India’s Raksha Mantri, Manohar Parrikar is all set to travel to Russia to co-chair ‘Inter Governmental Commission on Military Technical Co-operation’ from November 2. The meeting was scheduled to be held earlier this month ,but was adjourned taking into account the visit of German’s Chancellor Angela Markel to Delhi. Parrikar will depart to Russia on October 30 and is slated to visit Moscow and St Petersburg. The visit of the RM will act as the bedrock for the planned visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Russia in December. During the visit, Parrikar will also sign multiple contracts for modernizing the Indian forces. Various strategic projects will be discussed in the highest level and given definitive shapes.
India’s Defense Acquisition Council (DAC) headed by Manohar Parrikar has cleared projects worth about Rs. 5000 crore on Thursday. DAC has given its go ahead for IAF’s plan of modernizing the Ilyushin jets. Indian Army’s need for armoured fighting vehicles has been answered with the green signal being accorded for acquiring 145-armoured vehicles. Parrikar is expected to sign agreements with Russian firms to materialize these projects. Raksha Mantri will also sign agreements for multiple deals to improve the dwindling force of India.
Prospective projects of India with Russia
· IL –78 aircraft upgrade
India operates a sizable fleet of Ilyushin aircraft, which were acquired from Russia. The IL-76 aircraft is employed as a strategic lifter; IL-78 as the aerial refueling aircraft and the Beriev A-50 aircraft as AWACS aircraft. These aircraft’s were acquired to the IAF in the late 1990’s and are now slated for major modernization plans. India has now cleared a Rs. 4250 crore plan to modernize these jets with the latest power plants and avionics suite.
The Ilyushin aircraft will now be equipped with the more powerful PS-90A-76 engines that can produce a maximum thrust of 171 kN. The aircraft’s lift capability increases almost by two tonnes once equipped with the PS-90 engine. The engine employs state-of-the-art alloy materials and reduces the weight of the aircraft drastically, this-in-turn increases the range of the aircraft to a great extent. The engine is equipped with the latest sensor suite and manages the performance of the engine digitally thus reducing the workload on the pilots. Once clubbed with these engines the aircraft can fly for another 20 years.
BMP 2/2K armoured vehicles
Parrikar will also sign an agreement for arming the Indian Army with 145 BMP 2K armored fighting vehicles. The order will be executed by Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) in India, under a license from Russia. OFB has already mastered the manufacturing of these vehicles and till date has rolled out multiple variants. Indian Army employees the vehicle as armored fighting vehicles, armored ambulance, Light tank, Reconnaissance vehicle and Nag missile carrier.
The main armament of the vehicle is a 30 mm 2A42 auto-cannon. The cannon can fire up to 500 rounds per minute. The cannon has a range of 1500 meters against armor vehicles, 4000 meters when targeting ground targets and about 2500 meters against air targets. The vehicle also carries a turret housing Anti Tank Guided Missile (ATGM). The vehicle carries AT-4 Spigot and AT-3 Sagger missile. The secondary weapon of the vehicle is the 7.62 mm PKT machine gun. The gun can fire up to 800 rounds per minute. The vehicle has an operational range of 600 kilometers. Powered by a 21 hp diesel engine the vehicle can attain speeds up to 65 kilometers. BMP 2K can operate in any rugged conditions as well as in waters.
The addition of these vehicles is a major boost to the infantry of the army. Weapons deployed by the vehicle are the key to victory in a forward thrust operation. Indian army employs nearly 1250 BMP infantry vehicle and is now gearing up to induct 150 more of these proven vehicles.
Agreement for Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA)
The development of FGFA has been a sticking point in the relations between the strategic partners. In an effort to counter the raising threats of stealth effort developed by the west, Russia started the development of the FGFA. India was included as a working partner in the project. India and Russia signed a joint agreement in 2007 to develop a stealth enabled multi-role fighter. A MoU was signed in December 2010 between HAL and Sukhoi. India injected US $295 million for the initial study and development of the aircraft.
India was given a work share of 8% and this was met with resistance in India. HAL demanded that the work share to be increased in par with Russia and it should be allowed to take active part in the developmental phase. After years of negotiations, the work share of HAL was increased to 25 %. HAL was cleared to develop critical mission software, navigation systems, mission computers and cockpit display unit. Even though these sticking points were cleared, differences have now arisen over allowing the end-users to fly the aircraft. Russia has again rejected India’s request to allow IAF pilots to fly the aircraft. Cost over runs has been another point of worry for the working partners. The cost of the program has increased drastically over the years. Concerns over the maintenance issues had also been aired in the past.
The active squadrons serving under the IAF dwindled to a new low of 32- squadrons. Newer jets had to be inducted to the force. HAL, air force and MoD worked relentlessly to steer clear of the raised concerns and ironed out the differences with their Russian counterparts. India agreed to let go the 50:50 work share, it had demanded and even agreed to induct the jets designed for Russian air force. The jets to be inducted will have very few tweaks over its Russian predecessor. The aircraft will have a new updated controlling software system and this is expected to be the only difference. Also, the first few batches of the aircraft will be manufactured in Russia and then be further manufactured in HAL’s Nasik facility.
Parrikar will now give a definite shape to the program and sign agreements to induct the fighter jets off the shelf. Addressing the parliament Parrikar had said India would receive the first aircraft for evaluation by the end of 2015. This would be followed by the delivery of a jet every year with enhanced features. India’s decision to forgo the equal developmental clause has fast tracked the delivery schedule from 92 months to 36 months. The aircraft will also be equipped with indigenously developed Astra and third-party developed weapon systems. This will be a major morale boost to the airmen of India and will help in increasing the active squadrons of the air force.
India to buy two Kilo-class submarines?
A grave matter of concern for the Indian Navy has been the depleting number of undersea combatants under its command. India currently operates 9 Kilo-class submarines, 4 HDW submarines and 1 Akula class nuclear powered attack submarine. For a nation with well over 2500 kilometers of coast line and operating high value targets like the aircraft carriers, the current fleet of submarines is negligible. The submarine acquisition plans have been delayed multiple times. The nation hasn’t acquired a single submarine in the last two decades. Furthermore, the current submarines are aging rapidly and will have to be replaced in the near future. The induction of high value targets will mean, India has to acquire more number of undersea combatants.
Indian shipyards are now maturing to manufacture submarines indigenously. Mazagon Docks Limited (MDL), Mumbai, has taken a major leap in the Project-75 by undocking INS Kalvari for sea trials. The shipyard is expected to deliver 5 more submarines in a gap of 9 months between each to the navy. Hindustan Shipyard Limited (HSL), Vizag, has also successfully completed the process of building, INS Arihant, India’s first boomer. Other shipyards have been lined up with orders for procuring surface combatants. However the need for submarines in the navy is acute and has been echoed in every acquisition meeting.
Taking note of this the union government has fast tracked the tender process of Project-75 I. Tenders will also be called for manufacturing six nuclear attack submarines and for the first time has allowed private shipyards to compete in building a strategic platform. If reports are to be believed, India is on the verge of signing a contract with Russian shipyards for buying two kilo-class submarines. Russia is actively building the Kilo-class submarine at its production line in St Petersburg.
Kilo-class submarines are dubbed as the ‘black-holes’ in oceans. Powered by Diesel-Electric motors, these submarines can lurk in waters undetected for days. Running on the electric motors, the sub can trial high value targets with almost zero noise level. The vessel is developed specifically for anti-shipping and anti-submarine operations. The vessel has a range of around 900 kilometers and can endure up to 45 days at sea. The vessels are equipped with Club-S anti-shipping missiles and 533 mm torpedoes. Kilo-class submarines form the backbone for Indian navy’s undersea operations and the addition of two more vessels will be a stop-gap measure for the navy.
Russian shipyards are currently manufacturing an improved version of the Kilo-class submarine for the Russian and Vietnamese navy. The Russian navy has placed an order for 3 Kilo-class submarines and the Vietnamese navy has an order for 6 kilo-class submarines. Russian shipyards are currently producing 2-3 submarines per year. If ordered, Indian Navy may receive its first submarine as early as 2016.
Lease of nuclear power attack submarine
India and Russia share a relation that is unique in the complex world of diplomacy. Russia has been actively supporting India in becoming a fully fledged nuclear state. Russia did not condemn the ‘Smiling Buddha’ test and in fact helped India steer clear of the International sanctions imposed soon after the test. Russia took an active part in helping India complete its mission to acquire the latest delivery platforms. Russia proactively helped India to complete its nuclear triad. INS Arihant, India’s first ‘boomer’ was realized only with Russia’s assistance.
India leased its first nuclear submarine from Russia in 1988. India leased a Charlie class nuclear powered cruise missile submarine for a period of three years. The sub served under the Indian navy from 1988 to 1991 as ‘INS Chakra’ and was later returned to Russia. This helped India gain firsthand experience in operating a nuclear submarine. This lease was the first transfer of a nuclear submarine to another nation. India approached Russia with the plans of leasing another nuclear powered submarine in 1998. Russia agreed to complete an Akula class attack sub and then transfer it to India for a period of 10 years. ‘INS Chakra’ entered service under the Indian Navy from 2012.
Now Indian Navy is working with all possible options to acquire another nuclear powered submarine. During the visit of Vladimir Putin, the PM himself had raised the matter and was accorded with a positive reply. The process for leasing was fast tracked and it is now reported that Russia has agreed to lease another Akula class attack sub to India. Russia will now lease K-322 Kashalot, an Akula class attack submarine to India. The submarine entered service with the Russian Navy in 1988 and served under the Pacific fleet. Later the sub was removed from active duty and was sent for mid-life overhaul. The sub ever since has been undergoing a major modernization at Amur shipyard. India and Russia is now gearing up to sign a billion dollar deal for the lease of the submarine.
Akula-class submarines are highly capable and were one of the most silent subs to have ever served with the Russian navy. It is believed that an Akula class submarine operated well within America’s territorial water undetected for almost a week. The Akula’s can lay undetected in water for months at a time. The subs carry a total of 40 torpedoes which can be fired from the 8 torpedo bays. The addition of these submarines is crucial for anti-shipping and anti-submarine operations.
S-400 Air Defense system
In a measure to counter the long range delivery platform threats being operated by China and Pakistan, India is gearing up to acquire the potent S-400 system from Russia. This air defense system is composed of three missiles; the 40N6 missile for countering extremely long range threats, the 48N6 for taking care of long range threats and the 9M96 missiles for obliterating medium and short range threats. These missiles can intercept fighter jets, AWACS aircraft, drones and even cruise missiles. The S-400 system is capable of intercepting even the latest fifth generation fighter jet fielded by the west.
Russia till date has acquired a battalion consisting of 7-8 launchers at an estimated cost of about US $200 million. China has already placed orders for these missiles and India is now being forced to go for the option in order to maintain an upper edge over its enemy. The missile system is capable of engaging 36 targets simultaneously and is rumoured to have shot down multiple ballistic missiles during its initial testing. The system employs multifunction radar and autonomous tracking and targeting systems. The acquisition of these potent systems will add tooth to the air defense wing of the IAF.
- Parrikar will hold a prolonged discussion regarding the future of the Multi-role Transport Aircraft (MTA) The MTA project is being developed under a JV between United Aircraft Corporation and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited. MTA is being sought as a replacement to the aging An-32 transport aircraft. Again the matter of work share has drastically slowed down the project and now India is gearing up to formalize an agreement in regard to the work share of HAL in the project.
- India and Russia had come into terms for upgrading their fleet of Su-30 These aircraft are the backbone for all aerial operations of the IAF. The problems arising in regard to the supply of spare parts has also haunted the relations shared amongst the partners. Both the nations had agreed to develop the Su-30 further under the name ‘Super Sukhoi’ project but nothing much has been worked out in this regard. Parrikar may now clear the decks for the up gradation project.
- Russia has offered India with three Grigorivich class frigates. These vessels are under construction at Yantar Ukraine which had an agreement to supply the propulsion units for these vessels has now turned down the agreement citing its unrest over Crimean encroachment. Russia’s effort to locally manufacture the propulsion units will take years to mature. Ukraine is willing to supply the power plants if the vessels are integrated and offered to another customer. India operates 6 Talwar class frigates which are very similar to these vessels. Thus Russia has offered the three vessels to India. In an effort to boost the number of surface combatants under the navy, Parrikar may readily agree for the deal under the ‘Buy Global’ category.
- Parrikar will set-up the stepping stones for the production of 200 Kamov 226 T Constituted under the ‘Make in India’ initiative this deal is a huge boost to the maturing aerospace sector of India. Russian companies will team up with Indian private players to manufacture these copters indigenously. The 226-T copter is slated to replace the aging fleet of Cheetak’s.