Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The Fighter For India’s Future: Going Back To The Beginning


Fighter pilots who know say that single engine fighters being smaller are better optimised aerodynamically improving their survivability in a dogfight

The generally believed superior survivability of a twin-engine fighter is also questioned

by Mohan Guruswamy

The Indian Air Force has just released an RFI (request for information) for 110 fighters not very much after the Narendra Modi government scrapped the MMRCA deal for 126 fighters to buy 18 ready for combat Rafale fighters and 108 to be built in India. The French Rafale was chosen as the fighter for the future after an almost decade-long process of contemplation, examination, evaluation and a competition that came to be called the “shoot-out”. We still haven’t got to know why it really was scrapped?

The IAF was hoping for a minimum of four squadrons of Rafale fighters, but the Narendra Modi government has kept the initial order down to 36 fighters in a flyaway condition for 7.8 billion euros or $9.13 billion (@1 euro=$1.17). Commenting on this, the officer who headed the intensive selection process that led to the choice of the Rafale, Air Marshal (retd.) M. Matheswaran observed that “the original MMRCA tender was cleared for $10.5 billion for 126 aircraft,” suggesting that delay in deciding is also a factor that is costing the country dear.

The Rafale is a twin engine, canard delta wing, multi-role fighter designed and built by Dassault Avions to replace a multitude of specialised platforms such as the Jaguar, Mirage F-1, Mirage 2000 and Super Etendard. To that extent it is truly a multi-role aircraft, but is still very different from what it was initially intended to originally replace — the Mirage 2000.

The single engine Mirage 2000 was designed as a competitor to the USA’s F-16 and made an impressive debut at the Farnborough air show in 1978. In 1985, in response to Pakistan’s acquisition of F-16 fighters, the Rajiv Gandhi government decided to induct 150 Mirage 2000 fighters into the IAF. The first 49 aircraft were to be imported from France and the rest manufactured by HAL. But the second part of the program was not implemented despite HAL having invested in an assembly line for Mirage 2000’s. What happened is still a matter of speculation.

But there is another scandal implicit in how a bid by the IAF to buy more single engine Mirage 2000 fighters became a bid for the heavy MMRCA. But the MoD turned this IAF request down opining that the Mirage 2000-5 variant being offered by Dassault was a different aircraft because it was not the Mirage 2000. The dash 5 suffix was enough for the mandarins to decide it was a different aircraft and hence a fresh bid should be called for. This is how the requirement for a light fighter became a competition between twin-engine fighters. Now we are back at square one. The IAF still wants light fighters to replace its large but obsolete fleet of single engine light fighters like the MiG 21, 23 and 27 series.

The arguments over the pros and cons of single and twin-engine fighters are old. One perennial argument is that two engines make the aircraft less vulnerable, give it more range and weapons load.

Fighter pilots who know say that single engine fighters being smaller are better optimised aerodynamically improving their survivability in a dogfight. They argue, “having one engine means that mass is distributed closer to the central axis which reduces roll inertia and improves roll onset rate”. Their smaller size also means that they are more difficult to acquire by hostile radar or visually. These experts also argue that single engine fighters tend to have superior fuel fractions, which is the weight of the fuel divided by the gross takeoff weight of the aircraft. A lower fuel fraction means a comparable or longer range. Besides all modern fighters, light or heavy, are now equipped with aerial refueling

The generally believed superior survivability of a twin-engine fighter is also questioned. Most modern twin-engine fighters have their engines next to each other and the loss of one in combat or due to fire often means the other also doesn’t make it. These experts also cite numbers to bolster their claim. Their data shows that the USAF loses more twin jet F-15s to engine fires than the single engine F-16. Also the F-18 Hornet’s crash rate is 3.6 per 100,000 hours, while the Gripen’s is 2.46. Others challenge the survivability argument citing Gulf War data analysis showing the F-16 had a loss rate of 0.22 per 1,000 sorties while the F-15s had a loss rate of 0.91 and F-18’s a loss rate of 0.66.

The proponents of twin-engine fighters usually weigh in with the IAF’s experience with the MiG-21. The MiG-21 was designed in 1954 and has some basic design flaws such a cockpit visibility and high landing speed (360 kmph). Almost half the MiG-21 crashes were due to pilot error due to inadequate training facilities such as AJT’s and simulators. To compound problems the quality of manufacture and spares by HAL has been very suspect. In any case, the MiG-21 series are well past their use till age. The IAF literally flies them held together with wire and soap. That’s why they should be retired to parks and playgrounds as soon as possible.

Finally there is the cost factor. According to open sources a JAS 39 Gripen can cost anywhere between $30-60 million each depending on configuration. By contrast a Rafale starts at $80 million.

According to the website www.airforce.com, the Gripen can outcompete the Eurofighter on costs and in a number of key areas such as better range, higher speed, less weight and lower operating costs. A former Air Chief estimates a price difference of anywhere between `250-350 crores each between a 4 gen single and twin-engine fighters.

The IAF has been shouting itself hoarse over the rapidly depleting fleet. The MoD’s insistence on a complete new process, like the almost decade long MMRCA process, is seen as another ploy by the bureaucrats to delay the process. It makes even less sense when the IAF and MoD have the information needed to make an enlightened and perhaps even honest decision. But the question still remains; why not restrict this bid to single engine fighters, particularly since the total costs will be much less? Besides the only two single engine fighters to choose from now are the Saab JAS 39 Gripen and the Lockheed F-16C Block 72 Viper have already been evaluated in the course of the MMRCA shoot out. Both manufacturers have expressed their willingness to break ground in India and build factories to aggregate the aircraft here.

The promise of the Tejas LCA has so far remained a promise. Even if the Tejas-Mk2 is finally cleared for serial production, HAL cannot produce them in the numbers and time frame the IAF requires. Clearly we need two production lines of single engine light fighters, one of who must almost certainly be the Tejas. In the years to come, as India’s economy grows and as regional Geo-politics will inevitably change, India will have to consider a bigger air force and hence cost will become a more important factor. Unlike the Marut HF24, the Tejas should become the building block for a truly indigenous fighter aircraft design and production capacity. That’s why, apart from the huge economic benefits, “Make in India” becomes so important. Without it we are just like another Saudi Arabia splurging on military hardware.


Boeing's Make-In-India Strong Pitch For Making 110 Jets In India


Boeing will partner with Indian defence contractors in setting up a F/A-18 fighter jet production facility

A strong ‘Make in India’ theme will be behind US aircraft maker Boeing’s pitch for the Indian Air Force’s order for 110 fighter jets. The order, worth around Rs 800 billion, seeks commitment from vendors to supply sensitive technologies as well to carry out a bulk of manufacturing in India.

Getting new aircraft is crucial for PMNarendra Modi as the South Asian nation faces increased risks from neighbouring Pakistan and China at a time when the Russian MiG fighters -- India’s mainstay -- are being phased out. According to the government, the country’s air force and navy require as many as 400 single- and twin-engine combat aircraft. The first aircraft must be delivered within three years of signing the contract. PM Modi plans to modernise the country’s ageing military equipment with a $250 billion spending, but it has been bogged down by a defence procurement process which is known for delays, backtracking and a history of corruption, making it a sensitive, slow-going process.

Boeing will partner with India’s state-run Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) and Mahindra Defence Systems for its bid to sell 110 fighter aircraft to the Indian Air Force (IAF), the company said in a statement on April 12. The new facility Boeing says could also be used to support other Indian defence projects such as the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA).

“The RFI (request for information) is much contemporary this time. It broadens the scope and competition. It focuses on the IAF’s real war-fighting capabilities. Our joint venture is an optimum mix of capability, cost and industrialisation,” said Pratyush Kumar, president, Boeing India.

Boeing and its local partners are ready to set up an “entirely new and state-of-the-art production facility,” which would provide the “infrastructure, personnel training, operational tools and techniques” necessary to support the local production of its F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fighter aircraft, according to the press release.," Kumar added.

Several foreign manufacturers have objected to ToT without a majority stake in a partnership. Under the current strategic partnership model, it is mandatory for an Indian firm to have at least a 51 per cent stake. Kumar said that having a public sector player as partner made their case of indigenisation stronger. “With a public-private partnership approach, I am bringing the best of public sector and private sector — the only two companies in India which have manufactured airplanes,” he said.

Pratyush Kumar said the US government’s willingness to liberalise rules on transfer of technology (ToT) gave them a leg-up against competitors. “I don’t think ToT is an issue. It is not us but the US government is saying that rules will be more forward-looking. The US now recognises India as its ‘major defence partner’ and they are much more forward-leaning and sharing technology with India,” he said.

The IAF issued a long-awaited request for information (RFI) to global vendors for the procurement of 110 fighter aircraft on April 6. The tender is open for single-engine and twin-engine fighter aircraft. (The new RFI replaces an October 2016 RFI for a new single-engine fighter aircraft.) As I explained earlier this week:

According to the RFI, the IAF is seeking to procure 82-83 (75 percent) single-seat fighter jets and 27-28 twin-seat variants (25 percent). Out of the 110 aircraft, 16-17 (15 percent) are to be bought in fly-away condition, whereas the rest are to be built in India under the framework of the Indian Ministry of Defense (MoD) Defense Procurement Procedure 2016 to facilitate the manufacturing of military hardware locally.

Boeing was outbid in 2011 under the $20 billion MMRCA (medium multi-role combat aircraft) project by French aircraft maker Dassault Aviation and its Rafale fighter jet. However, the MMRCA project was cancelled in July 2015 and the IAF decided to procure 36 off-the-shelf Dassault Rafale fighter jets instead in September 2016.

Boeing’s probable rivals in the process, Dassault, SAAB and Lockheed, have chosen private players Reliance, Adani and the TATA as their respective partners. “The only company which has achieved something in aircraft manufacturing is a public company. The industry I believe cannot suddenly ignore them and go for other, that’s not wise. We brought our industrial partners and spoke to almost 400 companies in the sector. We realised ignoring HAL is a bad idea,” Kumar said.

In addition to the April 2018 tender for 110 land-based fighter jets, Boeing is also interested in pitching its carrier capable F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jet to the Indian Navy (IN). The IN intends to procure 57 new carrier-based multi-role fighters for its new Vikrant-class aircraft carriers.

The Eurofighter consortium and Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation are also expected to participate in the competitive bidding process.

Our Bureau

India-Made TEJAS Proves Its Mettle In IAF's Biggest Combat Exercise


Notwithstanding few snags they developed during Indian Air Force (IAF) combat exercise Gagan Shakti, a fleet of eight indigenous Tejas Light Combat Aircraft convinced the top brass of the IAF that the homemade combat jet is ready for operation.

Tejas LCA undertook 6 sorties a day. Each mission, lasting for 45 minutes on the lower side to one and half hours, proved the indigenous fighter jet's efficiency in an operational role.

There were technical snags, but none were repetitive in nature. “These were routine glitches. The turnaround time was less than six hours during the exercise. It can't be said these are nagging problems. LCA is a capable aircraft for ground attack,” said an officer.

Besides checking the efficacy and integration of LCA and Aakash air defence missile system, IAF used its biggest war game also to examine the capabilities of upgraded Mirage-2000 and MiG-29 in an operational environment.

During the two-week-long Gaganshakti exercise – the largest buildup of Indian military since Operation Brasstacks in the 1980s, IAF flew 11,000 sorties in two days simulating destruction of enemy targets not only near China and Pakistan borders but also in the high seas. As many as 9,000 sorties were by the fighter aircraft.

A team of 300 experts now analyse different aspects of the massive war game and a report is expected within a week. It took almost nine months for the IAF to prepare for the exercise during which IAF achieved 80% serviceability with its aircraft and 97% with the missiles, some of them are 40 years old system.

The pan-Indian drill was meant to test the IAF's ability to fight in a two-front war scenario. But in reality, it became a sequential exercise rather than a simultaneous one. The men and machines were first tested in the western front and subsequently switched to the eastern front within 48 hours for operations close to the Sino-Indian border.

Also, there was a maritime component as deep strike jets flew over the Indian Ocean to hit at decoy targets set by the Indian Navy. “This is as real as one can get. In an actual war, we take calculated risk, but this was a peacetime exercise,” said an officer.

The impact of the drill was felt across the border. China employed two of its airborne radar systems to keep an eye on the Indian exercise.

“In recent days, India has issued the largest air-to-air manoeuvres in the history of the country. The total number of participating aircraft has reached 1,100! Such large-scale air exercises are currently difficult for other countries except for the United States. If India really has more than 1,100 planes involved in the drill, China and Russia must look at India differently,” says a report (English translation) in one of China's state-controlled media named zhaizou.com.


Indian Air Force Lacks Squadron Strength To Tackle A Two-Front Emergency War

A Sukhoi Su-30MKI air superiority fighter of the Indian Air Force

With a skewed squadron strength and a limited number of fighter jets, the Indian Air force would be taking close to two days in shifting focus from Pakistan to China in case of an emergency two-front war situation. However, with a squadron strength of 42, the IAF can smoothly shift its focus from the northern frontier to the western frontier.

This lessons came after the recent Gagan Shakti exercise testing the Air Force's capability.

"With a full strength of 42, the Air Force can launch war within hours. But, the depleting numbers don't allow this. Mobilising resources from one end to another in less than 48 hours is a big achievement, even though we would ideally want this to be quicker," said an Air Force officer.

The Indian Air Force that is operating with only 33 fighter squadrons against the sanctioned strength of 42 will be further reduced to only 16 by 2032 and 19 by 2027.

As of now, the Air Force requires at least 45 squadrons but it is well short of the target. Each squadron has 18-20 fighter jets.

"During the exercise, we tried to maximise what we can do with our current capability. Quick deployment at a short notice was one of the key takeaways," said an officer.


Exercise Gagan Shakti 2018: The Conclusion


Exercise Gagan Shakti-2018 provided IAF with an excellent opportunity to practice its wartime drills and undertake, operations in a realistic scenario

The Indian Air Force successfully conducted PAN INDIA Exercise Gagan Shakti 2018 from 08-22 Apr 2018. The aim of the exercise was real-time coordination, deployment and employment of air power in a short and intense battle scenario. IAF had never carried out an exercise of this scale earlier, planning for which started almost nine months back.
During Gagan Shakti 2018, IAF exercised its entire warfighting machinery to validate its concept of operations and war-waging capability.
The focus of the exercise was to check the viability of our operational plans and learn meaningful lessons.

The exercise was conducted in two phases so that all Commands get adequate opportunity to test the efficacy of their preparedness.

Phase-I of the exercise involved activation of Western, South Western and Southern Air Commands, with affiliated Army and Naval components.

Phase-II of the exercise involved activation of Western, Central, Eastern and Southern Air Commands. Re-deployment for Phase-II involved relocating the forces so as to be effective at the new locations within a short span of 48 hours. This was made possible by round the clock operations of heavy-lift transport aircraft like C-17 and IL-76 as well as by employing a large number of tactical airlift aircraft like C-130 and An-32 aircraft. IAF also used civil Chartered flight and trains for mobilisation of resources.

During the exercise, all types of combat missions, encompassing all air campaigns, were conducted.

Fighter aircraft undertook surge operations i.e. generating a maximum number of sorties in a 24 hours cycle. These included long-range missions with concentrated live and simulated weapon releases across all air to ground ranges in India, the creation of Air Defence Umbrella to facilitate operation of ground forces and Counter Surface Force Operations in support of Army in various sectors, during both phases.

Maritime Operations involving long-range maritime strikes with Maritime Reconnaissance support by Indian Navy aircraft were also practised. The efficacy and integration of indigenous LCA aircraft and Akash Missile system in the operational matrix of the IAF were also checked out.

In addition, capabilities of upgraded Mirage-2000 and MiG-29 aircraft were tested for the first time in an operational environment.
All types of aerial weapons, including standoff and precision weapons, were employed to validate their use in the Air Operations Matrix.
Combat Support Operations involved missions by force enablers like AWACS and Air to Air refuellers, Special Ops comprising a Battalion Group Para drop, Special Ops with Garud Commandos, Combat Search and Rescue for effective extraction of downed aircrew behind enemy lines, sea rescue and operations from Advanced Landing Grounds.

The transport aircraft also undertook mass casualty evacuation missions in all Commands employing C-17, C-130 and An-32 aircraft. Helicopter missions included Special Heliborne Operations, casualty evacuation, strike missions against enemy formations and Inter-Valley Troop Transfer.

For joint operations, IAF’s joint command and control structures with Indian Army and Navy, such as Advance HQ of IAF co-located with Army Commands, Tactical Air Centres, Maritime Air Ops Centre, and Maritime Elements of Air Force etc were activated. Army troops and combat vehicles were deployed to simulate Tactical Battle Areas in all Commands and some of the army exercises were dovetailed with air operations for simulation of a realistic battlefield environment.

Ships were deployed, both in the Arabian Sea as well as in the Bay of Bengal, for anti-shipping strikes by IAF, maritime aircraft operating from bases on the east and west coast, as well as from island territories.
During the exercise, more than 11000 sorties were flown, which include approx. 9000 sorties by fighter aircraft.
To sustain the tempo of operations on such a large scale, on a 24 x 7 basis, the training status of entire IAF was enhanced, especially the aircrew. All qualified and medically fit crew up to 48 years of age were made proficient and current by giving them re-validation training on combat assets, employed during the exercise. Even the technical manpower focused on their primary tasks and rehearsed their SOPs/practices in the run up to the exercise.

Intense operations of this magnitude, in a short span of time, involved very close coordination with Airport Authority of India for airspace coordination. It was an endeavour of the IAF to conduct this exercise with negligible disruptions of civil traffic anywhere in the country. IAF had also activated a number of civil airfields to support combat operations during the exercise.

All operations were conducted in a Network Enabled scenario with a very high reliability of communications, networked air defence systems employing ops-enabling software.

A major highlight of the exercise was a very high availability and reliability of all combat assets including aircraft, missile systems and radars. High tempo operations also enabled the IAF to ascertain sustainability of the logistics chain.
Over 1,400 officers and 14,000 men were pulled out of training establishments and deployed for the exercise, to augment existing resources.
IAF was able to achieve 80% serviceability of aircraft while radars and surface to air guided weapons maintained a serviceability to 97%, which included some of the legacy systems that were over 40 years old. Focused effort enabled a dispatch rate of more than 95% for the Combat Assets, 100% availability of Combat Support Systems and almost 100% dispatch rates of Combat Enablers. This had been possible due to good planning and dedicated efforts of our air warriors as well as continuous support by DPSUs that is HAL, BEL and DRDO.

Flight line in-service abilities were promptly rectified by a dedicated maintenance crew. The logistics stamina of the IAF and the ability to sustain continuous operations through day and night was put through a rigorous assessment. Contingencies such as repair of battle damaged. Aircraft and relocation of essential services due to enemy air action were also practiced.

The exercise also focused heavily on base security aspects. Simulated drills involving infiltration into an operational area by various means were practised.
Dedicated contingencies were conducted towards sustaining operations in a Chemical, Biological,. Radiological and Nuclear attack scenario.
Different techniques for repairing runway after bomb damage were practised in addition to the restoration of essential services and mass casualty evacuation at forward bases. Extensive coordination with Territorial Army Units and Local Civil Administration was undertaken to refine response during various security and administrative contingencies.

Exercise Gagan Shakti 2018 provided IAF with an excellent opportunity to practice its war time drills and undertake, operations in a realistic scenario. Activities were undertaken in a cohesive manner to achieve the stated objectives of the Indian Air Force, in case of any contingency.

The exercise also enabled the IAF to validate the operational efficacy of new platforms and refine existing Standard Operating Procedures.

Joint operations with Army and Navy, conducted during the exercise, would help in achieving better operational synergy between the three services, in the application of combat power.


TEJAS Has Capability To Engage Hostile Fighter Jets: IAF


New Delhi: The Indian Air Force (IAF) on Tuesday said that the home-made Light Combat Aircraft (LAC) Tejas have performed well in the recently concluded 14-day ‘Gaganshakti’ exercise and also have ability to intercept and engage hostile fighter jets.

“We have done trials and validation of operational efficiency of LCA Tejas. We were able to generate six sorties per platform per day. In this exercise, we had deployed eight platforms,” said an IAF official who was associated with this exercise.

The exercise was started on April 8 and concluded on April 21. On the first day, six of Tejas jets reported “snag” which were of different kind. “But we were able to get those rectified soon,” said the official.

Satisfied by its performance, the sources said, “We are happy with the Tejass. We are looking for fast production and also induction into the force.

The Tejas LCA is a supersonic, single-seat, single-engine multi-role light fighter jet that has been under development since 1983 by India’s Aeronautical Development Agency state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). 

As of December 2017, a total of 20 Tejas LCA have been handed over to the IAF including four trainer aircraft. 

  • 15 additional Tejas LCA are expected to be produced in 2018
  • The ninth IAF Tejas LCA completed its maiden flight in March
  • On 1 July 2016, the LCA Tejas was inducted into the Squadron No 45 of the IAF and has been designed to replace the MiG-21 aircraft
  • The IAF conducted a massive show of strength for the first time in last three decades with focus on key areas like aerial combat, air to surface combat, paratrooper assault and medical evacuation
  • It was more a real war like situation where the IAF can get ready and reach from Western sector to Northern sector within 48 hours

On being asked about two-front war like situation, the sources said, “We have tried to maximize what we have. We have to fight with what we have.”

In this exercise, 1,400 officers and 14,000 men participated. A total of 11,000 sorties were flown out of which 9,000 were conducted by fighter jets in the pan-India peacetime air operations.


Chinese Air Force Monitored IAF’s Biggest Exercise Closely


The IAF clocked more 11,000 sorties during the two-phase air manoeuvres that saw the concentration of the air force’s deployed assets move from the western sector to the eastern front in less than 48 hours

IAF conducted maritime air operations on the Western sea board as part of the massive IAF exercise Gaganshakti-2018.

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) closely monitored different aspects of the Indian Air Force’s Gaganshakti-2018 exercise that concluded in the eastern sector on Sunday, said people involved in the drills.

The IAF clocked more 11,000 sorties during the two-phase air manoeuvres that saw the concentration of the air force’s deployed assets move from the western sector to the eastern front in less than 48 hours, an official said.

“Gaganshakti-2018 was the biggest IAF exercise ever and the PLAAF kept an eye on it. It’s not unusual as we also do the same when our neighbours carry out military drills,” the official said on Tuesday.

Quoting IAF chief Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa, Hindustan Times reported on April 17 that the Pakistan Air Force was monitoring the exercise through its airborne warning and control systems during its first phase in the western sector.

Another official said 300 expert teams were analysing different aspects of the exercise and a report on lessons learnt would be out in a week. The IAF took nine months to prepare for Gagan Shakti-2018, he added.

Dhanoa had earlier said the IAF was “shaking the heavens and splitting the Earth” with its extremely rapid operational tempo during the exercise held between April 8 and 22.

The Gaganshakti-2018 exercise sought to test the IAF’s readiness and stamina for a two-front war with China and Pakistan. From deep strikes to air dominance and maritime operations to air defence, the IAF practiced every manoeuvre in the book in its preparation for a short and intense war.

The officials said a few of the eight Tejas light combat aircraft that took part in the exercise developed snags but the IAF was able to generate as many as “six sorties per platform per day.”


Air Force Tests Capability To Handle Nuke Warfare During Mega Exercise


A major focus of the Gagan Shakti exercise was to check combat capability of the indigenously developed Light Combat Aircraft Tejas and their performance was satisfactory, IAF sources said

Capability for a two-front war with China and Pakistan was checked during the 13-day-long mega military exercise.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) tested its capability in dealing with a possible scenario of nuclear and biological warfare during a 13-day-long mega military exercise whose aim was to sharpen its war waging capability in the wake of fast evolving regional security situation.

Official sources said the focus of the Gagan Shakti exercise from April 8-20 was to check the viability of IAF’s operational plans to deal with any kind of challenge including nuclear warfare and a possible situation of a two-front war with China and Pakistan.

A major focus of the exercise was to check combat capability of the indigenously developed Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas and their performance was satisfactory, IAF sources said.

They said eight Tejas were deployed during the exercise and some of these had reported minor technical issues, adding each of the six Tejas had flown six sorties daily like any other platforms including Sukhoi, Mirage 2000 and MiG-29 jets.

The sources said aim of the exercise was to test IAF’s combat readiness in a real time scenario, adding it had never carried out an exercise of this scale earlier. A key focus of the exercise was to check IAF’s readiness to deal with a biological, chemical and nuclear war and we were satisfied with our capability to deal with such situations, they said.

They also said all types of aerial weapons, including standoff and precision weapons were deployed to validate their use in the air operations matrix. As part of the massive drill, the IAF deployed its entire assets for the pan-India exercise with fighter jets, equipped with strategic weapons like BrahMos and Harpoon anti ship missiles, carrying out deep penetration strikes to revalidate its strategic reach.

During the exercise, the sources said over 11,000 sorties were flown which included nearly 9,000 sorties by fighter aircraft. The combat drill was carried out at a time when China was increasing its assertiveness along the borders with India and while Pakistan has been continuing its skirmishes along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir.

The exercise covered all terrains including desert, high altitude areas like Ladakh and maritime sphere.

During combat drills near Sino-India border, the IAF significantly focused on inter valley transfer of troops considering various possible situations of conflict and taking a lesson from the Doklam standoff.

Ensuring serviceability of fighter aircraft and various missile systems were a priority area and the IAF succeeded in its endeavour, officials said. The serviceability of surface-to-air missiles were around 97 per cent while serviceability of fighter jets were close to 80 per cent, they said.

Serviceability refers to availability of an aircraft or a weapon system for deployment. The IAF has been struggling to maintain high serviceability levels of its platforms due to difficulty in getting required spares.

Similarly, the IAF could ensure high levels of dispatch reliability which refers to ability to make the serviceable flying platforms airborne as and when required, the officials said.


A New, Stronger Xi Jinping Awaits PM Modi In China’s Wuhan

At Wuhan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will have to contend with a country on the rise with an authoritarian ruler (Xi Jinping) at its helm

Chinese premier Xi Jinping has reversed Deng Xiaoping’s policy of “biding time and hiding strength”. Instead, he talks about China playing a more dominant role in the world

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi shakes hands with President Xi Jinping in Wuhan this week, he will come face-to-face with a man who, with his authority enshrined in the country’s Constitution, is easily the strongest Chinese leader since Mao Zedong.

Xi now has the reins to all aspects of China’s governance. During his speech at the Communist Party of China congress last October, Xi reversed “paramount leader” Deng Xiaoping’s policy of “biding time and hiding strength”. Instead, Xi talked about China playing a more dominant role in the world and assuming global leadership along with other big powers.

In short, China has entered a new phase of development that reflects the “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era”, as announced in the president’s work report at the Communist Party congress.

In addition to the offices of Communist Party general secretary and president, Xi is the “core” of the party and chairperson of the Central Military Commission (CMC).

And in March, the party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection — at the forefront of Xi’s anti-graft campaign — was merged with the new National Supervisory Commission and put under the charge of Yang Xiaodu, said to be the president’s man.

During last October’s Congress, the party also appointed a slimmer CMC, down to seven members from the earlier 11.

The new line-up includes Xi, two vice-chairpersons and four members who have pledged loyalty to the president. Xi also included Gen Zhao Zongqi, who headed the Western Command during the Doklam standoff, in the party’s central committee.

During his visit to India in September 2014, Xi was still in the process of strengthening his grip on power. With the removal of the two-term limit for the post of president in March, that process is now complete.

One foreign policy aspect of the last Communist Party congress that stood out was China’s intention to play a more influential role globally, an aspect that is already evident in India’s neighbourhood. The networks of the multi billion dollar Belt and Road Initiative are gradually finding takers and spreading across South Asia.

One of BRI’s six flagship projects, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), something that has irked India.

Officially, Xi’s neighbourhood policy is benign, but he is more assertive than before.

At the Wuhan summit, Modi will have to contend with a country on the rise with an authoritarian ruler at its helm, a man who believes in his own wisdom and who believes that his country’s time on the global stage has come.


South Korean Yard Again Offers To Build Minesweepers In India

India's existing fleet of Minesweepers are of Soviet vintage which needs immediate replacement

The government issued an expression of interest on March 21 after earlier negotiations with Busan-based Kangnam to build 12 mine-countermeasure vessels at the state-owned Goa Shipyard Ltd collapsed at the final stage.

This is India’s third attempt in a decade to strengthen its navy’s mine warfare capabilities. Navies deploy minesweepers to secure harbours by locating and destroying mines.

South Korean company Kangnam Corporation has responded to India’s expression of interest to build minesweepers in the country under a Rs 32,640 crore programme, a senior government official said on Tuesday, after an earlier deal failed on the grounds of high costs.

The government issued an expression of interest on March 21 after earlier negotiations with Busan-based Kangnam to build 12 mine-countermeasure vessels (MCMVs) at the state-owned Goa Shipyard Ltd (GSL) collapsed at the final stage.

“Kangnam has responded to the EoI and we are expecting Italian yard Intermarine and maybe a few more shipbuilders to respond,” said GSL chairman Rear Admiral (retd) Shekhar Mital.

Foreign shipbuilders can respond to the expression of interest by May 10.

This is India’s third attempt in a decade to strengthen its navy’s mine warfare capabilities. Navies deploy minesweepers to secure harbours by locating and destroying mines.

As reported by the Hindustan Times on January 8, talks with Kangnam failed the last time as the two sides were unable to resolve commercial complications. Kangnam had competed with Intermarine for the project.

The government scrapped a deal in 2014 to build minesweepers in India in partnership with Kangnam, amid allegations that the South Korean firm had hired middlemen to swing things in its favour.

The navy’s present mine counter-measure force consists of six vessels bought from the erstwhile Soviet Union in the late 1970s. It requires at least 24 minesweepers to secure major harbours in the country, navy officials said.

The scenario is likely to worsen in the coming years as the existing minesweeper fleet is on its way to be decommissioned this year.

The navy would be without a single minesweeper till 2021, warned a March 2017 parliamentary report on the alarming decline in naval force levels. With the program being delayed further, the navy is likely to be without minesweepers even beyond 2021.

The construction of the first vessel was supposed to begin in April 2018 and deliveries of all the 12 minesweepers were to be completed between 2021 and 2026.

GSL has spent hundreds of crores on creating an infrastructure to kick off construction of the vessels, which are expected to have 60% indigenous content.

Facilities have been created for building glass-reinforced plastic hulls, a design that reduces the ship’s magnetic signature and allows safer navigation through waters that are mined. These underwater weapons can detonate on contact, or be activated by magnetic and acoustic signatures.


India Sets Tone for Discussion On American Protectionism Ahead of Xi-Modi Meet


Both India and China are against the protectionist approach adopted by the US last month. While China has retaliated by hardening tariffs against US goods, India is contemplating going to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) if it is not exempted from the levy imposed by the US on steel and aluminium imports

New Delhi — In an indirect reference to US President Donald Trump's trade policy, India's Minister of External Affairs has categorically rejected protectionism in all forms and reaffirmed its commitment towards a barrier-free trade policy. Speaking at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) foreign ministers meet, Sushma Swaraj, India's foreign minister, asked the eight SCO nations to promote liberalisation and facilitation of trade and investment to inject greater impetus into the world economy. 

"We believe that economic globalisation should be more open, inclusive, equitable, and balanced for mutual benefits. Protectionism in all its forms should be rejected and efforts should be made to discipline measures that constitute barriers to trade," Sushma Swaraj said.

Swaraj's comment holds special significance against the backdrop of India preparing for an "informal" meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Wuhan later this week. Earlier on Monday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry announced that both leaders will discuss the protectionist policy of the US and the unprecedented changes in the world order over the last 100 years.

"China and India share a wide array of common interests, common concerns, and common propositions. The leaders of the two countries will have an in-depth exchange of views on the overall, long-term, and strategic issues of the Sino-Indian relationship, and they will also discuss the trending issues of today's world. Stronger cooperation between China and India will make the world more peaceful, stable and prosperous," Lu Kang, China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson said during the regular press briefing on Monday.

Kang said that he cannot predict what the leaders will specifically talk about but "I believe that you will get very positive messages (on the issue of protectionism)."

While China has implemented tariffs on $53 billion worth of US goods, including American soybeans, cotton, cars and 100 other products following an American proposal for restrictions on up to $60 billion of Chinese technology imports, India is planning to move the WTO against the US protectionism.


Doklam Happened Due To Lack of Mutual Trust: China


Indian and Chinese troops had been locked in a stand-off for over two months last year in Doklam near Sikkim. The area is also claimed by Bhutan

The Doklam standoff happened due to “lack of mutual trust” between India and China, and they need to work together to create favourable conditions and gradually settle the boundary issue, a top Chinese diplomat said on Tuesday, ahead of this week’s informal summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Indian and Chinese troops had been locked in a stand-off for over two months last year in the Doklam area near Sikkim before “disengaging” on August 28. The area of the standoff is also claimed by Bhutan.

“The boundary incident that happened (at Doklam) last year someway reflected lack of mutual trust between the two countries,” vice-foreign minister Kong Xuanyou told the media when asked about the Doklam standoff.

Asked whether the Doklam standoff and the boundary issue will figure in the talks between Modi and Xi, Kong said the two leaders decided to hold informal summit “because both the countries attach great importance to each other in external strategy, not because of the boundary question that still remained unresolved, that we need to talk about it during the informal summit”.

India-China boundary dispute spans to 3,488-km along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). Both sides have held 20 rounds of talks between the Special Representatives to resolve it.

“Of course, the boundary question is important. Both sides need to work together to create favourable conditions and gradually settle it. Proper settlement of boundary question will help deepen cooperation and deepen mutual understanding and trust between the two countries,” Kong said.

He said both China and India needs to even make greater efforts to deepen their mutual trust.

“At the informal summit, the two leaders will have heart-to-heart discussions on the issues of overarching, long-term and strategic importance to bilateral relations. In terms of some specific differences or sensitive issues, the two sides will stay in touch with each other through relevant channels. In the process of deepening mutual trust, they will gradually find a way to try to settle them,” he said.


India, U.S. Cannot Be Fighting On Trade Issues But Cooperating On Defence: U.S. Ambassador To India


He further stressed that the US needs to take its defence relationship with India to the next level

"That means we ought to be providing India with the most advanced technology, we ought to make sure that if India is in trouble they have the means to win, if they are challenged,” he said.

Delivering the third ‘New India Lecture' organized by India's Consulate General in New York, Verma spoke at length on a wide range of topics pertaining to India-US relations, including H1B work visas, immigration as well as geo-political issues relating to China and Pakistan.

Verma, Vice Chairman and Partner at the Asia Group and a board member of the US-India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISPF), said the India-US relationship has been a "slightly under performing" one for decades.

"We have got some history that weighs us down. We still have some trust issues and neither side wants to be in an alliance," he said in his address on 'US-India: Natural Allies -- Absent the Alliance'.

Responding to a question on concerns among Indian workers over the H1B visa, Verma said last year about 1.1 million visas were issued to Indian nationals to come to the US in every category and out of these, about 50,000-60,000 were H1B visas.

"A very small percentage of the visa pool is for H1 B visas," he said.

Verma, who had served as the US Ambassador to India from 2014 to 2017, said he had conveyed to Indian CEOs and software companies that they have to be aware of the "political realities" in the US.

Verma, who has previously served as the Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs, noted that "some reforms are probably necessary", adding that the H1B visas are an important but "small part" of the overall people-to-people relationship between India and the US.

"I think US-India trade relationship is one relationship where you can get distinct wins on both sides," he said.

Highlighting the critical role of the diaspora in strengthening relations between India and the US, Verma said "we have to increase our people-to-people connections and we should be celebrating and standing up for the immigrants who come into this country and not looking at ways to shrink the pool of people coming here".

On the trajectory of India-US relations under the Trump administration, Verma said looking at Washington's all other bilateral relations, the one with India is "still on a pretty good trajectory"

While things have been moving along on the strategic side, on the economic side there are some growing pains. However, he said he is "more concerned about how we treat people who may not necessarily look like and sound like the rest of middle America and that's the part I keep the most eye out for in this environment".

Recalling the journey of his parents from India to the US, Verma said that immigrants and immigration have played a hugely important role in America.

It is not just one group of immigrants or immigrants who look a certain way but immigrants from all over the world and it's really important that we stand up for that group of people.


From Boundary Question To NSG, India Has Range of Concerns As Modi-Xi Meet Looms


Modi, Xi Jinping will strive to normalise India-China ties. India's concerns include the Belt and Road Initiative, which runs through PoK. It's the 1st time the Chinese president is hosting a leader for an “informal” summit. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping will meet later this week - on April 27 and 28 - in an "informal" environment in China's Wuhan

With the change in format, India and China are trying to set a precedent where leadership intervention can reset troubled ties.

India has a range of concerns, beginning with the huge trade imbalance (tilted in China's favour), the unresolved boundary question, the BRI (Belt and Road Initiative) which runs through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) and violates Indias territorial integrity, New Delhi's efforts to ban the terrorist Masood Azhar at the UN, its bid for membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, and the question of sharing hydrological data and Chinese projects on the Brahmaputra river.

India has made it amply clear that there's a fundamental problem with OBOR/BRI, and that while China calls it an economic project, there's going to be no forward movement as long as PoK is part of it.

China and India worked out all aspects of the meeting between Modi and Xi before the announcement was made. The messaging between the two leaders began after the de-escalation of the 73-day-long military stand-off in Doklam.

"In Doklam, the issue was the construction of road by the Chinese," a source said. "The very limited objective of the Indian government was that the construction does not prejudice the tri-junction site. The issue is what is happening at our point of concern, which is that there has been no activity since the 28th of August."

Both sides started working on ensuring that each other's sensitivities are taken care of. One such occasion for India, according to a source, came up during celebrations which marked the 60th anniversary of the Dalai Lama's arrival in India. India showed the commitment given in 1988 by Rajiv Gandhi (who was then the prime minister), recognising "Tibet as (a) part of China" and not allowing "anti-China activities" on Indian soil.

Sources say Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale's letter (dated February 22) advising government officials to stay away from the Dalai Lama events was written essentially because they "were in no way religious in nature."

"They were political in nature. In light of that, the communication was put out."

NO JOINT STATEMENTS

No "joint statements" will be issued, and no "agreements" will be signed after the meeting between Modi and Xi, sources have told IndiaToday.in.

The two leaders will have one-on-one meetings. There will also be meetings with other officials.

Interpreters will attend the meetings, but there will be no note takers, sources say.

This is the first time that the Chinese President is hosting a leader for an informal summit in China. In the past, American presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump have hosted Xi in the US, where they had informal summit meetings.

When Xi and Modi meet, they will have an opportunity to take India-China relations to a different level, and speak in a free environment.

"The objective of this meeting was not to come out with a pre-negotiated set of agreements but to have clear communication at the leadership level," a source said. "It is going to be broad-based, overarching and not specific in its content."

Enough emphasis being put on the fact that this is a meeting to share a future "vision" between the two leaders, rather than focussing on "specifics." South Block has realised there's a need for greater "communication" at the highest "political level", where both leaders will be able to sit across the table and talk - rather than discuss "pre-negotiated" agenda items in a controlled environment.

But while there's no set agenda, Modi and Xi will strive to normalise and ensure a forward movement in India-China ties, which began on a very positive note when Modi took office.


IAS & IPS Officers On Al-Qaeda Kill List


The emir of al-Qaeda in the Subcontinent (AQIS) has exhorted terror cells and sympathisers to wage jihad against India, target Hindus in general and Indian Administrative Service (IAS) and Indian Police Service (IPS) officers in particular.

In an audiotape accessed by India Today TV, the Pakistan-based Maulana Asim Umar -- born in Sambhal, UP -- calls for lone-wolf attacks on Indian officers, claiming that they "force Muslims to deposit their arms and ammunition during riots". The Delhi Police, on Monday, issued a circular asking top IPS and IAS officers to be careful.

In the audio, Umar also asks terror sympathisers to study and emulate terrorists who carried out lone-wolf attacks in Europe. He is caught on tape saying: "These Muslims were born in Europe. But when they realised that jihad is their calling, these men rattled the continent."

Umar, who in 2014 was declared the 'emir' of AQIS by Osama bin Laden's successor Ayman al-Zawahiri, also exhorts minority community youth to wage war against India, drawing a reference to the battle of Panipat, in the 15-minute audiotape.

"Muslims should wage jihad against Hindus because they are targeted for not saying 'victory to Mother India'. Muslims are being forced to convert to Hinduism. Muslims, not Hindus, have always ruled India," he says.

Soon after his being appointed the head of AQIS, Umar started releasing audiotapes trying to instigate members of the minority community in the country. In fact, he released a propaganda video targeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the French satire newspaper Charlie Hebdo and the World Bank.

A dozen of AQIS members nabbed by the special cell of the Delhi Police a year ago had revealed that they joined the outfit after being inspired by Umar's speeches. The police had also released photographs of eight more AQIS members, declaring them absconders.

In 2016, the United States designated AQIS as a "foreign terrorist organisation" and called Umar a "specially designated global terrorist". The creation of AQIS in 2014 was announced by as-Sahab, al-Qaeda's official media outlet, in a video posted on social media outlets.

"A new branch of al-Qaeda is established, Qaedat al-Jihad, in the Indian subcontinent - seeking to raise the flag of jihad, return to Islamic rule, and empowering the sharia of Allah across the Indian subcontinent," Zawahiri had said in the video, according to a translation by SITE Intelligence Group.