An IDC Analysis 


New Delhi, 16 March 2003

All the three Service Chiefs visited USA in the recent past and there appears to be increasing personal contact and communication between senior Pentagon officers and their Indian counterparts –– much to the consternation of India's MEA. USA is wooing the Indian military directly and the Security Adviser to the US Ambassador Ashley Tellis, a former Indian researcher and Rand specialist, has been an asset in the process, with his vast contacts and knowledge.

The IFS mandarins in South Block appear to be slowly losing control over where and when service officials can or cannot go, and no Indian bureaucrat ever likes that. In fact a bureaucrat once asked why he should do anything for the Armed Forces as they had everything including the best golf courses!

The delegation of powers to the Services from the huge revenue travel budget estimates is also a welcome change. We have just seen some $1.5bn of India's defence budget remaining unspent when world wide especially in Russia, Germany and Scandinavia, defence budgets have been cut, and Russian Navy Chief Kordoreyev has said he cannot maintain his fleet.

In the past a Joint Secretary in MEA could just rule out a visit or even a National Day function when a Chief or Vice Chief indicated what function would be good to attend in the national interest. No wonder India's relations with most countries never encouraged understanding of the difficult India–Pakistan Kashmir relations –– as it was the Army that suffered the most and men in uniform could explain this best. India could never also expect to export its defence wares and an MEA officer –– normally JS (Exports), whose many energies were spent in arranging and visiting exhibitions with full service support.

India’s exports are meager and even those to Nepal and Bhutan, which actually go as captive aid are included in the export figures. This is going to change too as private players move in. There are definite changes along the Potomac in Washington and Jamuna in Delhi. The USA wants a piece of the defence cake of India's generous capital defence budget and looks for a strategic relationship, attempting to dislodge Russia. If India plays its cards well it can have its service bread buttered, and even get some jam spread on it by the Americans. Media reports that USA is offering F 16s, PC 3 Orions and Sperry and Spruance class second hand destroyers. The Indian defence budget can afford these and FM Jaswant Singh assures us he has the money.

The USA succeeded in their exercise of "Continuous Engagement" of the Indian Military. Gen Ralston a brilliant Air Force Officer who visted India as Vice JCS and missed becoming JCS due to some personal reasons, had framed the policy three years ago (like America has done with many countries especially Pakistan). After a thaw there have been some 20 delegation visits of senior officers from the three Services and it all began with the earlier EAM Jaswant Singh–Stobe Talbott bon homie, when Jaswant Singh began taking senior military officers with his delegation. The visits contributed greatly to understandings, which later led to IN ships successfully patrolling the Malacca Straits post 9/11. The results in the Army and Air Force are beginning to show and Pakistan has objected to the USAF–IAF exercises due to be held later. The NAM meet also showed that NAM is only a group of developing nations getting together and airing their grievances. Mahatir of Malaysia as the host wisely asked NAM to redefine its role.

Martin Marietta the same firm that had soured India’s LCA progress has now indicated the eagerness of United States Aerospace giant (now called Lockheed Martin) to export the latest incarnation of their F-16C multi-role fighters to India. The proposed sale is projected as a medium term replacement of MiG-21s in IAF (Indian Air Force) fleet. Lockheed Martin knows the AJT will never be operational when the MiG 21 bisons need replacement. Lockheed Martin is putting stress on the technological sophistication of its product, as only three to four squadrons of which perhaps can replace a significant portion of the MiG-21 fleet, as "replacement on one to one basis is not necessary".

It is not yet clear as to the exact version of F-16C offered. But it could be F-16C Block 60 upgrade that recently won an export order to United Arab Emirates and includes eighty machines. Significantly it secured its order in face of tough competition by Eurofighter Typhoon and French Rafale. F-16C Block 60 upgrade includes all-weather precision targeting and strike capability with extended range and enhanced air-to-air performance. Since Lockheed Martin spoke to HAL as indicated in our Aero India report it seems it has promised full technology transfer to India to facilitate domestic license production, the Indians will be able to access certain key technologies not immediately available from elsewhere, the most important being the Northrop Grumman APG-80 ASEA (Active Electronically Scanned Arrays) capable Agile Beam Radar. When configured with the Russian or Israeli Python air to Air missiles and the KH 31 Russian Air Surface missile the IAF will be equal to the most advanced.

APG-80 is capable of interleaving air-to-air, air-to-ground and terrain following modes so they appear simultaneous. Details are classified but APG-80 has almost twice the detection range of the APG-68(V)7 on board F-16C Block 50 and provides high resolution SAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar) ground imaging. Moreover ASEA radar, have tremendous growth potential and has the capacity to detect enemy radar transmissions at extended ranges and jam them with "transmission bursts". Other sensors of F-16C Block 60 are of extremely high standard which include IR(Infra-Red) detection kit an a formidable EW (Electronic Warfare) suite. It also has uprated engines and a modern FCS (Flight Control System) written in C++.

As a part of the package the IAF could well receive Raytheon developed AIM-9X Sidewinder that has arrived with a revolutionary 'staring focal plane array technology', that has inherently better IRCCM (Infra-Red Counter Counter Measures) and is readily programmable for new IRCCM techniques in future. This particular staring focal plane array technology provides greater ability to reject flares and other countermeasures. As stated above the nearest non-Russian competitor of this missile is Israeli Python 5 that have an improved seeker, motor, and better immunity to countermeasures than its predecessor the Python 4.

From technological standpoint the American offer is worth considering. But at the same time it will be foolish to ignore the whimsical attitude of United States administration that frequently put the dependent nations in a fix especially in terms of foreign and defence policy. Also the French are "in the fray" offering their Mirage 2000-5Mk2 which is a formidable machine in its own right. The Russians are proposing a "scaled-down" Sukhoi-30 with a high commonality in terms of weapons and electronic systems. Both the Russians and French are reputed for their wholehearted support to India during the times of crisis, the latest being during Pokhran 2 of 1998. It is reasonable to assume that both political and technological considerations will play a part during selection of the fighter type.

Even in a unipolar world consistency in attitude counts, as the Americans may have to learn. The Navy could look at the PC 3 Orions. We salute the FM Jaswant Singh for his pragmatic budget when in his budget speech he said “ Power in the 21st Century will flow from a well oiled economy “ but we worry about the statement made by George Fernandes at the IDSA seminar on China before an enlightened International audience, “On certain issues I have a personal conviction, like some members of the Long March. I am 70 plus in age and we may be too old to change radically.” or when he said to Musharraf “India can absorb a bomb or two, but when we respond there will be no Pakistan”. Outlook has reported that there may be a reshuffle in Ministers including Defence and why not let some other also enjoy the perks that go with the MOD. We hope somebody will make the defence budget have three simple Ss--- Strategy, Structure and Simplification with transparency –– to see money is not budgeted and then returned if the need exists.

US Ambassador in New Delhi, Robert Blackwill: "I am confident that historians will look back and regard the transformation of US–India relations as one of the most important strategic developments of the first decade of this new century.

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