Thursday, February 12, 2015

ADA Details Stealth AMCA Engine Plans

AMCA model at Aero India 2013

ADA seems to have refined and narrowed its AMCA powerplant options. The 25-tonne class AMCA is to be fitted with a 110-kN engine. However, currently no 110-kN class engine is available in the world market.  

So ADA will design the fighter around a 110-kN engine, but use a 90-kN off-the-shelf engine to power prototypes of the aircraft, giving itself time to develop a 110-kN engine.

ADA Director PS Subramanyam told The Hindu that it would be prudent to procure and integrate an available 90-kN engine into the aircraft so to ensure that the project was not held up. 

“Since the fighter has been designed to take on an engine with a higher thrust, we can integrate it as and when such an engine is available. This is what has been done by Dassault in the Rafael development program,” he says.

Elaborating on AMCA powerplant options, K. Tamilmani, Director-General (Aero R&D) told the press that since no 110-kN engine is available off the shelf, GTRE will partner with a US or Russian engine manufacturer to develop such an engine - mostly within India - to power AMCA production variants.

“We have asked for their proposals [and will go ahead with] whoever has a better offer, time frame and cost," he said. The goal is to integrate the new engine into the aircraft by 2020-21.

DRDO and IAF officials will hold talks with two manufacturers during Aero India 2015 - General Electric of US and Klimo of Russia. 

Interestingly, Tamilmani didn't mention French Snecma and early front runner for co-producing an AMCA engine with GTRE.

It may be noted that the joint statement released during US President Barack Obama's visit to India from January 25 to 27, 2015 referred to US - Indian collaboration in developing a hot engine (A reference to a jet engine with high turbine temperatures and greater thrust.)

It was earlier reported that the AMCA will be powered by a new engine that GTRE plans to develop with the help of one or more foreign consultants, Snecma being one of them.

On January 8, 2015 the TOI reported that five to six global aero-engine manufacturers have made presentation to ADA for the AMCA engine. It is likely that ADA has now narrowed down its options based on the presentations.

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

Thursday, February 5, 2015

New Missile Test Ranges, Ships for Phase 2 BMD System

Maiden test on April 27, 2015 of the  PDV exo-atmospheric interceptor of DRDO's Phase 1 Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) system.
DRDO is developing two new missile test ranges, constructing surveillance ships and sea based missile launch platforms for testing its BMD Phase-2 system for intercepting missiles with ranges greater than 2,000 km that can additionally deploy decoys or maneuver.

India currently has two missile test ranges at Chandipur and Wheeler Island.

Phase 2 testing of the BMD system requires two ranges placed well apart along the missile trajectory. DRDO is developing these ranges at Machilipatnam in Seema andhra and Rutland Island in the Andamans.

Target missiles would be launched from specially constructed ships.

Scientists are designing and developing the ships and associated systems such as radar, mission control center, launch control center, communication network and many other equipment needed for phase-II trials, Sarsawat told the press.

On February 3, 2015 Jane's reported that DRDO has received approval from GoI to convert 155 hectares of mangrove forest in Machilipatnam, Andhra Pradesh, into a missile launch testing facility.

The proposed site is within a wildlife sanctuary and a case against the project is pending in the Supreme Court. Range development work can only start after a court ruling.

The project was cleared by the petroleum 2012, following DRDO assurances that the test range would not impact plans to prospect for oil and gas in the Krishna river delta.

DRDO had planned to start construction of the test range in 2013

Ocean Surveillance Ship

The Deccan Herald reported on December 23, 2014 that MoD has sanctioned Rs 725 crore for the construction of Ocean Surveillance Ship (OSS) at Hindustan Shipyard Ltd (HSL), Visakhapatnam as part of DRDO's BMD program

The ship, P-11184, will feature a helicopter deck and hangar, a long open deck with space for several tracking antennae located at the aft of the forward superstructure.

Dedicated to DRDO's BMD program, the ship will be operated by the Indian Navy.

Designed by Vik Sandvik Design India, the ship has a length of 175 mt, a beam of 22 mt, a depth of 6 mt and and a displacement of over 10,000 tons. It will be powered by 2 x 9,000 kw engines, giving it a maximum speed of 21 knots.

The OSS project is classified and monitored directly by the Prime Minister’s Office. The ship’s keel was laid on June 30, 2014 and the shipyard has been given a timeline of December, 2015 to finish the project.

The Navy, HSL and DRDO reviewed the progress made in the project in during mid December 2014.

HSL received the first financial instalment in February 2013 and one more round is expected as the OSS’s total cost is reportedly about Rs 1,500 crore..

IDP Sentinel members can read a lot more on DRDO's BMD project at the link below.

Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) System (IDP Sentinel)

Monday, February 2, 2015

Do Indian Plans to Counter Chinese Threat Help China Tighten the Noose?

New Chinese Light Tank on the Tibetan plateau. Photo via China Defense Blog

In the Sino-Indian stand-off along the LAC, India seems to be doing the talking, and China the walking.

Bureaucratic tardiness in defense procurement and a loud mouthed press seem to be giving China both clues and time to make sure India remains hopelessly on its back foot.

Invariably, the PLA is already doing what the Indian Army plans to do! Look at these examples.

High Altitude Helicopters to Transport Guns

India invited bids for 15 heavy-lift helicopters in May 2009 to ferry the BAe Land Systems M777 ultra-light howitzers that the Indian Army intended to procure for its new raising - the XVII Mountain Strike Corps.

Boeing (CH-47F Chinook) and Mil (Mi-26 T2) submitted competing bids. In 2012, following extensive technical and commercial evaluation, Boeing's bid was assessed as being more competitively priced and the government decided to procure the helicopters from the US under FMS. In parallel, a decision was also taken to procure the M77 gun from the US under FMS.

Both projects have made no headway so far!

Meanwhile, China recently tested a Z-18A helicopter on the Tibetan plateau at an altitude of 8000-m. The helicopter is reportedly meant to transport AH-4 155 mm light artillery system developed by the China North Industries Corporation which weighs around 4 tons!

Do you get the point?

The Z-18A can also be used for anti submarine warfare and as a troop and VIP carrier. Our press has talked ad nauseam about the M777/Chinook projects but there has been hardly a mention of the Z-18A and AH-4 155-mm gun.

Incidentally, China also has 18 "Black Hawk" attack helicopters manufactured by Sikorsky that can operate on the Tibetan plateau, just in case you were thinking about the 22 Apaches to be procured along with the Chinooks under FMS.

The Chinese are not just a few steps ahead in the game. They are far ahead!

High Altitude Variant of Mi-26T

It was recently reported that Russia and China will co-develop a high altitude version of M-26T helicopter with a take-off weight of 38 tons for use on the Tibetan plateau.

The new helicopter will be smaller and lighter than the Mi-26T, but feature the same engines giving it the reserve of power to lift heavy stuff even at 8000-m

Tanks for the Tibetan Plateau

The Indian Army biggest fear along the LAC is that China might use its superior infrastructure to rapidly mobilize PLA formations and launch a determined push into Arunachal Pradesh, overwhelming Indian forces which would still be in an early stage of mobilization.

Faced with such an eventuality, the Indian Army's only counter would be to open another front, break through Chinese defenses and use armor to strike deep into Tibet.

The problem with the strategy is that it requires light tanks that can be easily transported to the LAC.  India doesn't have light tanks and is relying on it medium sized T-72s and T-90s to do the job! Despite the difficulty in transporting them on the poorly built border roads, the Army has managed to do position these tanks along the LAC.

DRDO hasn't been of any help to the Army in terms of light tanks. According to the DRDO the 60-ton Arjun behemoth is the answer to all armor requirements of the Indian Army!

Meanwhile, since 2011 pictures of a Chinese light tank have been appearing on the internet. The tanks is equipped with a 105-mm gun and features armor protection through sloped glacis plates. The tank has been photographed while being transported to Tibet on flat-bed rail cars. [source]

Chinese Analog of C-130J

India signed a deal for procuring six C-130J-30 Special Operations aircraft in 2008 from the US through FMS. All the 6 aircraft have been delivered. One aircraft - KC-3803 - was lost in an accident on March 28, 2014.

In July 2014, India ordered an additional 6 aircraft bringing the cumulative value of the purchase to $2.06 billion. 

The C-130J procurement is mostly aimed at supporting the newly raised MSC's operations on the Tibetan plateau. The aircraft handles well at high altitudes and can land in pitch darkness on unpaved landing grounds.

Meanwhile, China has been steadily upgrading its An-12 CUB airlifter. The IAF had An-12 but it discarded many years back! The latest version of the Chinese aircraft, Shaanxi Y-9, was recently displayed at the Z airshow. The Y-9 is widely regarded to be a Chinese equivalent to the C-130J Hercules. [source]