Thursday, October 29, 2015

RCI Developing 275-kgf Thrust Cruise Missile Engine

GTRE developed Manik 425-kgf thrust turbojet at Aero India 2015

RCI is developing a 275 kgf thrust Small Gas Turbine Jet Engine (SGTJE) to power a UCAV capable of cruising at 0.8M at SL. 

RCI will take assistance from NAL's Propulsion Division for design and analysis, engine cycle analysis and configuration of the turbojet engine. 

RCI has also sought private sector, Indian or foreign, participation in the detailed design of the 275-kgf thrust SGTJE. 

Project duration is specified as one year from project start.

Possible Application

The engine is required to be air start capable suggesting it is being developed for a cruise missile. The 275-kgf thrust requirement suggests a relatively smaller, possibly air launched, cruise missile. 

It maybe noted that the Nirbhay, powered by a 500-kgf thrust Saturn engine, would hopefully be replaced by the 425-kgf Manik engine being developed by GTRE. 

Other Cruise Missile Engine Projects

Besides RCI and GTRE, HAL is also developing a 400-kgf thrust Small Gas Turbine for Strategic Application,, based on the PTAE-7 which powers the Lakshya PTA.

IDP Sentinel members can read additional details and specifications of the SGTJE at the link below

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Rustom-2 MALE UAV Update

Rustom-2 1:1 scale model at DefExpo - 2014
DRDO plans to display a Rustom-2 1/3 rd scale model during Republic Day 2016 and has released a RFP for building the model.

Based on the dimensions of the model published in a RFP, the Rustom-2 MAL UAV has a wingspan of 20.4m and length of 10.1m.

In comparison, IAF's Israeli developed Heron MALE UAV, which the Rustom-2 is being developed to replace, has a wingspan of 16.6m and length of 8.5m.

Rustom-2 1/3 rd scale model dimensions

It remains to be seen if the Rustom-2's larger dimensions translate into better performance and capabilities. DRDO says the Rustom-2 would be able to carry 350-kg payload against the Heron's 250-kg, but the single engine Heron has a marginally better (40hr vs 35hr) endurance.

The Rustom-2 will have a strike capability. It will loiter autonomously at high altitudes performing ISR with its SAR nd EO sensors. When a target is identified, it will either illuminate the target with a laser designator for other strike aircraft, or descend to lower altitude and attack the target with its own air-to-surface missiles.

DRDO's decision to display the scale model raises hopes of a first flight in the near future. DRDO had initially hoped to test fly a manually piloted variant of the UAV by June 2014. It now appears that the test flight program has been pushed back till a ATOL is developed for better flight safety.

For additional information visit the link below

Rustom-2 MALE UAV (IDP Sentinel)

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Indo-US Partnership for Developing Aircraft Carrier, Hot Engines - AMCA Go Ahead Likely?

AMCA Wind Tunnel Test Model at Aero India 2015

Following an in principle agreement between India and the US to cooperate in jet engine and aircraft carrier design and construction under DTTI, arrived at during US President Obama’s visit to India in January 2015, the two nations have been discussing the scope and modalities of the cooperation.

Two rounds of discussions are known to have been held already, more are planned.

Surprisingly, US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Nisha Desai Biswal, in her recent address to the annual meeting of Association of the US Army, said, "We're now helping India develop aircraft carrier and jet engine technology as part of our Defense Technology and Trade Initiative, which Secretary Carter launched back in 2012."

Her statement suggests that cooperation has already started. If it has, it's probably based on a level of agreement already reached.

While the Aircraft Carrier development cooperation would focus on EMALS, the agreement on jet engine technology would focus on a hot engine power plant for the AMCA based on the F414 Enhanced Performance Engine (EPE).

If the Assistant Secretary's statement is indeed true, it is possible that the Indian government will soon sanction and fund the AMCA project, clearing the way for preliminary design of the aircraft to commence.

The AMCA configuration has been frozen in consultation with the IAF. The project was awaiting choice of an engine.

The finalization of the AMCA power-plant would explain the IAF Chief's optimism on the AMCA, evident during his recent press conference.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Dhruv Flight Safety Record

Dhruv ALH at Aero India 2015

Around 200 Dhruvs have been inducted into the AFs since 2001.

The helicopter, which was conceived as a multi-role helicopter, is now limited in its operational role because of excess weight and limited engine power.

The Dhruv fleet has been grounded several times due to technical snags.

The Indian Army has experienced at least 18 accidents since 2002.

According to MoD (July 2015), since the induction of the helicopter in AFs in year 2001, 08 (Eight) major accidents (write offs) have taken place, all of which, have been investigated by a Court of Inquiry as per extant instructions. Necessary modifications/upgradations have been carried out, on the basis of past experience, to cater to Defense Forces’ requirements.

Below is an incomplete listing of Dhruv accidents compiled by IDP Sentinel

  1. One IAF ALH crashed near Sitapur of Lucknow area at about 1657 hrs on July 25, 2014. The Helicopter was airborne from Bareilly at 1553 hrs and was on a mission to Allahabad. The Pilot gave a 'may-day' call and soon after that there was a loss of contact on radar and on radio. A total of seven air warriors including two pilots were on board. There were no survivors.
  2. In February 2014, an ALH Dhruv chopper exported to Ecuador crashed in Ecuador killing three people on board.
  3. A Dhruv crash-landed in Rajasthan’s Jaisalmer district on February 28, 2010 while rehearsing for ‘Vayu Shakti’ air power exercise.The helicopter was part of the Sarang helicopter display team of the IAF; the team was rehearsing for a display on the opening day of the exercise. The two pilots escaped unhurt after making crash-landing.
  4. A Dhruv crashed during a military parade in Ecuador in October 2009 injuring its two Equadorian pilots. The Dhruv was one of  the five helicopters sold to Ecuador in March 2009. The accident took place over Quito’s Mariscal Sucre International Airport during formation flying along with two other helicopters. The crew, who were trained in India, managed to get out of the crashed helicopter on their own and were taken to hospital.
  5. A Dhruv ALH of the Sarang display team crashed at Air Force Station Yelahanka in February 2007 killing one of its pilot and badly injuring the other.
  6. In November 2005, an ALH being ferried to Jharkhand crashed near Hyderabad after the tail rotor sheared off. Following the crash, the Indian Armed Forces grounded the Dhruv fleet; the crash was eventually attributed to the use of date expired resin in the composite tail rotor.
  7. In November 2004 an ALH delivered to the Royal Nepal Army experienced a hard landing damaging its undercarriage and landing gear. 

Equadorian Air Force Crashes

Four out of the 7 Dhruvs delivered to the Equadorian Air Force were involved in crashes. Two of the crashes (enumerated above) resulted in the helicopter being written off. Of the four crashes, 2 were attributed to pilot error and 2 to mechanical failure.

Design Flaws

According to the ET, an Indian CAG report has pointed that ALH crashes have taken place due to a design flaw that leads to a loss of control when it is being rolled back from a left turn.

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

Dhruv - Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) - IDP Sentinel

Friday, October 16, 2015

Russia's Kalibr-NK / SSN-30A Cruise Missile - The Deets

3M-14 / 3M-54 export variant missiles at DefExpo 2014
On October 7, 2015, Russian Gepard-class frigate Dagestan, and three other Russian Navy destroyers launched 26 Kalibr-class cruise missiles from the Caspian Sea at 11 targets in Syria.

The Russian ministry of defense posted the following video that purportedly shows Kalibr-NK cruise missiles being launched from ships deployed in the Caspian sea.

The range of the targets from the launch point in the Caspian sea exceeds 500-km.

The minister of defense told the president that the actual range was "more than 1,500 km."

According To Sputnik News the missiles traveled 1,500 km through Iranian and Iraqi airspace and struck terrorist positions in Raqqa, Aleppo and Idlib provinces, reportedly destroying all.

Sputnik News reports that the missile was first launched in 2012. It can travel 50 to 150 meters above the ground and hit sea targets up to 350 kilometers away and ground targets more than 2,500 kilometers away. Their maximum deviation from the designated target is only three meters.

The name Kalibr-NK suggests that the missile is a variant of the 3M-54 / 3M-14 Kalibr (NATO designation SSN-27A 'Sizzler') family of missiles that equip Russian Navy submarines and surface ships.

The 3M-54 is the anti shipping variant and the 3M-14, the LACM variant. The surface ship launched variant of the 3M-54 is called 3M-54T, and the surface ship launched variant of the 3M-14 is called 3M-14T.

The 3M-54/3M-14 (anti-shipping) missile variants have a 200 kg (440 lb) warhead and range of 440-660 km (270-410 mi). The missiles fly at supersonic speed in the terminal phase to reduce target reaction time.

As compared to the surface launched 3M-54T, the submarine launched 3M-54 is shorter (8.22m vs 8.9m).

The 3M-14 missile has a 450 kg (990 lb) warhead, a range of 1,500-2,500 km (930-1,550 mi), and subsonic terminal speed of Mach 0.8.

The submarine launched variant 3M-14 is significantly shorter at 6.2 m (20 ft) than the 8.9m (29 ft) 3M-14T, but other specs are the same.

Export variants of the 3M-54/3M-54T (Kalibr) are designated 3M-54E/3M-54E1 (Klub). Similarly, the export variant of the 3M-14/3M-14T are designated 3M-14E/3M-14E1 (Klub).

All export variants are restricted to 300 km range.

Washington Post reports that Russia conducted a flight test of the NK-Kalibr on September 11, 2015, a month before firing the missiles from the Caspian Sea. The NATO designation for the missile, which has capabilities similar to the US Navy Tomahawk, is SSN-30A (3M-14T). During the test, the missile traveled some 2,000 kilometers, or about 1,200 miles.

The missile was tested earlier in August 2015, at which time US officials said it was nearing deployment. The new missile can be armed with either nuclear or conventional warheads.

According to some western reports, four of the missiles launched against targets in Syria malfunctioned and landed in Iran. Russia and Iran have rubbished these reports.

Operational use of Kalibr-NK has prompted NATO military intelligence analysts to upgrade its status to "deployed."

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

IAF's FGA Project Entering a Death Spiral?


The list of the IAF's reservations over the PMF/FGFA project is growing longer by the day, and is probably long enough to put the project in serious jeopardy. What is more disturbing, the list is starting to include inane items! Also, items on the list are now being leaked to the press by senior IAF officials, something that was not heard of in the past. Leaks, unlawful as they are, were earlier the prerogative of MoD babus who are apparently above the law.

Here is the list of IAF reservation against the FGFAm in reverse chronological order of leaks

  1. Russia has not been given a tentative per unit production cost for the aircraft and the IAF is wary that the cost may turn out to be exorbitant. 
  2. Russia has still not been able to develop the Product 30 engine that will power the FGFA. Without the engine, the aircraft cannot super cruise.
  3. Russia has not offered any weapons developed specifically for the FGFA. The weapons offered so far were developed for 4th gen fighters like the Su-30M and Su-34. These weapons are too large for the internal weapon bay of the PAK-FA and would need to be carried externally compromising the aircraft's low observability.
  4. Russia has so far not allowed IAF test pilots to test fly the PAK-FA.
  5. India has sought 27 technical clarifications on the joint project, but Russia has reverted only on 19.
  6. IAF wants Russia to commence delivery of the FGFA within 36 months of signing the development contract for the customized variant of the PAK-FA, instead of 94 months agreed to by Russia.
  7. India wants a larger work share in developing the FGFA.

I will let the reader decide which of these points, if any, are inane; and which possibly serious show stoppers. For example, is the IAF request to test fly the aircraft at this stage of its development reasonably? Would the US or France meet such an IAF request?

The IAF Chief in his press conference on October 4, 2015 stated, " "There are some issues which have cropped up in terms of the work share, in terms of the present technological and technical aspects of the PAK-FA, and of course the cost visibility. So these are the issues we are looking at and they have been taken up at the highest level."

Facts Check

I present here some public domain facts that the reader may like to factor in before making a call on the relevance of IAF concerns.

Cost Visibility

The PAF-FA is under development and is unlikely to be ready for export till 2020. The Rafale has been operational for over a decade and India has committed to purchase 36 Rafales. There is no cost visibility on the Rafale yet, but ironically the Air Chief says the IAF wants to buy 100 more Rafales!

Weapons for Internal Bay

Russia is in the process of developing air-to-ground weapons small enough to fit into the T-50's internal bomb bay.

At MAKS-2015 Russia's Tactical Missiles Corporation (TMC) unveiled three new or derivative weapons developed specifically to fit the internal weapon bays of the T-50:

  1. GROM E1/E2 guided, standoff weapon
  2. X-59Mk2 cruise missile  
  3. X-58USHKE/IIR stand-off anti-radiation attack missile

The H-59MK2 Grom is a stealthy turbofan engine powered cruise missile, a heavily upgraded version of the H-59 family missiles.

All three are advanced weapon systems that the western world would like to know more about. Is it realistic for the IAF to expect Russia to share weapon details and cost at this stage? Would the IAF expect the same from the US or France?

FGFA Powerplant

The initial batch of the T-50 fighters will be powered by the 14.5 tons thrust NPO Saturn AL-41F1 (Product 117) engines, the upgraded version of AL-41F1S engine developed for Su-35, which in turn is a derivative of the NPO Saturn's AL-31F series that power the Su-27/Su-30 family of fighters.

Moscow-based Salut and NPO Saturn are building a brand new stealthy powerplant for the T-50, which is not a derivative of the AL-41F1 (Product 117) engine that powers it. Called Product 30, the new engine will be 30% lighter than the Product 117 engine and come with 30% lower life-cycle cost.

The new engine is expected to offer about 17.5 tons (171.6 kn) of thrust in full after burning mode and somewhere in the range of 12 tons (117.7 kn) in dry mode, allowing the aircraft to comfortably super-cruise at around Mach 1.5.

In June 2015 it was reported that United Engine Building Corporation (UEBC) has built a prototype of the new engine. Two prototypes of the engine are scheduled to be built in 2015.

UEBC CEO Vladislav Maslov had earlier said that work on developing the stage-2 will be completed in 2020.

Is Russia really the problem in the unraveling FGFA deal?