Saturday, February 22, 2020

Insights Into India's Next-Gen Ramjet Powered 155mm Artillery Shells



WION spoke to Lt Gen PR Shankar (Retd), Professor of Practice at IIT Madras, whose team had exhibited the theoretical possibilities of the project at the recently concluded Défense Expo in Uttar Pradesh. Lt Gen P R Shankar is a retired Director General of Artillery. He gave great impetus to the modernization of artillery through indigenization

The department of aerospace engineering at IIT Madras is working on developing a next-generation artillery shell that can be used by the Indian Army to hit targets that are nearly twice as far the existing distances, with greater precision. While this is an existing technology, it has to be noted that no country has implemented in artillery shells. 


WION spoke to Lt Gen PR Shankar (Retd), Professor of Practice at IIT Madras, whose team had exhibited the theoretical possibilities of the project at the recently concluded Défense Expo in Uttar Pradesh. Lt Gen P R Shankar is a retired Director General of Artillery. He gave great impetus to the modernization of artillery through indigenization. He has deep knowledge, understanding and experience in successful defence planning and acquisition, spanning over a decade. Major 155mm Gun projects like the Dhanush, M777 ULH and K9 Vajra, rocket and missile projects related to Pinaka, Brahmos and Grad BM21, surveillance projects like Swati WLR and few ammunition projects came to fructification due to his relentless efforts. He has been a Professor of Practice at IIT Madras’ aerospace engineering department and is actively involved in applied research.

Here are the excerpts of an exclusive interview with him. 

WION: What necessitates the development of such a new generation artillery shell, over and above the existing ammunition?

Prof Shankar: We are working on an artillery shell that is based on the ramjet technology, this will enable it to travel unto a range of 60kms and above. Most shells that are in use travel around 30kms or so. Extending the range of a shell would be highly useful in non-contact warfare scenario, like the situations on the western border. Some of the current shells can travel up to 24kms. We could extend the range unto 30kms by traditional methods, but doubling it to 60kms is going to be a game-changer. Changing the gun would mean a tedious process, instead, we could change the ammunition and improve the performance.

WION: How compatible is this artillery shell going to be with current artillery guns used by the Indian Army?

Prof Shankar: Although we are developing a new kind of shell, we would not be building it from scratch. We are planning to re-design the existing shells using ramjet propulsion technology. The new shells are compatible with all the existing artillery guns such as Bofors, Dhanush, Vajra and ATAGS. It is a fact that each gun has its own characteristics, but the shell we are developing is of a 155mm calibre. Hence, it would be usable on all Indian or foreign platforms that utilize the 155mm shell. 

WION: How is your method different from the standard range-extension methods for artillery shells?

Prof Shankar: Traditionally, we would utilise a method called ‘base bleed’ where a chemical at the base of the shell burns emits gas to fill the vacuum behind the shell to reduce the base drag force. Base bleed enables an increase of range by 10 to 20 per cent. We are aiming to double the range by using ramjet propulsion technology through indigenously developed fuel and air intake at the front that helps the shell travel faster, thus enabling it to reach double the range. 

WION: What are the challenges pertaining to maintaining accuracy when you aim to extend a shell’s range?

Prof Shankar: When a shell travels for around 30kms, the normal methods of correction are applicable. However, when a shell travels 60kms, it would be affected by wind and weather conditions far more. So, we would incorporate some kind of system to keep it on the intended track. It is called a Precision Guided Kit. We will be developing the precision-guided kits, especially for such extended ranges.

WION: Would Indian ordnance factories and facilities be able to mass manufacture such shells for the Army’s requirements?

Prof Shankar: Most of the shells that we need are made here. When we do resort to importing, it is only restricted to smart ammunitions and precision-guided munitions (PGMs). Our ramjet based shell is like any other shell and we would be ensuring that OFB (Ordnance factory board) can manufacture it. The ability to manufacture it is there, but we are working on design and technology. That's where IIT Madras comes in, along with IIT Kanpur, Armament Research and Development Establishment (ARDE) Pune and Research Centre Imarat (RCI) Hyderabad. 

WION: Would there be a significant reduction in unit cost due to the indigenous manufacture?

Prof Shankar: Primarily this technology is a first for artillery shells. Being a new product and new technology, they tend to be very costly. But it is certainly less expensive when compared to missiles and other weapons that have a range of over 60kms. There is also scope for exporting this type of shell to friendly foreign countries. 

WION: How long before we have a working prototype? Any major engineering challenges that we are faced with?

Prof Shankar: We expect to develop a working prototype within three to five years. Development of this shell would require a synergy between different types of engineering. We’ll have to combine expertise in Fundamental engineering of propulsion (solid propellants), structural design, a lot of design capability in geo-referencing and guidance with a lot of engineering capability and principles of rocket technology. In the case of a missile, we can design from scratch, but here we are taking an existing ramjet technology and fusing it with an existing shell to get something that doesn't exist. But if we manage to fit a ramjet into an artillery shell, it would pole vault us into the next generation. 

WION: Funding and facilities are major components that drive defence research. How are we placed?

Prof Shankar: Lot of things have been proven. The design is ready and we are waiting for validation and prototyping. All the theory is ready and certain lab tests are done. We are waiting for funding as well because with new testing facilities we need to do more lab tests and start the prototype test. Test facilities that are to be set up can only be done with government support. Some of the facilities that we would need would be India’s first such facilities. There are a few, but they are with the missile development programme, and those are of a different kind. Once we go commercial, we need many such facilities to do fundamental testing for the long-term. For the ramjet to start working, it has to be taken to speeds of Mach 1 (speed of sound) so that we can test it. So we’d require a high-end wind tunnel that would be able to generate such speeds.

WION: Are there any other defence firms that are working on the same technology?

Prof Shankar: At the recently concluded DefExpo, we saw the Norwegian firm 'Nammo' display a shell of ramjet projectile. Their projectile and our projectile are technology-wise very different. While the theory is the same, the application is different. Ours is a simple system. We also know that various others are working on it as this is very futuristic defence technology.


Defence Deals With Indian Firms Are Tricky: Here’s Why We Import

Over the years, India has imported most of its fighter platforms requirements

by Air Vice Marshal Manmohan Bahadur (Retd)

Every finance minister in the world would wish that money grew on trees. Alas, it is not so, and the situation becomes critical in countries where the social obligations of the government are as weighty, if not more, than its national security considerations; India is a prime example of this guns versus butter quandary. We, thus, have the 2020-21 defence budget at 1.44% of the national GDP, and the downward slope doesn’t seem to be changing its trajectory.

This, despite the ground reality of the three services having glaring capability gaps that should have been addressed years back; the Indian Air Force is a case in point with its dwindling Squadron strength as the venerable MiG-21 phases out from operational flying, to be followed by others in due course.

Can Big Ticket Defence Deals Really Wait?

The Tejas was to replace the MiG-21, an event that should have taken place almost two decades back. The reasons for this not happening are well known and are representative of all that ails the indigenous armament industry. So, as governments came and went, one got the impression that each successive ruling dispensation was just papering over the deficiencies with the fervent hope that no kinetic war would take place in its term.

That the implications of the cliché, “capability takes time to build but intentions can change overnight” are fatal if not addressed in a pro-active manner, have seemed to be invisible to the powers that be. It is under this context that two recent media reports need greater deliberation.

First, the news that the IAF and HAL have reached an agreement to close the contract for 83 Tejas Mk1A;

Second, the statement of the CDS, Gen Bipin Rawat, that purchase of big ticket items can be staggered.

It is no state secret that the IAF wanted all its Tejas to be in the configuration that the Mk1A variant would hopefully port. However, the induction of the first 40 Tejas Mk1, twenty each in IOC (Initial Operational Clearance) and FOC (Final Operational Clearance) configuration, was a decision to get a move-on with the project so as to get the vitally needed numbers in the inventory.

Air Force Can Trust Indigenous Players Only When Timelines Are Respected

It has been a laborious journey, with the contract for the first twenty IOC aircraft signed on 31 March 2006 with a delivery date of December 2011 and FOC contract signed on 23 December 2010 with a completion date of 2016. That the IOC could itself be obtained only by December 2013, with the contract cost doubling, conveys the quality of the programme management. As on date, only the first 16 Tejas in IOC configuration have been delivered! The FOC status was finally granted in February 2019 and the first delivery should happen as per an agreed contractual timeline; but, if the past is any pointer, it may be strongly influenced by HAL’s work ethos.

The contractual timeline must be adhered-to if the IAF’s faith in going the indigenous way is to be proven true. The Squadron numbers are to be partially made up by the 83 TejasMk1A whose contract has now been placed. While the four mandatory requirements of an AESA radar, air to air refuelling, a modern EW suite and Beyond Visual Range missile incorporation are being evaluated as standalone features, the complete package—as a fully ready Mk1A—would only fly by 2022!

Hope, thy name is HAL! And one wishes that the production does get ramped up to twelve aircraft per year – 12 aircraft accepted by the IAF, and not mere production, for there is a big difference between the two terms.

The costing methodology for these 83 Mk1As also raises a few eyebrows. Why did it require “hard bargaining to bring down the cost from Rs 56,500/- crores to Rs 39,000/ crores,” as a press report put it? A 30% reduction (!!) in costs gives an impression that this was more in the manner of a commercial transaction with a foreign firm, with one side out to make money, rather than a contract between two entities working under the same Ministry that wants to give indigenisation an urgent fillip; incidentally, one year was lost in these negotiations.

What Needs To Be Avoided In Defence Acquisitions

Indigenisation and modernization are oxymoronic in concept; indigenization would take decades to kick-in while the modernization that the Services want is literally ‘as on yesterday,’ since one cannot afford to be on the wrong end of technological asymmetry. It is with this fundamental premise that one needs to look at Gen Rawat’s statement that, “We should not go in for larger numbers at one time. So, if the requirement is to buy 10 submarines, 100 aircraft and 1000 tanks, the purchase should be staggered…..phasing the procurement would be a better idea keeping future upgrades.” He added, “If a bulk order is made only one force will benefit.”

Which leads one to ask whether the task of the CDS is to ensure that each Service benefits; or, is it to ensure that the right capability comes to each service as per an assessment of future threats and how a conflict situation would unfold.

‘Staggering’ an optimal quantity of arms would do two things. First, it would result in an increase in project cost due reduction in delivery numbers; secondly, and more importantly, it may result in acquiring an emasculated capability that would be neither here nor there. This is most unwise and a call must be taken on a purely professional assessment.

And the argument that a staggered purchase would help upgrades does not stand professional scrutiny; no large scale delivery happens all at once but is ‘phased out’ over many years with clauses built-in that new upgrades would be incorporated on later deliveries while the earlier ones would be built up to the new standard when they fall due for servicing. The monies have to be earmarked phase wise for a full potent capability and not ‘balanced’ by staggering purchases. A false sense of capability acquisition could result from such planning—something that needs to be avoided like the plague.

CDS Needs To Expedite Re-Organisation of The Forces

Which brings one to the tight timeline that the CDS has drawn for himself in setting up of theatre commands and joint entities. What is being attempted is radical surgery without any exploratory procedures. Exercising caution may be in order. While models of other nations may not form fit us, there is no harm learning from their experiences - in terms of timelines and scope of changes attempted in one go.

A dispassionate analysis would be an eye opener for people who are trying to expedite this re-organisation which affects the very basics of war fighting—an effective Command and Control structure that is, but the spine of a uniformed force.

Air Vice Marshal Manmohan Bahadur is Additional Director General, Centre for Air Power Studies, New Delhi


HAL To Bring The LUH Into The Civilian Market 

High Altitude test of he military variant of LUH being test flow in Leh

HAL's Light Utility Helicopter has received initial operational clearance for military use, but the aircraft may also find a home in the civilian sector

The Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) designed and developed by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) of India received initial operational clearance (IOC) on Feb. 7, 2020, during the DefExpo at Lucknow, India. This paves the way for the integration of mission equipment and series production of the helicopter.

And while the single-engine LUH is getting set for its military debut, highly-placed sources at HAL indicate the company plans to position the LUH for civil applications, too.

The LUH is HAL’s latest rotary product after the light twin Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) and Light Combat Helicopter (LCH). The three-ton helicopter incorporates a glass cockpit, dual controls and a single Safran Ardiden 1U1 turboshaft engine. As of January 2020, three LUH prototypes have logged over 550 flights under various environmental conditions.

The Indian forces’ requirement to operate from sea level to helipads at over 20,000 feet imposes unique challenges on rotorcraft. Successive models of light helicopters from HAL’s stable have targeted such requirements through collaboration and in-house development.

The LUH forms part of the Indian army and air force’s long-standing need for 394 light helicopters to replace ageing Cheetahs (Lama) and Chetaks (Alouette III). Of these, 187 would be the LUH (126 for the army & 61 for the air force). The remainder of the aircraft are expected to arrive through an Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) for 197 Ka-226T helicopters, to be manufactured by Indo-Russian Helicopters Limited (IRHL) – a HAL-Russian Helicopters joint venture company.

But the military market may just be the beginning of the LUH’s penetration in India. A video shared on Twitter quotes Unni Pillai, HAL’s chief test pilot, as saying “it (LUH) is a military aircraft right now, but it’ll be in the civil variant soon.”

The statement, made during the DefExpo, has been corroborated by senior HAL officials. Coming soon after IOC, it indicates HAL’s willingness to engage with civil customers, possibly eyeing a market outside the armed forces.

A senior member of the LUH design team, who asked for their name to be withheld, said HAL is expecting to deliver over 600 LUHs within the civil sector. The customers would be Indian “to start with,” and the target sectors are tourism, air ambulance, and utility, while the six to seven-seater aircraft can also be configured as a four-seater VIP helicopter.

“Civil certification is being progressed concurrently,” the source said, adding that the Indian regulator, DGCA, has been looped in throughout the military certification process.

“HAL aims to meet all civil certification requirements within next 4-5 years,” they added. “EASA [European Aviation Safety Agency] certification is expected to take another eight months from receipt of civil certification from DGCA.”

Large parts of hilly terrain in north and northeast India are currently serviced by single engine helicopters like the Bell 407 and Airbus Helicopters AS350 B3. If the indigenous LUH achieves civil certification and proves itself, it may offer a competing product to Indian operators in the heli-tourism and commuter roles.

HAL’s civil-certified ALH flies in limited numbers in India. Non-military customers of the ALH are limited to the Border Security Force (BSF), Pawan Hans Limited (PHL) and a few other government agencies, totalling just four to five helicopters.

There are about 350 civil helicopters flying in India today, and HAL’s plans to tap the civil market with LUH, however tentative, could mark a new chapter in Indian aerospace. The LUH will face stiff competition from proven products that Indian customers have been operating for years, with a need to prove a competitive operating cost and availability rate with these established types. HAL officials quoted their recent self-deployment of 7,000 kilometres over 17 days for ‘hot and high’ trials to reiterate that the LUH’s “reliability is proven.” After 200 to 250 hours of flight and servicing that followed, they found the three main components – gearbox, engine and rotors to be in “very good” condition.

A senior member of the LUH design team said they are targeting “over 90 percent aircraft serviceability,” having done away with the problematic Integrated Dynamic System that plagued the ALH since inception. The “two-segmented blade” adopted for the first time on the LUH rotor system offers a compact folded dimension, easy transportability and interchangeability, he said. This technology is planned to be ported on the ALH in due course, as per HAL.


This Bangalore Start-Up Makes Propulsion Systems For ISRO; This Is Their Awesome Story

Rohan Ganapathy & Yashas Karanam founders of Bellatrix Aerospace

Bellatrix Aerospace, a start-up that produces efficient propulsion systems for the likes of ISRO and DRDO. They are one among the top suppliers

Over the past few years, Bellatrix Aerospace has become a known name in the field of Aeronautical Engineering, all thanks to Rohan Ganapathy's innovation - Microwave Plasma Thrusters (MPT) - that have been installed in Indian satellite systems, making them lighter and cheaper. In 2012, when Rohan was studying Aeronautical Engineering at Coimbatore's Hindustan College of Engineering and Technology, he started working on the MPT and was keen on installing this innovative propulsion system in satellites. To this end, he proposed this idea to Sajjan Jindal, the Chairman of JSW Group whom he met at one of the events in his college. The latter was so impressed with the idea that he offered Rohan various grants to set up his own company and thus is the origin of Bellatrix Aerospace on the college campus in Coimbatore.

Rohan working on machinery at IISC 

As the team expanded and Rohan needed more hands to work on his project, his friend Yashas Karnam who has completed Electrical and Electronics Engineering joined the company. When we ask him what brought them to Bengaluru, where the company is currently housed, this 26-year-old engineer says, "We realised that we would be getting many experts on board to work with us and through the Society for Innovation and Development (SID), we shifted to the Indian Institute of Science. With money comes the infrastructure, but we were yet to work on the machine itself. Here, we got the equipment and the machinery to work on and test out the propulsion system that we called MPT."

Curious to know more about MPT and how it works, we ask Yashas to explain what makes it unique. He says, "Do you know what is the biggest challenge for any country while sending their satellite into space? It is spending money on fuel as well as the weight of the satellite's systems. More the weight, the higher the cost. In satellites, there are two types of propulsion systems, while one is the chemical propulsion system, the other is the electric propulsion system. Traditionally, all our satellites carry chemical propulsion and this requires tonnes of fuel to keep the satellite in Earth’s orbit. We felt that it was not an efficient way as there is little space for everything else. On top of that, paying for fuel would cost more than it would to design the system."

Electric propulsion for ISRO satellites designed by Bellatrix Aerospace

That's when Rohan and the team thought about coming up with an alternative. Yashas explains, "The space industry is slowly adopting the electric propulsion technology in satellites as it requires less fuel. You need more electricity and less fuel and power can be produced using hi-tech solar panels. What we are doing through MPT is providing an advanced electric propulsion system. Usually, the electrodes in the electric propulsion system get corroded when they are in orbit. This reduces its lifespan. But MPT provides zero-corrosion electric propulsion systems that are lightweight and have a long lifespan, which can keep the satellite going for a long time in the space system. It will also decrease the cost spent on fuel and gives more space to fix transponders or what we call communication systems."

Rohan and Yashas along with their team

While this research was happening, Rohan met AS Kiran, the then Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and explained to him the concept. Intrigued, the team was asked to demonstrate the working of the propulsion system at their office and impressed with their idea, ISRO decided to place an order for their MPT system. Even DRDO placed an order for the same. Now, Bellatrix Aerospace is on the suppliers' list of two of the most prestigious organisations in India. With the growing demand of the space industry, Yashas believes that they have to come up with various innovations and constantly improve their system if they want to survive in the market. "The space market has many foreign companies and suppliers too. There is enough competition to survive. To keep up, we keep developing different engines and systems that are required for the satellites to work," he concludes.


DRDO Seizes Missile Autoclave From Chinese Ship, Allowed To Leave For Pak


Based on a high-level intelligence tip-off, the Department of Revenue Intelligence and Kandla Customs detained the Chinese ship on February 3 for misdeclaring a “dual use” industrial autoclave, which can be used in the manufacture of ballistic missiles, as an industrial dryer

Missile scientists from the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) will physically open and examine the suspected cargo seized at Kandla port from detained Chinese ship Dai Cui Yun, bound for Port Qasim, Karachi, on Friday to ascertain whether the 2005 Indian law against weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and the UN convention on the same subject can be invoked against both the consignee and consignor.

Based on a high-level intelligence tip-off, the Department of Revenue Intelligence and Kandla Customs detained the Chinese ship on February 3 for misdeclaring a “dual use” industrial autoclave, which can be used in the manufacture of ballistic missiles, as an industrial dryer. The ship left the Chinese port of Jiangyn on January 17.

As reported in HT, the Chinese ship Da Cui Yun was allowed to leave for final destination Port Qasim on Thursday evening after signing guarantees with the Kandla Customs. The ship left Kandla Port at 7.31 pm on Thursday and is expected at Port Qasim at 1.30 am on Saturday. The autoclave has been seized by the Kandla customs and will be opened for examination today.


For starters, even before the final inspection is carried out, Indian authorities have decided to charge the ship under the Customs Act for wrong declaration of goods, according to an official familiar with the matter who asked not to be named. The ship could be released as per procedure after charges are formally slapped against it, the official said. “But that decision is yet to be taken,” he added.

Initial examination of the orange-coloured equipment had revealed “complex” circuitry inside it, a second official who didn’t want to be named said, adding that “scientists want to carry out a more detailed investigation”.

The autoclave was off-loaded for physical inspection last week and the ship moved from pier to anchorage at the mouth of Kandla creek. A seizure memo has been issued. No police case had been registered till Thursday.

As there is prima facie evidence of a “dual use” item used in a WMD delivery platform, the DRDO scientists will physically examine the 18m x 4m autoclave on Friday. Once the physical verification is done, the government will invoke the Weapons of Mass Destruction and Their Delivery Systems (Prohibition of Unlawful Activities) Act 2005 as well as the UN Convention on WMD. In 1999, the authorities at Kandla Port had booked North Korean ship Ku Wol San carrying missile parts for Pakistan under the Arms Act.

Clause 4(C) of the 2005 law makes it clear that its provisions apply to “any ship, aircraft or any other means of transport registered in India or outside India, wherever it may be.” Under the law, contravention of section 8 pertaining to missile delivery systems attracts a punishment of not less than five years which may be extended up to imprisonment for life with an added fine.

According to Indian national security planners, the seizure of the dual-use autoclave has substantiated Indian assertions over the past two decades that Pakistan’s nuclear programme and its missile delivery systems are borrowed and based on technology from China and perhaps North Korea.

Meanwhile, the security agencies are also looking at the parties involved — Islamabad-based United Construction Company, which was importing the equipment, and Hong Kong-based company General Technology Ltd which booked the consignment.


Attempt To Please The Lone Superpower Self-Defeating


Whether or not India and the United States of America succeed in striking a trade deal during Donald Trump’s two-day visit next week, there is a serious danger of Narendra Modi being flattered into accepting a regional leadership role which India does not need and for which it does not have the capacity

by Sunanda K Datta-Ray

This is a threat this country has faced before. It was in May 1985, when in New Delhi the memorandum signed by Harry G Barnes, the career diplomat US ambassador, and Romesh Bhandari, India’s foreign secretary, was going to open up a new era of Indo-American cooperation and prosperity. It did prompt the Pentagon to grant 7,750 licences for an assortment of military supplies and promote 850 partnerships, 75 per cent more than in 1980. But it ended in India spending more of its scarce resources on American weaponry leaving less for development.

While it’s gratifying to be the world’s fifth largest economy, it should certainly not be a matter of pride to be the world’s second-largest arms importer. Nor should is it consoling that Mr Modi’s government may avoid falling foul of Mr Trump’s Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act only because defence purchases from the US spiralled by an astronomical 569 per cent. While the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute reveals that between 2008 and 2013 India acquired 76 per cent of its military requirements from the Russians, that figure went down to 58 per cent between 2013-2018. When Harsh Shringla, the present foreign secretary, said as ambassador to the US, “We are obviously diversifying our purchases” it was the understatement of the century.

Mr Modi’s tenure has already seen defence purchases from the US reach $17 billion but the petulant Mr Trump might still take serious exception to another $5 billion deal to buy the S-400 mobile, long-range, surface-to-air missile system which made its world debut in 2007. Among the 13 interested countries are China, Turkey and India. Turkey being a NATO member, Mr Trump objected strongly and, as is his wont, issued dire warnings. But Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey’s president, went ahead regardless, and the missiles are due to be delivered later this year.

Let there be no mistake, the Soviets knew well enough in the old days that India would be happy to get its entire inventory from the US if only the Americans would sell on terms New Delhi could accept. Washington’s alliance with Pakistan was not the only obstacle. The US feared that any military secrets entrusted to India would be leaked to the Soviet camp. There were any number of laws like the General Security of Military Information Agreement or GESOMIA restricting the transfer of sophisticated technology, which India refused for many years to sign.

Nevertheless, the US was beginning to regard Indira Gandhi with less suspicion – especially after her overtures resulted in an invitation from Ronald Reagan – and in May 1983 the State Department confirmed that India might be allowed to buy .50-calibre Browning heavy machine guns, self-propelled 155-millimeter artillery as well as C-130 Hercules aircraft in a potential $1-billion deal. India is now set to give final approval to a $2.6 billion deal to buy military helicopters from American defence firm Lockheed Martin ahead of – or during – Mr Trump’s visit with his wife.

The Modi government is also expected to clear the purchase of 24 MH-60R Seahawk helicopters for the Indian navy in the next two weeks as India looks to modernise its military and narrow the gap with China. The US Department of State approved the sale of the choppers to India last year along with radars, torpedoes and 10 AGM-114 Hellfire missiles after the Trump administration rolled out a new "Buy American" plan in 2018 that had relaxed restrictions on sales, saying it would bolster the US defence industry and create jobs at home. Officials point to these large-scale US arms purchases, from surveillance planes to Apache and Chinook helicopters, as proof of India's willingness to tighten strategic ties.

The multirole helicopters will be equipped with Hellfire missiles and are meant to help the Indian navy track submarines in the Indian Ocean, where China is expanding its presence. Trump has called India the "tariff king of the world", but the Modi government has been trying to address some of his concerns. Many of India's warships are without any helicopters due to years of underfunding, and the navy had sought their acquisition as a top priority.

Not that India is flush with funds or can afford a lavish spending spree. For all Mr Modi’s globe-trotting and bluster, the economy has not known such difficult times in many years. Unemployment is the highest in 50 years, exports are stagnating, foreign direct investment has not lived up to expectations, a 4.5 per cent sluggish growth is dragging down the global average, only 15 million Indians pay income tax, and the government is trying to sell nationalised assets worth $30 billion in order to meet the deficit.

The recent budget outlined what experts regard as only a modest rise in 2020-21 defence spending to $73.65 billion. Part of that will reportedly go towards making a down payment on the helicopter purchase. The US has also offered India the armed version of Guardian drones that were originally authorised for sale as unarmed for surveillance purposes, the first such approval for a country outside the NATO alliance. India plans to buy 30 of these unmanned aircrafts for surveillance of the Indian Ocean from the US defence corporation General Atomics, for an estimated $2.5 billion.

India’s efforts to conserve foreign exchange and protect exports through a partial return to the protective duties of the past have prompted Mr Trump to describe India as the "tariff king of the world". In its desire to please the Lone Superpower, the Modi government may well be promising to buy more than it can afford – or than India needs. The prime minister is also anxious to swallow hook, line and sinker Mr Trump’s bait of a heady role in the mythical Indo-Pacific region he speaks of. His main concerns seem to be to sell India more American farm, dairy, and energy products.

All this confirms the comparison with May 1985 and the Indo-US Memorandum of Understanding, when the removal of the American ban on military sales imposed in the wake of the 1965 war with Pakistan was hailed as a tremendous victory. The US promised wider access to computers and sophisticated technology while India undertook not to use American technology to develop nuclear weapons or help others do so. India is not more secure because of all those military gains, if that is what they were. Nor are Indians more prosperous.

The writer is the author of several books and a regular media columnist


Trump Could Again Raise Kashmir Issue With Modi During India Trip?


Pakistan is hopeful that US President Donald Trump who is scheduled to visit India soon will continue to offer his mediation offer on Kashmir. Pakistan has aggressively raised the Kashmir issue on almost all global forums, post the Indian revocation of Article 370

According to Pakistan Foreign Office spokesperson quoting US media reports – Trump is likely to take up the Kashmir issue with Indian PM Narendra Modi during his maiden visit. However, experts  have termed it highly unlikely especially in the presence of media.

Foreign Office spokesperson Aisha Farooqui told a weekly news briefing on Thursday that Islamabad hopes President Trump would take up the issues with the Indian leadership.

“We hope that during the US president’s visit the issues being faced by the people of IOJ&K will be raised with the Indian government and the offer of mediation expressed by the US president is taken forward through some concrete, practical step,” she said.

Jammu and Kashmir has been in lockdown since August 5, 2019, when the Modi-government revoked the contentious Article 370 of the constitution which gave special status to the region.

Trump claimed in a meeting with Pakistan PM Imran Khan in July last year at the White House that Modi had requested him to meditate on the Kashmir issue. Although Modi never directly answered to Trump’s claim, New Delhi reacted strongly and said it would never accept third party mediation.

But despite India’s objection, Trump once again brought up the Kashmir issue during his discussions with Premier Imran on the side lines of the UN General Assembly session in New York in September 2019.

Earlier, Donald Trump at World Economic Forum (WEF) summit in Davos had revealed that he and Pakistan PM Imran Khan were “working together on some borders” and discussing the Kashmir issue.

“We’re working together on some borders, and we’re talking about Kashmir and the relation to what’s going on with Pakistan and India. And if we can help, we certainly will be helping. And we’ve been watching that and following it very, very closely,” Trump had said, ahead of his meeting with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on the side lines of the WEF summit in Davos.

Officials of the Ministry of External Affairs said Trump’s offer wasn’t new and that India’s answer isn’t going to be new either. “India has always rejected third party role in its bilateral relationship with Pakistan, including several offers of mediation made by President Trump,” an official said.

Though President Trump at Davos did not elaborate which borders the US and Pakistan were working on, however, PM Imran PM Khan hinted, “The main issue is Afghanistan because it concerns the US and Pakistan. Thankfully, we are on the same page. Both of us are interested in peace there and an orderly transition in Afghanistan with talks with the Taliban and the government.”


Trump To Raise Trade Barriers, Religious Freedom On India Visit, Say Officials


Prospects of trade deal being announced during the president’s two-day visit have dimmed considerably despite his efforts to talk it up in public rallies and remarks

US President Donald Trump will raise concerns over rising trade barriers and tariffs during his India visit, which begins on Monday, but the onus for the announcement of a deal was “wholly” on India, senior Trump administration officials said Friday.

The official took aim specifically at Make in India, one of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pet program, for making “the protectionism concerns in India even greater.”

“Whether or not there will be an announcement on a trade package is, really, wholly dependent upon what the Indians are prepared to do,” said one of the officials, who blamed the failure of the two sides to come to an agreement on a spate of recent announcement that made “discussions bit more difficult”.

The US President is also expected to call for equal treatment of religious minorities and urge India and Pakistan to resolve their differences bilaterally.

“President Trump will talk about our shared tradition of democracy and liberty of freedom in both his public remarks and in private. He will particularly raise the religious freedom issue that’s very important for this (Trump)administration,” said the official.

Prospects of trade deal being announced during the president’s two-day visit have dimmed considerably despite his efforts to talk it up in public rallies and remarks. He has spoken of a “tremendous deal” that could be announced now or perhaps after the November elections, which appears more likely given the long list of US concerns that need to be addressed.

The United States has sought more access to Indian markets in dairy and poultry, removal of medical devices from price control regulation. The official argued that instead of decreasing trade barriers and tariffs that have been rising and citing recent tariffs on certain imports from the United States and continued “important divergences on e-commerce and digital trade”.


Why Did UK MP Turn Up in Delhi with Cancelled Visa? Reaction to Debbie's Arrival May've Been 'Provoked'


Whatever the facts about the visa, and the communication of any decision over it, this could likely have been handled more diplomatically in India

The non-visit of British Labour MP Deborah Abrahams to India has left some unanswered questions — about her visa of course, but also on what was reported, and what not. And a non-visit it was. Getting on a visit only so far as what is apparently labelled a deportee cell at the Indira Gandhi airport cannot be a visit she, or anyone in the Indian government might wish to remember.

Indian officials have pointed to two grounds for what seems on the face of it a rude refusal to an MP who intended a visit and turned up for it. One, that her visa had been cancelled on Feb 14, three days before she landed up. Two, that hers was a business visa, and meeting friends and relatives that she declared to be the purpose of the visit, is not business. We could hardly enter the debate whether family business can be covered by a business visa.

If her visa had been curtailed well before she boarded a flight to Delhi, it’s not clear why she then boarded the flight. Either that fact was not communicated to her. She certainly has spoken of no such communication. If the visa was curtailed and this was communicated, could this then have been a move to provoke just the kind of reaction it did? In the absence of clarity over communication of such a decision, we’re cornered into the guessing game. Debbie Abrahams did not respond to several requests from us for comment. No doubt media carry the responsibility of getting it right no matter whether someone speaks or not. But media can hardly be blamed then for reporting uncertainties that are not of their making.

As it turned out, the refusal worked out remarkably well in PR terms for the nearly visiting MP. What could she possibly have done over the course of two days in Delhi to draw as much attention to her mission as she got through attempting to come and then going nowhere from there.

Whatever the facts about the visa, and the communication of any decision over it, this could likely have been handled more diplomatically in India. The immigration officer obviously ran into an alert directing him to refuse entry. But how diplomatic was the last-minute curtailment to begin with.

Debbie Abrahams’s position on Kashmir and on Article 370 were known to the government when she was granted a visa in October last year, and she is known to head the All Party Parliamentary Group on Kashmir. Since October, the position on the ground in Kashmir Valley has clearly become a good deal better, even if not ideal. This could have been a chance to present that improved picture, as it was presented to other European MPs, even if over her intended two days in India she wasn’t to be taken there. It’s a time to win critics over, not turn them away.

The Pakistanis inevitably pounced. The MP won’t be treated in Pakistan as she was in India, said foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi when Abrahams arrived in Pakistan a day later. But all that still does not answer the question why she turned up in Delhi at all with a cancelled visa. Her silence on this hasn’t helped.


China Plays Down Reports That It Backed India Against Pakistan At FATF Meet


The plenary noted that Pakistan addressed only a few of the 27 tasks given to it in controlling funding to terror groups

China on Friday praised close-ally Pakistan's "enormous efforts" in combating terror financing and played down reports that it backed India and other countries against Islamabad at the just- concluded FATF meeting in Paris that retained the country in the Grey List.

Asked about reports that China has joined India and other countries in sending a strong message to Pakistan and urging it to fulfil its commitments to fight terror financing and money laundering, Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told an online media briefing here that the Financial Action Task Force meeting has decided to give Pakistan more time to implement its action plan on money laundering and terrorist financing.

"China's position on the relevant issue remains unchanged. Pakistan has made enormous efforts in improving its counter-terror financing system, which has been recognised by the vast majority of the FATF members at its latest plenary meeting concluded on February 20 in Paris," he said.

It was decided at the meeting that Pakistan will be allowed more time to continue implementing its action plan, Geng said, a day after Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan spoke to Chinese President Xi Jinping.

During the telephonic conversation, the two leaders agreed to step up communication and exchanges at the highest level to strengthen Pakistan-China all-weather strategic cooperative partnership.

China said it stands ready to work with relevant parties to offer more assistance to Pakistan in its efforts against terrorism.

China maintains that the purpose and aim of the FATF is to support countries’ efforts to strengthen institutions against money laundering and terror financing and safeguard international financing system, the spokesman said.

The Paris-based FATF, which supervises effective implementation of legal, regulatory and operational measures for combating money laundering, terrorist financing, during the meeting decided continuation of Pakistan in the "Grey List".

The FATF decided to maintain Pakistan's status on its 'Grey List' of countries with inadequate control over curbing money laundering and terrorism financing until June, when the next review will take place, Pakistani newspaper Dawn quoted a statement issued by the Finance Division as saying on Friday.

The global terror financing watchdog also warned Pakistan that stern action will be taken against it if the country fails to check the flow of money to terror groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) among others, according to sources.

The FATF in October last year decided to keep Pakistan on its Grey List for failure to curb funnelling of funds to terror groups like LeT and JeM.

If not removed off the list by April, Pakistan may move to a blacklist of countries that face severe economic sanctions, such as Iran.

The plenary noted that Pakistan addressed only a few of the 27 tasks given to it in controlling funding to terror groups like LeT, JeM and the Hizbul Mujahideen, which are responsible for a series of attacks in India.

The FATF said Pakistan has to swiftly complete its full action plan by June, the source said.

India has been maintaining that Pakistan extends regular support to terror groups like LeT, JeM and the Hizbul Mujahideen, whose prime target is India, and has urged the FATF to take action against Islamabad.


Russia's Su-35 Is A Real Killer, And It's Not Even Russia's Best Fighter Jet


Key Point: The Su-35 is at least equal—if not superior—to the very best Western fourth-generation fighters. The manoeuvrability of the Su-35 makes it an unsurpassed dogfighter

by Sébastien Roblin

The Sukhoi Su-35 Flanker-E is the top Russian air-superiority fighter in service today, and represents the pinnacle of fourth-generation jet fighter design. It will remain so until Russia succeeds in bringing its fifth-generation PAK-FA stealth fighter into production.

Distinguished by its unrivalled manoeuvrability, most of the Su-35’s electronics and weapons capabilities have caught up with those of Western equivalents, like the F-15 Eagle. But while it may be a deadly adversary to F-15s, Eurofighters and Rafales, the big question mark remains how effectively it can contend with fifth-generation stealth fighters such as the F-22 and F-35.

History

The Su-35 is an evolution of the Su-27 Flanker, a late Cold War design intended to match the F-15 in concept: a heavy twin-engine multirole fighter combining excellent speed and weapons loadout with dogfighting agility.

An Su-27 stunned the audience of the Paris Air Show in 1989 when it demonstrated Pugachev’s Cobra, a manoeuvre in which the fighter rears its nose up to 120-degree vertical—but continues to soar forward along the plane’s original attitude.

Widely exported, the Flanker has yet to clash with Western fighters, but did see air-to-air combat in Ethiopian service during a border war with Eritrea, scoring four kills against MiG-29s for no loss. It has also been employed on ground attack missions.

The development history of the Su-35 is a bit complicated. An upgraded Flanker with canards (additional small wings on the forward fuselage) called the Su-35 first appeared way back in 1989, but is not the same plane as the current model; only fifteen were produced. Another upgraded Flanker, the two-seat Su-30, has been produced in significant quantities, and its variants exported to nearly a dozen countries.

The current model in question, without canards, is properly called the Su-35S and is the most advanced type of the Flanker family. It began development in 2003 under the Komsomolsk-on-Amur Aircraft Production Association (KnAAPO), a subcontractor of Sukhoi. The first prototypes rolled out in 2007 and production began in 2009.

Airframe And Engines

The Flanker family of aircraft is supermanoeuvrable—meaning it is engineered to perform controlled manoeuvres that are impossible through regular aerodynamic mechanisms. In the Su-35, this is in part achieved through use of thrust-vectoring engines: the nozzles of its Saturn AL-41F1S turbofans can independently point in different directions in flight to assist the aircraft in rolling and yawing. Only one operational Western fighter, the F-22 Raptor, has similar technology.

This also allows the Su-35 to achieve very high angles-of-attack—in other words, the plane can be moving in one direction while its nose is pointed in another. A high angle of attack allows an aircraft to more easily train its weapons on an evading target and execute tight manoeuvres.

Such manoeuvres may be useful for evading missiles or dogfighting at close ranges—though they leave any aircraft in a low-energy state.

The Flanker-E can achieve a maximum speed of Mach 2.25 at high altitude (equal to the F-22 and faster than the F-35 or F-16) and has excellent acceleration. However, contrary to initial reports, it appears it may not be able to supercruise—perform sustained supersonic flight without using afterburners—while loaded for combat. Its service ceiling is sixty thousand feet, on par with F-15s and F-22s, and ten thousand feet higher than Super Hornets, Rafales and F-35s.

The Su-35 has expanded fuel capacity, giving it a range of 2,200 miles on internal fuel, or 2,800 miles with two external fuel tanks. Both the lighter titanium airframe and the engines have significantly longer life expectancies than their predecessors, at six thousand and 4,500 flight hours, respectively. (For comparison, the F-22 and F-35 are rated at eight thousand hours).

The Flanker airframe is not particularly stealthy. However, adjustments to the engine inlets and canopy, and the use of radar-absorbent material, supposedly halve the Su-35’s radar cross-section; one article claims it may be down to between one and three meters. This could reduce the range it can be detected and targeted, but the Su-35 is still not a “stealth fighter.”

Weaponry

The Su-35 has twelve to fourteen weapons hardpoints, giving it an excellent loadout compared to the eight hardpoints on the F-15C and F-22, or the four internally stowed missiles on the F-35.

At long range, the Su-35 can use K-77M radar-guided missiles (known by NATO as the AA-12 Adder), which are claimed to have range of over 120 miles.

For shorter-range engagements, the R-74 (NATO designation: AA-11 Archer) infrared-guided missile is capable of targeting “off boresight”—simply by looking through a helmet-mounted optical sight, the pilot can target an enemy plane up sixty degrees away from where his plane is pointed. The R-74 has a range of over twenty-five miles, and also uses thrust-vectoring technology.

The medium-range R-27 missile and the extra long-range R-37 (aka the AA-13 Arrow, for use against AWACs, EW and tanker aircraft) complete the Su-35’s air-to-air missile selection.

Additionally, the Su-35 is armed with a thirty-millimetre cannon with 150 rounds for strafing or dogfighting.

The Flanker-E can also carry up to seventeen thousand pounds of air-to-ground munitions. Historically, Russia has made only limited use of precision-guided munitions (PGMs) compared to Western air forces. However, the capability for large-scale use of such weapons is there, if doctrine and munition stocks accommodate it.

Sensors And Avionics

The Su-35’s most critical improvements over its predecessors may be in hardware. It is equipped with a powerful L175M Khibiny electronic countermeasure system intended to distort radar waves and misdirect hostile missiles. This could significantly degrade attempts to target and hit the Flanker-E.

The Su-35’s IRBIS-E passive electronically scanned array (PESA) radar is hoped to provide better performance against stealth aircraft. It is claimed to able to track up to thirty airborne targets with a Radar-cross section of three meters up to 250 miles away—and targets with cross-sections as small 0.1 meters over fifty miles away. However, PESA radars are easier to detect and to jam than the Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radars now used by Western fighters. The IRBIS also has an air-to ground mode that can designate up to four surface targets at time for PGMs.

Supplementing the radar is an OLS-35 targeting system that includes an Infra-Red Search and Track (IRST) system said to have a fifty-mile range—potentially a significant threat to stealth fighters.

More mundane but vital systems—such as pilot multi-function displays and fly-by-wire avionics—have also been significantly updated.

Operational Units And Future Customers

Currently, the Russian Air Force operates only forty-eight Su-35s. Another fifty were ordered in January 2016, and will be produced at a rate of ten per year. Four Su-35s were deployed to Syria this January after a Russian Su-24 was shot down by a Turkish F-16. Prominently armed with air-to-air missiles, the Su-35s were intended to send a message that the Russians could pose an aerial threat if attacked.

China has ordered twenty-four Su-35s at a cost of $2 billion, but is thought unlikely to purchase more. Beijing’s interest is believed to lie mostly in copying the Su-35’s thrust-vector engines for use in its own designs. The Chinese PLAAF already operates the Shenyang J-11, a copy of the Su-27.

Attempts to market the Su-35 abroad, especially to India and Brazil, have mostly foundered. Recently, however, Indonesia has indicated it wishes to purchase eight this year, though the contract signing has been repeatedly delayed. Algeria is reportedly considering acquiring ten for $900 million. Egypt, Venezuela and Vietnam are also potential customers.

Cost estimates for the Su-35 have run between $40 million and $65 million; however, the exports contracts have been at prices above $80 million per unit.

Against The Fifth Generation

The Su-35 is at least equal—if not superior—to the very best Western fourth-generation fighters. The big question, is how well can it perform against a fifth-generation stealth plane such as the F-22 or F-35?

The manoeuvrability of the Su-35 makes it an unsurpassed dogfighter. However, future aerial clashes using the latest missiles (R-77s, Meteors, AIM-120s) could potentially take place over enormous ranges, while even short-range combat may involve all-aspect missiles like the AIM-9X and R-74 that don’t require pointing the aircraft at the target. Nonetheless, the Su-35’s speed (which contributes to a missile’s velocity) and large load-carrying abilities mean it can hold its own in beyond-visual-range combat. Meanwhile, the Flanker-E’s agility and electronic countermeasures may help it evade opposing missiles.

The more serious issue, though, is that we don’t know how effective stealth technology will be against a high-tech opponent. An F-35 stealth fighter that gets in a short-range duel with a Flanker-E will be in big trouble—but how good a chance does the faster, more-manoeuvrable Russian fighter have of detecting that F-35 and getting close to it in the first place?

As the U.S. Air Force would have it, stealth fighters will be able to unleash a hail of missiles up to one hundred miles away without the enemy having any way to return fire until they close to a (short) distance, where visual and IR scanning come into play. Proponents of the Russian fighter argue that it will be able to rely upon ground-based low-bandwidth radars, and on-board IRST sensors and PESA radar, to detect stealth planes. Keep in mind, however, that the former two technologies are imprecise and can’t be used to target weapons in most cases.

Both parties obviously have huge economic and political incentives to advance their claims. While it is worthwhile examining the technical merits of these schools of thought in detail, the question will likely only be resolved by testing under combat conditions. Furthermore, other factors such as supporting assets, mission profile, pilot training and numbers play a large a role in determining the outcomes of aerial engagements.

The Su-35 may be the best jet-age dogfighter ever made and a capable missile delivery platform—but whether that will suffice for an air-superiority fighter in the era of stealth technology remains to be seen.


ISRO To Validate Design, Engineering of Rocket Carrying Human


Chennai: The Indian space agency will carry out a series of tests to validate the design and engineering of the rocket and orbital module system for the country's prestigious human space flight program-Gaganyaan, a top official said.

He also said the space agency would soon build its own astronaut training facility and launch its first small satellite launch vehicle (SSLV) or small rocket in couple of months time.

"The design and engineering of the launch vehicle and orbital module system for India's human space flight has been completed. A series of tests have to be competed to validate the design and engineering of the systems in 2020," K.Sivan, Chairman, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said.

He was speaking at the 70th Annual General Meeting and National Conference on "Recent Developments in Aerospace and Defence Technology" organised by Aeronautical Society of India.

According to Sivan, ISRO's aim is to have the first unmanned flight by the end of next year.

The human space flight demonstration is planned before India's 75th Independence Day in 2022 and four Indians are undergoing astronaut training in Russia.

On the new small rocket being built by ISRO, Sivan said it is conceived as a low cost space access option to cater to large number of small satellite launch programs.

He said the land acquisition program for building India's second rocket launch centre at Kulasekarapattinam in Tamil Nadu is under progress for sending up the small rockets.

Sivan said using the existing rocket launch centre at Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh for launch of small rockets would hamper ISRO''s regular launch programmes.

According to him, the first developmental flight of SSLV will happen in few months from now.

Sivan said the space agency is working on developing a rocket with a capacity to carry 10 ton for geostationary transfer orbit (GTO) and semi cryogenic engine.

He also said ISRO has transferred its lithium-ion cell technology to industries and its commercial arm New Space India Ltd will work on focussed manner on transfer of technologies developed by ISRO.

Sivan said New Space will also market ISRO''s spin off technologies within and outside India. It will be responsible for transfer of small satellite and SSLV manufacturing through industries.

He also said soon the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) will be made by industries as a full rocket.

Agencies

Indian Navy Will Push Ahead With Plan For 3rd Aircraft Carrier Despite CDS’ Reservations


The Indian Navy's plan to acquire a third aircraft carrier may not materialise in near future, Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat had hinted.

Replying to a media query on his priority between submarines and another aircraft carrier for the Navy, General Rawat on Monday said: "When we know that there would be two aircraft carriers there, and if the submarine force is dwindling, then our priority should be for submarines."

The Indian Navy currently operates one aircraft carrier, the Soviet-origin INS Vikramaditya. INS Vikrant, the second carrier for the Navy, is being built indigenously and is likely to be inducted in the next two years. The Navy, however, has often aired its doctrinal need to be a three-carrier force — plan to build a third aircraft carrier, a flat-top, has been in discussion for years.

The Indian Navy is looking forward to the Central government to take a decision on a third aircraft carrier, Indian Navy chief Admiral Karambir Singh said on Friday.

"If you see the blueprint of the 1950s, it was built on three aircraft carriers, so that two aircraft carriers are always available when one is under repairs. We are very much looking forward to the government taking a decision on the third aircraft carrier," Singh told reporters.

The Navy believes it should have two aircraft carriers available for deployment at all times, even if one is undergoing re-fit. MoD is moving ahead with the design consultancy phase for the carrier, adding that formal permissions would be sought. A third aircraft carrier has been considered vital by experts in the face of China's relentless naval expansion.

The proposed third carrier, referred to as the Vishal, was to have been significantly larger than the existing Vikramaditya and Vikrant. The Indian Navy had also said the third carrier would have electromagnetic catapults to launch its aircraft.

The Vikramaditya and Vikrant are designed to use 'ski-jumps' to launch their aircraft. Aircraft using ski-jumps have momentum only from their engines and are thus unable to carry heavy fuel and weapon loads. A catapult, on the other hand, gives the aircraft added momentum, enabling it to launch at higher weights and provides an advantage in surface-attack missions or long-range air defence roles. Moreover, catapults enable the launch of specialised aircraft like airborne early-warning systems.

When asked about the appointment of a Chief of Defence Staff, Singh said, that it was a "long desired" development.

Our Bureau

Patriotic Thief Writes Apology Letter After Breaking Into Army Man’s House In Kerala


According to the police, the thief broke into five shops in the locality that night before breaking into the Army man’s house in Ernakulam

After allegedly robbing five shops in Kerala, a thief had a sudden change of heart after he attempted to rob the sixth place, the residence of a former Indian soldier. After realising that he was attempting to rob an army man’s residence, the unidentified thief wrote an apology on the wall in Malayalam, allegedly consumed a glass of alcohol from the army man’s stash and left the residence without stealing anything.

The robbery was reported at the residence of Issac Mani, a former Indian army soldier residing at Thiruvankulam, Ernakulam district of Kerala. The thief is believed to have made his six stops on Tuesday night.

The door to the house was found broken on Wednesday morning by the woman caretaker of the house. She duly alerted the police. No items from the house were missing but the caretaker and the police found the following message scribbled on the wall: "I flouted the seventh commandment (Thou shalt not steal) of the Bible. I did not know it was the house of a soldier. I realised it at the last minute when I spotted the Army cap. Officer, please forgive me. If I had known it was the house of a soldier, I would not have broken in."

Before leaving the note, the police said the thief broke into five shops in the locality that night. All the shops and houses were broken into by picking the lock. One of the cash bags stolen from Bharath Tyre and the owner’s wallet were found at the army man’s residence. A sum of Rs. 10,000 was, however, found missing from the stolen bag. The thief allegedly requested the police to return the bag to the owner.

The equipment used to pick the locks were also recovered from the house. The forensic team conducted a sweep of the house for the thief’s fingerprints.

The police are not buying the thief's apology and have begun an investigation. They suspect the involvement of more than one person. The police believe that the remorseful thief was not a local and are of the view that the apology on the wall was a ruse to mislead the police investigation.


Why The F-15 EX Fighter Could Be A Disaster For The Indian Air Force


Another US fighter jet F-15 EX is set to enter the race for the Indian MMRCA contract which will compete against the French Rafales, Russian SU-35s, F/A 18 Super Hornets and the F-21s amongst other competitors

The F-15 EX made a comeback after the US Air Force (USAF) placed an order for eight which could go up to 72, will join the F/A 18 Super Hornet and the F 21 ( a variant of the F 16) that are already on offer.

Besides the French jets, American and Russian jets are head to head once again for the lucrative Indian defence tender. The two high-end heavyweight aircraft F-15EX and Su-35 represent the modernisation of the cold war era aircraft. So how does the Su-35 compete against the F-15EX fighter aircraft?

What Is MMRCA Tender?

Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) tender falls under India’s make in India initiative under which the country pursues to jointly manufacture 114 fighter aircraft and assist its Air Force expansion plans.

F-15EX and Su-35 are both in contest for India’s MMRCA tender. While the MMRCA initially stated that aircrafts should be of a light to medium weight, the Su-35 and F-15X stand out as the only two high-end heavyweight aircraft in the race, keeping the French Rafales out from the picture for now.

F-15EX Vs The Su-35

Both the F-15EX and the Su-35 are twin-engine designs capable of functioning at high altitudes, and both have the long ranges needed to penetrate enemy airspace and deliver a wide range of munitions for both air to air and air to ground missions.

The F-15EX certainly does have the advantage of higher speed as it can reach up to the speeds of Mach 2.5 while the Su-35 is restricted to speeds of around Mach 2.25. Both field radars which are similarly sophisticated – the Irbis-E and AN/APG-82 – although the Su-35’s radar is larger and believed to be more powerful.

The Irbis-E can identify most fighter-sized targets at ranges of over 400 kilometres, and can track up to 30 airborne targets concurrently and engage up to eight. Stealth fighters with lower radar cross-sections can reportedly be detected at ranges of over 80 km.

The Su-35 does benefit from a number of advantages including beyond visual range engagements, including its radar cross-section reducing profile which leaves its radar cross-section at under one third that of the F-15.

Whereas the Su-35 is a lot stealthier than the original Su-27 – the F-15 has seen little change to its profile. Plans to similarly reduce the radar cross-section of the F-15 under the F-15SE program were cancelled, and have not been incorporated into the F-15EX design.

Other advantages enjoyed by the Su-35 include its access to R-37M hypersonic air to air missiles – which have a long 400 km range, high manoeuvrability, a Mach 6 speed and very powerful sensors.

American F-15s today rely on the ageing AIM-120C with a 105 km range – although the F-15EX could be marketed with the AIM-120D with a longer 180 km range. These missiles have less than half the range of the R-37 and are much slower – with a speed of around Mach 4.5.

The Su-35 will in the near future also have access to the K-77, which will make use of a revolutionary new APAA guidance system that will make it extremely difficult to evade. The missile will have a range of approximately 200 km.

While the F-15EX’s air to air missiles does suffer a quantitative disadvantage, the fighter is able to carry up to 22 of them where the Su-35 can carry just 14. The F-15’s engine thrust is considerably lower than that of the Su-35 however, which if combined with such a heavy weapons payload will seriously compromise manoeuvrability at all ranges and the fighter’s ability to evade missile attacks.

In visual range combat, the Su-35’s advantages are even more evident. The F-15EX has a much bulkier design with a much lower thrust/weight ratio, allowing the Su-35 to easily outmanoeuvre it even without relying on its thrust-vectoring engines. Three-dimensional thrust vectoring capabilities, however, will make the Su-35’s advantage bewildering at short ranges.

While the Su-35 appears to be the more capable aircraft based on an assessment of its capabilities, its main attraction to India over the F-15EX is likely to be its compatibility with existing jets in the Indian Air Force’s fleet.

The Su-35 is closely related to the Su-30MKI and the Indian Air Force already operates over 250 and interoperability will provide a significant advantage that the F-15EX would lack.

Alongside the Su-30, India deploys a number of other Russian jets such as the MiG-29 and MiG-21 Bisons which use modern Russian munitions such as the R-77 and R-27 air to air missiles – all of which are compatible with the Su-35.

The similarities between the Su-35 and the Su-30MKI will also allow pilots to relatively easily transfer between operating the two classes – which with India already having several hundred trained Su-30 pilots is a major advantage.

By contrast, integrating the F-15EX into an already very diverse fleet – some would argue too diverse – could provide a logistics nightmare – particularly considering that India deploys no classes of American fighter and no American air to air missiles or maintenance equipment.

Further increasing the attractiveness of the Su-35, the fighter has been offered for licence manufacturing in India alongside transfers of some technologies for its AL-41 engines and Irbis-E radars. A license manufacturing deal is reportedly being tied to a deal to modernise the Su-30MKI to a ‘4++ generation standard’ – allowing the Indian Air Force to upgrade existing fighters with Irbis-E radars and AL-41 engines which would revolutionise their performances.

This would also allow the older fighters to make use of new types of munitions such as the R-37M air to air missile. While the F-15EX is a very formidable fighter, it cannot be paired with an upgrade package for existing Indian fighters in any comparable way – which would only be possible if India already operated older classes of American fighter such as the F-15C.

Eventually, it remains uncertain whether India will opt for a heavyweight fighter under the MMRCA contract or whether it will stick to its original plan to acquire a lighter and lower maintenance jet such as the MiG-35 or French Rafale.

While both the F-15EX and the Su-35 are somewhat similar, the Su-35’s advantages, especially in close range engagement, is noteworthy. The Su-35’s primary advantage over the F-15EX, however, is the difficulty of incorporating American aircraft into a service that already operates an overly diverse fleet and does not operate any classes of American fighters or air to air missiles.

This advantage is further cemented by the Su-35’s very high level of interoperability with the Su-30MKI, and the possibility of using Su-35 technologies obtained under the contract to upgrade the Su-30 to a comparable ‘4++ generation’ standard.

Washington has applied immense political pressure including threats of economic sanctions on the country to stay away from Russian hardware. While the advantages of the Su-35 are overwhelming, opting for the American F-15Ex or other fighter jets including the F-21 or the F-18 Super Hornets as part of a politically motivated purchase remains a considerable possibility.