Has Indian Navy brass gone stark raving mad?

Basking in the afterglow of the electrifying Tejas at Bahrain, we are back to the more familiar strategic mistakes the military has tendency to commit. The shock here is that it is the Indian Navy — which has always had an inherent strategic sense, which of late has been faulting on a couple of issues (such as going in for 80,000 ton plus-class carriers to accommodate the US-given EMALS — electro-magnetic aircraft launch system which, as argued in my previous writings and in my new book, will end up grievously hurting the national interest.

The immediate problem is with the CNS, Admiral Robin Dhowan, announcing that the indigenous Arihant SSBN will showcase the Indian naval complement at the 2016 Presidential Fleet Review (PFR) to be held next month in Vizag, where some 50-odd navies will be sending their ships (http://idrw.org/ins-arihant-to-be-showstopper-at-international-fleet-review-ifr/). This boat is now at the on-board weapons-firing test stage after successfully negotiating harbor trials and deep sea-diving phases, as prelude to induction in fleet operations,

SSBN spearheading a fleet review??? Have Dhowan & Co. gone stark raving mad? A reasonable question to ask considering the Chinese PLAN will be sending a flotilla of surface ships and a submarine or two. Nothing would make PLAN happier than have the Arihant right there for them to assess, and in maneuvering to the review position in the van giving away its cavitation and some sonar signature (even if it doesn’t submerge) and other metrics for both the Chinese surface and submersible fleets hereafter to key into their threat data bank connected with their fire control systems for easy identification and counter-actions. This is ridiculous. And, how long do you think it will be before PLAN passes on the Arihant-related target information to the Pakistan Navy for use by the Agosta Bs in its inventory? Beyond the pride Arihant will no doubt induce in the top naval brass by putting Arihant on show, and the frisson it may generate at the review with every adversary and friendly participating navy trying to get a fix on the Indian SSBN, what exactly is sought to be achieved by NHQ?? Considering how careful the navy has all along been in not even exposing the Kilo SSKs to US naval scrutiny in the Malabar exercises until the last one, going so public with the SSBN is nothing short of strategic disaster that bids fair to heedlessly endanger operations of the Arihant class of ships once they get fully seaborne, with the first boat pulling long distance patrols armed with nuclear-tipped missiles starting in 2017.

Time to swallow pride Mr. Dhowan and do the right thing: Pull the Arihant from the PFR, pronto, lest you eliminate even that slight strategic advantage an unexposed Indian SSBN poses PLAN and Chinese interests west of Malacca! If the CNS doesn’t relent, it is time for the defmin Manohar Parrikar to show some political leadership for a change, rather than acquiescing in every damn-fool measure instituted by the military services even when these violate common sense, and ORDER the navy to keep the Arihant under heavy wraps, especially from prying eyes at the 2016 PFR.

Posted in Asian geopolitics, China, China military, civil-military relations, Culture, Defence Industry, DRDO, Geopolitics, Great Power imperatives, India's China Policy, India's strategic thinking and policy, Indian Navy, Indian Ocean, Military Acquisitions, Missiles, Nuclear Policy & Strategy, Nuclear Weapons, Pakistan, Pakistan military, society, South Asia, Strategic Forces Command, Strategic Relations with the US & West, Weapons, Western militaries | 18 Comments

Dimwitted BAS organizers re: Tejas — but visuals here

For more private phone camera recordings of the Tejas performing on previous days in Bahrain, see
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CackdUGFfFg and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wSY72-PIiR8 — both with very clear views of the Tejas making a low pass and then going vertical Charlie. These visuals are what we have to make do with considering the BAS organizers stiff-armed the Tejas today which, incidentally, again pulled a tight 350 metre turn at 160 knots — bravura stuff!. (As soon as I get visuals of todays LCA performance, will put it up. It won’t be long!)

After being primed, ready to watch Tejas being put through its impressive paces — got on line by 4:30 PM IST, was tearing my hair out watching instead some dimwitted Bahraini (?) bimbos interview all manner of persons ranging from the UK military to mostly circus performers — magicians, rope-dancers, even as 6:10 passed and one heard Tejas taking to the skies, and the camera settled on passing shots of the Indian LCA pulling hard maneuvers — 8g turn, etc., before abruptly moving back to the bimbo on the dais for another ridiculous exchange, and then seemingly reluctantly back to cover the Tejas landing after its aerial stint.

The organizers of the Bahrain Air Show are obviously to blame and this visual neglect of the Tejas was apparently by design — there’s no other explanation. Because not long before LCA’s time slot, the camera lovingly followed every little twitch by many other aircraft, the last oh which was a French Mirage 2000! Is it too outre to infer that the French and the Pakis (and possibly the Chinese) jointly pressed the BAS organizers to truncate the live broadcasting of the full Tejas session?? Consider their stakes and the context.

Plainly nobody expected Tejas to come out so well, and prove itself beyond doubt as a low cost 4+gen fighter that developing countries (particularly in the neighbourhood, Iran, Africa, Central Asia, Southeast Asia, and the extended Indian Ocean region) may easily cotton on to if the Indian govt showed even the slightest strategic sense to sell it.

Paris and the govt of Francois Hollande is biting its nails, trying desperately to somehow get Delhi to sign the contract for the 36 Rafale combat aircraft in a deal that is manifestly unaffordable for India. Would the Quay d’Orsay want the Tejas to upstage the Mirage on show in Bahrain and, by extension, its successor the Rafale, by broadcasting to a discriminating audience in India just how good India’s own, locally designed fighter aircraft really is, and begin sowing doubts in the minds of Modi, Parrikar, and company about the Rafale contract on the anvil??

Then there’s Pakistan. As mentioned in an earlier blog, it hightailed its JF-17 Thunder jointly produced with China right out of BAS for fear of being shown up in very adverse light. But this fear seems to be stalking the French as well because the Tejas has gone, as a source said, from being “an oddity” to the real thing that can upset a lot of calculations in great many vendor states peddling military hardware. And Pakistan Army personnel are the palace guard protecting the sunni emir, Hamad bin Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa, from the shia majority in Bahrain and if GHQ Rawalpindi says cut up the live videocast of Tejas at BAS, it’s a small price to pay to keep the minders of the praetorian guard happy.

And China must be aghast to find India coming up so fast with its Tejas. It has an open field with no competition. Suddenly it finds that its cut-rate combat aircraft, Soviet/Russian knockoffs mostly, may not be able to cut the mustard in the export market. Every incentive for Beijing then to concert with Islamabad and Paris to get BAS organizers to play ball.

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Urgent! See Tejas perform live! LCA impact

Tejas while scheduled to be front stage and centre at the Bahrain Air Show at 1810 hrs (6:10 PM) Indian Standard Time on the last day of the Bahrain International Air Show, the Indian fighter may actually go up 10-15 minutes earlier, as the flight displays have been faster paced than the programme had planned.Catch Tejas live at http://www.bna.bh/portal/tv/ch55!! Get on line by 1745 hrs (5:45 PM) IST.

Several things have become apparent about the Tejas:

(1) The buzz about Tejas is in the form of general wonderment among the community of aviation experts and professionals present at the Sakhir air base hosting BAS: How come no one has heard of the Indian Light Combat Aircraft ere now and, considering what a great aircraft it is proving to be, whose idea has it been to keep this gem under cover, far from the gaze of international aerospace circles???

And three technical/performance aspects relating to the Indian LCA’s display have really impressed everybody in Bahrain:

(2) The turning radius of roughly 350 meters compared say to the US F-16’s 426-428 meters and the F-16, mind you, is virtually the gold standard for agility in combat aircraft. This means that in a dogfight Tejas could get inside of F-16’s loop and get on its tail more effectively than the US aircraft could do anything to avoid getting blown out of the skies.

(3) The low-speed handling characteristics of the LCA (necessary for effective prosecution of air-to-ground missions) has been a standout attribute, courtesy its compound delta wing (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=LlEJRqVMYpY). This is what the
experts are talking in hushed tones about, especially as it is manifestly better than those in the same mission profile of the French Mirage 2000 in the IAF fleet, and comparable to the French Rafale IAF is pining for and which Prime Minister Modi, with little forethought, has committed himself to buying at an exorbitant price of some Rs. 63,000 crores for 36 aircraft with weapon load, i.e., Rs 1,750 crores per aircraft with NO technology transfer whatsoever!! In other words, the country could buy 14 Tejas Mk-1 for the cost of JUST ONE Rafale!! So, what are IAF’s reasons again for hitching a good part of India’s defence acquisitions budget to this buy? Go figure!!!

Posted in arms exports, Asian geopolitics, civil-military relations, Defence Industry, DRDO, Europe, Geopolitics, Great Power imperatives, India's strategic thinking and policy, Indian Air Force, Indian ecobomic situation, Military Acquisitions, society, South Asia, Strategic Relations with the US & West, Technology transfer, United States, US., Weapons, West Asia, Western militaries | 3 Comments

Indo-Russian relations on ‘Latitude’

Two television discussions on the state of Indo-Russian relations (16-17 January, 2016), and earlier, on Indo-US and Indo-Russian strategic partnerships (June 5, 2015) on the Maroof Raza-hosted television programme – ‘Latitude’ on Times Now TV at
http://www.timesnow.tv/Road-ahead-for-Indo-Russian-ties/videoshow/4484358.cms, and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jvg5m3I8CwQ.

Posted in arms exports, Asian geopolitics, China, China military, Defence Industry, DRDO, Geopolitics, Indian Air Force, Indian Army, Indian Navy, Military Acquisitions, nuclear industry, Nuclear Weapons, Relations with Russia, Russia, russian assistance, russian military, society, South Asia, Strategic Relations with the US & West, United States, US., Weapons | Leave a comment

Tejas doing its thing in Bahrain!

For the clearest visuals of the first formal Tejas session at the Bahrain Air Show yesterday afternoon, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=SR88zf50vAU. Fast forward to the 2.56 minute mark of the 13-odd minute long video. These are truly great moments for the Indian designed fly-by-wire 4.5 gen multi-role combat aircraft! What a way to make entry into the international fighter market. Way to go Tejas!!!

Posted in arms exports, Asian geopolitics, Defence Industry, DRDO, Geopolitics, Great Power imperatives, Indian Air Force, Indian Navy, society, South Asia, Weapons, West Asia | 1 Comment

LCA maneuvers in Bahrain and Tejas’ immediate prospects

The stalwart fliers who will be piloting the two Tejas LCAs at the Bahrain Air Show (BAS) every afternoon post-lunch in the time slot 1300 hrs- 1600 hrs for the duration of the BAS are, from the Navy — Cmde. Jaideep Maolankar, presently head of the National Flight Testing Centre, Bangalore, and the service’s chief test pilot, Captain Shivnath Dahiya, and from the air force, Group Captain Madhav Rangachari.

Today is the first BIG day for the LCA and Maolankar and Rangachari will be at the controls. According to an unimpeachable source they “will perform (at the very least) a square loop, two rolls, a steep pitch up, a low speed pass combined with half roll and a loop.” This should quieten the doubters in IAF, MOD, and GOI and indeed prompt everyone in the procurement decision loop to trust in Indian talent and R&D programmes. Defmin Parrikar should capitalize on the Tejas impact at BAS, and instruct the ADA, DRDO, et al to transfer in full and without ado the technologies they have developed, ideally, to an Indian private sector defence industrial consortium to produce in large numbers and with hugely improved production quality (something HAL never achieved over the decades which, perhaps, was the reason for IAF’s reluctance to accept indigenous stuff), more realistically to a slate of Indian private sector firms with HAL, may be, retaining the prime integrator role. The ramped up Tejas production will meet both the country’s needs and a rapidly cultivated export market. The priority foreign customers should be Sri Lanka and Malayasia who, with slight Indian persuasion, opted out of their initial decision to tap Pakistan for the Sino-Paki JF-17 Thunder, followed by other neighbouring states, including Bangladesh, Myanmar and members of ASEAN. Vietnam, in particular, will be especially motivated to exploit the fighting qualities of the Tejas to the max.

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1st video of the Tejas at Bahrain

For the first video of the Tejas performing aerobatics at the Bahrain Air Show, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=oQ_ZnWbQk74, or slightly better at https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=oQ_ZnWbQk74 .

One can (1) see right away why the PAF chose to withdraw the Sino-Paki JF-17 Thunder from the show, (2) understand why potential customers would be very interested in a relatively light multi-role plane that will not cost buyer-states their GDP, and (3) wonder at IAF’s and MOD civilian bureaucrats’ distaste for this indigenous combat aircraft and if it is not the usual inducements — the pleasures of Paris/etc, secret offshore accounts, offers of “scholarships” for suddenly “brilliant” progeny in prestigious universities and/or placements in well paying jobs in MNCs/FSIs in the West packaged with residential permits, that are at work.

If Defmin Parrikar still does not appreciate the strategic value of the Tejas (and its variants) as the mainstay combat aircraft of the IAF for as long as warfare by manned weapons platforms lasts, which is not too long into the future, as the seedbed for a genuinely Indian aerospace industry, and as an enormously prized product whose export potential is vast, then he might as well retire to Goa where he will at least do no harm to the national security interests.

Posted in arms exports, Asian geopolitics, China, China military, civil-military relations, Culture, Defence Industry, DRDO, Europe, Geopolitics, Great Power imperatives, India's strategic thinking and policy, Indian Air Force, Indian ecobomic situation, Iran and West Asia, Military Acquisitions, Pakistan, Pakistan military, society, South Asia, Strategic Relations with the US & West, United States, US., Weapons, West Asia | 2 Comments