2016 Review: Modi Government relentlessly plugged gaps in Defense Preparedness

One of the reasons that the current Indian government won a decisive five-year mandate in the 2014 parliamentary elections was because the youth of the country longed for a militarily strong and self-reliant country. Judging by its defense preparedness efforts in the year 2016, the government has met expectations, perhaps exceeded them.

The government is vigorously clearing the defense procurement logjam caused by the paralysis by analysis of the previous government. (Rafale MMRC, M777 lightweight howitzers.) Through regular meetings of the Defense Acquisition Council (DAC), the government is clearing weapon system procurements for the Armed Forces, favoring indigenous manufacture wherever possible. (83 Tejas Mk-1A, 464 Russian T-90MS, etc.)

Upgrade contracts are keeping weapon systems relevant while saving costs. (Kilo Class and Shishumar class subs, Kamov Ka-28 anti-submarine helicopters, BMP-2 Infantry Combat Vehicles etc.) The nature of the MoUs signed and the RFIs released show that the government has its eyes set on the future. (Passive Surveillance System, S-400, etc.)

.We have compiled for our readers a comprehensive list of landmark events during the year that is set to close, to illustrate the government's relentless pursuit of a policy aimed at plugging gaps in defense preparedness caused by years of policy drift, and rejuvenating defense R&D.

For a proper perspective, the list of landmark events has been compiled under the following headings.

  1. Weapon System Inductions
  2. Weapon System Orders
  3. Weapon System Procurement Approvals
  4. Weapon System Upgrades
  5. Weapon System Procurement Pipeline
  6. Indigenous Weapon System Development Landmarks
  7. Indigenous Weapon System Development Setbacks / Delays

Disclaimer: Defense procurements are often shrouded in secrecy and sometimes misreported. Besides, any large compilation is prone to oversights. Please consider the following a best effort.

Weapon System Inductions

On January 7, 2016, INS Kadmatt (P78), a Project 28 / Kamorta Class Corvette, was commissioned into the Indian Navy. Built by Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers (GRSE) Kolkata, the Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) ship is nearly 90 percent indigenously-sourced.

In February 2016, Russia reportedly completed delivery of 151 Mi-17V5 helicopters ordered by India.

On May 23, 2016, the Follow On Waterjet Fast Attack Craft (FOWJFAC) INS Tarmugli (T-91) was commissioned into the IN. The first ship of its class, INS Tarmugli is named after a island in the Andaman group.

On July 1, 2016, the first Tejas squadron - 45 Sqn Flying Daggers - was raised in Bengaluru with 2 standard production (SP) aircraft.

On October 18, 2016, it was widely reported that India's first SSBN and the first submarine designed and developed in the country - INS Arihant - has been secretly commissioned into the IN.

On October 19, 2016, the Follow On Waterjet Fast Attack Craft (FOWJFAC) INS Tihayu (T-91) was commissioned into the IN. The second ship of its class, INS Tihayu is named after an island in the Andaman group.

On November 21, INS Chennai, the second Kolkata Class (Project 15A) stealth destroyer was commissioned into the Indian Navy.

On November 23, Deputy Chief of IAF, Air Marshal R K S Bhadauria, announced IOC for DARIN III upgrade on the Jaguar.

Weapon System Orders

On March 30, Raytheon in a press release announced that the Indian MoD has signed an agreement with the U.S. Department of Defense to acquire Stinger air-to-air missiles for the Apache helicopters. As part of the deal, India will receive 245 Stinger air-to-air missiles, along with launchers and engineering support.

End of March, MoD accepted the Goa Shipyard Limited's proposal to enter into a technology partnership contract with South Korea's Kangam Corporation to build 12 mine countermeasure vessels (MCMVs). At the time of going to press, it's not clear whether or not a contract between GLS and Kangam has been signed.

In May, India awarded a contract to Longbow LLC, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, for fire control radar systems with advanced air and ground targeting capabilities for the country's AH-64E Apache attack helicopters. The firm-fixed price contract buys 12 Longbow FCR systems for the Indian Air Force.

In May, MoD reportedly wrapped negotiations with Rafael Advanced Defence Systems to acquire 275 launchers and 5,500 Spike missiles in completed and kit form along with an undisclosed number of simulators. The deal also includes a technology transfer to India's state-owned Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL) to build another 1,500 systems and around 30,000 additional missiles. The status of the contract is unknown, it was to be announced before or during the visit of Israeli president Reuven Rivlin to India in November.

In June, DRDO officially handed over to the Indian Navy Varunastra heavy weight anti-submarine long range torpedo. The IN has placed an order for 73 Varunastra torpedoes.

In July, an official from Israel's Rafael told Flight Global that the company will supply 164 Litening-4I targeting pods to the Indian air force, for use on four types of combat aircraft including Sukhoi Su-30 fighters. The customized pods, to be delivered in the next couple of years, feature upgraded infrared cameras and a CCD colour camera to help identify targets on the ground, particularly dense areas.

On July 27, MoD and Boeing signed a contract for the supply of an additional 4 Boeing P-8I Neptune aircraft.

On September 23, India and France inked the contract for supply of 36 Rafale fighters. During the visit of the French President, Francois Hollande, to India as Guest of Honor for Republic Day 2016 celebration, India and France had signed a MoU for purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets by India from France.

On November 30, the MoD signed the Letter of Offer and Acceptance (LOA) for 145 M777 lightweight howitzers. The Indian Army will receive the first gun within six months.

On December 7, 2016, it was reported that Hindustan Shipyard Limited (HSL) had received Letter of Offer from MoD to construct 5 Fleet Support Ships and 2 SOVs (Special Operating Vessels or Midget submarines); and refit INS Sindhuvir.

Weapon System Procurement Approvals

On March 11, the DAC approved

  1. Rs 13,000 crore weapons and sensors package for the seven new stealth frigates being constructed by defense shipyards for the Navy.
  2. AoN for the Rs 7,200 crore project to indigenously manufacture 244 air defense guns for the IAF.

On June 26, the DAC approved bulk production of 18 indigenously developed Dhanush Guns.

On August 19, the DAC cleared replacement of 1 C-130 lost during an exercise in 2014.

On September 29, 201 DAC cleared the raising of 2 additional Pinaka Multi-Barrel Rocket Launch System (MBRLS) regiments.

On November 7, the Defense Acquisition Council (DAC) approved purchase of

  1. 83 Tejas Mk-1A LCA for the Air Force.
  2. 464 Russian T-90MS tanks to be built in Heavy Vehicles Factory in Avadi near Chennai. Ten regiments of the tank would be deployed along the Pakistan border and would be equipped with advanced night sights and other night fighting equipment.
  3. 6 regiments of Pinaka MBRLS
  4. 598 mini drones for the IA for Rs 1,100 crore under a Make in India project involving foreign collaborators. The drones would improve situational awareness of troops in counter terrorist operations.

On December 23, the DAC approved purchase of an additional C-17 Globemaster III heavy transport for the IAF for around Rs 2,100 crore.

In addition, the DAC accorded AoN to

  1. Acquisition of 6 Multi-mission Maritime aircraft for Coast Guard at a cost of Rs 5,500 crore. The aircraft would be equipped surveillance suite to be developed by DRDO.
  2. Acquisition of 1,500 indigenously designed and developed modern NBC (nuclear, biological, chemical) protection systems to be fitted on the Army's infantry combat vehicles (the Russian-origin BMP-IIs) at a cost of Rs 1,265 crore.
  3. Acquisition of 38 Light Low Level radars for the IA and 15 for the IAF at a cost of Rs 419 crore.

Weapon System Upgrades

In January 2016, INS Sindhukirti underwent its maiden deep dive trials without any major defects. The sub was handed over to the Indian Navy on June 26, 2015 after a refit spanning 9 years, followed by month long sea trials.

In June, the IAF reportedly issued a $272 million tender to digitize 16 Pechora systems. The tender was sent to domestic companies Tata Power SED, Larsen & Toubro, Reliance Defense and Engineering Limited, Offset India Solutions, Mahindra Defense Systems, state-owned Bharat Electronics Limited, and Bharat Dynamics Limited.

In June, INS Sindhukesari reportedly reached the Russian “Zvezdochka” shipyard (in the city of Severodvinsk on the White Sea) to be repaired and upgraded.

In June MoD released a RFI for Comprehensive Upgrade of BMP-2/2K. MoD earlier released 3 RFIs for upgrade of BMP-2/2K covering Armament, 3rd Generation Fire and Forget ATGM and Mobility.  Based on the RFI responses and subsequent analysis, it was felt that undertaking individual upgrades will run in procedural and technical (integration) problems at later stage. A fresh RFI has now been issued to seek response of interested Indian Lead Integrators to offer solution for Comprehensive Upgrade of BMP-2/2K to include Armament, ATGM and Mobility Upgrade. All subsequent mention of Armament Upgrade in RFR will include ATGM unless specifically specified.

On June 29, the Indian Navy (IN) signed a Rs 2.6 billion ($38.4 million) contract with Germany's ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems to upgrade two of its four Shishumar-class (Type 209/1500) diesel-electric attack submarines (SSK). The upgrade, which would include arming the two boats with torpedo tube launched Boeing anti-ship UGM-84L Harpoon Block II missiles, would be undertaken at the Naval Dockyard Mumbai and be backed by a training package to support and operate the weapon system.

On July 28, the first Mirage 2000TI, upgraded in India by HAL to FOC standard, flew for the first time. The FOC configuration augments the aircraft's air to ground weapon firing and training capability through integration of India specific weapons, sensors, EW system and helmet mounted sight.

In July, MoD signed a contract with Rosoboronexport for mid-life-upgrade (MLU) of 10 Ka-28 helicopters within 42 months. Meanwhile a few Ka-28 would be made available for operations through extensive servicing / overhauling in-house.

In September 2016, it was reported that upgrade of MiG-29 at Nasik is now in its final stages.

Weapon System Procurement Pipeline

On February 20, MoD pushed back to March 24 the submission date against a RFI for supply of approximate 4/6/8 Aerostat Systems for the IAF. The Aerostat Systems would be used to provide low level air and sea surveillance; they are required to be compatible with the Integrated Air Command and Control System (IACCS).

On June 17, MoD sent a letter of request (LoR) to the United States seeking to purchase 22 MQ-9 Predator B Guardian maritime patrol remotely piloted vehicles from General Atomics for protection and vigilance of its maritime assets in the Indian Ocean.

On June 27, MoD released a RFI towards procurement of a MALE UAV for the IAF, iA and IN. The procurement would be made under the Make in India initiative from Indian Companies.

In August 2016, India reportedly sent to the US a LoR for purchase through FMS of 3 EMALS (Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System) for its future aircraft carriers.

On September 26, the IA initiated procurement of approximately 1,85,000, 7.62mm x 51mm Assault Rifles with the release of a RFI. A RFP is likely to be issued in April 2017.

On September 26, the MoD initiated procurement of approximately 12 High Power Radars (HPRs) to be used for Air Defense Surveillance. MoD is seeking a radar that can detect aircraft, cruise missiles, air launched missiles, ballistic missiles and UAVs, with an ability to classify targets as large, medium and small fixed wing aircraft, rotary wing aircraft, air launched stand-off weapons and UAVs automatically.

On October 6, the Indian Navy released a RFI for construction of 7 Next Generation Corvettes (NGCs). The warships would be capable of Offensive SSM Attack, Anti-Submarine Warfare Operations, Local Naval Defense, MIO and VBSS Operations.

On October 15, UAC, and HAL signed a shareholder agreement for establishing a Joint Venture to manufacture Ka-226T helicopter in India. The first 60 helicopters will be produced in Russia, and the production of the remaining 140 helicopters is planned in India.

On October 15, India and Russia signed an IGA for supply by Russia of 5 firing units of S-400 Air Defense System.

On October 25, MoD released a RFI to Indian vendors to supply and install approximately 200 sets of EW Suites comprising of Radar Warning Receiver (RWR), Missile Approach Warning System (MAWS) and Countermeasure Dispensing System (CMDS) on Mi-17 V5 helicopters. Additionally, limited Mi-17 V5 helicopters (approximately 15) would also be integrated with Laser Warning Receiver (LWR) and Directed Infrared Countermeasure (DIRCM).

The MoD on November 4, released a RFI to procure approximately 10 Passive Surveillance Systems (PSS) capable of locating, identification and tracking of active and passive targets within area of coverage.

In December 2016, the Indian Army invited proposals for supply of 200 Mini UAV systems from Indian vendors. Each of these Mini UAV systems would comprise - Three Aerial Vehicles (AV), One Man Portable Ground Control Station (MPGCS), One Launch and Recovery System, One Remote Video Terminal.

Indigenous Weapon System Development Landmarks

In January 2016, a Nag ATGM fitted with an improved IIR seeker scored a direct hit at a target 4 km away during a night trial in the Mahajan Field Firing Range, Rajasthan.

On February 5, LCA LSP-7 successfully test launched a Derby BVR. The maiden test of the missile from the Tejas was conducted at Jamnagar, Gujarat, as part of FOC trials. The missile was launched on a BNG (Ballistic Non-Guided) mode.

On March 31, a K-4 SLBM (Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile) with a dummy payload was reportedly launched from INS Arihant in full operational configuration.

On May 1, INS Kalvari, the first Scorpene submarine built at Mazagon docks, sailed out under her own propulsion for the first sea trial.

On May 31, the HTT-40 flew for the first time. The indigenously designed and developed trainer flew for 30-min.

On June 30, the MR-SAM missile was successfully tested thrice from a mobile (wheeled) launcher at Balasore against a maneuvering Banshee target drone. The missile's test involved use of the MR-SAM system's Multi-Functional Surveillance and Threat Alert Radar (MF STAR) for detection, tracking and guidance of the missile.

On July 14, MoD announced that DRDO had successfully conducted the proof firing of Armament system for 155 mm x 52 calibre Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System (ATAGS) during the technical trials conducted recently at Proof & Experimental Establishment (PXE), Balasore.

In September and October 2016, Instrumented drop tests of the Brahmos-A missile were carried out at Pokharan range near Jaisalmer in Rajasthan. The performance and the results were successful and highly encouraging.

In September 2016, the DRDO successfully conducted three tests of a Long Range Surface-to-Air Missile (LRSAM). The missile was launched vertically from containers against Banshee targets.

In September, HAL announced that it would display Combat Hawk at Aero India 2017, signaling that it had made good progress with the project.

On September 6, HAL conducted a technical flight of indigenous Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) in Bengaluru. The helicopter was in the air for 15 minutes at HAL facilities.

On November 16, Rustom-2 MALE (Medium Altitude, Long Endurance) UAV, now referred to by DRDO as TAPAS-BH 201, successfully flew for the first time from Aeronautical Test Range (ATR), Chitradurga, 250 km from Bengaluru.

On December 26, Agni-5 was successfully flight tested to its full range from Dr. Abdul Kalam Island, Odisha. Radars, tracking systems and Range Stations monitored the flight trjectory and confirmed that all mission objectives were successfully met. This was the 4th test of Agni-5 missile, the second from a Canister on a Road Mobile Launcher. All four tests have been successful. Development phase of the missile is now complete. User (SFC) trials will follow.

Indigenous Weapon System Development Setbacks / Delays

In March 2016, the IA reportedly indicated that it would not procure any more Akash SAMs since the missile system lacks fire on the move capability, 360-deg coverage and 3-4 secs reaction time. Also, Akash has a large radar ground signature with several vehicles required for its missile launchers, multi-function radars and the like. The Army proposes to meet its future AD requirements through QR-SAM missiles, which it plans to procure.

On May 15, a test of the AAD interceptor of the DRDO developed BMD reportedly failed, as the interceptor did not launch.

In July 2016, a CAG report tabled in parliament stated that completion of the Project 71 IAC (INS Vikrant) was not likely to be achieved before 2023. The report chided MoD and IN for continuing to hold the timelines of final delivery of the ship as December 2018.

In August, it was reported that the project completion date of the Uttam AESA radar for LCA Mk-2 has been pushed back to May 2019.

In October, it was reported that theIN has dropped plans to fit the 5th and 6th Project 75 Scorpene subs with DRDO developed AIP as DRDO has missed the deadline for developing the system. If DRDO succeeds in developing its AIP, the system would be retrofitted in Project 75 Scorpenes.

On October 22, ADA announced that the final operational clearance (FOC) for the Tejas is expected to get further delayed to middle of 2017.

On December 2, Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Sunil Lanba told the media that the Indian Navy is scouting for an alternative to the LCA Navy which lacks the payload required to be effective when operating from a carrier. The Navy's decision relegates LCA Navy to the status of a technology demonstrator project.

On December 21, the fourth Test of the Nirbhay cruise missile failed. The missile took off as expected, but shortly after entering cruise phase it started to veer off course to the right towards the coast, prompting range safety to destroy the missile. The third test of the missile in October 2015 was similarly aborted 700 seconds after launch.

Cancelled Procurements

On January 13, it was reported that development of the MTA as a joint Russian-Indian project has been frozen. The freeze came as the gap between the Indian and the Russian positions over the MTA's power plant widened, with the IAF insisting on a new generation engine with a full authority digital engine control (FADEC) system to give adequate power to the new plane. Russians contend that the new variant of its PS 90 engine will offer adequate performance for the aircraft and a FADEC power plant is not necessary. They add that the requirement of a FADEC was put up by the IAF at a later stage and for the performance required, the system is not needed.

On May 24, the MoD reportedly terminated a USD300 million order for 98 Black Shark torpedoes from Whitehead Alenia Sistemi Subacquei (WASS). The procurement, initiated in 2010, was abandoned because WASS is a subsidiary of Leonardo-Finmeccanica, with which all dealings have been suspended. However, on July 29, the MoD reportedly put on hold its earlier decision to terminate the contract.

In June 2016, MoD terminated the procurement of Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) by withdrawing the RFP. India is now reportedly considering procurement of Russian Ilyusin-78 aircraft which was earlier rejected in favor of the two-engine Airbus-330 MRTT.

"Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. MyIndMakers is not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information on this article. All information is provided on an as-is basis. The information, facts or opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of MyindMakers and it does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same."

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