Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Sit, kneel, fetch, Roll over, Play dead....

Good Doggie!!! Does what its told. In fact, it will follow the master without question, tongue out, tail wagging, with a sprightly gait in its stride. Good Doggie!!! Thats usually what the master says. Not that the dog asks for it. Its happy with the scraps it gets. And if master pets it, oh, look at it go mad with joy.

And thats exactly how our governments have reacted with China... Jug Suraiya recently called it chicken-like. Its not chicken like. We're not chickens, but neutered dogs. Or even better, worms. The Munich pact has nothing on our relation with China - this is not appeasement; its chelagiri.

So when Chinese troops regularly enter our territory, we play blind. MMSji sends a welcome to India sms, and gen. Deepak Kapoor explains their actions for them and tells us why its ok that they can come in with family and friends and give us a nice hello... and even better, stay over. Nothing like a good sleepover, don't you think. Its Indian hospitality at its best - you don't even have to give us reasons, we'll give them for you. Swagatam Shubha Swagatam! Of course, keeping with our other indian virtue of selflessness, we dont expect anything from the Chinese in return, not even peace.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

30 Fighter jets crashed in past 4 years

The Ministry of Defence released the details of fighter crashes over the past 4 years, from 2004 to 2008.

The numbers are not nice to see... almost 2 squadrons lost over the past four years. This, not counting losses of helicopters or other aircraft. 2004-2005 seems to have been the worst year, with 11 crashes, followed by 2006-07.

More concerning is the loss of relatively newer aircraft like the Mirage and Mig-29s. The silver lining is of course that we no longer have the large accident rates of the early part of this decade, when birds were dropping out of the sky at alarmingly regular intervals.

However, even at the reduced attrition rates, the numbers make a compelling case for quick upgradation and new acquisition of combat aircraft. These birds aren't getting any younger, and unless the Government wishes to see the Mirages, Mig-29s and Mig-27s drop dead like the Fishbeds before them, they must quicken the pace of acquisitions like the MRCAs, and even more importantly, upgrades. These aircraft form the bulk of the IAF's strike fleet, and obsolescence of these birds will create a gaping hole in our defence readiness. Pakistan and China are inducting new aircraft at alarming rates, and our Air Force must not have to face them will 30 year old, blind and gout-stricken birds.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Daily pill of Defence - 25 March 2008

Focus now on Agni-III launch in April
T.S. Subramanian, The Hindu

After the successful firing of Agni-1 missile on Sunday, the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile on March 5 and the K-15 (Sagarika) missile from a submerged pontoon on February 26, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) will set its sight on launching the Agni-III ballistic missile in April 2008. (read more)
Also: Hindu Business Line
LeT divisional commander killed in J&K
Mufti Islah, CNN-IBN

Jammu and Kashmir police shot a man dead who they claim is a high-profile terrorist, a Lashkar-e-Toiba divisional commander in Srinagar. A senior police officer was severely injured while four security personnel were killed during the encounter. A second terrorist managed to escape. (read more)
Also: News Blaze
Govt. rejects MPs' suggestion on DRDO
The Hindu, PTI Report

The government on Wednesday rejected recommendation by a Parliamentary committee that the Defence Research and Development Organisation be barred from carrying out research in life sciences. (read more)
Private sector woes in defence production
Ajai Shukla, Business Standard

The private sector is playing a growing role in defence production, even though the playing field — when compared with Defence Public Sector Undertakings (DPSUs) — remains far from level. The gap between rhetoric and reality has proved difficult to bridge. The story of a military assault bridge, ironically, best illustrates the private sector’s challenges. (read more)
Flashing steel at China
Ajai Shukla, Business Standard, Broadsword

As a young captain in the Indian Army, I experienced first hand the dynamics of a Chinese power play. One autumn day in 1987, near Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh, almost exactly where the 1962 war sparked off, a group of Chinese soldiers crossed the rugged Line of Actual Control (LAC) and sat themselves down in a grazing ground called Wangdung. For days, while India launched diplomatic protests, more Chinese soldiers trickled across; before long, a 100-man company from the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) had established itself in Wangdung. The Chinese expected little more; but the Indian Army had long buried the ghost of 1962. (read more)
Allocation for N-programme cut sharply
Subodh Varma, ToI

Is the UPA government stifling the country's nuclear programme? In the Budget for 2008-09, allocations for the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) are Rs 1,333 crore less than last year's allocations. This appears strange at a time when the government is projecting nuclear power as the answer to India's future energy needs. (read more)

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Daily pill of Defence - 23 March 2008

India successfully test fires Agni-1 missile
Deccan Herald, Balasore (Orissa), PTI

India on Sunday successfully test-fired its nuclear-capable surface-to-surface Agni-1 missile from the Wheelers' Island, a defence base in the Bay of Bengal on Orissa coast. It was the second user's trial of the sophisticated missile. (read more)
From Taslima to Tibet, India proves chicken
Jug Suraiya, ToI

nstead of the peacock, India should adopt the chicken as its national bird. Apart from the fowl being the dish of choice, at least in the northern part of the country, our official response to various situations - ranging from the Taslima Nasreen controversy to the protests in Tibet - can best be described as chicken-hearted. (read more)
Pranab to meet Bush, Rice on N-deal
India Today, IANS Report

Amid continuing uncertainty about the fate of the India-US nuclear deal, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee goes to Washington Sunday on a two-day visit that will focus on India's pact with the IAEA and the next steps necessary to conclude the deal. (read more)
Centre allocates Rs 500 crore for naxal-hit areas in 11th Plan
India Today, PTI Report

Concerned over growing Left wing extremism in various states, the Centre has decided to allocate Rs 500 crore during the 11th Plan for development of infrastructure in naxal-hit areas. (read more)

As an aside, Prabhu Chawla had this absolutely hilarious reply to a reader's question:

Q. How come the Bengali Communists are all quiet about the unrest in Tibet?

Prabhu Answers: Because they did better than China in Nandigram and they are shocked how the Chinese could go soft in dealing with dissent.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Daily pill of Defence - 22 March 2008

Firstly, wish you all a very Happy Holi.

I'll be posting snippets of Defense news for the day here - a collection of major news, blog reports, opinions and commentaries, and any other news of interest. Hopefully, it will be a daily thing. Lets see how that goes.

Heres the first post.

Vietnam-era Navy SEAL honored for Rambo style rescue mission

More than three decades after a daring attempt to rescue prisoners of war in Vietnam ended in tragedy, a retired Navy SEAL was honored March 18 in Coronado, Calif. for saving the lives of his comrades. Adm. Joseph D. Kernan, Commander, Naval Special Warfare Command (NSWC) presented retired Lt. (SEAL) Philip L. “Moki” Martin the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with combat “V” for valor during a ceremony at NSWC. (read more)

Defence Ministry goes 'soft' on China
Rajat Pandit, ToI

NEW DELHI: India's defensive and ultra-cautious mindset towards China has now firmly made its way even to the normally hawkish environs of the Defence Ministry (MoD).

The latest MoD annual report makes it seems that all is hunky-dory as far as the Chinese military threat is concerned..... (read more)
Vintage Pandit stuff - little source, lots of recycling. Ctrl C, Ctrl V. Still makes for interesting reading.
Private Sector in Defence: Mahindra Defence Systems: the niche player
Broadsword - Ajai Shukla

Mahindra Defence Systems (MDS), the defence division of the Rs 24,000 crore rupee ($6 billion) Mahindra Group, is hinging a major foray into defence manufacture on an anticipated surge in demand for “up-armoured light vehicles”, as security forces - army, paramilitary and police - gear themselves up to deal with growing internal insecurity. (read more)
An interesting piece with good photos of M&M defence vehicles.
Armed Personnel KIAs for 2007
MoD Press release

The Force-wise break up of Armed Forces personnel who died in action during 2007 is as under:

Army - 84
Assam Rifles - 11
BSF - 02
CISF - 02
CRPF - 71
ITBP - nil
SSB - nil
Total - 170
(read more)
RIP to the dead.
No Prisoner exchange for Sarabjit
Deccan Herald, New Delhi/Islamabad, PTI

India on Thursday firmly ruled out release of any Pakistani prisoner in exchange for Sarabjit Singh whose execution has been deferred by one month amid indications that it has been left to the incoming government to decide on his fate. (read more)

Friday, March 21, 2008

DRDO's secret Radar Facility

IANS had an interview with Dr. V.K. Saraswat [1],[2] or [3] about India's Ballistic Missile Defence Program.

India developing ballistic missiles to destroy IRBMs, ICBMs

Visakhapatnam, Jan 7 - By 2010 India will have an indigenous ballistic missile defence system to intercept and destroy intermediate ballistic missiles (IRBMs) and inter-continental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), a top defence official said here Monday.

'We are developing a robust anti-missile defence system that will have high-speed interceptions for engaging ballistic missiles in the 5,000 km class and above. We have recently demonstrated the capability to handle such targets up to 2,000 to 2,500 km,' Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) chief controller V.K. Saraswat told IANS on the sidelines of the 95th Indian Science Congress.
Our BMD is designed to intercept the enemy even at high altitudes and long distances and destroy it before it could enter our region,' Saraswat said.
The advanced BMD is at a design stage and will go on trial in 2009-2010. With all the elements of the system such as the long-range tracking radar, the multi-function fire control radar, the very intelligent and potent mission control centre for deciding the launching of the interceptor, the BMD will be able to detect IRBMs and ICBMs of any country and destroy on target.
The tracking and fire control radars were developed by state-run DRDO in collaboration with Israel and France. With the development and production being taken up concurrently, the Electronics and Radar Development Establishment (LRDE) in Bangalore has been commissioned to roll out more radars for short, medium and long range use in association with the private sector.
'LRDE has a full-fledged facility at Kolar to assemble and calibrate the radars required by the defence forces,' Saraswat said.

This made for interesting reading, especially the reports about the Radar development by LRDE. Dr. Saraswat has confirmed that Israeli and French helped in developing the critical Radars used in the systems. If the missiles are the fists of the BMD system, these radars are the heart, and are probably the most complicated and critical parts.

As it is, the Long Range Tracking Radar (LRTR) developed by LRDE is superior to the Israeli Greenpine radar it is based upon, both in terms of Range of detection, as well as the speed of the missile it can detect. The Greenpine can detect targets travelling upto 3 km/s, which limits the Arrow Missile system's interception to Short and Medium range Ballistic missiles. The LRTR can detect upto 6 km/s, which ensures that it can handle even IRBMs, a crucial requirement if we are to be protected against Chinese Missiles as well.

The second interesting bit was the report about LRDE's radar calibration facility in Kolar. This is a new bit of information that wasn't heard before. Being close enough to Bangalore for easy access, while far away from most EMI disturbances, it would be an ideal place to develop and test radars.

I did a bit of searching for this facility on Google Earth, and guess what, found it! Its a sprawling test range located right next to an airfield, which, by the looks of it, was probably abandoned by the Brits or IAF a long time ago. While it did take a while to find the place, with its typical Sarkari style buildings, it sticks out like a sore thumb - something that is a big grouse of mine. If you want a secret facility, at least make sure that it doesn't have a big bulls-eye on it.

Heres a satellite image of the facility. Unfortunately, wasnt able to upload the full size image(4200 x 3400 pixels). If anyone can help with this, please let me know.

Update (March 21): Some more pictures of the same facility.

Same picture, with the boundary walls highlighted, and captioned.

Closeup of the radar site - note the radome. Its diameter is around90 ft.

Appears to be the main working area. Note the warehouse size structures and the shipping containers.

Buildings to the right of the ones in the picture above.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Now for something completely different...

Its unfortunate that I have to use that delightful Monty Python expression to digress to such a sombre and terrible subject; but it is one that seems to be on everyones mind at the moment. I'm talking about the death of Scarlett Keeling.

The questions that everyone is asking now is whether Goa is a safe place or not... what do you think. Perhaps we should ask Scarlett that question. Or her mother. Perhaps the answer is self evident when we consider the where. Any sane person would be able to figure out that a beach filled with drugs, booze and lecherous males isn't the safest place to hang around alone, or leave a fifteen year old girl. Which would obviously beg the question that everyone has been asking - why did the mother bring her 9 children to India, taking them out of school, leave them alone for months on end in an obviously seedy place and take off with her boyfriend? And what evidence or reason does she have to blame the Home Minister?

But there are a few questions that seem forgotten. Why was the murder initially covered up? Why has Ram Naik been trying to get Fiona's visa cancelled? And why has no action or investigation been carried out against the people who conspired to cover up this murder? Questions that have been obscured by a media that is always looking only for increased sales and TRPs.

Again digressing, Philip Hensher of The Independent has a very interesting commentary about this whole episode, not about the murder in particular, but more about the culture of western travellers and backpackers in other countries. Take a look:


The reckless hedonism that shames Britons abroad
Philip Hensher, Tuesday, 18 March 2008

If, as Clausewitz said, war is the continuation of politics by other means, there is not much doubt what tourism is the continuation of. The age of imperialism may have ended decades ago, with the withdrawal of European forces from Asian and African countries and the granting of independence. No sooner had that occurred, however, than the tourists descended like a plague of locusts, all in search of an "authentic" experience: many ripping up and insulting the host cultures in the name of that bogus authenticity.

The Scarlett Keeling murder case has transfixed India's large and busy media with a glimpse of a way of life which few Indians can quite believe. A mother with nine children from four – or was it five – fathers. The children, whose schooling seems decidedly patchy, are taken to live on a beach in Goa for months on end in the name of some kind of nebulous larger "education". One of them, merely 15, is left to look after herself while the rest take off to Karnataka. On her own, she takes drugs, drinks a good deal of vodka, has sex with men she has just met – none of which seems to be unusual to her – and is quite quickly murdered.

Rarely can the expression "it will all end in tears" be so grimly literal, and I don't particularly want to add to the terrible burden of grief and guilt which Scarlett's mother, Fiona MacKeown, must have to shoulder from now on.

There are thousands of English teenagers exactly like Scarlett Keeling and not much about her life is unusual, apart from its grisly end. I dare say she was nice-natured and well-mannered; she drank and took drugs recklessly, as many teenagers do; she probably had the air of a streetwise girl, able to cope with situations, and only on reading her diary does it become apparent that she was virtually illiterate, extremely ignorant and as naïve as 15-year-olds have always been. We all know teenagers exactly like that.

(Read more)

Sarabjit's wife: "I am against exchange of terrorists"

Image: Sukhpreet Kaur (l) and Sarabjit's sister, Dalbir Kaur (r)

Sarabjit Singh's case is probably the clearest case of government apathy and neglect. Why does the government always wake up at the last minute? And even when it does, it lacks the courage to take a strong stand.

Unlike the wife of Sarabjit Singh, whose statement below is probably the greatest display of patriotism that one has seen. Times of India has this report:

I am against exchange of terrorists: Sarabjit's wife
20 Mar 2008, 1211 hrs IST,TNN

NEW DELHI: Sarabjit Singh's wife Sukhpreet Kaur has opposed the idea of India freeing a hardcore terrorist in exchange of her husband's release.

Talking to TOI , she said: "My country must not release any terrorist in return of my husband." She was reacting to the speculation about the trading of Sarabjit with Afzal Guru, the mastermind behind Parliament attack. However, she said Pakistani nationals who had been languishing in Indian jails for mild offences could be released to secure her husband's freedom.

Denying that Sarabjit was a terrorist, she said that false cases had been registered against him.

(read more)

Its a pity our government has neglected these heroes. But what else can be expected from them.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Vassals of the Dragon Kingdom

The Chinese call their nation "Zhong Guo", or literally, "Middle Country". More explicitly, its their way of asserting the primacy of all things Chinese, and reaffirm how their nation is the centre of the world.

Nothing wrong in this worldview at all. After all, every single country thinks the same of itself. The problem is when others forget their own loyalties and patriotism and reiterate the same views. I'm of course talking about the Left parties of India. Its pretty obvious by now that CPI(M), CPI, and co. have absolutely no interest in keeping India alive. They were overtly supportive of the chinese aggression in '62 (only the threat of a treason charge made them come to their senses, after which they have been a bit more discreet). If recent evidence from the CIA Family Jewels and the Mitrokhin Archives are to be believed, they were, and still are ideal recruiting grounds for Russian, and later, Chinese intelligence agencies.

Its these fake patriots, the hypocritical idealists and third international seeking apparitchiks from Little Beijing in Kolkota who are the biggest danger to our stability, more so now that they have the government by the gonads (tiny as they may be).

This report from ToI probably best describes the hypocrisy of the Maroon (more red than the reds) parties:

Left silent as House erupts over Tibet crackdown
18 Mar 2008, 0159 hrs IST

NEW DELHI: Usually at the forefront of action in Parliament, particularly over human rights issues, the Left presented a muted picture on Monday as MPs expressed anguish and concern over the crackdown on protesting monks in Tibet.

As MPs demanded that the government condemn the Chinese action, Left members remained silent spectators. In Lok Sabha, BJP, BJD and SP members criticized the crackdown in Tibet and some like Gorakhpur MP Adityanath took a sharp dig at Left MPs, referring to them as "China’s representatives" in Parliament.

Though a much smaller provocation, particularly from BJP, would normally have had Left benches on their feet, this time around they heard the yogi out without saying a word.

Adityanath said that Chinese brutality in Tibet reflected Beijing's expansionist mindset and urged the government to intervene. He pointed out that China had expressed disdain for Indian sensibilities on issues like Arunachal Pradesh where even a visit by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was enough cause for a Chinese protest. A similarly intolerant attitude was reflected in the action against Tibetan monks.

The Left's silence was all the more striking as the "Red" parties have spent most of last year strenuously denying that their opposition to the India-US nuclear deal had anything to do with their "soft" spot for China which has not been too comfortable about India officially becoming a member of the nuclear club.

The refusal to be even mildly critical of China coincided with the "off-the-record" insinuation from UPA partners that CPM and others have been blocking the nuclear deal with the US because of their sympathies with China.

The anger over Chinese "repression", expressed by others like BJP’s V K Malhotra, SP's Ramjilal Suman and BJD's B Mahtab, did put the government in a spot. Though MPs made it a point to note that Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama had spoken of autonomy and not independence, it was not easy for government to concede the opposition's demands as India walks a tightrope with China on border issues.

The proceedings in Lok Sabha also brought out the dilemma that government faces in formulating its stand on Tibet. While India cannot condone the scale of the Chinese crackdown and the drive to deny Tibetans their culture and religion, any overtly sympathetic stance towards the "independence" demand raised by the protesters will be fraught with implications for Jammu and Kashmir too.

This compulsion was evident when foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee limited himself to reiterating the official response released on Saturday that India was concerned over the unsettled conditions, violence and deaths of innocent people in Tibet. When NDA staged a walkout, expressing its dissatisfaction with the minister's remarks, Mukherjee said the Opposition alliance had adopted no different policy with regard to China when it had held office.

"There has been no change since 1959," he said, pointing out that BJP veteran Atal Bihari Vajpayee had been foreign minister in 1977 and visited China as PM later.

In Rajya Sabha, raising the issue during zero hour, former foreign minister Yashwant Sinha (BJP) said what was happening in Tibet was Chinese misrule and a cultural genocide. He said what was worse was that the Chinese government had termed it "people's war" against people of China.

Sinha also criticized the Indian government for the repression against Tibetans settled here. "Good relation with China does not mean being a mute spectator," he said, demanding a response from the government.

Bravo! Bravo! Now, if only the BJP had the balls to start the process when they were in power. One hopes that they will walk the walk when they come back to power.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Singapore Air Show 2 - Global Hawk

More pics from the Singapore Air Show. You can check out more pictures.

All pictures are (c) Sniperz11 (me). Please credit when posting them. For reuse or licensing, please email me (see the welcome message for the email id). Thanks.

This set are pictures of the Global Hawk . It may not look like much, but its a very imposing aircraft in real life, made more so by the fact that it doesnt have a pilot at the helm.

What an imposing and menacing presence it has - unfeeling, unyielding. Like something straight out of the Terminator. I wonder what the Talibs and Al-Queda guys think about that.

Thats what I'm talking about - eerie!
Nice Contrast against the gathering storm clouds.
The Block 20 Global Hawk, which is a upgrade over the present Block 10 variant is longer, larger, has a longer wingspan, and has a larger payload capacity.The information board for the Global Hawk. Observe the Electro optical image of the Space Shuttle Discovery on Piggy back of the Boeing 747 at Edwards AFB, California. The image on the left is a SAR image of an SA-3 battery south of Baghdad, taken during a sandstorm. The gimballed SAR antenna can scan from side to side to obtain 3 ft resolution images.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Nag missile test video

Ajai Shukla has put up a video of one of the tests of the Nag Anti-tank missile (from 2006). He has kindly allowed me to put it up on youtube. Take a look at how the Nag destroys the target:

(00:58 duration. source: Taken from

Lord of the lies

As if in response to the hammering they've got, CNN-IBN's Vishal Thapar the great, of Chemical Goofups and lifafagiri fame, has come up with a great way to put down the Navy's test of the Brahmos Land Attack missile variant last week. Looks like Vishal-bhai wants to create issues where none exist. This time, its Environmentalism.

Check out his report of March 5th: (CNN-IBN Report link)

Indian Navy flexes its muscle, tests Brahmos missile
Vishal Thapar / CNN-IBN
Published on Wed, Mar 05, 2008 at 23:05

New Delhi: For the first time, India has used the Andaman Islands as a missile target. A Brahmos cruise missile was launched from a warship at sea on Wednesday to destroy a target on an uninhabited island.

But the missile test could also open up an environmental debate.

On Wednesday, India sought to validate its navy's land attack capability by pulverising a target on an uninhabited island in the North Andaman.

The weapon was a Brahmos cruise missile, and the launch pad a Rajput class destroyer 300 km away in the Bay of Bengal.

"The naval capability must acquire enough muscle to be able to significantly influence the battle on land," says defence analyst Commodore C Uday Bhaskar."

Never before has India actually tested a naval missile against a target on land.

The problem was the lack of availability of an uninhabited stretch on the mainland.

Hence, the choice of the Andaman as many small islands there are uninhabited and is a place where a missile hit poses perhaps the least visible collateral impact.

And there are international precedents. But even military analysts concede that there's an ecological cost.

"It would be incorrect to suggest that delivery of ordinance will have not have an environmental impact. It always does," Commodore Bhaskar adds.

The Andaman seems set to get a more military colour. It's not just about a missile firing range or a test bed for military doctrine and equipment.

The island territory could well emerge as India's Diego Garcia.

I cant even start talking about the holes in this story (the story in this hole more likely). For one, look at how he shoots everywhere but at the target. FYI Vishalji, we want information about BRAHMOS. Not Andamans, not the environment, but Brahmos. Considering that this was the first and primary report about the test, the amount of information (or lack thereof) of meaningful information about it is astounding. Then, there are the misdirections.

Look at the opening line
For the first time, India has used the Andaman Islands as a missile target.
So guess what, the important thing here is actually the fact that Andaman Islands has become a missile target, not the fact that the Brahmos was tested (which isnt even the main focus here).

Then, the next paragraph, which consists of the single line (which Thapar deigns to be of critical importance):
But the missile test could also open up an environmental debate.
Could, eh. Not has, not will, but could. So basically, there isnt a debate now, and there doesnt look to be one forming, but it could. Laughable. For one thing, rather than tell us whether the test was even successful, or give more information about it, Thapar goes on to highlight a non-existing controversy, probably in the hope that it would actually be formed.

And finally, after giving only 3 lines of obvious detail, which I've put below:
India sought to validate its navy's land attack capability by testing a Brahmos cruise missile against a target on an uninhabited island in the Andamans. The missile was launched from a Rajput class warship in the Bay of Bengal, 300 km from the target. This is the first time that The Navy has tested a missile against a land target.
As you can see, not a lot of useful information. Thapar goes on to conclude as follows:
The island territory could well emerge as India's Diego Garcia.
So after skirting Brahmos, or forgetting to mention how important this test has been for the Navy's strategic reach, and instead, talking about the effect of this test on the seagulls, he finally concludes with something totally out of context. Absolutely brilliant reporting, isn't it.

Now, coming to the actual environmental impact, its minimal. First of all, the Brahmos has such a high accuracy that it can actually hit a 1m x 1m size spot with no error. Second, most Brahmos tests are conducted without a warhead, which minimizes to a large extent the damage to the surrounding areas. Third, the actual target was placed in an open area on a sand dune, which will absorb a lot of the destructive power. All in all, the environmental impact of such testing is negligible. Its not zero, but the closest thing to it. As always, Thapar has taken a quote from the interviewee, spun it out of proportion and made a faluda mix out of it. Good for him; bad for truth.

If you read this report and felt totally unsatisfied with the information given, I suggest you check out this report from The Hindu instead.

The real LCA story

Former SA to PM Ashok Parthasarathi and Vice Adm. (retd) Raman Puri have explained what really happened to the LCA program in this extremely well written piece for The Hindu.

The case to support the indigenous LCA programme
Ashok Parthasarathi and Raman Puri

The facts with regard to perceived cost and time overruns and performance shortfalls in perspective

There have been several articles in the press critical of projects of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) in general, and specifically the programme relating to the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), now named Tejas, and the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme. Indeed, whenever a significant event that involves indigenous R&D, particularly defence-related, occurs, or a crucial decision is set to be taken, articles originating from within the defence “system,” or from vendors who see their business prospects threatened, appear. The real facts relating to the programme need to be put in context.

Performance shortfalls

The two issues on which the LCA project is criticised are cost and time overruns, and performance shortfalls. As regards the so-called time overruns, when the zero/go date for the project is taken as 1983, the critics fail to mention that what was sanctioned in 1983 was an ad hoc Rs.560 crore, pending full preparation of the Project Definition Document (PDD) — which is a fundamental step even to start the design and development process. The costs were to be finalised based on the PDD. This required the setting up of infrastructure in a hundred academic institutions and R&D laboratories and building up expertise to undertake the fundamental and application-oriented R&D required, and harnessing the design and engineering effort available largely in the public sector units for such a complex, state-of-the-art aircraft. The Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) discussed with Air Headquarters the Air Staff Requirement (ASR). Air Headquarters had requirements added to what was originally to be a replacement for the MiG-21. As a result, the ASR that was finalised was practically that for a Mirage 2000. But in the public perception the LCA remained as a replacement for MiG 21.

It look seven years, till 1990, to formulate the PDD. Based on this the ADA, in a report to the Ministry of Defence in 1990, gave a time-frame of seven years to develop the LCA and projected a financial requirement of Rs.4,000 crore. This included the building of four prototypes also. There had been a 25-year gap since the only fighter aircraft ever indigenously designed, developed and manufactured, namely the HF-24 Marut, had entered squadron service. So the period of seven years to set up a more advanced R&D infrastructure and build up even the core personnel needed to develop the technologies that the LCA’s ASR and PDD called for, was modest.


After consideration, including by special committees, the Indian Air Force and the government gave the real operational go-ahead only in late-1993. Even that “go-ahead” covered the development of only two Technology Demonstrator Aircraft (TDA) without weaponisation. The funding approved was only of Rs.2,000 crore — half the amount requested for full-scale development. The first TDA flew in 2001, eight years from the real operational ‘go’ date, despite much additional R&D work that had to be undertaken due to the U.S. sanctions imposed in 1998.

Comments appeared in the media in 2001 quoting IAF sources to the effect that what the ADA had achieved was just a flying machine that was yet to be weaponised. Considering the nature and scope of the approval accorded in 1993, what else was to be expected? Using the money sanctioned for two TDAs, the ADA built four. Full-scale development, for which another Rs.2,000-plus crore was finally sanctioned, thus started only in late-2001. Some 1,200 hours of flight testing was to be undertaken to secure Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) from the IAF.

At that point, apart from the weaponisation requirements the project had to undergo extensive redesign to accommodate an air-to-air missile chosen by the IAF, which was considerably heavier and longer than what had been specified till 2000. The IAF had again changed its mind. This necessitated the complete redesign of the wing structure, using only composite materials in order to keep the weight within limits. The period of this redesign was also utilised to upgrade the avionics, to a completely open architecture.

Consequently, in “generational terms” the LCA is a fourth generation-plus aircraft with full networking capabilities. This made it more than comparable to anything the IAF had, and possibly would have, even after it acquires the 126 Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MRCA) now on tender, with first deliveries due eight years hence.

On the engine

It is true that the Kaveri engine for the LCA that the Gas Turbine Research Establishment (GTRE) of the DRDO has been developing for 12 years has not yet met its technical performance targets and requires redevelopment. So far the GE 404 engine from the U.S., which powers the F-16 fighter-bomber, has been used to power the LCA. The problems the GTRE has with the Kaveri are not unusual in a complex fighter aircraft engine project being undertaken for the first time. Moreover, the financial sanction of about Rs.320 crore given for engine development was possibly only to cover the Project Definition Phase and some high-risk technology development effort. We do not know of a first-of-type high-technology fighter aircraft engine being developed anywhere in less than a multi-billion dollar programme and a 20-year-plus development cycle. Even Snecma, the sole fighter aircraft engine manufacturer in France, despite decades of experience in developing and manufacturing engines for Mirage III, V and F-1, took about a decade and $2.2 billion to develop the M-88 engine for the Mirage 2000. The development of the Kaveri is unlikely to cross $1 billion.

The LCA with a GE 404 engine has done 800-plus hours of flight-testing. Even with that engine the performance has been not only vastly superior to that of even the recently upgraded MiG 21 BIS (the IAF is operating almost 400 of the series), but it has shown itself to be comparable in many critical parameters to the Mirage 2000. Modifications to the aircraft structure are under way to reduce weight and improve engine performance. When the GTRE’s joint venture with a leading foreign engine manufacturer for further development is completed in the next four years, the Kaveri will be brought up to a performance level, superior to the GE 404. Fitted with it, the LCA will be truly comparable to the Mirage 2000 and in many respects even superior. And all this in an aircraft much lighter than the Mirage 2000.


As for network-centric capability, which intrinsically needs indigenous systems for secrecy, security and inter-operability, it is superior in the LCA compared to any aircraft in the IAF’s inventory.

So it is a fallacy to think that we can continue the importing spree and still have such network-centric capability.

As recently as in 2005, the IAF’s requirement for 126 new aircraft was only for an upgraded Mirage 2000. At Rs.120 crore to Rs.140 crore a plane, compared to at least double that amount for any of the aircraft types now bidding for the 126 MRCA, is not the LCA a highly cost-effective fighter for volume induction into the IAF?

As for development costs, the LCA has remained well within the sanctioned $1.2 billion — which is about the lowest anywhere. Time overrun in the strict sense is only by a year or two, despite the sanctions. A first-of-type aircraft of this degree of complexity has not been developed anywhere in the West or in Russia in less than two to three decades.

The F16 series that was inducted into the U.S. Air Force in 1975 is today at Mark 60. That is how aircraft of this level of complexity are improved after induction. That this imperative applies even more to the LCA has to be recognised.

It is for the Prime Minister and the Defence Minister to ensure that this effort is not belittled or scuttled, and that the LCA programme is given all-out support — as successive Prime Ministers have ensured for our atomic energy and space programmes.

(Ashok Parthasarathi was Science Adviser to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Vice- Admiral (retired) Raman Puri was Chief of Integrated Defence Staff to the Chairman, Committee of Service Chiefs, remaining closely involved with the inter-service weapons acquisition process from October 2003 to February 2006).

This sums up what all the detractors of the 'DDM' have been saying for the past decade or more, and far more eloquently than I could have ever hoped. (for the uninitiated, DDM - "Desi Defence Media", more usually abbreviated perjoratively as "Desi Dork Media")

The LCA compares extremely well with similar programs when you look at the challenges that had to be overcome. Even with regards to time, it is as good as the other 4.5 gen combat aircraft. The article makes that extremely clear.

Even with regards to the time, it blows to smithereens the myth that LCA has overrun its cost of 560 crores (which was only the initial allocated sum, and not the total project cost).

Rajiv Singh of domain-b has written an even more brutal repartee to the Media lies, and mauls apart all that the English language press uses to cover their fabrications, without even leaving them a fig leaf of credibility or truth to cover their shame with. This five page bloodbath at has been aptly titled "India's Light Combat Aircraft: When duds begin to fly news". Makes for extremely interesting reading. Take a look.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Notes on India - Jay Nordlinger

Jay Nordlinger had this very interesting Impromptus series in the National Review about his 3-week long trip to India (Mumbai, Gujarat and Rajasthan). It makes for engaging reading...

Called "Notes on India", this eight part series isn't Fromer's guide to world travel, nor does it offer a stereotypical view of India. Rather, its a picture book in words, encapsulating a thousand different views, smells and encounters into snippets, captions without pictures. If you havent visited India yet, this may tingle your tastes like the aroma of spices from Indian cuisine.

Take a look:
Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5 - Part 6 - Part 7 - Part 8