HEADLINES:
Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is free from jail after six year । Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who holds additional charge of Defence, elected President of the Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis (IDSA) । He succeeds Mr Manohar Parikkar who resigned to take over as Chief Minister of Goa recently। Hardeep Singh Puri appointed Chairman of the Research and Information System for Developing Countries । Mr Puri is former Indian Envoy to the UN in New York and Geneva । FBI investigating possible Russian interference in 2016 US presidential election, Director Comey confirms । He told House Intelligence Committee there is no evidence of President Obama ordering wiretap of Trump during the election campaign । President Trump has made several allegations against his predecessor, which the powerful heads of FBI and NSA have denied । Finance Minister Arun Jaitley assumes additional charge as Defence Minster । Jaitley replaces Manohar Parrikar who has moved to Goa to head the State’s Government as Chief Minster । BRAHMOS Extended Range (ER) missile successfully test-fired । Prime Minister greets CISF on its 48th Raising Day । INS Tillanchang Commissioned into Indian Navy । INS Tillanchang was commissioned by FOC-in-C Western Naval Command Vice Admiral Girish Luthra at Karwar । India Strategic salutes the humanity on this International Women’s Day । Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju dedicates first integrated heliport to the nation । Ms. DR Doley Barman appointed Director of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel National Police Academy, Hyderabad । 1992 batch IFS officer Gopal Baglay appointed MEA Spokesperson । He replaces Vikas Swarup, who has been appointed Indian High Commissioner to Canada । Raytheon, Tata Advanced Systems to Co-produce Stinger Missile Components । Indian Navy Concludes First Contract under Buy and Make (Indian) Category । Contract signed between Nova Integrated Systems Ltd (NISL), a TASL subsidiary, and Indian Navy for procurement of Surface Surveillance Radars (SSRs) । NISL to indigenously manufacture these state-of-the-art radars in collaboration with Terma, Denmark । ISRO creates history; launches 104 satellites in one go । President, Vice President and Prime Minister congratulated ISRO and its scientists for the historic mission । Indian Navy to decommission aircraft carrier INS Viraat on March 6 । India to spend Rs 2,74,114 crore on Defence । Rs 85,737.31 crore will be spent on equipment acquisition । Russia formally enters IAF’s second round of MMRCA competition । Moscow offers a new MiG-35 variant under Make in India । Alexander M Kadakin, who served as the Russian Ambassador to India for over a dozen years, passed away after a brief illness in New Delhi on Thursday, January 26, 2017. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi condoled Kadakin’s death calling him a “great friend of India.” । India Strategic wishes everyone Happy Republic Day । President Pranab Mukherjee takes salute at the beautiful Republic Day Parade in New Delhi । UAE Crown Prince Shaikh Mohammed bin Zayed is the Chief Guest at India’s R-Day celebrations । A highlight of the Parade is also the participation of a UAE armed forces contingent । Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid a wreath at Amar Jawan Jyoti to pay tributes to martyrs । The impressive Parade began with a 21-gun salute to the President, the Supreme Commander of the Indian armed forces । India’s anti-terror force, National Security Guard (NSG) made its debut in the Parade । Dressed in their patent black, NSG commandos jogged passed the saluting base with their faces covered । US President Donald Trump called Prime Minister Narendra Modi late on January 24 । The telephone call is indicative of the vital nature of the India-US strategic partnership between the two countries । Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan arrives in New Delhi । Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who is also the Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, was received by PM Modi । Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed is the Chief Guest of Republic Day 2017 । Government extends Foreign Secretary Dr S Jaishankar’s tenure by one year । The extension to be effective between Jan 29, 2017 and Jan 28, 2018 । Pravind Kumar Jugnauth takes over as Mauritius Prime Minister । Prime Minister Modi congratulated the newly-appointed Mauritian PM । Donald Trump takes over as US President । Promises transfer of power to people । Turkish Boeing 747 cargo plane crashes in Kyrgyzstan with 37 onboard; all killed । Astronaut Gene Cernan, 82, the last man to walk on moon, passes away । India marks Army Day । President, Prime Minister and Defence Minister greet the Army । Army Chief Gen Bipin Rawat takes salute at the impressive Army Day Parade । Gen Rawat says India wants peace but if attempts are made to disrupt it, then “we will display our power” । He says emphasis is on newer technology weapons and systems for the Army । Space connectivity is also high on Army’s agenda । This is the 69th Army Day, marking the time when an Indian Chief, Gen KM Cariappa took over the command after Independence । Indian Navy launches its second Kalvari class submarine INS Khanderi in Mumbai । India Strategic wishes all its readers and viewers a very Happy New Year । India successfully test fires Agni 5 long range missile | IAF gets Government approval for one more C 17 strategic Lift aircraft | IAF has got 10 C 17s, but had initially planned for more than 20 | Lack of timely approval made IAF slash figure to three but by then Boeing closed factory | IAF will get the last one in production | Syrian government of President Assad takes full control of Aleppo | Lt Gen Bipin Rawat appointed the next Army Chief and Air Marshal BS Dhanoa the Air Chief | The appointments are effective December 31 afternoon | Both are Vice Chiefs of Staff at present in their respective Services | 48 killed in a PIA ATR-42 aircraft crash in Pakistan | The twin-engine propellor aircraft was on way from Chitral to Islamabad | India marks Navy Day | Prime Minister Narendra Modi greets all Navy personnel, and salutes their bravery on Indian Navy annual day | PM Modi, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani jointly inaugurate Heart of Asia Ministerial Conference at Amritsar (India) Dec 4 | Need of the hour is to identify terrorism and bring stability in the region, says PM Modi | India’s commitment to Afghan is absolute, Mr Modi said addressing 6th HoA Ministerial Conf | Afgan Prez accused Pakistan of sheltering terror, and thanked India of financial aid | HoA Conf began at Amritsar Dec 3 | INS Vikrant likely to be operational in 2018 | Vikrant to operate both Russian MiG-29K and Western origin Aircraft | Indian Navy to mark 2017 as the year of submarine: Adm Lanba class=”gap”>| Gujarat-cadre officer Rakesh Asthana to take over as CBI Director after Anil Sinha, who retires Dec 2 | Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa is Pakistan’s new army chief | Gen Bajwa took over from Gen Raheel Sharif Nov 29 | The outgoing chief stressed all should work together “against external and internathreats” | Plane carrying Brazilian football team crashes in Colombia | Cuba’s revolutionary leader Fidel Castro dies. He was 90. | Castro had challenged the US might and invited Soviet presence next door to the US | US-Cuban relations have normalized now after half a century | Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar Commissions INS Chennai into Indian Navy Nov 21 | INS Chennai is a Project 15A Guided Missile Destroyer | This is the 3rd and last ‘Kolkata’ class destroyer indigenously designed by DND and constructed by MDL, Mumbai | India successfully tests nuclear capable Prithvi-II missile in Odisha | India becomes associate member of European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), Geneva | Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar inducts four Indigenous Naval Systems | The 4 Indigenous Naval Systems – ABHAY, HUMSA UG, NACS and AIDSS – were indigenously developed by DRDO | These Indigenous Naval Systems will boost underwater surveillance capability of the Indian Navy | India, Japan sign Civil Nuclear Deal | The Deal signed during PM Narendra Modi’s visit to Japan Nov 10-11 | With this Deal, Japan is able to export N-technology to India for peaceful uses | PM Modi calls the Deal “a historic step to build a clean energy partnership between India, Japan” |
March 27, 2017
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MRCA Dogfight for Indian Skies Begins Again

IAF needs 400 aircraft, and Navy 60
By Gulshan Rai Luthra December 2016
 

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New Delhi/Paris. The Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MRCA) competition for the Indian skies is beginning again, this time for a much larger number than the 2007 figure of 189 MMRCAs asked by the Indian Air Force (IAF).

This time, there is also an additional requirement of some 60 twin-engine shipboard fighters by the Indian Navy, which wants them delivered in about five years as of now.

IAF has been losing two squadrons of Soviet-vintage MiG series aircraft every year, and although the numbers are being made up to an extent by the HAL-produced Su-30 MKIs, the depletion process is continuing and an urgent decision is needed to acquire around 400 aircraft, mostly through indigenous manufacture but as fast as possible.

Notably, in 2007, the minimum requirement was put at 126 plus 63 options (189) but their acquisition process under the Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) competition was scrapped in 2015 over price differences with the French Dassault whose Rafale was selected in 2012.

The Government then opted for a small number of 36 aircraft, or two squadrons, last year under a direct Government-to-Government deal with France for nearly Euro 8 billion inclusive of about Euro 2.5 billion for India-specific modifications and weapons as part of the package. The first batch of Rafale twin-engine fighters should arrive in India in 2019. It is nearly 10 years since the MMRCA tender was floated, and understandably, many more of the older 1970s generation of Soviet origin aircraft have meanwhile faded away. Keeping in mind mind that the acquisition process takes some five to seven years, the depletion in numbers has to factor IAF’s likely squadron strength till 2022 at least, by when new combat jets should hopefully arrive in some level of comforting strength.

400 NEW AIRCRAFT FOR IAF IS NEED OF THE HOUR

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Air Marshal VK Jimmy Bhatia (Retd), former Commander-in-Chief of the Western Air Command (WAC) and Air Marshal Ashok Goel (Retd), former Director General Inspection, say the Government should work towards numbers and timelines. Twenty IAF squadrons will need about 400 aircraft, and that is literally the need of the hour.

An IAF fighter squadron, or Unit Establishment, generally has 18 aircraft for combat missions, and at least three more are require for Maintenance Reserve and Strike off Wastage (MRSOW). It has to be kept in mind that except for the Su-30 MKIs, IAF has not acquired any combat aircraft after the Mirage 2000 and MiG-29 in the 1980s. IAF should have though nearly 300 Su-30 MKI air dominance fighters.

An IAF proposal to upgrade some 100 1970s-generation Jaguars with more powerful Honeywell engines and better avionics to extend their lives by 10 to 15 years is also pending for rather long in the Ministry of Defence.

IAF’s operational strength of combat jets is around 700 aircraft, including the older MiG-27, MiG-29 and Jaguar aircraft. About 50 Mirage 2000 fighters are also 25 to 30 year old but now under upgrade at HAL in Bangalore with technical assistance from the French Dassault, Safran and Thales. That helps to an extent.

Both the IAF and Navy are looking for 4.5generation capabilities, that is what was stipulated for MRCA, and plus in newer technologies, to keep up with the developments after 2007. The overall requirement is huge, and that is why, the Government is rightly looking for Make in India collaborations and Transfer of Technologies (ToT).

WHO IS IN THE FRAY?

The Ministry of Defence has already sought single engine capabilities from the US Lockheed Martin and Swedish Saab, and both have offered to manufacture their respective aircraft, the updated F-16 Block 70 and Gripen NG, in India in collaboration with private or public sectors.

Boeing has already offered to build the advanced version of its twin-engine F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet in India for the IAF.

Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha had told India Strategic that all these three companies had made unsolicited offers under make in India programme. The French Dassault and even European consortium’s Eurofighter could make similar offers and the Government could possibly consider them. All the five manufacturers took part in the aborted MMRCA competition, although Dassault’s Rafale was selected in the final run against Eurofighter.

Air Chief Marshal Raha also said that IAF was retaining the technology options as in the MRCA programme, and any new acquisitions had to be MRCA-plus in terms of engine power, EW systems and multi-role capabilities

Authoritative French sources told this writer recently in Paris that Dassault, with French Government support, was going to send a proposal to India for Rafale’s production under Make in India. No details were given but a source said “we are aware” of both the IAF and Navy requirements, pointing out that Rafale was designed from the beginning as a naval fighter and accordingly should be acceptable to both the forces. It may be noted that it is difficult to transition from an air force version to a heavier, and strengthened, naval version for a fighter, but easier in technology in the reverse.

The same is also true for the Boeing F/A-18 Advanced Super Hornet, which is also a contender for both the IAF and Navy requirements.

In a recent interaction, Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Sunil Lanba, told India Strategic that the Navy was looking for shipboard fighters within a span of five to six years. He did not give the numbers but mentioned that at present only the Boeing F/A-18 and Rafale were available for this role. He expected a decision by the Government in this regard very soon.

The Indian Navy is expecting its 40,000-tonne indigenous aircraft carrier IAC-1 in the next couple of years. It would be capable of operating both the MiG-29Ks, of which the Navy has 45 aircraft, as well as western flying machines from its 14-degree ski jump.

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SINGLE OR TWIN ENGINES THEN?

The Navy apparently needs twin engine aircraft, and if they are to be made in India, then some commonality with IAF is required. On the other hand, single engine jets should be cheaper by 25 per cent and if the aircraft are needed in large numbers, then the overall price would matter a lot.

The Ministry of Defence has a tough choice, but one hopes for early decisions. Hopefully within December as the country celebrates the 4th of this month as the Indian Navy Day.

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