INDIA : MULTI FACETED COOPERATION DRIVING SECURITY
- Lead Theme - Importance of Acquisitions in enhancing defence preparedness and deficiencies due to delays highlighted by case study of 155 mm medium guns for the artillery, Scorpene submarine for the Navy and light helicopters for the Army.
- US-India Civil Nuclear Cooperation Initiative succeeds through agreement of draft 123 Agreement.
- India`s Regional Cooperation Policy in SAARC and Africa takes shape.
- Indo Pakistan CBMs on course as home and commerce secretaries meets take place as scheduled.
- Indo US Defence Cooperation denotes mixed relations with CSI being put off.
- Indo Australian Defence Ties - A new chapter opens.
- Indo - Israel Joint Missile Development Programme begins with signing of a new agreement which will supplement Barak II development.
- Army gets a technology push through F - INSAS - Army`s High Tech Soldier and Mini UAVs
- Maritime Cooperation will reach a new high in September through Malabar 2007.
- IAF Proposed Doctrine : A Preview and some points for consideration.
LEAD THEME : FASTTRACKING DEFENCE ACQUISITION
Importance of Defence Acquisitions
India`s Prime Minister, Mr Manmohan Singh during a Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) awards ceremony indicated that, " India stands for peace and for the peaceful resolution of all problems between nation states. Our national goal is to foster an external and internal environment of peace and stability, which will allow us adequate space to concentrate on the multiple economic and social challenges facing our people. But the reality is that we live in a world of unequal power relations. We live in an uncertain international security environment. We are therefore obliged to create adequate defence preparedness to manage any potential challenge to our security and vital national interests". Defence acquisition is an important component of defence preparedness and is increasingly assuming importance in the high technology, platform and systems focused warfare of tomorrow. This sphere is also the country`s greatest weakness as Mr Manmohan Singh went on to indicate, a right balance between the, "competing priorities of the developers, producers and users of advanced weapons systems in our country was essential", to avoid long gestation periods of induction of weapons and equipment which did not enable a suitable response to meet the changing international defence and security environment. He thus exhorted the DRDO to, "strive for the highest standards of performance and delivery" by utilizing integration with the public and private sector and greater accountability.
Reacting to the PM`s remarks for greater efficiency and accountability, the DRDO chief M Natarajan argued, "We feel the Government has a clear responsibility to ensure that certain percentage of acquisitions, particularly of products developed indigenously with enormous efforts, are compulsorily sourced by the services from within the country." (Daily Pioneer Report). The DRDO`s ills have been adequately debated. Unitary focus on the DRDO has led to overlooking road blocks in other processes of defence acquisitions as a whole in the country. Project and process management skills in the Indian defence procurement hierarchy are extremely poor. The entire system of procurement from raising QRs, request for information, tendering and RFPs to trials, price negotiations and so on has not been seamlessly integrated to avoid delays in procurement which are affecting operational efficiency of the armed forces. More over Make or Buy strategies of the defence ministry are quite adhoc thus the DRDO as well as the industry are unable to plan long term capability development. Since this is resource as well as time consuming attaining time bound results is continuing to be a problem leading to emergency purchase orders as the SpyDer air defence missile system. Integrating such systems into the overall security paradigm is largely impractical. Three case studies which were highlighted in the media; 155 mm medium gun for the Army, Scorpene submarine for the navy and light helicopter for the army have been covered to underline the magnitude of problem of inefficiency in acquisition process and outline suggestions.
Fire Power Constraints of the Army : The 155 mm Story
Continued delay in induction of a long range, high calibre 155 mm medium gun is leading to considerable fire power constraints imposed on the Indian army. This was all the more evident with re-tendering of 52 calibre, 155 mm towed guns even after conducting four rounds of trial with three competitors as per a India-defence.com report. The 52-calibre 155 mm towed guns are expected to be capable of firing a nuclear shell to a distance of up to 50 kilometres. The three competitors were Denel of South Africa, Soltam of Israel and BAE-SWS Bofors system. Under the artillery deal worth Rs 4000 Crore at present price level, India was to acquire four hundred 155 mm L 52 towed guns off the shelf and manufacture thousand guns in the country under technology transfer, providing New Delhi first exposure to indigenous use of such technology. The entire process has been delayed after re-tendering which is also said to affect price which approximately two to three times at Rs 25-30 Crore per gun as against Rs 10-12 Crore per gun when initially tendered in 2001. (India-defence.com report.). The impact is likely to be 20 regiments of the artillery delayed in acquiring up gunned fire capability with long range and high lethality.
In addition, the government has refloated request for proposals (RFP) for acquiring 100 self-propelled and 180 wheeled 155 mm and 52-calibre guns. However, time for submission of both the bids has been extended twice for lack of response. To overcome critical shortages, army has gone in for upgrading the World War II Russian 130 mm guns with expertise from Soltam instead of up gunning the Swedish 155 mm L 39 calibre Bofors guns. Though initially only 100 Russian guns were to be upgraded, the order has now been expanded to almost 500 guns at an estimated cost of over Rs 800 Crore. The upgraded guns, artillery officers complained, cannot achieve more than 45 degree firing angle making them unfit for operations in the mountains. Integral fire power is an essential component of a Cold Start doctrine. With the Indian Air Force increasingly reluctant to undertake close air support missions, the army would have to rely more on its integral medium and heavy artillery systems. Lacking adequate punch, the sting in the Cold Start is already diluted.
Submarines Ahoy : Delays in Scorpene
The Indian Navy`s submarine induction programme at one Scorpene submarine per year from 2012 to 2017 is also facing delays. A Times of India Report indicated that Scorpene project undertaken at Mazagon Docks Ltd (MDL) for construction of six submarines is being delayed due to problems faced by the French firm DCN in handing over required manufacturing data since it`s not used to getting its submarines built by foreign yards. French vendors are also not reportedly providing required data in time. One of the main reasons for the present slippages is that the French government is not according ``enough priority`` in granting export clearances for the equipment being sourced from France. Meanwhile Larsen and Toubro, India`s premier defence private sector company is planning to participate in the Indian Navy's Project 75 and 76, 30-year submarine building program as per maritime perspective plan that outlines requirement of ships and submarines up to 2022. Larsen and Toubro (L & T) aims to build 18 vessels for the Navy with 6 being provided by DCN under the Scorpene agreement. The overall project cost is estimated at US $14-16 billion. L&T is planning to enter into submarine construction with a domestic or foreign partner. ( Hindustan Times Report).
Given the challenges of acquisitions indigenously, a delay in induction will reduce availability of diesel electric submarines in the Indian Navy from 16 to 9 by 2012, as per the retirement schedule. With Indian Navy`s expanded regional interests from the Straits of Malacca to the Gulf of Hormuz and the Indian Ocean areas in the South, the Navy will be over stretched in the next decade. A delay of carrier Gorshkov to 2011-2012 is also likely to add to the Navy`s woes.
Wither Light Helicopters for the Army?
Light helicopters are a critical resource for the Indian army deployed in inhospitable terrain across the country including the Siachen glacier, where heights above MSL of 20,000 feet imply that these are the only life line. The Army had projected a need for 197 helicopters for its aviation corps in 1999. Bell, Euro copter and Russia's Kamov responded to the request for information. Kamov later dropped out of the race and the army conducted trials with the Bell 407 and Eurocopter's Fennec. Bell 407 was disqualified as it did not meet two key parameters; a three-axis autopilot and the ability to lift 160 kg in rescue missions though it is reported to have outperformed the Eurocopter in other respects. The government called Euro copter, part of European consortium EADS, for price negotiations after rejecting US aviation major Bell's 407 helicopters on technical grounds after several rounds of trials during 2004-05.
Media reports indicated that Bell has raised questions about disqualification. The response of the defence ministry is the purchase was "still under process". The move was protested by US authorities who raised questions about the grounds on which the Bell helicopter was disqualified. Possible lobbying is likely to lead to further delays in procurement of this critical asset leading to use of overhauled helicopters by the Army Aviation and overall loss of operational efficiency.
Possible Options for Fast Tracking
One strategy proposed by the Defence Minister Shri A K Antony calls for aggressive indigenisation of Defence Production. Shri Antony said to achieve this both public and private sector must invest more on research and development. The Defence Minister also directed Defence Ministry officials to explore possibility of setting up an institution to cater to the design needs of the Armed Forces related to ships, submarines, aircraft and other equipment. However this is just one prong of the overall strategy of acquisition.
India needs to harness resources in defence production more effectively as the capabilities are limited by labour problems, capacity building and management at all levels. The ship yards are a classic case in point where a large capacity remains underutilized due to labour hurdles. A massive infusion of funds, including foreign investment, dual usage production facilities, addition of capacities and reforms in labour is the way ahead. Like in most cases in the country the suggestions for overcoming delays are obvious but implementation remains a matter of concern. Some issues which need consideration are as follows:-
- Educate personnel involved in procurement on project and process management skills. This needs to include personnel from all services of the government. An alternate is to have a specialized defence procurement service.
- Drafting GSQRs through a team based approach incorporating the services, DRDO and possible vendors. Greater transparency at this stage will benefit in the longer term.
- Clear, `Make` or `Buy` policy based on the long term perspective plan and defence production capability in the country rather than an item based approach. This would provide greater clarity to all agencies involved in defence research and production.
- Time bound accountability at each stage of project implementation. Strict accountability and transparent monitoring of each project.
- Public - private partnerships both foreign and indigenous in production involving all cutting edge technologies in which capacities are not available in the Indian industry.
- Improved efficiencies in the Defence ordnance factories through a long term plan of redundancy on the MTNL or BSNL model.
India `s Foreign Policy
US-India Civil Nuclear Cooperation Initiative
The final draft of the Indo US Civil Nuclear initiative translated into the 123 Agreement was finalized after intense negotiations held from 17 to 20 July at Washington. Earlier India`s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had spoken to US President George W Bush on 11 July in an apparent bid to break the deadlock thereby indicating commitment at the highest level. Indian Cabinet Committee on Security and the Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs approved the draft text of the deal negotiated with the US.
The 123 Agreement will govern civil nuclear trade between the two countries and open the door for American and Indian firms to participate in each other`s civil nuclear energy sector. The next steps now include India negotiating a safeguards agreement with the IAEA and support from the forty-five member Nuclear Suppliers Group. After these additional actions have been completed, President Bush will submit text of the agreement to the U.S. Congress for final approval. The India-US bilateral agreement also opens up possibility of an unconditional exemption for India from the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) Guidelines. Civil nuclear cooperation between the United States and India is said to offer enormous strategic and economic benefits to both countries, including enhanced energy security, a more environmentally-friendly energy source, greater economic opportunities, and more robust non-proliferation efforts. (Based on MEA India Joint statement at MEA India web site and Media Reports).
Comments on Conclusion of Draft 123 Agreement
The Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) leadership was briefed on the 123 Agreement by the government including the Prime Minister. The leadership did not evoke any response as exact details were not provided by the government. On the other hand in Washington, US lawmakers warned Bush administration of 'inconsistencies' in the 123 agreement after reports that Washington has agreed to allow India to reprocess spent nuclear fuel under civilian nuclear deal with New Delhi. India`s growing economic and military ties with Iran also came up for criticism with many researchers in Washington working overtime to dig out details of India`s military relationship with Iran in the past. In the international forum, China is likely to prove a stumbling block in the IAEA as well as the NSG. China is also attempting to seek a situation of parity for Islamabad, though given proliferation by A Q Khan network in Pakistan, Chinese case is quite weak. However India will have to very effectively calibrate its China policy in the year ahead to ensure that it obtains Beijing`s acquiescence in these bodies.
The Nuclear power industry in India welcomed the draft nuclear agreement which will enable India's nuclear industry collaborate with American and other suppliers of nuclear technology. The Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) is awaiting opportunity for adding capacity to an ambitious 30,000 MW by 2025 with 10 nuclear reactors of 1,000 MW being launched in the 11 th Plan period. In addition NPCIL is set to launch eight indigenous pressurised heavy water reactors of 700 MW each during the 11th Five Year Plan. Approval has been granted for four reactors and preparatory work on at Kakrapar in Gujarat and Rawatbatta in Rajasthan has started. (Media Reports).
India `s Regional Cooperation Policy in SAARC and Africa
India is increasingly assuming a proactive role in regional relations using its growing economic and information technology potential to advantage. India has offered to take up "asymmetrical responsibilities", including unilateral steps to liberalise trade, visa and tourism, with regard to SAARC countries as per External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee. Chairing a meeting of Consultative Committee on External Affairs on 18 July, he said India favours physical, economic and people-to-people connectivity with other members of the eight-nation South Asian grouping. India's partnership with African countries, including initiatives taken in the field of technical cooperation, human resource development, investment, trade and peacekeeping operations were also highlighted. India is also implementing Pan-African e-network project which will connect Africa's 53 nations via satellite. A brainchild of former President A P J Abdul Kalam, the Rs 542.9 Crore project for tele-education and tele-medicine aims at bridging the digital divide in Africa. (MEA India web site and Media Reports).
Comments. The initiative to take on asymmetrical responsibilities regionally by India is laudable as it indicates that the government is increasingly confident of its role as a major economic power in the region. However this has to be adopted gradually to avoid any disconcert in regional states of Indian hegemony which has prevented development of South Asia as a regional bloc of economic and political consequence in the past.
Indo Pakistan CBMs
The Joint statement at the end of the fourth round of Home/Interior Secretary Level Talks between India and Pakistan on Terrorism and Drugs Trafficking, as a part of the continuing Composite Dialogue process between the two countries, in New Delhi on July, 3-4, 2007 indicated progress with reference to the following issues:-
- Release of prisoners who have been granted consular access, whose national status has been verified and who have completed their prison sentences and fishermen as well as fishing boats less trawlers by August 14-15, 2007 was agreed to.
- Committee on Prisoners, comprising eminent retired judges from the two countries, was regarded as an useful instrument to facilitate release and repatriation of prisoners who have served their prison sentences.
- Text of the Agreement on Consular Access has been finalized.
- Progress towards early finalization and signing of the Visa Agreement indicated.
- Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the two drug control agencies will be signed shortly.
- Continuing interaction between the Central Bureau of Investigation of India and the Federal Investigation Agency of Pakistan in areas of human trafficking, illegal immigration and counterfeit currency was appreciated and periodic meeting of nodal points in both Agencies to facilitate early disposal of Interpol related cases was agreed. (Based on MEA India Press Release).
Comments. The progress made has generally been on procedural issues which were already underway and no new breakthrough has been achieved. The next round where consular access and visa agreements are finalized may provide better progress. However core issues which need to be addressed includes cross border terrorism and handing over of hard core criminals such as Dawood Ibrahim. Unless these issues are taken up, the forum is likely to remain a talking shop.
The fourth round of Pak-India talks on economic and commercial cooperation under composite dialogue was held in New Delhi on 31 July and 1 August. Among other items, the agenda included import of tea, opening of bank branches, transportation of goods, joint registration of Basmati rice, insurance, transit trade, cooperation on capital markets and matters relating to business visas. Continued negotiations particularly on trade and commerce with Pakistan including banking are extremely important as these will open up relations leading to cooperation in other directions.
Defence Policy and Strategic Capabilities
Indo US Defence Cooperation
A Times of India report indicated that American Acquisition and Cross-Serving Agreement (ACSA), couched in more palatable phraseology for Indian political sensitivities as a "logistics support agreement" was in the offing. Under this military agreement, the Indian and American armed forces will provide each other with logistic support, refuelling and berthing facilities, supplies and other services on a reimbursable or equal-value exchange basis for warships, aircraft and the like. ACSA is a standard procedural requirement by the USA to draw logistics requirements from countries with which an agreement has been made. Sri Lanka has recently signed such an agreement with the US and 90 other countries are already on board the same.
Comments. The United States with its global interests has a need to have logistics support across the globe. India`s extensive logistics support facilities in the critical maritime board off the major sea lanes and the Indian Ocean are an attractive proposition for the United States. However there is considerable resistance in India for a strategic tie up with the United States in defence which is being gradually overcome as it would be realized that such arrangements are standard procedures of mutual support rather than any strategic alliances.
Container Security Pact with US put off
The Union Cabinet, about to clear Container Security Initiative (CSI) with the United States on 12 July, deferred the decision. The government had after prolonged deliberation agreed to join CSI, which is widely seen as a precursor for joining the controversial Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI). Under the CSI, brought into force by the US Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (an agency of the department of homeland security), US multidisciplinary personnel are to be posted at overseas ports, in India`s case Mumbai, to "identify high-risk containers", pre-screen and evaluate containers before they are shipped to US ports and ensure these objectives through high-grade technology and "smarter, more secure" containers. The apprehensions expressed by the CPI (M) led to postponement of the decision. CPI (M) general secretary Prakash Karat said that the "CSI is a clear precursor for PSI", adding that the government should not enter into any such agreement that was detrimental to Indian interests. (Media Reports).
Comments. The possibility of the CSI cleared by the Cabinet Committee appears to be grim at present as the Left Parties have taken a strong exception to the same. PSI envisages control of transportation of even nuclear cargo and is thus highly intrusive. India has been sensitive to these issues in the past and the government has reiterated its concerns. The government will have to go step by step in cooperating with the US in the years ahead. At present the 123 Agreement should be enough comfort and any further steps will only raise apprehensions of its Left Allies.
Indo Australian Defence Ties
India and Australia hope to build up on the bilateral MoU on defence cooperation signed during Australian Prime Minister John Howard's visit to New Delhi in March 2006. Greater interaction between Indian and Australian navies, along with regular meetings of the newly-constituted bilateral Maritime Security Operations Working Group, upgraded military exercises and high-level exchanges are the contours of this cooperation. Counter-terrorism and maritime security along with provision of Uranium by Australia could be other dimensions of greater cooperation between India and Australia. (Times of India Report).
Comments. The main impact of Indo Australian proximity in defence affairs is likely to be in the maritime field as this will enable a joint effort by both countries to patrol the turbulent waters of the Indian Ocean critical to global oil SLOCs. Australia being firmly in the US alliance is also supporting American ties with India. China`s natural wariness is in contrast with the warnings by many analysts of Beijing establishing a, "string of pearls" or control over islands and ports on the Indian Ocean shelf.
Indo - Israel Joint Missile Development Programme
An Indo Israel joint venture to jointly develop and co-produce a new generation of medium range surface-to-air missiles with a range of 70 kms at an estimated cost of Rs 10,000 Crore (2.5 billion dollars) was cleared by the Cabinet Committee on Security, on 12 July. This will enable stand off air defence of strategic assets from growing threats posed by aerial attacks and proliferation of missiles in the region. Defence Research and Development Organisation, Indian Air Force and Israel Aerospace Industries will collaborate in this venture. The DRDO will be the "prime contractor" for the project, which will have an indigenous component of Rs 2,300 Crore. The new generation missile will replace the IAF's ageing Russian-made Pechora missiles. 18 command and launch systems would be built for the new missile system. Each of the 18 firing units will be equipped with a command and control centre, acquisition radar, guidance radar and three launchers with eight missiles each. The new missile is likely to be an advanced version of the Israeli SpyDer quick-reaction missile which has an effective range of 55 kilometres.
This is the second missile cooperation project between India and Israel. A 14-billion-rupee project to develop an extended-range version of the Barak missile that is deployed on frontline Indian Navy warships has been concluded. The next-generation Barak will have a 70-kilometre range against the 10-kilometre radius of the existing missile.
Comments. Joint collaboration is set to replicate the project model of BrahMos wherein collaboration between the Indian DRDO and Russia led to successful development and induction of a BrahMos cruise missile in the Indian Army one year ahead of schedule. The Indo Israel joint venture is also slated to attain such efficiencies in project management between the two countries. The Israeli help comes after repeated delays in the indigenous Akash missile project that is still to undergo user trials. Given DRDO`s poor project completion records and non availability of technologies due to restrictions of the MTCR, a joint project with Israel is well justified. This will provide the IAF and the Indian Navy sufficient capabilities to enhance air defence of ships and other assets.
ISRO to launch Israeli Spy Satellite
ISRO will launch an Israeli satellite from Sriharikota. The TechSar satellite is to carry out surveillance missions for the Israeli defence ministry. This will be placed in orbit to provide wider area coverage. This is slated to cost $ 15 million as against the $ 20 million which Israel had planned to spend by using its own Shavit rocket. This is the second surveillance satellite launched by India. The first one was India's own Technology Experiment Satellite (TES), which was carried by the PSLV on October 22, 2001. It has been functioning without a hitch. Prior to ferrying the Israeli spy satellite, India will launch the three-stage Geo Synchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) carrying the Insat-4CR communication satellite between August 25 and 30 this year. (Times of India Report). Comments. The launch of the Israeli satellite has two specific connotations, the first being capacity developed by ISRO to launch commercial satellites extremely economically and reliably. Thus the faith in the Indian launch system. On the other hand given the nature of the payload it also indicates increased defence cooperation between Israel and India in many fields including satellite launch. A data sharing agreement may not be evident at present but could possibly be in the offing.
India `s Second Cruise Missile - Nirbhay
Indian defence scientists are reportedly developing a new medium-range, multi-platform missile, called the Nirbhay, that will add more teeth to its armoury and is slated to be tested by end-2009. The missile, with a range of 1,000 km, is being developed at the Advanced Systems Laboratory (ASL), a unit of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). This will provide much needed multiple options in missile development to the country. Nirbhay is said to be superior to Pakistan`s Babur which has a range of 700 kms and which was tested by Islamabad during the month. The subsonic Nirbhay weighs 1,000 kg with a 1,000 km range and a speed of 0.7 mach.
Meanwhile Agni III, part of the Agni missile family, is to be tested by the first quarter of 2008. It will be the mainstay of Indian missile-based strategic nuclear deterrence. Agni III has a range of over 3,000 km and uses a two-stage solid propulsion - usually made up of a steel case containing blocks of a self-burning mixture - that enables it to be launched more quickly and with less logistical support than missiles using liquid propellants. In the future a 5,000 plus km, three-stage solid propulsion missile, details of which are not openly available is also under consideration. (Media Reports).
Comments. India is aiming to have at least two versions in each class of missile to provide flexibility. The aim has been now to match what in certain quarters is seen as an extensive lead taken by Pakistan. However with Agni I, II and BrahMos already inducted in the Army, the latter also on ships and Nirbhay and Agni III in the offing, India is slated to close this gap. Another promising programme which had been covered extensively in SAST July issue is that of BrahMos II, which if jointly taken up on priority will enable attaining a strategic lead against regional rivals.
Indian Army Strategy and Acquisitions
F - INSAS - Army`s High Tech Soldier
A report in the Times of India indicated that the Army wants to transform its 3.5 Lakh infantry soldiers into high-tech foot-soldiers for the modern battlefield. The F-INSAS (future infantry soldier as a system), in the pipeline for the past three years, was projected in the Infantry commanders` conference on 30July. The system is akin to US Army`s ``land warrior`` and ``objective force warrior`` programmes to convert the infantry man into, "a networked all-terrain, all-weather, weapons platform with enhanced lethality, survivability, sustainability, mobility and situational awareness`` for the digitised battlefield of the future.
The army plans to equip up to 10 infantry battalions by 2010-2015 for F-INSAS user trials. By 2020, the project will be fielded for the entire infantry, with 359 battalions. The defence ministry has assured the Army of full support for its 600 modernisation schemes, worth about Rs 70,000 Crore in the 11th Plan (2007-2012) period. The infantry, consequently, will be one of the major thrust areas. F-INSAS will primarily be developed through a military-DRDO-indigenous industry partnership. As per a senior officer, ``F-INSAS aims at integrating cutting-edge composite material sciences, information technology, nanotechnology and biotechnology as well as robotics to make a soldier into a versatile and potent sensor and shooter platform in a fully-networked battlefield environment``. (http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/India/Army_aims_to_turn_soldiers_into_terminators_by_2020/articleshow/2245443.cms)
Comments. The F-INSAS system is no doubt one of the most ambitious projects being undertaken by the Indian army and will provide its soldiers high technology integration on a modern battlefield. However the army could do well to seek lessons from deployment of US and NATO soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan to see how such systems will function in an asymmetric environment which will denote 4 th and 5 th Generation Warfare.
Surveillance in Counter Insurgency : Mini UAVs
A report in the Pioneer indicated that the Indian army plans to induct mini-unmanned aerial vehicles in large numbers to give more teeth to forces engaged in counter-insurgency operations in mountainous Jammu and Kashmir and thickly forested North East. A proposal to buy 100 to 200 mini-UAVs has been finalised by the army and an international tender is likely to be floated within a month. The army presently has about 200 UAVs, mostly the Searcher 1, Searcher 2 and Heron supplied by Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI), but security experts feel mini-UAVs will give troops an edge in operations against militants.
The mini-UAVs are compact and lightweight systems designed for use in conventional as well as counter insurgency tasks. They are smaller than regular UAVs and some models can even by launched by hand and do not require open space for take-offs. Simultaneous with their induction into the army, the mini-UAVs will also be provided to paramilitary forces for use in operations against Naxalite in central India. The procurement of these aircraft assumes significance in the wake of reports of the larger UAVs not proving very effective in operations against Maoist terrorists. (Daily Pioneer Report). Comments. India needs a multiple set of UAVs to re-establish an effective counter surveillance grid which will provide it considerable advantage in counter insurgency areas and these assets can also be used in conventional operations in case the need arises. However efficacy in jungle terrain with good natural camouflage and poor electronic and thermal signature of targets will be a problem, thus trials in such areas need to be deliberate to ensure that required QRs are fully satisfied. This also emphasizes the need for human surveillance as perhaps the only reliable means of acquiring real time intelligence in such terrain.
Impact on Training of Limited Availability of FFR
The acute shortage of firing ranges is affecting live fire training in the Army. This was evident with only 39 Field Firing Ranges (FFRs), operational out of 93. The Defence Ministry has sought to open 54 FFRs to permit the army to carry out military exercises and overcome this short coming. A plea was made to the Supreme Court that due to non operationalisation of a majority of ranges, training programme is being affected which in turn is adversely affecting effectiveness of the army and the security of the nation. The problem lies due to damage to the forest land in which most of the ranges are situated. The Defence Ministry indicated that Rs 20 Crore out of the total amount due of Rs 1,400 Crore to the environment and forest ministry has already been paid which is being used for afforestation and other related developmental work of the FFRs.(Media Reports).
The paucity of training areas and firing ranges is certainly affecting operational preparedness as also leading to large scale disruption of peace time routine as a major time is spend in travelling to and from the ranges. Thus there is a need to evolve a holistic policy on utilization of training facilities and ranges which can take care of training requirements, location of units, availability of ranges and compensation required to be paid to the environmental ministry. Over and above additional allotments in the defence budget for compensation to the Environment ministry needs to be made. This will enable overcoming the perennial problem of availability of FFRs.
Maritime Strategy and Indian Navy Acquisitions
India - Monitoring the Indian Ocean
India has acquired key capabilities of surveillance in the Indian Ocean through a chain of monitoring stations linked with naval facilities in Kochi and Mumbai on India `s Western coast. An India-defence.com report indicated that India has activated its first listening post in the Indian Ocean recently. This key monitoring station in northern Madagascar, complete with radars and surveillance gear can intercept maritime communication and gather intelligence on ships operating in the region. It also provides for monitoring piracy and terrorist activities for anchoring and facilitate manoeuvres in the region. It is strategically located on the favoured route of movement of oil traffic through the Cape of Good Hope and the Mozambique Channel.
A similar facility is likely to be developed at Mauritius where an atoll has been leased recently. India has an agreement with Mozambique for periodical maritime patrolling off its coast and in 2003 the Indian Navy had provided seaward protection for the African Union summit there. The maritime box formed by these bases with berthing rights at Oman provides the Indian Navy an effective capability to carry out surveillance of the Indian Ocean region. (With inputs from India-defence.com report).
Comments. The enhanced profile of the Indian Navy in the Indian Ocean areas will provide greater security in Oceanic waters, which is anticipated to reduce piracy and maritime crime in the area. There is a necessity for greater coordination with regional forces as well as countries as the USA and France who have naval presence in these areas which are close to the Indian Ocean waters in Africa. The maritime surveillance capability provided may at present be an add on but in the long term would provide India a leading edge in the Indian Ocean.
Maritime Cooperation - Malabar 2007
India`s largest exercise in maritime cooperation is to see twenty warships from five countries, including three aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines, stealth frigates, missile destroyers and fighters, assembling in the Bay of Bengal in September for a major naval exercise. Naval war ships of the premier global and regional navies to include the US, Japan, Australia, India and Singapore will participate in the exercises. Two American nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, USS Nimitz and Kitty Hawk, with full complement of 80 to 100 aircraft, will participate in the exercise codenamed Malabar-07.
The reactions regionally as well as internally within India have been rancid. China has already expressed apprehensions after joint manoeuvres by Indian, US and Japanese warships off the Japanese coast in the Pacific a few months back. Australia's Defence Minister Brendan Nelson allayed Beijing's fears, saying there was no quadrilateral security alliance comprising Australia, the US, India and Japan. Protests were also heard from the Communist Party of India (M) which indicated that, " Japan and Australia are close military allies of US. India is now moving to join their ranks. This is a serious development. The UPA government has been forging a strategic military cooperation with US without any public debate or explanation. These steps are harmful to India's strategic interests. This is a sure step towards India being drawn into the already existing trilateral military cooperation between the US, Japan and Australia". (Media Reports).
Comments. Maritime diplomacy and deterrence are closely interrelated. The quadrilateral maritime exercise is being carried out to express solidarity between the four navies involved. That these would raise China`s protests is obvious. India needs to carefully weigh options of playing brinkmanship with Beijing. For unlike the US and Australia it has much more at stake through a tacit confrontation with China while having much lesser leverages than Japan. However from a purely naval point of view, the exercises will most certainly provide excellent exposure to the Indian navy in interoperability. The impact of the exercise in the piracy prone Bay of Bengal seas will also be salutary. Chittagong port is the biggest piracy hot spot as per the International Maritime Bureau, while the Malacca straits are not far away. The exercise can also form a building block for further naval engagement in the region by including more navies in the forthcoming years. This will in many ways diffuse apprehensions by China.
Indian Navy Reconnaissance Capability
India-Defence.com indicated that the Indian Navy is keen to acquire two additional IL 38 maritime reconnaissance aircrafts. The new planes to be purchased would be the upgraded version of the aircraft fitted with advanced Sea Dragons suits. The Ilyushin Il-38 (NATO name: May) is a maritime patrol and anti-submarine warfare aircraft developed from the Il-18 turboprop transport. The aircrafts are likely to be supplied by 2008 and would join Navy's three IL-38 aircraft. The Navy plans to buy eight more advanced maritime reconnaissance aircraft and has already floated international tenders for it. Three major companies US Lockheed Martin offering their upgraded version P3C Orion, Boeing P8 jet and Russian Irkut offering IL-38 have responded to the Naval Request for Proposal (RFP).
Aerospace Strategy and Acquisitions
IAF Proposed Doctrine : A Preview
A Times of India report indicated evolution of a new war doctrine by the Indian Air Force in tune with its objective to transform the force into a true aerospace power with "potent strategic reach" spreading from the Persian Gulf. (Times of India Report).
While the contours of the doctrine are obviously not available in open sources, the same is likely to comprise of the following basics:-
- Aero space power shaping the battlefield of the future in the land as well as maritime dimension.
- Provision of strategic mobility and outreach capabilities to expeditionary forces.
- Beyond visual range combat employing precision weaponry and other force multipliers.
- Integration of airborne warning and control systems as AWACS.
- Integration of aero space assets for reconnaissance and surveillance, communications and delivery of explosive munitions with precision.
- Integration of command and control assets at the strategic and theatre levels through seamless organization from Air Command down to the fighter bomber.
- Some possible traditional exclusions of the IAF doctrine needing consideration are envisaged as follows:-
- Employment of air power in a Cold Start scenario.
- Employment of air power for sub conventional operations.
126 MRCA Induction Update
The Indian Air Force (IAF) will acquire 126 Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MRCA) from a single manufacturer. Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal F.H. Major said in an interview, 'The world's single biggest fighter jet order will go to one supplier. 'It doesn't make any sense to go to two or three sellers just to keep different countries happy.' He said there was no proposal at the moment to increase the order to 200 aircraft but 'a review after induction, based on cost-benefit analysis, is of course possible in future'. 'The first squadron of 18 new jets will be inducted within five years (by 2012),' he said.
Future upgrades, to be conducted twice or thrice during the estimated 40 year life of the aircraft, would be additional. The air force will have three types of fighter aircraft to reduce inventory variations; Tejas as the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), the new MRCAs as the Medium Combat Aircraft (MCA) and the 35-tonne SU30-MKIs as the Heavy Combat Aircraft (HCA). The MCA and LCA would be given a technological edge on similar lines as the Su 30 MKI. The key to the acquisition of the new MRCAs, from among a choice of six vendors, would be the 'technology and multi-role capability'. The Air Staff Requirements (ASR) for MRCA was a medium weight, multi role combat aircraft that can undertake air defence, ground attack, maritime attack (anti-ship) and reconnaissance roles with ease`. 'We want the aircraft to have adequate long-range and endurance to meet our operational requirements with additional mid-air refuelling capability and ease of maintenance and low life-cycle costs.' AESA radar, which give a pilot the capability to acquire targets far away - say 100 nautical miles plus - as well as to use the same system as a communication platform to 'talk' to his colleagues and command, will be vital in the selection process. ( India Strategic and Media Reports).
The IAF`s long term, high valued fighter requirement has generated a lot of interest in the global aerospace industry. Reports said the US could agree transfer technology of the fifth generation joint strike fighter F-35. Lockheed Martin`s vice-president for Business Development Rob Weiss told agencies after the meeting with Indian officials that they had indicated that the F-35 was ready to be in the reckoning for India`s fighter needs beyond the induction of the 126 Multi-role Combat Aircraft. Reports said a top-level team from Lockheed Martin met the Indian Air Force brass to convey that the F-35 Lightning-II â€” single-seat, single-engine, stealth-capable military strike fighter â€” was available for IAF`s fifth generation fighter requirements. (Times of India Report).
Comments on F 35. The US F 35 is no doubt top of the line fifth generation fighter. However the deal is likely to be linked the new generation F-16 Block 50 fighters likely to be fielded in the 126 MRCA proposal. This is normal practice for air craft manufacturers. Some critical issues in this case need to be considered. Transfer of technology and other requirements which are incumbent on the Indian government before undertaking such a deal needs to be clearly understood. American laws may not permit full scale transfer of such a fighter aircraft which is top of the line and not shared with other countries at present. The cost factor is another issue which needs consideration. How will the transfer of technology work out in terms of life cycle costs given that India will not use the leverage of capacities developed indigenously to export the fighters with a benign arms export policy. Without such an arrangement, the deal would be potently highly expensive. Thus India needs to react cautiously to statements made by high ranking officials of commercial organisations as Lockheed Martin and not fall into a trap. Government to government commitment for such transfers is essential in the US.
IAF-RAF Exercise Indradhanush - 2007
Exercise Indradhanush-2007 was a joint IAF- RAF exercise conducted at Waddington RAF base. The Indian Air Force participated with six Su 30 MKI fighters and substantial lessons were learnt in interoperability, fighter combat operations practices, and aerial control including exposure to AWACS. The IAF team also participated in the Waddington International Air Show and the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) at Fairford, and was adjudged, 'best static display' at Waddington air show.
The fighter exercises included a series of 1 vs 1 and other air combat sorties between the Typhoon and the Su 30 MKI. The RAF pilots were candid in their admission of the Su-30 MKI's observed superior manoeuvring in the air, just as they had studied, prepared and anticipated. The IAF pilots were also visibly impressed by the Typhoon's agility in the air. The 1 vs 1 aerial combat was essentially practiced to hone up skills in gun kills which will provide assured success rather than current aerial combat techniques involving stand off missile attacks. The other practices involved mixed missions where RAF F3 Tornados, Hawks and Typhoons were packed together with IAF Su-30 MKIs. The sorties include combat situations of 2 vs 1, 2 vs 2 and upward combinations. The raiders were tasked for 'High Value Asset' (HVA) busting on the ground and 'High Value Airborne Asset' (HVAA) busting in the air with the defensive elements designated to counter their ambitions. (MOD India Web Site).
Comments. The multi modal fighter exercises would stand the IAF in good stead to assess its own fighter combat skills benchmarked against the Tornado and the Sea Harriers. The development of closer relationship between the RAF and the IAF is welcome and this should provide greater training and operational inputs to the Air Force to enhance its efficiency. Exposure of the IAF controllers to Airborne Warning and Control Systems (AWACs) is expected to go a long way, with modernization plans of inducting AWACS. While it is not clear if BVR combat was practiced, this would have been very fruitful experience for the IAF.
Thales - HAL Tie Up For Mirage 2000 Build up
India-defence.com report indicated that, French defence and aerospace company Thales will soon enter into a pact with Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) to jointly bid for upgrading fleet of Mirage 2000 fighters. Thales has also committed itself to a 30 percent offsets clause for the upgrade, unlike some purchases in the past like Russia's Sukhoi-30s and MI-17 choppers in which upgrades were taken as part of the original deal, the officials added. 51 Mirage 2000 fighters will be upgraded in this project. Apart from HAL, other Indian companies that are expected to partner with Thales in the upgrade project include the Department of Aviation Research and Bharat Electronics Ltd that has had a long association with the French company. The upgrade features will include multi-target, multi-mode radar, multi-channel digital video and data recording, mission data processing unit, mass memory, LCD glass cockpit and improved tactical and long-range weapon firing. "The upgrade will also enhance and extend the weapon stealth and operations with additional capabilities to engage ground targets even while countering airborne threats," said Frederic Andre, director for Thales Mirage retrofit programme. The aerospace giant has provided avionics and other high-technology systems to most planes flown by the IAF, like the Mirage 2000, SU-30 and MIG-29K, as also for aircraft carrier Gorshkov. (India-defence.com report).
(SAST AUGUST 2007)