Latest updates[?]: India has received the final batch of three Mi-17V-5 military transport helicopters from Russia, bringing the total to 151. The models are the most technically advanced of Rostec Corporation's Mi-8/17 type including a KNEI-8 avionics suite. The new suite replaces the previously used multiple systems indicators with four large multi-functional that are easy to read and reduce the intensity of pilot’s workload. The completion of the sale comes as both India and Russia continue negotiations for forty-eight more of the helicopters, which are to be used in a variety of operations such as in deserts and mountains, matching the wide variety of environments found in India.
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Guest article by Sebastian Sobolev and Aleksandar D. Jovovic
Some years back, global defense companies flocked to the Indian defense market in search of opportunities that could offset declining home budgets. India’s attractiveness as a market was understandable: the country was embarked on an ambitious military modernization program to mitigate perceived threats from neighboring Pakistan and to compete with China in the maritime, air and land domains.
These initiatives ballooned military procurement accounts, which grew at an annual rate of 14% between 2005 and 2010. Yet contractors soon found themselves frustrated by opaque bureaucratic procurement processes, onerous domestic offset and work share requirements, and seemingly endless delays. With the emergence of a new government, what’s ahead for India?
Hindustan Aeronautics’ Dhruv project aimed to create a light helicopter that was well suited to light helicopter roles in India’s range of weather and altitude conditions. The firm has supplied 76 Dhruvs to India’s armed forces, an armed version has been created, and another 159 are in production for India’s Army and Air Force as a complement to India’s derailed light helicopter competition. The Navy has declined to buy more Dhruvs for its own needs, however, saying that several aspects of the design were not up to naval requirements yet.
HAL signed an agreement with Israel Aircraft Industries in 2004 for global marketing of the helicopter, which contains IAI avionics and Snecma Turbomeca engines. Sales of 1-2 helicopters have been made to Israel, Nepal, and Bolivia for various roles, some Dhruv helicopters have reportedly been transferred to Myanmar by the Indian government, and civilian versions are flying in India and Peru. The helicopter has also been marketed in other places, such as Chile, where it lost to the Bell 412.
Now the Dhruv has reportedly won a $50.7 million Ecuadoran Air Force contract for 7 Advanced Light Helicopters in the face of competition from Israel’s Elbit Systems, EADS Eurocopter, and Russia’s Kazan. India’s Business Standard reports that HAL’s offer was about 32% lower than the second lowest bid, which as reportedly from Elbit Systems. The contract is expected within a few weeks, and the first helicopter will be delivered by HAL in 6 months.
November 4/15: A team from India’s Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is preparing to travel to Ecuador in an attempt to resurrect a contract for Dhruv helicopter unilaterally terminated by the country in October. The Indian Ministry of External Affairs is reported to have intervened to facilitate the meeting between HAL representatives and Ecuadoran officials. Four of seven Dhruv helicopters delivered to Ecuador through a contract signed in 2008 have crashed, with the remaining three now grounded [Spanish].
October 16/15: After delivering seven Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopters to Ecuador, state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd has now seen its contract with the country terminated after Quito unilaterally withdrew on Wednesday. Four of the seven helicopters – delivered through a contract signed in July 2008 – have crashed, with the remaining three now grounded [Spanish]. HAL saw Boeing back out of a deal with the company in July, citing shoddy manufacturing quality. The company has also seen crash statistics for its licensed-manufactured aircraft (including the Su-30MKI and Hawk AJT) grow alarmingly in recent months.
Latest updates[?]: The Indian government has officially withdrawn the comatose MMRCA fighter competition, following an agreement in April to purchase 36 ready-to-fly Rafale fighters from France in a government-to-government deal which sidestepped negotiations with manufacturer Dassault. The competition intended to procure 126 Rafale fighters, following selection of the French bid in January 2012, with negotiations between Dassault and the Indian government stagnating and ultimately leading nowhere. To fulfill operation necessities, the Indian executive stepped in and directly negotiated a deal with the French President for the 36 jets.
India’s planned multi-billion dollar, 126+ plane jet fighter buy certainly captured the attention of global fighter manufacturers. Boeing’s Mark Kronenberg, who runs the company’s Asia/Pacific business, put it succinctly: “[India’s M-MRCA program is] the biggest fighter aircraft deal since the early 1990s.”
What began as a lightweight fighter competition to replace India’s shrinking MiG-21 interceptor fleet soon bifurcated into 2 categories now, and 2 expense tiers. What changed? In a word, lots. The participants changed, India’s view of its own needs changed, and costs changed dramatically. With the long-delayed release of the official RFP, the competition began at last – and like all Indian decisions, it takes a very long time.
DID offers an in-depth look at the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) competition’s changes, the RFP, and the competitors. After a decade-long slog, Dassault’s Rafale appears to be closing in on its 1st export order.
Latest updates[?]: India's Coast Guard is reportedly set to join the Indian light transport aircraft replacement program, bringing the total value of the project up by 45% to around $2.76 billion for a revised total of 62 aircraft. A single bidder - a joint bid with partners Tata Group and Airbus - remains, following Alenia's departure in October. This burgeoning number of aircraft may grow, with the Indian Navy also potentially seeking to jump on the bandwagon.
IAF’s 748M Avro
India’s slow-motion force modernization has made significant progress within its aerial transport fleet. Their AN-32s are being modernized, stretched C-130J Hercules have been bought for their special forces, and the IAF’s high-end IL-76s will soon be joined by 10 Boeing C-17 heavy transports. Now, at the very bottom of India’s fixed-wing transport force, it’s time to replace the 6 tonne capacity of the IAF’s 30 or so surviving 748M Avros. The planes are currently used for troop transport, communications, and training.
The 2 leading contenders are a familiar pair, and would be more like western counterparts to the higher-performance AN-32s. A number of other makes and models have been floated, which could make for an interesting competition if enough of them respond.
In July 2006, “India Orders 3 More Krivak III/Talwar Class Frigates” noted that the Talwar/Krivak Class were better described as modern multi-role designs, given the presence of contemporary classes with far better stealth features. The follow-on Project 17/ Shivalik class program offered improvements in that area, with 3 ships ordered and the possibility of more too follow.
In December 2006, India Defence reported that India was looking to acquire up to 7 more frigates with stealth improvements, plus some level of joint development and technology transfer. The Request for Information (RFI) was reportedly issued to about 12 international firms, mostly in Europe and Russia. These “Project 17A” ships could be worth up to 45,000 crore (INR 450 billion, about $9.23 billion as of June 2009), according to a recently-approved budget. Further reports appear to be confirming 100% construction in India, however, even as they clarify an extended timeline for design and delivery…
India’s Navy will be hard-pressed to keep an adequate submarine force afloat over the medium term. Its 6 “Project 75” Scorpene Class submarines won’t begin deploying before 2019, 2 of its 10 aging Kilo Class boats have been wrecked, and its 4 U209 submarines are quickly approaching the end of their useful lives.
Nevertheless, if submarine strength is to be maintained while waiting for the Scorpenes, it’s the U209s that are going to have to fill the numbers gap…
In November 2005, reports surfaced that that Germany would sell Israel 2 AIP-equipped Dolphin submarines, to join its existing fleet of 3 conventional diesel-electric Dolphin Class boats. In 2006, the deal for 2 Dolphin AIP boats was finalized at a total of $1.27 billion, with the German government picking up 1/3 of the cost. The new boats are built at the Howaldtswerke-Deutche Werft AG (HDW) shipyard, in the Baltic Sea coastal city of Kiel, with deliveries originally scheduled to begin in 2010. Those have been delayed, and have not begun as of yet.
Reports that an additional sale may be in the offing have now been confirmed, but just absorbing these 3 new boats will be no small challenge for Israel’s “3rd service”…
In November 2009, reports surfaced that India was negotiating to buy 10 C-17A Globemaster III heavy transports for its air force. A Defense News article added that:
“The C-17’s advantages include its easier handling (compared with the IL-76) and ability to operate from short and rough airstrips, added the sources… The Indian military needs to do three things: augment its ability to quickly lift larger numbers of troops as it views possible threats on its border with China; strengthen its presence on the Pakistani border; and fight terrorism and low-intensity warfare, said a senior Defence Ministry official. India needs to triple its lift capacity, said the official.”
In May 2006, India Defence quoted Air Chief S.P. Tyagi saying that “the IAF is planning to buy C-130J planes” for its special forces and Border Security Forces. Reports indicate that the IAF was particularly attracted to the C-130J’s ability to land and take off even in improvised or short airfields, and without lights. Those characteristics have served the Hercules well in other anti-terrorism scenarios like Operation Yonatan in Entebbe, and are now more routine maneuvers thanks to the C-130J Hercules’ modern avionics and increased engine power. That extra power also means that the ‘J’ model performs well in “hot and high” conditions, which can reduce the useful load of older Hercules or similar transport aircraft by 50-60%.
The new C-130J-30 planes will be bracketed by India’s larger Ilyushin IL-76 jet transports on the high end, and on the lower end by twin-engine Antonov AN-32 turboprops. India’s interest in the Hercules is quite specific to the Special Forces at the moment; but the plane’s capacity for additional specialty operations like aerial refueling enhances those operations, and gives the IAF a number of additional employment options. The AN-32s are currently undergoing mid-life refurbishment, and a joint project with Russia’s Irkut looks set to develop a Hercules competitor in time for the AN-32’s replacement cycle. In the interim, however, India is fielding 11 C-130J-30s for its Special Forces…
Going after a vehicle such as a surface to air missile launcher, or a cluster of vehicles like a formation of enemy tanks, can be a tricky business for a fast jet pilot. Vehicles hide, they shut off their radars, or there are just too many of them to effectively target and destroy en masse. Weapons like ATK’s AGM-88E AARGM and MBDA’s Brimstone missile can help, but there’s another solution. Textron’s Sensor-Fuzed Weapon (SFW) bomb scatters 40 projectiles to cover 30 acres. The “skeet” projectiles, which look like tuna cans, will search for targets as they descend, then fire the explosive-formed equivalent of a cannon shell through the target’s weak top armor. If no targets are found, 3 safety modes ensure that the area is safe for troops to move through within several minutes – which means it’s also safe for civilians years later.
On Sept 30/08, the US DSCA conveyed India’s formal request for a variant of the SFW with GPS guidance… and now we know which IAF aircraft will carry them.