ongoing Chumar faceoff. "He was detained and later handed over to the PLA," said a source.

According to the TOI report, three flag meetings between local military commanders had failed to resolve the deadlock. Two days ago both sides had brought in troop reinforcements and inducted helicopters to airdrop food and supplies for their soldiers and keep a watch around the disputed area.

According to The Indian Express, no PLA withdrawal occurred on Friday as reported in the press, instead opposing troops had "adjusted to logistically convenient” positions within the same area. 

According to The Tribune, Army’s Kiari-based 70 Brigade at Chumar and Demchok has been advised by Army headquarters to hold its existing positions on the high mountain pass named ‘30-R’ and around it till the PLA withdraws across the LAC to its own areas of Chepzi (Zhipuqi-Quebusi).

COAS General Dalbir Singh Suhag met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and presented all options to him. Senior Army officers briefed officials at the MoD.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

PLA troops were still occupying six to seven tactical positions in the Chumar sector

Indian forces had to make a tactical retreat 2-km into Indian territory at one of the eight places of standoff in Chumar in the face of heavy Chinese troop presence. [source TOI]

The 35-odd PLA soldiers who had intruded into Indian territory on Friday remained put for the second consecutive day, with Chinese helicopters air dropping food packets for them. 

Additionally, over 50 Chinese troops entered the Chumar area on Saturday at a point different from Friday's intrusion. 

The Chinese soldiers immediately alighted from the vehicles and positioned themselves barely 100-m away from the Indian Army, which had decided not to withdraw completely from the region even after the Chinese PLA had returned on their own to their side on Thursday night.

As a result of the fresh intrusions, the Indian Army halted its cautious withdrawal and started pitching their tents again for possible stand-off.

Around 100 PLA troops are estimated around Point 30-R, a post in Chumar that the PLA frequents because the Indian Army maintains an observation post which dominates the line of actual control (LAC) and gives advantage to India in keeping a vigil on the Chinese activity deep across the border. [source PTI]

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The PTI reported that PLA troops, who had arrived on Saturday, started pitching seven tents on Sunday well within the Indian territory, ignoring warnings by the Indian Army to vacate the area.

The TOI reported that till Sunday evening around 1,000 PLA troops were still occupying six to seven tactical positions in the Chumar sector.

"Some of them often re-position themselves for better logistics. A few return to their administrative bases in the rear for the night, and then come back in the morning. It's a well-planned operation by PLA, which has never set up camps in the area before," a source told the TOI.

Over 1,000 Indian troops are keeping a close watch on the PLA soldiers, creating a situation that is "fluid but not tense" since such cat-and-mouse games are common place in the sector.

The Army and ITBP have intensified patrolling along the entire LAC and 15 battalions earmarked for defense of the sector have been put on high alert.  

According to the TOI, "there are four battalions each under the 70 Brigade at Kiari and the 114 Brigade at Tangtse, as also five units of the Ladakh Scouts. The 14 Corps at Leh, which looks after the Kargil sector as well as eastern Ladakh, also has the 81 Brigade as "a reserve formation", which can swiftly be deployed towards Kargil or eastern Ladakh when required."
Monday, September 22, 2014

The TOI revealed that Indian forces had to make a tactical retreat 2-km into Indian territory at one of the eight places of standoff in Chumar three days ago in the face of aggressive and heavy Chinese troop buildup. More reinforcements were sent later and troops are now holding position.

Sources told the TOI that the standoff continued as China wasn't ready to cease its road-construction near the border and India was refusing to dismantle structures it has built near the LAC. 

Army chief General Dalbir Singh Suhag has called off is 3-day visit to Bhutan as PLA troops are holding positions despite diplomatic lobbying.

Meanwhile in China

On Monday it was reported that Chinese president Xi Jinping reshuffled the top positions in the People's Liberation Army promoting three generals known to be close to him.

The president also admonished PLA brass at a meeting on Sunday, September 2014 attended by Fang Fenghui, chief of the PLA general staff.

Xinhua news agency carried an official statement that said, "All PLA forces should follow the instructions of President Xi Jinping, also chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC), and update their operations to meet new goals and missions set by the CMC."

The statement also talked about the need "to improve the efficiency of military command under new circumstances". Xi also emphasized the need for "streamlining the operational headquarters of all PLA forces" with revised protocols.

"The meeting focused on streamlining the operational headquarters of all PLA forces with information technology and revised several important protocols," the statement said. 

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunyin said on Monday that there was no need to have "unnecessary suspicion" on both sides on the border issue. Leaders of the two countries have "reached an important consensus on politically resolving the border issue through friendly mechanism.

"China and India have sufficient capacity and confidence to maintain peace and tranquility in the boundary areas." [source TOI]

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

PLA Seeks Flag Meeting

On Tuesday, the PLA sought another flag meeting at Spanggur Gap between local military commanders

The PLA wants Indian troops to demolish a recently-built hut at Tible in the Chumar sector. The Indian Army believes the PLA has clearlu violated the 2005 border protocol by attempting to extend the road ahead of Chepzi into the Chumar sector.

"The PLA troops were constructing the road in the disputed area, where soldiers from both sides patrol but do not hold positions. We will not budge from the site till the PLA troops withdraw," a source told the TOI.

"Informal parleys" between the rival troops on the ground are also intermittently taking place. India is in no hurry to concede to the PLA request for a fourth flag meeting.

A top-level group, which includes national security advisor Ajit Doval, Army chief General Dalbir Singh Suhag and representatives from the foreign ministry, intelligence agencies and ITBP, among others, is debating the PLA request.

PM Narendra Modi is expected to be briefed on the face-off on Wednesday. 

Till Tuesday evening, there was no change in the ground situation, tactically or numerically," said a source. 


India issued a demarche to China articulating its concerns over Chumar face-off. [source]

“It is our territory, we will push them back,” minister of state for home affairs Kiren Rijiju said today. 

The demarche — an official document exchanged between governments typically communicating a concern or a protest — was issued both in New Delhi and Beijing over the past two days, a senior foreign ministry official told The Telegraph.
Wednesday, September 24, 2014

According to the Indian Express, Army Officials had yet to respond to the two day old PLA request for a flag meeting because the face-off had already escalated to diplomatic channels. 

The Indian Express also reported that India is going to propose a mutual withdrawal in the next flag meeting, to prevent any escalation on account of the massive troop build-up in the area.

Chinese ambassador Le Yucheng reportedly visited South Block for talks with senior officials of the external affairs ministry. Source told TOI that the ambassador was not "summoned" for lodging of any protest. 

PLA Troops Thin Out at 30-R

Around 150-200 Chinese soldiers pulled back from the 30-R position since Tuesday afternoon.

However, since the withdrawal was partial and PLA intent unclear, Indian troops continued to maintain their dominant positions in the sector. [source]

Thursday, September 25, 2014

A Major General level flag meeting, the fourth to resolve the imbroglio, was held at the Spanggur Gap border meeting point. 

An agreement was reached whereby the PLA will not extend the road it was trying to construct in the "disputed area" ahead of Chepzi towards Chumar, and in turn India will demolish the recently-built observation hut at Tible in the sector and refrain from building bunkers there in order to restore the pre-September 10 status quo. 

The two armies worked out the modalities to complete the troop pullbacks by Saturday evening. 

Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj announced that she had met the Chinese foreign minister on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session and the two countries reached an agreement to withdraw their troops by September 30 to positions that they occupied on September 1. She did not state what else was agreed to during the meeting. 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

China and India completed the withdrawal of troops from a standoff at the border on Tuesday, September 30, 2014 

Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a press release, "On Sept. 30, the frontier defense troops of the two countries completed simultaneous withdrawal according to the steps formulated by the two sides and restored peace and tranquility in the area." 

The two sides will continue to communicate on issues relating to maintaining peace and tranquility of the border areas through the China-India border consultation and coordination mechanism, the press release added, perhaps hinting that points of contention still existed.

India's External Affairs Ministry confirmed on Tuesday, September 30, 2014 that both sides "carried out disengagement and redeployment of border troops" on September 26 and 27. The troops were back in positions that they occupied on on September 1, 2014.

“The two sides have also agreed that a meeting of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs (WMCC) will be convened in India on October 16-17 to discuss various issues pertaining to the maintenance of peace and tranquillity in the border areas,” the statement said.

In a flag meeting on Tuesday at the Spanggur Gap, PLA and IA confirmed that both sides had withdrawn as per the plan agreed in the earlier flag meeting.


Chumar is located in J&K, more than 300-km south east of Leh, close to the border of Himachal Pradesh. The area, where heights vary from 12,000 to 15,000 feet, has been a flash point between the two sides with Chinese making several attempts to end India's dominance in the area by claiming it as Chinese territory.  There have been several face-offs in the last two-three years.

Position 30-R in Chumar is a hillock at an altitude of about 14,500-ft which is 30-m higher than its surroundings.