Is the Naval air force better, more nationalistic than IAF?

There are curious goings-on in IAF when it comes to its dealing with indigenous and Russian aircraft. Is the Indian Air Force so institutionally set against the Tejas aircraft that it will go to any extent to delay its clearances and thus derail the programme, and to show up Russian aircraft as unworthy of India’s custom? Consider the evidence.

Cobham Aviation Services of UK was contracted to supply the quartz radome for the LCA radar. It is four months overdue, but the penalty clause has not been invoked. Why? Because an authoritative source says, the IAF has let it be informally known to the supplier that it doesn’t want an accelerated progress of the Mk-I lest it be ordered by the Govt to buy larger numbers of this aircraft, and so delays would be countenanced.

Further, considering the IAF’s attitude Cobham has also turned down ADA/DRDO’s request for 3-4 internal fueling probes to enable this aircraft to get an FOC (final operational clearance) for the Mk-I. No probes, delayed FOC.

The IAF is mortally afraid that buying into the Tejas will mean jettisoning the possibility of getting Rafales beyond the 36 mooted by the PM in G2G mode, which the IAF has its heart set on. It doesn’t want anything to come between the service and a big Rafale fleet in its inventory, especially as Vayu Bhavan is not certain that the def minister Parrikar will even realize the 36 aircraft buy from France.

Another piece of evidence: How come the IAF has so much trouble with its MiG-29 fleet (and its Su-30MKI fleet also), when the two squadrons of MiG-29Ks with the Navy have experienced very few problems, considering the maintenance regimes are virtually the same for the IAF’s version and the naval MiG-29K?

So, the niggling question arises: Is the Indian Navy’s air force simply better than the IAF in servicing, upkeeping, and operating advanced combat aircraft, meaning is it just a better operational force? Training regime-wise, the navy relies on the basic Indian-made HPT-32, a basic jet trainer,before the trainee pilots are tasked to conversion units before deploying to operational squadrons. Meanwhile, IAF has besides the Indian-made trainer aircraft, repeatedly shown its disregard and disrespect for the indigenous HPT-40 trainer project on the anvil by buying a series of trainers — the Swiss Pilatus, the British Hawk, and it is said, has even expressed interest in yet another advanced trainer, the American Textron Scorpion (with most such buys justified also in terms of their use in counter-insurgency jobs, which of course, it is never called on to perform)!!! May be the IAF is an air force perpetually stuck in the trainer mode — a tendency visible since the stewardship of the service by ACM (retd) “Charlie”Browne, now enjoying the Norwegian fjords as our ambassador there, rather than being a serious and meaningful air force our adversaries fear. How else to explain the greater proficiency of naval pilots flying and readying to fight over a more difficult medium — the sea, when the trainee pilots are sourced from the same manpower pool? There must be something the Navy is doing right the IAF isn’t.

And, in the light of the Navy’s enthusiastic financial support for the LCA and its taking ownership of developing the naval version of the Tejas, whether it is also not the more nationalistic service, eager to promote indigenous products and defence industry in contrast to the IAF which, when not whining about Indian products and always finding fault with the LCA, does everything possible, in cahoots with vested interests in the Defence Ministry and other parts of the govt, to undermine indigenous efforts?

In the event, perhaps, the Indian Navy’s aviation wing is in line for an expanded mission and role in the extended Indian Ocean region.

About Bharat Karnad

Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, he was Member of the (1st) National Security Advisory Board and the Nuclear Doctrine-drafting Group, and author, among other books of, 'Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security: The Realist Foundations of Strategy', 'India's Nuclear Policy' and most recently, 'Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)'. Educated at the University of California (undergrad and grad), he was Visiting Scholar at Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies, and Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington, DC.
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37 Responses to Is the Naval air force better, more nationalistic than IAF?

  1. Shiva says:

    Bharat Karnad garu,

    1. In the podcast and elsewhere, you say that Pakistan is ‘co-optable’ but after reading Christine Fair’s ‘Fighting to the End: Pakistan Army’s Way of War’, I have lost any hope of making a lasting peace with Pakistan, given their genetic, existential and civilizational hatred and incompatibility with India/Hindus. However, I agree with your suggestion that India needs to cut down its Strike Corps from 3 to 1 or at least 3 to 2 and rise two (or preferably three) Mountain Strike Corps; less to make Pakistanis feel more secure about Indian intentions and more to prepare for wars that India is likely to fight in the high-altitude Himalayan mountain ranges. I assume you have probably read Fair’s incisive and disturbing book. Do you still think Pakistan is co-optable?

    2. About your take on Mackinder’s theory of Heartland states and rim-land states:
    Great Games (Both 1.0 and 2.0), Britain’s attempts to attack and subdue Afghanistan, formation of Wakhan Corridor, splitting Balochistan between Afghanistan-Pakistan-Iran, deals with Tibet, creation of Pakistan from India (I think Jinnah is nothing more than a smartass lawyer and Britishers would have created Pakistan with or without him), continued presence of US forces in Afghanistan and various covert games played in Iran – If we see all of them as moves in a larger geopolitical game to contain the heartland USSR/Russia using rimland states such as British India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, then –

    2a) China’s economic soft invasion of Central Asia (coupled with weakening Russia, whose Comprehensive National Power continues to decrease, thus enabling China to expand its influence in Central Asia – softly at first and coercively in the future) and its recent announcements of $47 billion CPEC which guarantees land access to Indian Ocean, essentially making it a two-ocean power; don’t you think China is (or will be) the new heartland state that is on a collision course with India’s core interests?

    2b) In that case, cutting China off from Indian Ocean and securing access routes to Central Asia (which should be the ultimate dream of any Indian grand-strategist) by attacking Pakistan and snatching Gilgit-Baltistan area is in the best interests of India rather than long-winded strategy of engaging and co-opting Pakistan (which may or may not work). I honestly don’t think so-called soft power projection (of Bollywood films and Item Songs) would make any difference (In fact, we blabber a lot about soft power, precisely because we lack the hardpower and the will to use it).

    Now, a limited war under nuclear conditions that is restricted to GB (not the populated Potohari-Punjabi dominated Azad Kashmir area but sparsely populated Shia-dominated GB which is manageable and controllable), with no attacks on Pakistan Proper (thus keeping things below nuclear threshold) should be a possibility. Since, we legally claim all of Kashmir, an attack on GB is not seen as an attack on Pakistan or its existence, which should delay any international pressure. Since clay feet of Indian leaders begin to melt down within two weeks of international pressure, such a war should be swift, intense and deadly aggressive; starting with cutting Pakistan off from GB by blowing Karakoram Highway Tunnels and paradropping mountain warfare expeditionary strike forces to secure key routes under absolute air supremacy. In essence, this is a mega-extension of what you once called ‘Siachenisation of Kashmir’ but the intention is not tactical but strategic in nature. Do you think we have the capability to pull off such a stunt? If not, what should we do?

    2c) Which brings us to my third question: The Mountain Corps are not just to tame China; they are to project force across the entire ‘high altitude boundaries of India’ which start from Pir Panjal Range-Kargil Range-Depsang Plains-entire Himalayan Range-Garo/Khasi range in the NorthEast. Attempting the aforementioned operation in GB presumes extensive resources in mountain strike capabilities, light attack helis capable of flying in 5000+m altitudes, ultra light artillery that is air-liftable, a vastly superior air force capable of suppressing enemy air defences in GB, AZK and northern Pakistan areas, special forces capable of executing quick kills in the snowy mountainous terrain, bunker busters that can destroy chinese-built tunnels along Karakoram Highway and others. All of this again brings us back your suggestion of downsizing westward strike corps (that can only operate in Punjab Plains and Thar Desert but not high altitude northern areas) and building two or three mountain strike corps (which can operate in Pir Panjal range, GB, along the edges and roof of Tibetan Platue and Northeastern mountain ranges).

    3) If we can snatch GB or at least a stretch that disconnects China from Pakistan and guarantees access to Wakhan Corridor for us, that would be the ultimate geostrategic coup for India. We (a rimland state) would contain China (a potential heartland state), project our power into Central Asia (which would make us a potential heartland state), and severely downgrade and destroy the ‘strategic significance of Pakistan’ (it wouldn’t really matter if they have nukes and AZK if we can have GB). Do you think such a pull-off is possible or am I smoking too much weed?

    4) I have always wondered if the whole of Kashmir is a disputed area (de jure it’s an integral part of India but de facto it is a disputed area; at least the world looks at it that way), then why the hell aren’t we making GB and AZK disputed? The narrative gives the impression that the only thing that needs to be sorted out is the Indian-held Kashmir Valley part. It is only recently that we protested elections in GB (which I assume is a work of Doval). Do you think Modi-Doval duo can snatch GB (which legally, morally and rightfully belongs to us)? If you were asked to advise them on this issue what would your suggestions be?

    I know these are too many questions. Thanks for your patience.

    • Shiva:
      Thoughtful issues raised by you. I’ll collapse the Qs and try and shape a comprehensive response. Militarily detaching the entire FCNA, including Gilgit-Baltistan, is doable especially as all of the erstwhile princely state of Jammu & Kashmir is disputed area. Except, when Hari Singh signed the instrument of accession in Fall 1947 and merged his kingdom with India, it was already minus GB because the British cunningly had already detached it, albeit controversially and in the face of opposition by the Maharaja, from Hari Singh’s realm in the 1930s. So not sure India can find legal cover for a takeover operation, though in the larger sense GB is on the other side of LOC and, as Musharraf said by way oif justifying his Kargil op, it is only a ceasefire line and either party to the dispute can use force to wrench parts of it with the other side with the full sanction of international law. Now whether the Indian military can actually pull it off — well, I believe it can with an operation to cut off Pakistan at Attock on the Indus line, while letting Islamabad keep what remains of POK, but it will need a concerted national effort. It will be seriously welcomed by the Shia Balitistanis. (Have met with members of the Baltistan Liberation Movement in Washington, and they are nothing if not eager to throw off the Pakistani yoke.) And it will need tremendous political will. Not sure if either will be so easily musterable. About whether such action will be an N-tripwire — the fact is Pakistan as I have long argued will never risk a nuclear exchange, its bluster to the contrary notwithstanding, because the certain outcome of its extinction, in Halford Mackinder’s words, as a “social organism”.

      The real problem is MEA which is big on doing things legally, and the fact that GOI has long maintained that LOC is intl border, systematically eroding over the years this country’s claim to the Northern Areas (which the recent changed statements by Doval and Co, have not reversed). If India gets hold of GB, India will in fact, be a Central Asian power and in better position to neutralise China both soft power and hard power-wise. Soft power wise China is no competition. Military-wise, it will be a challenge but doable. CPEC is a speck in Beijing’s eye — it will never get done if Balochistan continues to remain on the boil, which India can ensure it does! Even w/o all these actions.

      Even minus such military actions in GB, Pakistan is co-optable if India can offer a deal “it cannot refuse” (in Mario Puzo’s Godfather’s memorable words)! The magic is economic incentives — buy cement, sugar, other commercial products manufactured by Pakistan Army-owned factories (through the Fauji Foundation, the Shaheen Foundation, etc). Open the Indian market fully, unconditionally, and unilaterally to all Pakistan-produced goods and materials. In no time at all you’ll have the Pakistan Army as much as commercial entities (the Chambers of Commerce in Karachi and elsewhere have long salivated for access to a receptive Indian market) putting down deep roots in sustaining economic links with India, because they’ll all be making so much money — it will comprise the new vested interests. Were this to be combined with rationalization of the three strike corps into a single composite corps, then the remaining resistance to co-optation by India too will dissolve because the Indian threat will be immediately denatured. The augmentation of the mountain corps can proceed apace, however. This is the sort of deep, long view,strategy India should embark on to overturn the strategic picture of southern Asia. China will have no counter for it. But Delhi does not think long term or strategic, so there!

    • Kabir says:

      Good write up Mr. Karnad. The navy certainly is doing a better job of toughing it out & complaining less. They have consistently supported Naval LCA program & as far as I know they have never overtly criticized the program in the media.

      The IAF on the other hand, has repeatedly delayed indigenous efforts in various weapons platforms & has the audacity to air their dirty laundry in the media. I don’t know of any other air force in the world that has dragged out the prototype development phase to such an extent. They have been very inflexible about issuing FOC to Tejas. We haven’t even begun production yet & I’m certain many technical/quality control issues will crop up that will delay it even further.

      It’s sad that nothing is being done to stem the IAF’s efforts to kill Tejas. I wouldn’t be surprised if IAF sabotages Tejas trials in it’s advanced stages & raises the national security bogey to push Gripen induction. That will be a sad day.

  2. Rahul says:

    Mr Karnad, though I tend to disagree with you on certain things and have disagreed with you on Rafale deal, this time, I am 60% supporting you….This article of yours, if true, actually proves what I was trying to prove to @Shail in a futile manner in your another article on Gripen and Su 35…..
    Where I disagree with you is, you put the whole blame on IAF, the reality is DRDO/HAL are no Lord Rama devotees….They are equally culpable…..Also, as reported by ‘probably'(I may be wrong, it may be someone different but I have read it) Shiv Aroor in his Livefist blog, Navy’s Mig 29K’s are also facing serious teething and maintenance problems and IN is really pissed off with the Russians attitude….The kind of problems faced Shiv did not declare it because he was requested not to do so by IN….

    • Rahul,
      Yes, Russians are laggards in the servicing and spares aspect — which they still seem unable to appreciate, is dimming the prospects of a continued intensive & extensive mil supply relationship. My point is IN bellyaches less and gets on with the job better. As far as my take on DRDO, pls see my eviscerating criticism over the years of this org in my writings (most of theseavailable on this blog).

      • Rahul says:

        Mr Karnad, any idea why the Russians are so lagging in servicing? It is like killing a golden goose…Why would they want to do it, if it is deliberate? Does the Russian armed forces face the same issues?

      • Yes, the Russian military services face the same problems, in the main because some important parts of the supply chain have stayed stuck in the Soviet era logistics scheme.

  3. Dear Mr. Karnad:

    Unfortunately, when one reads your post in the light of historical behavior by the Indian Air Force, it makes a lot of sense. My blood boils when I remember a comment made by some Indian Air Force worthy that the Marut had to be put aside because Indian pilots were “losing weight” by flying the fighter!

    One should also not spare the Army in this regard; its treatment of the Arjun MBT is almost as bad as the Indian Air Force’s treatment of the Tejas.

    Ultimately, it is only the Indian Navy that seems to have realized that India cannot be a world-class military power when it imports the bulk of its capital items for defense. This understanding has eluded the flyboys, and, to a smaller extent, the Indian Army.

  4. Shail says:

    Lots of IAF bashing…but Cobham is the contractor for ADA and HAL. It is they ( through the MoD) who should invoke the penalty clause and not the IAF. I dont think Cobham listens to the IAF. Why should they lose money and business?
    If we cant even make a Quartz radome, and some stupid AAR probes, what to talk of indigenisation? Are you all seriously suggesting that the LCA mk I is capable of military operations like the Great Game ops in GB and containing china etc? Taking of from srinagar or Leh it can barely cross the LAC and drop only 2t. Are you guys for real? I can just see you all pontificating and providing no solution. DRDO is bad , we all agree, HAL isnt working, then whom do you all want to indigenise? As such DRDO is heaviliy into copy paste, Radars, Guns, Tanks, Plane components, missiles etc etc. What indigenisation?

    The Naval fleets are miniscule compared to the IAF, their missions are only maritime focussed, yet serviceability is pathetic. In case of the Harrier the joke going around was a One Harrier One carrier Navy-that was the purported serviceability state. Their choppers, Hawks dorniers etc are also maintained by HAL ergo problems faced are identical. They dont voice because aviation is just not important to the Navy in comparison to its other assets roles and tasks. at best its an adjunct. The LCA Navy faces even more issues than the IAF variant.
    I think most of you are grossly over-estimating the indigenous capability to develop, produce and maintain assets on its own without Russian, Israeli, french, british, US help for various and sundry equipment of foreign origin.
    Its rather easy to criticise, but when push comes to shove, Russian ac serviceabilities are very low.
    As for the Marut comment…dude it was designed by Dr Kurt tank maker of te Focke-wulf 190 in WW2. after he died we couldnt make and engine. So two of the Gnat engines ( Rolls Royce- Orpheus engines used by India on the Gnat, Ajeet, Packet, Kiran Mk II) were shoved in into a hastily re-designed airframe. The integration was badly done. The engines were non-reheated. The Marut could never achieve its design speeds, agility, climb rates and load carriage. We lost a lot of aircraft due to control problems, hydraulic problems and engine related issues. The aircraft was a widow-maker and was phased out, since the so -called indigenous design team of HAL – couldnt resolve any of those issues. . Dont make nasty uneducated comments for the heck of it. Also not even the instruments,were indigenous. It was indigenous maybe upto 50% ( thats a generous assessment) The design team slowly faded away in teh 10-15 yrs and hence ADA had to be formed. Other than the control law, airframe design, actuators and digital FBW nothing of note in the LCA is actually indigenous. A fighter is defined by A) Manoevrability, B) Radar C) Weapons D) Engine and E) Electronic warfare systems.
    The LCA has an Israeli Radar, American engine, russian and israeli weapons, a russian gun and Nil Electronic warfare systems. Its 1500 Kg overweight in clean configuration itself, hence does not meet manoevrability criteria,. It costs 75% of a Su-30. Even the cockpit displays and instruments are imported. The computer is half indigenous, How exactly is it indigenous? some valves and tubes and tyres?
    Temper your comments with some practicality and knowledge.
    @ Rahul..i could care less if it was the Rafale or AMCA, or the wright brothers 1904 flyer or the mysterious Vimana of Ramayan…if it doesnt do the job its not good enough, a spade is after all a spade. also if it isnt really indigenous .. i cant be in denial to call it so.
    @ Bharat Sir…No games great or otherwise can be played if the political leadership is unwilling to take the long view. Also if the Navy is keeping shut it mighnt be because of efficiency but deficiency of spunk. Recall the horrendous state of the submarine fleet. They kept quiet then as well till all the accidents started. The chief resigned, yet they are quiet and the problems havent gone away. Dont indulge in unabashed IAF bashing, they dont even have independant financial powers to buy a 50 paise pencil now. read the latest DFPDS-2015. Even a Panchayat Sarpanch has more independant powers. So now the emasculated defence forces which are perfect dream of all Babus and civil strategists is a legal reality, (@ Rahul..your dream has come true). lets see which direction the Game heads.

    • akashveer says:

      Shail what you have written have some merits bt most of it is pure rant.Pls tell me which company will create infrastructure fr 40 odd IFR n quartz cones,No pvt company will even touch it.If your interpretation of aircraft manufacturing is followed then Bombardier ,Lear,Saab,Embraer even Boeing are not aircraft manufacturer because they are not manufacturing all those items which you have mentioned.Since 1947 due to myopic political and military leadership we failed to develop our MIC just see the example of HF24’s engine and HF 73 saga.Can you clarify why factory fresh Jaguars were upgraded on induction itself,why ASR was lowered fr your much fancied Pileatus,why IAF rejected HAL proposal fr hpt32 replacement many moon back.pls also mention ACs in IAF inventory which are more capable than Tejas.last if SU30k can be inducted in place of SU30mki then why mk 1 is not inducted in large number.

    • akashveer says:

      Shail ,
      what you have written have some merits bt most of it is pure rant.Pls tell me which company will create infrastructure fr 40 odd IFR n quartz cones,No pvt company will even touch it.If your interpretation of aircraft manufacturing is followed then Bombardier ,Lear,Saab,Embraer even Boeing are not aircraft manufacturer because they are not manufacturing all those items which you have mentioned.Since 1947 due to myopic political and military leadership we failed to develop our MIC just see the example of HF24’s engine and HF 73 saga.Can you clarify why factory fresh Jaguars were upgraded on induction itself,why ASR was lowered fr your much fancied Pileatus,why IAF rejected HAL proposal fr hpt32 replacement many moon back.pls also mention ACs in IAF inventory which are more capable than Tejas.last if SU30k can be inducted in place of SU30mki then why mk 1 is not inducted in large number.

  5. Shail says:

    Incidentally the HAL has made such a hash of the IJT that it cant even do a spin and stall..essential exercises for a military trainee pilot. Even the HPT-32 was safer. Then is the sad story of the IJT engine, first the alpha jet engine then the russian engine both underpowered. I guess our much vaunted indigenous capability doesnt even extend to making a small engine of a jet trainer. Ditto for the avionics.
    Its only our training which gives us the edge over adversaries. Ask the americans what they faced in 2004. Its only our intelligensia sitting in AND out of govt , think tanks etc which doesnt pay heed. Flying training is like Riyaaz in music, even Lata still does it..hope you get my point.
    The Kiran was / is a good trainer-it was indigenous yet copied from the British Jet Provost, essentially it was a Jet Provost without Tip Tanks, We didnt and couldnt make the Rolls Royce Viper engine, OEM support stopped after 30 years,thats one of the main reason the fleet HAD TO be phased out, the HPT-32 had an american AVCO Lycoming engine. It worked well in every aircraft it was fitted except the HPT-32. We had a spate of engine cuts, engine failures which claimed many precious lives year after year with monotonous regularity. Once again like the Marut case HAL couldnt come up with a fix in 20 damn years. Last heard they wanted to fit a recovery parachute on the whole aircraft instead of an engine fix. Its people who lost friends , sons, fathers, instructors, Pupils to HALs Blase and lackadaisical attitude who hate HAL with all their might. No way ..not any more.
    Learn to hear whispers which are OUTSIDE the corridors of Power and cocktail parties. The corridors of power are rife with internecine struggles, where everything is perceptions, truth has fallen by the wayside.
    Refer the ships, Its the (relatively) lower complexity of the machine which has made it possible. No space and weight constraints (compared to aviation). There is a reason that mankind was sailing in ships for thousands of years before he could build an aeroplane. However, i dont wish to belittle the effort of the shipyards. Also India has had a long history of Maritime tradition. Lothal (of Mohenjo Daro vintage) was a shipyard. The Cholas, Marathas, Siddis, and a host of smaller coastal kingdoms. With such a huge coastline, it would be surprising why we are not a Blue water Navy yet when the Cholas achieved it in just two generations.
    Lets please not compare Apples to Oranges.
    Also you post strikes me as curious…An Indian Strategist belittling the IAF at cost of the IN. Are we supposed to be now fighting each other? Are you suggesting that we should be a Naval Airpower to Fight against China and Pakistan on Land?
    Next perhaps will be a comparison of how wll the IA maintains its heptrs and why we should equip them with Air Force planes so they can do a better job. Or just maybe a comparison of how well the IAF maintains Garuds so the boys in Blue can now operate all the Infantry and special forces of the country.
    Please. Lets stick to strategy

  6. Rahul says:

    @Shail: You seem to be an insider well versed with IAF….Trust me, we, the people of India know very well what HAL and other PSU’s are….Impotents….If a HAL person comes to any forum and tries to justify its impotencies, trust me, he will get his lifetime experience first from me….. But if there are concerns from certain quarters that IAF is not helping the indigenization process, those should be taken into considerations and should be introspected instead of the attitude “IAF can never be wrong”….IAF is the pride of our nation, it is the pride for all of us…On an onsite US assignment, I had a colleague who had migrated from Ukraine to USA and was now an US citizen…He did not use to have any knowledge on weapons just like most civilians….Since he was from Ukraine, I used to tell him about India’s relationship with Russia….He used to lambast Russia and used to make mockeries of Russian weapons and was in love with everything Americans….When I showed him the results of Cope India 2004 where IAF used Russian Su 30MK to blast F-16’s out of the sky 90% of the time, he was shellshocked…. As for your argument on Naval Aviation vs Air Aviation, true, naval aviation has not played that much role on the previous wars but for future wars, especially if that involves China, it will play a MASSIVE role….Not for nothing, we are building 3 flattops, with some reports suggesting we may end up eventually with 5….The thing is IN is in full support of Naval Tejas and Naval AMCA programme even when the former is floundering….I remember a Navy chief or someone at the high post saying a few years back: “We want the Rafales, but we would prefer the Tejas because at the end of the day, it is our own product”…..I have never heard such an assuring statement from any IAF top quarters as of today….And that is my sole cause for concern….

    Plz note that with the kind of airforce China is building, especially with the numbers, we cannot expect to match them just by going after expensive Rafales and FGFA’s alone….126 Rafales or 144 FGFA’s alone will not be able to do the job….Quality is important but at the end of the day, quantity has its own significance, especially considering the huge borders we have with our adversaries and in the context of a 2 front war….Tejas will help us fill that quantity…..

    This nation is at a critical stage….There is a sinister plan which is in progress hatched by our enemies to destroy us….Arunachal and J&K will be at the forefront….And the nightmare is they may even try to wipe out India from world map….The tunnels being built by China in Gilgit Baltistan could well be used to store nukes and delivery mechanisms….And we don’t have artillery, airplanes, submarines or the mental fortitude and political will to counter it….And we are still finger-pointing at each other…Forces blame the PSU’s, PSU’s blame the forces, media blames the babus, babus brushes it aside and the world moves on as usual….If we are not able to resolve our differences, trust me, we may not even have a tomorrow….

    As for HAL, let them come to any forum…As of now, a certain Gopal Suter of HAL gives out parrot like media statements when someone like Pavan Verma(former diplomat and currently JDU politician) and others take their ire out against HAL in newspaper columns….The moment HAL representative comes to any forum, he will get it from me……

  7. Shail says:

    @ Akashveer Facts are not rants. Boeing , russians etc make the entire aircraft including radars, engines, et al. They are truly indigenous. Our MIC not developed is the Main issue. Unfortunately in aviation HAL is our only manufacturer. Thats the issue. every one except the Russians have hundreds of sub-contractors manufacturing various components. For the HPT -32 pl refer above post. ASRs incidentally are never downgraded. They fall short when the equipment takes 30+years to manufacture and the world has moved on in technology.
    The Pilatus was needed because the Kiran and HPT-32 which were indigenous failed disastrously, due lack of expertise, again refer above post for story. any aircraft including heptrs and transports and even civil aviation aircraft undergoes numerous upgrades in its service life which can be anywhere upto 40+ years. The B-52 and C-130 flying today is totally different from the initial aircraft. The same is true everywhere in any country in the world. the upgrades are required for various technical and operational and safety reasons.
    Incidentally our upgrade programmes are more indigenous than the LCA ALH etc.
    As far as training of pilots is concerned its a never-ending and most crucial process for any air force. Any stoppage affects downstream as people are retiring, dying, becoming unfit, getting promoted to desk jobs etc. If flying training stops even for two months the cumulative effect is fairly disastrous. The HAL wanted us to wait for a few YEARS….so it was a no-go. They screwed it up by not anticipating the development by 5 -10 years as is the global norm for a fleet replacement. as a matter of fact no HAL trainer, whether HTT-34 or IJT is even close to being ready for next few years. It would have meant no pilots for that period anywhere in the air force some time in the future. Thats simply not possible or even remotely acceptable. There was no alternative except to outsource the entire flying training to another country. Incidentally the Navy did that for a few years on the Goshawk, if you think the Rafale deal was expensive, you cannot even imagine how expensive flying training would have been. Thats why the Pilatus deal had to happen.
    I am just tired of the mindless IAF bashing. No one is anti-national, but ask the question to many elite organisations outside the IAF ( Hint Alphabet organisations of MHA, etc) how much of their stuff is indigenous? i am not talking of low level stuff here.
    Do you know that rifles (iNSAS family) and BP jackets made are so bad that the Army is looking for a replacement? Private companies have to understand, as stated by you if no one in India will set-up a factory for radomes, then Cobham will obviously hold us to Ransom. You decide if profits, numbers or indignisation with diversified sources is in the National Interest.
    Cant have your cake and eat it too.
    Dont see conspiracies around every corner all the time. its called neurosis. and every dis-agreement is not a rant. Its a democracy, you are free to have your point of view. Lets agree to disagree on certain perceptions and views.
    @ Rahul – IAF is not averse to indigenisation. Believe it. The HAL was set-up from an IAF unit based at the time in Kanpur. You may like to read Air Chief Marshal PC Lals book “My years with the IAF” for details.
    @ akashveer re: jaguar – if you are not aware the Jaguar was the choice of shri Jagjivan Ram. The IAF had opted for the Viggen. It could take off from unprepared airfield and roads and was equally good in air defence and ground attack roles, with a very good radar – missile combination. we were offered technolgy transfer as well. In comparison the Jaguar was only optimised for Ground Attack and deep penetration strikes. We had to upgrade it for missile carriage, Radar for maritime missions, better weapon carriage and a host of Avionic improvements.
    As i have said earlier – not all foreign equipment is good. The Su-30K was an intermediate soltion gap-filler till the MKI was developed. It was much less capable than the present aircraft. Even the original MiG-21 FL or the Type-77 was heavily modified to make the T-96, then the Type 75 and then the Bison. Most upgrades were driven by India as we were the Largest user outside russia. China did the same with the MiG-21 to J-7 – to J-8II, to F-7 etc etc. The F-16 , F-15, F-18 etc have followed similar technolgy and upgrade curves. The practice dates back to the first world war when Pilots discovered what actually works in Combat and asked for upgrades. The spitfire went from Mk I – to Mk 12 within the space of 8-10 years.
    Combat aviation is a game of fraction of seconds and every bit of speed range weapon carriage, radar electronic warfare makes a difference. Why does Israel and US invest the best and brightest scientists and engineers in aviation with adequate government support? are our best going to DRDO? Why not?
    All aircraft are expensive. Check out the cost of the latest Boeing and Airbus and the numbers ordered by Air India. You will forget the Rafale deal.
    Also i feel the moment HAL has genuine competition it will change. That’s what is the ultimate solution. The leadership and union-baazi in PSUs is the problem. May not be the actual competencies. The drive, innovation and motivation is the issue.

    • Shail@ – Have resisted the impulse to jump in in the dialogue you are having with various people here. But I’ll come in on with several points. The Viggen may have been liked by IAF but the Flygmotor engine was a variant of a Pratt & Whitnety power plant and, under the tech sanctions at the time, was negatived by the US. Remarkably, the Jaguar flew without main armaments — air to ground, for many years. Just as Mirage 2000, with only a jammer pod but no real EW suite did for the all the years until the @$52 million high-cost upgrade and even then the Mirage 2000 will not have a comprehensive EW suite. If IAF is willing to afford so much slack for foreign sourcede combat aircraft, how about permitting a bit of slack for the indigenous Tejas? After all, most combat aircraft when inducted are deficient in performance. It is the feedback from pilots that begins to be factored into later variants until finally you have a good warplane. This happened, for instance, with the Gripen: The first was the D variant, which was improved, obtained the E version which was further improved qualitatively by Saab, with continuous inputs from Swedish Air Force pilots, to finally obtain the final NG (new generation) version. If the IAF had taken full ownership of the Tejas from the beginning, with a supportive govt that nevertheless made DRDO and IAF accountable, we’d by now have had a fine LCA Mk-I in IAF colours, and the Mk-II being given finishing touches. Instead, the resistance of the IAF to local products while allowing foreign, especially Western, suppliers every consideration is what’s got the country into this mess. Worse, GOI has talked “Make in India” but not cracked the whip on IAF brass and, with what’s happening in the army, with FMBT, the army general staff. A few kickouts of senior air marshals and generals will send the right message. But the govt is unwilling to risk the ensuing rumpus. Easier to oust DRDO chiefs and such like.

      • Shail says:

        Perhaps the jaguar flying without armament bit is debatable, but as for the rest the point was a better product was negated for no sound reasons given by the Govt of the day.
        As for the EW – The mirages were inducted in 1984, bekaa valley happened in 1982 – perhaps too short a time for lessons to sink in and we didnt have even podded jammers pre 1984.
        The lessons learnt after the US op el dorado canyon, 1991 GW1 etc were forcefully imbibed once adversaries started fielding such systems. It wasnt a case of cut them some slack.
        As for the Tejas, there have been mistakes from all sides. But the point is sir, today without EW suites a fighter simply isnt survivable. Note the two aircraft downed in Kargil by a first gen obsolete stinger. Today especially the threat levels from China are far more potent. In this scenario “cutting some slack” for EW will have disastrous effects.
        While I am pro kicking butt where it counts, you must agree that todays Air marshals and Generals were Flt Lts and Captains when the Tejas and Arjun started happening. Why not secy DDP? how come the babu who has complete ..and i mean ..complete control is never held accountable in India and everyone only bays for the generals blood?
        Would you not agree that post the formation of the IAF project team ( around 2006), is when the LCA has actually started delivering? Do read ” The Tejas Story” and especially articles by Dr KH Rao on the LCA official website for insider views on what George Fernandes actually wanted.
        Also the NFTC is only manned by IAF test pilots and their contribution has been acknowledged by DRDO, ADA, HAL themselves several times over in several forums, public as well as private.
        If you have perused the CAG report the aircraft has been accepted with as many as 33 “concessions” Slack has been cut.
        The acoountability must not be only from DRDO and IAF but also from the Babus. However, Short tenures, Govt and policy changes etc make accountability impossible. Thats what needs to Change. Also, a system of genuine experts(civil) in MoD will provide checks and balances. Even the Babus are switched from unrelated ministries. Dedicated think tanks are not tapped adequately for such matters. An informed debate is the essence behind a sound R&D, and Def Mfg policy. How many Civilian Defence experts in India? One can count them on fingertips. How many involved with such issues? You know the answer to that one.

  8. Shail says:

    and for those here who dont understand the importance of Electronic warfare, you may like to google the Israeli Losses in the initial days of Yom Kippur war, the Bekaa Valley (82- Nil in favour of Israel) the time it took to swwep the Iraqi air force off the map in the initial days of war in 1991 ( there are many more examples too) to understand what kind, scale and comprehensive losses can happen without EW equipment, AWACS and good training and calibre of pilots. Then you may consider LCA Mk I without EW equipment and visualise that the EW environment today is several orders of magnitude more lethal than 1991. Then do the simulation and decide. Just as a mental exercise. Then calculate the monetary and otherwise losses.

  9. Rahul says:

    Completely agree with you @Shail on whatever you are saying….Absolutely agree….HAL is developing LCA Mk1 P, a newer version with Elta EL/M 2052(the same radar that was planned to be integrated with Mk2 till USA came in and stopped Israel from exporting those radars) “hybrid” AESA radar and Israeli supplied EW….First flight is targeted by 2017….Can’t the government do anything to bring it to 2016? Its only a matter of replacing one PESA radar with an AESA radar and integrating an EW suite..Why will it take so much time?.’Hopefully’, IAF will order few more squadrons of Mk1 once that is done….

    But I was actually surprised to know that Mk1 does not have an EW suite from the CAG report….That’s pretty incompetency….I had read in Wikipedia that DRDO has developed ‘Mayawi’, an indigeneous EW suite for Tejas…What happened to that? Not sure…

    ADA and HAL has started work on Mk2 from 2009….And still it has not made its first flight….That’s also incompetency….

    Status of Project Uttam, the indigeneous route to an AESA dream also needs to be followed closely….

  10. Rahul says:

    Mr Karnad,

    Ajai Shukla, the former Army man now also confirms what I had said a few days back in response to @Shail and what most of us had suspicions on….

    Which means the successive Directors of Armoured Regiments overwrote the predecessor’s vision….Which means, our Army does not know what they need to fight the next war!!!!…And we always blame the DRDO….

    This is plain daylight robbery….This is like a Trojan Horse; wearing the mask of patriotism infront and draining the foreign exchange reserves in the background…..Thankfully for IA and IAF, our media is not interested in defence realted news items and discussions because it generates low TRP’s for them, otherwise all hell would have broken loose…

    Is there any way we can highlight these things in media, espeically electonic media? Can we somwhow get Arnab Goswami to get interested in this? Trust me, if he gets interested, this Nation will get interested and quite a few Generals will be loosing their midnight sleep…

  11. Shail says:

    @ rahul. – i beleive said integration is on in full swing. I am not sure we can do it by stated dates. Manufacturing and production cannot start till all 40 Mk i production is completed.
    —also no RFI can be floated till MoD scrutinises and approves. Ref the DPP.

  12. Rahul says:

    Which means MOD is hands in glove with IA to kill Arjun MBT and FMBT…..

    God save this country…

  13. Shail says:

    @ Rahul….dont be so pessimistic. an RFI is only a request for info. Not all RFIs materialise into proposals. TOT etc come in at much later stages. The process can be stopped at any stage, if there is a doubt. The army heptrs and arty guns have been going on since early 2000. No contract and money paid to anyone yet. The final contract is years and years away. Govts change in that time, babus and generals retire, the adversary scenario may change, the deal is dependant on any number of factors. If the tech is too expensive or not relevant, it can be jettisoned anytime.
    The Indigenous industry may well develop by that stage. Dont worry. the arjun and tejas itself will take 10 more years to come in and stay for another 30. We will be dead by then. by the time the next tank comes in…who knows what will happen

    • Rahul says:

      The problem is if that RFI does not yield a final product….IA will then have to fight with T-72’s even in 2040’s….Better option would have been to partner with the indigeneous industry and asking them to manufacture FMBT…And before that, order around 1000 Arjun MBT’s….

      You know, we all love appreciation and love to see our works getting accepted….If after 30 years of my hard work wherein I had to strat from scratch but I have finally built a world class product I see that the customer makes a mockery of me and goes to a firangi vendor for the same requirement, my morale will stoop to a dead zero and I will loose all enthusiasm for work…That happens with al of us you know….

      • Shail says:

        I agree, provided the product is capable of delivering even in the Mk I version. You may notice that there are no cribs on Bramhos, Akaash, Prithvi, Jaguar upgrade etc. To give the devil its due, some programmes are good. INSAS, LCA and Arjun are special cases. There numerous others which do not attract the same negative sentiments despite some lack of real world performance.
        I feel there is an unnecessary brouhaha over the Mk I. Its time to move on. Lets focus on the Mk II, which has real potential, and LCA Navy which in my opinion is a huge achievement since we are probably only the fifth country in the world to make a ski jump capable aircraft. But proceed with caution since the J-15 is significantly more capable. ..and of course no AAR tankers available mid-ocean to compensate for the design flaw of the low fuel carriage.

  14. Shail says:

    Interestingly i dont recall any DRDO project ever, whether for IA, IN or IAF that was completed in the originally specified timelines. Anyone?

  15. Rahul says:

    Now even the Sri Lankans are buying the JF-17’s…The only left are Bangladesh and Myanmar….If they buy it, it will complete the String of Pearls viz a viz Chinese military hardware….Whichever direction we see, we will see only JF-17’s….

  16. Anil Sood says:

    The author’s logic and inferences makes one wonder. ‘IAF conveying to company in UK to delay supply’ – who is the customer? IAF or DRDO, if DRDO is customer how come it is not pushing the UK company to meet contract obligations. DRDO wants to supply and not delay. The navy MIG 29s are of recent supply while those with IAF have been with them for 20 years. Natural wear and tear. Will appreciate articles with greater rationality.

    • All foreign supplier companies are more sensitive to the prime user, not the intermediary (in Cobham’s case: DRDO). Further, we are talking normal maintenance with MiG-29s.

  17. !@#$%^&*()_+ says:

    Great post Sir,
    I also believe that the IAF is playing its double game. Notice how instead of we getting the IFR and Radome, we are forced to order a silly thing like upgrading Hawks for ground attack.

    IFR is a bolt on thing and only the IAF could have stopped a simple matter of just a few IFR for FOC.

    Regards Radome its not like Quartz Radomes are not made in India for Jaguar RWJs based on R118. But most likely whenever the contract was drawn this must have been an IPR item and as a result we cannot even make these for ourselves. If we make these then they will stop supplying for other items contracted, directly or indirectly. This is what the imports culture in IAF. IAF has on purpose brought things to a state where every acquisition since forever is an emergency acquisition and then these suppliers from UK and France go on to extract their pound of flesh because the negotiation itself was initiated on emergency basis. NAK Browne (of we can make MMRCA in our BRD claim), has already gotten his due. Other such people obviously want theirs. Something must be done to stop this gravy train.

    We Indians must come out of this western slavery.

  18. Shail says:

    “IFR is a bolt on thing and only the IAF could have stopped a simple matter of just a few IFR for FOC.”
    We bow to your superior technical acumen and legal knowledge O King

    “then these suppliers from UK and France go on to extract their pound of flesh because the negotiation itself was initiated on emergency basis.”.
    … Emergency acquisition?? after 30 goddamn years? when they were supposed to make a radar themselves? You must be kidding.

    DRDO- makers or assemblers? who contracted for item? IAF? ignorance at its best. IFR an IPR item??????????? also quartz radome an IPR item???????? what nonsense are you propagating? there must be at least 5-7 independant manufacturers of the thing.

    Jaguar RWJ — really? do you even google? or just shoot off?
    Whats your contribution to coming out of western slavery? Comments on blogs?

  19. Sam Dawson says:

    IAF is getting corrupt and anti-Indian. Need to replace IAF top brass soon! Shove the LCA’s down their throat to replace MIG-21’s/27’s. Govt needs to purchase ONLY 36 Rafales, for 2nd Nuke Strike Corps. As per this link, original plan of Def Min was to get 2 squadrons ONLY of Rafales: for 2nd Nuke Strike Capability Air Corps! But, IAF has butted in and tried to takeover Rafale deal, to replace all MIG-21’s/27’s of IAF! This is unethical, sleazy, treacherous behavior of IAF Top Brass! Very shameful of them, trying to loot every purchase deal at the cost of tax paying citizens of the country! Now, Def Min and PMO need to be EXTREMELY FIRM w/ IAF and just buy off-the-shelf 36 Rafales with Nuke delivery capability and next, CLOSE the deal PERMANENTLY!! MIG-21/27’s will be replaced ONLY with Tejas MK2 & AMCA’s in the future- IAF needs to wait patiently for the same! If Dassault refuses nuke delivery capability, then CANCEL this Rafale deal permanently and go in for TU-160 BlackJacks from Russia I say Sirs!

    • Jeet Hormuz says:

      Sam Dawson.
      Pretty free with your comments. Might like to introspect about what car you drive and what phone you use before you comment on people who have signed up and put their lives on the line for the likes of you.
      I am always fascinated by the vitriol of the commenters in these fora who never had the balls to join the forces and truly contribute. I am also fascinated by the likes of Mr Karnad. Absolutely no clue about the realities of operations and running a military, and even less of the way procurement is run in our country, but are happy to pontificate on everything based on a drip of gossip gleaned from access to ‘ those in the know’.

  20. rohan says:

    It is a nice discussion going on in the forum and i am pretty much waiting for tejas fanboys to come and overtake the debate.

    even i love tejas being an indian jet but it does not mean i will ask iaf to fly a jet which got very least chance of survival in the sky.

    As far as mayavi is concerned i am quite curious about it when it is gong to come up.

    i have two question from shail/bharat first one is it true that indian aesa radar built with israeli support is capable or similar to elta 2052 as the specs i have read do not give the justification perhaps it will mature over time.

    second question is regarding ew suite of tejas mayavi. Can someone provide technical details about how good it is compared to ew suite like spectra that rafale got.

    • As has been mentioned in my writings and on this blog, the Indian AESA radar is based on the Elta 2032 only because the US govt pressured Tel Aviv into capping the tech at this level rather than Elta 2052 originally agreed upon with Israel.

  21. fiter says:

    Hey..article wud ve meant that much more if it was covered how best iaf cud use indeg acraft in its various roles like trng..consolidation
    .crew practise incl ATC FTr control..UT pilots in Op trng stage..targt towing..weapon testing at high speeds..tyre and wheel trials .and such..other than other test modules towards R n D….rather than an iaf vs navy twist.
    which the navy has never spoke of thus far..
    thanx n regards

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