Monday, December 22, 2014

Russia Ready for 50% Work Split in FGFA Development, But IAF Beware What You Wish For!

PMF/FGFA scale model at Aero India 2013

Russian Embassy officials have told The Hindu that an agreement on the FGFA is likely as early as January 2015.

Russia is reportedly open to equal work share on the project but has stated that “Russia has problems with the Indian demand. If India has the ability to provide certain design know-how and technologies we are open for equal work. But this may not be so as seen with the case of Light Combat Program (LCA) and the aircraft under development is a Fifth Generation program.”

The Russians contention is true and we need to swallow our pride and mull over it!

The Indian press has been harsh on the Russian for their reluctance to concede a 50% work-share split in the development of the PMF/FGFA variant of the T-50.

As I pointed out in an earlier blog post, under the FGFA project, India and Russia plan to jointly develop a version of the Russian T-50 stealth fighter customized for IAF requirements. The Indian version, referred to as Perspective Multi-role Fighter (PMF), would use the same airframe, engines and main systems as the T-50, but differ in its avionics and weapon suite.

Development of the PMF version of the T-50 is expected to cost $11 billion with India and Russia contributing $5.5 billion each.

In plain English, the PMF would be customized version of the T-50, just as the Su-30MKI is a customized version of the basic Su-30 design.

The IAF intends to use PMF as its front line stealth fighter. The Russians want the PMF to be the export variant of the T-50. Both countries have high stakes in the project, not to mention $5.5 billion dollar each investments.

Neither side would want the stealth characteristics of the T-50 to be compromised by PMF modification, as would happen by adding a second pilot seat or enlarging weapon bays to accommodate any India specific weapons. Both sides would want the PMF developed in quick time. Both sides would want to ensure that software tweaks required for the PMF variant are implemented quickly without breaking existing T-50 code. Most importantly perhaps, both sides would want project costs to remain locked at the projected $11 billion.

Its a no brainer that Russian experts would give the IAF what it wants faster and more cost effectively than HAL. Why then the pedantry of a 50-50 work split?

As to the need for TOT, why not link the PMF contract to Russian assistance in developing the AMCA. ADA is kidding no one by projecting that it can develop the AMCA on its own in a time frame that guarantees the aircraft's relevance, something that it couldn't do with the LCA!

IDP Sentinel members can read more about the FGFA project at the link below.

Perspective Multi-role Fighter (PMF) / FGFA (IDP Sentinel)

Reconnaissance and Surveillance Helicopters (RSH) RFI Response Date Extension Makes Ka-226 Front Runner

Photo Courtesy Russian Helicopters

India and Russia agreed in principle to assemble around 400 Kamov-226T helicopters a year in India,during Russian President Vladamir Pution's visit to India on December 11, 2014.

At a joint media interaction with President Putin, PM Modi said, "I am pleased that Russia has offered to fully manufacture in India one of its most advanced helicopters. It includes the possibility of exports from India. It can be used for both military and civilian use. We will follow up on this quickly." [via PTI]

The Kamov-226 was a contender in the July 2008 RFP for 197 military Light Utility Helicopters (LUH) to replace the existing fleet of Chetak and Cheetah helicopters in the three service. The RFP has since been scrapped.

Procurement has been re-initiated through a MoD RFI dated September 29, 2014 aimed at identifying probable INDIAN VENDORS (including an Indian company forming joint venture/ establishing production arrangement with OEM) who can provide Reconnaissance and Surveillance (RSH) Helicopters for use by the Indian Army (IA) and Indian Air Force (IAF), followed by licensed production / indigenous manufacture in the country.

The Kamov-226 is likely to become the leading contender for the RSH helicopter if India and Russia can quickly settle on the terms of joint manufacture.

It may be noted that the last date of acceptance of response against the RFI was initially November 11, 2014, but was later extended through a corrigendum to December 23, 2014. A second corrigendum extended the last date to February 17, 2015!

The Hindu on December 22, 2014 reported citing an unnamed source that no partner has been identified from the Indian side for partnering with Russia on the Kamov-226 project.

“Hindustan Aeronautics Limited is a major player but private sector is also part of the negotiations” sources told The Hindu.

MQ-4C Triton Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) UAS Deal Likely During Obama Visit

Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) UAS first flight on May 22, 2013. Photo Credit: Northrop Grumman

The Hindu reported on December 22, 2014 that an agreement on the Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) UAS deal is likely during U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to India as the chief guest for Republic Day 2015.

In October 2010, India floated a Request for Information for a high-altitude, long-endurance UAS for use by the Indian Navy.

Northrop Grumman responded to the RFI pitching its MQ-4C Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) unmanned aircraft system.

During DefExpo 2012 (March 29 to April 1), a Northrop Grumman official told Flightglobal that India would need six to eight BAMS to ensure continuous coverage of its coastline.

This number would allow India to keep a BAMS airborne all day, every day for 365 days a year.

The official pointed out that BAMS can network with Boeing P-8I Neptune LRMR aircraft acquired by the Indian Navy.

Northrop displayed a model of the MQ-4C at Aero India 2011

A potential stumbling block in the deal has been the international Missile Technology Control Regime, although India is not a signatory.

IDP Sentinel members can read more about the project at the link below.

Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) Triton (IDP Sentinel)

Sunday, December 21, 2014

LCA Navy Maiden Ski Jump Details & Analysis

LCA Navy NP1 moments before lift off during maiden ski-jump take-off at SBTF at INS Hansa in Goa on December 20, 2014.

LCA Navy's maiden ski jump take-off at SBTF at INS Hansa on December 20, 2014 was a milestone event, not because it happened (Ski jump take-off are as old as the Harriers!), but because it happened in hands-off automated take-off mode!

Yes, LCA Navy feature hands-off take-off using ski-jump to ensure smooth transition to stable flight, and hands-off landing with steady AOA, autothrottle approach, flareless touchdown, and arrester hook engagement. During take-off and landing the pilot is required to only give steering inputs to stay on the center line.

According to a DRDO press release on the test flight, Naval Prototype 1 (NP-1) - piloted by Commodore Jaideep Maolankar, the Chief Test Pilot of National Flight Test Center - had a perfect flight with results matching the predicted ones to the letter. The flight validated the hands-off take-off algorithm of the Flight Control Software (FCS).

NP-1 attempted the ski-jump after a 300-m roll in clean configuration presumably with full internal fuel.

A safe take-off required 150 knot at a climb rate of 6.4 degrees. But, the aircraft achieved higher acceleration with a climb rate of around 11 degrees.

In the tests ahead, NP1 will progressively reduce the length of its take-off roll and increase payload. INS Vikramaditya, which could one day base LCA Navy, has a total deck length of 273-m. The maximum take off length available is between 160-180 metres.

The ultimate goal for the LCA Navy program is to demonstrate a full load take-off with 90-m roll.

Five more ski-jump take-offs are planned in the current series of tests.

"Based on the test points achieved, we will schedule the next leg of trials," DRDO Director-General (Aero) Dr K Tamilmani told

According to Tamilmani, NP-1 will start arrester hook landing trials within 6-8 months.

It's pertinent to remember that LCA Navy is in Phase-1 of its development, which involves using a LCA Mk-1 modified to take off using a ski jump and perform arrested landing. Phase 1 is a technology development and demonstration phase.

In Phase 2, LCA Navy will be certified for carrier operations using aircraft built in the Tejas Mk2 configuration, powered by GE-414-INS6 engine with a max thrust of 22,000 lbs.

Only Phase 2 aircraft will participate in carrier operation certification, with Phase 1 aircraft being reserved exclusively for SBTF operations.

IDP Sentinel Members can read more about the LCA Navy project at the link below.

LCA Navy (IDP Sentinel)

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Is IAF Intransigence Scuttling the FGFA and MTA Projects?

Scale model of PMF/FGFA at Aero India 2013

According to press reports, the IAF is playing hardball with Russia over the FGFA and MTA projects.

India's HAL and Russia's United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) signed a preliminary contract for the development of a FGFA for the IAF on December 21, 2010 during the visit by Russian of President Dmitry Medvedev to India. Four years later, the two countries are still struggling to finalize the contract.

According to the TOI, the final R&D and design contract for the FGFA has been held up because the IAF wants iron-clad assurances on the stealth capabilities, engine performance, sensors and weapons fit of the aircraft.

To the uninitiated, IAF demands may sound reasonable, but I have serious reservations. Before I elaborate on the reservations I would like state that the opinions I express below are are based entirely on what has been reported in the press. I have now inside knowledge.


Under the FGFA project, India and Russia plan to jointly develop a version of the Russian T-50 stealth fighter customized for IAF requirements. The Indian version, referred to as Perspective Multi-role Fighter (PMF), would use the same airframe, engines and main systems as the T-50, but differ in its avionics and weapon suite. Russia plans to use the jointly-developed PMF fighter as an export version of T-50. The fighter is expected to enter IAF service by 2022.

Development of the PMF version of the T-50 is expected to cost $11 billion with India and Russia contributing $5.5 billion each.

It is pertinent to reiterate that the PMF would be customized version of the T-50, just as the Su-30MKI is a highly customized version of the basic Su-30 design.

Flight tests of the T-50 started in January 2010. State testing of the aircraft started in May, 2014. Deliveries of the aircraft to the Russian Air Force are scheduled to start in 2016, They could commence even earlier if state testing doesn't throw up any surprises.

Currently the T-50 is powered by two NPO Saturn AL-41F1 (Product 117) engines. Product 117 is an upgraded version of AL-41F1S engine developed for Su-35.

Eventually, the T-50 would be powered by the Product 30 engine, which would be 30% lighter and feature higher thrust and 30% lower life-cycle costs than the Product 117 engine.

Considering that the T-50 hasn't completed its development life cycle, hasn't been tested with its planned weapon fit, and its final engine is in early stages of development, is it reasonable for the IAF to seek iron-clad assurances on the aircraft's performance from Russia?

All that the Russians could practically agree to at this stage is that the PMF would be developed from the final version of the T-50.

If that doesn't satisfy the IAF, it may well be best to wait for the induction of the T-50 into the Russian Air Force in 2016. The IAF can then test fly the aircraft and if satisfied sign the final contract to develop the PMF. Such an approach would delay PMF induction even further.
Scale Model of the MTA on display at DefExpo 2014


Coming to the MTA - according to the TOI, one of the reasons why the MTA project has ground to a halt is because the aircraft will not meet IAF' high-altitude performance requirements.

When did the IAF discover these shortfalls? Weren't the specs agreed upon when the preliminary agreement was signed in November 2007!

There could be two reasons for high altitude performance shortfalls - Inadequate engine performance or an airframe design that is optimized for different flight envelope.

It's customary to design a military aircraft around proven engines and technology available in the country, The MTA, a joint project, would have to be developed around an engine available either in India or Russia. India is decades away from developing a fuel efficient high bypass turbofan that could power the MTA, but Russia has developed several such engines.

Agreeably, Russian turbofans have lower fuel efficiency and higher life cycle costs than western engines. As such, India would want the MTA designed around a western engine, but the Russians maybe averse to powering a military transport they intend to use with western engine, particularly after western sanctions were imposed upon the country consequent to the Ukrainian crises.

If differing engine preferences are the problem, India needs to accommodate Russian sensitivities, or risk losing support of its most reliable and trusted military partner.

It's possible that engines aren't the problem. Instead, differences have emerged between India and Russia over the flight envelope for which the aircraft is to be optimized. That could only have happened if the aircraft was not carefully speced by the IAF before India and Russia signed a preliminary agreement to develop the aircraft. Or perhaps, the IAF has now changed the speces?

Going by the information available in the public domain there appears to be an IAF overreach in play. If so, MoD must oversee and question IAF procurement planning to ensure the service remains in tune with national interests.

IDP Sentinel memebers can read more about the PMF/FGFA and MTA projects at the links below.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Beating the Stealth Threat: IAF's Quest for Passive Surveillance System

Shenyang J-31 (F60) at the 2014 Zhuhai Air Show.jpg
"Shenyang J-31 (F60) at the 2014 Zhuhai Air Show" by wc - Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

China is developing two stealth fighters - the J-20, an analog of the US F-22 Raptor for use by the PLAAF and PLAN; and the J-31, a US F-35 analog, for export customers.

The J-20 first flew in January 2011 and is expected to enter service sometimes after 2018. The J-31 first flew in October 2012 and was showcased during the recent Zhuhai Airshow indicating that its development is on track.

Putting it bluntly, it is likely that the J-31 could enter PAF service by 2020!

As things stand, IAF air defense systems would not be able to track and engage PLAAF J-20 fighters; they could enter and exit Indian airspace with impunity!

PAF J-31s would be somewhat easier to track, but our fighters would not be able to track and engage them in head on mode using their radars.

To make matters worse, the Putin visit is over with nary a word on the FGFA. The AMCA is tottering at the edge of oblivion with ADA still struggling to firm up the design of LCA Mk-2! (ADA won't have time to seriously take on the AMCA for another 10 years!) Under the circumstances, the future must look grim to IAF planners.

Time is running out. In order to meet the looming threat, the IAF has to do things more substantive then release a new version of their 3D combat game. Yeah, I know I am being mean. I am just venting, because guess what? It turns out that the IAF is indeed ahead of the curve.

Passive Surveillance System

The IAF on December 2, 2014 released a RFI for development of a Passive Surveillance System (PSS) - a ground based system to be deployed in field areas for generation of 3D Air Situation Picture (ASP), by detecting and processing chance RF spectrum emissions and EM reflections of other transmissions in the vicinity of airborne platforms.

Here are the deets excerpted from the RFI.


The PSS will intercept, process, analyze and generate all types of Radar transmissions across the complete band of Radar Operation Radio Frequency bands (30 MHz to 18 GHz).

It will provide location and dynamic tracking of airborne, surface (ground and marine), mobile and fixed targets. The system would be capable of detection, location, identification and tracking of active and passive targets within its area of coverage. The system will comprise of a cluster of sensor stations all reporting their detections simultaneously to the Master Receiving and Processing Centre which will process the information for detection of targets and formation of tracks. The system should be highly mobile, vehicle mounted with very less deployment time.

The PSS system will comprise the following two systems

  1. Passive Coherent Location Based Surveillance System to detect presence of targets using reflected RF emissions available in the environment. 
  2. Elint Based Surveillance System to detect, track, locate, correlate and identify intercepted RF emissions of the airborne platform in the area of deployment and process this information for generation of 3D Air situation picture.

Air situation picture generated in both the systems would be integrated to form a comprehensive air situation picture. The output is to be in user defined format for integration in command and control system of IAF.
Passive Coherent Location Based Surveillance System
The system would consist of a network of receivers and a master station and will generate its own 3D air situation picture without any active transmission of its own.

System capabilities required include:-

  1. Detection of 2 sq-m RCS target at more than 300 Km of range.
  2. Detection of targets from low level to very high altitude. 
  3. Estimating target coordinates in space namely range, azimuth, height and Doppler. 
  4. 360-deg azimuth coverage. 
  5. Radar Finger Printing (RFPS) through correlation and identification of emitter with data library.
  6. Remote operations including switching ON/OFF and operations of BITE, from an ops shelter located upto a distance of min 5 kms from system through OFC /radio link/ Satcom. 

Deployment Considerations.

  1. The system should be vehicle mounted and capable of deployed in all types of terrain including mountainous region.
  2. Deployment of the system should be quick and mechanized requiring minimum manual intervention. 
  3. The system should be self sufficient to meet camouflaging requirements(internal camouflage).

Elint Based Surveillance System

Elint based passive system should comprise of multiple sensor stations and a control station. The system is to be capable of generating a real time 3D air situation picture based on intercepted data of airborne emitters. The system should have very high DF accuracy in terms of degree RMS for various frequency ranges.

Required system capabilities include

  1. Large surveillance area coverage around its deployment
  2. Capability to intercept signals from all types of radars (pulse, pulse Doppler, CW), TACAN/DME interrogator, SIF/IFF interrogator and transponder, jammers, Data link and any other electromagnetic pulse and CW emitters on airborne platform.
  3. Very wide instantaneous Band Width (BW)
  4. High Probability of Intercept (POI)
  5. 360-deg instantaneous Azimuth coverage


A passive air surveillance system like the one contemplated by the IAF isn't a complete solution to the emerging stealth threat, but it's an essential first step.

The PSS would give the IAF an ability to detect the presence of stealth aircraft, but not track and engage them using SAMs.

A well executed PSS would allow IAF fighters to be vectored to the general area of intruding stealth fighters. allowing them to use their EO for further detection, tracking and engagement of enemy stealth fighters. 

Let's be clear, its early days for counter stealth technology.


If IAF's PSS plans are news to you, its because you aren't a IDP Sentinel members. The RFI details were published on IDP Sentinel nearly a week ago!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

INS Vikramaditya Post Warranty Support

INS Vikramaditya

The warranty period for Russian built INS Vikramaditya expired on November 16, 2014.

MoD has signed a post warranty support contract for the aircraft carrier with Rosoboronexport, United Shipbuilding Corporation (USC) and Shipyard Sevmash.

Under the contract, a group of 23 specialists from Sevmash in Severodvinsk, Russia will be permanently stationed  at Karwar to address day-to-day issues, such as supplies of spare parts and equipment requiring maintenance or repairs. Also, the shipyard will make arrangements for the annual overhaul together with a maintenance group from Russia.

Other than providing maintenance support and spare parts for the ship, Sevmash will also maintain onshore facilities in four shipyards in India.

In January 2014, India proposed to Russia's Sevmash an extension of INS Vikramaditya's warranty period from the current 20 years to 40.

“Our Indian partners have proposed to conduct all service work on the ship together with Sevmash,” Sevmash said.

IDP Sentinel members can read more at the link below

INS Vikramaditya - IDP Sentinel