(Compiled from media reports)

Joint Development Of Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft

Co-development of a Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft has been identified as an important area of cooperation between the Indian and Russian Government. Technical discussions to work out the details are in progress. Efforts are on for finalizing the draft Inter Governmental Agreement in this regard.

This information was given by the Minister of State for Defence Production Rao Inderjit Singh in a written reply to Shri Gurudas Dasgupta and Shri CK Chandrappan in Lok Sabha today.

Induction Of Akash Missile

Indian Air Force has not declined the induction of Akash medium range surface-to-air missile. Development of Akash Missile is a part of Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP). As on Jul 31, 2007, an amount of Rs. 492.41 crore has been spent on development of Akash Missile.

Surveillance Of Indian Airspace

Indian Air Force (IAF) has procured Aerostat based radar system for wide area surveillance at a cost of 145 million USD. Airborne Warning and Control Systems are also being procured at a cost of 1108 million USD to enhance air defence surveillance capabilities. IAF has undertaken a project for developing an integrated Air Command and Control System. The Defence Research and Development Organisation has undertaken development of Ballistic Missile Systems.

India to Rework Defence Purchase Procedures

Responding to suggestions from defence manufacturers, India is to rework its procedures for purchasing military hardware to bring them in line with international best practices, an official said. 'We are considering a number of suggestions we have received. At the same time, we don't want to take piecemeal measures. We hope to have the new Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) by the beginning of the (2008-09) fiscal in April,' a defence ministry official told IANS.

A committee headed by former finance secretary N.S. Sisodia is currently studying the suggestions received, while a team of officials has also visited Britain to study the system in place there. 'A comprehensive report is likely to be submitted to the defence ministry by early next year on the basis of which a final decision will be taken on revising the DPP,' the official told IANS, speaking on condition of anonymity. Sisodia, who now heads the think tank Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), has also served as secretary (defence production).

The then defence minister, Pranab Mukherjee, had released the DPP in 2006. For the first time, it laid down in detail the measures to be followed in future for purchasing military hardware. The DPP-2006 contained three critical elements: an offsets clause, no single-vendor purchases, and compulsory transfer of technology (ToT) in all big-ticket deals. Of these, the offsets clause has become a matter of major concern.

Under the offsets clause, 30 percent of all defence deals worth over Rs.3 billion have to be reinvested in India's defence industry. A number of foreign defence manufacturers say this clause is restrictive as it narrows down their options. They say they would like the scope widened to enable them to invest in other sectors as well. They also point out that the clause is subjective, as in the case of an Indian Air Force (IAF) tender for 126 combat jets floated last month the offsets provision has been arbitrarily raised to 50 percent.

'This is rather illogical. If you selectively raise the offsets in one case, it could go even higher in another case, or it could go even lower than 30 percent,' said the representative of one foreign vendor. 'It's not that we are opposed to offsets. They are in operation worldwide and we are only too happy to comply. But the government has to get its act together and formulate a consistent policy,' he added. As a former US official put it, the offsets clause poses a 'challenge' for America's defence vendors.

'It will be a challenge to put together a comprehensive and acceptable offsets plan within the defence procurement procedure,' Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Kohler, who has just retired as director of the US Defence Security Cooperation Agency, said during his farewell visit here. According to Kohler, the issue was not so much the percentages but whether this also included the ToT element. 'We estimate the offsets requirement (in the IAF order) to be around $3 million. We suppose this includes the ToT element. If it doesn't, we'll have to figure out how to deal with this,' he maintained.

Every defence deal has two elements: the actual manufacture and the creation of infrastructure and ancillary industries for this manufacture. In the case of the IAF order, the total deal is worth $9 million but the offsets clause would relate only to the $6 billion manufacturing element. Kohler also indicated US manufacturers would have been happier if an indirect offsets clause enabling reinvestment in areas other than the defence sector had been in place rather than the existing direct offsets requirement. 'In one case, a (defence) manufacturer exported an entire automobile plant as an indirect offset. That helped to create huge numbers of jobs and contributed to economic growth,' Kohler pointed out.

Speaking to reporters at the Aero India international air show at Bangalore in February, US ambassador David Mulford had described the offsets clause as 'restrictive', saying he felt it would, at some time, need to be modified. There is also the question of bankable offsets, which means that the reinvestment is not directly linked to a deal but can be made at a later stage. 'It is these and other issues that are now being addressed,' the defence ministry official pointed out.

TATA to Manufacture Defence Vehicles

The Tata Motors Ltd has launched a range of armoured vehicles for defence and bullet-proof vehicles for high net-worth individuals. The announcement was made here at the Military Games 2007, being held October 14-20. The company's range includes an armoured bus, a troop carrier and bullet-proof Sumo and Safari. The vehicles were exhibited at a pavilion at Gachi Bowli stadium. Company officials said its indigenously developed armoured bus was being displayed for the first time. The 29-seater bus has shatterproof glass, under-belly blast protection and side bomb protection. Its light armoured troop carrier is a bullet-proof vehicle that can carry 10 persons and is equipped with hand-grenade protection for underbelly, six firing ports and weapons mount.

India to Test Agni-I

India plans to test-fire its nuclear-capable Agni-I missile on Friday, the Indian Express reported.

The test is expected to determine time and procedures required to launch a nuclear missile. The operation, which is being called a training trial, will result in the missile being inducted into the Indian army, the newspaper quoted unnamed sources as saying. The short-range ballistic missile, which has a range of more than 435 miles, can reach targets  In a bid to avert another diplomatic incident, India has warned airlines of the test. In April a test of the Agni-III missile forced an Indonesian aircraft to turn back, resulting in a minor spat between the two countries.

IAF's Su-30 MKIs to be fitted with Israeli tech

The Indian Express also reported that the Indian air force was getting a squadron of Su-30 MKI aircraft fitted with Israeli reconnaissance systems that will enable India to look deep inside China without crossing the border.The aircraft are a replacement for MiG-25s phased out by the IAF last year.

A team from Israel Aerospace Industries will integrate the Elta Reconnaissance System on the fighters at the Bareilly airbase and also set up a ground-receiving station for live images taken by the aircraft, the newspaper quoted an unnamed senior IAF officer as saying. The air force plans to deploy the aircraft at the Tezpur base next year once Russia supplies the planes.
Israel is India's No. 2 supplier of defense equipment. It trails Russia, which is No. 1.
New system opens up high-tech U.S. exports to India A new validated end-user system put in place by the U.S. Commerce Department will allow U.S. exporters of high-tech equipment with possible military uses to sell to Indian buyers without licenses.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez said this week the system recognizes steps India has taken to implement an export-control system. "This common-sense approach will make it easier for U.S. companies to sell American products to pre-screened customers in India, while maintaining vigilance over U.S. technologies," he said in a statement. The step paves the way for increased U.S. sales of avionics and aerospace equipment to India.

Sukhoi Jets For Indian Skies

Oct 17, 2007

The Indian Defense Ministry said Defense Minister A. K. Antony would visit Moscow to attend a session of a Russian-Indian intergovernmental commission on military-technical cooperation. Later Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, is scheduled to visit on October 17-18. The commission, co-chaired by Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov, will discuss the status of defense cooperation and prospects for the future.

Last week, Moscow and New Delhi signed a $1.6 billion contract for 40 Russian Su-30 Flanker fighter assembly sets to be supplied to India by 2010. Russia and India have reaffirmed plans to draft a comprehensive cooperation treaty to boost trade, as well as ties in a range of other areas.

India has signed a contract with Russia for the licensed assembly of 40 multi-role Su-30MKI (Flanker-H) fighter jets, news agencies reported last week. According to experts, the agreement will cost India more than $1.5 billion. It will be a follow-up to the contract concluded in 2000 to deliver 140 fighters of the same type to New Delhi. The contractor will be the Irkut Scientific Production Corporation in Irkutsk, a part of the Sukhoi Aviation Holding Company (AHK). It assembles practically all the Su planes Moscow supplies to the subcontinent.

Under the first contract, Russia was not only to start supplying India with jets from 2000, but also to sell it a license to manufacture them at Indian plants. This was duly done, but local production of the aircraft turned out to be too costly. A far better option was buying them almost ready-made from the manufacturer in Irkutsk.

The present agreement, according to Irkut President Oleg Demchenko, provides for the delivery of practically fully assembled jets from Russia. Fifteen of them will be assembled and flight-tested, 15 assembled but not tested, while the rest will travel to India in kit form.

Assembly of the first four fighters of the specified 40 will begin in the early months of 2008.

The Su-30MKI multi-role fighter is designed to gain command of the air, engage ground and sea targets with guided and unguided weapons, and fight in formation against electronic countermeasures and fire from hostile AD systems by day and night, in all weather conditions. The two-seater jet allows full scope for state-of-the-art onboard radio electronic facilities and its full range of armaments can be used against all types of targets.

This is a whole new kind of multi-purpose combat plane. It has retained and further developed the unique properties of the Su-27 (Flanker) family, including the low speed high AOA (angle of attack) feature not found in any other fighter.

The Su-30MKI has been configured around the serially produced Su-30 (Flanker-C). It can be refueled in mid-air, has two vector-thrust engines, a canard which allows it to fly at supersonic speeds while hugging the terrain, and can carry air-to-ground guided missiles, including those used against several targets at the same time, and up to eight tons of combat payload suspended from 12 points.

For air superiority the jet is considered unmatched among other aircraft.

It mounts an onboard radio electronic system that incorporates state-of-the-art French, Israeli and Indian avionics capable of navigating the craft by GLONASS or GPS.

The new contract is evidence not only that India continues to set its sights on Russian aviation equipment (the Indian Air Force includes 600 planes made in the USSR/Russia and only fifty made in France), but, most important of all, that the complications created by Moscow's delays in refitting the Vikramaditya (Admiral Gorshkov) aircraft carrier, which postponed the delivery date by several years, have not overly affected military-technical cooperation between the two countries.

Moreover, there is information that Moscow and New Delhi will soon sign a new contract for the development of a promising fifth-generation airborne system.

India's Defense Minister Kurian Anthony is flying to Moscow this week to attend a meeting of the inter-governmental commission on military-technical cooperation. He is expected to sign the agreement. Interestingly enough, Sukhoi will feature again in this undertaking.

Specialists tell us that Sukhoi AHK has won a government tender to develop and manufacture Russia's fifth-generation fighter aircraft, or the Future Tactical Aviation Concept (PAK FA).

Company chiefs and the Russian top brass repeatedly proposed that New Delhi join the project to share costs and acquire such a jet for its Air Force. But the Indian military, not to mention the politicians, tactfully avoided giving a final answer to the proposal. They wanted to buy the fifth-generation American F-22, which is already air-borne, or the American-European F-35 (JSF), which is expected to undergo its final tests soon.

But something came unstuck. Apparently either the price proved too high, or the contract terms too burdensome. Whatever the details of the matter, the Indian generals have opted for the Russian offer. Now they are going to order a hundred such aircraft. The likely price of such a deal is almost $6 billion.

True, no real price for a PAK FA deal has yet been set for India, nor is there agreement about who will own the intellectual property rights to the jointly developed aircraft. These key questions will have to be addressed later.

The only news known so far is that these fighters will be built in Russia and in India, that New Delhi will have the right to supply them to third countries, and that the Russian and the Russian-Indian models will differ from each other in a way that as yet remains secret.

It is not ruled out that it might be in the same way as the F-22 and the F-35 differ. One is heavier, with two engines; the other lighter, with one engine.

For itself Russia is building a two-engined fighter. The explanation is that distances in the country are long and the jet must be able to fly from border to border quickly, without intermediate landings. Even with mid-air refueling capability, the aircraft would need more horsepower.

In India, distances are generally (though not always) shorter. As such, one engine may be enough, especially since the Indian Air Force already operates multi-role twin-engined Su-30MKIs, while the Vikramaditya aircraft carrier now being modernized will carry MiG-29K\MiG-29KUB deck-based fighters, which are also equipped with two engines.

So New Delhi's choice of the "lighter" G5 jet is predictable.

However, this remains little more than speculation. The important thing is that despite all the technical odds that have emerged recently between the two countries India is strengthening its military-technical ties with Russia and its defense sector. It is betting on Russia, in the knowledge that Moscow has never let it down.

This suggests that in a tender to supply the Indian Air Force with 126 light fighters, the Russian entry has a chance to win, though the competition includes two American firms - Boeing Company with the F\A-18E/F Super Hornet and Lockheed Martin with the F-16A/B Fighting Falcon; France's Dassault Aviation (with the Rafale); Sweden's SAAB (with the JAS-39 Grippen fighter); the Eurofighter (Britain, Germany, Italy and Spain; the EF-200 Typhoon); and Russia's RSK MiG (with the MiG-35 Fulcrum fighter).

The chance of supplying the entire order is slim, but it would be fine if it secured at least a half.

Russia and India Collaborate on New Generation Fighter Plane

Oct 17, 2007

Russia and India will collaborate on building a new fifth generation fighter plane, the Indian defence minister confirmed here Wednesday.

"We are collaborating on the BrahMos missiles, on a new fifth generation combat plane and on a multi-purpose transport plane... demonstrating the strategic nature of Russo-Indian cooperation," Arackaparambil Kurian Antony said at a high-level meeting in Moscow.

For his part, Russian Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov pointed out the importance of military cooperation between the two countries currently shown in the joint construction of the Su-30 MKI fighter plane and the T-90 tank.

The Su30-MKI, the export version of the Su-30M, is a two-seater multi-purpose fighter plane.

Russia accounts for 70 percent of Indian military equipment but late deliveries, especially of tanks, and commercial disagreements have forced New Delhi to also use other suppliers including Britain, France, Israel and the United States.

In fact India is no longer content simply to purchase arms but now favours joint productions thanks to the transfer of technologies.

New Delhi Urges Military to be Open in Defence Deals

New Delhi Oct 24, 2007

India on Wednesday urged its military chiefs to ensure transparency in a swathe of multi-billion dollar deals due to be signed in coming years as the armed forces modernise.

"The urgent need of the hour is to change mindsets, in tune with the changing times where transparency and fairness are the buzzwords," Defence Minister A.K. Antony said.

He told commanders at the opening of a four-day conclave to "reduce response timings at every level."

A string of illegalities in arms contracts dating back to 1984 has led to delays in clinching major deals and has left the politico-military establishment wary of new scandals.

Antony said foolproof methods such as an iron-clad transparency clause included in every deal would help rebuild the scandal-tarred image.

He called for streamlining of procurement procedures.

The commanders' conclave, opened by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, was also to review ambitious space plans and the turmoil in neighbouring Pakistan, Myanmar and Sri Lanka, a defence ministry spokesman said.

Singh in his address also called for an overhaul of existing military practices to "meet long-term strategic goals of India," officials said.

"The prime minister said changes (in arms procurement policies) must be carried out to ensure their practical implementation," a top commander attending the conclave said.

The prime minister also said the million-plus military must back India's strategic ambitions in the Asian region, he added.

Singh's comments coincided with the test firing of India's nuclear-capable Agni-1 ballistic missile for the second time in less than a month.

The Agni-1 has a range of 700 kilometres (420 miles), making it capable of striking most targets in rival and neighbouring Pakistan.

In August, India invited tenders to supply 126 fighter jets at an estimated cost of 10 billion dollars. It has also launched talks with Russia to buy an aircraft carrier and a nuclear submarine.

Commanders said they would have a fresh look at the military's massive shopping list, a participant told AFP.

"Each deal has to be value for money and that's what we are now going to look at," a senior official said, asking not to be named.

Experts such as retired air marshal V.K. Bhatia estimate India's technology-starved air force alone would need 50 billion dollars by 2017 to become a truly continental force.

India's largest military supplier, Russia, is also involved in separate deals with New Delhi worth another 10 billion dollars. They include the purchase of 16 Russian MiG-29 jets with an option to buy 30 more and the upgrading of India's 67 existing MiG-29s.

Moscow has sold India 37 billion dollars' worth of military hardware since 1960.

US-based General Electric recently won orders worth 100 million dollars to sell 24 engines for India's locally built combat aircraft.

India Seeks Self Reliance In Warship Technology
Nov 1, 2007
Some warship technology products developed by Naval Science and Technological Laboratory (NSTL), Vishakapatnam will be handed over to Indian Navy in Vishakapatnam tomorrow.  Dr A Sivathanu Pillai, Chief Controller (R&D), DRDO will hand over the products to Vice Admiral DSP Varma, Chief of Materials, Naval Headquarters.

NSTL is involved in development of warship technologies useful for evading detection by enemy, ships / submarines. These technologies are aimed for use in modern warships under design and construction. NSTL has nurtured these technologies in the recent past and is progressing strongly towards self reliance in this critical arena.

Warship technology is a multidisciplinary field covering different aspect such as acoustics and electro-magnetics covering a wide band of frequencies. Hence an inter-disciplinary and holistic approach has been adopted in developing these products.

A number of products were developed by NSTL to avert damages to naval ships in enemy attacks. Some of the products developed are acoustics enclosures, acoustic silencers, double stage vibration isolation system, radar-transparent ladder, stanchions, camouflage screens, helo net frames and composite blowers among many others.

All these products were subjected to extensive laboratory and shipboard evaluations. After successful evaluations, these products were accepted for induction into Indian Navy.

India Demands Answers on Gorshkov
2 Nov 2007

NEW DELHI: With its patience wearing thin over Russia's evasive behaviour on huge delays in the modernisation refit of decommissioned aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov, New Delhi has sought some firm answers from Moscow now.

"So far, there has been an utter lack of clarity on Russia's part. We are now seeking concrete answers on the technical and financial audit of the entire Gorshkov project," said a source.

Defence minister A K Antony, on his part, also did some "tough talking" during his mid-October visit to Moscow about "issues relating to life cycle support" of Russian-origin weapon systems and "the delay in refurbishment" of Admiral Gorshkov, holding that these were "a cause of concern" for India.

The Gorshkov issue, in fact, is even likely to be taken up during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Russia later this month. "We might get some answers then," said the source.

The 44,570-tonne Admiral Gorshkov was initially supposed to join Indian Navy by August 2008 as per the $1.5 billion package deal signed with Russia in January 2004. The deal includes 16 MiG-29K 'Fulcrum' supersonic fighters and a mix of Ka-31 and Ka-28 helicopters to operate from its carrier's deck.

But the assessment now is that India will not be getting the carrier, already rechristened INS Vikramaditya, anytime before 2010. Any delay beyond that will adversely affect India's plan to further bolster its "blue-water" capabilities in Indian Ocean and beyond.

For one, the country's solitary aircraft carrier, the ageing 28,000-tonne INS Viraat, is on its last legs now. For another, construction of the 37,500-tonne indigenous aircraft carrier at Cochin Shipyard has also been delayed to 2015 or so.

India cannot buy an aircraft carrier off-the-shelf and Admiral Gorshkov remains the only available option at present. Even earlier, as first reported by TOI, Antony had written to his Russian counterpart Anatoly Serdyukov to seek his personal intervention in the matter.

Antony had expressed the hope that Moscow will honour its contractual obligations regarding Gorshkov, which is berthed at the Sevmash shipyard at Severodvinsk in north Russia. Though Serdyukov has himself reviewed the project, Moscow is yet to provide any answers, sources said.

Russia, on its part, contends it had grossly underestimated the refit cost of the partly-burnt Admiral Gorshkov, which was decommissioned by the Russian Navy a decade ago.

Technical problems, too, continue to dog the carrier's refit programme, which includes removal of the missile launchers on the bow to build a ski-jump at a 14.3 degree angle for the MiG-29Ks.

It is also to be fitted with new-generation air defence and other weapon systems, new engines, eight diesel boilers with generators, electrical machinery, communication systems, distillation plants and the like. The Gorshkov project, apart from cost escalation of Sukhoi-30MKI fighters and tardy support of spares for acquired weapon systems, has emerged as a major irritant in the otherwise strong military relationship between India and Russia.

The total value of several ongoing projects as well as new programmes and purchases in the pipeline with Russia - which include Sukhoi-30MKIs, T-90S main-battle tanks, Talwar-class stealth frigates and the new fifth-generation fighter aircraft - is estimated to be well over $10 billion.

Then, of course, there is the hush-hush Rs 2,600 crore deal to lease from next year the nuclear-powered Akula-II attack submarine for 10 years, for which Indian sailors have already undergone training in Russia.

Indian Hawk Trainer Aircraft Head Home
Nov 13, 2007

The first two Hawk advanced jet trainers destined to train the next generation of Indian Air Force (IAF) fast jet pilots have departed from the UK to their new home at AFS Bidar in India.

The two jets are the first of 66 Hawk aircraft to be delivered to the IAF as of part of a total training package required to meet their fast jet pilot training needs. The programme includes 24 aircraft being built in the UK by BAE Systems and 42 aircraft being manufactured under licence in India by Bangalore's Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).

A senior Indian Air Force official said: “The induction of the Hawk aircraft marks the fulfilment of a long pending requirement in the Indian Air Force for an Advanced Jet Trainer. The Hawk aircraft, with a proven design and advanced avionics, will bridge the gap between the performance spectrum of the Intermediate trainer and front line fighter aircraft which trainee pilots will finally fly in operational squadrons. As a dedicated trainer, the aircraft will greatly enhance flight safety and have a beneficial impact on the quality of training being imparted to fighter pilots.”

Mark Parkinson, Managing Director Training Solutions at BAE Systems said: “This is a proud day for everyone involved on the Indian Hawk programme. Delivering the first Indian Hawks, on time and budget, marks a significant milestone on the project. We are also particularly pleased to be delivering these exciting new aircraft to the IAF in their 75th Anniversary Year.”

Since the contract was signed in March 2004, the Indian Hawk programme has moved at a tremendous pace. Over the past three years, in addition to manufacturing the IAF Hawks, BAE Systems, in partnership with the RAF, has delivered a training programme that will see on its completion, over 75 IAF pilots trained on the current RAF Hawk fleet at RAF Valley. Many of those who have completed the course have returned to India and gone directly onto the IAF’s most sophisticated frontline aircraft – a testament to the skill of the pilots and the training they received during their time at RAF Valley.

In addition, a number of the Hawks that will be supplied to the IAF have also been used to train around 100 IAF engineering officers and technicians in BAE Systems’ Technical Training Academy at Warton who will support the aircraft when it enters service.

Mark Parkinson continued: “We have also completed conversion training of experienced IAF Flying Instructors to become instructor pilots on the Indian Hawk – these instructors are returning to India to train the Indian Air Force’s next generation of frontline pilots.

“The delivery of these first aircraft is a major milestone on this contract which sees BAE Systems deliver a total training solution geared to the specific requirements of the Indian Air Force. The successful delivery of this programme, on schedule, is a prime example of BAE Systems’ capabilities in developing and managing complex major programmes to meet the needs of our global customer base.”

The two IAF Hawks will arrive in India after a number of days and refuelling stops. The process of ferrying the aircraft will continue over the coming months until all UK built aircraft are delivered.

BAE Systems is the premier global defence and aerospace company delivering a full range of products and services for air, land and naval forces, as well as advanced electronics, information technology solutions and customer support services. With 96,000 employees worldwide, BAE Systems' sales exceeded £15 billion (US $27 billion) in 2006 on a pro rata basis, assuming BAE Systems had owned Armor Holdings Inc for the whole of 2006.

India Encourages Private Sector to Invest In Defence Industry
Nov 15, 2007

The Minister of State for Defence Production, Rao Inderjit Singh has asked private industry to seize business opportunity in defence industry as India gallops towards a developed economy and the armed forces transform into a lean and mean fighting machine.

Addressing an international seminar on Armoured Fighting Vehicles (AFVs) here today, the first of its kind in the country, Rao Inderjit cited success stories in private-public partnership in developing weapon systems, notably Light Combat Aircraft ‘Tejas’, Prithvi and Brahmos missiles and Multi-Barrel Rocket Launchers (MBRLs). All this has been made possible since the government threw open defence production to private sector in 2001, he added.

Rao Inderjit further said the government encourages the DRDO and public-private industry to harness synergies and meet the huge potential for the armed forces’ needs.

In an RFP (Request for Proposal) for 126 Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MRCA) issued a few months ago, the Defence Ministry has hiked the Offset value of the contract amount worth thousands of crores from the stipulated 30 to 50 percent for building indigenous capabilities and percolating the benefits to domestic industry.

In his address, the Chief of Army Staff, General Deepak Kapoor hoped scientists and engineers, based on their experience in designing the Main Battle Tank ‘Arjun’, would be able to develop a more versatile AFV for the army’s future needs. He said the Arjun tank took a longer time to build as this was the first attempt at indigenously developing an integrated and highly sophisticated mobile weapons platform. Earlier, Lt. General KDS Shekhawat, DG (Mechanised Forces), in his theme-address, emphasized on the need for a compressed timeframe if the vast resources pumped into developing war machines are to retain cutting edge technology.

A large number of Indian and foreign companies are participating in the two-day seminar hosted jointly by the Directorate General of Mechanised Forces and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII). Mahindra Defence Systems, a subsidiary of leading automobile maker Mahindra and Mahindra, unveiled their Light Specialist Vehicle ‘Axe’ on the sidelines of the seminar. A Company spokesman said the all-terrain vehicle, which can accommodate six/nine soldiers, will undergo field user trials by the army in Uttarakhand next month. Designed prior to the army’s RFP, the Axe can be shielded against 7.62 mm armoured piercing.

Besides Mahindra, Ford Motors has also showcased its Armoured and Special Purpose Vehicles while TS Kisan and Co. is displaying spares and accessories for T-72 and T-90 tanks and BMP-II. Among others, INTEL Design Systems has also put up an array of chips with defence applications.

Lockheed Martin to Meet Deadline for India's War Jet Deal

Nov 2, 2007

US aerospace giant Lockheed Martin on Friday said it would meet a March 2008 deadline set by India to bid for the world's largest military aircraft deal estimated at 10 billion dollars.

It is among six global armament firms in the race to sell 126 fighter jets to the Indian air force.

"We have sought no extension and plan to meet the deadline," company vice president Orville Prins told reporters in New Delhi.

The remarks came amid reports that three of the bidders have sought an extension to the March 3 deadline to submit proposals to the Indian defence establishment.

"(But) we are not seeking any changes or dilutions, but some clarifications to make our bid robust," Prins said.

India floated the global tenders in August and said six contenders were on its short list.

US manufacturer Boeing and the Russian makers of MiGs are among those who have asked for more time, officials told AFP.

Industry sources say the Russian-built MiG-35 and MiG-29 aircraft and the Lockheed Martin F-16 and Boeing F-18 are front-runners.

Also in the race to replace India's ageing MiG-21s are Eurofighter's Typhoon, Saab's Gripen and Dassault's Rafale and Mirage.

Eighteen of the fighters would be bought off the shelf by 2012 while the remaining 108 planes would be manufactured under licence in India.

India would also hold the option of purchasing another 64 fighters from the top bidder, Indian officials said.

New Delhi called for bids as the operational fighter fleet of the Indian air force in 2007 plunged to a low of 576 aircraft, from nearly 750 in early 2000.

The contract will be the first time India's huge defence establishment has bought fighters after evaluating rival bids through a global tender.

Under the tender, the deal would be subject to so-called "offset obligations" -- meaning a large part of the cost will have to be spent in India.

The Indian military introduced this clause into all major defence deals in the mid-1990s as a way of protecting itself from non-delivery as well as boosting its own domestic armament industry.

With US offerings seen as having a strong chance, the deal could also mark a major shift away from India's traditional dependence on Russian military hardware.

Gorshkov Deal At Sea

Navy Chief talks tough as Russia demands additional $1.2 bn, cites delay It is a fixed price contract and they should honour it... The ship is our property. We have paid them almost $500 million already. There is no question of pulling out. ADMIRAL SUREESH MEHTA, Navy Chief

INDIAN NAVY Chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta said on Monday that the government should neither pay more money to the Russians for refurbishing the aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov, nor pull out of the deal. He said that the contact signed by Russia quotes a fixed price and it should be honoured.
Russia has asked for $1.2 billion over and above the contracted price of $1.5 billion, almost doubling the agreed cost.

"It is a fixed price contract and they should honour it," Admiral Mehta said while also ruling out pulling out of the deal. "The ship is our property We have paid . them almost $500 million already There is no question . of pulling out," he said.

Admiral Mehta said Russia's attitude raised vital questions about India's partnership with the Russians. "Where is our relationship with Russia going," he asked, adding that India had signed the deal with Russia at a time when they were going through a crunch. "They said give us work. I would like to believe we helped them in their times of need."

With the shipyard getting more work and the Russians striking it rich with oil prices rising, the Navy Chief accused them of going slow on the project. His tough talk on Russia comes ahead of the visit of a high-level Russian team for renegotiating the price. The issue had also figured during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's recent visit to Russia for a summit with President Vladimir Putin.

Under the Indo-Russian inter-governmental contract signed in 2004, Russia was to deliver the carrier by August 2008 for $1.5 billion. Apart from seeking a hike that violates the contract, Russia has indicated that the carrier cannot be delivered to India before 2012. The Naval Chief said India was trying to persuade the Russians to work faster on the project. "If they put enough people on the job, the naval carrier will be commissioned by late 2010 or early 2011," he said. Navy comes clean on N-sub For years, the Navy denied the project even existed. But on Monday Admiral Mehta said India's nuclear , submarine - the Advanced Technology Vessel (ATV) would be commissioned into the fleet in two years time. "The project is somewhere near completion," he said.

IN TROUBLED WATERS The deal is in trouble with Russia asking for more money to refurbish the ship while also saying delivery will be delayed ABOUT THE SHIP Commissioned into Russian Navy in 1987 Bought by India under intergovernmental contract with Russians in 2004, renamed INS Vikramaditya THEN $1.5 billion was the original cost for refurbishing the ship under the fixed-price contract August 2008 was when it was to have been delivered to India NOW $1.2 billion is the additional amount the Russians recently raised, citing delays and additional work as reasons 2012 is when Russia says it will deliver the ship, despite the hike Meanwhile, India has taken up the issue of delays, which attract a penalty as listed in the contract

Admiral Mehta said Russia's attitude raised vital questions about India's partnership with the Rus- sians. "Where is our relationship with Russia going," he asked, adding that India had signed the deal with Russia at a time when they were going through a crunch. "They said give us work. I would like to be- lieve we helped them in their times of need." With the shipyard getting more work and the Rus- sians striking it rich with oil prices rising, the Navy Chief accused them of going slow on the project. His tough talk on Russia comes ahead of the visit of a high-level Russian team for renegotiating the price.

The issue had also figured during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's recent visit to Russia for a summit with President Vladimir Putin. Under the Indo-Russian inter-governmental contract signed in 2004, Russia was to deliver the carrier by Au- gust 2008 for $1.5 billion. Apart from seeking a hike that violates the contract, Russia has indicated that the carrier cannot be delivered to India before 2012. The Naval Chief said India was trying to persuade the Russians to work faster on the project. "If they put enough people on the job, the naval carrier will be commissioned by late 2010 or early 2011," he said. Navy comes clean on N-sub For years, the Navy denied the project even existed. But on Monday Admiral Mehta said India's nuclear , submarine - the Advanced Technology Vessel (ATV) - would be commissioned into the fleet in two years time. "The project is somewhere near completion," he said.

Navy Chief -- India Plans to Buy Six New Submarines

India is looking for six more submarines to augment the six Scorpenes being built at Mazagon Docks under a Rs 19,000 crore contrat with the French.

"We are now actively looking at the second line of submarines after the Scorpenes. I think the global tender for the six new submarines should be floated in the next financial year (2008-2009)," navy chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta said recently. The contenders for the six new submarines could include the German HDW and Russian Amur submarines, with the French Scorpenes also being in the reckoning for a repeat order.

At present, India has just 16 conventional diesel-electric submarines — 10 Russian Kilo-class, four German HDW-class and two very-old Foxtrot-class vessels. The Scorpene project, under which the six submarines will roll out between 2012 and 2017, is crucial since naval projections show India will be left with only nine out of its 16 submarines by the middle of the next decade.

The long-term perspective programme is to acquire indigenous capability in design, development and construction of submarines, with a total of 24 submarines to be manufactured in a phased manner. But what about the fact that India neither has nuclear-powered submarines, nor SLBM (submarine-launched ballistic missile) capabilities, at present? "We have come to the final threshold. I think within two years or so, we should have that kind of a capability," said Admiral Mehta.
India is building its own nuclear submarines under the hush-hush Rs 14,000-crore ATV (advanced technology vessel) programme at Vishakapatnam. The first of the five long-delayed ATVs is scheduled to be fully-ready by 2010 or so.

Indian defence scientists are also developing SLBMs and SLCMs (cruise missiles) under the equally-secretive 'Sagarika' project. But it will take another three-four years for an integrated SLBM or SLCM capability to be ready. Asked about the modernisation of Chinese and Pakistan navies, Admiral Mehta said, "They have their national interests to protect, we have ours. Naval developments are not threat-specific, they are capability driven. We define our capabilities in tune with our national interests."

The Secret Nuke Sub Deal

By Sandeep Unnithan

On June 15, 2008, the Indian Navy will commission the INS Chakra, a 12,000-tonne Akula-II class nuclear-powered attack submarine, from the far eastern Russian port of Vladivostok. The submarine, which is being built at a shipyard in Komsomolsk-on-Amur, marks the fruition of a $650-million (Rs 2,600 crore) secret deal signed by the NDA government three-and-a-half years ago, which said that India would finance the construction of an unfinished Russian nuclear submarine hull and then lease it for 10 years. The impending acquisition of the Chakra gives India the long-awaited third leg of the nuclear triad—the others being air and land-based nuclear delivery platforms—widely regarded as the most survivable mode of launching nuclear weapons.

“It is the most crucial strategic capability we are acquiring after testing nuclear weapons in 1998,” says strategic analyst Bharat Karnad. Manned by a specially trained Indian crew, the Chakra—named after Krishna’s weapon—will undertake a 15-day passage through the South China Sea, with no port calls, to India, where it will be formally inducted as a component of India’s strategic forces command.

Nuclear submarines use a miniature nuclear reactor, to produce steam, which drives a turbine. Capable of tremendous underwater speed and almost unlimited endurance, they are in fact limited only by the endurance of their crew. The Akula-II submarine’s speed of 35 knots and diving depth of 600 m is twice that of a conventionally powered submarine. “However, a nuclear submarine is much more than just a submarine with a nuclear reactor,” says Rear Admiral (retired) Raja Menon. “It is the arbiter of power at sea,” he adds.

Armed with indigenously built nuclear-tipped cruise missiles with a range of over 1,000 km, the Chakra will be a potent addition to India’s strategic arsenal. A need which was felt after the Pokhran tests of 1998 when India enunciated a nuclear doctrine of ‘no first use’ and nuclear forces based on a triad of aircraft, mobile land-based missiles and sea-based assets, to ensure that its nuclear deterrent was “effective, enduring, diverse, flexible, and responsive to the requirements of credible minimum deterrence”. While the road and rail-mobile Agni series missiles afforded the land-based legs of the triad, the focus quickly shifted on inducting submarines armed with nuclear weapons. India’s Advanced Technology Vessel (ATV), a euphemism for a nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) project initiated in the 1970s was still a decade from induction.

Hence talks on leasing two Akula class submarines—later reduced to one—were begun by the Vajpayee government after the Kargil War in 1999. Code-named Project (I), it was part of the three key naval items on the list of the Indian-Russian Inter-Governmental Commission on Military Technical Cooperation initiated by the government in 2002. The other two items on the list were the purchase of the Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier, and the lease of four Tu-22M strategic bombers (which has since been cancelled). Funds for the submarine lease were allotted by the Central Government, but never publicised. The deal for leasing the submarine was signed quietly in Delhi in January 2004 along with the Gorshkov deal, during Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov’s visit.

Yet for years, the government denied plans of leasing nuclear submarines. Ivanov, too, consistently denied reports of the lease, but in 2005, the Russian daily Kommersant noted that the unaccounted for spike in the country’s arms export earnings indicated that the lease had been paid up.

The Chakra will soon be joined by the indigenous ATV, under construction at a secret dry dock in Visakhapatnam. Construction of the 5,000-tonne ATV, a modified version of the Russian Charlie-II class is now nearly complete, and will be launched for sea trials next year. It will be inducted into the Indian Navy in 2009. Armed with indigenously developed ballistic missiles (future variants with the three-stage 5000-km range Agni 3), the ATV will mark India’s entry into the SSBN club and will mean the fruition of a long-delayed strategic programme.

The delays seem to have moved to the Russian side. Originally slated for induction on August 15 this year, the delivery of the Chakra has been delayed by 10 months for the same reasons that delayed the Gorshkov refit in Russia. Earlier this year, Russia escalated the cost of the N sub lease by $135 million (Rs 540 crore), which was rejected by the Indian Defence Ministry delegation. Ministry officials confirmed the advanced stage of both the lease and the projects and said that the Government was debating on when to bring both the programmes out of the closet.

The lease of the Akula-II submarine—originally slated for the cash-strapped Russian Navy and on which construction had ceased at the Amur shipyard in the 1990s—will make India the world’s sixth power to operate a nuclear submarine. It has only one precedent—the three-year transfer of a Charlie-I class nuclear attack submarine (also named Chakra) from the Soviet Union in January 1988, which took advantage of a loophole in international treaties. The treaties prohibit the sale of nuclear submarines but do not object to a lease, provided the submarines are not equipped with nuclear weapons or missiles with a range of over 300 km. The Chakra will be stripped of its inventory of strategic cruise missiles with a range of 3,000 km, as these violate the Missile Technology Control Regime, but India will not be prevented from equipping the submarine with its own missiles.

The present 10-year lease—which may be extended later—differs from that of the Charlie-I class submarine in some important aspects. While the latter’s reactor controls and missile launch area were manned by Soviet naval personnel, the new Chakra will be manned entirely by an Indian crew, which is to leave for Vladivostok in December. Nearly 300 Indian naval personnel, or three sets of crews, have already been trained to man the submarine at a specially constructed facility in Sosnovy Bor, a small town near St Petersburg in Russia. All personnel returned after completion of training this year.

Future ATV crews will also be trained on the Chakra, which offers a valuable training platform. “A leased submarine gives you a tremendous headstart in training crews,” says Menon. “It takes several years to produce a crew of nuclear submarine experts like hydroplane operators and watch keeping officers.” The new Chakra will make up for the expertise that was lost when the Charlie-I submarine was returned to the former Soviet Union but also add a strategic platform into India’s inventory.

Viraat to get new lease of life following Gorshkov delay
From correspondents in Maharashtra, India, 08:34 PM IST
Concerned over the delay in the arrival of the Russian-built aircraft carrier, Admiral Gorshkov, the Indian Navy has decided to give a new lease of life and makeover to its lone aircraft carrier INS Viraat.

'She will undergo a normal refit and her machinery would be strengthened. She would last till the time Admiral Gorshkov arrives,' Vice Admiral Jagjit Singh Bedi, the Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief of Western Naval Command, told reporters here.

He said the Indian Navy expects the Russian carrier to arrive by 2009 or early 2010.

'The delay will not hamper the strategic planning of the Indian Navy, but we would have been happy had she touched the Indian shores in time.'

Spelling out the modernisation plans of the Indian Navy, Bedi said that as many as 33 ships and submarines are under various stages of construction. Of these, 27 are ships and six are submarines of the Scorpene-class, being built at the Mazagaon Docks Ltd, in collaboration with France.

The ships include three ships of Shivalik-class and three of Kolkata-class. The navy will also order three Talwar-class ships from the Russians.

Besides the Mazagaon Docks Ltd, the ships are being built at Goa Shipyard Ltd, Garden Reach Shipbuilders Ltd in Kolkata and Cochin Shipyard Ltd, where an indigenous aircraft carrier is being built.

At the same time, the Indian Navy is looking at medium range helicopters and is scouting the international market for long-range maritime patrol aircraft.

Bedi said the amphibious warfare capability of the west coast was also being enhanced.

'For any navy it is important to impact the land battle,' he said and pointed out that a ship with amphibious capability will join the Western Naval Command (WNC) 'in the times to come'.

The Vice Admiral said that while INS Jalashva (earlier USS Trenton) has joined the eastern fleet, INS Shardul has been commissioned and home ported in Karwar.

Asked whether the navy has plans to acquire Sea Harriers, he said that the production line of Harrier in Britain has closed down and the Royal Navy currently was using GR-7, the ground attack version of the Harriers.

'They are not making Sea Harriers any more. Moreover, UK is part of the NATO-alliance,' he said and pointed out that of the 13 Sea Harriers that the Indian Navy has, 10 are undergoing limited upgrades.

'When Admiral Gorshkov and the indigenous carrier joins, Harriers would be replaced by MiG-29K and maritime variant of the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA).'

To a question about naval version of Dhruva, the Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH), he said: 'Currently, we have eight of them. There are some teething problems, which were are trying to resolve with the Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (NAL). It does not meet the requirements of the Indian Navy.'

To enhance the safety and surveillance of the navy, Bedi said that a vessel with Air Traffic Management System has been commissioned.

'The maritime domain awareness will be increased in the other coastal areas too. And in the era of net-centric operations, at a particular time we will be able to get a total picture of what is sailing around our waters,' he added.

India Nuclear Submarine to be Ready by 2009: Navy Chief

Dec 3, 2007

An Indian-built nuclear-powered submarine will be ready for sea trials in two years, and the navy has ordered 32 new warships, naval chief Sureesh Mehta said.  India, which carried out a string of nuclear tests in 1998, has already built ballistic missiles for its army and configured warjets to carry such weapons.  "Our scientists have confirmed that they would have the advance technology vessel (nuclear submarine) project ready for trials by 2009," Mehta told reporters.  In India's nuclear deterrent plans, "placing of nuclear weapons under the sea is the third triad which at present we don't have and we hope at one point we will," he said.

Mehta also said New Delhi was negotiating with Moscow to lease a Russian nuclear-powered submarine, which he said was "to enable our men to train on how to operate nuclear reactors and other platforms."  The announcements came after Mehta said he rejected a Russian request for an additional 1.2 billion dollars to finish a deal struck in 2004 to refurbish a Soviet-era aircraft carrier, Admiral Gorshkov.  He warned Russia, which accounts for 73 percent of India's military supplies, that delays on the carrier work could mean that preferential treatment in future arms deals could be scrapped.  "We cannot put all our eggs in one basket and so we must have a multi-vendor opportunity," he said. "This is how we are going to deal with Russia now."

India, Russia Ink $1.2b Tank Deal

Even as India wrestles with a Russian demand for additional money for an aircraft carrier it has purchased, New Delhi has quietly inked a $1.2 billion deal for additional 347 T-90 main battle tanks (MBTs) for the Indian Army. The deal was signed over the weekend after a Russian delegation arrived here for talks, an official said Wednesday. The delivery schedule has not been specified.

Weighing 46.5 tonnes and powered by a 1,000 hp engine that gives it a top speed of 60 km per hour, the new T-90s will be equipped with a 125 mm smoothbore gun and will have the capability of firing anti-tank guided missiles. The Indian Army currently deploys 310 T-90s that began arriving in the first five years of the decade. Of these, 186 were assembled at the Heavy Vehicles Factory at Avadi in Tamil Nadu from Russian-made kits.

The need for the T-90s was felt due to delays in the development of the indigenous Arjun MBT. Originally meant to be a 40-tonne tank with a 105 mm gun, it has now grown to a 50-tonne vehicle with a 120 mm gun. Arjun was meant to supplement and eventually replace the Soviet-era T-72 MBT that was first inducted in the early 1980s. However, delays in the Arjun project, and Pakistan's decision to purchase the T-80 from Ukraine, prompted India to order 310 T-90s, an upgraded version of the T-72, in 2001. Later, an agreement was also signed for the licensed production of another 1,000 T-90s.

The latest deal comes even as the defence ministry is wrestling with the Russian demand for an additional $1.2 billion for the carrier INS Vikramaditya, previously named the Admiral Gorshkov. The agreement for the ship was inked in 2004 for $1.5 billion. The Russians now say considerably more work would be involved than was anticipated in refitting the ship, which has been mothballed since 1995.

India-Russia Relationship Hits A Rough Patch
December 14, 2007

Cracks in the India-Russia relationship are becoming increasingly difficult to paper over.  In October, India faced a snub when External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, on a visit to Russia, could not secure a meeting with his Russian counterpart.  On December 3, India's navy chief, Admiral Sureesh Mehta, publicly questioned Russia's new priorities, suggesting frankly that new oil wealth could be generating a world-view in Moscow that was different from when New Delhi largely funded Russia's defence R&D. It remains unclear whether the admiral had the government's okay to pronounce on foreign policy, but he only stated a fact. After the Soviet meltdown, Russia's military spending plummeted to one-thirtieth of what it was in 1989, when 2.03% of the Soviet Union's GDP was being spent on R&D.

Russian analysts estimate that by 2000, India may have been funding 50% of all Russia's military R&D. This was done by ordering a range of weaponry ? T-90 tanks, Talwar-class warships, Sukhoi-30 fighters, MiG-21 upgrades, and a range of missiles ? and letting Russia develop those products using Indian money. Things, however, have changed dramatically. From 2007-2012, a resurrected Russian State Armaments Programme will spend US $50 million on military R&D.

As Russia's military places long-postponed orders for weaponry, that country's scaled-down defence facilities are unable to fulfill foreign contracts. Senior Indian diplomats point out that Russia's military modernisation programme meant that the Gorshkov over-runs were inevitable. The problem is not just India's. China, too, must deal with a commercially resurgent Russia. Beijing had signed, in 2005, a $1-billion order for 34 giant IL-78 transport planes and 4 IL-78 refuelling aircraft. Now Russia has realised that it cannot meet its own as well as Beijing's requirements. That contract is being renegotiated at a higher price. India, says a senior official with extensive experience in the Ministry of Defence, has no choice but to deal with the new Russia.

Declaring that the navy chief should not have criticised Russia, the official observes that, "The services may feel frustrated by occasional irritants in an extensive defence relationship. But when the navy needs help in designing a nuclear submarine, or wants to lease one to train crewmen, which country other than Russia is willing to help?" The changing military relationship also reflects larger geo-strategic changes. A top diplomatic source points out, "The Soviet-India relationship can never be recreated, since that rested on a shared threat from China. Today, Russia has a benign relationship with China; in fact, China buys more Russian arms than any other country in the world." And even that is changing. In 2006 and 2007, a host of small countries that buy big have supplanted China. Algeria was Moscow's biggest customer last year, signing a $7.5 billion order for a basket of weaponry. Venezuela spent $3 billion on Russian arms, while Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam each bought up a billion dollars worth of Russian arms.

Despite that, there are important Indian interests, says the senior diplomat, which can never be achieved without Russian cooperation. He points out: "India wants to expand its footprint in the energy-rich Central Asian region. It cannot do so without Russian blessings. If India is a player in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, it is thanks to Russia's help. India's long-term energy interests are closely linked with Russia." New Delhi's struggle to generate warmth in an old marriage is not made easier by a new suitor, Washington.

Despite those blandishments, key decision-makers in South Block still believe that the India-Russia relationship must be defined by political common ground ? e.g. Russian backing for India as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, and its support in the Nuclear Suppliers' Group ? rather than on disagreements in an arms supply relationship that must eventually be anchored on commercial logic, not political patronage.

India's Defence Imports to Touch $30b by 2012

With its armed forces expected to ink big-ticket defence deals for combat jets, 155mm howitzers, a variety of helicopters and long-range maritime spy aircraft, India's military hardware imports bill is expected to reach a whopping $30 billion by 2012, a new study says. The projections have been made in a paper on 'Avenues for Private Sector Participation in Defence' by the industry lobby Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM). It emphasises that in the past three years, India spent as much as $10.5 billion on military hardware, making it one of the largest arms buyers in the developing world.

The paper says that with ever increasing demand for higher allocation in the defence budget and the limited capacity of the government to meet this demand, the defence sector requires a re-look to procure its goods and services from existing allocations in a more efficient manner. At Rs.960 billion for fiscal 2007-08, India's military spending amounts to roughly two percent of the country's GDP.

The paper seeks larger private sector participation in all defence related deals and imports, reminding the government that despite the defence ministry's targets of achieving 70 percent self-reliance in defence production 10 years ago, it has fallen short by 40 percent. Till now, only 30 percent of total defence production has become self-reliant. This is largely because of the limited involvement of the private sector in military manufacturing.

The year 2001 witnessed the first step in this regard as the entry of foreign private players was permitted with 26 percent foreign direct investment being allowed in the sector. By mid-2007, there were about 5,200 companies supplying around 20-25 percent of components and sub-assemblies to state-owned contractors in the defence sector, said ASSOCHAM president Venugopal N. Dhoot, commenting on the findings of the paper.

India's defence imports could be made cost effective by introducing a competitive bidding process for supplies from the private sector of defence needs, the paper says. Leading corporate houses like Tatas, Satyam Computers, Mahindras, Kirloskar Bros, L and amp;T and others can make equipment to suit and meet domestic defence requirements, provided the supplies are sought from them by involving their participation through the competitive bidding process, the paper maintains. The study also recommended outsourcing of many defence activities to the domestic private sector, pointing out that the defence ministry had made some attempts towards this in recent years.

India Buys T-90s Russian Tanks

Jan 15, 2007

India's decision last month to purchase a huge new order of 347 Russian T-90 Main Battle Tanks has many profound lessons to teach arms industry analysts and military strategists in the United States and around the world.

The decision was neither unexpected nor unprecedented. Nearly seven years ago, in 2001, India purchased 310 T-90 MBTs from Russia. And that points to the first lesson: The T-90 is a very good tank. It has its problems, as Russian analysts acknowledge, but it is well-armored, can take a lot of punishment, has formidable hitting power and is extremely reliable in the grueling conditions of combat. Clearly, the Indian army is happy with the T-90s it already has, or it would not have bought a second, even larger number of them.

The second lesson is that India is gearing up for the possibility of major land war: It is not hard to see where, or potentially with whom. Russia has been India's main strategic ally since the mid-1960s, and after 40 years it remains so today. India's new strategic relationship with the United States therefore has certainly not turned it into the kind of close, decades loyal ally that Britain, Germany, Australia, Japan and Israel have all been.

Nevertheless, relations between India and the United States remain excellent and there are no direct areas of strategic conflict or tension between New Delhi and Washington. The two largest democracies in history -- and both English-speaking at that, have never been closer in their strategic relations.

Nor is China the intended target of India's formidable Main Battle Tank buildup. There certainly remain long-term strategic tensions between the two most populous nations on Earth, but they are focused on China.

Beijing has moved steadily to acquire naval and air bases in Myanmar, the Myanmar-ruled Andaman Islands, Pakistan, Mauritius and East Africa. The main purpose of these moves appears to be to project its limited range submarine and combat fighter air power to protect its vital oil supply lanes from the Persian Gulf through the Indian Ocean in its "string of pearls" strategy.

However, at the political level, Sino-Indian relations have been steadily warming for more than four years under both Hindu nationalist BJP-led and Congress-UPA-led coalition governments in New Delhi. Nor would so many tanks be directly relevant to an India-China conflict. China is not focusing on building up its armed forces or long-term infrastructure for them in Tibet. A repeat of the 1962 Himalayas war between India and China is not on the cards.

Where, then would Indian generals anticipate using so many tanks? The answer is clear, in case unstable, unpredictable Pakistan, India's traditional enemy to the west, collapsed in chaos and civil war, or fell into the hands of militant, extreme-Islamist elements who might trigger a war with their giant predominantly Hindu neighbor.

The Indian T-90 purchase therefore has profound implications for the balance of power in South Asia and it underlines the enormous dangers to regional and world peace that the collapse of the political system in Pakistan would cause.

The lessons of the T-90 deal, however, do not stop there.

Why Russia favors India over China)

There is much more to India's decision to buy 347 T-90 Main Battle Tanks from Russia than meets the eye. And far more to the Kremlin's decision to sell them to New Delhi, too.

First, as we have previously noted in these columns, despite India's growing strategic relationship with the United States, New Delhi's traditional primary alliance with Russia, now going back more than 40 years, has not weakened. On the contrary, defense and strategic ties between the two nations are at an unprecedented high.

Russia has been working hard to remove what has for many years been the biggest bottleneck and irritant in the strategic relationship, the very poor record in maintenance service and supply of electronic and spare parts that India experienced though the 1990s for its Russian-built aircraft, especially its Sukhoi interceptors.

However, Russian President Vladimir Putin has been moving energetically in the last few months to restructure the Russian military-industrial complex, or defense contractor sector in more sweeping ways than the country has seen since the collapse of communism in order to try and eliminate these bottlenecks.

Indeed, Indian-Russian military-industrial cooperation has been growing remarkably in other key areas as well. The two countries have just agreed to jointly produce what will eventually likely be hundreds of supersonic, ground-hugging cruise missiles under their joint Brah-Mos development entity.

The strategic implications of this development are extraordinary. For while the T-90 Main Battle Tank is Russian, and not Indian-manufactured, and comparable in quality to the American Abrams M2 MBT, the projected Brah-Mos supersonic cruise missile would incorporate the latest Russian technology but be manufactured in India, and it would give India the capability to build cruise missiles that fly at up Mach 2.8 -- nearly three times the speed of sound, or more than 2,000 miles per hour -- as fast as a speeding bullet. That is also more than three times as fast as the Tomahawk, the main cruise missile in the U.S. high-tech arsenal.

The Tomahawk is subsonic, and many analysts believe it is increasingly vulnerable to the most modern Russian anti-missile defense systems such as the Tor-M1, which Moscow has supplied to Iran, and the new S-400 Triumf, which was first deployed around Moscow last year.

But if the Brah-Mos supersonic cruise missile venture is sobering for the United States, it is infuriating for China. For although Russia and China are partners in leading the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, founded on June 15, 2001, to resist the spread of U.S. and democratic influence in Central Asia, Russia has steadfastly refused up to now to sell India a long shopping list of its most advanced weapons systems, including the T-90 MBTs it feels perfectly happy to sell to India.

India, after all, is farther away from Russia than China. Russia has never had a common border with India in its history and has never been threatened by invasion from India or South Asia. Russian civilization, however, was extinguished in the 13th century by waves of Mongol invaders from the Far East. Later, the Russian Czarist and Chinese Manchu empires came into conflict over control of vast regions of east northeast Asia as long ago as the Treaty of Nerchinsk in 1689.

Much more recently, there were bloody border clashes between the Soviet Union and China in 1969 that even led to very serious concerns in China that the Soviets might launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike against them.

In the eyes of most Americans, democratic India is seen -- in fact correctly -- as a friend of the United States and China an ally of Russia's. Beijing is also seen, not without reason, as increasingly hostile or unpredictable towards U.S. interests, despite the enormous volume of trade and mutual dependence between the two great nations.

Yet Russia feels freer to sell or jointly develop its most sensitive and important weapons systems with India more than it does with China. This reveals that Russia's grand strategy for Asia is far broader and more complex than is generally appreciated.

India Invites Proposals for $2.5 b Artillery Contract

New Delhi Jan 15, 2008

India on Monday said it had invited proposals from global weapons manufacturers for the purchase of 140 ultra-light artillery guns as part of a 2.5-billion-dollar programme to upgrade its ageing military hardware.

Indian army chief Deepak Kapoor said global tenders for 260 other guns would be issued sometime this month as part of the costly but essential modernisation.

Earlier, defence ministry officials quoting General Kapoor had said the 140 guns would cost 2.5 billion dollars but later amended the figures to say that cost was for all 400 pieces.

"The RFP (request for proposals) for the procurement of 140 ultra-light howitzer guns has been issued," General Kapoor told reporters on the sidelines of a military function.

"The army will issue global tenders shortly for the procurement of the 155-millimetre (six-inch) howitzers," he said and added a separate bid for 155 "advanced guns" -- or heavy weaponry -- would be also floated in "a month or so".

Military sources said New Delhi would purchase a part of the consignment off the shelf while the rest would be manufactured under licence in India.

The announcement kickstarts the million-plus army's plans to modernise its ageing Soviet-era equipment, analysts said.

India in 2001 floated global tenders for 400 guns but scrapped the contract last year after testing the hardware sent by Israeli, British and South African firms vying for the deal, which was quoted at 1.5 billion dollars.

South Africa's state-owned Denel armament firm has also been blacklisted by India on charges of corruption in a separate weapons deal.

General Kapoor admitted the delay had hit the modernisation programme of the army, which is locked in a bloody combat with cross-border Islamist militants in disputed Kashmir.

The Indian army has not bought heavy weaponry since 1986 when the purchase of 410 artillery guns worth 1.23 billion dollars from then-Swedish firm Bofors sparked allegations that politicians took bribes to clinch the deal.

The scandal contributed to the collapse of the government of then-prime minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1989, which prompted a permanent ban on middlemen in defence deals.

Last month, India said it had scrapped a 600-million-dollar deal to buy 197 military helicopters from EADS arm Eurocopter due to allegations of corruption in the bidding process.

The cancellation came after a court ordered Indian police to complete a probe into charges that a bribe was also paid in a three-billion dollar deal to buy six Scorpene submarines from a French defence firm.

However, in August 2007 India opened bids from defence contractors for 126 fighter jets in the world's largest military aircraft deal valued at more than 10 billion dollars.

General Kapoor meanwhile also said the government had given the green light to a 900-million-dollar project to re-arm the army's special forces with the latest hardware.

"The modernisation of our special forces has come back on track," he said, referring to bottlenecks in funding that nearly scuttled the ambitious project launched in 1998.

"The cabinet committee on security had at its last meeting cleared the acquisition of all the equipment it needs, from wherever it is available, either within the country or from outside," Kapoor said.

He said New Delhi has also agreed to supply 347 T-90 Russian tanks to the technology-starved military.

The tank deal is likely to exceed 1.5 billion dollars, a defence ministry official told AFP.

India, which has emerged as one of the biggest arms buyers among developing countries, says the upgrade is prompted by worries of its nuclear-armed neighbours, Pakistan and China, with which it has fought wars.

Indian T-90 Deal Offers Lessons For America And Europe

India's decision to purchase 347 T-90 Main Battle Tanks from Russia flies in the face of the strategic assumptions confidently -- and complacently -- held by both the European Union and the United States.

The EU, lulled by the six decades of peace, security and unprecedented prosperity the continent has enjoyed since the end of World War II, despises the concept of "hard" or military power and is actually more enthusiastic about globalization without strong, clearly defined borders than the United States.

Hard-pressed intelligence, security and police senior officials charged with combating the tidal waves of illegal immigration, soaring personal violence, organized crime and dangerous drugs sweeping their continent do not share these rosy assumptions. But their voices are seldom heard in the policy chambers of the European Commission and European Parliament.

U.S. leaders, Democratic as well as Republican, do not share the prevalent European view that the cultural values of "soft" power and pouring money into miserably run and almost totally unmonitored U.N. and other development programs makes the need to maintain large military forces obsolete.

But they have bought into a different fantasy -- one that swept the U.S. Department of Defense during most of the Bush administration with catastrophic results: that America's high-tech pre-eminence over the rest of the world was so vast, magnificent and unchallengeable that conventional forces could be run down, especially in the U.S. Army and Marines.

The pinnacle of this attitude came with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's conviction that the March-April 2003 invasion of Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein could be pulled off with no more than 50,000-60,000 ground troops.

More than three times that number were, in fact, needed. Even then, Rumsfeld's contempt for the need for large numbers of soldiers on the ground prevailed in his catastrophic refusal to flood Iraq afterward with American and allied troops in order to maintain law, order and the basic functions of civilized society.

The gigantic T-90 tank deal with Russia, however, confirms that Indian policymakers and strategists do not buy into this high-tech fantasy world any more than they buy into the EU's force-free one. India faces great dangers from a nuclear-armed Pakistan increasingly threatened by disintegration and civil war.

It is plagued by terrorist threats across the Line of Control in Kashmir and potentially from jihadist groups operating with increasing impunity within democratic Bangladesh in the east, too.

Myanmar, formerly Burma, has long been unfriendly and is run by a ruthless authoritarian dictatorship backed by China to India's east, and while relations with China are improving, the two most populous nations in history remain wary of each other.

It is no wonder, therefore, that India still sticks to the old unfashionable verities of conventional land power expressed through the ownership and use of huge tank forces.

Indeed, India's entire developing grand strategic military structure is archaic by current U.S., European and in some respects even Russian and Chinese fashions. But that does not make it wrong.

India to favour France for 1.5 bln euro war plane contract: Thales

Jan 23, 2008

India's government is set to announce that France will be sole bidder for a contract worth up to 1.5 billion euros to upgrade its Mirage fighters, the French defence firm Thales said Wednesday.

The official announcement of a reserved tender will coincide with a state visit to New Delhi by President Nicolas Sarkozy on Friday, said Thales' India director Francois Dupont.

The move would be a major a boost for Paris' efforts to remain a primary player in the burgeoning Indian defence market, following serious problems with other contracts.

"We are expecting an announcement from India on Friday that they will soon launch a tender reserved for French companies," Dupont told AFP. France would be the "sole and exclusive" bidder, he said.

The Indian Air Force has 51 Mirage-2000 war planes, which are made by Dassault with electronics from Thales, that need a major upgrade.

A consortium including Thales and Dassault has been facing stiff competition for an upgrade contract from Israel.

"Israeli groups have been looking for us to make a mistake," Dupont said, adding, "We don't have a blank cheque, there will be a lot of negotiating."

A contract was not expected to be signed before the end of the year or even 2009, sources involved in the negotiations said.

Dupont also said France's Dassault Aviation would also put in an "excellent bid" for a 10-billion-dollar plus contract to supply 126 fighters to India before bidding closes in March.

Thales is part of a consortium with Dassault and missile maker MBDA backing the Rafale fighter which has not been sold outside France.

US giants Boeing and Lockheed Martin are also in the running, with their F-18 and F-16 aircraft respectively, alongside the European Eurofighter Typhoon, Russia's MiG-29 and the Gripen, made by Sweden's Saab.

India has long sought to replace ageing Russian MiG-21s and but is not expected to make a choice for several years.

India last month cancelled a 600-million-dollar deal to buy 197 military helicopters from the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company unit Eurocopter.

The signing of the deal was to be one of the highlights of Sarkozy's visit. Instead, he is likely to push Eurocopter's case ahead of a fresh tender process that will give US firm Bell another stab at the contract.

India's decision in 2006 to buy six Franco-Spanish Scorpene submarines worth three billion dollars has also run into trouble -- an Indian court has ordered police to complete a probe into allegations that 100 million dollars in bribes were paid.

New Delhi, the biggest weapons buyer among emerging nations, is expected to splurge 30 billion dollars between 2007 and 2012.

India Takes An Old-fashioned Approach To Weapons Procurement

Jan 21, 2007
India is investing in a three aircraft carrier surface fleet -- something that Russia and France are incapable of, and that Japan and China have opted not to attempt. Only Britain has similar plans, apart from the great multi-carrier battle group of the U.S. Navy.

India, in sharp contrast to U.S. ground strategy in Iraq in 2003 and thereafter, maintains very large numbers of ground forces that can be used to flood territories such as Jammu & Kashmir, or states threatened by Maoist rebels, with troops to provide on-the-ground security. This Indian emphasis on maintaining a very large ground army conflicts with the prevailing U.S. and even Russian doctrines on smaller, excellent equipped forces. But as the U.S. experience in Iraq showed, relying on such forces, however superb their training and equipment, can rapidly lead to strategic over-extension and the exhaustion of repeatedly deployed combat units.

Nor do the Indians buy into the idea that the combination of precision-guided munitions and space-based targeting, reconnaissance and communications assets make any large land force obsolete and exceptionally vulnerable. That might be the case if they were ever caught up in a land war with the United States, which currently seems very unlikely. But against other potential enemies and threats on the Asian continent, New Delhi strategists believe large numbers of tanks will do just fine.

The purchase of 347 Russian-made T-90 Main Battle Tanks concluded in December is also significant because it defies the long-prevailing wisdom that nations can only be global or regional superpowers if they make all their own primary weapons systems indigenously.

If that were the case, Britain would have lost World War II and the Soviet Union would have had even greater difficulty in winning it: For Britain and the Soviet Union both depended on vast floods of American munitions: Tens of thousands of U.S. trucks, largely ferried across Iran, were crucial for the Soviet offensive drive on Berlin.

India still lacks the heavy engineering capabilities in its growing domestic automotive industry to significant numbers of tanks, let alone Main Battle Tanks of the quality of the T-90. But purchasing them from other countries still looks good to them.

China, for all its far vaster industrial production capability, still can only produce land weapons systems far inferior in quality to those of the United States and Russia, and has to buy them from Russia, though Moscow remains far more reluctant to sell its most up-to-date systems to China, in contrast to India, which it is eager to sell them to.

Nor is India's rapidly strengthening military merely an exercise in nostalgia, investing solely in so-called cold fashioned weapons systems like aircraft carriers, large standing troop forces and aircraft carriers. New Delhi has also just signed a co-production deal with the Kremlin to make supersonic cruise missiles capable of flying at close to ground level three times faster than the U.S. Tomahawk.

Indian leaders are also betting that they can make their ambitious endo-atmospheric and exo-atmospheric anti-ballistic missile interceptors and new Agni III intercontinental ballistic missile operational and produce them domestically in significant quantities in the next few years.

But the T-90 purchase decision shows that even while the Indians share the American high-tech vision on BMD and high-tech systems, they are also keeping their feet -- and tank treads -- firmly on the ground to be able to defend themselves and project power in very traditional, but far from obsolete, ways.

Dassault Chief Offers Fast Track Supply of 40 Rafale Fighters to India

25 January 2008

New Delhi: Dassault Aviation chief, Charles Edelstenne, has offered to supply 40 new generation Rafale fighters to New Delhi on a fast track basis. He has been quoted as saying that the order would help the Indian Air Force maintain its combat edge.

Charles Edelstenne, scion of the Dassault family, is the chairman and chief executive officer of Dassault Aviation, an iconic French military and civil aerospace company, which is the maker of the famed Mirage family of fighter jets. Dassault has also designed and produced the next generation Rafale fighter, which is the main air strike platform for the French Armée de l'Air, and also the Aeronavale (French Naval Air Service).

Edelstenne said that Rafale fighters could be an interim sale to India as New Delhi begins scrutinising the RFPs issued earlier for the acquisition of 126 medium range multi-role combat aircraft for a deal estimated to eventually cost upwards of $11 billion.

"We know the Indian Air Force, with which we have decades-long close association, is facing force depletion. So we are ready to supply 40 Rafales, the world's first omni-role fighters to India, in a short span of time," Edelstenne said.

"We estimate delays in procurements of these 126 fighters. So we are offering the Rafale fighters as interim arrangement", he said.

Though the Indian Government has already cleared a contract for the purchase of 40 additional Russian–built SU-30MKI fighters to maintain an effective air combat strength, they have lately become a suspect source of supply as critical defence contracts begin to run into mysterious delays. This, in spite of the fact that advance payments are made as a matter of course.

The Indian Air Force has been extremely pleased with the performance of the Mirage 2000 fleet and earlier would have opted for the Mirage and Rafale in place of the Sukhoi MKI had it not been for the price factor, which ultimately swung the game in favour of the Russians.

The French systems traditionally tend to be pricey, but with offsets now set to become the norm this is a handicap that French defence manufacturers may finally begin to surmount.

India Eyes $2b Defence Deal With US

29 Jan 2008

NEW DELHI: After joint combat exercises to develop "interoperability", the Indo-US military tango is now firmly waltzing into the arms purchase arena as well. With the over $1-billion deal for six C-130J 'Super Hercules' aircraft in the bag, an even bigger defence contract is now headed the US way.

Sources on Monday said the defence ministry and Boeing have begun the "commercial price negotiations" for the purchase of eight P-8i long-range maritime reconnaissance (LRMR) patrol aircraft, with anti-submarine warfare capabilities, for the Indian Navy. Unlike the Super Hercules deal, which as reported by TOI earlier is a direct 'foreign military sale' contract under a government-to-government arrangement, the P-8i has emerged the victor in the global LRMR sweepstakes held by India to plug operational gaps in its maritime snooping abilities.

The P-8i, based on the Boeing-737 commercial airliner, has out-performed the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company's A-319 maritime patrol aircraft and other contenders in meeting 'qualitative requirements' in the technical trials held by the Navy. "The contract will be signed soon. The first P-8i will be delivered within 48 months, that is in mid-2012 and all the eight by mid-2015. They will replace the Navy's eight aging Tupolev-142Ms," said a source.

India, incidentally, had earlier rejected the US offer to lease two P-3C Orion reconnaissance aircraft under a $133-million contract. India, of course, remains unhappy over the American decision to sell eight more P-3C Orion aircraft to Pakistan, which already has two such planes in its inventory. Once it's inked, the P-8i deal worth around $2 billion will be the biggest-ever defence contract with the US, a minor player in the lucrative Indian arms market so far.

While Russia notches up sales worth about $1.5 billion to India every year, Israel chalks up an annual tally of around $1 billion. America's only big-ticket deal with India in recent years has been the $190 million contract in 2002 to supply 12 AN/TPQ-37 firefinder weapon-locating radars.

Then, of course, India last year acquired amphibious transport vessel USS Trenton for $48.23 million, with the six UH-3H helicopters to operate from it costing another $39 million. With India spending a whopping $25 billion on arms imports since the 1999 Kargil conflict, and planning another $30 billion worth in 2007-2012, the US is obviously desperate to grab a big piece of action. It has been particularly aggressive in marketing its F/A-18 "Super Hornets" (Boeing) and F-16 "Falcons" (Lockheed Martin) for the gigantic $10.4-billion project to supply 126 multi-role combat fighters to IAF.

Apart from the defence deals, with US secretary of defence Robert Gates slated to arrive in India on February 25-26, the two countries are getting ready to sign agreements like the Communication Interoperability and Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA), Container Security Initiative (CSI) and the end-use verification agreement of US defence equipment. The Logistics Support Agreement (LSA) — under which Indian and American militaries propose to provide each other with logistic support, refuelling and berthing facilities for each other's warships and aircraft — has, however, been put on the backburner due to opposition of the Left.

CPM leader Prakash Karat has termed LSA "far more dangerous than the nuclear deal" in its implications. But despite Left opposition to military ties with the US, the two nations have already scheduled at least five joint combat exercises in 2008. "Procurements is just one facet in the overall robust defence engagement with the US. The American forces, for instance, now want to further scale up the level and complexity of exercises with Indian forces. Brigade-level exercises will be in place in four-five years," said a source.

Antony Calls For Standardisation Of Defence Inventory With Changing Needs
January 21, 2008

Following is the text of the address delivered by the Defence Minister Shri AK Antony at the National Seminar on Defence Standardisation held here today:-

This seminar has come not a moment too soon when numerous initiatives are being taken by Government towards liberalization and modernization. This seminar is an ideal platform for all the concerned players - the research and development agencies, production agencies, quality assurance agencies and the user agencies - to come together on a common platform to debate on and evolve better methods for the scientific management of our defence inventory.

The Directorate of Standardization, established in 1965, has been working on standardization and codification of defence stores towards effective logistics management by our Armed Forces. Given the size of our defence infrastructure, not only in terms of the number of personnel in uniform but also in terms of the sheer number of the variety of equipment being used, standardization provides the only answer to rationalize and effect reductions in the number of items being procured, stocked, maintained, transported and used, without degrading the operational effectiveness of our Armed Forces.

Towards this end, the Directorate of Standardization has done commendable work by setting up a database on defence inventories. Over the years, it has also produced a number of standardized documents, codified a vast quantity of materials and generated several Joint Staff Qualitative Requirements. The latter is a very important area - we are now witnessing a movement towards Joint-Services efforts and commonality which implies the production, use and management of defence stores which will meet the common requirements of all the Services to the extent possible.

As we increasingly globalize and cooperate across international borders on the development, production and procurement of defence stores and items with many countries, as the number of entities involved in defence material production and management grows rapidly, as the number of players, particularly from the private sector, increase with the introduction of the offset policy, it becomes all the more important to intensify our standardization and codification efforts if we are to avoid getting trapped in a logistics nightmare. Standardization is the instrument through which we can promote better understanding of requirements between the research and development agencies, the producers and manufacturers and the end users.

But as I mentioned above, we in the defence sector are not an island unto ourselves. We need to not only link our efforts with our National standards organization - The Bureau of Indian Standards - but also with international organizations. I am happy to learn that this Directorate is working towards cooperation with international organizations like the Allied Committee-135 and expects to become a member of that group soon.

I am sure that the Directorate of Standardization, in cooperation with all, will continue its yeoman work towards improved inventory management, better quality assurance and in promoting greater clarity and transparency in procurement of defence stores. I hope that this seminar deliberates and evolves more effective mechanisms to ensure better synergy between our technologists, suppliers and users - be they be public or private.

India Seeks Bidders for New Chopper Deal

Jan 29, 2008
A month after scrapping a 600-million-dollar deal to buy nearly 200 helicopters, India is now seeking bidders for an even bigger contract worth almost one billion dollars, officials said on Tuesday.

New Delhi earlier this month contacted four aviation firms in France, Italy, Russia and the United States, asking about their ability to supply 312 helicopters for the armed forces on an "urgent" basis, defence officials said.

"Letters of interest have been sent to Kamov (Russia), Bell (US), Augusta Westland (Italy) and Eurocopter (France) expressing our urgent requirements," a senior defence ministry official said, asking not to be named.

State-run Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), meanwhile, joined the race, stating that as India's largest aircraft manufacturer, it had the capacity to build light observation helicopters for the army and the air force.

India last month scrapped a 600-million-dollar deal for 197 helicopters with Eurocopter, the helicopter unit of the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS), after accusing it of "deviating" from the contract.

Eurocopter, the global leader in sales of civil and military helicopters, has denied any wrongdoing and has rejected allegations it used middlemen to clinch the now-dead deal.

India banned the use of middlemen in military contracts following allegations of bribery in a multi-billion-dollar artillery deal in the 1980s with Swedish firm Bofors. That scandal led to the downfall of the government of then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1989.

Earlier this month, the Indian air force added its requirement of 115 helicopters to the 197 units the army wanted, pushing the value of the deal to almost one billion dollars and the number of aircraft to 312.

"A combined global tender will be issued in a few months' time after we receive a response from the four companies," the ministry official said.

The new helicopters would replace the vintage fleet of French- and Russian-built light helicopters bought in the 1960s for the million-plus army and the air force.

The December 6 cancellation of the Eurocopter deal caused dismay in India's military establishment, as the services need modern helicopters for high-altitude missions in the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir.

Indian officials said the defence ministry stressed the need for speedy deliveries in a recent meeting with representatives of the four aviation firms.

"The sudden death of the Eurocopter contract was a jolt to our planned six-year procurement plans and now we want to make up for lost time," the military official told AFP.

India had selected the Eurocopter 350B3 reconnaissance model over Bell's LongRanger after an intensive testing period.

India, which also invited tenders last year for 126 fighter jets worth 10 billion dollars, has emerged as one of the biggest buyers of military equipment among developing countries.

Since 1999, India's military purchases have been worth a massive 25 billion dollars. It is likely to spend another 30 billion dollars by 2012, according to defence experts.

New Transparent Plastic Strong As Steel

Oct 08, 2007
By mimicking a brick-and-mortar molecular structure found in seashells, University of Michigan researchers created a composite plastic that's as strong as steel but lighter and transparent. It's made of layers of clay nanosheets and a water-soluble polymer that shares chemistry with white glue.

Engineering professor Nicholas Kotov almost dubbed it "plastic steel," but the new material isn't quite stretchy enough to earn that name. Nevertheless, he says its further development could lead to lighter, stronger armor for soldiers or police and their vehicles. It could also be used in microelectromechanical devices, microfluidics, biomedical sensors and valves and unmanned aircraft.

Kotov and other U-M faculty members are authors of a paper on this composite material, "Ultrastrong and Stiff Layered Polymer Nanocomposites," published in the Oct. 5 edition of Science.

The scientists solved a problem that has confounded engineers and scientists for decades: Individual nano-size building blocks such as nanotubes, nanosheets and nanorods are ultrastrong. But larger materials made out of bonded nano-size building blocks were comparatively weak. Until now.

"When you tried to build something you can hold in your arms, scientists had difficulties transferring the strength of individual nanosheets or nanotubes to the entire material," Kotov said. "We've demonstrated that one can achieve almost ideal transfer of stress between nanosheets and a polymer matrix."

The researchers created this new composite plastic with a machine they developed that builds materials one nanoscale layer after another.

The robotic machine consists of an arm that hovers over a wheel of vials of different liquids. In this case, the arm held a piece of glass about the size of a stick of gum on which it built the new material.

The arm dipped the glass into the glue-like polymer solution and then into a liquid that was a dispersion of clay nanosheets. After those layers dried, the process repeated. It took 300 layers of each the glue-like polymer and the clay nanosheets to create a piece of this material as thick as a piece of plastic wrap.

Mother of pearl, the iridescent lining of mussel and oyster shells, is built layer-by-layer like this. It's one of the toughest natural mineral-based materials.

The glue-like polymer used in this experiment, which is polyvinyl alcohol, was as important as the layer-by-layer assembly process. The structure of the "nanoglue" and the clay nanosheets allowed the layers to form cooperative hydrogen bonds, which gives rise to what Kotov called "the Velcro effect." Such bonds, if broken, can reform easily in a new place.

The Velcro effect is one reason the material is so strong. Another is the arrangement of the nanosheets. They're stacked like bricks, in an alternating pattern.

"When you have a brick-and-mortar structure, any cracks are blunted by each interface," Kotov explained. "It's hard to replicate with nanoscale building blocks on a large scale, but that's what we've achieved."

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