Wish IAF had PAF’s innovative, cost-benefit, mindset

There’s a report about the Pakistan Air Force acquiring a squadron of Mirage 2000-5s from Qatar. (See http://www.tacticalreport.com/view_news/Qatar:-Talks-with-Pakistan-over-Mirage-2000-5s/5055) But for the interventions by ACM S Tyagi (Retd) — yea, the same IAF chief since fingered in the Agusta-Westland scam, sixty of these planes would have been in the Indian fleet, a decade back. These Mirages with 80% of their operational life intact, would have speedily made up the depleting fighter squadrons Vayu Bhavan keeps bellyaching about.

Again, PAF had a while back secured all the Mirage –IIIs/Vs they could get their hands on from anywhere, especially from richer air forces (including Australian) phasing out these aircraft. It proceeded to upgrade the radar and avionics, configuring them to fire more modern weapons. UAE have also expressed their willingness to sell Pakistan (with Saudi compensation and American OK in mind) upto two squadrons of the Mirage 2000-9s in its air force. Actually, UAE were planning on diverting 60 of this aircraft to Iraq except Baghdad has chosen to go in for Russian combat aircraft. PAF has long experience of handling these Mirages ‘coz its pilots regularly fly these planes for the Qatari and the Emirati air forces.

The same PAF attitude of getting something reasonably good for a small price is elsewhere coming into play with respect to the F-16. Rather than pay $270 million per plane for 8 new F-16s from the US, a squadron’s worth of this aircraft is being procured at a fraction of the cost from Jordan. It helps that the Saudis will pay for this transaction (as they have for similar deals in the past), and that it has prior approval of the US. Washington has also agreed to help the PAF brass firm up the supply of spares for the ex-Jordanian F-16s from Ankara (via possibly the US stores prepositioned at Incirlik, the NATO air force base in southern Turkey). Moreover, these ex-Jordanian F-16s are likely to be upgraded to “Block 60 plus” level through the US-Turkey route. These Blk-60 F-16s, it is said, will be enabled to fire the Chinese-designed Ra’ad cruise missile in PAF’s employ, which missile, many apprehend, is outfitted with the terrain mapping technology for guidance to target on-board the US Tomahawk, which fired from a ship in the Arabian Sea against an Afghan target crash-landed in Pakistan instead, and was promptly shipped off to the Chinese, who reverse engineered the guidance system and, besides equipping their own CJ series of cruise missiles, also passed it on to Pakistan for fitting on the Ra’ad. Welcome to the world of innovative tech interplay to realize strategic aims!

By way of reference, the F-16 Blk-60 is what the US government and the Lockheed Martin chief, Marillyn A. Hewison, recently in New Delhi, are pushing the Modi regime to buy and manufacture locally under the aegis of the ‘Make in India’ programme.

Witness the pattern here. Petro-rich and spendthrift nations of the Gulf, more paranoid than with brains, are replacing the perfectly serviceable Mirages with the over-expensive Typhoon Eurofighter. On the other hand, PAF, compensates for its manifest resource scarcity with innovative thinking and retrofitting older aircraft with newer radar, avionics, and weapons to have a relatively technologically in-date force at all times.

The IAF, spoiled by the Indian government sans expertise which, if it can be imagined, has even less common sense and can’t manage the inter se priorities if their lives depended on it, errs on the side of caution and even though cash starved, behaves as the Gulf states do — throwing money around for new and shiny military hardware as if there’s no tomorrow!

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has the right instincts, and sees Su-30MKIs upgraded to “super Sukhoi” level and hordes of Tejas Mk-II as the answer to IAF’s problems of sustaining fighting prowess and filling the combat squadron gap. Of course, IAF geared to always plonking for the cost-prohibitive option is pleading for 36 French Rafales (@ $290 million), two squadrons of which dainty aircraft will be good for nothing except as show pieces clogging up the operational picture and, in any case, won’t make up for the declining fighter strength.

Besides every other advantage, including its being the best fighter plane in the skies today, the Super Sukhoi Su-30s can, for instance, make mincemeat of the Rafale as also the latest fighter in the US stable, the disastrous F-35 Lightening-II, which as American experts, such as Pierre Sprey, claim can’t maneuver, can’t fight, and can’t get out of harm’s way! Speedily inducting more Super Sukoi-level Su-30 Squadrons will immediately ramp up many times over IAF’s fighter presence in the skies. This is because the Rafale or any other aircraft (F-16/F-18, Typhoon Eurofighter and Saab Gripen NG) that will be new to IAF and cannot be operationalized without the basic training, diagnostic, and maintenance infrastructure in place and which to be installed will take anything up to six years, until 2022, if the acquisition decision is made today. On the other hand, large numbers of fresh Su-30 entrants into IAF can be immediately serviced with the infrastructure already in place at a bunch of air bases all over the country.

This to say that no matter what metric is used, there’s no getting around the Super Sukhoi Su-30 as the best, most cost-effective, no brainer choice before the Indian govt and IAF, unless one assumes that either IAF or GOI or both have brain-freeze.

Unless, Prime Minister Modi completely loses all perspective, rejects Parrikar’s logical thinking, and orders the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to release funds for some Western combat aircraft buy or the other, whatever the deleterious consequences for the national interest, the only economically feasible choice is, priority-wise, to get huge numbers of Tejas Mk-II produced by Indian private sector defence companies in parallel production lines with HAL, in the air, along with super Sukhois acceleratedly manufactured at HAL, Nasik.

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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61 Responses to Wish IAF had PAF’s innovative, cost-benefit, mindset

  1. NK says:

    Couldn’t agree more.

    IAF brass should be asked blunt questions:
    (1) What is it that Rafales can do that the Super Sukhoi-30 can’t?
    (2) If Super Sukhoi-30 beats the crap out of Rafales, then why buy Rafales?

    I smell corruption and a compromised IAF brass.

    • &^%$#@! says:

      Generally speaking, in some cases there is a very fine dividing line between corruption and high treason!

  2. &^%$#@! says:

    I believe that the UAE was in discussions to transfer 10 Mirage 2000-9’s to Iraq. As of now, to the the best of my knowledge, this deal is far from fructifying and the initial talks have been frozen/suspended/cancelled. Hewison talked about a F-16 Block 70/72 “that will be built exclusively in India”. Frankly that is nothing but cheap empty talk because the F-16 is an archaic system, and there are limitations to its qualitative upgrades, which can surely be matched by the PAF. If media reports are to be believed that she interacted with Jaitley rather than Parrikar, the “US stooge” factor must surely have played a deciding role in the choice of interlocutor’s. . For example, it is possible for the PAF to mount the Chinese built copy of the Elta-2052 based AESA radar on their modified a/c.

  3. Venkat says:

    Something wrong in our purchases. All our procurement actions are in a limbo last 15 years. Basic weapon like assault rifle , we are issuing RFI again after changing from 5.45 to 7.62 !

    • Venkat says:

      One more thing, After Kargil, IAF wanted a 100 more Mirages. Through a convoluted process if became MRCA competition , is it not ? So we cannot blame only IAF

      • &^%$#@! says:

        Among the first persons one can thank for this is ACM Krisjnaswamy. Of course the Indian MoD needs its share of gratitude”.

      • Raghu Ram@ and Venkat@ — Actually, as discussed in an earlier post, the translation of the Mirage 2000 requirement into an MMRCA need was entirely due to the inventiveness of IAF brass — this is the sort of thing they have been traditionally good at — who invented the “medium” category of combat aircraft and then espied a desperate need for it! GOI being talent and expertise deficient went along until now when the PM’s intervention with the announcement of the Rafale buy upended everything and Paris’ insistence on steeply upping the cost has done the rest in terms of reaching an impasse. No major arms deal has gone through in the past 50 years w/o some hint of corruption which, in a sense, is institutionalized. While Modi, Parrikar at the top are clean and remain untainted, that’s not the case at the military services or the lower bureaucracy levels where it is rampant (throughout govt and not just in MOD).

      • Venkat says:

        Bharat@ or is it that since India uses its arms for really long period of time , (almost till they fall apart – look at Chetak/cheetah/MiGs etc) someone decided to buy latest that will stay current for 40 years. 1990s were tough period for armed forces, that is when Kargil hit them.
        Corruption yes, but as you said PM and RM being clean should get us good deals. Maybe one way to clean MoD is to ensure all civil staff including def sec are members of territorial army and get rotated to active zones once 2 years or so.
        This shows it is very important to develop local capability. Look at simple stuff like cars and scooters. If we did not have TVS/Bajaj//Tata/mahindra I am sure our motors would have been lot more expensive.

      • Venkat@ — Equipment may be in the Indian inventory long after they have become obsolete. But this doesn’t apply to inordinately expensive items like the Rafale, because the age of manned aircraft is coming to an end. So having a Rafale in 2060 would be the same thing as the RAF flying some meticulously preserved Sopwith Camel (of WW-I vintage) today in air shows — more to show the quaint beginnings of fighter aircraft than as something that can be used to fight wars! So the less money spent on imported combat aircraft the better. But continued investment in the Tejas and AMCA are a different matter because the larger cause of building up an indigenous and comprehensive aerospace industrial base kicks in.

        As re: MOD senior officers doing TA stints — the prospect of usually paunchy pen-pushers and desk jockeys running around with Enfield rifles boggles the mind. In this vein, you may recall that George Fernandes as RM posted a few MOD honchos to the Himalayan heights to make them more sensitive to military’s demands. How that worked, I don’t know!

      • Venkat says:

        I agree we have moved on since this MMRCA was mooted. DRDO needs to push its cruise missile (Nirbhay ?) and accelerate the adoption of Brahmos equipped Sukhois. If balloon goes up with china, does anyone believe 40 Brahmos equipped Sukhois will suffice ? China like US may use its big rocket artillery pile to avoid infantry warfare, so there may not be any hiding place, guess it would have got war gamed somewhere.

      • andy says:

        @Bharat
        My two bits worth on drones.
        The 21st century air force is facing an existential crisis as the increasing sophistication of drones and their endurance power (limited only by fuel supply ) is changing the aerial equation in favour of unmanned aircraft. With air refuelling, airborne time will be limited only by the failure of subsystems.

        Plus, their low cost and the fact that drones reduce pilot risk to zero should ideally make them the perfect replacement for expensive conventional fighters. The absence of a pilot translates into substantial cost savings not only in fuel but also because expensive life support systems are not needed.

        The drones vs piloted aircraft struggle has little to do with technology and everything to do with politics. This is because the world is still uncomfortable with the idea of an armed machine flying around without a human controller on board.

  4. Another piece of propaganda against a hardcore nationalist with a figment of different truths.You mean to say that modi and Parrikar are not on same wavelength.Earlier on Parrikar was gushing for Sukhois , in order to use Russia as a bait for France to lower the price of Rafale or maybe just to play this game.You mean to say that Modi may push India to buy European aircraft just because he is mad or he loves Americans so much.

    Super Sukhois or this Pak-fa can defeat F-35.If this is true then why Russians themselves do not buy their own bird Pak-fa ? Russians themselves have decided to upgrade their older Su-27 fleet instead of buying Pak-fa which you claim to be superior than F-35.

    Most probably India will not buy Pak-fa and then Pak-fa will straight away go into museum without entring into service with any Airforce in the world.

    • FGFA is nowhere mentioned. My contention is the advanced version of Su-30 — the “super Sukhoi”, is quite enough for the F-35. For the flying attributes (or the lack of them) of the F-35, please google. Also, if MOD had hoped to use the Russian FGFA to moderate the price the French were quoting for the Rafale and to work out a more acceptable 50% offset arrangement, it hasn’t worked. See http://www.thecitizen.in/index.php/OldNewsPage/?Id=8280.

      • Raghu Ram says:

        Sir,
        I have one question. If the top people in IAF and in our Government are as much corrupt as you imply in your articles then isn’t there any mechanism in place to inquire into the motives behind and the ramifications of their decisions? If there isn’t, then can you please enlighten me what could be the reason behind it because it is almost 70 years since we attained freedom and our institutions should have been mature enough to deal with and possibly reverse such decisions made for their personal gains?

      • First of all Pak-fa or FGFA itself is no match for F-35.If Pak-fa had been good enough to counter F-35 then Russian airforce would have bought it.Since Pak-fa itself is a lemon in front of F-35 then the entire question of Upgraded Sukhois or Super Sukhois matching F-35 does not arise.

        There is a lot negative propraganda against Tejas also on google.Now do you want to discard Tejas for what google has to say about it ? F-35 has its share of long delays and problems but it is a good fighter.When you consider that America will buy 2000 of these, then its price will be close to a Brand new Su-35.After 2020 once F-35 is in full scale production then its price will be less then $100 million.NOW DO YOU REALLY WANT TO DEBATE WHETHER F-35 IS TECHNOLOGICALLY BETTER OR WORSE THAN SuPER SUKHOIS ?

        Using FGFA as a bait for reducing the price of Rafale’s may not have worked out but still we needed it to keep America off-balance.India should discard FGFA when the time is right.Apart from that FGFA is a disaster of horrendous magnitude.

      • This Rahul Bedi is journalist working in Janes defence weekly.He regularly bats for Imported Weapons.Do you really want me to believe want he has to say ?

      • Of course, Bedi is a Western hardware pusher. But he is going against grain to report on the troubles Rafale is facing in MOD.

    • andy says:

      Please go through the following report (a USA based organisation)where they clearly indicate the F35 is no match for Sukhois.Hope you will believe them.

      http://nsnetwork.org/report-f-35-thunder-without-lightning/

    • andy says:

      The NSN report on the F35 concludes: “Despite plans for the F-35 to replace most of America’s fighter and attack aircraft, the platform is ill-suited to cost-effectively counter near-peer foreign militaries. The aircraft lacks the maneuverability, payload, likely ability to generate sorties, and range to effectively compete with near-peer competitors despite its lifetime costs of $1.4 trillion.

      “The aircraft’s survivability depends largely upon stealth characteristics that are already at risk for obsolescence against adversaries who over the next 50 years will only continue to upgrade their radar and infrared detection systems….Given the critical failings of the F-35 programme and its exorbitant costs, the aircraft should be regarded as a bad bet. As such, proceeding with the full programme buy of nearly 2,500 units – or any large-scale buy that approaches that number – should be avoided.”

      The findings portend grave implications for American security. “By staying fully committed to the F-35 programme, the United States is investing unprecedented resources in the wrong aircraft, at the wrong time, for the wrong reasons,” it says.

      If the US still proceeds with full scale production, slated for 2019, the F-35 could turn out to be the biggest dud in military history, putting at risk American, and allies air forces.

      • Congratulations!!!! Can you please show these reports to Vladimir Putin and Russian Air Force.They may agree with you that Pak-fa can blow F-35 out the skies.Mr Putin mayu agree to buy 200 pieces of this Pak-fa!!!!

    • andy says:

      The report backs what a number of independent aviation experts have been saying all along – the F-35 is a truly useless aircraft that will be a sitting duck if it comes up against a serious air force.

      “The F-35’s performance characteristics compare unfavourably with already deployed foreign 4th Generation fighters such as the Russian designed MiG-29 Fulcrum and Su-27 Flanker in service with air forces around the world,” the report says.

      “These are the kinds of aircraft the F-35 would most likely face in air-to-air engagements against a high-end opponent. Compared with both the Su-27 and MiG-29, the F-35 is grossly inferior in terms of wing loading (except for the F-35C), transonic acceleration, and thrust-to-weight. All F-35 variants also have significantly lower maximum speeds, Mach 1.6 for the F-35 compared to Mach 2.2 for the Su-27 and Mach 2.3 for the MiG-29.”

      Air-to-air simulations paint a grimmer picture. “In 2009, US Air Force and Lockheed Martin analysts indicated the F-35 could be expected to achieve only a 3-to-1 kill ratio against the decades-old MiG-29 and Su-27 despite its advantages in stealth and avionics.”

      The results of other simulations have been far worse. “In one simulation subcontracted by the RAND Corporation, the F-35 incurred a loss exchange ratio of 2.4-to-1 against (Chinese air force) Su-35s. That is, more than two F-35s were lost for eachSu-35 shot down.

      “While these simulations take into account a host of other factors and include assumptions about the context in which the engagements take place, they nevertheless underscore the need for scepticism regarding the F-35’s air-to-air capabilities.”

      This bird cannot even compete with the MIG 29 and Su27!!!! So what debate are you talking about????

      • Good Job))) Well let’s discuss something about Wing Loading and take-off.If there are two Aircraft X and Y.Both aircraft X and Y have same loaded weight.The wing area of aircraft X=40m2 and wing area of aircraft Y= 50m2.

        Now can you tell me which aircraft will have longer time to take-off at same speed ? (both the aircraft are at same weight or at their full loaded weight)

      • Independent Aviation experts have their own opinion and they have every right to have their opinions and considerations. In a dogfight even a Mig 21 can defeat F-35. But for a dogfight to happen Mig 21 first has to detect and come very close to F-35 without being shot.What do you think What were Americans thinking when they started designing F-35 ? Su-27 and Mig 29 were already flying at that time!!!

        Rand corp report that you are quoting was published in order to increase the F-22 numbers.At that time F-22 production line was being closed down.

        Mig 29,Su-27 ,Su-35 and Pak-fa stand no chance against F-35.In order for Russian aircraft to defeat F-35, they will have to have better radars,sensors and radar absorbing materials.Now do you know the kind of tech gap that’s there in radar technology and radar absorbing stealth materials between America and Russia.Americans began developing radar absorbent materials in 1960s.

        Pak-fa’s Byelka radar is 1980s era tech for America.It is a full generation behind F-22’s APG-77 radar.By 2030+ Russia may be able to develop a radar as capable as APG-77.But still even if Russia is able to a a radar as good as APG-77, it will still not be able to detect F-35 first without being detected first by F-35 and being shot.F-35’s radar is even better than F-22’s radar.

        Russia can develop a radar as good as APG-81 only by 2040 and still not good enough to detect F-35 first without being detected and Shot.

        Let’s imagine if both PAK-fa and F-35 have same radars and sensors, then who will win ? F-35 will be able to detect Pak-fa first becasue it has a very low RCS.Pak-fa will get detected and shot!!!!

  5. Pakistanis are shrewd they play China, Russia, US Saudi and finally terror export industry well.

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

    “F-35 will be able to detect Pak-fa first becasue it has a very low RCS.”

    What the hell is this logic.

    And what the hell does wing loading matters in all this? The silly thing can’t turn can’t run and can’t get out of harms way. Is it not enough to know that. They have to pit it against A-4s to gain respect. A-4s used to be aggressors standing in for sub-sonic adversaries. How low can you go, after this.

    For BVR the historic Pk against contemporary fighters has been abysmal.

    Besides there are several ways to track these so called LO targets.

    In any case F-35 is so damn expensive that only idiots are going to buy it. Norway’s estimate is USD 750 million for the LCC. Only somebody beholden to US is going to buy this lemon.

    • If F-35 and Pak-fa have same radars, then F-35 will be able to detect Pak-fa first because F-35 has less RCS than Pak-fa.

      NOW DO YOU UNDERSTAND THE LOGIC ? If not then there is nothing I can do about it

      • Shaurya says:

        OK, go a step ahead, detect and shoot first right? So, how many true BVR kills against advanced super fast maneuvering jets have been recorded? How many such BVR can the F-25 carry in its internal weapons bay to remain stealthy? How many BVR does it need to fire to get a high kill probability against a Su-35, forget a Pak-FA. Tactics, power, counter measures, speed, manaoevue do count for something. Stealth is an advantage no doubt…..Stealth only is everything is a big WRONG presumption that even the USAF does not make. Hence they rely on systems of systems by way of dominance in awareness through other assets and anyways wars are not about 1:1 comparisons, it is about the overall system that can be bought to bear on any opposing force.

        I ask again, have you thought this through?

      • ~!@#$%^&*()_+ says:

        I know you cannot do anything about me.

        But why the hell would F-35 & PAKFA have the same radar? What is this fantasy?

        PAKFA has an L-Band radar that will be good for both surveillance, ELINT and above all for Ranging, It will miss some other parameters but a line of sight Ranging is a time of flight issue something that is regularly done by 50 dollar TOF Range gating cameras. Only this time it will work in the L-Band of EM spectrum instead of the optical bands.

        And mind you range information is the only information not there on an IRST.

        So instead of wishing for an F-35 you better start wishing for monsoon rains. Because that is the only time IRST will have issues. But the L-Band still won’t have issues in Rains and the length of a typical AAM will show up on even in rains.

    • &^%$#@! says:

      This article and the links therein to US Government reports highlight some of the very serious problems that plague the F-35:
      http://fortune.com/2016/03/10/the-f-35-is-still-a-mess/

  7. Shaurya says:

    Have some typos above, please forgive. Thanks.

    • ~!@#$%^&*()_+ says:

      @Shaurya, you are allowing him to run with his fantasy too easily. Sabse Pahle jeh bataiyege Chohan bhai sahab ke F-35 ke pyar mein kya woh भौतिक विज्ञान ko bhul jayenge. >:)

  8. @Shaurya

    Please have a look at what happened during Operation desert storm.Iraqi mig 29,mig-23s,F1 etc did not knew what hit them ? Shot down by a 1970s era AIM-7.

    F-35 can carry 4-6 AIM-120s in internal weapons bay. SU-35 AND PAK-FA WILL NOT COME TO KNOW WHAT HAS HIT THEM..F-35 has low probability of intercept radars.The agility, maneuverability and speed of Su-35 and Pak-fa will come into play only if they come to know that they have been painted and are being tracked by F-35’s radar.You just need one AIM-120 missile to kill one PAK-FA. THAT’s it

    You are right tactics, Power, Speed,tactics and Manoeuvre do count for something.But for that to happen Russians will have to outnumber F-35 by a ratio of `atleast 8-1.
    America started developing F-35 after Soviet Union had collapsed.How Pak-fa Russian Airforce will buy ? I heard just 12 recently.Russians are also developing a new aircraft based on Pak-fa.This new aircraft maybe be ready after 2035+.How many of these new aircraft Russian airforce can buy ? Now more than 200 pieces. AMERICA WILL BUY MORE THAT 2000 F-35.

    How many Pak-fa can Russian bring to combat per F-35 ?

    • andy says:

      As per the Air combat kill chain analyst model,there are a series of 9 steps through which a BVR air to air missile has to pass before a kill can be made.

      By putting all the steps together in the ‘Kill-Chain Analyst’ model, and providing reasonable estimates for the likelihood of disrupting each step in a modern engagement, this is the result – less than a 20% kill probability, or put another way, four out of five missiles fired will miss.

      Analyses done elsewhere have shown that the history of the AIM-120 in BVR engagements has been 6 kills from 13 shots, a kill probability of 46%. However, the targets were ‘straight and level,’ un-alerted aircraft, not fitted with electronic counter measures. One was a helicopter. So, for modern warfare when the enemy is network enabled, fully cognisant of the tactical situation, and takes every opportunity to break the kill-chain, a sub-20% kill probability for BVR missiles is likely to be the new reality.

  9. Bedi may be exclusively only Western equipment pusher but still he has something in common with you.Both of you want to show Modi government in bad light for 2 completely different reasons.

    • Whatever Rahul Bedi’s reasons, my motivation is upfront and always has been. As perhaps the earliest, most energetic, supporter of Modi, writing of him as the great Indian Hope in op/eds in the New Indian Express, most of which posts are on this blog, as early as 2011, and who viewed him as a Margaret Thatcher type of PM who would germinate and consolidate a right-of-centre ideology in government and the polity, he has disappointed hugely. It is this disappointment that does fuel my criticism of Modi government’s foreign and military policies. But I have always been transparent about it.

      • Margaret Thatcher was the leader of Conservative Party.Now British Conservatives are 400 years old and were well established Political Party in UK.While Modi is the leader of BJP. BJP has only been in Power Once before this time.There should be no comparison between Modi and Thatcher.BJP is still Psychologically a party in opposition.Modi has no magic wand!!!

        You have never criticized Modi for not doing Big Bang economic reforms.There is a view in BJP that whosoever does Big Bang reforms looses elections.Modi may do reforms Post 2019.Your only bone of contention with Modi is that he has refused to buy Russian crap and moved closed to America.

  10. andy says:

    The biggest problem with the F-35 is that its US designers are betting on stealth and long range radar to compensate for its lack of speed and maneuverability. But stealth is not really all that it is cracked up to be; it is not the cloak of invisibility.

    Already excellent radars are getting better. Says Defense Industry Daily (DID): “Meanwhile, key radar advances are already deployed in the most advanced Russian surface-to-air missile systems, and existing IRST (infra-red scan and track) systems deployed on advanced Russian and European fighters are extending enemy detection ranges against radar-stealthy aircraft. Fighter radar pick-up capability of up to (46km) by 2020 is proposed against even ultra-stealthy aircraft like the F-22, coupled with IRST ability to identify Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile firings and less infrared-stealthy aircraft at (92km) or more.”

    At the same time, there is no such thing as one radar in a war. “There are lots of radars,” Pierre Sprey (codesigner of the F16 falcon and A10 warthog)explains. “And you can’t be nose-on or dead-level to every radar in the theatre. There are always going to be radars that are going to be shining up (from below) or looking from above – they can all see you.”

  11. Shaurya says:

    So, AIM 7 achieved BVR kills? Please do read the miniscule number of recorded kills by BVR missiles and of those how many are at what ranges, under what conditions and against what targets and come back again. Also, what do you mean by a su-35 will not know what hit them? Are you saying they are not able to detect a missile launch or even that is stealthy?

    F-35 can carry 4 AMRAAM’s in its internal bays and in any air-air load out the question is not what brochure ware of the vendor claims but what actually would happen in a real world scenario. Know of any air-air configuration without the WVR missiles for self-protection? If you do have all 4 loaded with AIM 120’s, then the sidewinder will go on the external pylons and there goes all the advantage of stealth?

    So, in reality it will carry 2+2 WVR and BVR combo. Based on what I read, for a fast maneuvering target such as a su-35, with the BVR in tail chase mode the probability of a kill even with two missiles is less than 50% with its defenses intact and no other external sensor assets? You can question these numbers for NONE are based on real life data. The simple point is stealth is an advantage but there are other factors that count too and BVR probability of kills is not a well proven theory with real world data. This is not to negate either stealth or BVR but the fan boyish comments needs a dose of reality.

    As for the Pak-Fa, I am really excited about that craft for real world 5th gen air dominance, but that view is for some other time. Hope India does sign up to it in earnest, exclusive dependence on the success of the AMCA program will be foolish, given our emerging threat scenarios.

    Last but not the least, accusing Bharat of being biased against the Modi government shows your lack of knowledge of the author’s antecedents. Given Bharat’s take on various policies of GoI, I do not think any government will be able to fulfill all of his recommendations. But given the hope that was created by Modi of a “transformation” in policies, there is cause for concern. As for me, I have a simple metric, what is our defense budget as a % of GDP? This government has NOT put its money, where its mouth was.

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

    @Chohan Re. “SU-35 AND PAK-FA WILL NOT COME TO KNOW WHAT HAS HIT THEM..F-35 has low probability of intercept radars.”

    Chohan bhai Abhi you want to say something about the L-Band or you are going to pretend that your F-35 does not need to handle it.

    Now what if the LRTR also comes into the picture. Long Range Tracking Radar has Range 500 km again in L Band for RCS of 0.1 sq. mtr. and Probability of Detection of 0.85.

    And if India does end up buying the S-400 then Sunflower OTH Radar (again about 500 km range) cannot be far behind and while its no good from ground but it will easily cue in the PAKFA radar to refine the search area.

    None of these systems will be within the capacity of your F-35.

    Bol yaar ke bhagta hi rahega.

    • ~!@#$%^&*()_+ says:

      Aur Yeh LPI radar hota kya hai bhai Chohan.

      F-35 LPI must have infinite number of waveforms na! That is how it will detect the PAKFA faster. Is it?

  13. andy says:

    Bharat Karnads reccomendation for accelerated manufacture of the super sukhois and Tejas mark2 is the best way forward for the IAF,RM Parikkar seems to favor this,the only hitch seems to be PM Modis commitment to the French for purchase of 36 Rafale.

    If ACM Tyagi hadn’t vetoed the 60 M2k the current bogey of depleting squadron strength would have been preempted. The PAF seems to be better at making do with what they have rather than going for exorbitantly priced fighters.The way in which a bare bones JF17 was quickly inducted is a prime example,no IFR no AESA radar etc,compare this to IAFs insistence of so many systems before inducting the Tejas.

    The advantage of this sort of quick induction to PAF is that line Pilots have got familiar with JF-17 and have surely evolved tactics best suited for the jet.OTOH IAF dilly dallied on inducting Tejas and it will take some more time for Pilots to get familiar and evolve tactics suitable for this new aircraft. Precious time has been lost and there’s no accountability

    • &^%$#@! says:

      The crux of the problem lies in realistically implementing the last paragraph of Karnad’s article. Time is rapidly running out, and Modi is squandering the Indian taxpayers money by running up his frequent flyer miles and massaging his ego in meaningless foreign jaunts that have yielded ZILCH to India in real terms. Assuming that he comes to his senses at least now, the toughest problem is to get a viable working plan to get multiple LCA production lines up and running on a war footing .

      As Karnad has correctly stated repeatedly, this cannot be done without the committed involvement of the private sector. At least 2-3 squadrons of LCA’s need to be produced/year to make up for the IAF’s rapidly dwindling squadron strength. The target of 8 squadrons in 8 years is simply too little too late! Even with this grossly truncated number and inflated timeline, I just do not see HAL remotely delivering the goods by itself. This is a very fine a/c, and it needs to be backed to the hilt.

      Inducting and modifying earlier Su-30’s to the Sukhoi Super 30’s might be marginally easier since the basic infrastructure already exists. On the naval front, I cannot see why the underutilized capacities of Pipavav and L&T shipyards are not utilized to build P-15B class missile destroyers, P-17A frigates, and the much needed Kamorta class ASW corvettes in addition to MDL. Pipavav and L&T have larger, more modern, and far more efficient outfits than DPSU shipyards like MDL JMT!.

      • &^%$#@! says:

        CORRIGENDUM: The sentence in the above post should read:

        “On the naval front, I cannot see why the underutilized capacities of Pipavav and L&T shipyards are not utilized to build P-15B class missile destroyers, P-17A frigates, and the much needed Kamorta class ASW corvettes in addition to MDL and GRSE”.

      • ~!@#$%^&*()_+ says:

        Dear &^%$#@!,

        Yes, you are right.

        But do you know even 1 true momin F-35 is equal to 10 hindu YellChiMeh.

        Don’t you know that. The Bhulle Shah knows that, the band brass knows that, even the bloody taxi driver in NYC knows that. And you persist with SooKhoEee and YellChiMeh.

        F-35 has LPI. Does SooKhoEee have it! Does YellChiMeh!

        F-35 shoots first and runs away. You cannot even catch it how can YellChiMeh shoot if it cannot even catch the true Momin.

        F-35+Rajni Kant and SooKhoEee minus Bruce Lee end up with game set match for Rajni Kant. F-35 shoot from hip. Can SooKhoEee? Can YellChiMeh!

        regards
        Prithivi Raj Kabali

  14. MS says:

    Read your piece – Are PAK Airforce chiefs more competent than Indian Airforce chiefs(not just the chief alone but the top layer)? Can we find out the school they went for training and the kind of training, so the same could be imparted for our top layer in Airforce?

    If we are not good, lets become good by catching up on the training philosophy of the Pakis and Chinese.

    On another note, I appreciate your doing what I had suggested before. And you do it beautifully by using stark facts and let the point stand out. Mindless spending on defence can bankrupt a nation like ours.

    • &^%$#@! says:

      @MS: WRT
      “Are PAK Airforce chiefs more competent than Indian Airforce chiefs(not just the chief alone but the top layer)?”, I hate to say it, but YES and by a very large margin.

      WRT
      “If we are not good, lets become good by catching up on the training philosophy of the Pakis and Chinese.” IAF training is top class. It’s an attitude and mindset problem.

  15. andy says:

    Some final thoughts on Supermaneuvrability and how it can undermine stealth..
    While the United States – and its increasingly unconvinced and edgy allies – is stuck on stealth, the theory of air combat has been continuously evolving. In the 1940s and 1950s, the first priority was height, then speed, then maneuvre and then firepower,then with the third and fourth generation, it was speed, then height and then manoeuvre. Supermaneuvrability adds to this. It’s the knife in the soldier’s pocket.But what exactly is this supermaneuvrability?

    During air shows or on you tube we have seen the SU 30 perform many maneuvrs including the pugachevs cobra,the kulbit,the dead leaf and the unprecedented pancake(google for decriptions)Western analysts say “air show maneuvres” don’t equate to air combat ‘capability.

    However, flight demonstrations are not aerobatic tricks,Unpredictable flight paths challenge the guidance algorithms of any missile system and rapid nose-pointing can permit a short-range missile launch with a greater kill probability.

    Where the F-35’s survival depends entirely on stealth – which leaves it vulnerable in a knife fight – the Su-30 is an all-round fighter, packing lethal weaponry, extended range and of course legendary super maneuvrability, which is the defining characteristic of the Flanker family.

    The rapid change in velocity during a pugachevs cobra maneuver for example can cause a Doppler fire-control radar to break lock.The tactical advantage of this kind of maneuvring mostly stems from the fact that any air to air missile has a predictive element. It’s aiming where it thinks the target is going to be. That means the missile has to predict the aircraft’s flight path.

    This is where the Su-30excels. If the aircraft is unpredictable, if it is capable of changing its flight path very suddenly and very dramatically, and if it is capable of doing this under control then it’s much harder for the missile to do that,What it does is effectively reduce the missile’s range.

    The F-35 pilot can take a shot but most likely it’s going to miss(BVR missiles have less than 20%kill rate) He therefore has to come closer, thereby not only revealing his location (assuming the Flanker’s massive radars haven’t painted him already) but also coming within range of the Flanker’s inventory of air to air missiles,with just 4 Ato A missiles in its inventory the F35 becomes a sitting duck.

    The American theory of stealth combat rests on “First look, first shot, first kill”. With the Flanker, the Russians have upended that grandiose theory. The F-35 may still have the first look – that is, it may detect the Flanker first – but it has to come closer to take that killer shot. That’s when the Flanker and the F-35 can both see each other. The advantage of stealth has been markedly reduced,
    At that point, the Flanker, with its unnatural ability to fly in slow motion or engage in bursts of supersonic speed, becomes the hunter. With its maximum speed of Mach 2.2, a high altitude range of 3300 km and 12 missiles, it is more than a handful for an F-35 pilot with a range of just 2222 km and a top speed of Mach 1.6 which almost seems like a death wish.

    While the F-35 offers extravagant technologies that seem completely irrelevant to the needs of most air forces, the SU 30 offers performance par excellence.

  16. shishir mohan says:

    Sir your views on the “backfire bombers”for india…..plz

    • Have long advocated a strategic bomber squadron, at least, in IAF orbat. Do refer my numerous posts in the IAF section in this blog.

    • &^%$#@! says:

      This has been suggested for over a decade most prominently by Karnad. The Tu-22M (Backfire) is a very potent strategic bomber. However, acquisition of the Tu-22M has been rejected by the IAF and the Indian MoD. There has been some talk that the IN tried to acquire some under the “guise” of a maritime strike platform, but the IAF put an end to this effort. In any case, there’s little one can do to convince a nation that lacks a strategic vision/culture, and a service that lacks a strategic doctrine, on the necessity and benefits of having a strategic bomber.

  17. Common Sense says:

    Mr Karnad,

    While I agree with a lot of your views, I think some of the facts are way off: You say if Tyagi (and the GOI) had acted in time, sixty Mirage-2000 5s would have been in IAF service. How so? Qatar only operates a dozen of these aircraft. Where are the rest going to come from? The UAE was never going to do a “double” deal with tiny Qatar to offload their Mirages. Talks of UAE Mirages going to Iraq, Egypt and even Taiwan have been going around for a decade now. However, I do agree, the original proposal to buy 126 Mirage-2000 5s was a lost opportunity.

    Then, you talk about the Super Sukhoi. If it is so super, why are their concerns over the SU-30s serviceability and reliability? Plugging in new avionics isn’t going to improve an aircraft’s avionics or hydraulics. China, Malaysia and Vietnam, all Flanker operators, are either buying (China J-10) or plan to buy new aircraft (all the original MMRCA contenders are wooing Malaysia and Vietnam). So are all these air forces also following the IAF’s lead blindly. The Su-30 is a great fighter, but it has technological limitations: its RCS is much bigger than all its competitors and you can’t “stealthify” that. Its inherent suitability as a strike platform is limited unless slugging one Brahmos is all that comes to mind. The Super Hornet and the Rafale are far more mature in the interdictor role.

  18. vineet kumar says:

    Sir mmrca was mooted to syngergise all air operations n rafael was choosen to act as deep interdiction aircraft. Was su 30 aircraft has terrain hugging capability n was its airframe tested for it? So fact is it will act as air superioty aircraft over enemy air space while rafael with cmbination of mirage n jaguar doing the ground bombing. LCA will act as ponint defence in our airspace. So rafael is a necessity n rest assured atmost 120 will be assembeled in india.

    • andy says:

      Watch this

    • andy says:

      @Vineet
      Don’t you think it would be insane to vector a $250++ million aircraft like the Rafale against an enemy convoy or a few tanks or even infantry with all the inherent risks ground attack aircraft face from surface to air fire as also enemy aircraft providing top cover ,wont the LCA Tejas or Jaguar be a more cost effective option for ground attack against enemy targets, with SU 30 MKI doing Combat Air Patrol?Even if India ends up buying the Rafale in all probability it will remain a Hanger Queen cooped up in its air-conditioned hangers because even the IAF will choose and pick where to deploy it given its exorbitantly expensive cost of procurement and also operations.

  19. vineet says:

    Let me clear something about F35 . Its based upon the concept of combing data fusion with stealth. Imagine a scenario where 100 F35 are in sync with each other and sharing data in real time n also controlling a herd of drones in stealth mode not to mention long range of their radar.Definity a fearsome scenario for any airforce. This will provide them total air superiority over enemy airspace rest of work will be done by combination of f18. Can anyone devise any startegy to defeat them without total inhalliation of their own air force. All these rumors about their manuverabilty n range etc are spread by themselves for their enemies not to shit their pants n stopping them frm investing in 6th generation technologies that US is working upon .

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