(Replies by RM to questions raised in Parliament and other media reports)
10 April 2007
Eurocopter Wins Big Indian Army Deal
Eurocopter has won the Indian Army's much-awaited deal for 197 modern light helicopters, estimated at around US$ 550 million.
According to a report in the latest issue of India Strategic magazine on defence and foreign affairs, the army chose Eurocopter's AS 550 C3 Fennec over the Bell Helicopter's Bell 407 after trials in hot, humid and high altitude conditions in Rajasthan, Punjab and Kashmir, including in Siachen - the Himalayan battlefield between Indian and Pakistani forces.
The new machines will replace the old and aged 1970s generation Chetak and Cheetah helicopters of the Indian Army, which has an appropriate plan to modernize and expand its Army Aviation Corps (AAC) in line with current and future rapid mobility battlefield requirements.
Eurocopter will supply 60 helicopters in a fly-away condition, made at its plants in France and Germany, while the remaining 137 will be manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) at its Bangalore facility.
Company sources told India Strategic that it would take three years to supply the Made in Europe lot, but that assembly lines would be set up simultaneously at HAL to facilitate their manufacture in India under Transfer of Technology (ToT).
Eurocopter also has the obligation to invest 30 percent of the deal back in the Indian defence industry under the now mandatory offset clause, a brainchild of Defence Secretary Shekhar Dutt.
Commercial negotiations between Eurocopter, a subsidiary of the European Aeronautic Defence and Space (EADS) company, and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) are slated to begin this month to fine-tune the deal as also to work out the weapons and electronic warfare package. A formal contract would be signed then.
The cost of weapons and other systems would be extra.
HAL has manufactured more than 600 Chetaks and Cheetahs, variants of the French Alouette, of which some 350 are used by the Indian Army.
The remaining are with the Indian Air Force (IAF), Navy and Coast Guard. It stands to reason that as their helicopters also need replacement, the Eurocopter's current order would multiply three-fold over the next few years to nearly $2 billion.
The three services have had an element of commonality in some systems in the past, but now, this is a requirement mandated by MoD to effect savings both in money and time. It is cheaper to manufacture and maintain a common system.
According to Lt Gen Vinayak Patankar (Retd), defence analyst and India Strategic's Editor Army, the acquisition of the new helicopter is timely and that as the Fennec is a sophisticated multi-role machine, the Indian Army could use it for Reconnaissance and Observation, Electronic Warfare, Anti-Tank role, and also to inject and extricate personnel from the battlefield.
The Indian Army, which needs many more helicopters for varied roles for medium to heavy lift requirements, had been wanting a light, agile machine the for the last 15 years to replace the now-vintage Alouette. Incidentally, Allouette was the first turbine helicopter in the world, and its maker, Aerospatiale, was later absorbed into Eurocopter, which already has a strong relationship with HAL.
The two companies have an agreement to co-develop business, and EADS has supplied parts for the slightly bigger and versatile HAL-made Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) Dhruv, which has already been inducted by both the IAF and Army.
It may be recalled that more than 70 percent of various systems with the Indian armed forces are of Soviet vintage, and all the three services were starved of modernization due to the freeze imposed by the V.P. Singh government over allegations of corruption in the Bofors guns deal in the late 1980s.
The 1999 Kargil war, in which India neither had the gun locating radars to find and neutralize Pakistani artillery, nor adequate munitions for its Bofors guns, triggered the removal of the paralysis in the MoD, and ever since, many new systems from ships to submarines, tanks and aircraft have been ordered.
The deal for the Fennecs is the second helicopter deal by India, the first being the IAF's follow-on order for 80 Mi 17 IV medium lift helicopters from Russia last year.
Notably, all the helicopters with the Indian armed forces are more than 20 years old and need to be replaced.
According to a Bell Helicopter survey, the helicopter market in India will be worth about $4 billion over the next few years.
EADS President and CEO Lutz Bertling said during a recent visit to India that his company could supply the first helicopter within 2007 itself, adding that he was also willing for collaboration to produce a medium lift helicopter in India.
The Indian government had floated the requirement for the light helicopters in 2004 but revised it in 2005 to introduce the offset clause. Initially, there were five contenders including Agusta (Italy), Bell (US), Eurocopter, and Kamov and Kazan (Russia).
EADS manufactures the Ariane rockets used sometimes by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) for its satellite launches as also the commercial Airbus aircraft.
According to an EADS statement, HAL has a contract to provide 600 sets of doors for various Airbus aircraft, and of which it has delivered over 300. A new batch of A320 doors has been ordered recently. HAL has also produced parts for the A320 nose undercarriage. The production of A340 emergency doors is also due to start at HAL.
India Ready To Fire Brahmos Missile From Submarine
India is almost ready with its undersea launch version of the supersonic BrahMos cruise missile and wants the Navy to help in preliminary test trials by the end of the year.
The Navy’s help is being sought as the DRDO lacks a platform to undertake tests of the submarine-launched Brahmos missile. The Indian Navy’s present fleet of just upgraded Kilo class submarines do not have the capability to testfire such missiles which will put India among the few countries who have the capability to launch underwater supersonic missiles.
The Indian Navy’s present fleet of just upgraded Kilo class submarines do not have the capability to testfire such missiles, BrahMos Aerospace CEO A Sivathanu Pillai said.
“We are in talks with the Navy to loan one of their expanded Kilo-class or some other submarine to undertake the tests,” he said.
Alternately, New Delhi has also proposed that initial tests could be undertaken in Russian waters on Russian naval platform. “We are ready with the designs and looking for a platform to launch the missile from under the sea,” Pillai said. India has already inducted the warship version of the 290-km range missile and the surface-to-surface version is also ready for induction this year, he said.
“We need a five-metre space on the submarine to store the missile module — each one carrying eight missiles,” Pillai said.
The BrahMos is being configured for Russia’s Amur class submarines that are likely to compete for second-line of submarine construction at Mumbai’s Mazgaon Docks parallel to the French Scorpene line.
Pillai said the twelve tests of BrahMos missile, carried out in extreme conditions, have been successful and scientists were working on projects to equip multi-role Sukhoi fighter aircraft with the missile.
India To Build Medium, Long Endurance Uavs: Defence Official
India will build medium and long endurance unmanned aerial vehicles jointly with an industry partner, a top defence official said on Monday.
"We have taken action already to develop medium and long endurance UAVs to be jointly developed with the industry partner," M Natarajan, Scientific Advisor to Defence Minister and Defence Research and Development Organisation chief M Natarajan told an international seminar on aerospace technologies in Bangalore.
"In fact, we already have requested an 'expression of interest' from Indian industries to partner us. We have hopes that they will cater to the needs of the services for mini-UAVs," he said.
"We will support all our manned and unmanned aircraft programmes with engineering simulation facilities and ground rigs to fix all the problems on the ground," he told the inaugural session of the seminar, attended by Defence Minister AK Antony, Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal SP Tyagi and Secretary in the Department of Defence Production KP Singh.
The Indian Light Combat Aircraft, Tejas, is already evolving into its variants -- the LCA naval version and LCA trainer, with potential to become an advance jet trainer beyond Hawk, he said.
Natarajan said India was also developing the Airborne Early Warning and Control System, with the original proposal envisaging an executive jet-based platform.
"The scope of AEW&C programme is to deliver two fully qualified systems to IAF as part of Phase I," he said. "Additional 6-8 systems are contemplated as part of Phase II of this programme."
Dhanush Test Fired
Dhanush, a variant of Prithvi Missile was successfully launched toady from a Naval Ship. This was the fourth test. Three earlier flight trials have been conducted during the development phase. Dhanush gives Indian Navy a capability of launching a Missile onto enemy’s targets with great precision. This flight trial was conducted by Indian Naval Team, trained by DRDO.
ASTRA Missile Tested
Two experimental flight tests of ASTRA Missile were conducted on 25th and 26th March, 2007 from ITR, Balasore, to study the ballistic performance and control of the Missile at low altitudes and shorter ranges, as part of ongoing development programme of the missile.
Trial Report of Bell 407 and Eurocopter Helicopter
Government has received a trial report of Bell 407 and Eurocopter AS 350 B3 helicopter to be incorporated in Indian Army. The trials have been completed and the General Staff evaluation of the trial report approved by the Indian Army has been accepted by the Ministry of Defence.
Army requirements are worked out on the basis of detailed assessments and threats perceptions. Equipment induction is an ongoing exercise and undertaken as per the projections in the long term, medium term and Annual Accretion Plan of the services under the provision of the Defence Procurement Procedure.
This information was given by the Defence Minister Shri AK Antony in a written reply to Shri Sugrib Singh and Shri Kishanbhai V Patel in Lok Sabha today.
Private Participation in Production of Defence Items
Government has issued licenses to various private companies for production of defence items during the last few years. The private companies which have obtained licenses are:
· Ramoss India, New Delhi;
· Larsen & Toubro Ltd, Mumbai;
· Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd, New Delhi;
· Max Aerospace & Aviation Ltd, Mumbai;
· Anjani Technoplast Ltd, Noida;
· TIL Ltd, Kolkata;
· Southern Group Industries Pvt Ltd, Chennai;
· Automotive Coaches and Cantonments Ltd, Chennai;
· HBL Power Systems Ltd, Hyderabad;
· Tata Motors Ltd, Mumbai;
· BF Utilities Ltd, Pune;
· TSL Defence Technologies Pvt Ltd, New Delhi;
· Vectra Engg, Materials Pvt Ltd, New Delhi;
· RMX Bridport Defence Systems Pvt Ltd, New Delhi;
· IDT Ltd, New Delhi;
· Alpha - ITL Electro Optics Pvt Ltd, Bangalore;
· Alpha Phazotron Radar Equipment & Systems Pvt Ltd, Bangalore;
· VXL Technologies Ltd, Faridabad;
· Memory Electronics Private Limited, Mumbai;
· Indtech Constructions Pvt Ltd, New Delhi;
· Tata Power Company Ltd, Mumbai, and
· Alpha Design Technologies Pvt Ltd, Bangalore.
Under the offset procedure notified as part of Defence Procurement Procedure 2006, offset obligations shall be discharged directly by the foreign vendor by direct purchase of, or executing export orders for, defence products and components manufactured by, or services provided by Indian defence industries.
Substantial benefits are likely to accrue to Indian companies as a result of defence purchases to be made from foreign companies under the offset policy during the 11th Five Year Plan. It is, however, not feasible to estimate the target of work to be allotted to them.
This information was given by the Minister of State for Defence Production Rao Inderjit Singh in a written reply to Shri Tek Lal Mahto in Lok Sabha today.
Production of Bi-Modular Charge System
Though the House was informed on an earlier occasion in March 2005 that the production of Bi-Modular Charge System (BMCS) would commence from November 2007, due to time and cost overrun in the project the same could not be achieved.
The Government appointed an expert committee in May 2005 to review the project as a whole. After considering the committee's report as well as the requirement of 155 mm ammunition in future, it was decided to resume work on the project.
It is expected that commercial production of BMCS can commence in about 30 months after issue of revised sanction by government for the increase in the cost of the project. There is no proposal to import the ammunition at present.
MIG-29 Fighter Jets
A contact was concluded with RAC MiG, Russia, in 2004 for purchases of MiG-29 K fighter aircraft for Navy.
No proposal has been received recently from Russia for sale or production of MiG-29 fighter aircraft.
A study group has been constituted to explore the feasibility of extending the service life of Indian Naval ship Viraat till 2012. The study group has recommended that extension of the service life of the ship up to 2012 is possible subject to certain repairs being undertaken in addition to routine periodic maintenance.
Warships are inducted in the Navy for replacement and augmentation of Naval Fleet. This is a continuous process based on the threat perception and international security environment. It will not be in the interest of National Security to divulge the details of the replacement and augmentation of Naval Fleet.
Trials of 155mm Artillery Guns
The new 155 mm. artillery guns required by the Indian Army have been under trials since 2002. Trials of the 155 mm towed guns commenced in 2002. These have been completed.
Modernisation of the Corps of Artillery is an ongoing process and is being carried out strictly in accordance with the Defence Procurement Procedure as applicable from time to time. Induction of equipment is done only after ensuring compliance with the above procedures.
Chetak & Cheeah Helicopters
Government proposes to withdraw Chetak and Cheetah helicopters from the Army, because the existing fleet of helicopters is of 1960s and 1970s vintage and hence, inadequate for the present operational requirement of the Indian Army.
Based on the qualitative requirements framed by the Indian Army, the acquisition process in terms of the Defence Procurement Procedure for procurement of new helicopters compliant with these qualitative requirements, is under way.