Yasen-class SSNs offered to India?

President Putin’s regime is obviously unwilling to cede first place as armaments supplier to India and is ready to trump any Western country with deals that can’t be beat. In the news is the story about the proposal to set up India as the major hub for upgrade, refit, and repairs of Kilo-class submarines in the inventories of states in the extended Indian Ocean region, from Iran to Vietnam. This is fine. But a still more impressive offer apparently made to India is the transfer of the improved Yasen-M class SSN — the most advanced in the Russian naval list. Russian submersibles may be beaten by their US counterparts in terms of acoustic silencing features but, in turn, cannot match, as the reputed naval analyst Norman Palomar has observed, the far smaller turbulence signature (from less cavitation noises, placement of the forward-tilting conning tower, etc) of Russian boats. Indeed, despite the vaunted ASW capabilities of the USN, a Victor-III class Russian SSN around 2000 tailed an Ohio-class SSBN almost to its pen in Guam w/o anybody getting wind of it — that’s how loud the US boomer is in turbulence terms and how little turbulence is generated by the Russian boat. Russian subs have since the Sixties carried electro-optical devices in the sail and the hull to detect turbulence and identify enemy subs by their turbulence signatures. The Yasen can be in the SSGN cruise missile-carrying configuration, or, if India so wishes, it can be modified to carry a mixed ordnance load of conventional cruise missiles and nuclear ballistic missiles. That would be a devastating dual-purpose land attack-cum-strategic targeting weapons platform non pareil to have in IN service. There’s nothing like the Yasen-class with the Chinese Navy.

Posted in arms exports, Asian geopolitics, China, China military, Defence Industry, DRDO, Europe, Geopolitics, Great Power imperatives, India's China Policy, India's strategic thinking and policy, Indian ecobomic situation, Indian Navy, Indian Ocean, indian policy -- Israel, Iran and West Asia, Military Acquisitions, Missiles, Nuclear Policy & Strategy, Nuclear Weapons, Russia, russian assistance, russian military, South Asia, Strategic Forces Command, Technology transfer, United States, US., Vietnam, Weapons, Western militaries | 11 Comments

“We don’t need an enemy……”

Devesh Kapur of the University of Pennsylvania yesterday spoke at the Nehru Memorial Library on “India; The Suffocating State”. He retailed information that is familiar to most of us but with a twist in the tale. His most telling line was “The challenge India faces is the Indian state” which does difficult things well — Mars mission, etc — but cannot manage simpler more basic things, like providing public health, sanitation, law and public order, water, etc.As a state promising to undertaking to deliver “maximally” in all areas, it cannot deliver even “minimally”. This because the state and its social goods state delivery agencies are under-staffed but over-bureaucratised!

And then a devastating sidebar on IAF — On average it loses one fighting squadron every three years owing to accidents sourced 50:50 to pilot error and technical malfunction. Said Prof Kapur “Ïndia does not need an enemy! It does a good job of disarming itself!”

And finally the state does nothing about public sector enterprises that haemorrhage huge resources w/o anybody in govt batting an eyelid. Thus Rs 58,000 crores have been recently invested in Air India not only with no prospect of the airline recovering but with no end in sight of end to public monies being frittered this way. The irony is this airline is used mostly by the relatively welloff and in the context of pvt airlines running cost-efficiently w/o any public subvention! Most remarkably CAG which picks up on lesser scams has not once investigated Air India and its finances!!

Posted in Asian geopolitics, Culture, domestic politics, Great Power imperatives, Indian Air Force, Indian democracy, Indian ecobomic situation, Indian Politics, society, South Asia, Weapons | Leave a comment

Great developments on the Tejas front; duplicate them for FMBT

Leadership has often been the difference between a successful and failed indigenous armament or weapons development project to which national prestige is committed. After the departure of Dr Kurt Tank from the HF-24 supersonic fighter project and the sidelining of Dr Raj Mahindra when the Mk-II of this aircraft was killed by IAF in order to procure the Anglo-French Jaguar low level strike aircraft, which mission the Marut Mk-II would have done far better. It initiated the process of IAF going over lock and stock and barrel to importing combat aircraft to the detriment of the security of the country and the national interest, a direction a seemingly unconcerned Indian govt actively encouraged — with defence minister Jagjivan Ram in the post-Emergency Janata govt allegedly pocketing rich commissions as the Maneka Gandhi edited magazine’Surya’ then claimed.

For the first time now Tejas will have two tested and proven persons at the wheel, with the Indian govt finally doing the right thing for a change with respect to the LCA. It has appointed Commodore CD Balaji, fresh from his success spearheading the development of the naval variant of Tejas as chief of the Aeronautical Development Agency, Bangalore. It was Balaji who ensured, for instance, that the navalised Tejas is a far more advanced aircraft than its air force sibling. Levcons (leading edge vortex controllers) have been configured into its airframe, making it a far more maneuverable warplane able, for instance, to pull high angles of attack at low speeds. Balaji’s hands-on control, commitment, and ability to eliminate/remove systemic and procedural obstacles are by now the stuff of legend. Senior US Navy officers whom I met in Washington some years back, who were part of the consultancy team Pentagon approved to liaise with the Balaji project, were full of praise for the streamlined manner in which everything worked, something they confessed they did did not expect. The USN consultants were hired to advice on such things as the strengthening of the aircraft’s fuselage, the exact placement of the arrester hook, the choice of an appropriate jet engine with the needed power-rating, etc.

In parallel with Balaji taking over ADA, Commodore Jaydeep Maolankar has assumed command of the National Flight Test Centre, also in Bangalore, replacing Air Commodore Muthanna, who was in place since 2011. NFTC with its team of test pilots is tasked with testing aircraft for their air worthiness and ability to do combat maneuvers they are designed for. Mavlankar, an MS in aerospace engineering from IISc, like Balaji at ADA, is the right fit — the proverbial round peg in a round hole (unlike the history of GOI usually appointing the wrong persons to lead critically significant high-technology projects and then wondering why they veer off into failure) So, the designer agency and testing unit will be in sync and Tejas can now expect to begin rolling fast to cross certification hurdles.

The important thing to note is that both Balaji and Maolankar are senior naval officers, and typify the navy’s quite commendable levels of commitment and eagerness to validate and operate indigenous military hardware, in this case, combat aircraft. It indicates defmin Manohar Parrikar’s recognition about the importance of getting the Tejas inducted into operational squadrons in the navy and air force fast. It is perhaps the first tremendously right and potent set of appointments he has made. It is now for him to ensure Messrs Balaji and Maolankar are not tripped up by the usual villains lurking in the corners — mostly in IAF and not least in his own ministry of defence and its department of defence production. He needs in particular roughly to drag IAF by the ear, if necessary, so to say, to appreciating and prioritising the Tejas in their scheme of things — rather than have this service clamour ceaselessly for Rafale and similar foreign aircraft.

This should also signal to the army that it is wrong to so casually torpedo the Future Main Battle Tank design, as follow-on, to the Arjuna MBT that beat the Russian T-90 hollow in field trials in all respects. And Parrikar should squelch at the earliest any move by army to tilt towards the Russian Armata tank displayed at the recent Red Square parade in Moscow to mark the 70th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany. He should rescind army’s RFPs, and tell the COAS and his cohort that the army will have the DRDO-designed FMBT perhaps with its production shared half-and-half between DPSUs and a private sector combine in a competitive set up, both to judge the effectiveness/efficiency of public and private sector manufacturing skills and processes, and to get the best product out to the army, because it definitely will not have an imported tank. If Parrikar can summon that kind of conviction, MOD/DDP will fall in line, pronto.

Posted in arms exports, Asian geopolitics, civil-military relations, Defence Industry, domestic politics, DRDO, Europe, Geopolitics, Great Power imperatives, India's strategic thinking and policy, Indian Air Force, Indian Army, Indian Navy, Indian Ocean, Military Acquisitions, Russia, russian military, society, South Asia, Technology transfer, United States, US., Weapons | 22 Comments

Sour Grapes and Screw-ups

The long rumoured book by AS Dulat, head of RAW during the previous BJP government, has finally hit the bookshops. Haven’t bought the book yet, but from the available news reports on it, the author has avoided genuinely deconstructing many controversial events during his tenure and supposedly retailed in this book, in that blame has not been assigned to any particular person or agency for many of the fiascos. Certainly, there was no greater fiasco than the Indian Airlines hijacking to Kandahar which could have been preempted at the start when the plane, running low on fuel, landed in Amritsar. And this is where everything that could go wrong did. Because in any crisis the first thing that happens is that the Indian government loses its head — even as loss of nerve is the other predetermined response — the normal in such situations, everybody seemed engaged but no one person in authority seemed ready to take charge, impose order and discipline up and down the line, cut out all sorts of agencies who butt in to further foul up matters. Dulat fails to ascribe the blame to the one person who should have been held responsible — the late Brajesh Mishra who, as NSA and PPS to the PM, actually could have brought rapid closure to this sordid drama being played out on the Amritsar airport tarmac, but did not. To blame cabsec Prabhat Kumar for vacillating as the estimable KPS Gill does — his Punjab Police commando unit was immediately deployed by him around the airport and could at any time have been ordered to shoot their way in or, at a minimum, to disable the aircraft — is to assume any bureaucrat placed in a similar situation would anything differently. Dulat mentions the then director, IB, for instance, fuming at orders from Delhi to puncture the aircraft tyres, wondering if he and his agency were some kind of cycle repair facility(!), thereby indicating the brahminical attitude to not getting one’s hands dirty, as if such a job was some menial task meant for lowlier persons or agencies. Was he punished for this attitude, cashiered on the spot? Of course not. This when the IB’s correct response should have been not to tarry, waste time questioning these orders, but for one of its personnel to run to the aircraft and shoot the damn tyres to smithereens with a service revolver or to call in the paramilitary to take potshots at the tyres if this was beyond the ken of IB officers (!) and thus terminate the hijack episode right there. Does this require great confabulation at the Delhi-end or even at the Amritsar-end or merely the exercise of some common sense at the level of a constable for God’s sake! That no one in Delhi, or in any of the numerous police and intelligence agencies on the scene in Amritsar, thought of pushing this option — asking the IB director to shut up and get on with the business of taking out the tyres, rather than waiting for the vaunted NSG to be airlifted from their Haryana base which seemed atrocious then and immeasurably silly some two decades later. What great skill is required to aim and fire a machine gun or even a 5.56mm INSAS rifle at the tyres of a stationary passenger plane in the interim period before the NSG got there? If the profoundly idiotic agencies of govt did not want to get that violent, they could have just parked fire-brigade trucks stationed at the airport in front of and in the rear of the aircraft, thus making it impossible for it to move. Worse, as was revealed in my previous writings — some of them on this blog — precisely these and other means for disabling hijacked aircraft, were practiced by an extended inter-agency and paramilitary exercise only the year before, codenamed, ironically, ‘SOUR GRAPES’!!! So, what happened? If even tested and practiced actions are NOT implemented when the foreseen crisis or emergency actually occurs, then what’s the point of preparing for any such contingency in the first place??? This quite extraordinary failure points up the basic flaw in the Indian govt’s working — when it comes to the crunch nobody from the lowest to the highest — wants to approve decisive action. The ex-post facto justification offered at the time, and revived now, that the likelihood of on-board passengers being hurt or killed is what deterred the govt is to continue to make excuses for a govt system that, plainly speaking, is institutionally not geared to handle any such crisis or emergency very well. This bodes ill for the future because all any terrorist group has to do to make its political mark, wrench concessions out of New Delhi, is to hold any vehicle or platform with civilians hostage for the govt to buckle under “public pressure” and accept terms detrimental to national interests. The Indian government has still not come out with a clear policy statement to the effect that any hijacking or hostage-taking by any means will not involve any negotiations of any kind with the terrorists, and that such episodes will end in only way — the death or capture of the terrorists involved, even if this means absorbing collateral civilian deaths and casualties. The print and television media that unctuously report on Dulat’s conclusions, should also be mindful of their role and complicity in pressuring the Vajpayee govt at the time when TV cameras multiplied the public effect of affected families asking for the govt to give into the terrorists of the Kandahar-bound plane. Even so, there’s no excuse for the GOI to have done what it did — ease off and let the fueled-up aircraft leave.

It is time Prime Minister Narendra Modi issued a standing order to all police and intelligence agencies at the centre and in the states that there will be no negotiating with terrorists in such situations for any reason at any time, and that they are instructed to at the first instance and opportunity disable the vehicle/platform by any and all means, thus preventing the escape of the outlaws. He should use his “man ki baat” radio programme and also propagate on TV that his govt will not allow people to protest or put pressure on the govt in such emergencies, and if such pressure is nevertheless somehow imposed he was free to ignore it in the larger national interest of dealing with terrorists and eradicating terrorism. There’s no other way to signal GOI’s resolve to terrorists everywhere to finish them.

Posted in Afghanistan, Asian geopolitics, civil-military relations, Culture, domestic politics, Geopolitics, Great Power imperatives, India's strategic thinking and policy, Indian Army, Indian para-military forces, Indian Politics, Internal Security, society, South Asia, Special Forces, Terrorism | 4 Comments

Incomparable indigenous RLGs — French no match; see!!

Going to France for ring laser gyros as navaid for the Brahmos cruise missile is a ridiculous thing the Indian govt has done. Whether the Minister of State for Defence Rao Inderjit Singh even understood what he was actually asking for when he requested the French defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian for technology assistance with the ring laser gyro as guidance system on the Brahmos is doubtful. He would have merely learnt by rote from a note given him by the Ministry of Defence (MOD) before regurgitating it to the Frenchman.

Minister Inderjit was in Paris for the Air Show where the Pakistan Air Force flew its JF-17, the 4- gen aircraft and managed to snag several customers — at a time when the Indian govt is sitting on the sidelines confused and baffled about the best way to proceed on the 4.5 generation Tejas LCA which only needs a determined govt push to get it into IAF squadrons and for it to draw interest from a whole host of states that would be keen to buy it. Incidentally, the states that have shown definite interest in the Sino-Pak JF-17 include Nigeria and Sri Lanka.

Is this junior minister or, for that matter, the Union minister for defence Manohar Parrikar aware that (1) the Agni-prgramme head GV Sekaran-produced ring laser gyro (RLG) the technology base for the country’s Mangalayan Mars probe? If this RLG can get the Indian space vehicle on a “slingshot”course to the distant red planet on the first try, you think it will face problems getting the Brahmos dead on a terrestrial target? (2) the Indian-made RLG outfits both the Agni ballistic missiles and the Shourya and the K-15 boost-glide missiles. (3) the RLGs on ballistic missiles, as experts will tell you, have to have very high axial accelerations capability. On the other hand, cruise missiles (CMs)/boost glide vehicles (BGVs) require a very high lateral accelerations capability in order to pull-off maneuvers by the vehicle. More specifically, for violent maneuvers, the RLG needs to have a very high tolerance which translates into low % error as a function of G’s pulled. Further, in CM’s and BGV’s, the RLG is usually the primary navigation unit, especially in an intense ECM environment such as GPS jamming, spoofing, etc. Equipped thus on the Shaurya and K-15 (both BGV’s), the RLG works just fine. BGV’s are what scares everybody. This is because they are virtually impossible to intercept by any ABM system.

The stories rife in certain GOI/MOD circles that the Indian RLGs have greater axial tolerance but lack sufficient lateral tolerance are, therefore, so much motivated poppycock!

There is visual record of the RLG helping Brahmos prosecute the impossibly difficult S maneuver and punch a hole through a small triangular metal plate on a wall (and the wall itself). The exercise was to simulate an attack on a hypothetical chemical weapons plant on enemy territory. This does not seem like a RLG with an inferior lateral performance. And this video was circa: 2010. The Indian RLGs have been improved since then and ECM jamming might very well have be factored into them. The guys at the Sekaran outfit are damned good. See the video clip and judge for yourself Mr Parrikar and other doubting Thomases! Watch it at


The French item, say, Sagem RLG in contention looks like this:

It is unlikely the Indian RLG performance can be bettered in any flight envelope and is definitely miles better than the French item. In the event, going to France for this technology when a far better and proven technology is available at home seems like suppression of an already developed indigenous capability and wasting national wealth.
P.S.: The person who designed the algorithm for the “Kalman filters” to help the BGVs pull very violent maneuvers and to detect incorrect sensor inputs is a desi who once worked in an Indian R&D dept, was hounded out of it, and is now sought by and works on contract basis with top scientific R&D orgs in Asia and elsewhere. So much for the Indian govt nursing Indian talent for national good!

Posted in arms exports, Asian geopolitics, civil-military relations, Culture, Defence Industry, DRDO, Europe, Geopolitics, Great Power imperatives, Indian Air Force, Indian Army, Indian ecobomic situation, Military Acquisitions, Missiles, South Asia, Strategic Relations with the US & West | 4 Comments

Ladies bringing down a Manmohan-itis-infected PM?

For a supposedly strong, no-nonsense guy, with a streak of ruthlessness in him — a necessary accoutrement of any successful politician, incidentally — Prime Minister Narendra Modi seems infected by Manmohan-itis. His indecisiveness is a revelation and harks back to when his predecessor occupied 7, Race Course Road, and constantly looked over his shoulder to see the signals from Sonia G at 10 Janpath. Except, the PM is the puppet-master and has no need to seek external guidance or direction. It is surprising that he did not at the first hint of trouble with external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, Rajasthan CM Vasundhara Raje, and HRD minister Smriti Irani immediately dismiss all the three with no promises about these ladies being hoisted back into their old posts, but a definite warning that they’d have to be declared clean by the courts before they had a chance at political revival. The
(mis)deeds of these three ladies was surely known to the PM — through intelligence and police reports — before they were appointed (and Raje before she was permitted to lead the BJP at the hustings in Rajasthan). Or, is there no vetting by law enforcement/police agencies before potential appointees are announced for high political positions, no scrutiny of precisely the kind of malfeasance and ethical shortfalls that can quickly turn government claims of incorruptibility and high values to dust?

Even so, what prevented the PM from acting promptly to preempt the cloudburst of corrupt behavior? He could have called Raje over, instructed her to resign on the pain of the IB, RAW, and the Enforcement Directorate digging full throttle into her past to unearth God knows what! After all, the Scindias are a canny erstwhile royal family that ensured it was on the right side of whatever dispensation was in power with a neat division of political loyalty between the left-of-centre Congress party and the right-of-centre Bharatiya Janata Party to ensure the Family interests are preserved and protected. One can imagine in the process a dumpster-load of skeletons that could be unearthed to write finis to Raje’s career and her extended “royal” family for good. Besides, after the sidelining of LK Advani — a sore loser if there’s one –she has insubstantial support within the ruling party.

Likewise, Sushma Swaraj — another of Advani’s protégés — could have been dumped without compunction. It is a bit incomprehensible that she has been a BJP fixture for so long, considering she actively opposed Narendra Modi’s ascent and contested for the PM’s post without having anything like comparable popular support. For an outsider with no IOUs in Delhi, the reasons Modi included her in his cabinet remain a bit of mystery. It is not as if Narendra Modi needed to install a cabinet of rivals — as he had no opposition within the party, and still doesn’t. She could have likewise been told, at the first hint of trouble, to stand down, and seek to clear the charges of ethical wrongdoing by going to the Court.

And then there’s the serpent, Lalit Modi, who has tempted these two matronly Eves into flagrant indiscretions. Sure, as finance minister Arun Jaitley has hinted, the govt is going to go after him, let the ED loose on him, and he is bound to be corralled. But the former IPL boss has already warned he has ammunition that can fell Jaitley as well, who as head of the Delhi cricket board or whatever it is called, has to worry.

A more niggling problem for the PM with his namesake is their shared moniker — MODI. In a country where Indira exploited her Gandhi surname and was believed by masses of voters to be some relation of the Mahatma which misperception, in the early part of her political career she did nothing to upend, the name sticks and can hurt or benefit. Lalit Modi’s legal troubles here and abroad will no doubt be sought by opposition parties to be propagated as related in some central way to the Gujarati Modi and PM. It’ll be damned difficult for Narendra Modi-Amit Shah duo to work their out of this perceptional mess at election time.

Smriti Irani — she is a comely, gritty-gutsy political infighter, for sure. But handing her the HRD ministry was like giving a child a box of matches and placing it near a powder keg, and hoping she won’t blow up the house! Plainly, bright though she may be, she simply does not have the intellect — a capacity for facile eloquence in English and Hindi is surely not the only qualification for a minister tasked with turning the unleavened demographic mass into gold, as driver of the country’s future. She lacks the intellectual width, depth, and heft and it is doubtful she even understands the import of educational arcana such as the importance of independent functioning of the IITs and IIMs, which she means to chain down with God-awful govt regulations, transforming them into another genus of non-functioning agencies. But the PM has a soft corner for her fighting qualities and her readiness to take-on the Gandhi family in Amethi and elsewhere. She nevertheless has to clear her name — her “Yale degree” notwithstanding! Here again, the PM failed by not instantly distancing her from his govt.

Irani is, like Raje and Swaraj, a millstone round the PM’s neck, making the life of this govt more difficult than it needs to be. The coming Monsoon session of Parliament threatens to be only the curtain-raiser. So the question is: Why would Narendra Modi want to endanger the credibility and respect the BJP govt continues to enjoy merely to provide political cover for a bunch of ladies who have proved too clever by half and had their comeuppance coming.

Posted in Culture, domestic politics, Europe, Indian democracy, Indian ecobomic situation, Indian Politics, society, South Asia | 1 Comment

Why satnav and French RLG on Brahmos?

If as is being bandied about the French were approached for the ring laser gyro (RLG) as navigation aid on the Brahmos, the story makes even less sense! The VG Sekaran-led Advanced Systems Laboratory, Hyderabad, also produced the RLG for the advanced and highly accurate Agni-5 IRBM — of course, did I write A-6 originally? Oops! — which missile is comparable to the best in the world. If this indigenous RLG is good enough for the A-5 why is it not good enough for the Brahmos? Further, for cruise missile guidance there are more spoof-proof means available than satellite navigation. Such as terrain-mapping, etc. Hence the story gets curiouser! France is apparently GOI’s go-to country for high-tech. Except a more commercial-minded supplier who has time and again pocketed Indian money but not delivered the technology contracted for (for example, accelerometers) cannot be imagined, and this is the country India is going to trust????? And worse, the relationship with France is to be at the expense of Russia??? The more one thinks of how things are going wrong strategically the more one worries about the direction national security policies are headed.

Posted in arms exports, Asian geopolitics, Cyber & Space, Defence Industry, DRDO, Europe, Geopolitics, Great Power imperatives, India's strategic thinking and policy, Indian Air Force, Indian Army, Military Acquisitions, Missiles, Russia, russian assistance, satellites, South Asia, Strategic Forces Command, Strategic Relations with the US & West, Technology transfer, Weapons | 3 Comments