March 23, 2017

Lockheed Martin to shift F-16 production line to South Carolina

The end of an era is coming as production of Lockheed Martin’s F-16 Fighting Falcon is being shifted from west Fort Worth to South Carolina.

Lockheed will begin moving the production line to its facility in Greenville, S.C., at the end of the year after delivering the last of the iconic jets being built for Iraq in September, said Ken Ross, a spokesman for Lockheed Martin Aeronautics in Fort Worth.

The F-16 has been a mainstay of Lockheed’s mile-long production line, but the Fort Worth plant needs the room as it ramps up production of the F-35 Lightning II, he said. Currently, 8,800 employees work on the F-35 and about 200 work on the F-16. It is expected that the F-16 employees will be allowed to transition to work on the F-35.

“As part of our effort to make room for the F-35 production here in Fort Worth, the F-16 production line must be relocated,” Ross said.

Over the life of the program, Lockheed has delivered more than 4,500 F-16s, including 3,600 built in Fort Worth. Since the company hasn’t booked any orders for new F-16s beyond the planes for Iraq, it would take about two years to start it back up in South Carolina once a new order is received, Ross said.

Moving production to South Carolina makes sense for several reasons, company officials said.

First and foremost, Lockheed Martin is ramping up activity on the F-35 in Fort Worth and expects to hire an additional 1,800 employees through 2020 as work on the stealth fighter hits full production. Last year, Lockheed built about 50 F-35s and expects to build up to 160 a year by 2019.

“The space we use for the F-16 will be consumed by the F-35,” Ross said.

Secondly, the Greenville plant is where the new T-50A trainer will be built if it wins a competition to build the aircraft for the Air Force. The T-50A is considered an “offshoot” of the F-16 design, so the economics of having the two lines together makes sense, Ross said.

Lockheed continues to pitch building the F-16 in India. India wants to modernize its aging military fleet of about 650 planes and the Indian Ministry of Defence has set up a competition to build a new single-engine fighter in that country as part of a “Make in India” initiative.

But the Trump administration has made it clear it will scrutinize any deal that may shift jobs overseas and has said it plans to take a “fresh look” at the India deal. Lockheed argues that the Indian contract, while moving production overseas, would still be a boost to the domestic economy.

Lockheed still thinks the F-16 is the right aircraft for India and is providing information to the federal government about that deal, Ross said.

Lockheed is also seeking to make additional F-16 sales to U.S. allies.

“We have a lot of pursuits ongoing but no new orders yet,” Ross said.


Russian design bureau ready to integrate BrahMos missiles into frigates for Indian Navy

The St. Petersburg-based Severnoye Design Bureau is ready to integrate the BrahMos strike missile system into the armament set of Project 11356M frigates for the Indian Navy after they are ordered by India, Severnoye Deputy CEO and Chief Designer for Special Hardware Vyacheslav Senchurov told TASS on Wednesday.

"No problems will emerge with the integration of the BrahMos strike missile complex into the frigate. We have already integrated this system earlier into the other three Project 11356 frigates acquired by the Indian Navy," Senchurov said at the LIMA-2017 international maritime and aerospace show in Malaysia.

The Severnoye Design Bureau is the developer of Project 11356 warships for the Russian and Indian Navies while Project 11356M frigates are the follow-up of this series.

The first three out of six Project 11356 frigates operational in the Indian Navy are armed with the Russian-made Club-N strike system (the export version of the Kalibr cruise missile complex) while the other three vessels are outfitted with the Russian-Indian BrahMos multipurpose missile system that is capable of hitting both surface and ground-based targets.

Director for International Cooperation and Regional Policy at Russia’s state hi-tech corporation Rostec Viktor Kladov said earlier that the planned contract for the delivery of Project 11356 frigates for the Indian Navy would be implemented under the "two plus two" formula:" two frigates were planned to be built in Russia and delivered to India and the other two would be constructed by the Indian ship-building industry at one of the national shipyards.


Russia to Sign Deal With India on Delivery of 48 Mi-17V-5 Helicopters in 2017

Director for International Cooperation and Regional Policy Department of Russia's Rostec State Corporation Victor Kladov says Russia will sign an agreement in 2017 on deliveries to India of 48 Mi-17B-5 helicopters.
 Russia will sign an agreement in 2017 on deliveries to India of 48 Mi-17V-5 helicopters, Director for International Cooperation and Regional Policy Department of Russia's Rostec State Corporation Victor Kladov said Wednesday.
"I am sure that this year the deal on delivery of 48 Mi-17V-5 helicopters to India will be signed," Kladov told journalist at Langkawi exhibition.
Russia is also engaged in dialogue with countries of the Middle East and North Africa on delivery of Su-35 fighters, Kladov said.
"Countries from North Africa and the Middle East region can be the next to acquire Su-35 fighters, the negotiations with them are being conducted," Kladov told journalists, without specifying the countries.
Kladov also said that Russia will sign an agreement in 2017 for delivery and manufacturing in India of four project 11356 frigates.
"I am sure that this year the deal on the manufacturing of two frigates under the license in India and the delivery from Russia of two frigates of this project will be signed," Kladov told journalists.


Plan To Build Choppers For Indian Forces Remains Grounded As Russia Drags Its Feet

The first major hurdle to "Make in India" in defence manufacturing appears to be coming from an old friend, that is, Russia.

In October 2016, India and Russia agreed to jointly manufacture Kamov-226T multi-utility helicopters in India for the three services. The agreement was presided over by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President of the Russian Federation Valdimir Putin. It was the first major defence venture under the Modi government's "Make in India" programme. But there has been no progress since.

The Kamov-226T is a twin-engine helicopter known for ruggedness and performance. Faced with the need to replace the ageing Cheetah and Chetak helicopters, India planned to manufacture as many as 200 helicopters.

Top defence ministry sources told Huffington Post, India, that the two countries haven't yet decided on the exact price of the helicopters. The price being quoted by Russia is much beyond New Delhi's expectation.

More importantly, Russia isn't very comfortable sharing technology with the Indian private sector. The agreement specified that Hindustan Aeronautical Limited (HAL)— the Indian defence public sector unit — would get Indian private sector entities as partners to manufacture various components for the Kamov-226T helicopter. Not happy with this involvement of the India private sector, Moscow has held back "critical clearances".

"Much of the Russian defence manufacturing is state owned. While India is trying to boost the nascent private defence manufacturing industry by making HAL the main integrator, Russian defence industry isn't very sure about involving sharing technology with the private sector," top defence ministry sources said.

Under this joint defence manufacturing venture, signed on the side-lines of the BRICS summit in Goa last year, India and Russia agreed for complete transfer of technology and joint production of Kamov-226T helicopters in India.
 The decision to make helicopters in India follows the Inter-Government Agreement on "Cooperation in the field of Helicopter Engineering" singed between the two countries during Prime Minister Modi's visit to Russia in December 2015. The two sides had agreed to set up a joint venture with the Russian government firm Rostec Corporation holding 49.5% stake and HAL holding 50.5% stake.

India–Russia ties are time-tested, and India considers Russia to be its most trusted strategic partner. However, the ties between the two countries had come under some strain: Kremlin perceived that New Delhi was increasingly depending on the West to source defence equipment.

The Modi government has been trying to re-energise bilateral relations. During the signing of October 2016 agreement, India had assured Russia that defence cooperation and manufacturing would be one the key pillars of Indio–Russia relations. Jointly producing helicopters for the Indian Navy, Indian Air Force and the Army was expected to revitalise ties. Apart from helicopters, India had also decided to source warships among other defence platforms from Russia.

The three services and the Coast Guard put together need about 400 helicopters. While HAL is developing the light-utility helicopters, India decided to source 200 helicopters from Russia to replace the aging fleet of helicopters.


March 22, 2017

First contract for supplies of Brahmos missiles can be signed before end of 2017

The first export contract for the supplies of the BrahMos cruise missiles to a foreign customer can be signed before the end of this year, Alexander Maksichev, a spokesman for the Russian-Indian company Brahmos Aerospace, informed TASS at the 14th International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition LIMA 2017.

"I believe the first export contract for the delivery of the BrahMos missiles can be signed until the end of 2017," he said without specifying the potential customer. Maksichev emphasized that the consent of the Russian and Indian governments is required for exporting these missiles to third countries.

He did not specify though which modification could be exported - sea or land-based. According to Maksichev, it is planned to adapt the BrahMos-ER (extended range) missiles tested in March 2017 for naval applications.


March 21, 2017

Project to develop unmanned variant of Tejas planes in works

In what would break new ground, India has started work on developing an unmanned combat version of the home-grown light combat aircraft (LCA), with a task group being constituted to study how to convert the fighter for a futuristic role.

A team has already started work on the project to convert the LCA into a drone and India's premier aircraft manufacturer Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is confident that the project can be carried out within a short time frame.

"We have started an internal study on making a unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) on the Tejas platform. Besides, we are confident on coming up with an unmanned version of Chetak helicopter as well," HAL Chief T Suvarna Raju told ET.

The Air Force has already placed orders for 123 LCA fighters and HAL is targeting a gap of 200 fighters that the Air Force will face in coming years. place a high risk on pilots in case of a ditching in enemy territory. India is also working on a project named AURA to make a futuristic combat drone that would be powered by a modified version of the Kaveri engine.

The drone, however, is several years away as the project is still at the design stage. While unmanned LCA would be no match for a futuristic stealth drone, officials pointed that out converting a flying platform into an autonomous unit could be faster and cheaper short term option.

The US, for example, uses unmanned F-16 fighters for aerial target practice.


March 20, 2017

Mazagon Docks, DCNS keen on making 3 more Scorpene-class subs

Mazagon Docks Ltd along with French shipbuilder DCNS, its technology partner for the Scorpene submarines, has approached the Indian Navy with a repeat order for three Scorpene-class submarines, despite the data leak scandal that had threatened to derail the project last August.

Like the first six Scorpenes, the three new submarines would also be manufactured at the Mumbai site, and would be equipped with a new anaerobic propulsion system (AIP) developed by the DRDO.

Six Scorpene submarines were ordered in 2005, and are being built at the state-owned Mazagaon Docks (MDL) in Mumbai, with technical assistance and transfer of technology as well as equipment from DCNS. INS Kalvari, the first Scorpene class stealth submarine built under Project 75, is currently undergoing extensive sea trials, while INS Khanderi, the second indigenous Scorpene-class submarine was recently launched at MDL.

The Scorpene submarine is one of the newer submarines of the Indian Navy, and has the capability of launching an anti-ship missile from below the surface of water which is expected to give the Navy a boost. Sensitive data related to the Scorpene was leaked in the Australian media last year. A committee was set up to look into the matter.

In early March, the Indian Navy conducted the maiden firing of an SM39 anti-ship missile from INS Kalvari. The missile successfully hit a surface target at extended ranges during the trial firing, and was hailed as a significant milestone, not only for the Kalvari submarine, but also in enhancing the Indian Navy’s sub-surface warfare capability.

Sources in the know pointed out that all six Scorpene being built in India are to be equipped with anti-ship missiles, which can help neutralise surface threats at extended ranges.

Sources pointed out that a repeat order for three new submarines would also help the Indian shipyard maintain the know-how and skills it has acquired through the manufacture of the first two Scorpene.

“At a seminar in November 2016, former Defence Minister Manohar Parrikkar had expressed a need for 24 submarines to be built for the Navy, including the six P-75 Scorpene submarines currently on order.

“Given the extensive submarine building programme in other countries, the Minister was keen to strengthen the fleet. It makes emminent sense to continue to build on the first order,” said an official, requesting anonymity, adding that it was also an option under the P-75 programme.

Transfer of technology from DCNS also involves changing “the shells of the Scorpene by making them thicker with steel”, and the Indian counterparts have been educated on the same, as also integrating it with missiles and weapon systems.

Recently, the Indian Navy detailed a timeline for the induction of six Scorpene submarines, with the first two set to be commissioned end-2017.

 the hindubusinessline

Seven months on, India-US logistics pact suffering from bottlenecks

  • The pact will allow both to access to each other’s military bases for refuelling, repair and maintenance of warships and aircraft
  • The pact was inked on August 29, last year
  • One handicap is the absence of a unified command over Army, Navy and IAF in India
The much-ballyhooed logistics pact between India and the US, which will allow reciprocal access to each other's military bases for refuelling, repair and maintenance of warships and aircraft, is yet to enter into force despite being inked seven months ago.

Slow decision-making, bureaucratic bottlenecks and complex accounting procedures, much more from the Indian side than the US one, have held up the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) from becoming operational till now.

Sources, however, say the Indian defence ministry is "now close to finalising the intricate accounting procedures" under which the two militaries will provide each other with logistical support on "equal-value exchange and reimbursable basis".

It was much easier for the US, which has similar pacts with its allies and others as well as unified theatre commands to handle different parts of the globe, to work out the operational details and submit its "points of contact" list to India.

But India, with separate budgets and accounting procedures for the Army, Navy and IAF in the absence of unified commands, has found the going tough since the LEMOA was inked on August 29 last year. "The complex arrangement on how India would pay had to be worked out. But it should now be finalised and approved in a month or so," said a source.

The LEMOA, of course, represents yet another major milestone in the ever-tightening bilateral strategic clinch, which has seen the US bag arms deals worth $15 billion from India as well as the two militaries conduct a flurry of combat exercises over the last decade.
But the Modi government, wary of being accused of compromising India's traditional strategic autonomy, has taken pains to repeatedly stress LEMOA will not entail any basing rights or permanent stationing of US troops on Indian soil.

India is also in no tearing hurry to ink the other two "foundational agreements", in addition to LEMOA, which are being pushed by the US for over 15 years now. These are the Communications Compatibility and Security Arrangement (COMCASA), earlier called the Communication Interoperability and Security Memorandum Agreement (CISMOA), and the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-Spatial Cooperation (BECA).

"India is keen on further building interoperability between the two forces but it has to follow capacity-building. COMCASA and BECA will take time," said an official. Some military officers, on their part, assert one effective way of balancing the long-term threat from China, which has increasingly become assertive in the entire Asia-Pacific, is to militarily work closer with the US.

But critics contend the "foundational pacts" will only lead to a formal military alliance with the US in the years ahead, while adversely impacting the close strategic partnership with Russia as well as needlessly antagonising China. "A pact like COMCASA also has the potential to compromise our operational security by allowing the US military to snoop on our warships and aircraft," said another officer.

A) US largest arms supplier to India over last 5 years, with deals worth $15 billion since 2007
* Several joint military exercises held every year, from naval Malabar to counter-terror Vajra Prahar & Yudh Abhyas
* Inked Defence Technology & Trade Initiative (2012), 10-year Framework for India-US Defence Relationship (2015), Joint Strategic Vision for Asia-Pacific & Indian Ocean Region (2015), LEMOA (2016) etc

B) Foundational Agreements
1) Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA)
* Logistic support, refuelling & berthing facilities for each other's warships & aircraft on equal-value exchange basis
* Will not involve stationing of US troops on Indian soil. Nor will India extend support if US goes to war with "a friendly country"
* Useful for US forces re-balancing to Asia Pacific. Access to US bases like Djibouti, Diego Garcia, Guam and Subic Bay helpful for India

2) Communications Compatibility & Security Arrangement (COMCASA)
* Technology enabler to help transfer high-tech avionics, encrypted communication & electronic systems to India
* US says COMCASA will boost "interoperability" as well as ensure secrecy of its C4ISR systems
* But US will be able to track & snoop on Indian warships/aircraft equipped with such systems. Could compromise India's tactical operational security

3) Basic Exchange & Cooperation Agreement for Geo-Spatial Cooperation (BECA)
* US says BECA will allow it to share advanced satellite & topographical data for long-range navigation & missile-targeting
* But India has its own satellite imaging capabilities. BECA will involve US digital sensors to be positioned on Indian soil


Pvt firms to produce Tejas body, wings; HAL to play integrator

Three-pronged plan

  • Fuselage (body) and wing production work has been outsourced to three companies and these will come back with deliveries in two years
  • The second part of the "increase-production plan" is to use the existing facility of the hawk trainer jets; a pilot project has already started
  • The third part aims at turning Hindustan Aeronautics Limited into an integrator-a concept adopted by leading foreign manufacturers
In a path-breaking move, part-production of the Light Combat Aircraft, The Tejas, has been outsourced to Indian private companies, with an aim to speed up production to cover up the dwindling number of Indian Air Force (IAF) fighter jets.

The IAF is operating with 33 squadrons (16-18 planes each) as against the need for 42 squadrons mandated to effectively fight a simultaneous two-front war with Pakistan and China.

T Suvarna Raju, Chairman and Managing Director of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), said, “We are getting fuselage (body) made by private companies and the HAL, in future, will just be an integrator. We have outsourced fuselage and the wing production to three companies and these have to come back with deliveries in two years.”

This was part of a three-pronged plan to speed up Tejas production, Raju said.

There are 123 Tejas jets – in two variants — on order and HAL has an installed capacity of producing only eight planes every year. In the past, a private company made the hull (body) of the nuclear submarine INS Arihant.

Raju said, “The increased production rate will be visible from 2018 when we will be able to provide 16 planes per year under a Rs 1,300-crore expansion project (at the HAL facility in Bangalore).”

The HAL CMD said the second part of the “increase-production plan” is to use the existing facility of the hawk trainer jets and a pilot project has already started.

The third part involves outsourcing to private companies, thus turning HAL into an integrator – a concept adopted by leading foreign manufacturers. This will mean the Tejas fleet of 123 jets can be delivered earlier than planned.

The IAF is operating with 33 squadrons (16-18 planes each) as against the need for 42 squadrons mandated to effectively fight a simultaneous two-front war with Pakistan and China.


March 18, 2017

‘True’ BrahMos Unleashed Today, Next 900-km Weapon

The first benefit of India becoming a signatory to the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) was on display off India’s coast today when the country test-fired a BrahMos missile (photo) at extended range, well beyond the 290-km range it was so far shackled to by virtue of being outside the international treaty. Today, the BrahMos-ER was fired out to a range of 450 km, successfully hitting a target out at sea.
“It was a successful test, where we launched the BrahMos to a range in excess of 400 km. Shortly, existing BrahMos units will be converted to the ER capability, and future units will too,” BrahMos CEO Sudhir Kumar Mishra said an exclusive conversation with Livefist. Mishra’s team effected three changes to the BrahMos in less than a year in preparation for the ER test today: software changes to the fire control system and mission computer, and miniaturisation of some hardware elements in the propulsion system.
As reported earlier here on Livefist, a ‘final’ BrahMos version, sporting a range of over 900 km, will complete modifications and be ready for a first test by the end of 2019. This was make the BrahMos one of the most formidable stand-off weapon systems in the world, especially when seen in the context of its ship-based, air-launched and submarine-launched versions. Livefist can confirm that the range extension will be sported by all variants of the missile system.
According to a statement, the ER launch today from Kalam Island, Odisha, was witnessed by Deputy Chief of Army Staff, Director General Artillery, a Corps Commander and other senior officers from Indian Army. BrahMos Project Director VSN Murthy, and Programme Director Dashrath Ram along with other senior officers from DRDO and BrahMos were also present during the launch.


March 17, 2017

Oppn voices concern over shortage of defence equipment

Opposition today expressed concern over shortage of equipment, falling expenditure for defence modernisation and huge dependence on import by armed forces.
Participating in a debate on Demand for Grants for Defence in the Lok Sabha, Sugata Bose (Trinamool Congress) said it was unfortunate that a large proportion of the defence budget remains unutilised.
About Rs 13,000 crore was under capital expenditure was returned back in 2015-16, he added.
Lamenting the fact that Indian armed forces are heavily dependent on imports, Bose said, the Government did not give any incentive for defence related manufacturing.
Taking an apparent dig at Manohar Parrikar being shifted from Defence Ministry to Goa as Chief Minister, the Trinamool member quipped that this Government is having a great difficulty in giving a “full-time Raksha Mantri.”
“Someone found Goan delicacy more worthwhile than providing nutritious food to our jawans,” he added in a swipe at Parrikar.
Pinaki Misra (BJD) said, “This House has been bipartisan in the matter of defence but this will not prevent us from voicing our concerns.”


Eye on China, India to raise second division for mountain corps

The 15,000-strong division is expected be fully operational in two-three years, said sources, adding that the organisational structure and manpower were in place, and equipment and stores would follow.
WITH AN eye on the massive restructuring of the Chinese military, the Indian army is moving to raise a second infantry division for its mountain strike corps on the northern border, sources told The Indian Express.
The raising of the new, 72 Infantry Division will start at Pathankot within a few months, they said. “Preliminary action to set the ball rolling for the second division has already started. The army was told to complete the raising of the mountain strike corps by financial year 2017-18. It will be completed on schedule. Complete operationalisation will take some more time,” said a senior army official.
The 15,000-strong division is expected be fully operational in two-three years, said sources, adding that the organisational structure and manpower were in place, and equipment and stores would follow.
The other infantry division for the mountain strike corps — 59 Infantry Division — has been raised and will be fully operational this year.
The mountain strike corps, designated as 17 Corps, is meant for the northern border and is headquartered at Panagarh in Bengal. It was approved by the government in 2013 with a proposed strength of 80,000 soldiers at a cost of Rs 64,000 crore to be spent over a seven-year period. However, sources said, there has been a squeeze on release of funds since, raising questions about shortfall in ammunition and equipment for units already raised.
“The shortfall was mainly in ammunition, which has been made up by and large by invoking emergency financial provisions. As far as the artillery, air defence and aviation assets are concerned, we will get them as part of the modernisation plans,” said the official.
Sources said the army is “deeply concerned” about the recent changes in the command and control structure of China’s People Liberation Army, and is exploring ways to counter that threat. But military officials insisted that 17 Corps was not a “China Strike Corps”.
“We are moving fast from a threat-based to a capability-based army. The mountain strike corps is a part of that change and can be used in any mountainous region, which means all the northern borders. It would augment our posture along the borders, stretching from Arunachal Pradesh in the east to Ladakh in the northwest,” said the official.