Coincidence, or uncannily simlar developments at the India and US ends

Image result for pics of modi electioneering in gujarat 2017

 

This post is being written a day before the final phase of the state elections in Gujarat. It is an election that is already giving the ruling BJP a fright and the results on Dec 18 may show Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s slipping hold on his home-state and, perhaps, the country. However the Gujarati voters will it, it is safe to say that Modi reached his political apogee  sometime back and now he may be declining.

Political punditry is not my forte. However, there are uncanny resemblances between Modi and the US President Donald J Trump. The similarities in their ‘strong man’ political trajectories are hard to miss and analyzing them, incidentally, is what I have done in a whole chapter in my next book that I am half way through writing. Notwithstanding their origins and social backgrounds from the two ends of the wealth and societal spectrum, it is astonishing just how much they have in common with each other, including their authoritarian temperaments, position in their respective firmaments as the sole source of policy ideas often voiced  without much forethought or expert inputs, down to their love of twitter to communicate with millions.

Political developments relevant to these two heads of government in India and the US too seem to be running in parallel. Trump has just been pulled down several political pegs by the election of the opposition Democratic party candidate for the US Senate, Doug Jones, from the President’s own Republican Party-dominated state of Alabama, where he had canvassed vigorously for his party’s nominee.

This is not unlike what is transpiring in Gujarat where the BJP may win but by a much reduced majority and reflect poorly on the PM’s supposed vote pulling power and set the scene for the 2019 general elections in which Modi will be running scared. In the main because, he squandered the popular mandate he was afforded in 2014 for radical system change, which he will find hard to explain to the people. He coined more slogans, and implemented measures (demonetization, GST, etc) that do not begin to address the root of all problems, and the continuing rot, in the country — the existing apparatus of state manned by generalist civil servants accountable to no one. Worse, his promise of job generation has not panned out, the economy is lurching from bad to bad (if not to worse, which’s a relief), the public life of the nation during his tenure has steadily coarsened with Modi unable or unwilling to rein in the unruly, often murderous, Hindu fringe mobs taking life, running amuck. The electorate is becoming impatient with the PM’s talk, and more talk, of change but with little evidence of it on the ground where BJP’s claims of ridding the country of corruption is contradicted by petty officials reaching out for their cut. His flagship ‘Make in India’ policy is such a welter of confusions it will end up further entrenching India as an arms dependency, except now it will be Washington controlling the drip.

The difference is that while little was expected of the crass, almost juvenile, Trump other than that he’d curse out his opponents and lift the tax burden on fellow billionaires — something he may or may not be able to deliver on, much was anticipated from Modi, just as showy and shallow, perhaps, but a political animal all the same to Trump’s political amateur.

These two will be seen in retrospect, to have had much less enduring effects than when they started out in their respective tenures. Modi’s failure is especially unfortunate because — his rhetoric (“The government has no business to be in business”) apart he never was the flag-bearer for principled rightwing conservative ideology — something India desperately needed to balance Congress Party’s Nehruvian socialism — a cover for dynastic rule in the country, and to have someone as a rightful successor to the great Rajaji (C. Rajagopalachari) and (the PM’s namesake) Mody, albeit Piloo.

Posted in arms exports, asia-Pacific/Indo-Pacific, Asian geopolitics, corruption, Culture, Decision-making, Defence Industry, domestic politics, DRDO, Geopolitics, Great Power imperatives, Indian Army, Indian democracy, Indian ecobomic situation, Indian Politics, SAARC, society, South Asia, United States, US. | 11 Comments

Rafale canards are a problem, and will escalate total lifetime programme costs by billions of Euros

Image result for pics of canards on rafale

(Rafale)

The Indian Air Force has a proud 70-year record of BONE-HEADED acquisition decisions. Among them (1) the purchase of the under-powered British Jaguar DPSA at the expense of the entirely indigenously-designed but supposedly “under-powered” Marut HF-24 Mk-II (aka HF-73) and, in the process, registering a collateral kill — as intended — of the indigenous Indian combat aircraft industry for nearly two generations (until an indigenous capability was revived from zero baseline with the Tejas LCA; (2) preferring the MiG-23 BN rather than a squadron of the Tu-22 Backfire bombers painted with IAF roundels that were ready to take-off for India had the Air Marshal Sheodeo Singh mission in the early summer of 1971 made the decision to take it as the Russians were urging it to; (3) No Tu-22, so no follow-on aircraft to the medium range Canberra bomber, and hence, disastrously, the complete elimination of the bomber from the IAF fleet; a decision not corrected by leasing the Tu-160 Blackjack; (4) the contretemps over inducting the Tejas LCA and derivatives in large numbers as the main bulk aircraft and, most recently, (5) the Rafale buy.

Because IAF has been so critical about all the things ostensibly wrong with the Tejas, may be we should put the inordinately expensive Rafale combat aircraft, that makes no cost-benefit sense whatsoever, under similar scrutiny, and see all the things structurally and otherwise wrong with this French item.

Let’s focus in this post on the canards on the Rafale. Canards are the rear horizontal wings in normal planes that are moved forward to near the nose for better aircraft control and hence featured in some combat aircraft like this French plane. It can contribute to lift, replacing the horizontal stabilizer and, therefore, reducing overall drag.

So, what’s the problem? Unlike the Su-30MKI — IAF’s front line advanced air dominance/air superiority fighter, which also sports canards, but uses its 2-D thrust vectoring nozzle for braking operations, the Rafale uses its canards. Using the canards thus generates enormous stress and strain on that part of the aircraft frame and can lead to stress fracture in the canards and result in cracks. Not sure if the IAF flew the Rafale, during the MMRCA test trials, in a sustained fashion over months in summer to see how the aircraft stacked up against the competition. Had they done so, they’d have witnessed the canards starting to fall apart. Combat aircraft experts give it 2-3 months of regular takeoff and landings in the hot tropical conditions of the subcontinent, for this problem to become apparent. Then what?

Replacing fractured and disabled canards is not an easy thing and when the entire fleet is so afflicted, as it will be, the IAF will have more of the Rafale down, resting in their airconditioned hangars than pulling duty in the skies. Soon,  because it cannot be used too intensively or extensively,  it will be reduced to another grand and expensive piece of hardware that, in terms of actual ready use, cannot reasonably be counted in the air order-of-battle. So much for the Rafale’s low down-time and quick-turnaround capability!!!

IAF doesn’t see this awful problem heading its way — and that’s par for the course. But the plane’s producer, Dassault, must be licking its chops in anticipation, because every canard repair and refit will require the aircraft to be ferried to the company’s production line in France. One can safely assess the additional costs of this major structural flaw over the aircraft’s lifetime for the 36 Rafales to be in billions of Euros.  As Government of India is clueless, it will do what — grin and bear it?

Won’t the IAF then complain about a degraded fighter force and about not enough fighter aircraft in the air? Of course, it will but only to pitch in for more Rafales in the belief that one horrible mistake deserves a cascade of the same mistake!

Incidentally, thanks to the intervention by the IAF in the design stage of the LCA and insistence on a canard on the Tejas — a movement headed by an ex-test pilot Air Marshal M. Matheswaran, who retired as Deputy Chief at HQ Integrated Defence Staff, the entire project was delayed by several years. The insertion of the canard in the original design required a major reworking of it, and the ultimate decision by its designers, who knew better but tried to humour its customer, to do away with it, cost the project time and hurt the LCA delivery schedule. These delays were then used by the IAF and Matheswaran in particular, and an ignorant/illiterate press and media, in general, to slam the Tejas.

This same Matheswaran after retirement was recruited by HAL as “adviser” for the LCA programme — why is not clear. He since jumped ship to something lots more lucrative — a sinecure with Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence that has signed up with Dassault for offsets to produce some knick-knacks that will go into the IAF Rafales to be manufactured — minus any transfer of technology — wholly in France. Neat!

[Addendum: A Reliance Defence rep got in touch with me Dec 11, 2017, morning to say that Matheswaran, in fact, departed the  company a year back, and that he had thereafter joined SAAB India, which he no doubt reckoned stands a good chance — if IAF can help it — in its “single engine” aircraft race. This only proves my point. The Reliance rep also informed that other than some Rafale components, his company is into mainly producing with Dassault, a Falcon exec jet, as news reports have previously reported.]

Posted in arms exports, asia-Pacific/Indo-Pacific, Asian geopolitics, civil-military relations, corruption, Decision-making, Defence Industry, DRDO, Europe, Geopolitics, Great Power imperatives, India's strategic thinking and policy, Indian Air Force, MEA/foreign policy, Military Acquisitions, Military/military advice, Russia, russian military, SAARC, society, South Asia, Strategic Relations with the US & West, Technology transfer, Weapons | 18 Comments

What, Rafale as a nuclear delivery system?!

Image result for pics of rafale in french air force for strategic nuclear bombing role

(Rafale)

Indian Express first carried a story Sept 18, 2016 justifying the purchase of 36 Rafales announced in Paris by PM Narendra Modi  17 months earlier because of its supposedly strategic role as nuclear weapon delivery system, http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-news-india/behind-rafale-deal-their-strategic-role-in-delivery-of-nuclear-weapons-3036852/ . On Nov 27 instant, Economic Times in its Blogs carried a piece saying much the same thing — except it dealt, in the main, with the theme of the Rafale procurement process being “clumsy” without it being “corrupt”. (https://blogs.economictimes.indiatimes.com/et-commentary/rafale-procurement-process-has-been-clumsy-but-is-it-crooked/ ).

True, Rafale is tasked by the French Air Force for the N-role, but the distance it has to negotiate to Moscow isn’t relatively much, being the same that Mirage V was meant to do on a one-way suicide mission because that’s all its range permitted at a time in the mid- to late 1960s when France had little else to make its  ‘force de frappe’ credible. Rafale is different in that it has the range to go to Moscow and back and in European conditions may be considered “strategic”, but it cannot be so labeled in Indian conditions unless all that the Modi govt has in mind for its use is Pakistan because, for certain, it can perform no useful strategic function against China. But was the Rafale buy at the unit cost of some $250 million — clean i.e., w/o any weapon — merited just for N-delivery against Pakistani targets when the IAF has the Jaguar low level strike aircraft for this job, and the Su-30MKI, which with aerial tankers and buddy refuelers for the last leg,  for strategic nuclear bombardment deep inside China?

The Su-30MKI — a medium range air superiority/air dominance combat aircraft, I have long argued is not a genuine answer for long range nuclear targeting, whence the desperate need for a genuine high-alt strategic bomber, the Tu-160 Blackjack, that the Russians were always ready to lease to India, as a manned recall-able option in the triad. It was a case I had made to CAS  Charley Browne some years back in person and retailed in ‘Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet). Browne shot it down saying that while lease costs were fine, the operating costs were too high and would be a drain on IAF’s resources. (For the cost figures, etc. refer above book.) But a Rafale carrying N-weapons is economical? This is an example of short-sighted financial  resources management.

The nuclear role conjured up for the Rafale, it’d appear, was an afterthought of some not so bright denizen of the PMO and purveyed through the media, because of the flak Modi was receiving for the hasty, ill thought-out Rafale deal.

The fact is Rafale may barely survive the AD environment over Pakistan. Across Tibet, it is a dead duck, and will have even less chance anywhere deeper in China mainland where the layered AD defence is so intense the US Air Force feels it will have to deploy its full might of the B-2s to register success.

And even then, it will not do much good. Because China PLAAF now has operational a few photonic or quantum radars — with these replacing the older surveillance, tracking, and targeting radars in layers doing frontline duty.   Incidentally, Russia and China have a massive lead in quantum hardware — communications, radars, etc. over the US, and the word is out that the US’ latest lemon F-35, inclusive of its on-board radar, is already defunct because it has been mapped out by the Russian and Chinese photonic radar. Wonder, if that’s the reason why the US is growingly keen about selling the completely useless F-35 to the IAF and has confidence the Indian govt can be prevailed upon to buy it. So much for India’s reputation for buying junk.

Quantum radar, in any case, means definite death for so-called stealth aircraft. In any case, stealth is a mis-used word because even without quantum radars, the stealthiest of the present day aircraft can be easily detected by low frequency radars — the old World War Two kind!

And finally if Rafale is actually being considered as a nuclear delivery platform, what’s the talk that IAF is exploring the acquisition of a handful of the latest version of the Backfire Tu-22M3 from Russia — which makes more sense than Rafale but is not as good an option as the Tu-160 — all about?

 

 

 

Posted in arms exports, asia-Pacific/Indo-Pacific, Asian geopolitics, China, China military, civil-military relations, corruption, Culture, Decision-making, Europe, Geopolitics, Great Power imperatives, India's China Policy, India's Pakistan Policy, India's strategic thinking and policy, Indian Air Force, Indian ecobomic situation, Military Acquisitions, Military/military advice, Nuclear Policy & Strategy, Nuclear Weapons, Pakistan, Pakistan military, Relations with Russia, Russia, russian assistance, russian military, society, South Asia, Strategic Relations with the US & West, United States, US., Weapons, Western militaries | 34 Comments

China in the Maldives

Rajya Sabha TV panel discussion in ‘India’s World’ programme on the subject of China at India’s backdoor in the IO. It was broadcast yesterday evening at 10PM.

Posted in arms exports, Asian geopolitics, China, China military, civil-military relations, Decision-making, Geopolitics, Great Power imperatives, India's China Policy, Indian ecobomic situation, Indian Navy, Indian Ocean, Intelligence, Japan, Maldives, MEA/foreign policy, Military/military advice, society, South Asia, South East Asia, Special Forces, Sri Lanka, Strategic Relations with South East Asia & Far East, United States, US. | 2 Comments

Aussie-think on Quad

Image result for pics of julia bishop releasing the foreign policy white paper

(Julie Bishop Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade at the release of the White Paper)

Spent a good part of the past week in Sydney and that part of New South Wales, doing touristy stuff — and being a good Vedic Hindu, eating beef steaks. But couldn’t ignore the political hub-hub in the country created by the release of the Malcolm Turnbull-led Liberal Party government’s Foreign Policy White Paper — the first update in 14 years. It is a hefty read, but a quick glance through it revealed five things to me. That  Canberra (1) clearly espies the security threat posed by Xi’s China — a scary, fast moving aggrandizing giant of a nation, especially to the  Indo- and eastern Pacific (meaning the Asian rim) parts, including Australia, of the Indo-Pacific (the new nomenclature for Asia- Pacific), (2) fears economic coercion and political interference in the internal affairs of the smaller states by a Beijing determined on having its way, (3) but is reconciled to increasing trade with,and seeking more investment in the extractive/mining and infrastructure sectors from, China because otherwise the country’s economic prospects arebleak, (4) is mindful of the imminent need to shore up Australia’s military capability but, owing to the limitation of its own resources, (5) will have to try and pool its capabilities and resources principally with Japan and India, and the United States and otherwise shore up the quadrilateral to take on the would-be Asian hegemon.

What’s apparent is the tension between how much to economically canoodle with the Chinese and the degree to which to militarily oppose it collectively with other nations, the only way to contain China. It is a dilemma all Asian states face because they all have strong economic/trade/investment ties with China but feel equally insecure with it around. It will centrally animate the Quad, with each of its members working out their individual solutions and Beijing doing its damndest to prevent solidarity by offering  separate sweet-heart deals with each of them — its ASEAN strategy now enlarged.  What’s  also palpable is the concern with how Trump’s America will behave.

To-date Washington has been a pussycat. During the 2016 presidential elections campaign Trump promised that on day one in the White House he’d declare China a “currency manipulator” — a serious charge that would have automatically tripped a whole range of punitive countermeasures. A year later none of this has come to pass. Instead, we have Trump’s grand daughter, Ivanka’s child, serenading the Xi’s in Mar-e-Lago during the latters’ visit with a poem in Mandarin, and regaling them when the US President was in Beijing recently, with a videoed performance of a song again in Mandarin, which Xi promptly hailed as by “a Number One pop star”. Are the Trumps then preparing for a world 50 years hence when Mandarin will displace English as the universal lingua franca?  And, what does that say about the US’ reliability as “strategic partner”for India?

Posted in asia-Pacific/Indo-Pacific, Asian geopolitics, Australia, China, China military, Culture, Decision-making, Geopolitics, Great Power imperatives, India's China Policy, India's strategic thinking and policy, Indian Ocean, MEA/foreign policy, South Asia, South East Asia, Strategic Relations with South East Asia & Far East, Strategic Relations with the US & West, United States, US., Weapons, Western militaries | 13 Comments

Litigating Tejas LCA’s quality & utility

Image result for pics of air chief dhanoa with tejas lca

(Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa in the Tejas)

No pilot who has actually flown the indigenous Tejas light combat aircraft has had anything but the highest praise for the fighter plane. This includes two recent IAF chiefs. ACM Arup Raha called it “a wonderful aircraft” after a sortie in Bengaluru in 2016. The present CAS, ACM Dhanoa, after his LCA flight  on the first day of AeroIndia 2017 seemed very satisfied and left, a project a staffer told me, with “a very positive aura”. One can, moreover, imagine that, as a seat of the pants flier,  ACM Dhanoa couldn’t have resisted taking control from the back seat of the Tejas, with the National Flight Test Centre head AVM AP Singh in the lead cockpit. After all, Dhanoa is the first air chief to have flown solo — and that too a MiG-21 bis after becoming CAS, after ACM Anil Tipnis in the fin de siecle.

Considering the no-nonsense Dhanoa’s attitude to flying, it is puzzling and a little disappointing that Vayu Bhavan continues to feel the need to talk down the Tejas. Is it, perhaps, to justify the unjustifiable, namely, the import of combat aircraft at a time when the Modi government is becoming very antsy about aircraft purchases given the paucity of financial resources and the controversy fueled by the opposition Congress Party about the humungous costs entailed in the Rafale deal with France (something, incidentally, that I had warned would be raked up, in a post soon after the PM’s announcement of this transaction in Paris in April 2015) for just 36 of these planes?  In a recent series of articles in Indian Express ( http://indianexpress.com/article/explained/beyond-the-news-tejas-and-beyond-how-short-the-iaf-is-of-fighters-what-options-it-has-now-4946876/  ) no doubt prompted by IAF HQrs, some very incorrect impressions were sought to be conveyed to the Indian public about the quality of the home-grown Tejas. We’ll deconstruct some of these issues to show just how hollow the charges against this aircraft are, and leave it to the public to judge the intent behind the latest in the ongoing vilification campaign aimed at the LCA

  1. An IAF fleet strength of 42 fighter squadrons is routinely held up as the standard the government has to somehow meet. The problem is that it is a figure the JRD Tata Committee came up with after the 1962 debacle in the Himalayas, when security insurance was sought in numbers —  more of anything is better. Except by the 1970s and the advent of the F-16 the whole concept  had changed to thinking about high-technology and commensurately high performance of combat aircraft as the decisive edge, and not numbers. Meaning, the F-16 generation of aircraft were often sold to host governments by saying one F-16 could take out 3 (or more) of the lesser tech fighter planes, so fewer of these were required. It was the time of the great quality vs  quantity air power debate. Had a new Committee been constituted then, it would have concluded, in the context of bare minimum expenditure, that with new-gen aircraft 35 squadrons would more than suffice. So the alarm sounded about the fleet strength declining to 31 squadrons seems entirely unwarranted.
  2. There’s the usual snide reference to the “long gestation” period of the LCA. Actually, the first Tejas prototype flew inside of 25 years not a bad show at all considering the Indian aircraft designers and engineers began from  zero baseline with the complete degradation of design skills and competencies after the cold-blooded killing of the Raj Mahindra-designed Marut Mk-II by the IAF in the early 1970s. The IAF then went ahead and bought the British Aerospace Jaguar that was just as under-powered as the original HF-24 and its Mk-II version. It came with the stigma of massive commission-corruption — the first major defence deal to be so tainted and which has become the norm, sullying almost every military import transaction ever since.   Ah, to get back to the “long gestation” issue — the US’ latest F-35 Lightning-II has taken over 20 years to get to where it is now and, despite Lockheed Martin’s history of designing hundreds of fighter aircraft and producing quite literally thousands of them, this F-35 by all accounts is a LEMON! It has proved to be  inferior  to the antiquated F-16 in straight fights; against the Russian Su-30 or MiG-35, what to talk of the FGFA PAK-FA, American aviation experts fear it stands not a spitball’s chance in hell.
  3. It is not clear why the idea of a majorly all Tejas and variants air force is pooh-poohed. Firstly, as regards numbers — other than the 2 lines at HAL, the TOT of the Tejas to 3 or 4 private sector companies each with an assured order of 80-100 LCAs will be sufficient incentive for the Tata, Mahindra, L&T, Reliance Defence, and Adani’s company whatever it may be called, to speedily invest in assembly lines, and begin producing the aircraft in less time than it will take the Gripen E — of the same 4.5 generation aircraft as the Tejas — to be inducted into IAF. Additional motivation would be the permission to these companies to export slightly derated versions of Tejas from Day One. Gripen E is only now undergoing speed taxi trials, and is some ways from even taking to the skies (Versus Tejas which has already clocked over 400 hours of flying without a single incident).  Quality wise: If, as is normally done with most aircraft with projected long runs, Tejas is developed in blocks, one block of aircraft followed by a newer, upgraded, variant of it, until the Tejas series goes from 1A to 2 to Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft with all the producers continuously getting TOT on upgrades the, the operational spectrum will be adequately covered at all times. More so because there will still be the upgraded Jaguars, MiG-29s, Mirage 2000s and, to top it all 272 air superiority Su-3MKI fighters — WITH ANOTHER 40 THAT HAVE BEEN NEWLY ORDERED — for a total of some 314 Su-30s — arguably the best fighter plane now flying anywhere in the world, per Dr Carlo Kopp, the renowned Australian combat aircraft specialist.
  4. Then there’s a certain worthy at the Air HQrs — a “test pilot” no less — who is quoted in the story. He claims to have flown the Tejas in its early days but pronounces, many years later during which time the LCA has been architecturally improved, enhancing its performance manifold in all its aspects, that “It doesn’t meet our expectations”. And where is it lacking, pray? “It needs to be escorted by more capable aircraft to come back alive”, this officer is reported as saying. This line of attack against Tejas is so silly it is surprising a stalwart flier has made it. He should know that the whole “buddy system” arose from multi-role aircraft tasked for strike missions being escorted in these missions with other aircraft of the same type  providing top cover. Of course, the top cover can be afforded by a different genus of aircraft flying combat air patrols, ensuring no enemy aircraft interferes with  the strike aircraft reaching its target preceded on its bombing run by EW aircraft clearing the path by suppressing air defence radar. This division of labour between strike/ground attack and top cover is routinely done by the MiG-21 bis as ACM Dhanoa (who as Wing Commander led the MiG-21 bis equipped  17 Squadron in the 1999 Kargil ops, and on May 28 this year flew the “missing man” formation to honour the martyrs of that conflict) well knows. So, yes, Tejas will require protective escort if it is on a strike mission into enemy territory. However, if as is more likely, the LCA is assigned short to medium range interception and air defence or interdiction, it will not require escort, and its 8 hard points can easily carry the necessary air-to-air and air-to-ground guided and dumb munitions.
  5. Then the blatant nonsense is repeated about endurance, range, etc., which I tackled in my Nov 13 “Stop the vilification campaign against Tejas” post (https://bharatkarnad.com/2017/11/13/stop-the-vilification-campaign-against-tejas/ ) and won’t repeat here.
  6. This raises the question whether Raha (a veteran of the MiG-29 squadron headed by a storied combat flier of the IAF, Air Vice Marshal Harish Masand, VrC)  knew what he was talking about when he thought Tejas was “wonderful” and  whether Dhanoa was being honest in praising the aircraft and the way it handled. If these IAF Chiefs were convinced about the merits of this aircraft, and impressed by the way it handles and maneuvers in the air, was’nt it/isn’t it incumbent on these CASs to champion the LCA and, given the kind of discretionary power they enjoy, have the Service takeover the Tejas program, and tell the government the IAF will not anymore depend on foreign aircraft? It will free India from being in hock to foreign countries whose aerospace sectors have prospered because of IAF custom, even as an Indian defence industry genuinely capable of design-to-delivery of capital weapons platforms is prevented from emerging in the country, and so deserving and astonishingly fine aircraft as the locally made Tejas is perennially on life support.
  7. If the “nationalist” Prime Minister Modi and his defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman still don’t see the runaround they are getting from the IAF, and another gargantuan mistake is made this time by buying obsolete F-16/F-18 aircraft just to please Trump or, even worse, to create a few hundred new jobs in the Tata/Ambani/Adani assembly line doing nothing more than what the DPSUs have  mindnumbingly done for the past 50 years — screwdrivering aircraft together from imported SKD/CKD kits, then ‘Make in India’ too will join the long series of farces past governments have perpetrated in the name of making  the country self-sufficient in arms.
Posted in arms exports, asia-Pacific/Indo-Pacific, Asian geopolitics, civil-military relations, corruption, Culture, Decision-making, Defence Industry, domestic politics, DRDO, Europe, Geopolitics, Great Power imperatives, India's strategic thinking and policy, Indian Air Force, Indian Army, Indian Navy, Military Acquisitions, Military/military advice, Relations with Russia, Russia, SAARC, society, South Asia, Strategic Relations with the US & West, Technology transfer, United States, US., Weapons | 39 Comments

Spiking Spike is good, now start incentivising DRDO & making it accountable

Image result for pics of Israeli Spike ATGM

(Firing Spike)

On the eve of Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Israel a column of mine published July 1, 2017 in BloomberyQuint and posted on this blog (https://bharatkarnad.com/2017/07/01/modi-in-israel-need-for-more-equitable-defence-collaboration/ ) had argued for a more fair and equitable arrangement with Israel in collaborating on weapons development, and against contracts that left the low-value work for DRDO to do, while the high-value stuff — the engine, and seeker were exclusively for the Israelis to produce.

On July 17 a piece of mine published in the Indian Express (and posted here —  https://bharatkarnad.com/2017/07/17/the-arms-of-others/#comments  ) made the case for India needing to extract benefits from investing heavily in developing Israeli medium range SAM (MRSAM), Long-range SAM (LRSAM) and buying Israeli Spyder QRSAM (Quick Response SAM), the last at the expense of the indigenous  QRSAM successfully tested the very day Modi reached Tel Aviv.  These deals I stated fetched the country nothing by way of any real technology transfer or even Intellectual Property Rights on MRSAM-LRSAM technologies developed with Indian money [and thereby — and I didn’t say it in that article  repeating the mistake India made when Narasimha Rao in 1996 saved the Su-30 design unit and production line in Irkutsk from closure by injecting Rs 6,000 crores in it without asking for anything substantive in return to help the Indian combat aviation sector that was then designing the Tejas LCA]. I suggested in it that as the weakness of the Indian tactical missile programs has been the target seeker technology, it would be more cost-efficient to buy whole — on a one-shot basis — just the seeker technology with complete transfer of both know-why and know-how, rather than spend billions of US dollars to unnecessarily buy the entire systems without the TOT on the critical seeker tech. Moreover, I also decried the GOI’s tendency to almost reflexively buy/import military goods at great cost when there were indigenous projects ready to take wing, and needed only the govt to show some confidence in them.

It is good to note — for a change — the reversing by the new defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman of the contract for the Israeli Spike anti-tank guided missile, a move that will save $500 million for 8,000 and more of these munitions with all-weather and night-firing capability  on the basis of her confidence that DRDO was well on its way to producing a like-item inside of 3-4 years. Emboldened, Minister Sitharaman should axe the MRSAM and LRSAM contracts as well, and have MOD negotiate with Israeli mil-electronics firms for just and ONLY the missile seeker tech in toto. With enough money in hand even the most sensitive tech is now available.

This is a major decision and Sitharaman will be well advised to go in for another “innovation” — a detailed contract between MOD/army for delivery by DRDO of this missile in the contracted time-frame, with the specific ATGM DRDO project head along with the DRDO chief, Dr S. Christopher, signing this document and thus making them legally responsible for on-time outcome. The fear of being hauled up in case of failure has to, however, be counter-balanced with the incentive, say, of a large cash award for on-time delivery and for meeting performance parameters to motivate the main designers and engineers. This carrot and stick policy is what needs to be made the norm for all DRDO programs, because DRDO has for too long promised too much and then failed to deliver, and in the process completely lost the military users’ trust and confidence. Trust and confidence repeatedly undermined and eroded over the years can only be restored if DRDO establishes its reputation as a reliable supplier of new and novel weapons or weapon enhancement technologies, ideally, before the armed forces espy a need for them..

Posted in arms exports, asia-Pacific/Indo-Pacific, Asian geopolitics, Decision-making, Defence Industry, DRDO, Europe, Geopolitics, Great Power imperatives, India's strategic thinking and policy, Indian Army, Indian ecobomic situation, indian policy -- Israel, indian policy -- Israel, Iran and West Asia, Iran and West Asia, Military Acquisitions, Military/military advice, Missiles, society, South Asia, Technology transfer, Weapons | 9 Comments