Saturday, March 28, 2009
By Air Marshal Ashok Goel (Retd)
Published : January 2009
New Delhi. The 1999 Kargil War caused the biggest .utter in the Indian subcontinent, bringing India and Pakistan close to a nuclear holocaust. Despite the fact that the last two wars between the two neighbours had been way back, in 1965 and 1971, it happened because the Indians were lax as usual and the Pakistanis in a mischief mode, also as usual.
Much has been written about the event, including by the Chief of Army Staff at that time, Gen V P Malik, as also by the then Home Minister L K Advani. There was an official inquiry by India’s renowned strategic affairs analyst, K Subrahmanyam, but he has pointed out to this writer that he did not go into operational details and accordingly, could not comment on certain weaknesses some top Indian commanders displayed. The mid-level and younger officers and men though fought well, and even though many of them perished, the victory actually belonged to them.
The Pakistani military leadership as well as its Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) have always been indulging in nasty manoeuvers against India. But that they dared to infiltrate troops into India and tried to capture a part of Kashmir yet again was possible because we were negligent, partly because we generally are so by temperament and partly because the government of the day, led by Mr A B Vajpayee, had ordered the forces to be “soft” on Pakistan because of the “positive” talks between him and his Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif towards maintaining peace and building friendship.
While opportunities for peace must be seized by politicians, there was no reason for the armed forces – the Army in particular – to be lax. In fact, the Pakistani move as it happened had been debated in the Indian Army for years and had been taken up as a strong possibility in periodic exercises. Yet, when it was happening, we were blind to it.
In the foreword to Brig Gurmeet Kanwal’s book, Indian Army Vision 2020, Gen Malik says: “The Fact is that even after 60 years of independence, knowledge and experience of defence and military issues is lacking in most of our political leaders and civilian bureaucrats.”
But the General has not shared the lapses and neglect of responsibilities of the Army leadership, particularly of the sector commanders, and to an extent, his own. Some of these are by now, well known, including the mindset of the 15 Corps Commander, Lt Gen Krishan Pal, who insisted that there were only a handful of infiltrators – 60 to 80 – and that none of them was a Pakistani soldier. He committed troops without allowing them adequate weapons and strength, and if facts given by Lt Gen Y M Bammi in a book are taken into account, he punished an officer, Brig Devinder Singh, who wanted better preparations insisting that there were a large number of Pakistani soldiers inside the Indian territory.
The officer had eight battalions under his charge, and by all accounts, he fought very well, leading the troops from the front. Gen Malik himself has been seen and heard praising this officer at various fora. Yet, Brig Devinder Singh’s career was cut short to save those who were wrong.
To recall, the biggest players of the Kargil War were:
a. The Government at the highest echelon of the Political Leadership;
b. The top rung of the military leadership – The Army Chief, GOC-in-C Northern Command, 15 Corps Cdr , and the 3 Div Cdr;
c. The intelligence agencies, primarily the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and Research and Analysis Wing (RAW);
d. The Indian Air Force (IAF) and its exercise of Air Power.
e. The dedicated and committed soldiers and the middle and junior level officers.
THE ROLE OF THE POLITICAL LEADERSHIP
The NDA government was at its pinnacle in May 1998, having successfully conducted the nuclear test that month and having put India in the list of Nuclear Weapon States (NWS). The aim now was to resolve the Kashmir issue by seeking wellmeaning diplomatic and economic relations with Pakistan.
Mrs Indira Gandhi had also attempted that, after the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War, by trying to tell the then Pakistani leader Z A Bhutto that only peace between the two neighbours would ensure their long-term economic prosperity and growth. In fact, she went out of the way to ensure a comfortable stay for Bhutto, personally choosing even the tapestry of the room he was to stay in Simla during the 1972 summit between them, and by telling Indian officers that the Pakistani leader must be given the respect due to a visiting head of government or state, and not that of a country which had lost war. She agreed to Bhutto’s request to release nearly 96,000 Pakistani POWs, and Bhutto promised to work for peace with India.
Needless to say that he backed out.
Mrs Gandhi did what was right in those circumstances. But the lesson for the Indian leadership was to understand that Pakistan is never to be trusted. Islamabad built a network of nuclear capability and missiles by smuggling and deceit, lying even to Washington which gave it liberal aid as a friend and mentor.
Prime Minister Vajpayee and his deputy, Advani, tried to establish a political dialogue with Pakistan. Coupled with the nuclear tests, a success with Islamabad would give them respect in the history books forever.
Intelligence organizations were told to be easy, and the armed forces stopped looking for periodic information from them. There was the February 1999 Bus Yatra (journey) by Vajpayee to Lahore to meet with his counterpart, Nawaz Sharif. It was a goodwill mission, seemingly wellresponded by Sharif.But the fact that the then Pakistani Chief of Army Staff, Gen Parvez Musharraf, did not pay due respects to the visiting Indian leader during the visit, should have been an indication of the Pakistani army’s intentions; that it had no intention to accommodate the rapprochement that the political leadership in Islamabad perhaps then wanted.
It may be noted that as a Brigadier on assignment with a think tank in London, Musharraf had written in a thesis that Pakistan must capture Kashmir to secure water from the Himalayan rivers for itself. As a Chief of Staff, he would certainly try to realize his thoughts.
It is a well known fact that the Srinagar-Leh axis runs closest to the Line of Control (LOC) in the Dras–Kargil Sector. Also, the terrain on the Indian side is hostile to defend, whereas the terrain on the Pakistan side is favorable to launch an offensive. Strategically, Pakistan has always intended to block, disrupt or permanently dislocate it.
My first posting after being commissioned into the IAF in 1963 was to Jammu in Squadron 43, flying Dakotas. The main task was to operate to Kargil and Thoise to provide logistic support to the troops deployed in forward areas. I was fortunate to be deputed as the Base Commander of Air Force clement at Kargil from Feb to May 1964, working along with 121 (Ind) Infantry Brigade.
It was an education.
Brig Chopra, an Armoured Corps officer who was the Brigade Commander, always used to say that the Dras-Kargil Sector was the most sensitive because of its close proximity to the LOC as well as the terrain factors.
Much later, during a course in 1980-81 at the Army’s prestigious College of Combat at MHOW, now renamed Army War College, this lesson was repeated by none other than the Commandant, Lt Gen K Sunderji.
He became the Chief of Army Staff later, and had a sand-model exercise conducted, visualizing exactly what the Pakistanis did to occupy Kargil. A counteroffensive plan was discussed at the 15 Corps Headquarters. I was privy to that along with Lt Gen B C Nanda, Army Commander Northern Command, Air Marshal M M Singh, AOC-in-C Western Command and some other officers.
That in 1998 and 1999, the top brass in the same sector was oblivious to the risk from the Pakistani Army, is absolutely un-understanable.
RAW’S AVIATION RESEARCH CENTRE (ARC)
Till mid-1997, a user could approach ARC only through the RAW HQ for its operational tasks. This used to delay the process by a week. The legendary Billy Bedi, who headed ARC for several years, initiated userfriendly steps, and a required mission could be launched within hours. Analytical reports were delivered ASAP, within hours if required.
Top 3-star officers from the services were invited and informed of the ARC’s capabilities in airborne electronic intelligence, and the then Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal A Y Tipnis, commended the ARC.
THE KARGIL SURPRISE
In May 1999, once reports of Pakistani infiltration had come in, Army’s Directorate General of Military Intelligence (DGMI) sought Air Reconnaissance Mission in the Dras-Kargil sector.
I personally flew missions beginning May 13 and soon, on May 18, we had pictures of six Pakistani Army MI-17 helicopters parked in the Mushok Valley area on the Indian side. These photographs were shown to the then Defence Minister George Fernandes, who was aghast and observed that this could have happened only after months of planning and preparation.
Gen Malik also praised ARC for the inputs but strangely, till some three weeks after this input, Lt Gen Krishan Pal still seemed to believe that there were only a few infiltrators on the Indian side. He himself said in a TV statement that he revised his opinion only after India lost many lives in the Battle of Tololing (June 13).
Did the Army HQ fail to convey him the confirmation of the Pakistani helicopters, and presence, inside India? Or he just insisted on ignoring reality?
Perhaps, the Army should come out with the truth after an honest introspection.
For record, Gen Malik had told ARC that he had no hesitation in admitting that its inputs enabled the Army to correlate its operational plans and that otherwise the causality figures could have been much higher.
The gap between this statement and Lt Gen Krishanpal’s observation is glaring, and led to a tragic loss of lives.
THE INDIAN AIR FORCE
IAF does not have combat helicopters for high altitude offensive operations, and on May 25, it was decided to commit aircraft to neutralize the Pakistan-occupied positions on the Indian side.
Initially, IAF lost two aircraft and one Mi 17 helicopter.
An IAF spokesman pointed out that the air operations in Kargil had taken place in an environment that was totally new in the history of world military aviation. The IAF had to unlearn what had been taught before, as it was operating with a new set of paradigms such as the ballistic trajectory of weapons in high altitude operations.
A well-respected Air Marshal Vinod Patney, Air Officer Commanding in-Chief (AOC-in-C) Western Air Command, conducted the air operations after a short course to his officers in precision bombing.
THE SUBRAHMANYAM COMMITTEE
The Subrahmanyam Committee did not attribute any intelligence failures to RAW or ARC, but highlighted equipment inadequacies like the lack of high resolution, all-weather and sub-meter imaging capability.
Lack of UAVs and better coordination between the security agencies was also mentioned but it acknowledged that the IB Director did convey certain inputs on activities in areas under the Gilgit-based FCNA (Force Commander orthern Areas) of Pakistan to the Prime Minister, the Home Minister, the Cabinet Secretary, the Home Secretary and the Director-General Military Operations (DGMO).
There is apparently a general lack of awareness of the critical importance of, and the need for, assessed intelligence, at all levels. Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) reports do not receive the attention they deserve at the political and higher bureaucratic levels. One officer in a listening post mentions that a senior bureaucrat asked him about some entertainment programmes only in a span of one year.
It is clear that a Kargil-type situation could have been avoided either by plugging gaps as in Siachin, or by a credible declaratory policy of swiftly punishing wanton and willful violation of the sanctity of the LOC, as the Committee observed.
THE NUCLEAR TANGLE
Kargil was a stupid adventure for Pakistan.
Threats from Islamabad about using nuclear weapons were considered but dismissed as Pakistan would not have been more stupid to invite destructive retaliation.
The Kargil War has also helped strengthen India’s doctrine that while India would not first use nuclear weapons, it would retaliate by inflicting massive destruction.
There is much evidence available to suggest that the intelligence agencies, RAW and IB, had in fact provided their political masters and military commanders with ample warning about Pakistani intentions and activities.
In any case, lack of strategic intelligence could have been made up by the observation on the ground through scouts and patrolling. One did not have to get basic inputs about the Pakistani infiltration from shepherds, which as a matter fact, happened. After all, the Pakistani infiltration was spread over a large front.
India deliberately limited its response to the eviction of Pakistani soldiers.
But many of our officers and men died needlessly as we were neither prepared for the war nor ready to absorb the inputs towards efficient and better coordination between the security forces.
The victory indeed belonged to those officers and men who fought, died or survived, but won.
Not the Generals.
By Gulshan Luthra and Air Marshal Ashok Goel (Retd)
Published : August 2007
New Delhi. The Indian Air Force (IAF) will buy a large number of Eurocopter Fennec AS 550 C3 helicopters to replace its ageing fleet of Chetak and Cheetah helicopters.
This was indicated by Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Fali Homi Major in an interview here with India Strategic. He did not name the helicopter make but as the Indian Army has already chosen the Eurocopter over Bell 407 this year, it is apparently going to be the same machine for the IAF as well as the Indian Navy and Coast Guard.
It may be noted that former Defence Secretary Shekhar Dutt, who introduced the offsets concept in defence procurement, has also ensured that the three services and the coast guard go in for the same system if their required specifications are the same or nearly the same.
Earlier, each service could buy a system from the same manufacturer individually under different contracts. Now, the overall requirement is being negotiated and options are kept.
The air chief said that the IAF was working on acquiring various types of helicopters, including the Mi 17 1Vs, and even some heavy lift 20-ton machines. He did not give machine-wise acquisition period but said that it would take about 10 years to complete the induction programme.
"IAF's requirement of helicopters will be met by induction of additional helicopters for various roles in a phased manner during the next two five-year plan periods. This will offset the force-depletion due to phase-outs."
Plans also include induction of combat helicopters.
It may be recalled that IAF has already decided to buy 80 Mi 17 1V helicopters in a follow-on order to replace the older machines as well as to make up for the depleting strength of this multi-role machine.
"As the helicopter is a versatile machine and has multi-role capability during peace and war," IAF's operational philosophy gives due emphasis on what is required and in how many numbers.
"The role and numbers are in accordance with our operational plans" and that as there was indeed "some force depletion" due to the phase out of older machines, there was some urgency and the government was giving it due attention, he said.
The air chief disclosed that IAF would float the RfP for the heavy lift helicopters next year - possibly in fiscal April 2008 - March 2009 - to who ever manufactures them and that the machines would be inducted after thorough technical trials and examination of financial details as per the DPP 2006, possibly within three years after that.
There was an initial, and immediate, requirement of about a dozen heavy lift helicopters.
IAF has executed major relief missions during calamities like tsunami and snow storms but it is hampered badly by the lack of heavy lift helicopters that can carry substantial load on the one hand and withstand the mountain drafts on the other.
It had acquired a small number of Mi 26 heavy lift helicopters from the Soviet Union in the 1980s, but their manufacture was stopped in the disintegration process of that country. There is a big problem now in their maintenance as there are virtually no spares available.
IAF pilots swear by the reliability of the 8-rotor Mi 26 helicopters, the biggest ever in the world, but of course, Russia does not make them any more, times have changed and technology has improved towards digital systems for optimized performance.
The only 20-ton helicopter available in the market today is the twin-rotor Boeing CH 47, which the US company had displayed at the Aero India air show in February 2007 at Bangalore. Test rides were given to air force personnel to showcase this helicopter's advanced capabilities.
There are some indications though that either the Russian or Europeans could come up with new machines, but after how long is the crucial question. The war or terror, as being demonstrated in Afghanistan, has thrown up new requirements. Both the NATO and US forces there are "hungry" for helicopters.
As for India, nearly all the helicopters with the Indian armed forces are around 20 or more than 20 years old, and the Aérospatiale Alouette and Lama helicopters, called Chetak or Cheetah in accordance with the roles assigned them by different services in India, have been the prime machines with them ever since the 1960s when they were first inducted. Cheetah is the more powerful variant though.
Both these have also been upgraded with better Turbomeca 333-2B engines to Chetan and Cheetal versions, giving them higher carrying capacity as well as higher altitude capability.
But the armed forces need new generation and new helicopters.
The acquisition of Fennec will fill in a wide gap, but in terms of different roles, the Army and Air Force will have to be given helicopters suited to different requirements.
Fennec in French is the name of an elusive North African desert fox, with oversized ears. The helicopter, used mostly in France but also in several other countries, is named after that animal.
Unconfirmed reports indicate that a requirement of small, agile helicopters that can fly in a city landscape crowded with high-rise buildings, is also being considered. It may be a while however when this type of machine is available.
A helicopter that fits this requirement is still being developed by Bell Helicopter in collaboration with an Israeli company.
None of the Services in India has a dedicated attack aircraft, and till that is acquired, some of the Eurocopters would be used in that role. Other roles envisaged are reconnaissance, electronic warfare, anti-tank role, and also injection and extrication of personnel from the battlefield. In its armed version, the Eurocopter is fitted with coaxial guns, rockets and air-to-air missiles.
Fennec makes a substantial use of composite materials, in body, rotor and rotor blades and tail rotor. These materials are described by the company as "rugged, low cost, efficient and corrosion-free."
The existing number of Alouette and Lama variants operational in India is estimated at a little more than 400, including some with private Indian organisations and business houses. But eventually, as the assembly and progressive manufacture of the aircraft is done at the Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL), around 600 of the new Fennec helicopters could be made in India, depending upon the price and required rate of production.
The Indian Army recently chose the European Eurocopter Fennec over the US Bell 407, and its technical evaluation report is being processed at the Ministry of Defence. Discussions are beginning with Eurocopter for the best possible technical specifications within a given price.
The government though has still not officially disclosed if the Fennec has been chosen by the Indian Army. But India Strategic had learnt reliably, as reported in its April issue, that the Army had indeed preferred this helicopter in its technical trials.
The army is buying 197 helicopters for multi-role deployment, 60 of them in flyaway condition and the rest gradually assembled in India by the Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL).
The number of Fennecs for IAF would be less than that, but set to nearly match that of the Army over the years as the requirements grow.
Indications at the recent Paris Air Show were that Safran, which makes the helicopter's Turbomeca Arrius engine, will further fine-tune the system for still better performance. The engine has the Full-Authority Digital Engine Control (FADEC) for optimized performance.
Air Chief Marshal Major, who is a helicopter pilot, visited various aircraft and helicopter companies at the Show and evinced keen interest in the development of the new systems.
He pointed out though that IAF was a fighting force and that its options for various aircraft, helicopters, weapons and systems were in accordance with the calculated Air Staff Requirements (ASR) and not based on what machine which air chief flew.
"We want the best in fighters, best in onboard systems, best in weapons, best in helicopters, and the best of everything for our officers and men," he told India Strategic.
As for the Eurocopter, or the replacement for the Cheetahs, the air chief did not disclose if the IAF would also buy some helicopters in a flyaway condition or they would be assembled at HAL and then delivered to the IAF.
Eurocopter, Turbomeca and Safran are now part of the aerospace major, the European Aeronautic Defence and Space (EADS) company.
Eurocopter is also supplying the Turbomeca 333-2B engines for the Dhruv, the Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) designed and developed by HAL for the air force, army, navy, coast guard and police forces.
The helicopter requirements of all the services in India, including those paramilitary and police, has grown substantially, even for peace time and disaster relief. So it is not just a case of only replacing the existing stock with them but also of meeting the new needs. However, the new needs also warrant different types.
IAF also needs new helicopters for VVIP requirements, and the process to acquire them is already under way. These helicopters would be equipped with special protection measures.
As for the Mi 17 1V, IAF is phasing out the older versions of this machine but retaining and upgrading the 1V model. As this helicopter is already flying with IAF from around 20 years, the order for them is a follow-on step and does not require floating a fresh tender.
Mi 17 1V is in fact the work horse of IAF, and also the backbone of its helicopter fleet.
As for the heavy lift helicopters, IAF is keen to lay its hands on whatever is available. When there is a civil emergency, it is tasked to help. But it has no helicopters or not in adequate numbers.
The Mi 26 is as big as the An 12 transport aircraft that the IAF once used - now phased out - and it could easily go to 16000 feet, and ferry even heavy guns like Bofors to that height. But how and where do you get the spares from? is the big question.
Designated "Halo' by NATO, the Mi 26 is the most powerful helicopter ever made. It was inducted by the Soviet forces in 1983 and a little later by India in small numbers in two batches.
Chinook was first deployed 50 years ago in the Vietnam war. But the machine sold today is entirely new, except that it has the same twin-rotor concept. It has a sophisticated glass cockpit and very powerful General Electric engines. Due to its versatile capability, it was chosen by the US Air Force (USAF) for the future Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) machine although its competitors have sought rebids and the US Department of Defense is likely to decide on that by November.
Air Chief Marshal Major said that that the Defence Procurement Policy (DPP) 2006 would facilitate the induction of various systems as the IAF could conduct trials speedily and the Ministry of Defence could also do the required clearance likewise.
He said that due attention was also being given to meet the requirement of combat helicopters.
The Indian Air Force uses the Mi 25 Soviet vintage helicopters, but as the 1999 Kargil War showed, IAF needs machines which can go to 25,000 or 26,000 feet, or even higher.
The Mi 25, although a good machine, has a service ceiling of 14,500 feet.
Most important though, over the last 15 years, the technology in every thing, the platforms and the systems they carry, has changed tremendously in what is called as the Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA). So whatever is acquired today, has to be in line with any anticipated technological developments over the next 30 to 40 years.
Any platform has to have a modular approach to enable replacement of equipment that gets outdated with better and contemporary systems as they evolve.
Navy to follow with 17
By Gulshan Luthra and Air Marshal Ashok Goel (Retd)
Published : February 2008
New Delhi. The Indian Air Force (IAF) will buy 40 more Hawk Advanced Jet trainers (AJTs).
Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal F H Major told India Strategic that IAF's original plan was to induct 122 AJTs but the acquisition got delayed by nearly a quarter of the century, and when the deal was signed in March 2004, it was only for 66 aircraft.
IAF needs more AJTs, and they would be acquired in accordance with the emerging requirements and acquisition of newer medium and air dominance fighters, he said.
Of the 66 AJTs that IAF has contracted to buy from the British BAE Systems, 24 are being acquired in a flyaway condition and the rest in Semi Knocked Down (SKD) and Completely Knocked Down (CKD) kits for progressive manufacture within India using indigenous components.
BAE Systems has already begun transferring technology and equipment to the public sector aviation giant HAL at its Bangalore facility under the deal.
Naval sources indicated that the Indian Navy was also acquiring the same Hawks to maintain commonality with IAF, rather than its navalized T-45 Goshawk version built by the US Boeing company in collaboration with the BAE Systems.
The Goshawk imparts actual aircraft carrier training, but the Indian Navy has opted to prefer the Hawk, and is likely to buy 16 to 20 of these aircraft. The figure mentioned though is for 17 Hawks.
The US Navy has trained several Indian Navy pilots on Goshawks since 2006 at its Pensacola Naval Air Station in Florida.
The Indian naval Hawks would be modified slightly for simulated carrier landings, but on the ground.The Navy should be expecting its Gorshkov aircraft carrier from Russia in two to three years along with Mig 29K aircraft, and training of the pilots for them has to commence well in time. It takes five years to train a fighter pilot from the induction stage.
Air Chief Marshal Major said that while the future requirements would be defined with emerging needs, both the air force and navy would place order for the newer jets with HAL, which is tasked with indigenous manufacture.
He described the Hawk 132 that India is buying to its specifications as an excellent aircraft. Pointing out to its ultra-modern glass cockpit, he said that a pilot trained on a Hawk could easily walk into another modern aircraft like the SU 30, or the coming Medium-Multi Role Combat Jets without much conversion training.
The Air Chief described training as a very important element of combat, pointing out that today, every system from radar to missiles to aircraft was coming with simulators.
He said that the IAF Flying Training Establishment (FTE) at Bidar, the designated home of the Hawks in Karnataka, was a futuristic flight training academy with new equipment and a 9000 feet runway, much different than it was just a few years ago.
All the 66 aircraft would be based there.
"Framing of the flying and operating procedures in the local flying area will take top priority," according to Air Officer Commanding Air Commodore Ramesh Rai.
The first two twin-seater Hawks had reached Bidar on November 12, flown by a mix crew of BAE Systems and IAF pilots from BAE Systems’ Technical Training Academy at Warton in UK. After some preliminary formalities, instructor's conversion began on them right away.
Wg Cdr Pankaj Jain and Sqd Ldr Tarun Hindwani were the first two pilots to land the aircraft in India at Jamnagar, from where they moved to Bidar.
By Feb-end, 10 of the newer gleaming jets would at this base. BAE Systems and HAL are scheduled to complete supply of all the 66 aircraft by 2011.
According to Air Marshal Satish Inamdar (Retd), who had worked on the AJT project, India could eventually acquire or build at least 200 of the Hawk jets. “They have potential for growth in line with modernisation of the Indian Air Force.”It may be noted that IAF suffered several accidents in the late 1970s and early 1980s as fighter pilots graduated from basic jet trainers to the supersonic Mig 21 without intermediary - or Stage III - training. When the then Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Dilbagh Singh, drew prime minister Indira Gandhi's attention to it, she immediately called for action.
Due to political and bureaucratic delays, their supplies have only begun now.
Air Chief Marshal Major said that IAF had trained 12 instructors and 75 pilots in Britain, and that all of them had excelled in flying.
BAE Systems Managing Director Training Solutions, Mark Parkinson, says that the British firm also trained 100 engineers.
A company statement quoted him as saying: 'We have 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.'
BAE Systems sold more that US$ 27 billion worth of military hardware and services in 2006.
By Gulshan Luthra and Air Marshal Ashok Goel (Retd)
Published : February 2008
New Delhi. The Indian Air Force (IAF) has initiated a major transformation process, requiring around US$ 70 billion over the next few years.
According to an India Strategic study, except for the newly acquired SU 30MKIs, IAF needs to replace and augment nearly 100 per cent of its fighter, transport and helicopter fleets for the simple reason that all of them are around 20 years old or more, and would need replacement even after their useful lives are extended by around 10 years or so with new onboard avionics and missiles as the airframes and engines remain the same.
Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal F H Major told India Strategic in an interview “that the process to transform the force had begun and that the next 10 years would be important in this regard” as there would be positive, all-round changes.
From aircraft to airbases with precision approach and surveillance radars, there would be visible changes by 2015, the Air Chief observed adding that the emphasis was on all-weather, round-the-clock operational capability.
He did not comment on the financial figure calculated by us but said that the IAF “plan is three-pronged – to preserve, upgrade and acquire” and that “adequate budgetary support is available for procurement of new aircraft.”
He also said that the direct acquisition of SU 30MKIs from Russia had been completed and their that their production was “proceeding satisfactorily” at the HAL facilities in India.
As a thumb rule, it takes about $ 1.5 billion to set up a fighter squadron, inclusive of 18 aircraft, systems and weapons with supporting equipment. Even if the combat squadron strength is maintained at 35 – if not the original sanctioned 45 – the cost comes to nearly $ 50 billion. Except that the SU 30 MKIs, of which the IAF is acquiring 230 aircraft, would be somewhat cheaper because the contracts were signed in the late 1990s.
The problem for the overall transformation has arisen because nearly all acquisitions for the armed forces and intelligence agencies were stopped by the then government in 1990, and the process to re-equip was triggered only after Pakistani troops occupied the Kargil heights, leading to the 1999 war.
The other factor was the rising number of air crashes, both because there were no Advanced Jet Trainers (AJTs) and also as some of the aircraft were getting old.
In an earlier study, we had considered a figure between $ 35 to 45 billion, but a revision is imperative and $ 70 billion looks more or less a realistic figure.
The Air Force now needs to replace as well as augment its aircraft and systems in line with modern technology. In war-fighting, there is no choice but to have an edge, and that too, a decisive edge.
About the ageing aircraft and their declining strength, the Air Chief said: “With regard to the hardware, it is our endeavour to make good all deficiencies, upgrade the existing equipment and procure state-of-the-art weapon systems.”
Logically, there should have been periodic replacement of equipment with all the forces, but that did not happen, and as for the IAF, except the SU 30 MKIs, its entire fleet has to undergo a transformation.
Apparently, the costs would keep rising if timely decisions are not taken. The country would have to pay dearly for any political or procedural bottlenecks.
IAF has already phased out nearly two-thirds of its 300 Mig 21 aircraft, as well as Mig 23-MF, (six) Mig 25 spy jets, Hunters, Canberras and some transporters over the last 10 years.
Of the 300-plus Mig 21s, which formed the mainstay fighting force of the IAF, about 125 are being retained and upgraded to the Mig 21Bis category. That is, the platform and engines are same but overhauled, and the onboard avionics and missiles are the latest.
The Air Chief said that the IAF had already completed the upgrade process for 100 Mig 21Bis, fitting them with Beyond the Visual Range (BVR) missiles, a new navigation-attack radar and other weapons “dramatically improving their capability.”
The pilot workload is lower and “its flight safety record has been very good.”
The mainstay role however has been taken over now by the SU 30MKI air dominance fighters, which can fly far and stay in the air for up to 8 hours. By any standard, these are formidable jets, capable of effectively countering any threat.
Notably, although now some aircraft are planned to be used for up to 40 years with periodic technological upgrades, the earlier aircraft were designed for a useful life of 20 years.
The SU 30MKI is designed for periodic technological insertions like all modern aircraft.
Air Chief Marshal Major said that the IAF “started upgrading its combat fleet a few years ago to enhance their operational capability” and that in addition to the SU 30MIs under procurement, “the planned induction of Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MRCAs), the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas and the 5th Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) – being developed with Russia – would arrest the declining combat squadrons strength.”
It may be noted that our study takes into account acquisition of 230 SU 30 MKIs, 126 MRCAs, new transport aircraft, new helicopters, AWACs, midair refuelers, pilot-less Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and possibly Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles (UCAVs), radars, Aerostats and secure satellite and other communications, contemporary electronic systems as well as a periodic cost escalation between .5 to 1 per cent per year.
The IAF also needs to update and upgrade its aircraft pens around the country, and work in that direction has also started. Most of the existing hangars at its airbases were designed for small aircraft like the Mig 21 but today’s SU 30MKIs, MRCA or FGFA would be bigger and it’s prudent to move assets from one place to another, particularly during operations.
The cost of an SU 30 MKI, fitted with some French and Israeli avionics, is not known but an MRCA should be anywhere between $ 40 to 50 million, depending upon the number of engines, fire control radars like AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array), Targeting pods and some sophisticated gadgetry.
Boeing, which has offered its twin-engine F 18 Super Hornet in the MRCA category as the replacement for the Mig 21, has set a price tag of $ 49.9 million.
Boeing’s President of Precision Engagement and Mobility Systems Chris Chadwick, who has been coordinating his company’s potential sales to India, told us that this price included the AESA radar and most of the equipment on board the Super Hornets supplied to the US Navy, which in fact, flies the world’s second-largest air force.
About the ongoing modernization, Air Chief Marshal Major said: “Of the available fleets, the Mig 21Bis, Mig 27 and Jaguar aircraft have already been upgraded. “Upgrades of the Mirage 2000 and Mig 29 aircraft is being processed.”
As for the transport and helicopter fleets, he said that the IAF had already signed an agreement for six Lockheed Martin C 130Js transport aircraft while 24 combat helicopters and 12 heavy lift helicopters would also be acquired. A plan to buy 80 Mi 17 helicopters from Russia to augment the fleet was already being pursued.
“The IAF is actively pursuing a comprehensive plan to upgrade its helicopter fleet, by upgrading older aircraft and inducting new ones,” he said adding that the existing “Mi 17s multi role helicopters and Mi 35 combat helicopters will be upgraded.”
The Air Chief also pointed out that the Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) built by the public sector HAL was already operational and being continuously improved” and that “the armed version of the ALH has also flown while its attack version, the Light Combat Helicopter (LCH), is in the pipeline.”
HAL Chairman and Managing Director Ashok Baweja had told India Strategic earlier that HAL would also develop 60 hi-altitude helicopters for Siachin and Kargil type of heights in the Himalayas. This is likely to be a helicopter other than the LCH as this would have to be made from special materials capable of withstanding the extremes of cold.
Air Chief Marshal Major said: “A number of procurement schemes are being processed and we will, in future, have a mix of indigenous and imported aircraft to meet our operational requirements, which include heavy, medium-lift and utility helicopters.
“These helicopters will be inducted in a phased manner, during the next two five-year plans (ending 2017).
The Air Chief pointed out that the demands on the IAF transport fleet are growing due to the enhanced national and international commitments” and that “they will only increase in future.”
“Our fleet is set to expand to meet these enhanced tasks and a variety of procurement schemes are being progressed,” he said, adding that there are plans to enhance our air transportation capabilities in the Medium Transport Aircraft (MTA) category,” which will be produced in a joint venture with Russia.
Air Chief Marshal Major said that the IAF reviewed its operational strategy and philosophy constantly, “in step with the changes in the security scenario.”
“Concurrently, the equipment, weapons and systems are modernized, which in turn necessitates changes in the organization structure and training, and all these changes are incorporate in the IAF Doctrine.”
By Air Marshal Ashok Goel (Retd)
Published : October 2008
New Delhi. The Indian Air Force was officially established on 8 October 1932, that being the date of its formal constitution. The first aircraft flight however was not formed until 1 April 1933, at which time it possessed a strength of six officers trained at RAF Cranwell and 19 “Hawai Sepoys” (literally air soldiers), and an inventory of four Westland Wapiti II-A aircraft.
The year 1946 saw the establishment of the first RIAF transport unit, No. 12 squadron (initially a Spitfire squadron in 1945). It received Dakotas in Panagarh by late 1946. In January 1950, India became a Republic and the IAF dropped its prefix “Royal”.
At this time India possessed six fighter squadrons, one bomber and one C-47 Dakota transport squadron. In addition, IAF had one AOP flight, Communication squadron and training organization.
A second transport squadron, No. 11, had been formed on C-47 Dakotas in September 1951.
Eighty C-119G Fairchild Packet aircraft were inducted during the period 1954 to early 1963 under US emergency military assistance.
These propeller driven twin engine piston aircraft served the IAF with distinction till Jul 1985, for more than 30 years. It was a most beautifully crafted military transport aircraft of its time. The cockpit, the delivery system, loading facilities, all were immaculate and the machine was a pilot and crews delight.
As an un-pressurized aircraft, it was designed to fly below 18000 feet. However, the Indian Air Force added a jet pack -Gnat’s Orpheus J-34 engine – on the top of its fuselage to take it up to 24000 feet to drop supplies to troops facing Chinese incursions.
It would have been impossible to operate in the thin air otherwise. The Indian innovation was copied by the CIA for its Latin American operations, not necessarily for heights but for fast takeoff after dropping supplies.
This magnificent Packets operated regularly to Leh, Thoise, Kargil and Fukche. All the airfields were beyond 3200 meters (11000 feet) elevation. Not only that, the IAF created history by landing it at Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO), an airstrip located beyond 16000 feet elevation. The sixties revealed a serious security concern for India.
Frequent clashes with china and finally an unprovoked attack on India’s sovereignty in October 1962 necessitated quick and timely buildup of the air force. Till then, the political mindset was not even in favour of buying jeeps for the Indian Army.
Transport aircraft and logistics became a hallmark for the Indian Air Force due to the Indian debacle in the face of Chinese aggression.
Soviet built An-12 and IL-14 were inducted during the period March 1961 to July 1963. Two new operational squadrons were formed, namely No. 44 and No. 25, and based at Chandigarh.
The An-12 aircraft also had its limitations. It was partially pressurized (only the crew cabin and the Kabina with 14 passenger capacity). Nonetheless, in spite of its another, and serious, limitation in navigational aids, it played a remarkable role in Air Transport, Air maintenance and Maritime Reconnaissance roles.
(No. 44 Squadron)The most remarkable achievement of the An -12 fleet was its modification to a “Bombing Role” just before the 1971 Bangladesh War.
The Indian Army had expected a massive attack from Pakistan on the western borders, and indeed, at one time, the Pakistani Army concentrated some 30,000 troops around Kashmir to capture it. Sure enough, this happened, and IAF saved the day by deploying the modified An-12s to bomb Pakistani positions and troop concentrations.
Aircraft of the No. 44 Squadron flew night missions, unescorted, and did intense carpet bombing, rolling out nine tones of fire from each aircraft. They were always in waves of six aircraft, and fortunately, all returned home safely and smilingly.
The Squadron won one MVC (Maha Vir Chakra) and three VrCs (Vir Chakra).
It may be noted that night fighting capability was virtually zero with the air forces of both the countries, and the Pakistani Air Force (PAF) was unable to intercept even a single An-12.
The aircraft was deployed on both the Western and Eastern sectors, and played a crucial role in turning the fate of the War in India’s favour.
In fact, the Russians were amazed to know this role of their An-12 aircraft, and praised the IAF profusely for its innovative spirit. This magnificent and majestic flying machine went out of the Indian skies during July 1993.
IAF’s peacetime role has been “Air Maintenance” of Indian troops in the western sector and maintaining troops and civilians population in the Eastern sector in a big way.
This requirement by itself has necessitated deployment of four squadrons in the western sector and nearly four squadrons in the Eastern sector. The Dakota and the Packet fleets, which were the backbones of the transport fleet, had outlived their technical life.
Their maintenance support had become a nightmare. In the mid-seventies however, the IAF’s transport fleet had shown signs of a dwindling force.
We delayed in identification and induction of replacements by seven years (since the mid-seventies). By this time the An–12 fleet was also showing signs of fatigue and inadequate maintenance support.
It was only during the early 1980s that a final decisions was taken to completely replace the ageing Dakota and Packet fleets with An–32 aircraft.
The Soviets had offered modified An–26, with high-powered engines, for high attitude operations. It would be interesting to know that 118 An–32 aircraft were contracted on a 20 years military credit arrangement, with no interest liability. Today, perhaps one modern transport aircraft equals them in cost.
I still remember the words of then Joint Secretary (Air) in the Ministry of Defence, Mr Desai, who said in a meeting: “Sign as many aircraft you want, for after few years even a car may cost more than them.”
By this time the replacement for An–12s was considered, the Soviet IL–76 MD was found to be the most suitable aircraft.
It could carry 48 tonnes of payload, or one T-72 tank weighing 42 tonnes comfortably.
Its four engines gave the aircraft some multipurpose capability, including operating at unpaved surface. It was an aircraft that could operate without any ground support system, and most reliably. It was suitable for quick induction of troops in battle zones or disturbed area. A full complement of 225 troops could be landed and deployed in a matter of three minutes with no hassles.
The induction of An–32 during the early 1984 and IL-76 MD aircraft during 1985 added a new dimension to air power in the Indian subcontinent.
IAF deployed the IL-76s effectively, taking over the control of Air maintenance role and air transport operations within three to six months of their induction. These aircraft gave a tremendous boost to the IAF. And strategic reach.
In another first, the IAF landed an IL-76 MD at Leh on 14 October 1985, and then again at Thoise on 30 January 1987, on a short runway of about 5500 feet. The manufacturer’s specifications warranted a runway length of mnimum 7,500 feet.*
In fact, the Indian Air Force has a record of operating various machines well beyond their limitations, and in the most difficult and inhospitable terrains, whether it is combat or transport aircraft, or even helicopters.
Ferries to Siachen are an example. During Operation Brasstacks, an exercise to test war games, one IAF pilot conducted a record 28 missions in seven days by the Il-76s to land BMPs in the tough and high mountainous terrain.*
The first testing ground for India’s new resurgence in strategic reach was evident in the Sri Lanka operations. First, during June 1987 when six An-32 aircraft carried out food supply drops to display their solidarity for the suffering of Tamils in the Jaffna peninsula.
From 29 July 1987 onwards, once the Sri Lanka accord was signed by the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, there was a massive induction of the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) from 30 July itself. The IAF transporters provided unhindered and massive support during the operations till 1990.
Alongside the IPKF operations, there was a sudden call from one of our smaller but important neighbour, Maldives. There was an SOS from President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom who faced a Coup D’etat on 3 Nov 1988.
The Indian government consulted world powers and some Islamic friends, and then rushed troops to save the beleagured government.
This could be done due to the strategic reach that the IL-76 aircraft gave the Indian Air Force. Five Il-76 and 30 An-32 aircraft were pressed into service within houurs of his distress call to land Indian troops on this nation of 1000 islands and the government was saved.*
It may be noted though that the last time we last inducted transport aircraft was 25 years back. Both the An–32 and IL–76 MD aircraft have completed their calendar life as per the Soviet manufacturer’s specifications. Both are on their extended lives, and could go on for another 10 to 15 years.
It is time to put on our thinking caps to look for replacements.
Ideally, we should have developed our own transport aircraft, but the MTA venture with Russia for nearly 50 aircraft should do well. We have already placed order for six Hercules C 130J special operations aircraft from the US Lockheed Martin, but that is too small a number for the size of Indian Air Force. Perhaps, we will exercise the option for another six.
The Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal F H Major, has made a welcome announcement about the induction of Very Heavy Transport Aircraft of &0-plus tones capacity. Whatever aircraft we buy, the time is of essence now as the existing aircraft are ageing, and their replacements must come as soon as possible.
Thankfully, after years of paralysis at the Ministry of Defence after 1990, the system is well geared now, and the government is adequately taking care of the equipment requirements for the forces. The vagaries of politics, as to who should come to power, should have no impact on the normal replacement and augmentation process.
The lack of munitions during the Kargil War for instance, when mortar shells had to be acquired at a week’s notice to shell the positions occupied by intruding Pakistanis, should be a warning.
Like the Indian Army and Navy, the IAF has to keep up with the pace of the time and timely identification and induction of replacements has to be done. The Ministry of Defence has to support this effort always.
IAF is an Emerging Power
By Gulshan Luthra and Air Marshal Ashok Goel (Retd)
Published : October 2008
New Delhi. What will be future of air power, and that of the Indian Air Force (IAF) in the coming years?
This is a question concerning the strategic analysts, defence industry, and of course, the actual practitioners of air power – those in the air force.
With this in mind, India Strategic held a two-day conference, the first National Seminar on Aerospace Technologies (N-SAT) September 25-26, and in the formal and on-thesidelines discussions, the participants agreed on a mixed use of advanced manned and unmanned aircraft.
The emphasis was also on long and longer range missiles in the coming years to ensure a much-beyond the visual range kill of an enemy, and one’s own survival in terms of men and platforms.
The Chief of Air Staff of the Indian Air Force, Air Chief Marshal F H Major, set the ball rolling with his inaugural address, declaring: The last couple of decades have been marked by a number of new emergent technologies which have changed the way operations will be conducted.
These have and will continue to have, far reaching effects on the way we do our business. It is fittingly appropriate that we take stock of the emergent technologies, the requirements of the Indian Air Force, the capability of the Indian Defence Industry and plan out the strategy ahead.
IAF’s Vice Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal P V Naik, observed that the Indian defence industry and organizations like the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) needed to visualize what the future technologiescould be like. He agreed that a body like the US DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), or Boeing’s Phantom Works and Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works should be set up in India.
There was none at the moment, he lamented, adding that IAF would support this idea. Both the Chief and Vice Chief emphasized the importance of technology, and pointed out that the IAF was networking all its assets to make the maximum possible and timely use of its aircraft, systems and weapons. Secure net-centricity was the key in today’s and tomorrow’s air warfare, they said.
Air Marshal Naik said that the IAF had operated for the first time in a totally networked environment in the Red Flag Exercise in the US in August. There were 80 aircraft at any given time, day or night, from four countries with AWACs control, hostile radar and simulated missiles. “Our pilots stood out exceptionally well.”
The Chief and the Vice Chief also indicated that the IAF would have mix of manned and unmanned assets in the visible future.
While observers in the US say that after the Lockheed Martin’s 5th generation F 35 there would be no more manned aircraft, India should get its 5th generation aircraft only by 2016-17. While the joint project with Russia was on, IAF was looking at both manned and unmanned missions, although the number of unmanned sorties would increase gradually as and when required, Deputy Chief of Air Staff Air Marshal N A K Brown said on the sidelines of the seminar.
Deputy National Security Advisor Shekhar Dutt indicated the thinking of the Government of India when he said in his valedictory address that India needed a “High-end Capability” air force and that “in the development of Air Power one has to look ahead and not at what has gone by.”
As a civil servant, Mr Dutt has spent long years in the Ministry of Defence as a Joint Secretary, Secretary Defence Production, and finally Defence Secretary.
In fact, he is regarded as the author of the Offsets Policy that has become mandatory now for all major defence deals that India signs with major companies from across the world.
Indian Army’s Additional Director General, Perspective Planning, Maj Gen A K Singh outlined the growth of the Army Aviation in the coming years while Assistant Chief of Naval Staff (Air) Rear Adm V Shankar, emphasized the importance of technology in naval aviation.
Maj Gen Singh said that the Indian Army would be the biggest user or space based assets.
Rear Admiral Shankar observed that net-centricity would play a key role in linking ships and submarines not only with its own aircraft but also those of the air force.
The theme of the seminar was provided by the Conference Chairman and former Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal S P Tyagi (Retd), who told us in an informal interaction that while dogfights would always be there perhaps, he would want the Indian Air Force pilots to shoot down a threat much before it has a chance of coming near them.
As the IAF Chief till last year, he had emphasized the acquisition of latest technologies like the AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) radar, a capability which the IAF hopes to mount on all its aircraft one day.
Former President A P J Abdul Kalam, a space and missile scientist, delved into futuristic missiles, suggesting their developments indigenously. India had a talented pool of defence scientists.
He lauded the Indo-Russian BrahMos missile as an example of collaboration with other countries, pointing out that this supersonic missile was way ahead of any competition from anywhere in the world.
Dr Kalam suggested a virtual aeronautical grid between the user and partners, and expressed the hope that an Earth-Moon-Mars complex to exploit the nature’s resources for mankind would be a reality in not too distant a future.
He also said that IAF should aim to get about 100 indigenously built Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) and stressed on the need for lowcost aircraft, including 50-90 seat turbojets to operate from small airports without the need for costly instrumentation.
Dr Kalam set Vision, Mission and Realisation (VMR) as the three steps in aerospace development.
Dr Prahlada, Distinguished Scientists and Chief Controller in DRDO, said that the government realized the importance of advance technologies and that it was encouraging the Indian state-run and private industry to acquire the best of the technologies through joint ventures. In some cases, the Foreign Direct Investment (FDA) was selectively being raised from 26 per cent to 49 per cent.
The new rules were being devised in a way that everybody had a stake; the armed forces as a user and the industry as developers to make sure that a given project fructified and grew.
As for DRDO, Dr Prahlada said that from now on, it would take only large projects, and once a product or technology had been developed, it would be onpassed to the industry. The private sector was being encouraged and treated at the same level as the state-run corporates. Leading industrial powers as well as major MNCs were offering their best to India.
The N-SAT was supported by Boeing, Eurofighter, Rolls-Royce, Snecma and Samtel. Their representatives said that they supported the cooperation between the Indian and foreign defence industry.
President of Boeing Military Aircraft Chris Chadwick clearly said in a video message that his company would offer the best possible technology to India while Boeing’s Robert Gower and Vivek Lall elaborated some of the futuristic technologies in various fields from space to laser warfare and fighter aircraft like the F-18 Super Hornet which it has offered to India for its requirement of 126+ Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (M-MRCA).
Erwin Obermeier of Eurofighter, who has been associated with the development of this aircraft from its beginning, said that the four countries associated with this aircraft – Germany, Britain, Spain and Italy – had pools of cuttingedge technologies, and that they were willing to share them with India.
Paul Andre Chevrin of the French Snecma, which has been making engines for civil and military aircraft, elaborated on the cooperation already existing between India and his company, and delved into the future of aircraft engines. In the near future, he observed, they would look like more or less the same as the engines of today, but the challenge was to reduce their weight and consumption and get more power out of them.
Air Vice Marshal D C Kumaria, Assistant Chief of Air Staff (Ops - Space ) spoke on the importance of sensor-to-shooter time and the importance of precision missiles and weapons.
He showed a real-time footage of how an unmanned US aircraft picked six terrorists one by one after a persistent search and destroy mission in Afghanistan. Satellite connectivity played a key role in identifying and neutralizing the threats.
Air Vice Marshal Kumaria said that space was extremely useful for both civil and military purposes, and one day, it would be possible for aircraft to navigate seamlessly the world over using a network of satellites and ground stations.
By Gulshan Luthra and Air Marshal Ashok Goel (Retd)
Published : February 2009
New Delhi. The Indian Air Force (IAF) will begin flight trials of all the six competing Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MRCA) within the next few months with a timeline to induct them latest by end-2014.
Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal F H Major told India Strategic on the eve of Aero India that he was expecting the procedural clearance from the Ministry of Defence (MoD) within a couple of months and the flight trials should begin soon after. The process was on schedule, and knowing that it would take three years to acquire them after the agreement with the winner was made, IAF was keen to complete the process as soon as possible in a transparent way.
Air Chief Marshal Major said that there was no credence to the rumours that the approximately $10 billion acquisition would be divided into two competitors. “Our plan is to use Su-30 MKIs, MRCAs, Tejas, upgraded Mirage-2000 and Mig-29 as well as Jaguar aircraft.”
In about 10 years, IAF should also have manned Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) produced jointly with Russia.
The interview was held also to mark the Third Anniversary of India Strategic.
India is a Huge Market with huge Offset Opportunities
Air Chief Marshal Major said that India was a huge defence market now with combined orders from the Army, Navy and Air Force estimated to touch $100 billion during the current five year plan (ending 2012) while in the aerospace sector itself, the value of acquiring aircraft, sensors, satellites, ground support systems, precision weapons and the host of other systems that form the backbone of an air power would cost another $ 100 billion over an estimated 20-year period.
The Indian market is a tremendous opportunity for the foreign and Indian industry.
Offsets at 30 percent for combined projects – or $30 billion within the next five years and another $30 more in the Aerospace sector in about 20 years – Transfer of Technology (ToT), Indigenization, all these would help in forging and strengthening industrial partnerships to mutual advantage, he said adding that “he expected the foreign and Indian companies participating in the Aero India 2009 to fully appreciate this huge opportunity.”
Air Chief Marshal Major said that IAF had been able to arrest the depleting number of its aircraft, thanks to the increased and continuous production of SU-30 MKIs and acquisition of the latest and hi-tech precision engagement and other modern force multiplier systems.
By 2020-22, he observed, IAF should have 42 squadrons of a very potent fighting force, deployed evenly both in the East and West. At present, there are more aircraft in the western sectors.
The Air Chief, who had said at the recent National Seminar on Aerospace Technologies (N-SAT) held by India Strategic that IAF was “under a process of Transformation,” disclosed that the first of the three Phalcon AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control Systems Aircraft) from Israel would be delivered in March.
With AWACS, a dozen-plus tethered Aerostats, dedicated satellites and net connectivity, midair refuelers, a new set of combat and heavy lift helicopters, new short takeoff transport aircraft, and supporting infrastructure, IAF was steadily moving towards “a quantum jump in our operational capabilities.”
“The entire force would be networked for seamless operations,” he said adding that it would not matter who was where for every one would see the picture that he or she would be supposed to see.
All IAF aircraft and ground stations would know where they and their friends are, thanks to the Data Links for situational awareness being installed on IAF aircraft. Midair refueling capability on all combat jets has also been activated.
He described the SU-30 MKI as an “extremely capable aircraft with an amazing array of possibilities” with “state-of-the-art components” from various sources. IAF had acquired all the aircraft it had contracted with Russia, and HAL was now producing the aircraft “at the maximum possible rate” to complete delivery of a total of 230 aircraft.
Service Support Centres (SSCs) for these and other aircraft were being set up all over the country to ensure that IAF assets were available for maximum possible utilization.
Periodic upgrades in the aircraft’s sensors and weapons were already planned to ensure their air dominance role.
The Air Chief mentioned the AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) radars for their jump in sensor performance and reliability, pointing out that overall, “IAF would have the capability to dominate the required airspace for the specified time period.”
“It involves the employment of potent combat platforms, armed with long range sensors and BVR (Beyond the Visual Range) missiles, along with requisite Electronic warfare and Precision Strike capability. The range and reach would be enhanced by utilizing air-to-air refueling. Command and Control would be exercised by airborne AWACS in coordination with other airborne and ground-based sensors like Aerostats and high-powered radars.
“The size and composition of the composite package would depend on the target system, the threat envisaged and many other tactical considerations.”
IAF’s Mirage-2000, Mig-29s and Jaguars were also being upgraded with state-of-the-art systems, some of which would be specific to MRCAs, so as to ensure data integration and night capability.
“The upgrade programmes focus on equipping the aircraft with newer radars and sensors, advanced weapons, faster and more capable mission computers, newer navigation systems incorporating the latest in Ring Laser Gyros and INGPS technologies.”
As for replacement of older aircraft, Air Chief Marshal Major said that there would “always be some assets being phased out, upgraded or inducted, at any given time. (More than 100) Mig-21 had already been upgraded to Bison standard, which is an extremely capable platform, and surprised some of the foreign participants in international exercises. The Mig-27 has also been upgraded.”
“We will continue to fly and upgrade aircraft which have relevant operational life remaining.”
Asked how would he define the roles of newer aircraft like FGFA, SU-30 MKI, MRCA and India’s Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas, he said that “aircraft today are capable of a wide variety of roles and are not usually designed for specific or limited roles, as used to be earlier. To illustrate, the SU-30 MKI can be used as an air dominance fighter, for precision night strike, for gathering electronic intelligence (ELINT), or even as an air-to-air buddy refueler. Their operational deployment would depend on the prevalent situation.”
Significantly, in the next 10 to 15 years, he expected the IAF to develop into a credible strategic force with the ability to deliver aerospace power, wherever required, in whatever form, as directed by the national leadership.
“We would exploit space-based assets to dominate the conduct of operations, executed in real time, and achieved through robust and responsive Command Control Networks. We would have the potential to transport men or material, through airlift and heli-lift, providing immense flexibility to the commanders. The IAF will attain and maintain a credible capability across the entire spectrum, and that display will (also) ensure deterrence.”
Asked to elaborate the “Overall Transformation” that he had mentioned at the N-SAT seminar, Air Chief Marshal Major said: “A large number of projects of a very wide variety are presently underway and would achieve completion with the next decade. Almost every facet of our capability is being systematically addressed, that will cumulatively provide us with a quantum jump in our overall capability to deliver aerospace power.”
By 2022, all the important modernization plans for IAF would be over but the results of the ongoing process, he pointed out, would be visible from the middle of the next decade itself. He was satisfied at the pace of the process, he said.
The younger generation of pilots were also being trained accordingly, and to cater to the “extremely complex operational environment” and the “changing demands of the new environment,” knowledge of the pilots would be refreshed periodically and newer and newer aids like simulators would be inducted with increased pace of exercises
.The newly inducted Hawk Advanced Jet Trainer (AJT) aircraft would be playing an important role as “appropriate lead-in trainers to the modern fleet of combat aircraft.”
Air Chief Major said that space-based assets increased the ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) capabilities tremendously.
IAF had plans for own satellites to act as its eyes in the sky, and that would help in extending the reach and power of its combat units. Space played an important role in the civil life in communications; for an air power, space-based assets were vital for connectivity and ISR.
With the country’s increasing maritime interests including trade, and area of responsibility, space was playing an important role for IAF.
UAVs and UCAVs
The Air Chief described UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles or pilotless Drones) and UCAVs (Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles) as “very versatile platforms with immense possibilities.
“UAVs have been integrated into our operational loop and we look forward to acquiring newer capabilities and payloads. UCAVs are very cost-effective platforms and would be acquired in due course of time.”
He also indicated that the IAF was working towards indigenous capability in rotary UAVs in collaboration with the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
The Air Chief Marshal gave a clear picture of the Missile programme of the Indian Air Force for the first time, both air to air and surface to air.
Fighter aircraft of the Indian Air Force are being equipped with “a number of modern air to air missiles of different capabilities.”
As for air defence, he said that IAF had placed orders for two squadrons of the indigenous Akash (or Sky) Missile Systems, constituting four firing units with four launchers each. These would be delivered within two years.
“We have also placed an order for three squadrons of Spyder Quick Reaction Missiles (QRSAMs, from Israel) which will be in IAF service by 2011. Each Spyder squadron will have four firing units and each firing unit has four launchers.”
The process would continue as required.
Air Chief Marshal Major said that the IAF had to be technologically a highly sophisticated air power. Although numbers are always important, some of the depletion due to non-acquisition in the past several years had been made up with newer technologies already. And that has been proved in exercises with air forces of other countries. In the Red Flag exercise in August 2008 for instance, IAF SU-30 MKIs were deployed far, far away and in the day and night exercise with US and other aircraft, “our pilots matched their counterparts.”
New technologies and force multipliers are needed to refine IAF’s operational efficiency, he said adding: Besides the acquisition of most capable combat assets available, we are laying down a robust secure network that will integrate all our sensors, weapons and Operations Centres so as to reduce the decision cycle and make our air and space operations responsive and effective.”
He described force multipliers as “combat assets that enhance our capability.” Air to air refuelers, AWACS, Wide Body heavy lift transport aircraft, and a technology doctrine are force multipliers.
He pointed out that while DRDO and public sector undertakings like HAL, BEML, BEL had played an important role, overall, India has had “the disadvantage of being left out of the early years of aerospace development and industrialization.”
The new Defence Procurement Procedures (DPPs) were designed to acquire talent and technology precisely towards building indigenous capabilities. Private industry is being encouraged now in the defence sector, but rather than attempting large scale indigenization, the industry “must develop expertise in niche capabilities.”
Air Chief Marshal Major said that he wanted to assure his “fellow countrymen that their Air Force is one of the finest in the world, and they can justifiably be proud of the capability and professionalism of its personnel.”
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
AIR MARSHAL ASHOK GOEL (Retd.) PVSM AVSM VM
Air Marshal Ashok Goel PVSM AVSM VM was born on 26th September 1943 in Khurja, Uttar Pradesh.
Air Marshal Ashok Goel is a topper of BSc (Hons) in Agriculture and Animal Husbandry from Govind Ballabh Pant University, Pantnagar (UP) now in Uttrakhand, in Feb 1963, he was commissioned in the Indian Air Force as a Transport Pilot on 31 December 1963.
The Air Officer has held several prestigious staff appointments at Air HQ with distinction. This include Deputy Director Operations, Joint Director Operations and Director Operation, Transport & Helicopters.
In 1984 he was appointed as the team leader of the group of personnel selected to be trained in the erstwhile USSR to facilitate the induction of the strategic lift II-76 in the IAF, resulting his posting as first Commanding Officer of the II-76 formed at Agra. Who had the privilege of first landing at Leh on 14 October 1985, Thoise runway on a mere 1700 m length runway on 30 Jan 1987, Jaffan on 31 July 1987 as overall commander during Sri Lanka operation, Male on 03 Nov 1988 is support of operation Cactus.
The Air Officer has commanded two major transport bases of the Indian Air Force i.e.
(a) Air Force Station Agra commanding approx. 325 officers and 5000 personnel during 1991-1992.
(b) Air Force Station Chandigarh 1992-1994.
He has undergone the Higher Command Course at the college of Combat, Mhow in 1981 and the Senior Defence Management Course at the College of Defence Management, Secunderabad in 1990. In 1994 he underwent the 34th National Security Course at the National Defence College, New Delhi following which he held the appointment of senior Air Staff Officer, HQ J & K.
Thereafter he was appointed as the Operations Manager, Aviation Research Centre (ARC) at RAW. He interacted very closely with foreign aviation companies and underwent specialized training on the Boeing 707 at Tel Aviv, Israel and the Gulf Stream – III at USA.
He was the Chief Instructor (Air) at the Defence Services Staff College, Wellington from January 2000 to March 2001. He was appointed the Guide and Examiner for M Phil & PhD students for Defence Studies by the Madras University for 3 yrs.
Air Marshal Ashok Goel has more than 10,000 hours of operational flying to his credit on different types of aircrafts, which include Dakota, Packet, An-32, II– 76, B-200, Learjet, Gulf Stream-III and
Boeing–707. His flying experience includes overseas trips to countries like Bangladesh, Cyprus, Egypt, France, Greece, Germany, Italy, Iraq, Israel, Nepal, Oman, Qatar, Sri Lanka, Turkey, USSR, UAE and UK.
The Air Officer has been decorated on many occasions. He has been awarded the following Commendations and Presidential Awards :-
(a) Commendation by the chief of Air Staff in October 1976.
(b) Commendation by Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Western Air Command in October 1979.
(c) Vayu Sena Medal in January 1988.
(d) Ati Vishist Seva Medal in January 1994.
(e) Param Vishist Seva Medal in January 2003.
Air Marshal Ashok Goel retired from the IAF on 30 September 03 after a glorious span of close to 40 years of service. His last appointment was Inspector General of the Indian Air Force.
Presently he is engaged as a “Social Entrepreneur”. He is engaged as
(a) Defence & Security Analyst & Commentator.
(b) Adviser & Consultant – Aviation Studies & Aviation Management.
(c) Adviser Consultant – HR Development & Management.
(d) Aviation Editor and Member Editorial Board of two National Magazine ‘India Strategic and South Asia Defence Strategic Review’.
(e) National Trustee –Special Olympic, Bharat.
(f) Chairman– Special Olympic, Bharat (U.P Chapter).
(g) Member Organizing Committee – Common Wealth Games 2010.
(h) Patron – “Initiative for Social Transformation” – NGO.
(i) Patron – Defence Officers Association – Bareilly.
(j) Member, Board of Directors, Sadhna Centre for Management & Leadership Development, Pune.
(k) Social Educator.
A very keen sports person and regularly plays, Golf, Tennis and Squash and keeps himself physically fit.
Pilibhit Bypass Road,
PO Rohilkhand University
Air Marshal Ashok K. Goel (Retd.)
PVSM AVSM VM
v Born on 26 September 1943. B.Sc. (Hons) in Agriculture and Animal husbandry from prestigious Pt GB Pant University, Pantnagar.
v Commissioned in the Indian Air Force in December 1963 as a tpt pilot. Had more than 10,000 hrs flying and under took most challenging and riskiest of missions during the career.
v Held most coveted appointments, i.e Joint Director, Director Operations at Air HQ. Commanded two largest bases (Agra+ Chandigarh). Served as Director General “Flight Safety and Inspection” of the IAF.
v During the 40 years service visited almost 60 countries around the world. Which includes all the neighboring countries, countries of the far East, Europe, U.S.A., erstwhile USSR, middle East and African continent.
v During the process of various appointments interacted with President’s, PM’s, Cabinet Ministers, bureaucracy up to the highest level within the country and abroad. And achieved desired objectives.
v Though a pilot by profession but administration, management and public relation was always the core activity to achieve the desired organizational objectives. The basic principle of life has always been honesty, full commitment and involvement to the assigned tasks.
v After retirement for last four years actively involved in “Special Olympics Bharat” as National Trustee and Chairman UP Chapter. Besides this actively involved in other social and journalistic activities as a “Social Entrepreneur”.
v A fitness freak, play Golf and squash regularly .Highest medical standards (A1G1) as per IAF laid down medical norms, still maintained.
The Gnat in India
(As told by Air Marshal Denzil Keelor PVSM, KC, AVSM, VrC, VM
Air Marshal Ashok Goel PVSM, AVSM, VM)
The smallest machine ever produced as a fighter plane in the fifties and proved to be a “Sabre Slayer” is a story which only Indian Air Force Pilots could prove again & again.
This was an aircraft which British had rejected. The aircraft was accepted as a necessity in a poor country’s fighting outfit, with very little choice.
It was in the year 1956 the Government of India formalized an agreement with Folland and for production of Gnat under license at Bangalore. Inspite of earlier, forced armed conflicts (47 & 48) 1965 war was thrust on India (1962 did not see any air force involvement). Second major armed conflict after 1947 within a period of less than 20 yrs of independence.
I very distinctly remember the beginning of aerial combat on 6 Sep 1965. Twelve Vampire aircraft were sent to halt the advancing columns of the Pak tanks in Chhamb sector and unfortunately 1/3rd of these were shot down.
It is a matter of surprise and pride that the Gnat first fired its guns in anger on 03 Sep 1965 over the Chhamb sector of J&K. The Gnats first kill, an F-86 sabre of the Pak air force was taken by senior brother Trevor Keelor, who was in No. 23 Sqn. He was duly supported by Amarjit Sandhu who was part of No. 9 Sqn.
It is also interesting to know that IAF had only four Gnat Squadron at the time when war broke out. Fifth squadron was just under formation, at the very onset of war.
During the first few days of war Sikand was on a mission, and to surprise of all he did not land back. As later understood, Sikard’s gnat was low on fuel and over unfamiliar territory. He saw an airfield and landed at Pasrur (a Pak air field). He was taken a POW and the aircraft was impounded another first for Gnat aircraft.
Denzil & Trevor two brothers were a unique combination. Two brothers both fighter pilots, flying the same type of air craft in a similar battle scenario.
Denzil was part of No 4 Sqn (which he later commanded also). Denzil came on the scene of war slightly later. Denzil also shot down a saber a rare feet of achievement, both the brothers were awarded the coveted Veer Chakra in the same operation and during the same war.
I take great pride to say that I belonged to the old Gnat fraternity. Once again after 74 months that sabers next fell to the gnats cannon.
It was in December 1971 India & Pakistan had a third round. The events preceding the third round are well known. Victory of Shiekh Mujiber Rehman’s party in the Eastern Wing had annoyed the Pathan’s in the west. An angry reaction by the Eastern Wing and the gurilla campaign by “Mukti Bahine” brought an intense reaction by the Pak Forces. Incursion by the Pak Army was on the increase and a war hysteria has been created. The situation got worsened in the eastern sector, and it was on 22 Nov71, intruding PAF sabers were down by Indian Air Force Gnats, (over the Boyra Salient).
The ultimate display of air superiority of Gnat was displayed on 14 Dec 1971. It was around 8 ‘O’ clock in the morning of 14 Dec 1971 at Srinagar airfield, a formation of two aircraft was scrambled. Srinagar was already under attack by Pak Sabres. One of the pilots was Flt Lt Nirmal Sekhon he got airborne against all odds and engaged two of the Pak sabers and got both of them. Unfortunately he was also hit, he ejected, but was too low to make a safe landing. He was posthumously awarded the Nation’s highest Gallantry awards the “Param Veer Chakra” PVC.
Denzil Keeler takes pride in being the ‘Gnat’ pilot and very proudly states “an aircraft which was rejected by the British became the first to shoot down a Sabre in 1965, was the first to have shot down a ‘Saber’ in the 1971 war. First to claim the “Nation’s” highest award (and the only one so far also by a Gnat Pilot).
India Strategic salutes all those who flew the Gnats, who saved the Indian border sand laid down their lives and also to those who kept these flying machines agile and trust worthy (In spite of all limitations) the “Maintenance Personnel”.