An IDC Analysis 


New Delhi, 22 January 2003

George Fernandes came back from Moscow with good tidings. We had all along supported the Gorshkov deal for professional reasons and explained how it nearly got derailed when the IAF pitched for the SU 30 project and indicated that the SU 30 would be able to perform tasks at sea.

The Indian Navy's home built carrier or more correctly Air Defence Ship (ADS), to be built at Cochin also got delayed and the Bhagwat imbroglio followed. The media has indicated that the deal is to be sealed by March end as a package, with two Akula class nuclear submarines and four TU 22M ASW and maritime reconnaissance aircraft on lease. The Indian Navy, is therefore poised to be better prepared for the days ahead. The additions will take time but when they come the Navy will be in the big league.

This year at Republic Day, DRDO is displaying the BRAHMOS Missile in a triple configuration and also the Launchers, which will be Navy's newest missiles and the RM has stated that the investment for the INDO-RUSSIAN consortium is to be raised to $ 300 million.

In this context we post below a professional assessment of the future scenario in the Indian Ocean prepared by one of our regular correspondents Sayan Mazumdar. In his piece Sayan has explained the history of the carrier Gorshkov, named after one of the benefactors of the Indian navy and has speculated on the Rafale aircraft for the carrier so the details of that machine which is still to be fully developed by France, is also appended.

We feel that the Indian Navy may have to accept the MIG 29K updated version aircraft as the SU 33 is too big for the Gorshkov and the Rafale too expensive and still to be proved, but you never know packages do change. We had already reported that the French PM is scheduled to attend Aero India 2003 at Bangalore. There is still little transparency in defence deals and so far no Agents have been announced.


By Sayan Mazumdar

The Kiev class aircraft carrier "Admiral Gorshkov" which hopefully will be inducted into Indian Navy, will provide the vital integrated air support in terms of both Fleet area air defence and "on-spot" ASW (Anti-Submarine Warfare) screening, by deploying a mixture of air defence fighter and ASW helicopter squadrons. The air defence fighters will be instrumental in intercepting and destroying enemy strike and MR (Maritime Reconnaissance) platforms at great distances before they can close in and fire deadly accurate anti-ship missiles like Harpoon and Exocet. This necessity is more acute if the enemy airborne platforms are to be guided to their targets by an AWACS (Airborne Warning And Control System) aircraft. Land based air cover in that case may be too late to react.

Another vital role of our CVBG (Aircraft-Carrier Battle Group) will be deployment of an air defence fighter and SAM (Surface to Air Missile) cover over Arabian Sea to destroy enemy airborne strike platforms in defence of our vital nuclear and oil installations on the West coast. "Admiral Gorshkov", like other Kiev class aircraft-carrying cruisers, was initially meant to serve in a different role with the Soviet Navy in the cold Arctic waters. But perhaps fate ensured it to serve under Indian Navy banner in the warm waters of Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean as an aircraft carrier.

The Kiev class aircraft-carrying cruiser was developed from Moskva class helicopter-cruisers, with a more conventional flight deck arrangement, adopted to enable the carrier to operate fixed-wing VTOL (Vertical Take Off and Landing) Yakovlev-38 "Forger" aircraft in addition to Kamov-25 "Hormone" helicopter squadrons. The forward part resembles a cruiser presenting a unique cruiser/carrier configuration. In Soviet Navy service Kiev class was employed in support of Soviet submarines in their respective "bastions" against NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) threats. These included defensive postures to protect the SSBN (Submarine, Ballistic missile armed, Nuclear powered) holding areas or "bastions" in Barents Sea and Sea of Okhotsk, and offensive missions to sweep aside NATO barrier ASW (Anti-Submarine Warfare) forces in key areas such as the GIUK (Greenland, Iceland, United Kingdom) gap. Kiev class was supported in these roles by cruise missile firing submarines and Tupolev-22M "Backfire" bombers armed with AshMs (Anti-Ship Missiles). The objective was to contest the entire North Sea and Norwegian Sea area, as far as west as Iceland.

"Minsk" and "Novorssiysk" followed "Kiev", the name ship of the class. The heavily modified ship initially called "Baku" and later renamed "Admiral Gorshkov", after the legendary Admiral of The Fleet of the Soviet Navy, followed them. Admiral Sergei Gorshkov author of "Sea Power of the State" in his tenure of twenty-seven years as the Commander-in-Chief of the Soviet Navy transformed it into a true "blue-water" Navy, from what was essentially a coastal force.

"Admiral Gorshkov" the carrier was used as a test bed for radar and electronic systems eventually to be fitted on the Russian "super carrier" "Admiral Kuznetsov" and sported "Sky Watch" 3-Dimensional Planer radar, and "Cake Stand" aircraft control (TACAN) radar along with a formidable SAM armament. The ship suffered a boiler room explosion in early nineties; necessary repairs were conducted and the ship was offered for sale to India in 1994. Prior to delivery to Indian Navy, the ship is to be given a more conventional aircraft-carrier configuration. However according to recent reports, the deadly punch offered by anti-ship missiles are to be retained in form of employment of the Indo-Russian BrahMos ASCMs (Anti-Ship Cruise Missiles). Future versions of Supersonic BrahMos are projected to posses a range of well beyond 300 kilometres. Moreover BrahMos is stated to posses excellent target discrimination and allocation capability to cause maximum damage to an enemy fleet when fired in clusters.

The ship is slated have a decent multi-tier air defence capability provided by naval fighters (Russian MiG-29K and French Rafale are top candidates), SAMs and appropriate CIWS (Close In Weapon Systems). Ship borne AEW (Airborne Early Warning) capability will be provided by Kamov-31 helicopters.

The Indian aircraft-carrier battle group will additionally be supported by Tupolev-22M3 "Backfire" bombers and Akula II (Type 971 Bars) SSNs (Submarine, Nuclear powered, hunter-killer) also armed with air and submarine launched versions of BrahMos. Enemy surface units are to be overwhelmed with a saturated missile attack from surface, sub-surface units and airborne platforms providing very little reaction time, thanks to the sheer speed and sharp evasive manoeuvrability offered by BrahMos.

Although the effectiveness of aircraft-carriers are sometimes criticised, citing their vulnerability in context to proliferation of precision-guided munitions and missiles and supported by increasingly accurate GPS (Global Positioning System) guidance, it is still relatively invulnerable for its ability to move and manoeuvre in contrast to fixed military installations. Unless equipped with extremely sophisticated electronic and space based sensors, it is very difficult to precisely locate an aircraft-carrier battle group in open Oceans. Moreover our aircraft-carrier battle group will derive protection not only from its own air elements and associated surface and sub-surface platforms, but also from land based long ranged interceptor-fighters in the class of Sukhoi-30MKI in conjunction with friendly AWACS an in-flight refuelling aircraft. Land based Tupolev-142 "Bear-F" will provide extended ASW coverage. It is reasonable to assume that the projected Indian Navy aircraft-carrier battle group comprising of "Admiral Gorshkov" in conjunction with Tupolev-22M3 and Akula II is set to dominate the Arabian Sea and parts of Indian Ocean in near future. It is second in capabilities only to the heavy naval presence of United States in the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean region.

The Indian Navy's preference for Dassault Rafale M fighter, recently reported in media, to meet its role of aircraft carrier based multi-role fighter is understandable. Rafale M after full development is destined to be one of the finest carrier based multi-role fighters of present generation and will represent a premier French design. Since IAF (Indian Air Force) has received the advanced Russian Sukhoi-30MKI, the Navy perhaps also desires a competitive machine.
Rafale is a stealthy close-couple canard/delta design with a "glass cockpit" with APSI (Advanced Pilot/System Interface) that include a wide angle holographic HUD (Head Up Display). Three MFDs (Multi-Function Displays) include one "look-level" MFD as in Mirage-2000-5 for tactical situational awareness. HMS/D (Helmet Mounted Sight/Designator) is used to acquire and designate off-bore sight targets. Pilot workload is further reduced by incorporation of HOTAS (Hand On Throttle And Stick) and voice control with English vocabulary.
The Radar is multi-mode phased array RBE2. Range is 100 kilometres even in look-down mode and significantly greater in look-level and look-up modes. Tracking parameters are comparable and at least four targets can be engaged simultaneously. The radar has growth potential and after full development will be capable of terrain avoiding at the same time as it scans for potential air threats. The RBE2 is further backed by OSF (Front Sector Optronics) consisting of IRST (Infra-Red Search and Track), FLIR (Forward Looking Infra-Red) and laser range finding. Maximum range in ideal climatic conditions is 80 kilometres. Spectra self-protection suite is carried. The aircraft will also be equipped with MIDS tactical data link.
For surface strike missions, apart from carrying standard nuclear and conventional gravity bombs the aircraft is capable of carrying MBDA SCALP/Storm Shadow stand-off missiles. Primary AAM (Air to Air Missile) is MBDA MICA that has a very low minimum engagement range in spite of having a maximum range of 60 kilometres. Thus it can be used in both BVR (Beyond Visual Range) and WVR (Within Visual Range) combat. During BVR combat the missile is aided by inertial guidance during mid course phase while it homes on active-radar during final phase of intercept. Option of an IIR (Imaging Infra-Red) seeker head is also available.
The shorter maximum range of MICA may be apprehended as a shortcoming, but the French officials insist that because of stealthy features of Rafale, it will remain undetected at extreme ranges compelling enemy aircraft to come within MICA's engagement envelope. Moreover MICA is endowed with a high general level of sophistication and is designed to successfully prosecute targets at medium ranges in adverse European meteorological conditions. Still efforts should be made to integrate the rocket-ramjet propelled MBDA Meteor BVR AAM under development for Eurofighter Typhoon that can engage sharply manoeuvring targets even around 80 kilometres and non-manoeuvring targets well beyond.

Finally, if the Rafale M deal also materialises, it may be wise to obtain the full design specifications of the French CVN (Aircraft-Carrier, Nuclear powered) "Charles de Gaulle", including the nuclear powerplant if possible, for our ADS (Air Defence Ship) project. ADS will then be based on a proven design and will be freed from excessive dependence on fleet replenishments during operations thus acquiring flexibility to move and manoeuvre, aspects that are key to survival in a high-threat environment.

On the political side, these high-tech defence deals with France (that may also include Mirage-2000-5 deal for IAF) are bound to cement Indo-French relations in foreseeable future in fields of defence, strategic affairs and international relations. This may be instrumental in getting the requisite French support for securing our permanent seat in United Nations Security Council.

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