Monday, August 31, 2015

MTA Proposed to Feature German Communication Equipment

MTA Model during DefExp 2014

During MAKS-2015, Russia's NPP Polyot is reported to have discussed with the German company Rohde & Schwarz the possibility of joint development of communication equipment for the Russian-Indian military-transport aircraft MTA.

A NPP Polyot official reportedly said, "We have confirmed the intention to work together, have prepared our proposal to the Indian side for the next round of negotiations."

Rohde & Schwarz, which has an Indian subsidiary, makes secure communication products such as Software Defined Radios as well as test equipment for avionics and navigation assemblies.

NPP Polyot earlier discussed communication requirements, including data links, for the MTA and FGFA with IAF officials during Aero India 2015.

For those who may have missed the point, the big news is that the much delayed MTA project is still live and kicking!

IDP Sentinel members can read more at the link below

Multi Role Transport Aircraft (MTA)

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

HSL - Hyundai Tie Up for Construction of Fleet Support Ship (FSS)

INS Shakti Sattahip, Thailand on June 23, 2015
The Hindu reported on August 25, 2015 that Hindustan Shipyard Ltd. and Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) are likely to undertake joint construction of Fleet Support Ship (FSS) for the Indian Navy (IN).

“Our plan is to construct one FSS at Hyundai by sending a team from our yard to South Korea to enable them to gain expertise. Later with the guidance of Hyundai, we want to build four FSS here,” HSL Chairman and Managing Director Rear Admiral N.K. Mishra told The Hindu.

The DAC on July 19, 2014 cleared the acquisition of 5 FSS by the Indian Navy at a cost of Rs 9,000 crores.

The vessels would be used by the Navy to support the operations of carrier groups planned for the future.


The Navy wants ships to be capable of following:

  1. Transfer of FOLS to all Naval Surface Units while underway at sea using abeam and astern transfer methods.
  2. Transfer all types of stores, victuals and personnel to naval units while underway at sea.
  3. Ships should be capable of handling multirole helicopter at sea.


The principal dimensions of the ships should be:

  1. Length Overall - About 200 m. 
  2. Beam Max - About 25 m. 
  3. Displacement (Fully Loaded) 40,000-t


FSS would  have a speed of 16 knots, range of 12,000 nautical miles and a service of 30 years with capability to carry ballistic weapons.

The ship should have Diesel propulsion (CODAD), with a single shaft configuration with CPP and must be equipped with a Helo deck and support facilities to handle Multi Role Helicopter.

It must be crewed by 190 sailors, including 24 officers.

Navantia and L&T Joint Proposal

It was earlier reported that Spain's state-run Navantia has tied up with L&T for the project to offer the Fleet Replenishment Ship ESPS Cantabria of the Spanish Navy.

Navantia collaborated with the French DCNS to build six Scorpene submarines at Mazagon Dock Ltd. (MDL).

Navantia and L&T are working jointly on building four LPDs like INS Jalashwa for amphibious military operations and disaster relief for the Indian Navy.

IDP Sentinel members can track progress on the project at Fleet Support Ships (FSS) (IDP Sentinel)

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Russia Focuses on Defense Against Attack from Space

MiG-31E fighter

Recent comments by Russian officials on new weapon systems being developed by the country suggest a sharp focus on defense against attack from space.

In an interview to the Russian press published on August 23, 2015, MiG CEO Sergey Korotkov alluded that the MiG-31 replacement, the PAK-DP 5th gen fighter, will feature aerospace defense capability.

The following is the Google translation of what Sergey Korotkov reportedly said.

"Today, it is obvious that after some time will change the nature of the threats posed by means of air and aerospace attack. There will be a part of their integration, which will require the creation of new remedies. Management understands that state. Confirmation is the creation of a new kind of Armed Forces - air and space forces of Russia.

"Fighter-interceptor - the most effective means of protecting the mobile aerospace. I believe that this trend will develop. I note that our designers have unique competence in this area."

RIA Novosti reported today, August 25, 2015, that Russia is developing a new multilevel system of electronic warfare, designed to counter means of air and space attack,

The news agency quoted Vladimir Mikheev, the adviser to the deputy head of Russia's Concern Radio-Electronic Technologies (KRET) as saying, "KRET plans to begin this year, and end next year, state testing of a fundamentally new system of electronic warfare, aimed at jamming the most modern means and systems for air and space attacks."

Recent organizational changes in Russian defense organizational structure reiterate the focus on aerospace defense.

Aerospace Defense Forces

On August 1, 2015, Russia announced that it is merging the Russian Air Force into Aerospace Defense Forces.

Aerospace Defense Forces now controls Air Force proper, Air Defense, ABM, and the Space Forces.

Aerospace Defense Forces (Voyska Vozdushno-Kosmicheskoy Oborony or VKO) was created on December 1, 2011 from Space Forces, and made responsible for air and missile defense, and the operation of Russian military satellites and the Plesetsk Cosmodrome.

Russia's hyper concern over attack from space leaves one wondering as to the nature of the threat perceived by them - Kinetic,  electronic or both? Is the US super secretive space plane X-37 a source of Russian concerns?

What exactly do the Russians fear? Guided projectiles released from space, or are they merely set on neutralizing the advantage accruing to US weapon systems from investments in GPS, space based sensors and high bandwidth satellite based data links?

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Evolution of Fighter Aircraft Radar - Dish Anetenna to AESA

Phazotron Zhuk AE AESA radar at Aero India 2011
Jet fighters began to be equipped with airborne radars in the early 1960's. Radars provided better detection capability than human eyes and facilitated guidance of air to air missiles which could be used to attack enemy fighters at ranges considerably larger than the few hundred yards that aircraft cannons were effective up to.

Dish Antenna Radars

Early jet fighter, like the MiG-21, employed mechanically steered concave reflector antennas colloquially referred to as dish antennas. A concave reflector antenna is a simple and effective solution for generating a shaped radar beam as well as efficiently gathering any reflected energy from it.

Dish antennas, however, have their limitations. Their to and fro steering mechanisms are expensive to fabricate to the high accuracies required. Such steering mechanisms are also prone to frequent failures. In other words they have a relatively short Mean Times Between Failure (MTBF) of around 60 to 300 hours.

Another problem with dish antennas radars is that they have fairly large side-lobes which leads to signal losses and reduces their sensitivity.

Finally, dish antennas do a good job not just of shaping their transmitter beams and gathering reflected energy from it but they are equally efficient at reflecting radar energy from enemy radars! In other words they are as good with detecting the enemy as they are with letting the enemy detect them.

The Evolving Threat

Initially jet fighters were equipped with airborne radars purely for air to air combat. As long as the threat that a fighter aircraft was attempting to counter were enemy fighter aircrafts, first generation radars with dish antennas were effective. However, the introduction of long range cruise missiles by the former Soviet Union in the 1970s changed the equation dramatically. The smaller size of the cruise missile, and the consequent reduced radar signature gave cruise missiles a good chance of penetrating the fighter air cover over US carrier groups and hitting home with devastating effects.

In order to effectively engage cruise missile the detection and guidance capability of an airborne radar needed to be stepped up dramatically.

As the threat evolved so did airborne radars. In order to reduce the sidelobes associated with dish antennas as well as reduce their reflectivity planar or slotted array antennas began to be developed in the 1970s.

Planar Array Antennas

Planar array antennas, like dish antennas, are also mechanically steered but they use a flat rather than concave receiver to gather the reflected radar energy. A flat panel reflector scatters the radar energy impinging on it from hostile radars, rather than sending it back as a well focused beam.

Zhuk-ME Slotted Planar radar fitted on IAF MiG-29 fighters.

Planar arrays use an array of very simple slot antennas. They achieve their focusing effect by introducing and manipulating a time delay into transmissions from each antenna.  A complex network of microwave waveguides on the rear surface of the array is used to achieve this. The controlled time delays result in a desired fixed beam shape with much smaller sidelobes compared to a concave reflecting antenna. The key to slotted array antennas is the time delay caused by waveguides. The signal that they transmit is in phase.

Since a planar array antenna is a flat plate, it tends to act like a flat panel reflector to impinging transmissions from hostile radars and thus produce a lower radar signature than a concave antenna.

However, mechanical steering of planar array antennas continued to be a problem.

The Zhuk-ME radar developed by Phazotron-NIIR design burea and fitted on the MiG-29 is an example of slotted array antenna radar. Similarly the AN/APG-65/73 radar fitted on the F/A-18A and the APG-66 radar fitted on the F-16A are slotted array radars.

Phased Array / Passive Electronically Steered Array (PESA) Radar

The key to improving radar capability lay in electronic steering of the radar beam a technique that first began to be employed in ground based anti missile radars in the 1970s. Such radars employ a group of antennas in which the relative phases of the respective signals feeding the antennas are varied in such a way that the effective radiation pattern of the array is reinforced in a desired direction and suppressed in undesired directions. Such radars are referred to as phased array radars, since they employ an array of antennas that work using a shift in the signal phase.

Antenna of NIIP N-011M Bars phased array radar fitted on the Su-30MKI

By the early 1980s the technology had been mastered to an extent where it could be employed in airborne radars.

Electronic steering and shaping of a beam provides unprecedented beam agility - beam shape and direction can be digitally controlled by a computer within a matter of tens of milliseconds. Such beam agility makes it possible for one phased array radar to act as multiple radars each with its own beam shape and scan pattern! This is referred to as interleaving radar modes. The same radar can be tracking for airborne threats using one beam shape and scan pattern while searching for ground targets using another beam shape and scan pattern.

The Russian NIIP N-011M Bars radar fitted on the Su-30MKI is a phased array radar. The B-1B Bone has flown since the 1980s with an AN/APQ-164 radar, fitted with an electronically steered array. The B-1A Batwing also exploits this technology in its AN/APQ-181 multimode attack radar.

One out of the 24 antennas in the array fitted NIIP N-011M Bars radar fitted on the Su-30MKI

Phased array radar, also referred to as passive array radars, represent a big leap forwards. Using beam steering they provide stealth, interleaving modes and reliability. However, the shift in phase of the radar signal comes at a cost. High-power phase control leads to losses in the signal and a consequent reduction in radar sensitivity. Typical total losses in early systems resulted in a factor of 10 reductions in radiated power; in modern systems these losses are still in the factor of 5 ranges.


An Active Electronically Steered Array (AESA) takes the concept of using an array antenna a step further. Instead of shifting the phase of signals from a single high power transmitter AESA employs a grid of hundreds of small "transmitter-receiver (TR)" modules that are linked together by high-speed processors.

Thales RBE2 AESA radar fitted on Rafale

Each TR module has its own transmitter, receiver, processing power, and a small spike like radiator antenna on top. The TR module can be programmed to act as a transmitter, receiver, or radar. The TR modules in the AESA system can all work together to create a powerful radar, but they can do different tasks in parallel, with some operating together as a radar warning receiver, others operating together as a jammer, and the rest operating as a radar. TR modules can be reassigned to any role, with output power or receiver sensitivity of any one of the "subsystems" defined by such temporary associations proportional to the number of modules.

AESA provides 10-30 times more net radar capability plus significant advantages in the areas of range resolution, countermeasure resistance and flexibility. In addition, it supports high reliability / low maintenance goals, which translate into lower lifecycle costs. Since the power supplies, final power amplification and input receive amplification, are distributed, MTBF is significantly higher, 10-100 times, than that of a passive ESA or mechanical array. This results in higher system readiness and significant savings in terms of life cycle cost of a weapon system, especially a fighter.

The use of multiple TR modules also means failure of up to 10% of the TR modules in an AESA will not cause the loss of the antenna function, but merely degrade its performance. From a reliability and support perspective, this graceful degradation effect is invaluable. A radar which has lost several TR modules can continue to be operated until scheduled downtime is organized to swap the antenna.

Technological Leap

AESA technology has not been easy to acquire. It has come from years of research and heavy investments. Improvement of gallium arsenide material and the development of monolithic microwave integrated circuit (MMIC) have been key enablers to the development of AESA technology.

Two prominent early programs in X-band AESA technology development have been the Army family-of-radars program (which provided the basis for the X-band AESAs in the THAAD and GBR radars for theater and national missile defense systems, respectively), and the Air Force programs to produce X-band AESAs for the F-15 and the F-22. The investments in JSF radar technology have also fostered pivotal advances in reducing cost, weight, and mechanical complexity. JSF transmit/receive (T/R) modules are referred to as "fourth generation" T/R module technology.

As can be expected, the technology comes at a cost. Each TR module is an independent radar. Initial cost of a TR module was reportedly around $2000. Fighter radars are usually in the 1000 to 2000 modules size range. In other words just the radar antenna could cost as much as $4 million.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

RFP for Air Defense Guns and Ammunition Likely in September

L-70 Towed AD Gun of the Indian Army
As a prelude to issuing a Request for Proposal (RFP) for Air Defense Gun (Successor) with Ammunition, the Indian Army has invited vendors desirous of competing for the contract to submit information (Appendix E) as per Para 24(d) of Chapter 1 of DPP-2013 by 13 September 2015.

The Army released a RFI from OEMs/Vendors in India in April 2014 for a gun that is capable of engaging air targets during day and night using Fire Control Radar and  Electro Optical Fire Control System (EOFCS). The gun should also be capable of engaging air targets passively, without the Fire Control Radar. Preferred gun caliber is 30-mm or above; the guns are required to be broad gauge transportation compatible.

The Army wants a gun that can effectively engage targets in mountainous terrain.

MOD reportedly sent the RFI to Tata Power SED, Larsen & Toubro, Punj Lloyd, Bharat Forge, and state-owned Ordinance Factory Board (OFB) and Bharat Earth Movers.

The Indian Army is planning to procure towed Air Defense (AD) Guns and ammunition along with Maintenance Transfer of Technology (MToT). The project involves manufacture of 1,102 AD guns over the next 15 years to replace the 1950s vintage L-70 acquired from Swedish firm Bofors and the Zu-23mm acquired from USSR's Podolsky Electromechanical plant.

In the first stage, the manufacturer will have to supply the army with 428 guns over the next five years. Several lakh rounds of ammunition would need to be manufactured in India.

IDP Sentinel members can read details at the following link.

Towed Air Defense (AD) Guns (IDP Sentinel)

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Su-30MKI vs Eurofighter Typhoon - The Truth is Nuanced, but the Brits Won't Like it Anyway!

IAF Su-30MKI and RAF Typhoon during Indradhanush-4

Did the Su-30MKI outmaneuver the Eurofighter Typhoon 12-0 within visual range (WVR) combat during Indradhanush 4, as stated by Group Captain Ashu Srivastav, who led the IAF Indradhanush-4 detachment to RAF Coningsby, to NDTV?

Certainly, yes! IAF pilots are not inclined to make false claims, or indulge in wanton exaggerate.

Does that mean the Su-30MKI is superior to the Typhoon in aerial combat? Certainly, not!

Aerial combat is replete with factors - ponderable and imponderable - that change its outcome. It does not fit a True or False scenario. The response to a question such as which aircraft is better in combat has got to be nuanced.

Ashu Srivastav's inputs to NDTV were precise and very professional. He said that the IAF Su-30MKI aircrew outperformed RAF Typhoon pilots in 1 vs 1 and 2 vs 1 WVR combat using close combat missiles (CCM) within a range of two miles.

The CCM restriction implied that the engagements involved low energy combat, a flight envelope in which the Su-30MKI excels because of  thrust vectoring.

An unnamed RAF source quoted by The Independent has countered Ashu Srivastav's statement saying, "There must have been some clouded recollection on the flights back to India. The headlines of the Indian press bear no relation to the results of the tactical scenarios completed on the exercise in any shape or form."

The response lacks precision and is characteristic of British vagueness and verbosity that gets accentuated in the face of embarrassing truths.

The Independent source went on to say, "The Su-30MKI is one of the aircraft that the Typhoon was designed to tackle and defeat, and no doubt in the right hands would present a potent challenge. Today [though] the aim would be to engage aircraft like the Su-30MKI from long-range before the two could come together in a dogfight."

The second statement by the RAF source is on the mark, just as Ashu Srivastav's 12-0 victory claim is on the mark.

A quick comparison of the Su-30MKI and Eurofighter Typhoon combat capabilities should put the apparently contradictory claims in the correct perspective.

IAF Su-30MKI with its IRST prominently visible during Indradhansuh-4 

Su-30MKI vs Eurofighter Typhoon

WVR Combat

Su-30MKI excels in WVR low energy combat because of thrust vectoring. The Typhoon outperforms the Su-30MKI in high energy WVR combat because of its better thrust to weight ratio and high speed turn performance.

BVR Combat

The Typhoon is superior in Beyond Vision Range (BVR) combat because of the following reasons:

  1. Its Captor M radar emissions are more difficult to detect, track and spoof than those of the Su-30MKIs BARS radar.
  2. Its Attack and Identification System (AIS) provides better situational awareness and threat handling.
  3. It has a significantly smaller radar signature than the Su-30MKI.

Typhoon's AIS includes sensor fusion wherein data from multiple sensors  - the fighter's Captor radar, PIRATE Infrared Search and Track System (IRST) and EW suite, as well as off-board radars (AWACS, ASTOR, JSTARS, even other Typhoons) over datalink - is displayed on a single MFD, reducing pilot workload and confusion. AIS automatically exercises Captor radar emissions control (EMCON) based on the composite threat scenario.

The Su-30MKI doesn't feature AIS and sensor fusion, but has a weapon system operators to monitor and act upon inputs from on and off board sensors. A man in the loop can add value, or confusion depending on the training and emotional state, as well as the complexity of the threat scenario.

Because of its significantly larger size, the Su-30MKI has a bigger radar signature. The larger cross-sectional area of the fuselage in front of the cockpit allows the Su-30MKI to carry a more powerful radar, but the high radiated energy of the radar allows it to be passively detected and identified at longer ranges giving the adversary an advantage.

RAF's Eurofighter Typhoon with its IRST during Indradhanush4

Hypothetical Combat Tactics

In view of the above, here is how a Typhoon pilot would engage an adversary Su-30MKI in war.

The Typhoon pilot would attempt to leverage to the hilt his aircraft's superior BVR combat capability. He would keep his CAPTOR radar on automatic EMCON and focus on passively tracking a Su-30MKI using its BARS radar emission,  or in case the Su-30MKIs BARS was switched off, an offboard radar. A Typhoon could track a Su-30MKI with a radiating radar from 300-km. A Su-30MKI with its radar switched off could be tracked from around 180-km using AWACS data link.

When in range, the Typhoon would engage the Su-30MKI with BVR missiles. Adversary Su-30MKI would remain oblivious to the presence of the Typhoon till he sees the missile coming at him!

In case initial BVR missile engagements are thwarted by Su-30MKI jamming or decoys, the Typhoon would try and acquire the adversary Su-30MKI on his PIRATE IRST and use his BVR missiles. Close to a merge, the Typhoon would disengage and getaway, choosing to fight another day.

When faced with adversary Typhoons, a Su-30MKI pilot would keep his BARS switched off and rely almost exclusively on an off-board radar (AWACS or another radiating Su-30MKI) to passively track the Typhoon and engage it with its BVR missiles. If BVR missiles fail to score, he would keep closing in to a range where his IRST picks up the Typhoon, and then take more shots at the Typhoon.

The Typhoon's ability to automatically fuse inputs from multiple sensors would facilitate more accurate tracking of the target and guidance of the BVR missile, giving the Typhoon a definite advantage over the Su-30MKI during BVR combat.

Because of the Su-30MKI's bigger radar signature, an AWACS supporting the Typhoon would pick up the Su-30MKI before the AWACS supporting the Su-30MKI picked up the Typhoon. This would give the Typhoon more advantage.

Without AWACS on both sides, IRST detection ranges will prove critical to the outcome of the combat.

With AWACS, the game will be one sided in favor of the Typhoon till IRST pickups. In case of a merge and WVR combat, the game will rapidly become one sided in favor of Su-30MKI.

What we have looked at is a 1 vs 1 scenario. In real life air-combat tends to be a melee. If the BVR engagements are ineffective due to EW and other countermeasures, there will be accidental merges galore, whether the Typhoon pilots like it or not!

The question really is - How effective would be BVR engagements between two well trained adversaries in the prevailing scenario?

Additional Observations on Indradhanush 4

The Su-30MKI's IRST reportedly proved to be a distinct advantage for IAF aircrew during WVR combat during Indradhanush-4.

It appears that IAF aircrew used their IRSTs more than their eyeballs to track their adversary while maneuvering in WVR combat, which helped them avoid the pitfall of bleeding energy levels excessively, as they reportedly did during the last Red Flag exercise.

A training exercise such as Indradhanush is aimed at improving pilot skills. It would involve some leveling of the playing field so as to keep the focus on skill development. For example, it could be assumed that both the sides have close combat missiles with similar off bore-sight capability. Missile capabilities - CCM or BVR - differ. In a war the outcome of an aerial combat would depend a lot on weapon systems employed, in addition to aircraft capability and pilot skills.

To summarize

Su-30MKI excels in WVR low energy combat, Typhoon in standoff & WVR high energy combat.
The equation could be significantly altered by EW surprises, giving an adversary temporary advantage.

AWACS backed IAF Su-30MKIs adhering to strict EMCON could negate some Typhoon BVR combat advantages, but overall the Typhoon is a better BVR combat aircraft.

The IAF Su-30MKI have regained a lot of the respect that it lost in Indradhanush 3 and the last Red Flag exercise in the US. It appears that the IAF has put in a lot of thought and training to regain confidence in the Su-30MKI.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

VRDE Developing BMP-2 Sarath Upgrade

Kayani Group's BMP-2 upgrade concept at DefExpo 2014

Vehicle Research & Development Establishment (VRDE) has released a tender seeking a development partner for upgrade of BMP-2 Sarath ICV's 30mm Gun turret stabilizer system and development of an interfaced Gunner & Commander sighting system.

The vendor would be required to prove the complete system on the Sarath ICV by demonstrating target acquisition, aiming & firing on the halt and on the move at a static or moving ground & aerial target with an accuracy of 1mil or better.

The Development Partner (DP) would be required to:

  1. Develop twin axis stabilized Gunner’s Main sight
  2. Develop twin axis stabilized Commander’s Panoramic sight.
  3. Engineer Modification on the turret to suitably replace existing Gunner sight and Commander Aerial sight with developed Gunner Sight and Commander sighting system & associated sensors in the same envelope of existing sighting system.
  4. Develop & Fabricate necessary adapters for mounting of sights and sensors.
  5. Interface sighting system with Stabilizer.
  6. Engineer modifications to stabilizer to interface with sighting systems.
  7. Adopt of existing Control Handles & other MMIs for operation of complete FCS.
  8. Develop FCS, software modifications; incorporate range tables and switch configurations in existing gunner & commander control handles to enable firing of various ammunition from the main gun & co axial weapon from Gunner and Commander sight.
  9. Evolve various modes of operation such as commander master, gunner master, target designation, Sight master, Gun Stabilizer master.
  10. Supply Gunner & Commander Stations.

In addition, the vendor would be responsible for testing and trials of the systems.

The existing Stabilizer specifications and functionality need to be retained. The modifications need to be carried out in stabilizer system for interfacing & integration with Commander’s Panoramic sight and gunner sight retaining existing modes of operation. The vendor shall have complete know how of existing stabilizer system. No armor cutting on turret will be carried out for fitment of sighting system and associated Electronics.

Infantry Combat Vehicle (ICV) Modernisation

Indian Army released a Request for Information (RfI) on October 21, 2014  from vendors willing to undertake Comprehensive Upgrade of BMP-2/2K covering Mobility, Fire Power and Survivability. The upgrade will be applied to approximately 2,600 vehicles comprising existing inventory as well as APCs to be produced in the future.

Foreign vendors are free to compete directly for the procurement.

Firms bidding for the upgrade contract would be required to upgrade one BMP-2/2K for trials on “No Cost No Commitment” basis.

Russia exhibited its proposed upgrade of the BMP-2 ICV at DefExpo 2014.

The kit based Russian upgrade can be implemented at low cost and in short time. The upgrade requires minimal modifications of the tower. Additional weapon fit can be implemented in place on a BMP-2.

Pune based Kalyani Group pitched an upgraded BMP-2 Infantry Combat Vehicle (ICV) at the DefExpo 2014.. The upgraded BMP-2 features Rafael's Samson MkII remotely controlled weapon system with a 30mm cannon from ATK and two Spike LR missiles from Rafael. The turret, which features  two MiniPOP optronic sights for the gunner and commander, is designed to fit armor protection according to the level specified by the customer.

IDP Sentinel members can read more at the link below:

Infantry Combat Vehicle (ICV) Modernisation (IDP Sentinel)