HEADLINES:
Possible sale of Boeing C-17 aircraft to India approved – Pentagon। President Trump tweets: Look forward to welcoming to India’s PM Modi to White House on Monday. Important strategic issues to discuss with a true friend! । Prime Minister Narendra Modi leaves for three-nation tour to Portugal, US and the Netherlands June 24 । India, Portugal sign MoUs in areas of Space, and Collaborative Research । Agreements signed during PM Modi’s first leg visit of the three-nation tour । US clears sale of 22 General Atomics Sea Guardian drones for Indian Navy । Deal likely to be announced during PM Modi’s visit to Washington June 26 । These unmanned, or Remotely Piloted, Aircraft will be used for ISR Missions in Indian Ocean । The G-to-G deal, under the US FMS program, should be around $2 Billion । India launches Cartosat-2 along with 30 other satellites June 23 । PSLV-C38, the 40th flight of PSLV, carrying 31 satellites took off from first launch pad of SDSC Sriharikota । President Mukherjee, PM Modi and the Defence Minister congratulated ISRO and its scientists for the successful launch । Lockheed Martin, Tata announce F16 India Partnership । Partnership aims to produce F16 Block 70 in India if selected by IAF । GE Capital Aviation Services (GECAS) orders 100 A320neo aircraft । Paris Air Show 2017 opens at Le Bourget, France June 19 । Chairman COSC and CNS Admiral Sunil Lanba on a visit to Isreal। India, Pakistan become full member of SCO। India’s entry into SCO was backed by Russia, and Pakistan’s membership by China। PM Modi calls on Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of SCO। He also thanked the Chinese President for supporting India’s entry into SCO। Prime Minister Narendra Modi exchange greetings with Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif in the Leader’s Lounge before the SCO concert in Astana, capital of Kazakhstan। It was the first time the two had met in nearly a year, during which period bilateral relations have deteriorated। PM Modi greeted his Pakistani counterpart and asked about PM Sharif’s health and about the health of his mother । Prime Minister Narendra Modi departs for 2-day visit to Astana, Kazakhstan to attend SCO Summit । India to be admitted as full member of SCO during the Summit । India signed Paris climate pact for its commitment towards protecting the environment, says EAM Sushma Swaraj । The EAM said this during MEA’s annual conference in New Delhi June 5 । It did not sign the pact of any greed or fear from any country: EAM । Ms Swaraj was rebutting US President Trump’s allegation saying India signed the deal to receive billions of foreign aid । India successfully launches communication satellite GSAT 19 June 5 । The heaviest ever rocket GSLV Mk III carrying GSAT 19 lifted off from SDSC (SHAR) Sriharikota । Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and UAE cut diplomatic ties to Qatar । The 4 Gulf nations took the step following Qatar’s relations with Iran and support of Islamist groups। They also cut off its land, sea and air routes to the outside world । Libya, Yemen also joined the four Arab nations in snapping ties with Qatar । India, Russia sign pact for two nuclear power units at Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu । INS Kalvari, the Indian Navy’s first Scorpene class submarine, will be battle ready from Day One, French collaborator DCNS announced June 1 । Kalvari, meaning shark, will be commissioned in July । Kalvari is the first of the six modern submarines ordered by the Indian Navy । Indian Navy is looking at 200 ships and 400 aircraft, all with hitech systems । Vice Adm Karambir Singh also told a seminar on Future Indian Navy that poor quality systems are not acceptable । Indian shipyards are building 40 ships at present । PM Modi reaches St. Petersburg in the 3rd leg of his 4-nation visit । He is to participate in 18th India Russia Annual Summit and SPIEF 2017 । India, Spain sign 7 agreements including one each on Cyber Security and Civil Aviation । Naval Chief Adm Sunil Lanba calls for cutting edge technologies with a Made in India stamp । Addressing a seminar on Building India’s Future Navy, he said ToT from foreign vendors would be say now with Strategic Partnership model । Adm Lanba said selection process for shipboard fighter is moving at desired pace and they should be inducted in about 5 years । About 80 killed, several injured in a bomb blast near Indian embassy in Kabul । Indian embassy staff were safe: MEA । PM reached Madrid on the second leg of his tour for a day- long visit to Spain May 31 । India, Germany sign 11 MoUs including one on Cyber Security । MoUs signed during Prime Minister Modi’s 2-day Germany visit on May 29-30 । We are made for each-other, says PM Modi on India-Germany ties । The Prime Minister is on 4-nation tour of Germany, Spain, Russia and France from May 29-June 3 । India’s distinguished police officer, Mr KPS Gill passed away at 82 । Hassan Rouhani re-elected Iranian President । Prime Minister Modi congratulated him on his re-election । India, Palestine sign 5 MoUs including one on visa exemption for diplomatic passport holder । Agreements were signed after Prime Minister Modi’s meeting with President Abbas May 16 । Palestine President Mahmoud Abbas is on 4-day State visit to India beginning May 14 । Abbas is visiting India on the invitation of President Pranab Mukherjee । This is the fifth visit and the third State visit of President Abbas to India । Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrives in Colombo May 11 on his two-day visit to Sri Lanka । He was received by his Sri Lankan counterpart Ranil Wickramsinghe on his arrival at the Colombo airport । PM Modi is the chief guest at the International Vesak Day celebrations of Sri Lanka । India marks 19th National Technology Day । National Technology Day is marked to commemorate the anniversary of Pokhran nuclear tests of 1998 । On this day, Prime Minister Modi hails the then PM Vajpayee’s courage to conduct the nuclear tests । India launches GSAT-9 satetllite from Sriharikota । India to make Israeli rifles and small arms । Punj Lloyd and Israel Weapon Industries (IWI) collaborating in the venture । Trump to visit Israel and Saudi Arabia this month । This will be his first foreign visit as US President । India, Turkey signed three agreements including one between the Foreign Services Institute of India and the Diplomacy Academy of Turkey । Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan calls on President Mukherjee, Vice President Ansari, PM Modi and EAM Sushma Swaraj during his State visit to India । The Turkish President, visiting from April 30-May 1, backs India in fight against terrorism । Turkey conveyed its support for India’s bid for membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) । PM Modi expressed his gratitude on Turkey’s support । Indian Army celebrates 79th Armour Day । On 1 May 1938, Scinde Horse cavalry regiment was equipped with Vickers tanks and Chevrolet armoire cars । The Indian Army’s Armourerd Corps has played decisive role against Pakistani intruders in 1947, 1965 and 1971। India, Cyprus sign 4 agreements including one on Air Service Agreement । Agreements signed during Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades’s visit to India April 28 । Cyprus President called on President Mukherjee, Prime Minister Modi and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in New Delhi । The visiting President and PM Modi agreed on urgent need for all countries to decisively act against the states supporting factories of terrorism । PM Modi also thanked the Cyprus President for his support to India’s claim of Permanent Membership in UNSC । North Korea test fires a ballistic missile which landed in the Sea of Japan । India, Sri Lanka ink pacts on economic cooperation and road infrastructure development । The agreements signed during Sri Lankan PM Ranil Wickremesinghe’s visit to India । Prime Minister Modi, Home Minister Rajnath Singh and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj called on him । Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar accompanied Sushma Swaraj when the latter called on the visiting Sri Lankan PM । India-Russia defence engagement will continue to grow, says Defence Minister Arun Jaitley । He was speaking at the 6th Moscow Conference on International Security in Moscow । India, Russia are celebrating 70 years of Diplomatic Relationship । China launches its first indigenous aircraft carrier । The new carrier will accommodate 36 aircraft and will be commissioned in 2020 after sea trials । It’s a 50000 ton platform with a ski jump deck modeled on Soviet carriers but has many design innovations । India, South Korea Sign Inter-Governmental MoU for Defence Industry Co-Operation in Shipbuilding । The MoU signed by Secretary (Defence Production), India, Ashok Kumar Gupta and Minister of Defence Acquisition and Programme Administration (DAPA), South Korea, Chang Myoung-Jin । The Inter-Governmental MoU was conceived under the overall umbrella of the ‘Special Strategic Partnership’ between both countries । The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) accorded its approval for signing the MoU । The CCS also gave a go ahead for nominating Hindustan Shipyard Ltd, Visakhapatnam for collaboration । Indian Navy successfully test-fires land attack version of Brahmos supersonic cruise missile । Nepal President Bidya Devi Bhandari calls on President, Vice President, Prime Minister, Home Minister and Defence Minister in New Delhi Apr 18 । Nepalese President is on a State visit to India April 17-21 । This is her first ever visit to India since taking over in 2015 । She was given a ceremonial Guard of Honour on her arrival at Rashtrapati Bhawan । Canada’s Minister of National Defence, Harjit Singh Sajjan, called on Defence Minister Arun Jaitley Tuesday । He was presented a Tri-Services Guard of Honour on his arrival at South Block । 12 killed in Saudi military helicopter in Yemen । Unconfined reports say the Blackhawk was accidentally shot down by a Saudi Patriot missile। US NSA Gen HR McMaster meets Prime Minister Modi in New Delhi । Gen McMaster also exchanged views on Indo-US relations with Indian counterpart Ajit Doval and Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar । Happy Easter । US drops its biggest 21,000 pound bomb on ISIS in Afghanistan April 13 । Designated GBU 43, the Mother of All Bombs is designed to hit deep caves and tunnels in hardy mountains । GBU 43 is the biggest non-nuclear bomb, carried by the US Air Force (USAF) and the British Royal Air Force (RAF) । White House Press Secretyary Sean Spricer confirmed the night bombing but there was no immediate word from Taliban । Spicer said the ISIS terroists were targeted as they used the caves and tunnels to hit the US forces । GBU 43 is a concussion bomb carrying an explosive charge of 8,500 kg, equal to 11 tons of TNT । India, Australia sign 6 MoUs including on Combating Terrorism and Civil Aviation Security । Agreements signed during Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull’s Visit to India April 10 । He calls on President Pranab Mukherjee, Vice President Hamid Ansari and Prime Minister Narendra Modi । This is the first ever visit of Turnbull after taking over as Australian PM in 2015 । The Australian PM along with his Indian counterpart took a Delhi metro ride to visit city-based Akshardham Temple । India, Bangladesh signed 22 agreements April 8 including key pacts on defence cooperation and civil nuclear cooperation । India announced an additional $4.5-billion concessional line of credit for infrastructure projects in Bangladesh, and another $500 million for Dhaka to procure defence equipment from New Delhi । A joint India-Bangladesh event saw both PMs honour the 1,661 Indian soldiers who sacrificed their lives during the 1971 war for Bangladesh’s independence । Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina arrives in New Delhi for 4-day State visit to India । Prime Minister Modi himself goes to the airport to greet the Bangladesh PM on her arrival । External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj calls on Sheikh Hasina at Rashtrapati Bhawan । She is the special guest of President Pranab Mukherjee during her State visit to India । The Bangladesh PM has a full day of bilateral discussions with her Indian counterpart on Saturday (April 8) । 20 agreements are expected to be signed between India and Bangladesh । India, Malaysia sign 7 agreements । The agreements signed during Malaysian PM Najib Razak’s visit to India from March 30 to April 4 । Malaysian PM calls on President Pranab Mukherjee, Vice President Hamid Ansari and Prime Minister Narendra Modi । India and Malaysia joint statement, issued after Modi, Razak meeting, calls for a deeper ties between the two nations ।
June 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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