Thursday, July 19, 2018

Elite Special Forces of Army, IAF, Navy Get Major Weapons Upgrade

A Finnish SAKO TRG-M10 sniper rifle

Defence ministry has reportedly inked contracts for highly-specialised weaponry and equipment from countries like Finland, Sweden, Italy, Russia, Israel and Germany. The weaponry will be utilised to equip special forces of Army, Navy and Air Force

by Rajat Pandit

NEW DELHI: From new long-range sniper rifles and man-portable anti-tank weapon systems to high-speed underwater scooters and hand-launched micro drones, India continues to gradually modernise its clandestine warfare arm. But the long-proposed Special Operations Command (SOC), or even its truncated version in the shape of a much smaller directorate, is still nowhere on the horizon.

Defence ministry sources on Tuesday said several contracts worth "hundreds of crores" have been inked in recent months to equip the elite special forces of Army, Indian Air Force (IAF) and Navy with more highly-specialised weaponry and equipment from countries like Finland, Sweden, Italy, Russia, Israel and Germany.

"More attention is being paid to the Special Forces after Para-SF commandos conducted the cross-border surgical strikes on terror launch pads in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir in September 2016," said a source.

Contracts for new Finnish Sako sniper rifles, Swedish Carl Gustaf Mark-4 light weight rocket-launchers, Italian Beretta pistols with silencers, for instance, have been inked for the Army's existing nine Para-SF battalions.

Navy's almost 1,000 marine commandos or "Marcos" are inducting Russian VSS suppressed sniper rifles, air-droppable rubberised inflatable boats, remotely-operated underwater vehicles for explosive disposal, combat free-fall parachutes, hands-free power ascenders and opposed boarding equipment. Marcos are slated to get two "midget submarines" or "chariots" under a Rs 2,017 crore project.

Even as IAF is raising 12 new "flights" of Garud commandos to add to the existing 15 flights with 900 personnel, the force is earmarked to induct new sniper rifles, thermal sights, breaching ammunition and the like. "They have already inducted 65 micro-UAVs under a Rs 27 crore contract," said an official.

But SOC remains missing in action. Several committees, including the Naresh Chandra Taskforce in May 2012, strongly recommended the SOC to bring together disparate special forces under a unified command and control structure to execute strategic operations in tune with national security objectives.

A 2012-2013 proposal for a tri-service SOC was eventually whittled down to a smaller Special Operations Directorate, Defence Space Agency and Defence Cyber Agency, which is yet to be approved.

“Leave alone the long-term reform of having tri-Service theatre commands (with assets and manpower of Army, Navy and IAF under one operational commander in a region), even the truncated agencies for space, cyberspace and special operations are stuck,” said an official.

TEJAS Fighter Testing More Israeli Weapons And Missiles

Rafael I-Derby air-to-air Beyond Visual Range missile

Publishing anew with additional details

The DRDO is already equipping one squadron of LCA Tejas with Israeli missiles. The Israeli Rafael Spice smart bombs which can use the GPS/INS Satellite/Inertial Navigation system to home in on targets are also being tested, claimed IHLS.

Indian Air Force (IAF) is eyeing more Israeli weapons and missiles for its fighter jets including the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas. According to IHLS, an Israeli website specialising in news in the security and technology sphere, the IAF will test advanced Israeli-developed systems on Tejas to find out their integration potential. IHLS claims that IAF will test air-to-air missiles and precise air-to-ground weapon systems.

Tejas, IAF's first indigenous supersonic jet, had on April 27, 2018, test-fired the 118-kg Israeli Rafael I-Derby air-to-air Beyond Visual Range (BVR) missile from the firing range off the Goa coast for the second time after an exhaustive study of the missile separation characteristics and plume envelope. The first test of the Derby missile by Tejas in RADAR guided mode had taken place on May 12, 2017, at the Interim Test Range (ITR), Chandipur in Odisha. The missile launch was performed in Lock ON after Launch mode for a BVR target in the look down mode and the target was destroyed.

The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is already equipping one squadron of LCA Tejas with Israeli missiles. The Israeli Rafael Spice smart bombs which can use GPS/INS Satellite/Inertial Navigation system to home in on targets are also being tested, claimed IHLS.

Tejas, the four-plus generation combat aircraft, is on its way to achieving the Final Operational Clearance (FOC) by successfully firing the Derby missile for the second time. The IAF will induct 324 Tejas fighters to make up for the depleting number of squadron strength.

However, the IAF had made it clear to the DRDO that the next variant of the LCA - Tejas Mark II jets - should be entirely “new fighters” with “better avionics, radars, enhanced weapons carrying capacity and powerful engines”. The IAF had in July 2017 inducted the first squadron of Tejas with two planes joining the force.

India To Get Own Nuclear Missile Tracking Ship In December

The Chinese Yuanwang-7 missile tracking Ship

The next step will include sea trials by a joint team of the Indian Navy and the NTRO in which its specialised surveillance systems

by Manu Pubby

NEW DELHI: India’s secretive nuclear missile tracking ship, which will become part of an elaborate missile shield being planned against attacks is successfully undergoing harbour trials and is set to be delivered by December, a top official in charge of the project has confirmed. The VC11184, a specialised Ocean Surveillance Ship being built for the National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO), is on its way to completion just over four years after it was ordered as part of the Modi government’s focus on creating a nuclear missile shield for the nation.

The next step will include sea trials by a joint team of the Indian Navy and the NTRO in which its specialised surveillance systems – three dome shaped antennas packed with sensors – will be extensively tested before the handing over. “We have as of now finished the basin trials. There were done alongside and were successful.

We expect to deliver the ship by December this year,” Rear Admiral LV Sarath Babu, Chairman & Managing Director of Hindustan Shipyard Limited told ET. The complex vessel, which will generate over 14 MW of power just to power up its tracking radars, will have multiple roles for India – from tracking enemy missiles to accurately giving data on tests that are routinely carried out of indigenous strategic missiles.

“The keel of the vessel was laid in June 2014 and we would have completed it in less than five years. It is a very complex vessel and we have set a new standard for building vessels of such class on time,” Rear Admiral Babu said. The 15000-tonne class vessel was initially constructed in a covered dry dock at the shipyard – the country’s largest -to keep roving satellites and spying attempts at bay. However, for the past several months, the vessel has been docked alongside and is now visible from the Vizag channel with its distinct shape. A large globe shaped radar placed on the aft gives it distinctive visibility.

The Rs 725 crore project is a showcase under the Make in India initiative, with high secrecy being maintained on details, including the capabilities and systems on board. The VC11184, which has not been given a formal ‘commissioning’ name yet, is one of the largest warships to be built at an Indian yard, weighing in at over 15,000 tonnes.

ISRO Ropes In Three Partners To Assemble 27 Satellites

Inking the pact, Dr M Annadurai, Director, ISRO Satellite Centre with Col H S Shankar (Retd), CMD, Alpha Design Technologies P Ltd

Each partner will work with the URSC to produce three small to medium satellites each year

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has roped in three partners to help it assemble 27 satellites at a quick pace over the next three years.

Three-Year Contracts

On Wednesday in Bangalore, its nodal satellites division URSC (U R Rao Satellite Centre) signed separate three-year contracts with Alpha Design Technologies P Ltd and its six consortium members; with defence public enterprise Bharat Electronics Ltd; and with TATA Advanced Systems Ltd, Hyderabad.

27 Spacecraft By 2021

Each partner will work with the URSC to produce three small to medium satellites each year, or a total of 27 spacecraft by July 2021, it is learnt. About 50 members from each partner will separately work with URSC engineers to complete the project.

The Alpha-plus consortium includes small and medium-sized companies such as Newtech, Aidin, Aniara Communications, DCX, Vinyas and Exseed Space, according to Alpha CMD Col. H.S.Shankar. All but the last member were already involved in building two 1,400-kg navigation satellites IRNSS-1H and IRNSS-1I for ISRO last year. A URSC official signed the agreements with the three entities in the presence of URSC Director M. Annadurai. A statement just said, “URSC-ISRO has inked pacts for outsourcing of spacecraft assembly, integration and testing [AIT] activities with multiple vendors namely Alpha Technologies Private Limited, Bangalore & its consortium partners; Bharat Electronics Ltd, Bangalore; and TATA Advanced Systems Limited, Hyderabad.”

URSC estimates a requirement of around 71 satellites till 2021. It means adding 12 satellites a year or one every month. In 2017, it made a record 12 spacecraft but is unable to cope with a growing demand from new applications. Around 35 Indian spacecraft are active in space and will need to be replaced as they expire over time. At the signing event, Dr. Annadurai underlined the need to involve industry in building future Indian satellites - first at ISRO’s premises under its guidance, and later on its own.

It is learnt that URSC unit, ISRO Satellite Integration and Test Establishment or ISITE, will provide three separate work stations for the three partners.

Recently BEL CMD M.V. Gowtama had said the defence major planned to take up satellite activities later at a new 30-acre aerospace and defence park in north Bangalore.

A spokesperson for TASL said it would participate in the full AIT of satellites of the class of 1,000 kg to 4,000 kg.

URSC, which has so far produced over 100 spacecraft, opened up AIT to industry in August last year and 13 private and public sector companies had responded.

The space agency launches three types of satellites - for communication, Earth observation and navigation. It has earlier said it needs to put double the number of its current satellites in space in order to fully meet national needs. They range from telephony. Internet and broadcasting services to security and simple socio-economic activities.

Terror Outfit Harkat-Ul-Mujahideen Extends Support To Imran Khan's PTI

PTI leader Asad Umar, who will be contesting from the NA-54 constituency in Islamabad, announced Khalil's endorsement of his party on Facebook

ISLAMABAD: Fazlur Rehman Khalil, the founder of the Pakistan-based terrorist organisation Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM), has announced his support for Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in the forthcoming July 25 parliamentary elections in the country.

PTI leader Asad Umar, who will be contesting from the NA-54 constituency in Islamabad, announced Khalil's endorsement of his party on Facebook.

"Maulana Fazlur Rehman Khalil and several of his companions and scholars have announced their support for Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf," he wrote in his post.

Khalil is the founder of the banned Islamic militant group HuM and is now the head of the Ansar-ul-Umma, which is widely accused of being a front for HuM.

The group is considered to be connected with Osama bin Laden and organisations such as the al-Qaeda. It has been deemed a 'terrorist organisation' by the United Nations, the United Kingdom, the United States, and India, among others.

This comes with the continuing acceptance and appeasement of extremist and militant groups in the political arena of Pakistan, according to a Pakistan-based editorial.

In an op-ed titled, "The thriving killing fields" by Noreen Haider, published in The Nation, the writer compares the alarming situation in Pakistan with that of Awami National League (ANP) leader Haroon Bilour, who was killed in a suicide attack in Peshawar on July 10.

Haider opined that despite Pakistan military making claims that they had achieved unprecedented success on conducting several operations against terrorists, the threats of the madrassas and mother organisations breeding militancy, extremism and terrorism remained unaffected in the country.

The writer also explained that a new strategy has been adopted by "mainstreaming" and including terrorist organisations in the electoral process in Pakistani politics. These groups were renamed and rebranded as "political parties" and had been alloted party symbols, offering them a legitimate chance to contest general elections.

She cited the Imran Khan-led PTI government's funding of madrassas in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as an example.

TOI Edit: Trump-Putin Meet: India Must Get Us Exemptions For Russia Dealings

The meeting between US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki has provided much fodder for American political opposition. Trump is being criticised for not confronting Putin over alleged Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election. Trump is caught between a rock and a hard place here. He is unlikely to acknowledge Russian interference as that would be tantamount to questioning the legitimacy of his own election – not something one expects Trump to do.

US-Russia relations stand at a complicated juncture today. While Trump thinks he can get along with Putin, US Congress has a very different perception of Moscow. This contradiction shows up in the promulgation of US Congress’s Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), which targets Russia and was signed into law by Trump last year despite his reservations. There’s also a clear divide between Trump and the American intelligence community over Russia. But New Delhi would benefit from an improvement in US-Russia ties as it maintains useful and strategic relations with both. Russia is an old ally and important defence partner, while New Delhi today is looking for greater military and economic cooperation with Washington. Thus New Delhi and Trump are on the same side on this one.

This is where CAATSA becomes an impediment. For example, India is in talks to acquire Russian S-400 missile defence systems. The purchase would attract CAATSA sanctions unless exemptions are granted by the US. Indian diplomacy needs to step up to the plate and ensure the latter. Thus, Trump’s outreach to Putin must be seen as an opportunity to establish clear lines of understanding on this issue between New Delhi and Washington. South Block needs to be nimble and must not be caught napping by storms roiling the strategic firmament.

Government Bans Telecast Of 30 Pakistani And Islamic Channels In Valley

The Governor’s administration in Jammu and Kashmir has banned the telecast of at least 30 Pakistani and Islamic channels in the Valley for ‘maintaining peace and tranquillity’ in the region

SRINAGAR: The Governor’s administration in Jammu and Kashmir has banned the telecast of at least 30 Pakistani and Islamic channels in the Valley for ‘maintaining peace and tranquillity’ in the region.

Additional District Commissioner, Srinagar, in an order directed all heads of cable operators in Srinagar to stop telecasting and transmitting is not permitted and banned private satellite channels in Srinagar district.

The cable operators said they had been directed to stop telecasting 30 channels, including Geo TV, ARY, Q-TV, Saudi Quran, Saudi, Hadi, Karbala, Paigam, Peace TV Urdu, Haadi, Noor, Sehar, Madani, Saudi Sunah and others.

Firebrand independent MLA Er Sheikh Abdur Rashid termed the ban as an “attack on freedom of expression and ample proof that government is short of ideas as to how to deal with the situation”.

He said security agencies were seeing developments through the prism of law and order, forgetting that their measures had yielded nothing except making people more alienated. “If government is truly concerned about hatred being spread by electronic media, then one has a right to ask the administration why doesn’t it ban the national TV channels, which spread venom against Kashmiris and create communal divide every evening,”added Rashid.

‘Surgical Strikes As And When Needed’

Govt. says credible inputs were received

Indian Army carries out preemptive operations on terror launch pads along the Line of Control (LoC) as and when required, the government informed Parliament on Wednesday.

This was in response to a question on the surgical strikes carried out by the Army against Pakistan army over the last 15 years.

“Based on specific and credible inputs about terrorist teams having positioned themselves at launch pads along the LoC to carry out infiltration and conduct terrorist strikes in Jammu and Kashmir and in various metros in other States, the Indian Army carries out operations to pre-empt infiltration by terrorists, as and when required,” Minister of State for Defence Dr. Subhash Bhamre said in a written reply in the Lok Sabha.

This is an indirect acceptance that surgical strikes on terror launch pads are not a one off event as was claimed earlier but have happened on several occasions.

No Figures Given

The answer did not specify the number of cross border strikes year-wise.

In the aftermath of the terror attack on the Army camp in Uri during September 2016, the Army had launched surgical strikes on terror launch pads along the LoC, which several Ministers had claimed showcased the government’s “decisiveness” in hitting terrorists on the other side of the LoC.

Mattis, Pompeo To Travel To India In September For 2+2

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Secretary of Defence James Mattis, and NSA John Bolton

Talks postponed as Pompeo travelled to North Korea

The first 2+2 dialogue between Defence and Foreign Ministers of India and the U.S. will take place in September first week in New Delhi. An official announcement on this will be likely in the next few days, The Hindu has learnt.

The dialogue was scheduled for July 6 in Washington, but was postponed due to changes in Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s schedule. Mr. Pompeo was in Pyongyang for denuclearisation talks with the North Korean regime on July 6. Defence Secretary James Mattis had offered to host Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on the same day, but India did not warm up to the idea of a truncated meeting.

Unexpected Delay

Mr. Pompeo and Mr. Mattis will now travel to New Delhi in the first week of September. Meanwhile, both countries are trying to turn the extra time provided by the unexpected postponement of the dialogue into advantage. Negotiations are under way on the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA). Two U.S delegations are in India this week — one on Iran sanctions and the other on U.S.-India Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI).

A communications agreement is key to the forward movement of the pending proposal for India to buy armed drones from American company General Atomics. India has reservations about the standard text of the COMCASA agreement that the U.S enter into with allies. While the U.S. would prefer the standard agreement, it is open to an India-specific agreement as well. Both sides have exchanged drafts of the agreement, and negotiators are hopeful of its conclusion in time for the dialogue.

Private Sector Concerns

Meanwhile, private sector defence companies are concerned that they might not be getting an opportunity to meet Ellen Lord, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment who arrived in India on Wednesday.

Ms. Lord’s visit is to boost DTTI and similar visits in the past usually included a round table with private defence companies. “The private sector is expected to a play a key role in DTTI and their participation in the dialogue would be helpful,” said Benjamin Schwartz, Head of the U.S.-India Business Council’s Defence and Aerospace program.

106 Contracts Signed Under Defence 'Make In India': Government

India has purchased the lethal Apache attack gunships from the US, delivery to start in 2019

New Delhi: In the last three and half years, a total of 106 contracts were signed with local vendors for procurement of defence equipment amid mounting criticism that not even one big project could take off in what was billed as one of the cornerstones of the ‘Make in India’ initiative, the government on Wednesday said. The contracts have been signed for the purchase of helicopters, radars, ballistic helmets, artillery guns, simulators, missiles, bulletproof jackets, electronic fuses and ammunition, Minister of State for Defence Subhash Bhamre said in a written reply in the Lok Sabha.

The minister further stated that the government also carried out the capital procurement of defence equipment as per the extant Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP)- 2016. It “focuses on institutionalising, streamlining and simplifying defence procurement procedure to give a boost to the ‘Make in India’ initiative by promoting indigenous design, development and manufacturing of defence equipment, platforms, systems and sub-systems.”

Subhash Bhamre said the Defence Ministry was committed to DPP-2016 and was taking all steps necessary to realise its objectives. He said the government has also promulgated the policy of Strategic Partnership in the defence sector which encourages participation of the private sector in the manufacture of major defence platforms and equipment in four selected segments – submarines, fighter aircraft, helicopters and armoured fighting vehicles and tanks.

However, with less than a year left in the five-year tenure of the Modi government, the defence ministry is yet to award any major contract to private players for manufacturing fighter jets, submarines and tanks.

India And US Hold Meeting To Further Defence Cooperation

The US has offered India Armed Version of Guardian drone

India and the US held the seventh meeting of the Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) that seeks to overcome bureaucratic obstacles to cooperation and identify opportunities for sharing of defence technologies.

At a time when the India-US military relationship appears to have taken a hit because of American sanctions against Russia, senior defence officials from both sides met here on Wednesday to strengthen defence cooperation.

India and the US held the seventh meeting of the Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) that seeks to overcome bureaucratic obstacles to cooperation and identify opportunities for sharing of defence technologies.

The DTTI meeting was co-chaired Ajay Kumar, secretary (defence production) and Ellen M Lord, US under secretary of defence for acquisition and sustainment.

“The meetings are held twice a year, alternately in India and the US, with the aim to bring sustained leadership focus to the bilateral defence trade relationship and create opportunities for co-production and co-development of defence equipment,” a defence ministry release said.

According to the release, Lord said the DTTI was an important forum leading to the 2+2 dialogue. The 2+2 talks between the defence and foreign ministers of India and the US are scheduled to take place in Delhi in early September.

The DTTI seeks to identify opportunities for co-development and co-production of military hardware, collaborate on science and technology projects and jointly explore policy changes needed to further the military relationship. The US Department of Defence established an exclusive India Rapid Reaction Cell in 2015 to support the DTTI. Several joint working groups have been formed under the DTTI including those on aircraft carrier technology cooperation.

US offers India Armed Version of Guardian Drone: Sources

A US service personnel passes in front of a MQ-9 Reaper Combat drone

FARNBOROUGH: The United States has offered India the armed version of Guardian drones that were originally authorised for sale as unarmed for surveillance purposes, a senior U.S. official and an industry source told Reuters.

If the deal comes to fruition, it would be the first time Washington has sold a large armed drone to a country outside the NATO alliance.

It would also be the first high-tech unmanned aircraft in the region, where tensions between India and Pakistan run high.

In April, President Donald Trump's administration rolled out a long-awaited overhaul of US arms export policy aimed at expanding sales to allies, saying it would bolster the American defence industry and create jobs at home.

The plan included a new drone export policy that allowed lethal drones that can fire missiles, and surveillance drones of all sizes, to be more widely available to allies.

One administrative hurdle to the deal is that Washington is requiring India to sign up to a communications framework that some in New Delhi worry might be too intrusive, the U.S. official said.

The drones were on the agenda at a cancelled meeting between Indian and the US ministers of state and defence that was set for July, the sources said. The top level meeting is now expected to take place in September.

Last June, General Atomics said the US government had approved the sale of a naval variant of the drone. India has been in talks to buy 22 of the unarmed surveillance aircraft, MQ-9B Guardian, worth more than $2 billion to keep watch over the Indian Ocean.

Besides potentially including the armed version of the drone, the sources said the number of aircraft had also changed.

An Indian defense source said the military wanted a drone not just for surveillance but also to be able to hunt down targets at land and sea. The military had argued the costs of acquisition did not justify buying an unarmed drone.

The cost and integration of the weapons system are still issues, as well as Indian assent to the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) which Washington insists on as a condition for operating advanced defense systems.

India, the defence source said, has shed its opposition to the agreement after an assurance from the United States it would apply largely to U.S-procured weapons systems such as fighter planes and drones and not to the large Russian-origin equipment with the Indian military.

US drone manufacturers, facing growing competition overseas, especially from Chinese and Israeli rivals which often sell under lighter restrictions, have lobbied hard for the changes in U.S export rules.

Among the changes will be a more lenient application by the US government of an arms export principle known as "Presumption of Denial." This has impeded many drone deals by automatically denying approval unless a compelling security reason is given together with strict buyer agreements to use the weapons in accordance with international law.

A second U.S. official said the new policy would "change our calculus" by easing those restrictions on whether to allow any given sale.

The MTCR - a 1987 missile-control pact signed by the United States and 34 other countries - will still require strict export controls on Predator-type drones, which it classifies as Category 1, those with a payload of over 1,100 pounds (500 kg).

However, the Trump administration is seeking to renegotiate the MTCR accord to eventually make it easier to export the larger armed drones.

The head of Pentagon's Defence Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) told Reuters at the Farnborough Airshow that he was unable to comment on any pending deals that had not been notified to Congress.

Jaish Terrorists Training In Deep Sea Diving To Hit Navy Warships: Sources

Sources have indicated the threat is "specific" and Naval bases have been alerted-Representation

New Delhi: Terror group Jaish-e-Mohammad may be planning to attack Indian Navy warships using deep sea divers, according to an intelligence alert that the Navy is seriously assessing.

The intelligence report, processed by India's Multi Agency Centre that coordinates intelligence between security agencies, indicates that a group of Jaish terrorists are presently trained in deep sea techniques in Bahawalpur, Pakistan, and may be planning to "target strategic assets of the Navy."

It is unclear whether "strategic" has been used in a generic manner to indicate a threat to Navy warships since it can also imply a threat to India's most sensitive military assets - its ballistic missile submarines, the INS Arihant and INS Arighat, which are designed to fire nuclear-tipped submarine launched ballistic missiles. Both submarines and the Russian-built nuclear attack submarine INS Chakra are based in Visakhapatnam.

Senior sources in the Navy have told NDTV that India's Naval bases and ports have a multi-layered security grid with sonar systems deployed on approaches to harbours which are specifically designed to detect deep sea divers. Navies around the world acknowledge the threat posed to capital warships when they are in port or anchored out at sea. Unable to manoeuvre in tight spaces, large warships cannot defend themselves effectively against underwater threats in confined spaces like ports and dockyards.

In 2,000, 17 US Navy sailors were killed when Al-Qaeda terrorists rammed an explosives laden boat into the destroyer USS Cole when it was refuelling at the port of Aden in Yemen.

Plenty of Life Left In The F-16

Even though the first F-16 prototype flew in 1974, the aircraft continues to receive updates that allow it to still compete with newer aircraft in the market. The newest iteration is the F-16V, which features a revised cockpit and a Sniper ATP targeting pod.

Following the recent order for 16 F-16V Block 70 fighters for Bahrain, and the announcement last week that Slovakia has selected 14 of the same version to replace its ageing MiG-29 fighters, the Lockheed Martin F-16 is underlining its credentials in the fighter marketplace. Although the prototype first flew in January 1974, the type remains a force to be reckoned with in competition with much younger rivals.

“We’re seeing a remarkable resurgence in interest in the F-16,” remarked Randy Howard, Lockheed Martin’s F-16 business development executive. “A lot of it has to do with the Block 70.”
Among the most prominent new-build opportunities is that for India, where Lockheed Martin has offered to move the production line if selected
The current version, also known as the F-16V, brings together a host of recent developments, including conformal fuel tanks, revised cockpit with two 10- by 10-cm (4- by 4-inch) side displays and a 15- by 20-cm (6- by 8-inch) center pedestal display, auto ground collision avoidance system, advanced helmet-mounted cueing sight, Sniper ATP targeting pod, and Link 16 datalink.

Most importantly, it is the first F-16 with an AESA “E-Scan” radar in the form of the Northrop Grumman APG-83. This radar has greater than 90 percent software commonality and more than 70 percent hardware commonality with the APG-81 radar of the F-35. Indeed, much of the Block 70 technology has been drawn from the F-35 program and can continue to benefit from similar updates in the future. It’s not all a one-way street either: F-16V technology such as the Auto-GCAS is finding its way into the F-35.

APG-83 and the F-16V’s new mission computer and high-speed data network provide the aircraft with advanced radar capabilities, such as the ability to track 20 air-to-air targets, with up to six prioritised. The radar can work in interleaved air-to-air and air-to-surface modes, the latter including mapping to 160 nm (296 km). At the same time, the solid-state radar is considerably more reliable than the earlier mechanically scanned radars.

Lockheed Martin is offering the F-16V as both new-build machines and as an upgrade to older Block 40/50 aircraft. The upgrade could be applied to earlier Block 30 machines, but the process would be more invasive and might not be cost-effective for high-time aircraft, the company said.

Life Extension

In terms of structural life, 841 of the U.S. Air Force’s F-16s will go through a service life-extension program that raises their lives from 8,000 to 12,000 hours, sufficient to keep them in service until at least 2045. One test aircraft was put through a simulated life of more than 27,000 hours. New-production aircraft are now being built as 12,000-hour airframes.

With production at Fort Worth coming to an end to provide more space for F-35 assembly, future F-16s—beginning with those for Bahrain—will be built in Greenville, South Carolina, where the production line will start receiving components next year. The first aircraft being delivered from the new plant is expected in late 2021/early 2022.

Howard reported that there are four F-16V upgrade programs under way, covering more than 400 aircraft. He also envisions a realistic market for more than 400 new aircraft.

Of the 4,604 F-16s built to date, nearly 3,000 remain operational in 25 countries, providing good potential for upgrades or follow-on orders. As well as pointing out that the aircraft has flown more than 400,000 combat sorties and has a 75:0 kill-to-loss ratio in air combat, Howard noted that there have been 56 cases of repeat orders throughout the F-16’s history.

Among the most prominent new-build opportunities is that for India, where Lockheed Martin has offered to move the production line if selected. The company has teamed with TATA to compete for the Indian requirement. There would be some local modifications required, including the installation of probe/drogue refuelling gear.

CAG Examining Rafale Deal; CBI Probing 4 Graft Cases In Defence Deals: Subhash Bhamre

The Congress has also been demanding details of the Rafale deal

NEW DELHI: The country's national auditor CAG is examining the Rafale fighter jet deal worth Rs 58,000 crore on which the Congress has been targeting the BJP-led government accusing it of wrongdoings.

Minister of State for Defence Subhash Bhamre, replying to a question in the Lok Sabha, said the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) is conducting an audit of the capital acquisition system of Indian Air Force including the Rafale aircraft deal.

To a separate query, he also said that four cases of corruption in defence deals have been registered by the CBI since 2015.

India had signed an inter-governmental agreement with France in September 2016 for procurement of 36 Rafale jets. The delivery of the jets is scheduled to begin from September, 2019.

The Congress has been raising several questions about the deal including on the rates, and accused the government of compromising national interest and security while causing a loss to the public exchequer. The government has rejected the allegations.

Asked about details of the defence deals finalised in the last three-and-half years, he said information about agreements signed for purchase of arms and ammunition "cannot be disclosed in the interest of national security as well as in the interest of India's relations with concerned foreign countries."

The Congress has also been demanding details of the Rafale deal. However, the government has refused to share the details, citing confidentiality provisions of a 2008 Indo-France pact.

Bhamre said the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) 2016 envisages signing of an integrity pact between government and the bidders for all capital procurement schemes of Rs 20 crore and above as against earlier provision of signing such a pact in cases involving Rs 100 crore and above.

He said no firm or entity has been blacklisted for misconduct in defence deals during the last three years. However, six firms were debarred from further business dealings with the defence ministry for a period of 10 years.

Bhamre said business dealings were suspended or put on hold in respect of 14 firms.