Indian Air Force, News & Views - 2016

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So I guess it is safe to say that IAF will not be fielding any 5th generation till 2030. While this gives us breathing room we have to keep moving full speed ahead with Project Azam.

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HAL had in April reportedly quoted Rs 463 crore for LCA MK-1A which is said to be more expensive than the frontline fighter Sukhoi 30 Mki or other fighter jets of the Tejas’s class.The committee, headed by Defence Ministry’s Director of Costs, has been given 60 days time to review the cost of the LCA MK-1A.


“The LCA MK-1A with all these hi-tech features will be a 4.5 generation aircraft and it is unfair to compare it with cost of the Sukhoi 30 Mki which is a fourth generation aircraft. Besides the production of the 83 aircraft will start in 2019-2020 or there after the production cost during this period will be higher than it is now,” the official said. To manufacture the 83 Tejas MK -1A aircraft and speed up the production of the aircraft from 8 to 15 per year, HAL has readied a second assembly line which was earlier used to manufacture Hawk trainer aircraft.

​Than somebody should ask HAL why IAF will deployed the first LCAs inland towards the south while all the SU-30s are facing Pakistan?

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Whatever way you look at it LCA has been a complete cluster. You can expect the termination of the programme soon I think, not just the cost, but in 10 years they have produced a total of what? 11 planes? MK-1A and MK2 nowhere near being tested fully. Dumb as Indians can be, will they really want to be inducting the first MK2 LCA in 2025 when PAF will be looking at phasing out F-16s by then? 


On another note, the flying circus continues too, once Rafael is inducted IAF will have 8 different fighter types. Twice as many as USAF, 4 times as many as RAF. (Rafael, MK200, LCA, MIG-29, MIG-21BISON, Jaguar, SU-30, and possible winner of current fighter contest). Unsure how you can maintain a cohesive, cordinated and networked air force with all of that....

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How a CAG report exposed DRDO's mishandling of AEW&CS programme

The CAG report showed irregularities in the selection of aircraft for the programme

Pradip R SagarBy Pradip R SagarAugust 29, 2018 23:38 IST
AEW-CS-PTIIndian Air Force's indigenous AEW&CS in action during 'Exercise Iron Fist' in Pokhran | PTI

As the indigenous Airborne Early Warning and Control System (AEW&CS)—aircraft fitted with a radar system—flew over the Rajpath during the 2017 Republic Day parade, India joined an elite group of five countries that had this capability. But, before it could be formally inducted into the Air Force fleet, the ‘Eye in the Sky’ has flown into turbulence.

A report by the Comptroller and Auditor General, which was recently tabled in Parliament, has made startling observations about the programme, on which the Defence Research and Development Organisation has spent more than Rs 2,500 crore.

The CAG report showed irregularities in the selection of aircraft for the programme. The auditor slammed the DRDO for the cost overrun—the initial cost was Rs 1,800 crore—and its claims about indigenousness. Moreover, preferred vendors were selected to benefit certain companies, said the report. Though the Air Force had accepted the AEW&CS last year, it is yet to get the final operational clearance.

The AEW&CS is a moving surveillance platform, making it difficult for the enemy to locate the exact position of the aircraft. With its long range and detection capabilities, it gives a 360 degree view of the sky and can track many aircraft simultaneously.

China currently has 20 such airborne warning systems, while Pakistan has eight. The Indian Air Force has only three—Israeli Phalcon radar systems mounted on Russian IL-76 aircraft. India had bought the radar systems from Israel in 2004. According to experts, India currently does not have the capability to cover its entire airspace during a war.

A programme to develop an indigenous early warning system was taken up in 1994, but was shut down after a fatal crash. Subsequently, the defence ministry in 1999 approved the import of three airborne warning systems (the ones from Israel) and decided to meet further requirement through indigenous development.

In October 2004, the cabinet committee on security approved indigenous development of AEW&CS at a cost of Rs 1,800 crore. The deadline was April 2011. Under the project, two AEW&CS were to be supplied to the Air Force. DRDO’s Bengaluru-based laboratory, Centre for Air Borne Systems (CABS), was the nodal agency for design and development.

Considering the operational importance of this project, the CAG carried out an audit to know whether the system had everything that was promised. K. Subramaniam, principal director of audit, Air Force, recently sent the classified report to Dr S. Christopher, the then secretary of the Department of Defence Research and Development—which found serious irregularities in the programme.

The report has come down heavily on the programme over its claim of indigenousness. Despite the project being called home made, it was only 48 per cent indigenous. The DRDO had claimed it to be 81 per cent. And, the cost of foreign consultancy, about Rs 106 crore, was categorised as indigenous.

The CAG’s observations draw strength from the ongoing CBI investigation into alleged kickbacks in the process of selecting the aircraft. The Embraer EMB-145 aircraft from Brazil was shortlisted for the project in 2007. However, Brazilian media reported that Indian officials were bribed to swing the deal in Embraer’s favour. In 2016, the CBI registered a case against NRI arms dealer Vipin Khanna and two private companies based abroad. The case was about the alleged payment of more than $5.70 million as kickbacks to seal the deal for the aircraft.

The CAG report also pointed out inadequacies in management, which stretched the development period to 13 years. “And, the operational requirements, instead of being based on the functional needs of the Air Force, were being adjusted according to the aircraft that was ‘pre-selected’. It took seven years to finalise the operational requirements,” said the report.


During the design and development stage, some operational parameters were compromised because of the Embraer’s limitations. Also, there was no competitive bidding while selecting the aircraft. The Embraer was shortlisted through a nomination. Notably, several aircraft, such as the IL-76, and models from Gulfstream, Bombardier and Boeing were available at the time.

“The justification given for the selection of EMB-145 was not tenable,” the CAG observed. “No objective assessment of the merits and demerits of available options was done. The selection of EMB-145 was arbitrary and based on preconceived preference.”

Initial operational requirements stipulated that the system should be able to operate from high-altitude locations like Leh to have a much deeper view into the Chinese army’s activities. As the EMB-145 was incapable of doing so, claims the report, the Air Force had to drop this requirement in February 2006.

The report also said that the Air Force officials working with the DRDO reiterated that Embraer was not the suitable aircraft.

The CAG also criticised the project for the way the pilots were trained. “From the scrutiny of the expenditure on training, the audit found that the training commenced in June 2007. At this point, the procurement contract for EMB-145 was yet to be awarded and negotiations were underway between the CABS and M/s Embraer. Therefore, training of pilots on an aircraft even before finalising its purchase is highly unjustified,” CAG pointed out. Six pilots were trained abroad at a cost of Rs 23 crore.

Of the 18 requirements specified by the Air Force, AEW&CS could not fully achieve ten important ones. Despite this, the Air Force accepted the first system in February 2017.

“Since EMB-145 was selected, the weight of the mission system had to be adjusted to the optimum payload capacity of EMB-145, which was 3,000kg. The radar along with its associated systems, which was to be mounted on the fuselage, had to be limited to 1,500 kilos due to structural limitations,” the CAG said.

The probable date of completion was revised four times and the final date of completion was extended by over six years, said the report. The Air Force kept changing its requirements. In the middle of the programme, the Air Force demanded air-to-air refuelling and a de-icing system. It led to a delay of nearly two years.

Christopher, who was the head of CABS, said the repeated modifications in the operational requirement by the Air Force played a major role in the delay of the project. “It is all recorded in official documents and no one can find fault with me for it,” he said. “However, I believe that operational requirements is a prerogative of the user and you, as a developer of the equipment, cannot challenge it.”

Regarding the aircraft, he said, “Embraer was a well-proven aircraft. The decision to buy Embraer was taken in consultation with the then IAF chief S. Krishnaswamy. Four countries were using this platform as AWACS—the generic term for such a system. Moreover, the IAF decided that it has to be a turbo jet, not propellant. Turbo engine gives them the desired speed and efficiency.”

When contacted, Krishnaswamy said the selection of aircraft was purely DRDO’s decision. “The IAF was using Embraer for its VVIP fleet and thought of commonality if it is selected for AEW&CS. Since AEW&CS was DRDO’s project and budget was allocated to them, the final decision for selecting aircraft was DRDO’s only,” he said, adding that any modification in the operational requirements was a collective decision of the Air Force and the DRDO. 


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"Even Pakistan, which once feared an existential threat from India, now talks confidently of halting the Indian military without having to trip the nuclear threshold."

Vedic technology ki jai!

India’s First Vedic Research Centre To Be Set Up At Banaras Hindu University

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This article sums it up pretty well.


Rafale deal was to make squadrons leaner and meaner. Instead, it will add to worries

Pradip R. Sagar and R. Prasannan By Pradip R. Sagar And R. Prasannan October 07, 2018 12:28 IST
India Air Force DayGrounded ambitions: A Sukhoi-30 MKI on display at an Air Force Day parade in Delhi. The Air Force, which plans to have fewer types of planes, wants Rafale to complement existing squadrons having the new Su-30s, and the older MiG-29s, Jaguars and Mirage-2000s | AP

As the dogfight over the Rafale fighter deal rages across the political skies, worry lines are appearing over the security horizons. China and Pakistan are “not sitting idle”, Air Chief Marshal B.S. Dhanoa recently told a gathering of strategists and aviation experts at the Centre for Air Power Studies in Delhi. “We do not have the numbers, with fighter squadrons down to 31 from the sanctioned 42,” said the Indian Air Force chief.

We are beggars, and beggars can’t be choosers. Having so many [types of] aircraft, you are asking for trouble. - Anil Yashwant Tipnis, retired air chief marshal, on the Air Force’s logisitic problems

The irony is that even the government’s ‘emergency’ acquisition of 36 Rafales is not going to improve the situation. If the Air Force retires the rickety old MiG-27s and the older but refurbished MiG-21 Bisons, as had been planned, even 36 Rafales are not going to help boost the squadron strength. Rued Air Chief Marshal (retd) Anil Yashwant Tipnis, who had led the Air Force during the Kargil war: “We are fighting over the best price for a fighter jet. But we are not paying attention to what is happening in our neighbourhood—in China and Pakistan.”

Pakistan has only 20 fighter squadrons against India’s 31, but those 20 are packs of sinewy flying wolves—upgraded F-16s and brand-new, Chinese-designed JF-17s—against India’s rickety MiG-21s, obsolete MiG-27s, obsolescent Jaguars, a few agile MiG-29s, two squadrons of Mirage-2000s, and 200-odd new Sukhoi-30s. China has 1,700 fighters—including 800 fourth-generation fighters—against India’s 600. Now, with the Rafale deal getting mired in controversies, even the 42 squadrons appear to be a mirage.

Not that 42 would have been enough. “Even when we do have 42 squadrons, we will be below the combined numbers of two of our regional adversaries,” said Tipnis.

Said Air Marshal (retd) M. Matheswaran, who played a key role in bringing out the tender for procuring medium multi-role combat aircraft: “We have reached a precarious situation. There is no second winner in a war. The military has to be given the best available equipment.”


The proposal to have squadrons of multi-role combat planes began in the 1990s. The fleet looked impressive then—there were MiG-21 and Biz light multi-roles, MiG-23 fighters, MiG-25 spy planes, MiG-27 ground attacks, MiG-29 air superiority interceptors, Jaguar deep strikes, Mirage multi-roles and Su-30 heavy strikers coming in by the end of the decade. Of them, only the obsolete MiG-21s, Bizes, MiG-27s and Jaguars were available in several squadrons. The rest—MiG-23, MiG-29 and Mirage-2000—were in two or three squadrons, because they had been bought as emergency purchases (just as Rafale is now), or India had unwisely refused the vendor’s offer to grant manufacturing licence in India.

This, the chiefs realised, was leading to a logistics nightmare. “Each type needs its own support infrastructure—spares, tools, specialised engineers and streams of pilots,” explained an air marshal. “Every time we move a squadron from one theatre to another, the whole support structure would also have to move with it. And each station would have to have support structures of two or more types.”

Uneasy ties: (From left) Dassault CEO Éric Trappier, Anil Ambani of Reliance Defence and French Defence Minister Florence Parly at an event in Nagpur in October last year | AFPUneasy ties: (From left) Dassault CEO Éric Trappier, Anil Ambani of Reliance Defence and French Defence Minister Florence Parly at an event in Nagpur in October last year | AFP

The chiefs also found that air forces across the world were reducing the types of planes they had, but adding more squadrons of multi-role planes. Realising that the Indian Air Force, too, needed to become lean and mean, they planned to gradually replace about 700 older planes with a single-type of multi-role planes. The multi-roles would be complemented by the Su-30s and squadrons of MiG-29s, Jaguars and Mirage-2000s.

In a formal request to the government in 2001, the Air Force, then led by Tipnis, asked for 126 multi-roles—18 to be bought off the shelf, a few more to be assembled at home, and the rest (more than 80) to be made in India after transfer of technology, with the option to build more.

The magic number of 126 was arrived at after a detailed study. But “we underestimated our procurement process,” said Tipnis. “We did not realise that it will take such a long time,” he said.

As the files got stuck in red tape, a worried Air Force proposed that the government buy 100 Mirage-2000s built in India. (The Air Force already had two squadrons of the aircraft, and they had served well in Kargil.) But, by the time the files moved, the French had closed down the Mirage plants.

For two years, the government sat on the proposal. Then, in 2004, it floated requests for information—officialese for asking global plane-makers if they had the multi-role plane that fits the bill. In 2007, the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government floated a global tender for purchasing 126 twin-engine multi-roles.

By 2012, French company Dassault’s Rafale, which had the advantage of being logistically similar to Mirage-2000, won the race. Negotiations led to a deal at a base price of $10.2 billion (Rs 54,000 crore in 2012). Eighteen jets would be bought off the shelf, and the remaining 108 made by the public-sector Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. Under an offset clause, Dassault would also have to invest half the total worth of the deal in India, sourcing parts and components from Indian companies. Then began the actual cost negotiations that led to the signing of an offset pact and a workshare agreement between HAL and Dassault in March 2014, weeks before the Lok Sabha elections.


As the new government came in, and negotiations towards the final deal began, Dassault began to have second thoughts. They refused to give guarantee for aircraft made by HAL. The deal got stuck, with defence minister Manohar Parrikar openly ruing its fate.

Then, in April 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi flew to Paris and announced that India would buy 36 Rafales off the shelf as a critical necessity. The announcement took everyone—including Parrikar, who was kept out of the delegation, and the HAL and Air Force brass—by surprise. For, even the previous day, foreign secretary S. Jaishankar had told the media: “In terms of Rafale, my understanding is that there are discussions under way between the French company, our ministry of defence [and] HAL. We do not mix up leadership-level visits with deep details of ongoing defence contracts.”

The stink rose sky-high when it was revealed that the mandatory offset contract would be given to Reliance Defence, a company that had been registered barely two weeks earlier. HAL, a Navratna company that has built 4,060 aircraft of various types, was out.

It took a while for the opposition to come to grips with the issue. When it did, former defence minister A.K. Antony launched the attack, quoting the Defence Procurement Procedures (DPP). He argued that only the Defence Acquisition Council—headed by the defence minister and comprising the three service chiefs, the coast guard chief, the defence secretary, secretary of defence finance, chief of Defence Research and Development Organisation, and secretary of defence production—was authorised to decide on the numbers. He also wondered how Modi had arrived at the decision to buy 36 fighters when the IAF had wanted 126.

The price became an issue later. The Congress found that if the cost agreed to by their government had worked out to an average of Rs 526 crore per plane, it would be Rs 1,670 crore under the new deal, leading to a total outgo of Rs 48,000 crore. It accused the Modi government of following “crony capitalism and compromise of national interests”.


The government struck back. Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that base price of each aircraft was €91.75 million now, whereas the UPA price was €100.85 million. That meant, Modi had got it 9 per cent cheaper. Later his colleague Arun Jaitley claimed a reduction of 20 per cent. They also claimed that Reliance Defence had been selected by Dassault, and not by India.

As the Congress demanded an inquiry by a joint parliamentary committee, and approached the Central Vigilance Commission to check how Reliance was selected, former French President Francois Hollande dropped a bombshell. “It was the Indian government that proposed this service group (Reliance Defence), and Dassault who negotiated with [Anil] Ambani,” said Hollande. “We did not have a choice. We took the interlocutor who was given to us.”

As per the current deal, France has to invest 30 per cent of the total order cost in India’s military aeronautics research, and 20 per cent in local production of components, most of which would go to Anil Ambani’s company. The opposition found that Reliance Defence did not own a factory when it was granted licence on February 22, 2016, and that it was incorporated on April 24 that year, 14 days after the deal was announced.

Meanwhile, a statement by Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman—that HAL did not have the capability to build 108 aircraft—drew fire from Antony. “If HAL does not have the required capability, please let us know which company in India has,” he said. Former HAL chief T. Suvarna Raju said HAL did have the capability to build Rafale.

The government pressed the Air Force brass to defend the deal. After flying the first built-for-India Rafale in France in September, deputy chief Air Marshal R. Nambiar said the aircraft would “revolutionise airpower in our subcontinent” when inducted by 2022, and that the fighters came cheaper under the current deal.

Air Chief Marshal Dhanoa, too, defended the emergency buy, saying such buys had been made in the past. In 1983, when Pakistan inducted its first lot of F-16s, India bought two MiG-23MF squadrons off the shelf. Later, India also got two squadrons of Mirage-2000s and MiG-29s.

But, as one officer pointed out, the Air Force still regrets those deals. “Take the MiG-29 deal, struck during the Rajiv Gandhi era,” said a defence ministry official. “The Soviets had offered their technology to us, as a special gesture of friendship, even before they offered it to their Warsaw Pact allies. I still do not understand why we refused the offer and took just three squadrons off the shelf. Even the Soviets were surprised.”

MiG-29 remains the world’s finest air superiority interceptor, but neither HAL nor IAF’s engineers know anything about it. For major repairs, India has to call Russian engineers.

As politicians trade charges, the Air Force is deeply worried about the post-Rafale logistics nightmare. With too few Rafales in the fleet, the Air Force will be forced to retain the MiG-21, MiG-Biz, MiG-27 and Jaguar fleets. In short, if the original idea to go for Rafale was to reduce the aircraft types to just five (MiG-29, Mirage-2000, Rafale, Su-30MKI and Tejas), the Air Force will now be saddled with eight.

“We are beggars, and beggars can’t be choosers,” said Tipnis. “Having so many [types of] aircraft, you are asking for trouble.”

Agreed Air Marshal (retd) Manmohan Bahadur: “It does not make any logistic sense, as it increases load on logistics, maintenance and training. Also, it is very unfortunate that we have to depend on foreign players to fulfil our requirement. We have miserably failed to develop our indigenous industry.”

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